FREE Environmental POSTER: EPA Under NEW Mismanagement – Scott Pruitt Swamp Monster OUT Andrew Wheeler Coal Lobbyist IN

Fossil Fuels, Fossil Fools (Pollution) - POLITICAL BUTTONAs EPA administrator, Scott Pruitt, resigns under a snowballing avalanche of ethics violations, the Trump regime doesn’t have to reach far into its deep bench of political hacks to find another swamp monster to clog up democracy, evidence-based policies respecting science, let alone clean water, clean air, or clean soil. Andrew Wheeler, former coal lobbyist, will carry on the polluted policies of Scott Pruitt, his boss, Donald Trump, and co-conspirators, congressional Republicans.

In tribute to the EPA under new mismanagement, I give you this FREE Environmental POSTER: EPA Under NEW Mismanagement – Scott Pruitt Swamp Monster OUT Andrew Wheeler Coal Lobbyist IN. Please feel free to share or print out.

FREE Environmental POSTER: EPA Under NEW Mismanagement - Scott Pruitt Swamp Monster OUT Andrew Wheeler Coal Lobbyist IN

As the Washington Post succinctly stated, the new EPA boss is the same as the old boss:

The change at the top of the Environmental Protection Agency won’t mean a dramatic shift in policy. If anything, President Donald Trump’s EPA could become even more effective at undoing Obama-era environmental policies under its new boss.

At Least The War on the Environment is Going Well POLITICAL BUTTONThat’s because the incoming acting administrator Andrew Wheeler, who’s set take over Monday following the resignation of Scott Pruitt, is a politically savvy former Senate staffer, wise in the ways of Washington — and getting things done. Wheeler, 53, has crusaded behind the scenes for decades to quash climate What Exactly Are Conservatives Conserving (Earth) POLITICAL BUTTONchange legislation and promote coal.

Wheeler, who was confirmed to be the EPA’s No. 2 official in April, could bring a quiet effectiveness to the top job that some environmentalists say will make him a more formidable opponent than Pruitt.

“There is no time for celebration,” said Tom Pelton, with the Environmental Integrity Project. Wheeler, he said, “has a background just as biased toward industry as Scott Pruitt, so we and other environmental advocates are going to have to watch Wheeler just as closely as we did his former boss.”

he Environment Is Over-Raided - FUNNY POLITICAL BUTTONWheeler shares Trump and Pruitt’s environmental agenda, including proposals to roll back regulations addressing climate change and pollution. And in a June 27 interview, Wheeler said he’s proud of his lobbying past. Although he said being called a “coal lobbyist” wasn’t derogatory, it irritates him because his advocacy on energy and environmental issues was broader than any single issue.

The replacement of Pruitt may mean a change in style at the EPA, but it won’t mean a change in substance, said Jeff Holmstead, a former deputy EPA administrator.

“Pruitt had never worked in a regulatory agency and didn’t fully understand the rulemaking process. He was certainly engaged in the politics of environmental issues, but he wasn’t always engaged in the substance,” Holmstead added. “In many ways, Wheeler is the polar opposite.”

Please feel free to browse my designs on the environment, climate change slogans, and green energy politics.

There Are No Jobs On A Dead Planet POLITICAL BUTTONTrue Wealth Is Built on Environmental Stewardship POLITICAL BUTTONIf you think the economy is more important than the environment, try holding your breath while counting your money POLITICAL BUTTON

Earth First - We'll Rape the Other Planets Later - FUNNY POLITICAL BUTTONClean Up Your Mess, Love, Mom [Earth] POLITICAL BUTTON

Testimony for National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service — END DRAFT REGISTRATION

I prepared the below testimony to present at a public meeting in Chicago before the National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service, a commission created by Congress to deal with questions of draft registration, most specifically, whether to end draft registration or expand it to women. The Commission designed the format for this meeting with severely restricted opportunities for general public input. I intend to submit this testimony in written form, but I do not anticipate that I will be able to present it in person. At the end of this testimony is a much shorter statement that I intend to present to the media in Chicago, and directly to the Commission, if possible.

FULL TESTIMONY

My name is Dan Rutt. I have traveled from Toledo, Ohio, to be here today. I have come from 250 miles away to testify to you about service. I am volunteering my time to testify about that which is involuntary: conscience. I have come much further than 250 miles to be here today…

My testimony is rooted in family history predating the existence of the United States of America.  I am 12th generation in this land now known as the United States of America. In the early 1700’s, my ancestors settled on land given to them by William Penn, on what would come to be known as Pennsylvania. My Mennonite ancestors fled Germany to escape conscription and war.

With that wave of German immigrants and refugees, those that occupied the land had much fear about them ruining life as they new it. Newly-arrived German males age 16 and older were forced to take a loyalty oath to the British crown. The English oath was administered roughshod over the newly arriving boys and men, most of whom spoke only German upon their arrival. Apparently, a nominal and blind oath provided some comfort to those fearful residents already occupying the land.

As the Philadelphia harbor bells rang, signaling new arrivals, people gathered to greet them. Many gathered to welcome family or provide strangers with much needed assistance, knowing what it is like to leave one’s home and arrive in a strange land with little or nothing. Others gathered to enlist indentured servants. Here is my most important question regarding service. Serving freely or serving under coercion — which is the greater service? I submit that serving freely is greater. In this particular case, the free service of hospitality and welcoming outsiders is greater than enlisting indentured servants. In the shared scripture of The People of The Book — Jews, Christians and Muslims — a similar exhortation is repeated multiple times: “You must love foreigners because you were foreigners in Egypt.” This service of what may be considered radical hospitality is a time-honored practice of Jews, Christians and Muslims. The humble practice is at the heart of every great faith worldwide. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Love because you were first loved. My ancestors, yearning to be free, wanted neither to be the cause of war as soldiers nor the tragic effects of war in its wanton destruction. This was at the heart of my ancestors’ journeys in life. This is my heritage.

More recently, in relation to war and peace, my great-grandfather, during World War II, ran an alternative service camp for conscientious objectors. As for me, I was literally born into service. I was born in 1961 in Haiti, while my parents were serving as medical missionaries, a doctor and nurse, with Mennonite Central Committee. Mennonite Central Committee has long encouraged and empowered years-long terms of service, often overseas. For my Dad, this was also as an alternative service to military service.

In 1979, the year I graduated from high school, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. In response to this, President Jimmy Carter instituted draft registration of young men my age, ostensibly to send a message of military preparedness to Soviet leaders. I was in the first batch of young men required by U.S. law to register for the draft. However, the prospect of draft registration conflicted with a higher law, my conscience and ultimate commitments. I could not and cannot, in good conscience, participate in war-making. As the clarity of my conscience emerged, I could find no way to register for the military draft, whose sole purpose is preparedness for war. My conscience also dictated that if I was to disobey an unconscionable law, then I was to openly take full responsibly for my actions while I worked to change such a law. I began by writing letters to Selective Service and my elected representatives. I may not have had been well-schooled — yet, anyways — on the politics of waging war or peace, but I was intimately familiar with my conscience and the legal duty that my young male peers and I faced. I was a teenager facing obedience to my conscience. This obedience came at the legal threat of up to five years in prison and up to a $250,000 fine.

I quickly learned that my war resistance is not dependent on geopolitical circumstances, political pendulums, or legal threats. I am already opposed to the next war. Unlike in the pragmatism of war, my enemy’s enemy is not my friend. For me, war is the enemy. Nonetheless, the nearly 40 years since my initial confrontation with draft registration affords me a certain perspective as I have lived through a full cycle of history.  While I was a skinny teenager facing taking on the United States government, the U.S. government was backing the soon-enough-to-be-notorious Osama bin Laden as a so-called “freedom fighter,” leading the mujahadeen in Afghanistan against Soviet occupation.  Of course, our support of Osama bin Laden, our enemy’s enemy, turned out to be a deadly lessen in the futility of weaponizing violent radicals in the vain hope that it won’t blowback in further violence on virtually all fronts. Today’s “freedom fighter” is tomorrow’s terrorist. Today’s war seeds tomorrow’s terrorist. Gandhi spoke frequently of the seamless connection of means and ends. War IS terrorism. How can we expect it to produce anything else — with it many “means” and “ends”? In the end, I cannot view warmaking as service to this country, or any country for that madder, certainly not to humanity as a hole. I find warmaking incompatible with Jesus’ call to love our enemies and to be peacemakers, the children of God.

In speaking with hundreds of Americans over the years about draft registration resistance, I have found that people’s objections to my objections are of two basic types. One type of response is basically that draft registration is such a minimal requirement that it isn’t worth much fuss. If this is the case, then why don’t we just get rid of draft registration, without much fuss? The other type of response is about the utter graveness of our warmaking, and usually something about our national doody. If war is so grave, perhaps the concerns around someone refusing to go postal should receive more thoughtful and consequential consideration. To add insult to injury, in a surreal show of moral farce, war apologists routinely cite “necessary evil” as their moral foundation. This is not the God I serve. Straddling these two poles of minimal and supreme concern, are the tired questions that are asked pacifists, such as: “What would you do if someone was raping your grandmother in the ally?” I learned to answer such questions with: “I’d register for the draft.” If their perplexity persisted, they might suggest that I go back to Russia (where I’ve never been) or indicated their inclination to see me face time in jail; presumably, so I am not around to not protect them.

Mean wile, back in 1980, soon after winning the presidential election, Ronald Reagan broke his campaign promise to end draft registration. His campaign rhetoric about getting the government off the backs of people rang hollow, like a hollow bullet to my heart. The media wanted to do a story on this broken promise and how it affected the young men subject to the law, particularly those opposed to it. As it turned out, while there were millions of nonregistrants quietly in violation of the law, I was the only local public nonregistrant that they could track down, and I soon found myself highlighted in various media for years to come.

To make a long story shorter, in 1983, I was indicted for failure to register — I prefer refusal to register. In 1986, I was tried and convicted. My indiscriminate honesty more than compensated for their lack of investigatory skills. I served 107 days in the federal Community Corrections Center in Detroit, served two years probation, and served 200 hours of community service. I can’t help but note, today, since the theme is “service,” that the solution to my singular failure was to rip me from my community in order to integrate me back into my community. Plus, the court had to bean-count community service that you couldn’t have stopped me from serving anyway.

