The Struggle for the Soul of America: Do Your Part

Lately I’ve been struggling. Surely, I am not alone. Many others are wrestling with their consciences as well. On the one hand, I want to escape from the tsunami of chaos and pain that our country is enduring right now. At the same time, I feel a degree of guilt that I’m not doing enough to help alleviate the suffering and eliminate the injustices. Does this sound familiar?

I know that doing something, almost anything, that provides aid to those in need or supports the overhaul of our failing system can make a difference. If nothing else, it will make me feel better. If that’s not enough to motivate me to get off my butt and get involved, then my knowing that what I do will help relieve someone’s distress and/or advance the country toward a more equitable society should do it. If I’m not contributing in some way to the solution, then, as they say, I’m part of the problem.

While there’s an immense amount of work to be done to repair the harm and get the country on track, we cannot allow ourselves to be overwhelmed by the enormity of the task at hand and become immobilized. Rather, I believe we need to pause, go within and examine ourselves, as well as the big picture.

Let’s ask ourselves: Where can I be most effective? What can I do that best utilizes my abilities and resources? And, how can I do it without getting burned out or despondent?

The truth is it’s up to all of us to abolish racism, reduce income inequality and fix our corrupt political system, among other pressing issues. Feeling guilty that I’m not doing enough only gets in my way of steping up and taking positive action. Making you feel guilty that you are not doing your part only isolates us from each other. We need to come together, work for the greater good and get the job done. Below are just a few of the many organizations which would love your assistance in accomplishing these goals.

And, as Jon Stewart poignantly observed in a recent New York Times Magazine interview,[1] we must address ‘why’ we are plagued with racism, police brutality, and a two-tiered society:

“(The) root of the problem is the society that we’ve created that contains this schism, and we don’t deal with it…

“It’s white people’s lack of being able to live up to the defining words of the birth of the country that is the problem.

“(The system) is incentivized for conflict as well as for corruption…which is money from large sources pouring into a place not to help, but to gain control…We’ve got a (expletive)-up permanent campaign system with too much money in it.

“What’s broken is the legislators’ ability to address the issues inherent in any society.”

Clearly, we have a number of systemic issues we must address as a nation if we are to begin to heal the country and move forward. Unfortunately, our current national leadership has no intention of doing this. Part of our job, then, is to install new leadership in Washington which understands these critical matters and has the courage and foresight to take them on.

At the same time, each of us must find the resolve to help stop the bleeding and rebuild our country. Here’s just a few suggestions of organizations you can contact to learn how you can help, or to obtain assistance for someone in need: New Mexico Government Assistance (https://www.newmexico.gov/i-need-assistance/), Black Lives Matter (https://blacklivesmatter.com/), New Mexicans for Money Out of Politics (http://nmmop.org/) which recently became RepresentUs New Mexico, Common Cause New Mexico (https://www.commoncause.org/new-mexico/) and Retake Our Democracy (https://retakeourdemocracy.org/).

Bruce Berlin

A retired, public sector ethics attorney, Berlin is the author of Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America (See breakingbigmoneysgrip.com.), the founder of New Mexicans for Money Out of Politics, a former U.S. Institute of Peace fellow, and the founder and former executive director of The Trinity Forum for International Security and Conflict Resolution. He can be reached at breakingbigmoneysgrip@gmail.com.

Subscribe to this blog at https://breakingbigmoneysgrip.com/my-blog-3/. Join the movement to revive our democracy. Together we can save the soul of America.

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/06/15/magazine/jon-stewart-interview.html

 

The Struggle for the Soul of America: What Are We Called To Do Now?

I’ve just finished reading One Blade of Glass, Henry Shukman’s Zen memoir. An associate Zen master, Shukman is the leader of the Mountain Cloud Zen Center in Santa Fe. His book is helping me be more present in the moment.

The other day I was hiking in Mineral Hill near Las Vegas, NM. Sitting down to rest, I experienced a Zen moment in the midst of a pine forest. My body resonated with the slender trees swaying in the wind. I sensed a kinship with the majestic granite boulders surrounding me. Like the timeless forest, I was present and very alive.

I felt a million light years away from all the madness of our “civilized” world. The current state of our country can drive me crazy, if I let it. Being in nature allows me to maintain a more balanced perspective, a calm centeredness.  I find it helps to step away from the insanity of our planet, seemingly on the brink of disaster.

As much as I am grateful to escape from the chaos, I feel some responsibility for how we got here, as well as where we go next. Whether actively involved or passively watching on the sidelines, I believe we all have some accountability for the state of our country, and we each play a role in determining how and where the country shifts and turns going forward.

At the same time, letting go, being in a Zen mindset, allows me to be more fully immersed in life, from dancing with the pine trees in the forest to combating corruption in government. Being present and engaged, I empty my mind and become open to the all-encompassing present.

It may sound pretty simple, but it’s not. Our monkey minds are always thinking, always wanting something, so busy we have a hard time being present in the moment.

And look where it’s gotten us. Rioting and killing each other in the midst of a deadly pandemic, with an unstable, autocratic president in charge. A really terrible movie, which tragically has come to life.

