We Need to Lead

Thanks for the ongoing publication. As a small-business owner, and as a human being, I get much useful news from you.

I originally subscribed because yours was the first paper to carry Donella Meadows' "The Global Citizen". Now that dear Dana has departed, it's the other columns and ongoing news which keeps me here, prodding me to make improvements in my own life.

It's clear to me now that we each need to be the leaders that we wish were in Washington. It's also very clear that we each need to find ways to continue to withdraw from the current broken systems and actively work to replace them with systems we know work. I know, easy to say, but not necessarily easy to do.

I see several ways we can each do this.

One, turn off the TV and the radio and the consumer media, and learn to meditate or otherwise listen to what our true selves and Nature are trying to say to us. I prefer a practice called "Falun Gong", which expressly recognizes that its goal is spiritual maturity (in Eastern terms, "enlightenment"). Any conscious effort to be still and improve one's morality is worthwhile, though.

Two, find other ways to cut out the corporate presences in your life and in the lives of your family and neighbors. Progressive Populist has directly inspired me to locate nearby farmers who farm organically and sell shares in community-supported agriculture (CSA) style. It's also revived my interest in the family practice of farming, this time on a small scale (organic gardening). Meantime, I direct part of my business' net profits to organizations directly solving the hunger problem in the world, such as Ecology Action in Willits, Calif. (hard data research on Biointensive food-growing methods) and FINCA (microlending in the "Third World", getting money back where it's needed to grow businesses from the bottom).

Three, spend more time talking and working with your neighbors. This is made less easy due to urban sprawl, unreal commutes, zoning which separates worker from home, the consumer culture forced upon us, and its Siamese twin the corporate-worker culture which exhorts (extorts?) us into accepting less money for more work.

Four, retire your debt. Many find the book Your Money or Your Life by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin very helpful in figuring out in detail how much is enough financially. Hint: most Americans find less money is needed to live a fulfilling life than they expect. You want a proven way to give credit cards and "overconsumption" the boot -- here it is. Note: I'm on the Council of Financial Integrity Associates, an all-volunteer network spreading word about this book's practices and helping people return their use of money as a reflection [not driver] of their values.

Five, spread the wealth. If the government isn't willing to do it, we get to. Look up "local currencies" (such as Ithaca, N.Y.'s "Ithaca Hours"). Hook up with and create swaps of all sorts: barter, one mower for several neighbors, baby-sitting coops, and the like. Start businesses where the owners are local and the profits stay in the area -- worker-owned and cooperatives are two ways to do this.

Now a request. Any readers in the San Jose, Calif., area are welcome to contact me at jrb3@jrb3.com. I'm starting an open forum (face-to-face) to discuss and act on all these locally. This includes figuring out how to set up and let run a network of worker-owned cooperatives. If there's already some groups active in this space, let me know and we might mesh.

San Jose, Calif.

Time Has Come for Universal Health Care

All the other industrialized countries have some form of universal coverage. Our neighbor Canada's system began soon after WWII in Saskatchewan. Our countries are much different but we can learn a lot from their experience. The 10 provinces run their own programs with some federal money. They operate under five principles: The program must be universal, comprehensive, portable, accessible and publicly administered. People have free choice of provider. A province has a lot of bargaining power with drug companies and others. In the three territories the plans are all federal. Canada spends 9-10% of its gross domestic product on health care while we spend 14-15.

A major problem Canada is having now is underpayment by the provincial and federal governments. The same thing is happening here on the part of Medicare, Medicaid and private plans. Waits for non-urgent problems tend to be longer in Canada than here where, if you have the money, you can get service in a reasonable time and if you don't have the money you're out of luck.

There are heavy propaganda campaigns in both our countries against Universal Health Insurance. One public relations and lobbying company was paid $80 million to fight Hillary Clinton's scheme which, admittedly, was far too complex but, ironically, tried to include the private companies. Don't believe everything you hear. Canada has had 50 years experience and the public is sold on it, especially when they become familiar with us.

This is not intended to suggest any details of a universal insurance system but only to recommend action toward that goal.

For further information on Canada, there is an excellent article by Daniel Kraker in the New Rules Journal at www.newrules.org/journal/nrwin01health.html. Another good summary from Canada is at: www.hc-sc.gc.ca/datapcb/datahesa/E_sys.htm or root around in Canada/health.

We may have the best health care in the world IF you have the money, live in the right place, are medically sophisticated and have a profitable illness. However, we were ranked 37th in the quality of our overall system by a World Health Organization study.

retired health care administrator
Boulder, Colo.

Average Americans Foot the Bill

I heard Bush's remarkable speech touting his tax cut saying the American taxpayer can use their tax cut to deal with the energy crisis. Makes a lot of sense. The average American who, as always with the Rs, gets the short end of the deal with their "across the board tax-cuts" while the ultra-rich get the lion's share. Now Bush is just so tickled to give the average person his or her pittance of "tax relief" so they can turn around and give it to his buddies in the energy "bidness" which in turn enhances their coffers because they don't have to pay as much in taxes on their increased income. That way they can afford to give more to resident Bush's reappointment campaign. Does anybody in the "liberal" media see anything wrong with that?