Of course, there were larger forces at work. I, and a select few others, had to be made examples of. I, for One, am proud of the example I served. In the case of The United States of America vs. Daniel A. Rutt, there was a focus on my failure/refusal. In the meantime, I had finished college, got married, finished graduate school, had a son, and got a job. I went on to serve in a public health career of almost two decades. I even got a national award from the feds for my work in health promotion — thanks for noticing, U.S. of A. For the last 16 years, I have run my own business promoting social justice.

I do not consider my time imprisoned or countless hours engaging in war resistance as any great burden. In fact, I consider this as service to my country and humanity. I do suspect that most any person who did a tour of active duty in Iraq or Afghanistan has suffered more than I.  Unfortunately, war is replete with suffering. Of course, suffering is of no great inherent value. Nonetheless, whatever we willingly suffer for is a good measure of what we truly value. I hope that more Americans, whether male or female, young or old, will volunteer to put more skin in the game and resist war in any way they can. I believe that the cost of freedom is found in not killing, rather than killing. As General Patton so infamously stated, “No dumb bastard ever won a war by going out and dying for his country. He won it by making some other dumb bastard die for his country.”

It is impossible for me to separate my service from my conscience. Conscience is that small still voice that emanates from the foundation of our existence, that calls us, at the risk of trademark infringement, to be all that we can be. My war resistance is deeply rooted in following Jesus, The Prince of Peace. The Jesus I follow was executed as an enemy of the state. He was executed at the behest of the religious elite. Today, the religious elite dutifully save themselves and their clan, more faithfully blessing warmakers than counseling their youth to resist war, more conveniently blessing warmakers than counseling their youth to resist war. The first wave of martyrs in early Christendom were men who refused military service. The broader wave of martyrs were Jesus followers who refused idolatry, the literal and figurative “pinch of incense on the altar” to Caesar.

For me, draft registration is that “pinch of incense on the altar” of the state. When it comes to military service, in the great U.S.A., there is no “one nation under God.” When it comes to military service, The United States of America is God. Specifically, The United States of America, does not recognize ANY Constitutional right to refuse military service for ANY reason, including conscience or freedom of religion. As we all know, the U.S. Constitution provides for many rights, rights that cannot be infringed upon by the state. There are many constitutional rights, such as freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom to peaceably assemble, freedom to petition for redress of grievances, freedom from unreasonable search and seizure, and the right to equal protection under the law, among others. These are often referred to as natural rights or God-given rights. Such rights define the character of a state, and place limits on its sovereignty, recognizing a power greater than itself. The United States of America, does not recognize ANY natural or God-given right to refuse military service for ANY reason. If you are surprised by this, so was I. I count this as the singular lesson that I learned in my draft registration resistance. This sad and idolatrous reality was unmasked only by a federal judge citing a Supreme Court case in a legal opinion rejecting my motion for dismissal on the basis of religious freedom. Fortunately, I have found that God’s grace extends further than legislative grace or constitutional provision of this republic. I strongly suspect that tens of millions of Americans of faith recognize that holy obedience sometimes requires civil disobedience.

My male ancestors age 16 plus who arrived to this land so many years ago were forced to swear a loyalty oath to the government, even though most didn’t even speak the language in which the oath was administered. This didn’t even seem to matter to government officials. Why is this? I suspect that the nominal and incomprehensible oath was a “pinch of incense on the altar,” a ritual form of national worship needed by a resident populace afraid of strangers. The minimal content of the oath served as a safe and surefire way to maximize compliance and minimize resistance. Who would get back on the boat and return across the sea because they had to mouth or sign an incomprehensible swearing. Who would not submit their name and basic information to the Selective Service System? Well, most young men do not register when they first become legally required. Most young men, hoping to go somewhere, register when they need to secure a driver’s license, or when they reach the shore of an education, needing a student loan.

I suspect that the ritual obedience of a “pinch of incense on the altar” may be more important than an actually functioning, fair and equitable system of potential conscription. Conspicuously absent from the Selective Service annual report is the noncompliance rate with the requirement for registrants to update their address (within 10 days) every time they move. Every observant person knows that 18-25 year-old men move a lot. How many address updates do they get? How many address updates don’t they get? Surely, this can be estimated, and certainly it matters if one actually cares about being able to effectively and fairly enlist young men in a potential draft. The noncompliance rate for initial registration is 8% for all 18-25 year-old men. I strongly suspect that the noncompliance with current address is much higher than noncompliance with initial registration; probably, in combination, high enough to blow a hole in any contention that draft registration is effective and fair. By the way, those young men not complying with address updates are subject to the same legal penalties of up to five years in prison and up to a $250,000 fine. In FY 2017, 184,051 names and addresses of suspected violators to initial registration were provided to the Department of Justice. Does it strike anyone else as odd that the names and addresses of suspected violators are forwarded? If the Selective Service System has the names and addresses of potential enlistees, what else do they need?

I contend that what Selective Service is largely after is your assent to civil obedience, participation in a national religion of warmaking, your “pinch of incense on the altar,” if you will. This seems to be a better characterization of Selective Service’s function than, in the case of a military draft, to “rapidly provide personnel in a fair and equitable manner.” Oddly, if you find yourself a male age 26 or older, beyond the age requirement to register, and you failed to register, you could still run into trouble by being denied eligibility for federal student financial aid, federal job training, federal employment, or U.S. citizenship; yet, you may be in the clear if your can “show by a preponderance of evidence” that your failure to register was not knowing and willful. Just don’t be too conscientious; that is, until you have to prove that you were not conscientious. Apparently, the true crime is conscientiousness in not registering, more so than simply not registering. The selective prosecution of a few conscientious and public resisters while millions are noncompliant speaks volumes to this.  Certainly, a system where obliviousness is excusable and objecting conscientiously is a crime is a system that distorts our nation’s highest values.  I don’t object to Selective Service being shot full of holes regarding compliance. I do object to Selective Service dishonoring or punishing conscientiousness. As there is no way for a registrant to officially indicate any intent at conscientious objection, I would be very curious to see what would happen if conscientious objector status were a checkbox in the registration process. We might learn a lot about the state of conscientious objection in America. Of course, if Selective Service noncompliance is largely about non-conscientiousness, then I have to ask: What would such a level of non-conscientiousness say about what we might be fighting for and who might be fighting for it?

The draft registration system cannot account for true conscientiousness. The draft registration system cannot muster enough compliance, conscientious or not, to claim fairness and equitability. The honorable course of action, in both cases, is to end draft registration.

In truth, the actual practice of draft registration ignores conscientious objection. While there is no apparent constitutional right to refuse military conscription, there are some legislative provisions for what are called conscientious objectors. Unfortunately, there is no mechanism to indicate conscientious objection during the current draft registration process. This is objectionable to many conscientiously opposed to war. Somewhat oddly, the only legal way to make such a claim is to submit to a system, the Selective Service System, whose sole purpose is preparing for war, which you must reject completely. Plus, conscientious objector status is only possible as a military service classification, if and when a draft may occur. The longer a registrant is unrecognized as conscientiously opposed to war, the further the objection. Further, conscientious objector status can only be recognized for those who are opposed to all wars. If you in good conscience object to whatever current war in which you are subject to serve, this is oddly irrelevant. You could, in fact, turn out to conscientiously object to every actual war that comes down the pike in your lifetime and this is deemed irrelevant if you are not opposed to every theoretical war (or past war). This renders conscientious objection to a meaningless idea for what is perhaps the vast bulk of being conscientiously opposed to war. Finally, there is no real mechanism to truly count or officially value the service of conscientious objectors, meaning that men will be drafted until the military need is met, whether ten or ten million men have conscientious objection. The service of a conscientious objector is superfluous to the determining aim of the Selective Service System. This itself is offensive to many persons of conscience opposed to war-making. Let’s end the criminalization of conscience.

In truth, the actual practice of warmaking habitually runs roughshod over international law and human rights. The promise of some possible future alternative service as a noncombatant is little comfort to my conscience, and of many others. In a warring world, the distinction between combatants and noncombatants offers fantastical sanitization rather than actual sanity. The fact is that across time and across a myriad of modern armed conflicts, over ten so-called “noncombatants” are killed for every “combatant.” The first casualty of war is the truth; most of the rest are noncombatants. My duty is to oppose war, not escape military service. This is my service to humanity. This service is regardless of combatant status. Plus, the best way to serve warriors happens to be ending war.

In the age of terrorism, some will claim that we live in new era of war, not subject to the old rules of war. We do live in a different time than in the 1980’s, the decade when draft registration was initiated. I can testify to a profound shift toward anti-war sentiment since then. During the first Gulf war, in the early 1990’s, I never felt so isolated as an American, confronting palpable resistance even from liberals. When the U.S. invaded Afghanistan, our local peace network, the Northwest Ohio Peace Coalition, initiated weekly Sunday demonstrations at busy intersections around town. These demonstrations for peace and against war occurred weekly for 15 years (and continue twice each month). In the early years, most of the feedback we had from passing motorists was angry yelling, middle fingers, and expletives flying. Over the years, this angry response has become rare, perhaps a couple a week, and the overwhelming positive responses are represented by hundreds of “honks for peace,” peace signs and thumbs up. Americans in the heartland of Ohio are tired of war and welcome peace. Draft registration is a relic of ages past. Why have draft registration when even the military cites no scenarios where they would want a draft?

One issue at the heart of draft registration and military conscription is what is the proper role of women in warmaking and peacemaking. I am delighted to see that women serve as 5 of the 11 commissioners. Surely, it is women who should determine what is the proper role of women, in this case, concerning warmaking and peacemaking. In my lifelong work across a wide range of social justice movements, I have found women to be the most reliable and most inspiring leaders and laborers for social justice. I strongly suspect that women will take up the mantle of even greater war resistance if they become subject to military conscription. I take inspiration to serve as a war resister from Julia Ward Howe. She, most famously known as the composer of the Battle Hymn of The Republic, was the founder of Mother’s Day, originally a day of war resistance. She issued this Mother’s Day Proclamation in 1870:

Arise, then, women of this day! Arise all women who have hearts, whether your baptism be of water or of tears! Say firmly: “We will not have questions decided by irrelevant agencies. Our husbands shall not come to us reeking of carnage for caresses and applause. Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy, and patience. We women of one country will be too tender to those of another country to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.”

