An Economy and a Future That Includes All Our Citizens

As much as we might hate it the 2020 election season started the second the mid-terms were over. Many old hats on the left were surprised that many of the young Democratic candidates won while espousing progressive policies and goals. If this is any indication then to win in 2020 Democrats need to offer the poor and middle class a new, ‘New Deal’.

Damaged and disheartened, lied to and taken advantage of by the wealthy and those determined to hold power at any cost, they are yearning for relief and someone to actually do something to better their circumstances, and give them hope for a better future for them and their children. Healthcare for all, Free tuition at public colleges, Social Security at age 50 and some form of a limited Universal Basic Income to lift all our citizens out of abject poverty and give all our children a financial platform with which to begin their lives as productive adults in a thriving economy.

I watched an episode of the business program ‘On the Money’ on Sunday July 30, 2017.  The first and main topic was something called Universal Income.  The idea that instead of all the poverty programs and such, the Government should just give everybody a check every month for $1000 dollars.   When one considers the gap between rich and poor, the rate of automation and the fact that there will never be enough jobs to go around it might be a better way of keeping our folks out of abject poverty. The drawback was the cost.  One of the commentators said it would cost upwards of 3 trillion dollars. However there is a way to reach the goal of a Universal Income, eliminating abject poverty, and at a much lower cost.  Here’s how.

Start by expanding Social Security.  Eliminate the cap on taxable income and raise the tax to 8% from the current rate of 6.2%.  Then lower the age of eligibility to 50 years.

Create a stipend that will give a check to all adults and High School Grads of $1000 a month.  Those who do not finish High School should have to wait till they are 20 to encourage them to finish school.  They can use this fund to support them if they go to college or to help them in getting started in life. Our wealthy students are able to go to college and do well precisely because they have a financial platform to support them.  This would give all our students the same support. Every child we shepherd thru College is possibly the guy who will cure cancer or invent star drive or save the planet.  Investing in our children is like buying a lottery ticket for humanity! To pay for it, go to the Stock Market and place a tax of 3% on all trades to fund the stipend.  The market in 2016 did, according to the World Bank, over 42 trillion in trades and a 3% tax won’t break the bank.  The payments should be set up so one gradually loses the stipend as they move up the economic ladder in a way that will encourage advancement, for example one would lose $100 of the stipend for every $10,000 in reported income so that when one is making $100,000 a year they lose the stipend entirely. A basic stipend would allow us to eliminate all those poverty programs conservatives always complain about. Currently we spend a trillion dollars on some 126 anti-poverty programs and their elimination would certainly offset the cost of the stipend.

Imagine the country with no one in abject poverty.  Imagine the numbers of kids now being able to go to college because they have the financial support to do so.  The economic force of all that spending would drive the economy to new heights and would certainly close the income gap between the rich and poor that is hurting our economy and country.

A basic stipend would free workers from starving or being held in economic servitude, making only enough to pay for enough food to be able to work another 40 hours.  Business would have to bid for one’s labor instead of workers begging for a job!  We can take back the dignity and value our labor should produce. We can boost the spending power of the poor and middle class and leave behind the failed and greedy policy of ‘trickle down’ economics which has damaged our economy and brought about the latest version of the Great Recession!  Employers would benefit too.  Not having to spend on unemployment or health insurance would save them money and allow them to pay better wages.

Yep, we can do this if we only have the will.  We can make this country live up to the promises articulated by President Roosevelt in his famous ‘Four Freedoms” speech, Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Worship, Freedom from Fear and the last which always seems to be forgotten, Freedom from want!  We have the power and wealth to accomplish the last of these.  The mechanics are in place.  The tools are available to us.  Let us make a better country and thereby a better world by finishing the work set out for us by President Roosevelt some 76 years ago.

Democrats can win but not with the same old mid-center or center-left policies and platform. They must offer us an economy and a vision that really works for us all, brings us together and moves the Country and its people forward to a bright future that includes all our citizens!

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Why Not Cannabis Businesses?

There is absolutely no rational reason that Cannabis Businesses, whether medical or recreational, should not be allowed to open in Eaton County or Charlotte. Setting aside normal business concerns like parking or traffic and such, what is the reason for denying these businesses the right to operate?

If it is safety you are concerned with, let me inform you of the numbers. The Center for Disease Control, CDC, reports annual death rates for various causes of death.  Alcohol kills 88,000 people a year on average, 2,000 from simple poisoning and around 10,500 in fatal traffic accidents.  Opioid overdose deaths killed 63,600 people in 2016 and 480,000 will die from tobacco related causes this year.  Caffeine is listed as the cause for 92 deaths per year.  On the other hand the CDC lists 0 deaths per year for cannabis.   We should be making it harder to get smokes and booze!

There are alcohol, tobacco and hard drugs available at more places in the county than you can shake a stick at! You can get all three at Meijer or Walmart or CVS.  Alcohol and tobacco can be purchased at any gas station or liquor store in town.  It is hard to imagine what it would be like if we regulated these substances by how dangerous they really are.