Isn’t it time we turned the page? What if we were quiet and went within, as the Coronavirus has given us the opportunity to do, and took a real hard look at our present moment?

In our quiet, inward perspective, what are we being asked to do? What is our highest calling at this moment when so many Americans, as well as multitudes around the world, are suffering? How can we heal our country when it’s so deeply divided? What can we do to lift up those our nation has left behind? How can we overcome fear and rekindle love and respect in our country?

This is the present moment we find ourselves in. Can we take it all into our hearts and follow our inner wisdom? Do we have the courage to act now for the good of all the people?

Bruce Berlin, J.D.

A retired, public sector ethics attorney, Berlin is the author of Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America (See breakingbigmoneysgrip.com.), the founder of New Mexicans for Money Out of Politics, a former U.S. Institute of Peace fellow, and the founder and former executive director of The Trinity Forum for International Security and Conflict Resolution. He can be reached at breakingbigmoneysgrip@gmail.com.

Subscribe to this blog at https://breakingbigmoneysgrip.com/my-blog-3/. Join the movement to revive our democracy. Together we can save the soul of America.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Struggle for the Soul of America: Going Within

My small neighborhood community in Mineral Hill outside of Las Vegas, NM, recently decided “going within” one day a week would be a valuable endeavor in these trying times when we are constantly being bombarded by outside stimuli. After one day of “going within,” I knew we were on to something.

On Wednesday I spent the day “going within.” No phones, no computers, no TVs, no interaction with anyone except for essential communication with my partner. In the morning I took stock of where I am right now. I wrote in my journal that “I’m feeling pretty good about my life.” That includes my relationships with my partner, my daughter and good friends; my health, my new home, my community, and even this blog. As I wrote, I realized how grateful I am for all that is going well in my little world.

During my afternoon of introspection, I recognized how clever it was of mother nature to require humanity to take a time out. I noted in my journal that “this is an incredible opportunity for me, everyone who has stopped the routine he or she normally follows, and the country as a whole, to go within.”

The next day a good friend called. I learned that a mutual friend of ours had suddenly become seriously ill and was taken to the hospital. Apparently, he was near death.

It was a true wake-up call. How quickly our lives can change. I was reminded how important it is to live each day to its fullest.

This led me to ask: How are we doing as a society? Why have we gotten so divided? Why can’t we live together? Why are people so driven to get as much as they can for themselves with no or little concern for how the less fortunate among us who are hurting, hungry, some homeless, are getting by or not?

It’s time for us to take a long, hard look at ourselves and our country. How can we inspire our country to live up to its honored values and highest potential for all Americans? We are in the midst of a spiritual crisis, as well as a health crisis and an economic crisis. Our country is at a moral crossroads: Will we take the highway to a better life for all, or the low road where it’s each one out for one’s self? This is the question we will answer in the fall election. But we can’t wait. Now is the time we must pave the way for a brighter, more equitable society.

By going within during this slowdown period, we have the opportunity to re-evaluate our nation’s priorities. Since we don’t have the national leadership to provide support and guidance in these troubled times, it’s up to us to find our way together.

We have many ways to get involved. Unite America (https://www.uniteamerica.org/) is working to make voting secure and accessible during COVID-19. When We All Vote (https://www.whenweallvote.org/) is focused on expanding vote-by-mail, early voting and online voter registration. Here in New Mexico, we can work on issues to revive our democracy with New Mexicans for Money Out of Politics (https://nmmop.org), Retake Our Democracy (https://retakeourdemocracy.org/), Common Cause New Mexico (https://www.commoncause.org/new-mexico/), or a number of other non-profit organizations.

Bruce Berlin, J.D.

A retired, public sector ethics attorney, Berlin is the author of Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America (See breakingbigmoneysgrip.com.), the founder of New Mexicans for Money Out of Politics, a former U.S. Institute of Peace fellow, and the founder and former executive director of The Trinity Forum for International Security and Conflict Resolution. He can be reached at breakingbigmoneysgrip@gmail.com.

Subscribe to this blog at https://breakingbigmoneysgrip.com/my-blog-3/. Join the movement to revive our democracy. Together we can save the soul of America.

The Struggle for the Soul of America: Many Republicans Oppose Trump, Too

In last week’s blog I wrote that “nothing less than the survival of American democracy is at stake” in this year’s election. I noted that Prof. Peter Dreier of Occidental College believes the election is “about democracy vs. fascism.”

One reader retorted that my blog gave her a good laugh. Another thought Dreier’s remarks were just liberal bluster. Though most of you didn’t respond, I’m sure many agreed with Dreier’s dire warning.