From the bosom of a devastated Earth a voice goes up with our own. It says “Disarm! Disarm!” The sword of murder is not the balance of justice. Blood does not wipe out dishonor, nor violence indicate possession.

As men have forsaken the plow and the anvil at the summons of war, let women now leave all that may be left of home for a great and earnest day of counsel. Let them meet first as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead. Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means whereby the great human family can live in peace, each bearing after his time the sacred impress not of Caesar, but of God.

 In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask that a general congress of women without limit of nationality be appointed and held at some place deemed most convenient and at the earliest period consistent with its objects, to promote the alliance of the different nationalities, the amicable settlement of international questions, the great and general interests of peace.

I would much prefer entrusting my conscience and fate to such “a general congress of women without limit of nationality,” rather than the currently constituted National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service.

Perhaps somewhat ironic, given my heritage, Germany now has a constitutional right to conscientious objection while the United States does not. When Germany ended conscription in 2011, the majority of those serving were conscientious objectors, and the debate had shifted from conscience to whether they should give up a huge pool of cheap labor. I believe that forced national service is incongruent with our nation’s highest ideals. I believe that volunteerism is at the core of authentic service. I suspect that lowering our ideals by forcing service is a poor way to nurture true service. Let us lead by example. This is why I am here today. If you want to gauge both the heart and the cutting edge of service in this country and for this country, look to those who volunteer, willingly, without pay, to live out their deepest values. This is the clearest view of our highest ideals incarnate, that service, that work, which cannot be bought and sold.

I appreciate the opportunity to testify before the Commission. From your bios, I can see that you are exemplary leaders in service. Unfortunately, I think that you may have an impossible job. I appreciate that Selective Service is technically considered under civilian control. Still, I can’t help but notice that both Selective Service and this Commission are heavily represented by persons from the military or traditional national security apparatus. This does not fairly represent America in the civilian service necessary to make for peace in the world. Also, about 4 in 10 Americans are persons of color, including many of those in the military. Why is this Commission even whiter than the overly white Congress who appointed it? This is not a service to America, and raises the question of whether white supremacy is part and parcel to your work. In tandem, the Commission’s overwhelmingly militarized representation and unduly whiteness, inspires little confidence that your recommendations can represent America. Perhaps it would be more honest to call this Commission an Omission. I suspect that this failure is rooted in the failure and cowardice of Congress to deal with draft registration in a changing world, that is, a world that recognizes women as equals. Congress punted on the politically unpopular choices of just ending draft registration or expanding it to women. Instead, Congress kicked the can down the road for a couple of years by creating a Commission to address this question for them. Unfortunately, This Congress-created Commission is so couched in generic service rhetoric that it is hamstrung in dealing straightforwardly with the singular issue that triggered its creation: draft registration. Until the Commission owns up to addressing the issue of draft registration as its core reason for existing, any hopes of sparking a national conversation on service will be sparks falling on damp firewood.  Further complicating the credibility of the Commission is the tightly controlled and choreographed public meetings in conjunction with severely limited open public testimony. A responsive democratic process would have began with generous opportunities for open public testimony, and then using this input to shape additional “invited” testimony. This may already be too late to remedy. The chasm between the nature of “invited” testimony and uninvited testimony betrays a characterization of the Commission’s work to date as democratic or representative. In my years of public service, both as a community planner and as a citizen participant in many public forums, I think that it is fairer to characterize the Commission’s public meetings to date more as “dog and pony shows” than as an open and responsive democratic process. For this Commission’s work to claim legitimacy, there is a lot of changes that need to be made. Lastly, having to make FOIA requests to find out about the basic public functioning of the Commission does not bode well for a culture of transparent, accountable public service by the Commission. I hope that you have found worthwhile input in my testimony to move toward a peace-loving democracy in which every one of us finds ample opportunities, free of compulsion, for self-sacrificial service for the good of all.

###

PRESS STATEMENT

My name is Dan Rutt. I have traveled from Toledo, Ohio, about 250 miles away, to be here today. I am one of the select few prosecuted and imprisoned for refusing to register for the draft, back in the 1980’s. We are here today for one reason, and one reason alone: Congress punted on the politically unpopular choices of just ending draft registration or expanding it to women. Congress punted by appointing a Commission to provide recommendations regarding draft registration a couple years down the road. That Commission is the National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service. Unfortunately, This Commission’s work is so couched in generic service rhetoric that it is hamstrung in dealing straightforwardly with the singular issue that triggered its creation: draft registration. Until the Commission owns up to honestly and openly addressing the issue of draft registration as its core reason for existing, the Commission will be a failure. Draft registration continues to have no mechanism to accommodate conscientious objection. Draft registration is fraught with noncompliance by young men either not registering at all, registering late, or not updating their addresses. The military cites no scenarios where they would want a draft. This is no time to expand draft registration, whether to women or persons with select skills the military might want. Now is the time to end draft registration. Voluntary service is true service. Let’s keep it that way.

Today’s public meeting in particular highlights the failing credibility of the Commission. Previous public meetings around the country have had very limited opportunity for open testimony from the general public. Today’s meeting has even less opportunity. Previous public meetings have been billed as having opportunities to speak directly to the Commission; and when people get there they find out that there is a scheduled two minutes per citizen. This meeting is being billed as an opportunity for Q&A, not even to the Commission but to their invited speakers. Furthermore, the overall time for the public to even participate in this insular Q&A has been cut down to “20 or 30 minutes.” From the experience of previous public meetings, the chasm between the nature of “invited” testimony and uninvited testimony betrays a characterization of the Commission’s work to date as democratic. The Commission is moving in the wrong direction. A responsive democratic process would have began with generous opportunities for open public testimony, and then used this input to shape additional “invited” testimony as needed. This may already be too late to remedy.

Unfortunately, the Commission has other credibility problems that may very well make their job impossible. This Commission is dominated by members from the military or traditional national security apparatus, all the while trying to couch their work in a broader, more generic view of service. This Commission is extremely white, in a nation where people of color are about 4 of 10 Americans. This Commission is poorly designed to represent America. To make matters worse, the Commission has chosen to conduct its business in such a manner that citizens have had to make FOIA requests to find out about the basic public functioning of the Commission. This does not bode well for a culture of transparent, accountable public service by the Commission.

Originally, I planned my trip from Toledo to Chicago, for this public meeting, to deliver testimony to the Commission, offering a story of conscience and how draft registration fails to meet a broad range of America’s ideals. Because this public meeting cannot accommodate such open testimony, I stand before you, hoping that a free press will shine a light on the ill-conceived and poorly executed work of The National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service.

###

Listen here to the audio of my brief testimony against draft registration at 1:15:10.

Activist POEM: Yet Another Trump Tuesday at Sen. Portman’s Office

Yet Another Trump Tuesday at Sen. Portman’s Office

Empower verses
In power
What is won to think?
Lying in wait
Miring our advocacy
Swamped with democracy
When and how to mete US
We go through the drill
Lairs of representation
As hour representative
Represented by representatives
And sum how still amiss representative
Even as anyone can read the signs
Along standing
Hi noon
As if genuflecting the one
Who helled office
Only in attendance
In a shadowy cloak
Wore of attrition
By hook or crook
Never quite present to us
We no demonstrably
We have hit AWOL
Yet ever so rightly
Will pass on our tidings
And the next weak
In wake of yet an other attack
We will rise agin
Sea you soon

Indivisible Toledo holds a Trump Tuesday protest at noon every Tuesday outside Republican Sen. Rob Portman’s office in Toledo. We have been doing this since Donald Trump’s inauguration. Activism Is My Rent For Living On This Planet -- Alice Walker quote POLITICAL BUTTONTypically, a legislative aide has meet with protesters at least every few weeks. Yesterday, a legislative aide met with us for the first time in over two months, a new record for unavailability. We have never been able to meet with Sen. Portman, nor has he ever met our oft repeated request to have a public town hall meeting anywhere in Ohio — though we particularly invite him to have a town hall meeting in Toledo. Our meeting was particularly intense, reflecting cumulative rage over President Trump, and the silence of Republican congresspeople, specifically Sen. Portman. Sen. Portman has over four years til his re-election campaign, and he seems intent on biding his time during the tumultuous Trump presidency. Globalize THIS - RESISTANCE [earth graphic] POLITICAL BUTTONHe is a quite reliable vote for the Trump agenda. This poem was inspired by our meeting yesterday, and our chronic frustration in not having any direct access to our elected official. Of course, with or without Sen. Portman, the resistance will continue.

Feel free to browse my designs on dissent and resistance.

Toledo Democracy Day Testimony: Focus on Racism, White Supremacy

Below is the testimony I delivered today before Toledo City Council, or rather the three council members who showed up.  The mayor also showed up for part of the testimony.

Democracy Day Testimony

March 5, 2018

Hi, my name is Dan Rutt.  Today, I want to focus on one thing: that is, racism, or more precisely, white supremacy.

I am trained professionally in public health and I can attest to the effects of racial disparities across a sweeping array of health issues.  It is key to note that these racial disparities cannot be explained away by differences in income, education or the like.  Racism and white supremacy are baked into our system.  Less than two weeks ago, the Center for Investigative Journalism released a massive, nationwide study of access to housing finance, for home mortgages and home improvement loans.  Blacks were 2.7 times more likely to be denied loans than whites.  Again, this is comparing loans for people with the same credit scores, financial ability to pay, and even for loans in the same neighborhoods.  Of particular concern, this racial disparity is larger than during the Jim Crow era.  Racism is not receding into the distance.

Today, I would like to further focus on the criminal justice system, which is perhaps the most palpable manifestation of racism in our society.  At every stage of the criminal justice system, people of color are more likely than whites to be harassed by police, arrested by police, subject to bail or larger bail by judges, given harsher prison sentences by judges, and less likely to get parole.  And please note again, that this is comparing for the same crimes.  The treatment of people of color by the criminal justice system raises inescapable questions of what is criminal, what is justice, and what is the true nature of the system.

