Musing Mondays: Make America “Great” Again

In light of Trump missing the latest GOP debate, and because I recently watched the most terrifying video clip from CNN interviewing three adorably naive 18 year olds about why they’re voting for Trump, I thought I’d get a little political with you for a minute.

Normally, I try to avoid overtly political posts here, because this isn’t a blog that has a liberal or conservative agenda. Don’t get me wrong, I definitely have strong opinions about a lot of things, including politics, but this blog isn’t about politics. And frankly, I don’t take the time to keep up with every idiot who decides to run for president to really have a justifiably strong opinion to share with you. What I can tell you is this: Trump’s motto, his whole campaign platform, ‘Make America Great Again’ is wrong.

But Tasha, how can a campaign slogan, that states no facts, be wrong?

Well, let’s break it down here: ‘Make America Great Again’ has two connotations. First, it implies that America is not great. Okay, well you have me there. This is a completely unmeasurable assumption based on opinion that can neither be confirmed nor denied. It is entirely possible that America is, in fact, not great. However, ‘Make America Great Again’ also implies that there was, at one point, a time in which America was great. While this, too, is an entirely unmeasurable assumption with no solidified dates to point us to a time in which we can say, “Ahh, yes, I remember [insert designated date], America was great then,” we can break this down a little bit further.

Let’s start first by asking what we mean by ‘great’. What is great? When we say America is great, to what are we referring? Are we discussing America’s financial success? The morale of the American population? America’s standard of living? America’s military dominance? Any combination of those things? As you can see, we’re already running into problems because there is simply no way to know what it is exactly that Trump’s campaign slogan is referring to. But, just for kicks, let’s try and ride this logic train all the way through to the station.

Let’s assume that ‘Make America Great Again’ is referring to America’s financial greatness. Seems logical enough, given that Trump is a business man who has made his fortune playing the capitalist game in corporate America. This assumption is further supported by the fact that much of Trump’s campaign has played into his successes in the private sector, distinguishing his experience running businesses from your average politician who only has experience, you know, running parts of the government.

So, when has America been financial great? Economics is a horridly depressing subject and way too complicated for me to understand and put into layman’s terms here, but for the sake of being simple, let’s guess. Are we talking about 1980’s during the era of Reaganomics, which are still highly esteemed by many conservatives but ultimately proved to be short-sighted and short-lived as the market fell in the 2000’s?  Could we be discussing the Boomer economy of the 1950’s, which rode the money wave out of an era of war and accelerated invention into an era of blue collar jobs? How about the Roaring ’20’s–we all know how that ended. Some earlier time perhaps, not in the twentieth or twenty-first centuries? FUN FACT: America as a country has always been in debt, ever since the revolution. Google it. Thanks, Obama.

Okay, so if we’re not talking about America’s greatness as a fiscally responsible country, are we talking about America’s military dominance? Does that really make us great? Certainly it was great that we were able to help Europe (which had already done most of the work by the time we got there, fyi) beat Hitler. Phew, that certainly was a close one! But does it make us “great” that we’ve been single-handedly responsible for the military intervention and disruption of several governing states’ autonomies? America was universally founded upon one belief: We don’t like other people ordering us around and generally being all up in our business. I mean, we freak out the second we think our “secure” borders are at risk, to the point where we’re willing to look the other way while we let our president listen in on all of our phone calls. (I bet Bush has some pretty juicy secrets to share from it, too.) Are we great for being big whopping hypocrites? Most of these military interventions wind up blowing up in our faces, anyways. (Research Vietnam, or just watch the end of Charlie Wilson’s War.)

So if not military dominance, then what makes us great? I could go around and around discussing how every historical aspect of a specific period of time in America’s history is both good and bad, but I don’t want to bore you with too many generalizations*. Instead, I’ll let you in on a secret about a fallacy that many of us (including myself) have fallen prey to: There has never been a “Golden Era” of time in which America–or the world in general, for that matter–has been “great”. Every century, every decade, every year has its ups and downs, its different problems faced.

So don’t be victim to the naive–and frankly, prejudiced–view of the world that Donald Trump, and every politician tries to paint for you. And the end of the day, they’re all just salesmen trying to sell you different products in the same ways. Take the time to wade through all of the bullshit.

*I realize I have not provided you with any facts here to back up my claims. The truth is, I didn’t want to take the time. This isn’t a scholarly article. I’m just trying to get to a singular point here. But if you’re really dying for some facts, feel free to Google anything and everything that I’ve talked about here. You’ll be much smarter than me by the time you’re through, and definitely a more well-informed voter come the next election. And if you find any glaringly wrong generalizations, comment below. I’d love to be more informed, myself.