Whether one is conservative or liberal, Republican or Democrat, it’s hard to understand how one cannot take what’s happening in our country seriously.  Armed militia recently marched on the Michigan statehouse protesting the governor’s coronavirus-related restrictions.[1] Pres. Trump not only rejects Congress’s power of oversight,[2]  but he also refuses to use the Defense Production Act (DPA) to save American lives.[3] And, just yesterday Trump fired another independent executive branch watchdog who found fault with his administration.[4]

Trump has absolutely failed to protect Americans against the coronavirus. Many health professionals fighting the virus still do not have the personal protective equipment (PPE) they need. While Trump praises healthcare workers, his failure to fully employ the DPA has resulted in “shortages across the country…so severe that a number of hospitals are trying to come up with ways to innovate using the same PPE more than once — a practice that was unheard of in the United States prior to the coronavirus crisis.”[5] Still, it’s mind-boggling that this pandemic which has affected 100,000s of Americans, and killing 1000s of people daily, has become a political football.[6]

Yet, Democrats are not the only ones fed up with Trump. Conservative attorney George Conway, husband of Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway, and Rick Wilson, former Republican consultant, are leading a group of Republicans called the Lincoln Project which aims to make Trump a one-term president.

The Lincoln Project as well as many other conservatives firmly believe Trump is a danger to the nation.[7] In fact, nearly a quarter of Republicans think that the party should nominate someone other than Trump as their 2020 presidential nominee.[8] In addition, “highly respected and renowned conservative political columnists like Jennifer Rubin, George Will, Kathleen Parker, Jonah Goldberg and others have long been writing about his incompetence, egotism, ignorance of foreign policy, dishonesty, cruelty and overall lack of integrity. Even the very conservative Wall Street Journal is publishing editorials and columns against his incompetence and lies.”[9]

Regardless of this Republican rebellion, Trump still has a strong following. Fortunately for the country, they are in the minority. But that is not enough reason to believe Trump will lose in November.

Trump is a very clever salesman, an unrelenting con artist. He still has powerful people like Mitch McConnell and wealthy donors like Sheldon Adelson supporting him. And, most Republicans will do just about anything to win.

So, it is up to us, the American people, to save our country from the ruin that a second Trump term will surely bring. We must do everything we can to get everyone registered to vote and then follow through by voting, demand the right to mail-in voting and do whatever else we can to ensure an overwhelming defeat of a president who doesn’t care about the American people or our country, but only cares about himself.

Bruce Berlin, J.D.

A retired, public sector ethics attorney, Berlin is the author of Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America (See breakingbigmoneysgrip.com.), the founder of New Mexicans for Money Out of Politics, a former U.S. Institute of Peace fellow, and the founder and former executive director of The Trinity Forum for International Security and Conflict Resolution. He can be reached at breakingbigmoneysgrip@gmail.com.

Subscribe to this blog at https://breakingbigmoneysgrip.com/my-blog-3/. Join the movement to revive our democracy. Together we can save the soul of America.

[1] https://www.yahoo.com/news/michigan-militia-puts-armed-protest-043435517.html

[2] https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/27/us/trump-signing-statement-coronavirus.html

[3] https://doyle.house.gov/media/press-releases/congressman-doyle-demands-president-trump-use-defense-production-act-save

[4] https://www.yahoo.com/news/pompeo-fires-state-dept-watchdog-024122794.html

[5] https://truthout.org/articles/trump-says-doctors-and-nurses-running-into-death-is-beautiful-thing-to-see/?eType=EmailBlastContent&eId=104d96e5-c966-4ea1-9126-6d44080cd4b2

[6] https://thehill.com/homenews/coronavirus-report/497529-governors-warn-covid-relief-is-becoming-a-political-football

[7] https://www.c-span.org/video/?471995-5/washington-journal-rick-wilson-discusses-campaign-2020

[8] https://www.yahoo.com/news/nearly-quarter-likely-republican-voters-173919559.html

[9] https://www.wiscnews.com/baraboonewsrepublic/opinion/columnists/nash-column-trumps-finally-worn-out-welcome-with-many-in-gop/article_6dc396e4-5c95-540a-8aa7-7d033c2e945c.html

 

The Struggle for the Soul of America: Our Democracy’s Last Chance

Recently Donald Trump proclaimed: “When somebody’s president of the United States, the authority is total.”

While he got pushback from both Republicans and Democrats who renounced his authoritarian stance,[1] Trump continues to conduct the office of the presidency without any real restraints. With conservative Republicans in charge of the Senate and the U.S. Supreme Court, the other two branches of government have done practically nothing to impede Trump’s autocratic ways.

Earlier this month, Trump fired intelligence community Inspector General Michael Atkinson because he had “lost confidence” in him. Still, it was hard to miss Trump’s true reason: Atkinson’s finding that a whistleblower’s complaint about Trump’s Ukraine actions, which resulted in his impeachment, were both “credible” and “urgent.”[2]

A few days later, Trump removed Glenn Fine, the independent watchdog responsible for ensuring the proper administration of the relief act. By getting rid of Fine, Trump eliminated scrutiny of how his administration would be using our taxpayer funds.[3] According to the Washington Post, Fine’s dismissal appears to be part of a larger endeavor to purge oversight of Trump and his cohorts.[4] Trump’s attempt to eliminate independent oversight is just the latest example of his increasing autocratic control over the federal government, as well as Congress’s failure to maintain any real checks on his executive power.