Within the last couple of weeks, Danny Brown, who was wrongly convicted of a murder in 1982, exhausted perhaps his last legal recourse to exoneration and access to just compensation for his nearly two decades in prison.  As he enters his fourth decade of this criminally just nightmare, Julia Bates, the county prosecutor, continues her intransigence, in keeping Danny on a suspect list, so he cannot be cleared.  The illusory case that she has held open for so many years denies Danny his chance at justice.  The last time I saw Julia Bates on TV about Danny’s case she spoke about her concern for the money he might get if he is fully exonerated — speaking of valuing money over human life.  Is anyone surprised that Danny Brown is a black man?  Is anyone surprised that a hugely disproportionate amount of people across the country in similar situations are black men?  Today, I call, again, for Julia Bates to close the case on Danny Brown or retry him.

Last year, U.S. Attorney General, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, visited our fine city and had a meeting closed to the media and the public, securing an entire block to keep him safe from looming democratic forces.  He came promoting his initiative, unfunded initiative, to ramp up the failed drug war and get prosecutors to charge defendants with the maximum charges they can. This initiative is in direct opposition to an ongoing effort by our criminal justice system to seek ways to minimize sentences, particularly for nonviolent offenses.  This Sessions initiative has been plagued by secrecy, including foremost, by our own Chief-of-Police, George Kral, who has been less than forthcoming about how Toledo got roped into this initiative, and what exactly does this initiative mean for Toledo.  Does Chief Kral really expect that this hard-edged, law-and-order Sessions initiative won’t magnify existing racial disparities in our criminal justice system?

I am here today because I witness again and again evidence from top to bottom in our community that white supremacy is, at a minimum, poorly understood, and more importantly, in practice, widespread.

A view from the top may be most illustrative.  During the recent mayoral race, CSRN, The Community Solidarity Response Network, our local Black Lives Matter group, held a mayoral candidates forum. The first question was, “How do you define white supremacy?” None of the four candidates defined white supremacy as institutional racism or society-wide systems of injustice against persons of color.  This included our former mayor and our new mayor.  The answers touched on white supremacy as neo-Nazis or the like — the worst of the worst.  There were several versions of “a few bad apples” within society and some of our public institutions.  And there was the issue of implicit bias, a polite term for subconscious racism.

All in all, I was left with the distinct impression that racism was a peripheral issue, largely something in the past, that the still-existing remnants needed some sweeping up; though, alas, there was plenty of regret for the occasional but rare racist that still managed to survive into our largely post-racial society.  I was struck by the seeming apologetics around implicit bias, as if not intending to be racist largely mitigated the real-life effects of racism.  I was left with the impression that racism was more about impropriety than injustice.  Please remember that their answers were at a mayoral candidates forum within the specific context of the sponsoring group being an anti-racism group.  I am hard-pressed to believe that they were caught unprepared to answer such questions, and I strongly suspect that their weak answers came close to their best effort.

I must confess that I was particularly struck by such a weak response of our then-Mayor, the African-American holding the highest elected office in our city.  Yet, on further reflection this seemed less as some personal failure of hers than, in fact, as a rather apt example of how the powers that be, the status quo, is better characterized by the strictures and limits set by white supremacy in our body politic than by the life experiences of any given politician with a black body.

Our community is currently in the process of planning how to rehab our county jail.  I have heard much about location, dominated by “not-in-my-backyard” attitudes, and about cost — not the disproportionate human cost borne by communities of color, but money, money, money.  This is the present nexus and test regarding our true valuing of human persons over money.  We may not have confederate statues to remind us of our racist heritage, yet, if a new jail is built without a bold plan to combat the racism inherent in our criminal justice system, then the new jail will be a very expensive monument to our racism.  This is the $100 million question of the day.  Many of us may take some comfort, even pride, in areas where Toledo may do better than other communities, but let us assure that this in no way dampens a bold resolve to end white supremacy in Toledo.

To that end, I call upon our mayor, Toledo City Council, and the Lucas County Commissioners to come up with a comprehensive plan to eliminate racism from our criminal justice system.  THANK YOU.

Anti-GUN VIOLENCE POSTER : Prez Donald Trump – Offering the lives of our children on the altar of an unregulated militia is proof of how great America is

200 school shootings since the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre. Now, Broward County, Florida, gets hit again, after another school shooting there last year. This time they set the record for biggest school shooting massacre in Florida’s history. Gee, who could have seen this coming?! Team USA stands alone, unchallenged, for the gold medal in private citizens killing private citizens with guns, often with military style weapons and as much ammunition as one can carry.

Just how the second amendment’s “well-regulated militia” has been chronically and institutionally perverted to protecting the rights of unregulated lone gunmen is a chilling testament and case study in the perversion of democracy. For decades, the will of the people has been for way more sensible gun laws. Yet, for congress and state legislatures, doing nothing is often the best they can do, for when they do something, more often then not, their actions further stymie gun violence prevention and better arm the most dangerous elements of America.

Feel free to share this free anti-gun violence poster: Prez Donald Trump – Offering the lives of our children on the altar of an unregulated militia is proof of how great America is.

Anti-GUN VIOLENCE POSTER : Prez Donald Trump - Offering the lives of our children on the altar of an unregulated militia is proof of how great America is

Feel free to browse Top Pun’s anti gun violence and gun violence prevention designs.

FREE POLITICAL POSTER: Senate Intelligence Committee Disbands After Finding None

Intelligence does not equal wisdom. The Senate Intelligence Committee uses the term “intelligence” in reference to the dozen or so official agencies that function as covert gatherers of information about potential enemies, which means virtually everyone on the planet, and perhaps the planet itself. Transparency is anathema to the core work of so-called intelligence gathering, making it ripe for lack of accountability, outright corruption, and rampant conspiracies. In their latest desperate public attempt to display that they are doing something, they have resorted to a favorite bipartisan whipping gal, Jill Stein, two-time Green Party presidential candidate [though “presidential” is being redefined daily basis]. This all harkens back to a now infamous gala hosted by RT, a Russian media outlet, that Jill Stein attended.  As everyone knows, public galas are prime territory for suspected covert operatives to do their thing — whereas truly powerful men make it a practice to do their thing in front of unsuspecting women in places such as private hotel rooms. The Senate Intelligence Committee is foolishly focusing on minutiae and cheap political shots with McCarthyite requests for information from political opponents. This free political poster is a tribute to the Senate Intelligence Committee looking deep within themselves and finding far too little worthy of being called intelligence. Please feel free to share this free political poster: Senate Intelligence Committee Disbands After Finding None.

FREE POLITICAL POSTER: Senate Intelligence Committee Disbands After Finding None

For one take on the summoning of Jill Stein, read McCarthyite Witch Hunt Comes For Jill Stein, with excerpts here:

This is what Russiagate has come to. This psychotic conspiracy theory is now so desperate to turn this endless fountain of nothing into something that it is rifling through the documents of a campaign which received one percent of the popular vote because its candidate had dinner in Russia two years ago.

What else can I say about this besides what I wrote the other day? Jill Stein gave a perfectly reasonable explanation of the dinner she had in which she was photographed at a table with Michael Flynn and Vladimir Putin, and not one shred of evidence has ever been produced anywhere contradicting it. The Green Party necessarily has to run a presidential candidate every election in order to secure party viability; if they hadn’t run Stein they would necessarily have run someone else. The existence of third parties is a perfectly legitimate, legally sanctioned and desirable part of the American electoral process, and in the rest of the world they are considered normal. There is no legitimate reason whatsoever to suspect that Stein’s candidacy had anything to do with a Kremlin conspiracy.

And yet US empire loyalists everywhere are having another one of their notorious online “bombshell” parades about this document search as though it means something…

…And yet there is nothing to this report other than a deeply disturbing political stop-and-frisk meant to punish a political candidate for daring to defy the neoliberal neoconservative one-party system and make this fact-free McCarthyite feeding frenzy look legitimate.

But it isn’t legitimate. If Russiagate was legit, it wouldn’t be advancing profoundly stupid conspiracy theories about third party candidates which require such a suspension of disbelief that you need to forget the entirety of the Green Party’s recorded history in order to believe them. If Russiagate was legit, the people selling it to us wouldn’t be caught lying about it over and overand over again. America’s power establishment is using Russiagate to cover up last year’s revelations about the rigged Democratic primary process and to manufacture public support for new cold war escalations with China’s right arm. There is no truth backing it up.

Last year we learned that one of America’s two major political parties actively sabotages candidacies which don’t perfectly kowtow to establishment agendas, and this year we’ve seen this same establishment running relentless punitive character assassination campaigns against any leftist candidates who dare to run outside the rigged Democratic party system.

Which of course is why it’s so funny when people claim that Russia attacked American democracy. In order for anyone to attack American democracy, democracy would have to exist in America.

FREE POLITICAL POSTER: Donald Trump Swamped With Taxing Situations, Declares MOST UNDRAINING EVER!

Donald Trump’s promise to “Drain the swamp” from Washington, DC, is perhaps his most surreal promise of all. Today, President Donald Trump is campaigning for Senate candidate Roy Moore, who has been facing mounting credible evidence of his predatory sexual behavior, especially against teen girls. Roy Moore has proven himself a liar, not that The Don has a problem with that.  With Roy Moore, Donald Trump wants to fill the swamp, officially bringing pedophilia to the Senate. Of course, Trump’s cabinet and advisers are replete with long-time corporate and political insiders. Trumpcare and the Republican tax scam were literally written by corporate tools and lobbyists.  To top it off, the Trump administration is on course to be the most corrupt Washington administration in history.  The Don may make Richard “Tricky Dick” Nixon look like an amateur criminal.  As Prez Donald Trump becomes increasingly unhinged, swamped with taxing situations, he arrogantly declares, “MOST UNDRAINING. EVER.” Thus, I have created a free political poster: Donald Trump Swamped With Taxing Situations, Declares MOST UNDRAINING EVER!  Please enjoy and feel free to share with friends and enemies.FREE POLITICAL POSTER: Donald Trump Swamped With Taxing Situations, Declares MOST UNDRAINING EVER!