The Administrative Law Judge for the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Honorable Francis Young ruled in a 1988 hearing that marijuana was,” the safest therapeutic substance known to man.” Of course the DEA quickly found a judge to overturn that ruling.  They were busy putting people in jail for using marijuana and didn’t want the truth to get in the way!  Alcohol and opioid drug use go down when cannabis is available.  Citizens will choose the safer drug when they are allowed to.  The only thing forbidding cannabis businesses from operating will accomplish is to stop investment, economic activity, jobs and revenue.  It will also make our citizens have to drive to another county to meet their legal cannabis needs.

Time to discard 81 years of cannabis propaganda and disinformation and base cannabis policy on the facts. There is no reason to prohibit cannabis businesses from operating with normal business restrictions in our county or cities and many good reasons to allow them. Our county and city officials should act accordingly!

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Meeting the Needs of our Disabled Veterans

The American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial was dedicated in Washington, DC on 5 Oct 2014. This tribute to the sacrifices of our disabled Veterans makes note of the enormity of those sacrifices.  While giving one’s life for the protection or betterment of others is certainly the greatest sacrifice, the sacrifice of our disabled Veterans goes on for their entire lives ending only in their sometimes untimely deaths.

Think of it the next time you shake the left hand of a Veteran because his right is missing. Think of it when you see disabled Veteran disabled plates on a car in the parking lot at the grocery store.  They suffer from post-traumatic stress.  They suffer from phantom and chronic pain from loss of a limb or an eye or crushed bones and torn flesh, or as is sometimes true all too often, the loss of their spirit.

Many of these Veterans, thanks to the Federal Government allowing 29 States to experiment, have found healing and comfort from the use of medical cannabis.

In their speeches politicians are quick to pronounce that, “Our Veterans deserve all we can do for them!” Well your Veterans need medical cannabis and you folks need to get it to them ASAP!  To do any less is not only hypocritical, it dishonors the sacrifice these Veterans make every day they suffer, every day of their lives.

Honor their sacrifice. Provide the VA with a waiver of the 1970 Controlled Substances Act regarding cannabis and have the VA establish a voucher system with local Medical Cannabis Pharmacies is States with Medical Marijuana legalization.  In States that do not allow for Medical Cannabis, we could easily provide cannabis from the Federal Cannabis farm at the University of Mississippi.

We call on Congress to do its duty! Every day you delay you only prolong suffering that could be mitigated by compassion and access to Medical Cannabis.  You sit in safety and freedom because of their daily, in some cases hourly sacrifice.  You have the power to mitigate their suffering. What are you waiting for?

 

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Hoping For The Best

The leftover taco meat was heating up in the microwave and the fixin’s were all ready when, ‘Ding Dong’, the doorbell rang. I dropped what I was doing and answered the door to find two men from the local ‘Bible Church’ who proceeded to engage me regarding their religious beliefs.

We had a lively discussion in which I informed them that I was a ‘Humanist’, for want of a title, and was not a ‘believer’ like them. I said that I think, as the ancient Greeks did, that although we have a soul, it dies along with the body.  I think that one should treat others as one would like to be treated and live a good life.  That is the most one can do.  The older of the two gentlemen kept saying, “But what if you are wrong?”  I replied that if I am wrong, at least I would go to my grave having stuck to what I think.  He informed me that he knows what happens after we die and was positive about it.  I disagreed and we parted congenially, and they left.

While eating those again reheated tacos, I realized that a small part of me was a tiny bit insulted. Two strangers came to my door and proceeded to tell me that they know what happens after we die and that what I think was wrong and it was too bad I would not get to their version of heaven.

It reminded me of what the character Lazarus Long says about religion in Robert Heinlein’s book, ‘Time Enough for Love’. “History does not record anywhere at any time a religion that has any rational basis.  Religion is a crutch for people not strong enough to face the unknown without help.  But like dandruff, most people do have a religion and spend time and money on it and seem to derive considerable pleasure fiddling with it.”

Maybe I should be a little insulted? How shallow would I be to turn my back on my life long thoughts on the matter on the word of a stranger who purports to know otherwise?  I have always thought religion was a scam.  “Oh, I’ll take that sacrifice and make sure the God gets it!”

Morality and decency come not from what we believe but from our need to live together in peace and brotherhood. Despite the wish of humans to know what becomes of us when we die, we can only know the here and now.

So, live a decent and moral life treating others as you would like to be treated. Cross your fingers and hope for the best!

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Hemming and Hawing Over Cannabis Legalization

Last year there was a significant push to pass a medical cannabis bill thru the Republican controlled Legislature in Kentucky. The bill was successfully stopped by some prominent Republican legislators.  Shortly afterwards one of these legislators, a leader of the group, received an award of appreciation from the Alcohol Industry for his support.