Both the President and Congress are responsible for the demise of our democracy. And, while the Republican Party has supported Trump’s authoritarian takeover of our government, the Democrats, though not nearly as reckless as the Republicans, must share some of the blame for the failure of our government to represent us. Afterall, Big Money and Wall Street clearly dominate both the Democratic and Republican parties. That control laid the foundation for an American plutocracy, which ultimately has led to the authoritarian Trump regime.

By now it should be clear that Americans cannot rely on any party or person to save our democracy from being dismantled by Trump and the Republicans. Only we, the people, have the power and ability to do that. But do we have the resolve and perseverance to turn back the authoritarian tyranny confronting us and build a fairer and more just society?

It is a huge task. We only have six months until the November election. There is no time to waste. Nor, can we withdraw from the election battle or indulge in recriminations against the Democrats for nominating Joe Biden rather than our preferred candidate. The stakes are too high.

Regardless of your main concern, be it climate change, immigration reform, affordable healthcare, income inequality, or some other, if Trump and the Republicans who control the Senate are not defeated in November, your cause will be lost. And, we know that the Trump mob will use every trick available to win re-election.  So, we must focus our energy and resources on what is most important to ensure winning the election. Here are five key strategies:

  1. A massive voter registration campaign
  2. Alerting the public to the extreme threat a second Trump term poses
  3. A concerted effort to expand early voting
  4. Establishment of the universal right to mail-in voting, and
  5. Protecting the U.S. Postal Service from being defunded or privatized

The only way to ensure victory in November is through a huge voter turnout, so large that Trump and the Republicans cannot steal or contest the outcome. Now is the time to act. Get involved in a voters’ rights group like the Voting Rights Alliance at https://www.votingrightsalliance.org/ or the Election Protection coalition at https://866ourvote.org/. Together we can, and will, save our democracy.

Bruce Berlin

A retired, public sector ethics attorney, Berlin is the author of Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America (See breakingbigmoneysgrip.com.), the founder of New Mexicans for Money Out of Politics, a former U.S. Institute of Peace fellow, and the founder and former executive director of The Trinity Forum for International Security and Conflict Resolution. He can be reached at breakingbigmoneysgrip@gmail.com.

Subscribe to this blog at https://breakingbigmoneysgrip.com/my-blog-3/. Join the movement to revive our democracy. Together we can save the soul of America.

[1]  https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2020/04/14/trump-claim-total-authority-claim-10th-amendment/2988013001/

[2] https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2020/04/04/trump-atkinson-fired/

[3] https://www.politico.com/news/2020/04/07/trump-removes-independent-watchdog-for-coronavirus-funds-upending-oversight-panel-171943

[4] https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/04/14/trump-is-waging-war-our-inspectors-general-congress-needs-choose-side/

The Struggle for the Soul of America: The Coronavirus Opportunity

According to an ancient Chinese proverb, “In every crisis, there’s opportunity.” As individuals as well as members of our communities and our country, the coronavirus crisis has given us a rare opportunity.

These are challenging times for all of us. A great many Americans have been isolated at home for the last month or more, held hostage by the coronavirus, COVID-19. Now that our busy schedules have been put on hold, we each have the time to really stop and re-examine our lives.

We might ask ourselves, what’s truly important to me? Life being so uncertain, how can I be more present and appreciate each passing moment? What can I do from now on to more closely align my life with my true purpose, my heart’s desires? In the BTC era (“Before the Coronavirus”), many of us were too wrapped up in our careers, our social lives, our next “whatever,” to go within and give these questions the serious consideration they deserve. Now this may be the most meaningful way to spend our time.

Being isolated, I am finding that my relationship to dear friends and loved ones is what I most value. I am learning to reach out in new ways, like Zoom, to stay bonded with them as well as to reconnect with old friends and family with whom I have lost touch. And, I am also missing my connection to Mother Earth. I yearn to be in the mountains again.

What do you value most?

This coronavirus-imposed isolation is also providing me with the opportunity to explore my relationship to my community. How could I better serve my community? How might it better serve me? What can I do to help make my neighborhood and town more livable for everyone? Once we have given these questions some considerable attention, we could meet, perhaps on Zoom, and start a dialogue. Together we can develop a common vision and a plan to implement it.

Finally, COVID-19 has given our country an extraordinary opportunity. We are quite aware of how divided our nation is. Yet, this crisis has brought people of all backgrounds, political persuasions, income levels and ethnicities together to fight this common enemy. Whether it’s medical professionals in hospitals, drivers delivering groceries or technicians ensuring our electricity stays on, people are risking their lives to provide care and support for all of us. When everyone works together, we are all better off. Can we carry this lesson forward to heal our country in the weeks and months ahead?

Our nation has numerous problems. It is not working well for many Americans. A great number of us don’t have good, if any, affordable healthcare. We know climate change is threatening to devastate our planet, but we are not doing much about it. Too many people in this country, especially children, go to bed hungry every night. In the wealthiest country on Earth, millions of us don’t make a living wage. Women and people of color are discriminated against and not treated as equal citizens. Alcohol and drug addiction run rampant across our nation, as does gun violence. Big money and huge corporations control government policies to the detriment of most Americans. And, the list goes on.