For another perspective on the “drain the swamp” landscape, try this commentary, Trump Made the Swamp Worse. Here’s How to Drain It:

Donald Trump’s pledges to “drain the swamp” of corruption in Washington attest to his genius for unintentional irony. Nepotism, egregious conflicts of interest, flights on the public dime to see Wimbledon and the eclipse — the Beltway wetlands are now wilder and murkier than ever.

It would be a mistake, though, to dismiss the swamp metaphor on account of Mr. Trump’s hypocrisy. You can’t make sense of his shocking victory last year without reference to the downward spiral of public faith in governing elites and established institutions. Years of stagnating incomes, combined with dimming prospects for the future, have primed voters for the message that the system is “rigged” and that only an outsider not beholden to the corrupt establishment can clean it up.

In other words, one key to this populist moment in American politics is the link in the public mind between dysfunction in Washington and the economic malaise of the 21st century. An effective political response to this perilous moment begins with the recognition that this link is real — and that key changes in the policymaking process, supported by a major push from organized philanthropy, will be needed to turn things around.

The image of the swamp conveys a profound truth about the American economy. Our predicament of slow growth and sky-high inequality has many causes, but one important factor is the capture of the American political system by powerful insiders — big businesses, elite professionals, wealthy homeowners — that use it to entrench their own economic power. In so doing, they protect themselves from competition, fatten their bank accounts with diverted wealth and slow the creative destruction that drives economic growth.

Four key policy areas shed light on the growth of this political-economic swamp — financial regulation, intellectual property, occupational licensing and zoning. They show that the swamp isn’t confined to Washington; it can also be found in 50 state capitals and countless local jurisdictions.

Continue reading the main story
In the financial sector, a web of regulatory subsidies sustains financial institutions’ unhealthy reliance on extremely high levels of debt. These subsidies, including policies that strongly encourage mortgage securitization as well as the implicit promise to bail out “too big to fail” institutions, swell profits in the near term while increasing the systemic risk of a catastrophic meltdown in the long run. The result is a financial sector much bigger than the economy needs, chronic misallocation of capital and the diversion of some of the country’s top talent into counterproductive work. Luring people into excessive debt, draining their savings with hidden fees, inflating the next asset bubble — these and other dubious “contributions” by finance to the economy need to be curtailed.

Intellectual property laws are supposed to encourage innovation by granting temporary monopolies to copyright and patent holders. But if those monopolies get too broad and too onerous, innovation takes a hit — and that is precisely what has happened, at the urging and for the benefit of Hollywood, Big Pharma and some interests in Silicon Valley.

Occupational licensing rules at the state level help explain why professionals in the United States are paid so much more than their peers in other countries. Primary care physicians, for example, make 50 percent more in the United States than in other advanced countries, and specialists do even better. State regulations protect the incomes of doctors, dentists, undertakers and optometrists — not to mention makeup artists and auctioneers — while also stifling innovation.

Increasingly severe constraints on building in high-income coastal cities inflate the asset values of affluent homeowners, contributing significantly to rising disparities in wealth. And by making housing unaffordable, they prevent the less well-off from moving to where the good-paying jobs are, reducing geographic and social mobility.

This regressive regulatory swamp isn’t a natural landscape; it grows because of forces in our political environment. The beneficiaries of upward redistribution are always far more organized than those who pay the costs. They can divert some of their artificially high profits into lobbying and policy research that bestow a patina of the public interest on schemes that are, in practice, legalized robbery. Drugmakers, for example, portray even the most modest retrenchment of patent law as catastrophic for American innovation, while financiers warn that any restraint on subsidized risk-taking (through higher capital requirements, for example) will starve American industry of the capital it needs to invest and grow.

This unequal battle for the minds of policymakers is particularly damaging at a time when the resources that Congress and the bureaucracy have for independent research have been systematically dismantled. In finance, in particular, Congress has a difficult time hiring and retaining staff with the technical knowledge and experience to assess the impact of new regulations, leaving them dependent on the abundant resources of the industry itself.

In addition, many regressive regulations are made in obscure places with limited participation, such as state licensing boards and town councils in charge of approving new housing. Insiders with narrow interests, whether self-serving professional groups or Nimby neighbors, have the motivation and resources to show up at poorly attended meetings and work the system, often at odds with the general public’s interest in low prices and economic opportunity.

Really draining the swamp means changing the policymaking process to shield it against insider takeover and manipulation. For starters, congressional staffs need to be expanded, upgraded and professionalized. Legislators would then be better able to make their own assessments of complex regulatory issues without having to depend on the biased expertise of industry lobbyists.

Philanthropists need to put their dollars behind a network of organizations to counter the organizational presence of the forces of upward redistribution. The Ford Foundation did this in the 1970s by investing in a network of environmental law firms like the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Environmental Defense Fund. More recently, the Eli and Edythe Broad, Walton Family, Robertson and other charitable foundations have made similar investments in educational reforms.

Whatever you think of the merits of these causes, the new interest groups funded by sustained philanthropy changed the political landscape in these issue areas, forcing policymakers to recognize that there were, in fact, two sides to be considered. A network of new organizations with the resources and expertise to compete with big banks, the medical lobby and other industry groups could have a similar impact today. Activist groups could show up regularly in all the obscure places where rules are set and make sure that someone speaks up for the public interest.

State and local governments need to institute regulatory review procedures that expose back-room deals to objective scrutiny. While cost-benefit analysis by the Office of Management and Budget is standard for new federal regulations, no such reviews are conducted when states propose to license new occupations or cities stymie new housing construction.

Courts at all levels need to be less deferential to regulatory schemes that — in contrast to environmental or labor regulation — have no justification other than the protection of incumbent interests. For example, courts could force legislatures to explicitly approve expansions in the scope of occupational licensing, depriving licensing boards of the power to do so in shadowy obscurity.

In the political arena, the issues of regressive regulation cut across the usual partisan and ideological battle lines, and so tend to be kept off the agenda by legislative leaders who emphasize issues that hold their caucus together. Libertarian-leaning conservatives and egalitarian liberals need to forge strange-bedfellows coalitions to tackle policies that are simultaneously bad for growth and inequality. In recent years, cross-party coalitions in the states have started to make progress on criminal justice reform. Opposition to upward redistribution can galvanize support for similar alliances on regulatory issues.

The administration of Donald Trump has shown no interest in draining the real swamp that is drowning America’s economy and corrupting its politics. If public-spirited Democrats and Republicans fail to do so, trust in democracy will continue to erode. And the next demagogue who cashes in by saying he alone can fix things is likely to be more disciplined and focused than Mr. Trump — and hence even more dangerous.

FREE POLITICAL POSTER: Sen. Rob Portman cannot tell a lie, so he will not be talking about unfunded tax cuts for the rich

Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) is well practiced at not speaking in truly public forums about his public policies and rationale.  This lack of public accountability as an elected public official is a symptom of an ailing and dysfunctional democracy. This free poster, another addition to my “Parity or Parody” series of posters, speaks to the pathetically low bar of not speaking at all in order to avoid the web of lies that entangles one’s so-called public policy. Sen Rob Portman likes to portray himself as independent and he has tried to put political space between him and President Donald Trump; nevertheless, when it come to enacting legislation, he shows up as a highly reliable Trump Republican, a committed partisan. The current Republican tax bills seem to be no exception for Sen. Portman.

Sen. Portman seems to be relishing rather than merely stomaching the regressive taxation scheme, borrowing money from future generations to enrich the already rich, and standing predictably silent on the inevitable growing pressure to cut government programs, even major and popular entitlement programs like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, that benefit a broad swathe of Americans often referred to as the middle class and on much rarer occasion the poor.  In public discourse, the poor are largely unmentioned, leaving us with the middle class and the rich, or as I might say, “the meddle class.”

Please enjoy and share freely this free political poster: Sen. Rob Portman cannot tell a lie, so he will not be talking about unfunded tax cuts for the rich.

FREE POLITICAL POSTER: Sen. Rob Portman cannot tell a lie, so he will not be talking about unfunded tax cuts for the rich

If you are more of a policy wonk and want a concise yet detailed analysis of why ignoring deficit-financed tax cuts and ignoring future potential spending cuts, then take a look at The real cost of the Republican tax cuts, with excerpts here:

The primary stated goals of the tax plan are to raise economic growth and increase the after-tax incomes of middle-class households. But taking financing into account appropriately would show how unlikely it is that the plan will achieve those goals…

…But even if one believes the plan will increase the overall size of the economy, spending cuts or tax increases will almost certainly still be required to pay for it. Analyses that do not account for those spending cuts or tax increases, whether they occur in the near term or in the longer term, obscure who will ultimately be hurt by them. Indeed, the very opportunity to obscure who will ultimately pay for the tax cuts likely explains why Congress pursues deficit-financed tax cuts more often than revenue-neutral tax reform or tax cuts accompanied by spending cuts.

A complete analysis of the tax plan including financing would most likely show that it would have a negative impact on many, and perhaps most, Americans…

…The primary purpose of the tax system is to raise revenues. Therefore, evaluating changes in tax policy while ignoring the impact of the policy’s reduction in revenues makes no sense. It ignores the very reason taxes exist. Indeed, absent consideration of financing, simplistic arguments that a 20 percent corporate rate is better than a 35 percent rate — the Republicans’ current proposal — would also imply that a zero percent rate is better than a 20 percent rate.

And a negative 20 percent rate would be still better! Once you consider the need for financing, such simplistic arguments fall apart.

Whether and how tax cuts are financed makes all the difference in the world. Consider two alternatives. One kind of well-designed tax reform can maintain the same level of revenues and boost living standards. Such a reform would inevitably increase taxes on certain activities and decrease them on others.

This type of reform could generate a modest boost in the level of economic output in the long run and, if so, would temporarily increase the growth rate. It could also increase living standards (even with no change in output) by eliminating wasteful tax incentives that encourage people to overconsume certain goods or services to maximize their tax benefits. Revenue-neutral reforms along these lines would almost certainly make some families better off and other families worse off. Who was hurt or helped would depend on the taxes that are changed.