We should not be surprised at this as it is the core reason Republican controlled legislatures across the country hem and haw and do their best to slow and if possible, stop cannabis legalization.

Alcohol use drops by 7% in easy access legal states and it is not just the Alcohol Industry. The Pharmaceutical Industry also has a stake in keeping cannabis illegal.  Many patients who switch to cannabis give up their medicines finding then no longer necessary.  Veterans, for example, who stop following the VA regimen for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and switch to cannabis, give up an average of 8 pills when they do.

When viewed in this light, it is easy to see why legislators, who are financially supported by these industries, are reluctant to pass any bills legalizing the use of cannabis.

Here in Michigan we see the Republican controlled legislature doing just that with the minimum wage ballot initiative, passing a bill to nullify the ballot initiative before the election.  If the Legislature can pass a bill before the election and keep recreational legalization off the ballot they can bring legalization to a crawl as they have done with medical cannabis legalization over the last ten years.

Should Republican legislators manage to stall legalization with their plan, Industry Appreciation Awards will be appearing on the shelves of a Legislators bookcase near you!

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Lying Eyes

President Donald Trump in a speech at the VFW, said this,”Just remember, what you are seeing and reading is not what’s happening.”
Forget that these instructions are similar to the instructions given by the Party in the classic novel 1984.  Donald is pulling the old. ‘Lying Eyes’ joke on us!

You know. A guy is caught by his wife in a hotel room with his mistress.  The wife is understandably upset and when she questions her husband he replies, “Who ya gonna believe? Me, or your lying eyes?”

I don’t know about you but this Veteran believes what he sees and reads and looks even closer when told not to.

Donald has told the American people not to believe their lying eyes. Maybe it’s time for Divorce Court!

 

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Nail In The Coffin

This fall Michiganders have the opportunity to put another nail in the coffin of marijuana prohibition. Despite all the hubbub and hollering, the fact remains that marijuana is a very safe drug and was declared so in 1988 by the Administrative Law Judge for the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Honorable Francis Young when he ruled that marijuana was, “the safest therapeutic substance known to man.”  Of course the DEA immediately got that ruling overturned and prohibition continued unfettered.

What we are actually voting for is to end is the use of marijuana prohibition, at least at the state level, as a tool of repression and suppression particularly for racist and political reasons. It should be no surprise that citizens of color are arrested for marijuana offenses 6 times more often than white citizens.

Marijuana prohibition was from the very beginning used this way. California made marijuana illegal in the early thirties as a way to push Mexicans back across the border because they were taking ‘American jobs’.  Sound familiar?  By 1937 it went national with the 1937 Tax Stamp Act which was declared unconstitutional in 1969, thank you Dr. Timothy Leary.

The law that replaced it was the 1970 Controlled Substances Act which was hijacked by the Nixon Administration as a tool to harass Nixon’s political enemies. This law scheduled drugs by their danger and use and the worst were called schedule one, dangerous and having no medical value.  The only drugs made schedule one at this time were heroin, marijuana and LSD.  This is curious because heroin derived from opium is the same as morphine derived from opium and yet morphine is schedule 2 and able to be prescribed by a doctor.  Marijuana had 30 or so medicines approved as effective and safe by the Food and Drug Administration before it was made illegal in 1937.   LSD was beginning to be studied as a tool in mental health cases.  So why these three?

These three because Nixon needed them to be illegal for his own purposes. Now you may say, “This is sounding like a crazy conspiracy theory”, except that, it is true!

The cover story in the April 2016 edition of Harper’s Magazine, titled, ‘Legalize it All’ with the subtitle, ‘How to Win the War on Drugs’ written by Mr. Dan Baum recalls an interview with President Nixon aide John Ehrlichman. Mr. Baum was asking questions about the politics of drug prohibition and as he tells it, Ehrlichman asked, “You want to know what this was really all about?”  He went on to say, “The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White house after that, had two enemies, the anti-war left and black people.  You understand what I’m saying?  We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities.  We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news.  Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”

Around this time Nixon had appointed the Shafer Commission to report on the drug situation and to make recommendations. Its overall recommendation was that drugs were a medical problem and not a criminal one.  Nixon felt betrayed by the commission and proceeded to prosecute the prohibitionist policy we have today, besides he had other uses for the ‘War on Drugs’ not the least of which was harassing his political enemies.

The resulting death, destruction and misery caused by this decision cannot be calculated. Over almost 50 years of a war created solely for the benefit of one man and one party with arrest and incarceration of hundreds of thousands of our citizens every year.  The last 15 years have seen more than 600,000 arrests every year.  Our jails are overflowing with the enemies of the President even decades after Nixon, who gave us this disaster is dead!

Let us be clear. What we will be ending this fall is the use of marijuana prohibition as a tool of political and cultural suppression and repression.  Its end cannot come soon enough, here, and hopefully in the near future, across the nation.

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