United/Divided

I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands; one Nation indivisible with liberty and justice for all.
The Pledge of Allegiance

As we stand on the edge of this fiscal cliff I can’t help but think about just how divided we are as a country. Our recent presidential election didn’t do much to bring us together, it further highlighted the divide between the rich and the poor, Republicans and Democrats, minorities and whites, men and women, dogs and cats, Jets and Giants fans…well, you get the idea. But nowhere does this divisiveness prevail more than in Washington D.C. Before the votes had even finished being counted the media reminded us of our division by throwing out names for the Republican presidential candidate in 2016. But we’re a few years away from that and before we can get there we’ve got work to do and both parties need to lock hands and step slowly away from this cliff. Will they? Or will it just mean more ridiculous political posturing and delay tactics?

The Coors Light version of the fiscal cliff is this…it’s complicated. In short, it calls for an increase in taxes of over 19%, with the brunt of it being absorbed by the wealthy, but plenty of increases for everybody. They include the removal of the Social Security tax credit for business, and some seriously draconian cuts to social programs as well as cuts in defense. These are just a few and they’re tough. Really tough. And without a compromise of an extension (my money is on the extension) 2013 and 2014 are going to be very challenging years, for everyone not just the wealthy.

The wealthy will cry, pout and raise all sorts of a ruckus, but this fiscal cliff doesn’t really discriminate. Everyone is impacted. So it would serve everyone well to remember that all citizens will be impacted, not just rich folks. Everyone is liable to get financially violated in a very uncomfortable way. Unless the group “representing” us in Washington, the whole lot of them, can open their minds and close their wallets to reach some sort of compromise. It may serve our representatives well to remember that COMPROMISE is the key to effective government.

Let me make one point perfectly clear, if we criticize our government, that does not make us ANTI-Government and it doesn’t make us ANTI-American. It makes us a Democracy. You know the thing we vote for? It’s OK to have a voice and say “THIS IS UNCOOL.” And we should all be exercising our voice right now.

In writing about the late 1800’s labor movement, Howard Zinn, in his essay The Socialist Challenge, wrote, “War and jingoism might postpone, but could not fully suppress, the class anger that came from the realities of ordinary life.”[1] Now that the wars we’ve been involved in are winding down, the ordinary life of today can no longer be postponed.  And the ordinary life for most Americans is challenging. A huge number of people are unemployed, that’s those that are actually counted, and many more people are underemployed. Everywhere across our lives, services, medical costs, the essentials of day-to-day living are increasing faster and higher than our income. Just enough that we notice and feel the sting, maybe 4-6% while wages are increasing at 2.5-4%. Our employers like to call them raises or incentive increases, but when they don’t even cover the cost of living increases what are we to call them? These are the realities of ordinary life today. And what about those people on fixed incomes?

It used to be that the world’s perception of the United States was the best country on the planet. While that statement always had a certain air of hyperbole to it, there was also some truth. Over our history we have seen it time and time again. But not so much lately, in Aaron Sorkin’s HBO drama “The Newsroom” the Jeff Daniels character is asked to describe why America is the greatest country in the world:

There’s absolutely no evidence to support the statement that we’re the greatest country in the world. We’re seventh in literacy, 27th in math, 22nd in science, 49th in life expectancy, 178th in infant mortality, third in median household income, number four in labor force and number four in exports. We lead the world in only three categories: Number of incarcerated citizens’ per capita, number of adults who believe angels are real and defense spending, where we spend more than the next 26 countries combined.

Now, that is a television show so the numbers could be fake. So I checked. In one chart, among 15 year olds, we are 12th in reading, 25th in math, 20th in science, 37th in life expectancy.[2] A CBS News Poll says that 8 in 10 people believe in angels. So, while not 100% accurate, Sorkin is in the ballpark. And while those speak to our citizens, here is some information that speaks to our government:

* Republicans in Congress have used the filibuster 385 times, or as much as had been used in 70 years. [3]
* Since 2007 Republican lawmakers have tried to torpedo over 70 percent of all bills before they were put to a vote.[3]
* House Republican Leader John Boehner lives off the souls of small children.[4]

I’m not trying to slam Republicans, but they make it really easy. Even Norman Ornstein, congressional scholar with the conservative think tank American Enterprise Institute says, “This level of obstruction is unusual. And the core of the problem is the GOP.”

I mean who is driving the that Republican bus, corporations, special interests, the tea partiers, actual republicans? There is so much infighting and dysfunction in the GOP they make a mid-western family thanksgiving meal look like a Norman Rockwell painting.

Republicans and Democrats alike talk about saving the country for our children. But I have yet to see any leadership or real solid action toward making that happen. It is up to us as citizens to force them to get back to the act and art of governing. Don’t rest on the cynicism we all know to be true, Washington is run by special interests. I know that. But let me say this, we have more power than all of them if we put our hands in our pockets and stopped work. That is a fact. Can you imagine the impact of country-wide work walk out? Not a full-blown strike, we need the jobs. But imagine the impact if every citizen, regardless of industry, simply picked a day and said, “We’re not working today because we want our leaders and representatives to fix our country!” The financial impact on every sector of every business would be profound. But who among you are willing to do that?

As citizens we can send a clear and distinct message to our parties. We can be the change we want to happen.

United we stand, divided we fall.


1 Zinn, Howard. A People History of the United States. 1999.

2 http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0923110.html

4 There is no evidence to suggest this is true.

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