Policymakers could also enact a tax cut financed by a reduction in spending. Just as a well-designed tax reform proposal could improve living standards by changing either consumption patterns or the growth rate, a tax cut financed by a reduction in spending could do the same — if the spending cuts are chosen wisely. As with revenue-neutral reform, some families would be made better off and others worse off after counting both the tax changes and the impact of the spending changes. (Former beneficiaries of the spending that is reduced would obviously pay a price.)

But the situation now is that House Republicans appear likely to release a bill that will cut taxes on net with no indication of how the resulting deficits will be paid for. As a result, we’re left in the dark about the legislation’s ultimate impact.

Conventional distribution tables for tax cuts show most of the gross benefits of tax cuts but not the impact of paying for them. When the proposal increases deficits and does not specify how those deficits will be addressed, the possibilities range from cuts to programs to low-income households to increases in taxes for high-income households.

We give a rough estimate, here, of the impact that three different approaches to financing a large tax cut would have on families across the income distribution. This example is not intended to show the actual distribution of the forthcoming House bill, but is broadly illustrative of the trade-offs involved in financing a tax cut that offers larger benefits for higher-income families than for lower-income families, as it seems likely the bill from House Republicans will do.

Specifically, we use the Tax Policy Center’s analysis of the principles for tax reform released by the Trump administration in April. This analysis found that families in every income group would see lower taxes on average from the plan as proposed, albeit with much larger increases in after-tax incomes for higher-income households.

But if the plan were financed by spending cuts or tax increases enacted at the same time, the distributional effects of the plan would change significantly.

The analysis considers three scenarios for financing. In each scenario, families pay more in tax or receive less in benefits to offset the cost of the tax costs…

…Families in the bottom 90 percent of the income distribution would be worse off on average under each of the three scenarios.

If anything, this…understates just how regressive the total ultimate impact of the Republican plan could be. While an equal payment per family would be regressive, the reductions in Medicaid spending that House Republicans passed earlier this year — which would have a significant impact on lower-income households and very little on the highest-income households — would be even more so.

The analysis…assumes that financing is enacted at the same time as the tax cut. In practice, policymakers can delay the enactment of financing for either a short or extended period. In such a scenario, even larger spending cuts or tax increases in the future would replace the required cuts today. Such an approach would introduce disparities across time as well as income.

Assuming Congress does not reverse course and enact progressive tax increases to offset the cost of the current tax cuts, older, higher-income Americans would likely see the largest increase in incomes, and younger, lower-income Americans would likely lose the most.

Enacting deficit-financed tax cuts allows policymakers to avoid the need to specify spending cuts or tax increases to pay for them and thus obscures the costs of the proposal. In addition, deferring the financing can itself reduce growth and reduce incomes even before the required financing policies are enacted. Those costs magnify the direct costs of any tax cuts.

Preliminary analyses by the Tax Policy Center of the Republicans framework (plus additional assumptions about unspecified elements of the plan from TPC) show the potential long-term consequences of deferring financing. In the short run, the TPC finds that the proposals would boost output. But over the longer run, the effects of mounting deficits and debt would turn the growth impact negative.

At the end of the first decade, the Tax Policy Center estimates that GDP will be 0.1 percent lower than it otherwise would have been, and at the end of two decades, it would be 0.4 percent lower. As a result, wages would likely fall over time, not rise (as recently claimed by the White House).

These results do not show the complete picture, however. The extent to which increased debt and deficits reduce GDP is moderated by an increase in domestic investment financed by foreigners. But this increase in foreign investment in the United States means an increased fraction of future GDP will need to be devoted to paying the return on that investment to those foreign investors. In other words, the gap between incomes generated by economic activity in the United States and incomes accruing to US nationals will grow.

Thus, gross national product (GNP), a concept that subtracts payments we make to foreigners on their US assets and adds payments we receive from foreigners — will decrease by more than GDP, falling by 0.2 percent after 10 years and 0.6 percent after two decades:

In circumstances like these, economists broadly agree that GNP is a better indicator of living standards for American households.

While the above analysis considers only the effects of additional debt, the spending cuts and tax increases ultimately enacted can themselves have negative effects on the economy. Indeed, classic economic arguments suggest that even when government spending is uncertain and varies over time, the most efficient tax system is one that attempts to maintain relatively constant tax rates.

Ignoring tax-cut financing is like doing only one side of cost-benefit analysis

Simplistic arguments in favor of a $1.5 trillion tax cut suggest that a $5 trillion tax cut would necessarily be even better. Clearly such arguments are missing something critical: balancing the costs against the benefits.

The prevalence of such arguments is part of a larger issue with the way tax debates are often conducted, focusing on GDP and downplaying or ignoring the impact of financing.

In recent years, analysts have increasingly assumed, in their models, that deficits resulting from tax cuts are ultimately paid for by tax increases or spending cuts several decades in the future. Thus, they recognize that deficits will be produced (by, say, large tax cuts) but basically assume the deficits will be remedied somehow, without showing the direct effect of those remedies on American households either now or in the future.

This approach can be useful in the context of official analysis of proposed policies, but it obscures the true economic tradeoffs. The promised gains from tax cuts in such cases — even when not eliminated as a result of years of increased borrowing — can amount to little more than borrowing heavily from future generations.

If we recognize the need for financing, a deficit-financed tax cut along the lines of the one House Republicans appear to be prepared to unveil is likely to be bad for the economy in the long run. It is likely to be particularly bad for working- and middle-class families.

ANTI-FASCISM POEM: In Efface of Creeping Fascism

He was a custom
Too accept
That creep
Creep
Creep
Of fascism
Without a furor
Incite
Picking wons
Fights
Posedly agin
And agin
Sow frayed
Peering opposed
Laws and orders
As just
Be for
It’s too late
Over
Due
In efface of populations abashed
In habiting legions of apprehensions
With all
Act right
A weigh
Even as if
Unhinging
On won soul

got fascism? POLITICAL BUTTONThis anti-fascism poem was inspired by some recent situations in my life and my reflection on the endemic response of many to use the rubric of “picking one’s fights” to avoid pushing back against creeping fascism.  My most recent experience with creeping fascism was on a long bus trip when a U.S. Border Patrol agent boarded the bus during a layover at a station in the middle of the night.  The agent asked some riders “Do you mind telling me your country of origin?”  First, this was odd because we were in Rochester, New York, several hours from the Canadian border (a known backdoor for alien entry); and the bus had been in the Buffalo station, which is much closer to the Canadian border.  I Don't Agree With President Vader's Policies, But I Still Think We Should Support Our Storm Troopers POLITICAL BUTTONThe Border Patrol agent was profiling passengers and he never asked me, a white guy, anything.  The agent also did not ask for identification or “papers,” so he was not very rigorous in this fishing expedition.  Perhaps this was a tip of the hat to the honest-faced people he was profiling, but I strongly suspect that the primary purpose was actually to make people afraid rather than nab aliens or criminals.  QUESTION AUTHORITY Before It Questions You POLITICAL BUTTONAs this agent was questioning passengers, I was pondering what to say if he asked me the loaded question: “Do you mind telling me your country of origin?”  Of course, I minded.  Refusing to answer the question was my first preference.  I could answer honestly, that I was born in Haiti.  Perhaps I could reveal to him that I am a convicted felon.  Maybe I could let him know that I detest creeping fascists.  But, alas, I didn’t fit his middle-of-the-night profile.  Perhaps us hippies are going to have to work harder to make the list.

A Nation of Sheep Soon Beget a Government of Wolves - Edward R. Murrow Quote - POLITICAL BUTTONI was somewhat surprised and very much creeped out by this incident, but it has increased my resolve to push back against creeping fascism at every opportunity.  As luck would have it, I arrived back in Toledo early morning Tuesday, in time for our weekly Trump Tuesday protest outside Sen. Rob Portman’s office and his aid happened to be available that day to speak with a group of us.  So, I was able to share this story of the Border Patrol agent on the bus.  Plus, us Trump Tuesday protesters had been experiencing ongoing creeping fascism in the form of building security arbitrarily limiting only four of us in the lobby at any one time to fill out comment sheets for Sen. Portman.  While there was an alleged policy regarding this, I suspect it never existed, nor could it hold up to constitutional muster.  One Nation Under Surveillance POLITICAL BUTTONThis alleged policy apparently applied to an identifiable group of people peaceably assembling, not, for instance to a dozen apparently random people in the lobby.  The lobby security guard didn’t like us, and he spoke demeaningly, especially to the women protesters.  Most of the protesters complied with this arbitrary restriction by herding only four people at a time into the lobby.  However, I made a point of filling out a comment sheet only if I could be a fifth person.  I never got any hassle for doing this, but if I had, I would of insisted on seeing a written policy.  For whatever reason, there was a new security guard in the lobby.  The new security guard didn’t care how many of us came into the lobby.  As five of us entered, I declared the new reality, “We now have 25% more democracy!”

Police Everywhere, Justice Nowhere POLITICAL BUTTONBeside directly oppressing target groups, creeping fascism has the nefarious side benefit of training others to tolerate little creeps of fascism that may seem uncivil to resist.  I find this a good example of how our quest for propriety can interfere with simple, and small, moral actions.  Perhaps ironically, resisting these little creeps may bring about disproportionately large consequences.  I contend that this disproportionality is the best evidence for an unjust situation and social control through intimidation.  Unfortunately, the risk of disproportional consequences is the very reason that people often cite for not resisting, and in solemn pronouncements of practicality state, “You have to pick your battles.”  Of course, you do.  Though I prefer to call them opportunities.

Feel free, to browse my anti-fascism designs.

