Friday, October 21, 2011


I have a new favorite word. It's "how." I use it every time I hear a politician talk about his or her platform. "I'll cut taxes. I'll balance the budget." "I'll reduce the debt." And my favorite, "I'll create more jobs in [fill in the location]."

I want to ask each talking head one question: How. How are you going to cut taxes, balance the budget AND pay down the debt, all at the same time? All three are contradictory. Cutting taxes in the last administration got us into this mess. Keeping they unreasonably low hasn't done anything to stop runaway spending or to reduce the debt.

How, Mr. Candidate, do you intend to create jobs? Do you really think that by keeping income taxes low, people are going to go out and hire someone, create a job where there is no demand for the goods and services produced? And just how many jobs have been created in the past three years in [fill in the location] with taxes so low we can't pay our bills? Couple this empty promise with the earlier one about tax cuts and I have a question: With unemployment stubbornly hovering over 9%, how's that policy working for you, Mr. Candidate? How many jobs did your tax cuts create? How can you stand in front of us and tell us that tax cuts create jobs? Do you really believe this yourself???

I went to a rally for a candidate running for our state legislature. I asked him how he was going to create jobs. He looked panicked. Evidently, no one had asked him how he was going to carry out his platform. He bumbled and mumbled and stepped on his tongue trying to answer my question. When he passed the hat for money to continue his campaign, I kept my hands in my pocket.

Why would I want to put money in his hat when he couldn't answer my question? Widen the lens, and everyone running for office at all levels has the same credibility problem. They talk a good line, but when pressed, they fall back on familiar sound bites. Well, I'm not hungry. I refuse to rise to the bait.

Oh, yes, the group that invited me to hear our local candidate suggested that I might not want to return. Ya think?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Legalize Drugs, with Apologies to Jonathan Swift

Before you blast me for being an aging hippie and a liberal, hear me out. I have an idea that would:

  • Reduce crime in the US

  • Reduce crime across the border in Mexico

  • Provide a strong new taxable revenue source to the US

  • Let's take these in order.

    Reduce crime in the US
    If all drugs were legalized, it would not be illegal to buy and use them. We could create a series of distribution centers in every city, funded both by a new sin tax on drugs and diverting law enforcement funds to support the new centers. The centers would be privately run but licensed through each state. Revenues would be shared between the states and the federal government based on actual monies collected. Law enforcement would not need as much funding because drug-related crime would be reduced. Prison populations would decline and prison overcrowding would be reduced. Next door to each distribution center could be a privately operated clinic to help users kick the habit.

    Reduce crime across the border in Mexico
    If Americans were no longer buying illegal drugs, Mexican drug cartels would have to find other avenues through which to sell its products. Crime might be diverted to other areas in Mexico. The Mexican authorities might even be able to gain more control of their failed state. Border cities could become safer on both sides of the border. And Eric Holder might have less interest in supporting failed policies of sending guns to Mexico to trace where they end up. They end up in the hands of criminals. Idiot.

    Provide a strong new taxable revenue source to the US
    Can you spell sin tax? Prohibition didn't work, but taxing a legally available product did. Anti-smoking campaigns didn't work, but taxes on cigarettes and cigars added to state coffers. The same could happen with a sin tax on legal drugs.

    I realize this is a radical, liberal suggestion. If we start with legalizing marijuana in all states, the FBI wouldn't be put in the awkward position of busting legal medical marijuana shops in California.

    Yes, this could work. It's too logical not to work. Therefore, no one will put this idea forward. Wonder what the "super committee" would think about it.

    Thursday, October 6, 2011

    Sumptin' Happenin'

    There's something happening. Thousands of people are gathering in the streets protesting. Protesting what, you may ask. You name it. Just protesting.

    Occupy Wall Street is a grass-roots activist protest movement without focus, without a leader. People are camping out in parks in various cities. People are getting arrested for disrupting traffic on the Brooklyn Bridge. People are dancing and singing in the streets. And it's spreading across the lower 48.

    What's driving the protests? Who knows? Public ennui? Corporate greed? Joblessness? Poverty? Loss of the American Dream? Fatigue? Deep-seated fear?
    Some protesters want to stamp out corporate greed. Others are worried about what we humans are doing to the environment. Still others just want a job. Everyone wants something, even when they aren't articulating the collective angst that has driven them into the street.

    I watched several news clips of the protesters. I saw myself in many of them. In the young girls with their long hair and long skirts, I saw myself protesting the Vietnam war, for women's rights, and against Dow Chemical. In the older protesters, I saw friends who wanted to hang onto the American dream for one more generation. I saw people of all ages hoping to find a way to rediscover a moral compass, personal, corporate and national.

    We've lost our way. Our leaders in government haven't a clue how to take us up the next steps out of the mess we're in. We are floundering in deepening ruts of disfunctional government. We see our friends and neighbors struggling to keep going. Many are falling behind. Their children will fall behind.

    If Occupy Wall Street, with all its disorganization and energy, turns a new spotlight on our collective problems, then it has a benefit. If not, at least the protesters can say they tried.

    And they can vote next year. If they can find candidates who listen, then they should vote for them. If not, then they should vote for the candidate who is closest to their desires. And then they should continue the protests.

    If this is our US Autumn, then we need to join the protesters. There's something happening there. What it is ain't exactly clear. We can help make it clearer.