At this critical juncture in our history, we must not go back to the way things were before the pandemic crisis struck. We are learning that we can work in unison for the good of the country regardless of our differences. As we progress in conquering COVID-19, we must use this singular experience to inspire us. Together we can reshape our country into one that serves the common good, not just the interests of the well-connected and the very wealthy. World War II was a comparable national crisis that brought all Americans together to defeat a common enemy. Just like after that hard-fought victory, we must grab this opportunity to create a new vision of America and remake our country.

Bruce Berlin

A retired, public sector ethics attorney, Berlin is the author of Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America (See breakingbigmoneysgrip.com.), the founder of New Mexicans for Money Out of Politics, a former U.S. Institute of Peace fellow, and the founder and former executive director of The Trinity Forum for International Security and Conflict Resolution. He can be reached at breakingbigmoneysgrip@gmail.com.

Subscribe to this blog at https://breakingbigmoneysgrip.com/my-blog-3/. Join the movement to revive our democracy. Together we can save the soul of America.

The Struggle for the Soul of America: How Can Biden Win?

Now that Bernie Sanders has dropped out of the race for the Democratic nomination for president, what does Joe Biden have to do to unite his party and beat Trump in November?

It’s no secret that the Democratic Party is deeply divided. Biden has the moderate wing of the party solidly behind him. Not so Sanders’ progressive wing, which is not only very disappointed by Bernie’s withdrawal, but also angry that Sanders’ proposals have not been adopted by the Party. How can Biden win them over?

Biden has already taken the first step by acknowledging Sanders for “being a powerful voice for a fairer and more just America.” He commended Sanders for bringing important issues to “the center of the political debate. Income inequality, universal health care, climate change, free college, relieving students from the crushing debt of student loans.” And, he asserted that “we agree on the ultimate goal for these issues.”

Most importantly, Biden recognizes he needs Sanders’ supporters and has committed to reaching out to them as well as to Sanders himself. He concluded, “I understand the urgency of what it is we have to get done in this country. I hope you will join us. You are more than welcome. You’re needed.” (See https://www.axios.com/joe-biden-bernie-sanders-statement-8c1c7005-40e5-4b1a-93ed-8d0d973abd2f.html.)

Sanders’ biggest block of supporters were younger Americans under the age of 45. This week a number of youth organizations, including the Sunrise Movement and Justice Democrats, which altogether represent more than 10 million supporters and potential voters, wrote an open letter to Biden. They sent him a clear, comprehensive and cogent message:

  1. Young people are “poised to play a critical role (in) deciding the next President.” You need our enthusiastic support to unite the party and defeat Trump.
  2. A “return to normalcy” that you’ve called for won’t motivate our members to vote for you. Both major parties have “failed to create a robust social safety net for the vast majority of Americans….we grew up with endless war, skyrocketing inequality, crushing student loan debt, mass deportations, police murders of black Americans and mass incarceration, schools which have become killing fields, and knowing that the political leaders of today are choking the planet we will live on long after they are gone. We’ve spent our whole lives witnessing our political leaders prioritize the voices of wealthy lobbyists and big corporations over our needs. From this hardship, we’ve powered a resurgence of social movements demanding fundamental change. Why would we want a return to normalcy?”
  3. “We need a vision for the future, not a return to the past.…(I)n order to win up and down the ballot in November, the Democratic Party needs the energy and enthusiasm of our generation…Young people are issues-first voters….Exclusively anti-Trump messaging won’t be enough to lead any candidate to victory. We need you to champion the bold ideas that have galvanized our generation and given us hope in the political process.”

The letter then lists a series of very specific commitments the organizations want from Biden. Here are just a few of them:

  • Adoption of the Green New Deal
  • Expand DACA and other policies to protect people from deportation
  • Free undergraduate tuition for public colleges, universities, and vocational schools
  • An annual tax on the wealthiest 180,000 households
  • Adoption of strong anti-corruption reforms
  • Champion a voting system that works for all Americans
  • Get big money out of politics and make the passage of HR 1 a top priority
  • No current or former Wall Street executives or corporate lobbyists in your transition team, advisor roles, or cabinet

The youth organizations’ letter concludes that they “will spend more than $100 million …this election cycle. We…need help ensuring our efforts will be backed-up by a campaign that speaks to our generation. Our generation is the future of this country. If you aim to motivate, mobilize, and welcome us in, we will work tirelessly to align this nation with its highest ideals.” (See https://nextgenamerica.org/biden-letter/.)