FREE POSTER: Mean wile, on Planet Portman, the “independent” Republican senator quickly draws closer to a final solution to the problem of health care in America

Even after several catastrophic versions of the Senate Republican health care bill died, Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) is still courting disaster, considering even worse options, such as a sweeping repeal of Obamacare without any replacement.  Why is Sen. Portman even considering bills that are worse than versions he has come out against earlier.  Albeit, his previous opposition has been lagging, only coming out against a bill after enough other Republican senators have come out to kill the bill.  Where is Sen. Portman’s leadership?  Sen. Portman has the ability to end this health care deconstruction by just saying he will not support either anything resembling the previous version he opposed or a sweeping Obamacare repeal, particularly without any replacement!  As the senate Republican health care bill only gets worse, what is he waiting for?  Sen. Portman like to call himself an “independent” senator, willing to do the right thing even if it requires him to buck party lines.  Well, Mr. Senator, here is your chance.  Get to it!

In honor of Sen. Portman’s reckless waffling, I have created the below free poster: “Mean wile, on Planet Portman, the ‘independent’ Republican senator quickly draws closer to a final solution to the problem of health care in America.”  Sen. Portman, either stay on whatever planet you are living on, and resign as one of Ohio’s senators, or come back to Ohio and listen to your constituents.  End this madness of crashing our health care system!

FREE POSTER: Mean wile, on Planet Portman, the "independent" Republican senator quickly draws closer to a final solution to the problem of health care in America

This is another one of my free posters in my “Parity or Parody in democracy” series.  There will be more before the end of it all.

FREE POSTER: Sen. Rob Portman teams up with The Trump Company to solve the problem of the sick and the sick economy by bringing back Soylent Green

Please enjoy this surreal health care commentary brought to US by senate Republicans and a president who wants to win a legislative victory at any cost: “Sen. Rob Portman teams up with The Trump Company to solve the problem of the sick and the sick economy by bringing back Soylent Green.” This free poster is the next in my continuing series of free posters called “Parity or Parody in democracy.”  Sen. Rob Portman is seriously considering offering tens of millions of sick and poor Americans to feed the greed of the richest Americans.  Normally, such a horrific endeavor would be reserved for a slasher film or science fiction movie.  The Republicans are well practiced at slashing, but are now honing their skills at science fiction, now better known as “alternative” facts.  In a typical misreading of the American public, Republicans have come up with a Soylent Green solution to the people’s unified chorus of “Eat me!”FREE  POSTER: Sen. Rob Portman teams up with The Trump Company to solve the problem of the sick and the sick economy by bringing back Soylent Green

FREE POSTER: Sen. Rob “Lincoln” Portman – The Grate Emancipator – “And you shall be emancipated from your health insurance, and the good Lord will grant you your ultimate freedom”

In the continuing health care debacle known as senate Republicans trying to “repeal and replace” Obamacare, please enjoy my latest take with this free poster: Sen. Rob “Lincoln” Portman – The Grate Emancipator – “And you shall be emancipated from your health insurance, and the good Lord will grant you your ultimate freedom.”

Just when you thought the senate Republican so-called health care bill couldn’t get any worse, along comes Sen. Ted Cruz, who was successful in getting a lethal change in the new version — which allows unregulated insurance plans, essentially making it impossible for Obamacare insurance exchange to function as designed.  As succinctly put,”The new Senate health bill is terrible for anyone who is sick, has been sick, or will be sick.”

Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) may be against this new worse bill but he is being obtuse, still trying to play both sides and be “independent.”  I’ve got news for you Mr. Portman, when there is a civil war over health care, threatening each year to kill tens of thousands of Americans, you can’t carve out neutrality — even famously neutral Switzerland has universal health care!

Feel free to share or print out this poster in your efforts to stop Republican meddling with America’s health care!

FREE POSTER: Sen. Rob "Lincoln" Portman - The Grate Emancipator - "And you shall be emancipated from your health insurance, and the good Lord will grant you your ultimate freedom"

This is the latest addition to my “Parity or Parody in democracy” series of free posters.  I won’t stop my parody until we have parity!

FREE POSTER: Sen. Rob Portman’s closest health care ally, DEATH, making a critical point regarding his constituents: “I WANT YOU!”

This free poster reveals Sen. Rob Portman’s closest health care ally, DEATH, making a critical point regarding his constituents: “I WANT YOU!”  Sen. Portman is showing cruel ambivalence toward the senate Republican killer health care bill.  Tens of thousands of dead Americans each year still seems to be in the ballpark of acceptable for Sen. Portman.  Sen. Rob Portman, kill the bill, not your constituents!

Feel free to share or print out this free political poster.FREE POSTER: Sen. Rob Portman's closest health care ally makes a critical point regarding his constituentsThis is yet another in my “Parity or Parody in democracy” series of free posters.  Many more to come, so stay tuned…

FREE POSTER: Sen. Rob Portman meets with his Russian lawyer and campaign consultant on how to safely blow up Medicaid

When Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) is busy not meeting with his constituents, he is seeking expert advice from cartoonish consultants.  Please feel free to share or print out this free political poster, “Sen. Rob Portman meets with his Russian lawyer and campaign consultant on how to safely blow up Medicaid.”  Sen Portman does not shy away from trying to do the impossible, however absurd or recklessly dangerous.  Fear not, Sen. Portman got nothing of real value from this Russian agent, so know harm know foul.Sen. Rob Portman meets with his Russian lawyer and campaign consultant on how to safely blow up MedicaidThe installments of my “Parity or Parody in democracy” poster series just keep on coming — stay tuned for more!  Plus, check out other funny political and free posters from TopPun.com

FREE POSTER: Sen. Rob “Robber” Portman – Reverse Robin Hood

This free political poster features Sen. Rob “Robber” Portman (R-OH) as Reverse Robin Hood, stealing from the poor and giving to the rich.  This free poster is yet another in my “Parity or Parody in Democracy” series. This poster was inspired by Sen. Portman’s role in crafting the senate Republican health care bill, which is really a tax bill masquerading as a health care bill.  This bill, if enacted, would be the largest transfer of wealth from poorer Americans to richer Americans in our nation’s history.  All of this at a time when income inequality is at its greatest point in modern history and still growing!  This bill would quite literally kill hundreds of thousands of poorer Americans to feed the greed of the richest Americans.  If Sen. Rob “Robber” Portman votes for this bill, it will make him not only the Robber but the Robbiest!  Don’t vote for this so-called health care bill, Sen. Portman!!

Please feel free to share or download and print out this free poster of Sen. Rob “Robber” Portman (R-OH) as Reverse Robin Hood:

Sen. Rob "Robber" Portman Reverse Robin Hood

FREE POSTER: Senator Rob Portman as The High Priest Caiaphas, Starring In That Christian Damn Nation

This free poster takes Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) to church over his brutally un-Christian vacillation over the senate Republican health care bill.  This satirical poster is yet another installation in my “Parity or parody in democracy” series.  Wile Sen. Portman is considering the gutting of Medicaid, costing about $800 billion, he may be bought off with $46 billion in funds to treat opioid addiction, and perhaps a similar amount thrown at, or into, the gaping hole in Medicaid.  This poster uses the lethal logic that the high priest Caiaphas used to justify crucifying Jesus, that is, killing a portion of the nation to save the hole nation.  Here is the scriptural text from the poster (in Republican-ease):

If we let Obamacare go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then democracy will come and take away both our Party and our Christian damn nation. Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, “You know nothing at all! You do not realize that it is better hundreds of thousands die enriching the rich than that the whole Christian damn nation perish.” John 11:48-50 (Republican Jesus inversion)

Let’s stop this damnable vision of so-called health care, a health care bill paid for by poor, sick, and elderly Americans as Republicans mirrorly enrich the richest Americans and powerful corporate campaign donors.

POSTER: Partisan Man – Senator Rob Portman – Mitch McConnell Made Me Do It!

This free poster is another installment in my “Parity or Parody in Democracy” series.  This poster features Sen. Rob Portman as Partisan Man, yet another white man.  This political cartoon was inspired by Sen. Portman, white man among white men, in the exclusive group of Republican senators appointed by Mitch McConnell, Senate Majority Leader, all of whom are white men.

Sen. Portman, an alleged moderate, has recently weakened his role as a critic of the profoundly ironically named Better Care Reconciliation Act.  Sen. Portman was handed his shorts over his pet advocacy project, preserving opioid treatment while decimating overall health care for the poor, addicts, and mentally ill; they included less than 5% of what he asked for!  Despite this insulting result, Sen. Portman has weakened rather than strengthened his opposition to the bill.  He missed the opportunity of joining other Senate Republicans in challenging the rushed process without adequate legislator review or public hearings.  Sen. Portman appears ready to collapse into whimpering partisanship, neither demanding a transparent, democratic process nor a bill that even resembles improving the health of Americans.  Single-Payer Health Care - Everybody In, Nobody OutWe Can't Fix The Economy Until We Fix Health Care POLITICAL BUTTONOhio’s elected so-called representative is looking more and more like a compliant minion of Senate Republican bosses.  He can blame it on Mitch McConnell with a proverbial “Mitch McConnell made me do it,” but Ohioans did not elect Mitch McConnell as their representative.  His hiding behind is another version of covering one’s ass.  The Republicans, led by their megalomaniacal president, can’t hide behind their big PP, Partisan Politics, in this presumptive Trumpcare debacle.  You may note that the American flag in this poster is upside down; this is because and upside down flag is a distress call.  Let’s up right this topsy turvy nation of ours and reject the pathetic machinations of Republican health care so-called reform.  It is time for health care for all — everybody in, nobody out!  It doesn’t get any less partisan than that!!

PARTISAN MAN - Senator Rob Portman

 

 

Stand Up For Democracy, Sen. Portman

Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) is a key figure in the Senate Republican health care legislation, now being drafted in secret.  He has so far refused to have any face-to-face town hall meeting with his constituents over any issues.  He may very well vote on a massive health care bill with NO public hearings.  When it comes to democratic processes, how low are you willing to go, Sen. Portman?  When Obamacare was passed there were many public hearings stretching out over a year and the Democrats accepted more than 160 Republican amendments to the bill.  Back then, the Republicans considered this an outrage, an apparent shortage of democracy. Now, congressional Republicans want bills to pass in the House and Senate in a small fraction of that time, with NO public hearings, and NO Democratic amendments even considered.  The hypocrisy is palpable.  Sen. Robert Portman, refuse to vote on any health care bill that does not have public hearings.  Sen. Robert Portman, refuse to vote on any health care bill that does not have a full CBO score indicating the health and budget effects.   Sen. Robert Portman, refuse to vote on any health care bill that doesn’t improve the overall health of Americans.