Also, Bush has renewed the administration's efforts' to win the drug war. He has appointed Bill Bennet's prodigy as the new drug czar, a man that thinks every pot-head in America should do serious time to atone for their sins. It's worked so well in the past why not enhance this policy with the use of the death penalty. That'd show 'em. Another measure, which Baby Bush's administration seems intend on enforcing, is the well-thought-out law passed in 1998 that refuses federal funding for any student convicted of any drug offense no matter how trivial. It seems our government can forgive murderers, rapists, and thieves but get caught smoking a joint and it's no education for you'.

Given the new administration's get-tough-on-drug-offenders policy, I wonder if Dubya will now come clean and answer the rumors of his drug use when he was "young and foolish" and make the policy of denying an education to those in need of financial assistance a little more fair and apply the same reasoning to the wealthy by making them fill out a form chronicalling their past drug use and making their acceptance into college contingent on their answers on that form.

No matter how you slice it this administration operates on a double standard where the rich get everything and the average American (you remember them, the people Bush is so concerned about) foot the bill.

Willits, Calif.
Email tblakstad1@netzero.com

Modest Proposal for Your Tax Rebate

According to what I see in the "news" media, most taxpayers will be receiving a refund check from the Treasury Department sometime in July. Up to $600 for joint filers. My wife and I are retired, and based on our 2001 income, I'm guessing mine will be less than the maximum. Whatever.

Like a lot of Americans, I think the tax cut is bogus. Just as we get our fiscal heads above water, I see us once again descending into Reaganomics, deficits, and recession.

This refund is a windfall, not something you or I counted on, or were depending upon. I decided that, in spite of my somewhat limited financial circumstances, I could do without it. My first thought was to simply return the check to the Treasury Department. Then I had a better idea. When I receive my check I will carefully tear it in half, so that it is still readable, and mail it (registered with return receipt requested?) to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, D.C. Maybe include a personal note that just says "No Thanks". If the checks aren't cashed, the money stays in the Treasury. I don't know if the refund is taxable, but I would include a note with my 2002 IRS return that the check was returned, uncashed.

This would send the message that we think the tax cut is bad for the nation and the economy, and possibly a subtle message that we don't really want anything that George W. Bush has to offer.

Do we have the courage to put our money where our mouths are? Think about it.

Foley, Ala.

Editor's Note: I'd be afraid the Dubyites would just spend uncashed tax rebates on the Star Wars missile defense or some other corporate welfare boondoggle. Our suggestion: If you don't actually need the money to pay the rent or groceries, first renew your subscription to The Progressive Populist and perhaps get a gift subscription for your local library and/or a friend. Then contribute the balance of the rebate to the hell-raising organization of your choice. But the Citizens for Tax Justice found that 26% of Americans won't get any tax rebate and another 13% will get less than the full rebate of $300 for a single person and $600 for a couple. Single persons with less than $6,000 in taxable income after deductions, exemptions and credits, and married couples with less than $12,000 are penalized. Since the rebates are based on the taxes paid in 2000, a couple with two children and total income less than $25,000 -- who most need a rebate -- will get nothing.

Tax Rebate Cycle

I just can't wait until the people get their $300 tax cut checks, $600 if married,

Other people will be more happy than I am, for instance:

* The landlords who will immediately send the check recipients a notice that due to recent increases in expenses the rent will have to increase a little.

* The grocery merchants both wholesale and retail will take note of the short-term prosperity and add a few cents on to this and that item.

* The service salespeople will explain the professionalism of the job (true or not) and join in the price rise.

* The oil and gas companies notorious for smelling any extra money in the public domain will get into the act by explaining that there is very little left in the ground, making the price justified.

* The mainstream media will put the proper spin on the above by saying its all just coincidental

When this extra tax cut money is siphoned off to the upper 10% of society, those on fixed incomes, only Social Security incomes and others that weren't eligible for refunds will not only have suffered through the transition but will have to wonder if the price rise is here to stay. For these I will feel a great deal of compassion but not for my conservative, tax-cut supporting friend (John Doe) who will come by complaining that the market boys not only got their big tax refund money but now they have his $300 too.

Belton, Mo.

How Soon We Forget

How many of you taxpayers out there remember that Ronald Reagan put through the largest tax raise in American history. This was the payroll tax raise and it only affected the lower end of the capitalist pyramid, since the capitalists who make their money without working and punching a time clock, do not pay payroll taxes. So the elites were not affected by this tax raise.

But-t-t--, the same Republican president also put through a tax cut which cut the tax rate on the top bracket of income tax by almost one half. Now you can understand why the gap between the "haves and the have nots" has risen so dramatically.