Others already in Biden’s camp are also urging fundamental change, rather than a “return to normalcy.” Recently Jamie Dimon, CEO of the giant Wall Street firm, JP Morgan Chase, explained that our lack of preparation for the pandemic is part of a larger set of problems facing the country. In his firm’s annual letter to its shareholders, Dimon wrote:

“Our inner-city schools don’t graduate half of their students and don’t give our children an education that leads to a livelihood; our healthcare system is increasingly costly with many of our citizens lacking any access; and nutrition and personal health aren’t even being taught at many schools. Obesity has become a national scourge. We have a litigation and regulatory system that cripples small businesses with red tape and bureaucracy; ineffective infrastructure planning and investment; and huge waste and inefficiency at both the state and federal levels. We have failed to put proper immigration policies in place; our social safety nets are poorly designed; and the share of wages for the bottom 30% of Americans has effectively been going down….We need to acknowledge these problems and the damage they have done if we are ever going to fix them.”

Dimon hopes that “civility, humanity, empathy and the goal of improving America will break through” and that this crisis can bring people together to recognize “our shared responsibility, acting in a way that reflects the best of all of us.” (See https://finance.yahoo.com/news/jamie-dimon-on-covid-19-crisis-114330705.html.)

How far will Biden go in meeting the challenges that both wings of the Democratic Party know must be addressed?  Will he be bold enough in his response to bring the party together and win the election?

Contact Biden at https://go.joebiden.com/page/s/contact-us and let him know your thoughts about what he needs to do to unite the party and win in November.

Bruce Berlin

A retired, public sector ethics attorney, Berlin is the author of Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America (See breakingbigmoneysgrip.com.), the founder of New Mexicans for Money Out of Politics, a former U.S. Institute of Peace fellow, and the founder and former executive director of The Trinity Forum for International Security and Conflict Resolution. He can be reached at breakingbigmoneysgrip@gmail.com.

Subscribe to this blog at https://breakingbigmoneysgrip.com/my-blog-3/. Join the movement to revive our democracy. Together we can save the soul of America.

 

 

 

 

The Struggle for the Soul of America: Once Again, It’s All About the Money

President Trump recently proclaimed that “We cannot let the cure be worse than the problem itself.” By which he means that the cure of a national stay-at-home order and shutting down the economy would be worse than the further spreading of the coronavirus.

Trump even implied that the deaths of thousands of Americans is not that big of a deal. Afterall, he noted that thousands of Americans die in car accidents every year, but we don’t “tell everybody no more driving of cars.” See https://news.yahoo.com/trump-downplays-coronavirus-threat-again-even-as-number-of-cases-in-us-surges-001339863.html.

For Trump, the bottom line is getting the economy going again as soon as possible, in order to avoid a recession, or possibly a depression, and bolster his re-election prospects. In Trump’s mind, that’s more important than the thousands, some suggest millions, of Americans who will die if the coronavirus is not contained before economic activity is re-ignited.

Of course, no one knows for sure how this will play out. Other countries’ experiences, however, are instructive. In China, where the pandemic originated, researchers have found that stay-at-home orders were a key to stemming the spread of the virus. Now, two months since the Chinese lockdown began, the number of new cases is very low, down from thousands per day at the peak. See https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-020-00741-x; https://www.cnn.com/2020/03/19/asia/coronavirus-covid-19-update-china-intl-hnk/index.html.

Hong Kong’s situation is even more telling. Since the beginning of March when much of Hong Kong’s workforce stopped working from home and returned to their workplaces, the number of reported cases of coronavirus has nearly tripled. See https://www.cnn.com/2020/03/23/asia/hong-kong-coronavirus-quarantine-intl-hnk/index.html.

Meanwhile, Congress is rushing to pass a $2 trillion stimulus package to support laid off workers, collapsing small businesses and suffering corporations. Here, paradoxically, Trump may be correct. This supposed cure for America’s economic woes may be worse than the recession that is about to descend upon us. According to the Huffington Post, “The emergency… legislation that the Senate agreed to on Tuesday (is)…an outrage. It is not an economic rescue package, but a sentence of unprecedented economic inequality and corporate control over our politics…It represents a transfer of wealth and power to the super rich from the rest of us, with the support of both political parties…” See https://www.yahoo.com/huffpost/senate-democrats-donald-trump-coronavirus-bill-181622873.html.

The bill provides $367 billion in loans to help small businesses hit hard by the outbreak to keep making payroll, $100 billion for hospitals, and $150 billion for state and local governments. It also provides for Americans who make up to $75,000 to receive a one-time payment of $1,200. A $500 billion fund, which can be leveraged to 10 times that amount, earmarked for corporations that have been economically damaged by the pandemic, will be overseen by an inspector general and a congressional panel in accordance with Democrats’ demands.

However, according to HuffPost, “the oversight terms that Democrats secured are purely cosmetic, replicating the toothless provisions of the 2008 bank bailout that enabled watchdogs to report abuse but not actually prevent or rectify it….Democrats and Republicans have essentially decided to hold a pittance of relief for the people hit hardest hostage to the most reckless and… unnecessary corporate welfare program ever conceived.” .” See https://www.yahoo.com/huffpost/senate-democrats-donald-trump-coronavirus-bill-181622873.html.