Below are two posters graphically depicting Sen. Portman as missing in action.  I gave these posters to his staff with the stipulation that as long as there is not parity of democracy among his constituents there will be parody.  Please feel free to share or print out these posters.

 

MISSING: Where is Senator Portman?

 

Wanted Poster: Senator Rob Portman

 

 

 

 

Self-Made Trump Has A Fool For A Maker

In Trumpian fashion, fool of irony, I quote myself: “A self-made man has a fool for a maker.”  The man-child known as Donald Trump runs roughshod over the boundaries of lesser fools.  He fashions his fashion as the boss of a collapsing world, his world, his collapsing world.  If Trump where to know God, he would know himself — he knows neither.  His self-masturbatory god head is a lonely impossibility, even in his hugely culpable hands and with such a big mouth — something is missing, however compelled he is to grab it.  The loneliness of this pitiful and pitiless man is captured well in the essay by Rebecca Solnit, THE LONELINESS OF DONALD TRUMP: ON THE CORROSIVE PRIVILEGE OF THE MOST MOCKED MAN IN THE WORLD, with excerpts below:

Once upon a time, a child was born into wealth and wanted for nothing, but he was possessed by bottomless, endless, grating, grasping wanting, and wanted more, and got it, and more after that, and always more. He was a pair of ragged orange claws upon the ocean floor, forever scuttling, pinching, reaching for more, a carrion crab, a lobster and a boiling lobster pot in one, a termite, a tyrant over his own little empires. He got a boost at the beginning from the wealth handed him and then moved among grifters and mobsters who cut him slack as long as he was useful, or maybe there’s slack in arenas where people live by personal loyalty until they betray, and not by rules, and certainly not by the law or the book. So for seven decades, he fed his appetites and exercised his license to lie, cheat, steal, and stiff working people of their wages, made messes, left them behind, grabbed more baubles, and left them in ruin.

He was supposed to be a great maker of things, but he was mostly a breaker. He acquired buildings and women and enterprises and treated them all alike, promoting and deserting them, running into bankruptcies and divorces, treading on lawsuits the way a lumberjack of old walked across the logs floating on their way to the mill, but as long as he moved in his underworld of dealmakers the rules were wobbly and the enforcement was wobblier and he could stay afloat. But his appetite was endless, and he wanted more, and he gambled to become the most powerful man in the world, and won, careless of what he wished for…

…The child who became the most powerful man in the world, or at least occupied the real estate occupied by a series of those men, had run a family business and then starred in an unreality show based on the fiction that he was a stately emperor of enterprise, rather than a buffoon barging along anyhow, and each was a hall of mirrors made to flatter his sense of self, the self that was his one edifice he kept raising higher and higher and never abandoned.

I have often run across men (and rarely, but not never, women) who have become so powerful in their lives that there is no one to tell them when they are cruel, wrong, foolish, absurd, repugnant. In the end there is no one else in their world, because when you are not willing to hear how others feel, what others need, when you do not care, you are not willing to acknowledge others’ existence. That’s how it’s lonely at the top. It is as if these petty tyrants live in a world without honest mirrors, without others, without gravity, and they are buffered from the consequences of their failures…

We keep each other honest, we keep each other good with our feedback, our intolerance of meanness and falsehood, our demands that the people we are with listen, respect, respond—if we are allowed to, if we are free and valued ourselves. There is a democracy of social discourse, in which we are reminded that as we are beset with desires and fears and feelings, so are others; there was an old woman in Occupy Wall Street I always go back to who said, “We’re fighting for a society in which everyone is important.” That’s what a democracy of mind and heart, as well as economy and polity, would look like…

…Some use their power to silence that and live in the void of their own increasingly deteriorating, off-course sense of self and meaning. It’s like going mad on a desert island, only with sycophants and room service. It’s like having a compliant compass that agrees north is whatever you want it to be. The tyrant of a family, the tyrant of a little business or a huge enterprise, the tyrant of a nation. Power corrupts, and absolute power often corrupts the awareness of those who possess it. Or reduces it: narcissists, sociopaths, and egomaniacs are people for whom others don’t exist.

We gain awareness of ourselves and others from setbacks and difficulties; we get used to a world that is not always about us; and those who do not have to cope with that are brittle, weak, unable to endure contradiction, convinced of the necessity of always having one’s own way. The rich kids I met in college were flailing as though they wanted to find walls around them, leapt as though they wanted there to be gravity and to hit ground, even bottom, but parents and privilege kept throwing out safety nets and buffers, kept padding the walls and picking up the pieces, so that all their acts were meaningless, literally inconsequential. They floated like astronauts in outer space.

Equality keeps us honest. Our peers tell us who we are and how we are doing, providing that service in personal life that a free press does in a functioning society. Inequality creates liars and delusion. The powerless need to dissemble—that’s how slaves, servants, and women got the reputation of being liars—and the powerful grow stupid on the lies they require from their subordinates and on the lack of need to know about others who are nobody, who don’t count, who’ve been silenced or trained to please. This is why I always pair privilege with obliviousness; obliviousness is privilege’s form of deprivation. When you don’t hear others, you don’t imagine them, they become unreal, and you are left in the wasteland of a world with only yourself in it, and that surely makes you starving, though you know not for what, if you have ceased to imagine others exist in any true deep way that matters. This is about a need for which we hardly have language or at least not a familiar conversation.

A man who wished to become the most powerful man in the world, and by happenstance and intervention and a series of disasters was granted his wish. Surely he must have imagined that more power meant more flattery, a grander image, a greater hall of mirrors reflecting back his magnificence. But he misunderstood power and prominence. This man had bullied friends and acquaintances, wives and servants, and he bullied facts and truths, insistent that he was more than they were, than it is, that it too must yield to his will. It did not, but the people he bullied pretended that it did. Or perhaps it was that he was a salesman, throwing out one pitch after another, abandoning each one as soon as it left his mouth. A hungry ghost always wants the next thing, not the last thing.

This one imagined that the power would repose within him and make him great, a Midas touch that would turn all to gold. But the power of the presidency was what it had always been: a system of cooperative relationships, a power that rested on people’s willingness to carry out the orders the president gave, and a willingness that came from that president’s respect for rule of law, truth, and the people. A man who gives an order that is not followed has his powerlessness hung out like dirty laundry. One day earlier this year, one of this president’s minions announced that the president’s power would not be questioned. There are tyrants who might utter such a statement and strike fear into those beneath him, because they have installed enough fear.

A true tyrant does not depend on cooperative power but has a true power of command, enforced by thugs, goons, Stasi, the SS, or death squads. A true tyrant has subordinated the system of government and made it loyal to himself rather than to the system of laws or the ideals of the country. This would-be tyrant didn’t understand that he was in a system where many in government, perhaps most beyond the members of his party in the legislative branch, were loyal to law and principle and not to him. His minion announced the president would not be questioned, and we laughed. He called in, like courtiers, the heads of the FBI, of the NSA, and the director of national intelligence to tell them to suppress evidence, to stop investigations and found that their loyalty was not to him. He found out to his chagrin that we were still something of a democracy, and that the free press could not be so easily stopped, and the public itself refused to be cowed and mocks him earnestly at every turn.

A true tyrant sits beyond the sea in Pushkin’s country. He corrupts elections in his country, eliminates his enemies with bullets, poisons, with mysterious deaths made to look like accidents—he spread fear and bullied the truth successfully, strategically. Though he too had overreached with his intrusions into the American election, and what he had hoped would be invisible caused the whole world to scrutinize him and his actions and history and impact with concern and even fury. Russia may have ruined whatever standing and trust it has, may have exposed itself, with this intervention in the US and then European elections.

The American buffoon’s commands were disobeyed, his secrets leaked at such a rate his office resembled the fountains at Versailles or maybe just a sieve (this spring there was an extraordinary piece in the Washington Post with thirty anonymous sources), his agenda was undermined even by a minority party that was not supposed to have much in the way of power, the judiciary kept suspending his executive orders, and scandals erupted like boils and sores. Instead of the dictator of the little demimondes of beauty pageants, casinos, luxury condominiums, fake universities offering fake educations with real debt, fake reality tv in which he was master of the fake fate of others, an arbiter of all worth and meaning, he became fortune’s fool.

He is, as of this writing, the most mocked man in the world. After the women’s march on January 21st, people joked that he had been rejected by more women in one day than any man in history; he was mocked in newspapers, on television, in cartoons, was the butt of a million jokes, and his every tweet was instantly met with an onslaught of attacks and insults by ordinary citizens gleeful to be able to speak sharp truth to bloated power….

…The man in the white house sits, naked and obscene, a pustule of ego, in the harsh light, a man whose grasp exceeded his understanding, because his understanding was dulled by indulgence. He must know somewhere below the surface he skates on that he has destroyed his image, and like Dorian Gray before him, will be devoured by his own corrosion in due time too. One way or another this will kill him, though he may drag down millions with him. One way or another, he knows he has stepped off a cliff, pronounced himself king of the air, and is in freefall. Another dungheap awaits his landing; the dung is all his; when he plunges into it he will be, at last, a self-made man.

Sen. Robert WALDO Portman, Where Are You?!

Senator Robert WALDO PortmanSen. Robert WALDO Portman, where are you?!
All about
Red and white stripes
And no blue to be seen
In what
Might better
Be a black and white world
Yet no wear
To be found
In this tattered democracy
And flagging civility
On recessSenator Robert WALDO Portman in Prison Stripes
Out of town
Out to lunch
With a staff infection
Knot culpable of answering
To the cell
With the unapproved ID
And phase to phase metings
Shirking responsibly
Covering his hide
Afraid to show his face
With so much lie-ability

 

This poem was inspired by our weekly Trump Tuesdays protest outside of Sen. Rob Portman’s Toledo office.  While on recess, he or his staff were nowhere to be found. They did not answer the phone, and when we found out that his staff were in the office, they claimed to be out to lunch — perhaps a truer statement has never been issued from that office!  We will keep showing up until democracy breaks out in Toledo and Ohio and the United States of America.