A lot of you fell for the slick "double-talk" and false promises of Geo. W. Bush, not half of us, no, not near half of us fell for that. He did not win the popular vote. And neither did he win the vote in Florida, which kept him from winning the "electoral" vote. Five members of the Supreme Court made it impossible for the Florida vote to be counted, and thereby they installed this man in the presidential office, in spite of the vote of the people.

So what's different about American capitalism and communism? Answer: the way you spell it.

The votes are now being counted in Florida and show Gore won by a large margin. So you young people who are now subscribing to the Bush "spiel" to rob Social Security to gamble on the undependable "stock market" should remember this is the party which raised your payroll taxes. You would not now be paying in as much to Social Security, had it not been for the actions of Republican President Ronald Reagan.

This is just more in a long list of Republican moves to gut Social Security and finally destroy it. They say "privatize" is better, how much more are you paying now for First Class Postage, since the Postal Dept. was "privatized"?

Whitehorn Calif.

No Social Security Panic

When two groups of economists reach agreement, it's worth looking at the different roads they traveled to get there -- and where they're headed.

The International Monetary Fund recently reduced its expected US economic growth to 1.5% in 2001. AP notes that would be the "poorest showing since the last US recession ended in 1991." IMF's "World Economic Outlook" predicts US economic growth will rebound to 2.5% in 2002.

Social Security actuaries also project 1.5% growth. However, they say this "moderate" growth will be the average rate for the next 75 years. (RIDDLE: How do you bankrupt Social Security? First, assume a three-generation recession ...)

Annual growth hasn't averaged 1.5% for any decade since the stock-market Panic-stricken 1910s. Whenever our economy grows faster than that, Social Security grows healthier -- and doomsayers re-draw their crisis roadmaps.

Don't let profit-hungry privateers lead us off the high road of security for all in our society.

Marshall, Mich.
Email jalp@internet1.net

Agribusiness Exploits Consumers and Farmers

The Sixty Minutes exposé (May 20) of the cozy and odious relationship of crop insurance companies, the USDA and their political allies reveals only a part of what goes on. The smelly quid pro quo (I'll kiss yours if you'll kiss mine) between giant ag-related companies and their legislative pals almost always results in the exploitation of tax-paying consumers, and of farmers themselves.

I mourn the passing of farmer-husbandmen and their replacement by a soulless industrial agriculture that has killed off our small communities, our businesses, churches and schools.

These things have happened not because of inexorable economic factors but because of inexorable greed, as practiced by corporate power brokers and their political lackeys, the latter sometimes laughingly referred to as our public servants.

It is not only rural America that has suffered. Just ask the 65% of workers who can't get ahead, no matter how many jobs spouses work. These make up most of the majority of the electorate who do not vote. Who can blame them?

Lake Crystal, Minn.

Bush No More Bought Than the Rest

After reading "Bush Stays Bought" by M.W. Guzy in your 6/1/01 issue, I'm at a loss to understand whether the criticisms and the label "bought" can legitimately be singled out out toward President Bush.

While I am not an avid fan of G.W. he certainly, to me, was the lesser of two evils in the last election to the White House. As for being "bought" and staying bought we've (happily) concluded an eight-year perfect exhibition, truly and definitively exampling that condition, including the V.P.

As for coal, don't knock it. Living in the hard coal region of Pennsylvania, I would extol the feasibility of concentrating on production of fuels at hand here in the USA whether it be coal, oil, or otherwise. We, have generations of experience locally who would welcome the opportunity to once again fuel the nation.

As to being "bought" of all the so-called elected "voices" of the People in government at all levels, name me 10 who haven't been. The entire miserably shoddy electoral system has degenerated beyond belief but it is still the best around.

It would be a welcome surprise to witness two candidates with no political baggage run against one another on limited budgets, treating us as if we were reasonably intelligent, sensibly informed, and loyal Americans who can end do exercise our right of selection of those who are to speak for us. Alas, that is a dream, not a valid hope. Still, it is better than the many alternatives the world offers.

Shamokin, Pa.

Use the Right Word

To anyone who has ever automatically phrased a thought as "Canada will ease its foot-and-mouth ban" and "EPA will relax pollution regulations," can we all please recognize the positive connotations of verbs like "ease, relax, thaw"? If a ban or regulation is good, then "weaken, slacken, cripple, disable, dilute" should be used.

Los Angeles, Calif.

Over There

It is becoming exceedingly clear to me that the war on drugs waged in South American countries, is but a ruse to justify the presence of American personnel (military or "private") that wields control over their system. To wit: the covert CIA directions issued to the peruvian air force in the missionary plane incident.

Red Bluff, Calif.

Humpty Dubya

President Bush is beginning to look like a papier-mache figure. Although we knew he was hollow, he is starting to show signs of wear and tear. Imagine when the going gets tough and he is treated like a piñata! Will Vice President Humpty Dumpty be able to save him, himself AND the Grand Old Party?

Monticello, Ark.

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A letter published in the 6/15/01 issue, "Can't stand imperialism," did not accurately reflect that it was originally addressed to Nicholas von Hoffman and not the editor.

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