Former Republican, Rep. Justin Amash called the plan “a raw deal for the people.” He explained that “It does far too little for those who need the most help, while providing hundreds of billions in corporate welfare, massively growing government, inhibiting economic adaptation, and widening the gap between the rich and the poor.” See https://www.yahoo.com/news/rep-amash-signals-may-single-134541682.html.

Finally, HuffPost analysts believe that “the legislation provides nothing of substance to address the coronavirus pandemic itself…It mobilizes no new resources, organizes no production, improves no medical supply delivery and trains no new nurses. Instead, it moves an enormous amount of money around and puts the Trump administration in charge of its movement.” See https://www.yahoo.com/huffpost/senate-democrats-donald-trump-coronavirus-bill-181622873.html.

As of this writing, Speaker Pelosi and the House Democrats have not yet signed off on this shameful deal crafted by the devious Sen, Mitch McConnell. Call Pelosi ((202) 225-4965), Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM), other House Democrats ((202) 224-3121) and your U.S. Senators ((202) 224-3121) now and voice your strong opposition to another cowardly cave-in to Big Money.

Bruce Berlin

A retired, public sector ethics attorney, Berlin is the author of Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America (See breakingbigmoneysgrip.com.), the founder of New Mexicans for Money Out of Politics, a former U.S. Institute of Peace fellow, and the founder and former executive director of The Trinity Forum for International Security and Conflict Resolution. He can be reached at breakingbigmoneysgrip@gmail.com.

Subscribe to this blog at https://breakingbigmoneysgrip.com/my-blog-3/. Join the movement to revive our democracy. Together we can save the soul of America.

 

 

 

The Struggle for the Soul of America: Is It All About Being Safe?

America is in panic mode. The coronavirus is spreading rapidly. The stock market is plunging. Oil prices are collapsing. And, our president plays golf while the country is falling apart. Meanwhile, Americans are dying and the rest of us are pretty scared. What are we to do?

The best advice seems to be: play it safe. People are taking various precautions: avoiding crowds, canceling travel plans, working from home, keeping their kids home from school, washing their hands frequently, using hand sanitizer, wearing face masks – getting out of the stock market – whatever one can do to be safe.

Politically, the Democrats have turned to Joe Biden to be their presidential nominee. They believe he is their safe choice. “Uncle Joe” has been around for a long time. The American people know Joe. They contend that we can trust him to do the right thing and keep America safe. The Democrats consider Biden to be their safe bet to beat Trump next November.

According to conventional wisdom, nominating Bernie Sanders is too risky. Democrats see Sanders as too radical for American voters. They believe the people would reject his democratic socialism which offers Medicare for all, free public college, a living wage and the wealthy paying their fair share in taxes, among other things. This despite the fact that a majority of Democrats support many of Sanders’ policy positions. (See https://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2020/feb/25/pete-buttigieg/polls-show-most-democrats-many-americans-back-key-/.)

Sanders contends that his policy proposals will bring a huge wave of new voters to the polls. However, primary results have not proven him right. Biden has won most of the recent primaries with his more centrist policy agenda and his more moderate tone.

Consequently, as a longtime Bernie supporter, I’m beginning to realize that it’s not only his policies that is the problem for some Democrats. It’s also the messenger. It’s Bernie.

Bernie yells a lot. That makes some people feel afraid, not safe. He might be more effective with the voters he needs to persuade if he modulated his tone a bit.

Bernie has praised some aspects of Communist Cuba.  That makes some people, especially in the vital swing state of Florida, afraid, not safe. He had nothing to gain politically and much to lose by bringing Cuba into the campaign debate.

Bernie has grand proposals with little detail of how they will be paid for. That makes some people feel afraid, not safe. He could be more specific about the financial aspects of his policies.

Bernie does not have much support in Congress, which raises the issue of whether he will be able to muster the votes in Congress to pass his initiatives, particularly in the Senate where he will need to overcome Republican filibusters. That makes some people feel afraid, not safe. His campaign could have cultivated more Congressional backing for his proposals to demonstrate his ability to work with Congress on his agenda.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, Bernie calls himself a Democratic socialist without clearly explaining what he means by that term. That makes some people feel afraid, not safe. He has failed to simply and plainly demonstrate to the American people that the United States already is, to a significant degree, a democratic socialist country. Most Americans support Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, the federal highway system, public schools, the police and fire departments, and many other government programs, all of which are democratic socialism since they are funded by taxpayers’ dollars for the common good. Moreover, federal farm subsidies, oil subsidies and the like are also democratic socialism at work. If the American people understood that they already support and believe in democratic socialism, then they would probably not be afraid of it.

That is not to deny that the corporate media, the Democratic establishment, Big Money and others desperate to hold onto power, have done their utmost to bring Sanders down. Nevertheless, Bernie has made a number of serious missteps. If he had been a better messenger, a better politician, I believe he could have been our next president.

What do you think? Is it too late for Bernie to make up for his mistakes? Is there anything he can do at this point to improve his chances of winning the nomination? Any and all comments are greatly appreciated.

Bruce Berlin

A retired, public sector ethics attorney, Berlin is the author of Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America (See breakingbigmoneysgrip.com.), the founder of New Mexicans for Money Out of Politics, a former U.S. Institute of Peace fellow, and the founder and former executive director of The Trinity Forum for International Security and Conflict Resolution. He can be reached at breakingbigmoneysgrip@gmail.com.

Subscribe to this blog at https://breakingbigmoneysgrip.com/my-blog-3/. Join the movement to revive our democracy. Together we can save the soul of America.

 

 

 

 

The Struggle for the Soul of America: The Democratic Party Must Revive Its Progressive Values

From FDR’s New Deal to Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society, the Democratic Party took pride in being the party of the people. During this period, Democrats championed the rights of union members, women, black and brown minorities, the poor, whoever was getting shortchanged in American society. But when Bill Clinton won back the White House for the Democrats in 1992, the party began losing its way.

Clinton was the chair of the DLC, the Democratic Leadership Council, that steered the party away from its progressive traditions and toward a centrist, business-friendly, Republican approach to government. In 1993, he “helped gut America’s manufacturing base by promoting and passing the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA,…” NAFTA failed to protect the interests of working Americans and “signaled that the Democratic Party—the “progressive” side of the U.S. two-party system—had accepted the reactionary economic ideology of Ronald Reagan…” (See https://www.alternet.org/2015/06/15-ways-bill-clintons-white-house-failed-america-and-world/)

In 1996, Clinton worked with Speaker Newt Gingrich and the Republicans to enact the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act which gave states control of welfare programs. According to the Atlantic, “‘Welfare reform’ didn’t fix welfare so much as destroy it,…” Twenty-plus years after the passage of welfare reform, the number of poor American children has exploded and black welfare recipients are subject to the system’s most stringent rules. (See https://www.alternet.org/2015/06/15-ways-bill-clintons-white-house-failed-america-and-world/ and https://www.history.com/news/clinton-1990s-welfare-reform-facts.)

In addition, Clinton curried favor with Wall Street at the expense of most Americans by signing into law more financial deregulation legislation than any other president, according to the Columbia Journalism Review. Among the worst acts was his dissolution of the Depression-era Glass-Steagall Act, which had protected people’s savings accounts from being used by investment banks on speculative financial deals. This was a major factor leading to the 2008 Great Recession.

When President Obama took over the Democratic Party, he followed in Clinton’s footsteps by bailing out Wall Street while providing little assistance to the millions of Americans who had lost their homes in the Great Recession. By the time Hillary Clinton ran for president in 2016, the American people were fed up with the Establishment of both parties who favored Wall Street and their big donors over them. That opened the door to the White House to outsider Donald Trump.

Now outsider Bernie Sanders is leading the Democratic primary race. Given the recent history of the Democratic Party, it stands to reason that a major factor in Sanders’ rise in popularity is his rejection of the centrist establishment, Clinton approach of fostering close connections to Wall Street and Big Money. Somehow the party establishment has not gotten the message: The American people are tired of playing second fiddle to corporate America and Big Money interests.

Sanders promises to revive the progressive values of FDR, JFK and LBJ. He’s calling for what most Americans want: a $15/hr. living wage (67% according to Pew Research Center) , healthcare for all (56% according to Kaiser Family Fdn), stricter gun control laws (60% according to Pew), and a Green New Deal (80% of registered voters according to Yale Program on Climate Communication). Yes, it’s radical to the Establishment who want the government to continue protecting its interests at the people’s expense. But it’s not radical to all those who’ve seen little rise in their income, higher and higher health insurance and pharmaceutical bills, more and more friends and family shot to death, and the government doing very little to remedy these and other real problems.

People like MSNBC pundit Chris Matthews are the radical ones. His calling Sanders’ Nevada primary victory akin to the Nazis conquest of France is outrageous. The “liberal” media seems just as threatened by Sanders as the Establishment. They both fear losing their power and influence in the political arena, and don’t get how fed up so many Americans are with Washington and its do-nothing politics.

Trump conned America into believing he would clean “the swamp.” But, he’s only made it worse. If the Democratic Party wants to win in November, it better get behind the man that truly speaks for the people. Bernie looks like the real deal. He appears to be the only candidate who is building a mass movement, including millions of disillusioned and new voters, capable of the wave election needed to sweep Trump out of office. Given the chance, Sanders really could “Make America Great Again.”

Email the DNC at info@dnc.com, Chris Matthews at hardball@msnbc.com, or, call MSNBC at (212) 664-4444 and tell them to stop bashing Sanders and work with him to defeat Trump.

Bruce Berlin, J.D.

A retired, public sector ethics attorney, Berlin is the author of Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America (See breakingbigmoneysgrip.com.), the founder of New Mexicans for Money Out of Politics, a former U.S. Institute of Peace fellow, and the founder and former executive director of The Trinity Forum for International Security and Conflict Resolution. He can be reached at breakingbigmoneysgrip@gmail.com.

Subscribe to this blog at https://breakingbigmoneysgrip.com/my-blog-3/. Join the movement to revive our democracy. Together we can save the soul of America.