-tlc

Use Your Brain

Today I would like to write a short PSA about using your brain.  You see, in today’s world, we don’t function as a society without social media. It’s how we consume and digest information, and–scarily–how we learn to understand issues.

Particularly with presidential campaigns gearing up, I would like to ask–no, implore–you to educate yourselves on the facts before sharing info-graphs, articles, or any other biased source of information. Here’s why:

It’s easy to see something, agree with it, and want to pass it on. But if that information is not accurate, out of context, or in any way twisted to create a misconception, you aren’t doing the world any good by passing it on and getting more people to agree with your POV. In fact, you’re actually slowing down progressive change and actually may be hurting a lot of people in the process. Think of it this way:

When you allow yourself to become part of the problem by spreading stereotypes and social/cultural myths, you prevent parts of society  that you may not understand completely from getting the basic human rights that they are entitled to. Like worrying that child predators will take advantage of using opposite-gender bathrooms if laws are passed to make public restrooms transgender-friendly. John Oliver, who I recommend as a good source for getting yourself educated on all the hot-topic issues (and for a good laugh) does a really good job of explaining why this is ridiculous fear-mongering and actually holds no real substance or statistics to back it up as a real problem.

Truth be told, I am being a teensie weensie little bit of a hypocrite here; I, too, am guilty  of posting a lot of things that have no solid facts to back them up, or researching the source behind the information to make sure that the information is solid, primary source material.

So why did I feel entitled to tell you not to do it? Because I’m not perfect, I know better, and I’m working towards posting only accurate, educational stuff that I can feel good about passing on to others because it’s good information to know, not just information that I personally agree with that I would like others to know about and agree with, too.

Something I get accused of a lot is being “Too Liberal.” I often find that people get defensive because so much of the time their conservative views are on the wrong side of progress, and they worry about morality and whether or not “progress is actually good.” And here’s how I think about it: I’m not liberal or conservative. True, I tend to agree more with the liberal side of any issue, but I want what I think will create the best opportunities and safest living environments for everyone. So really, I just agree with what I either know is right, or think will work best to create what is “right”. If you have to get angry at the facts and discount the truth behind your opinions (i.e. the truth being that your opinions are not grounded in facts but in stereotypes, etc.) or call others names or get angry at them simply for disagreeing with your views–but not being able to back that disagreement up with facts–then you should really consider the validity of your own opinions. Perhaps you’ll discover that your view of the world is a little inaccurate and skewed. Or perhaps you won’t. But at least you’ll know.

So–especially as we jump into this God-forsaken 2016 presidential run–please, PLEASE think before you post. Sparks start fires. And only YOU can prevent false social media fires. (See what I did there?)

Until next time,

-tlc

An Open Letter to Sam Brownback

Dear Governor Brownback,

Here’s the deal. I realize that the blame for the $400 Million deficit that Kansas is in can’t  be laid entirely upon your shoulders. I realize that the think-tank that you’ve surrounded yourself with, and that the senate and house have been a part of, somehow got the crazy, naive idea that the trickle-down system works, and y’all just rolled with it. And I truly think that with the way this furlough thing is landing, you’re FINALLY starting to question your original opinions on feeding the full and starving the hungry.

What I can’t understand is, how the HELL did it take you this long to see this (that is, if you really can see it)? Oh, and please stop pointing fingers at everyone else. The blame might not fully be on your shoulders, but when you chose to run for Governor–and then chose to run for Governor AGAIN–you entered an unspoken contract in which you, being the voice and head of Kansas state government and legislature, would also take responsibility for your actions, and the actions of those working beneath you. So, it might not be your fault, but it IS your fault. You signed it into legislature. So, yeah.

But more infuriating than what seems to be your honest, naive, stupidity and selfishness in wanting to use Kansas in what seems to be an economic and social experiment, is what seems to be your opinion on what is important and what isn’t. Both my parents are teachers in Kansas, and for as long as I have been alive, I have watched them work harder than anyone else I have ever known, and still strain to make sure that the bills were paid, food was on the table, a roof was over our heads, and that my brother and I were provided for. They are the most amazing people I have ever met, and they are damn good at their jobs. I know that both my parents have touched the lives of many students, helping them succeed, preparing them for their futures, and instilling a desire for learning. This is a very rare thing these days, with as much non-productive stimulation as kids can receive from video games and TV. My parents have been praised by their colleagues, and have received nothing but the highest recommendations from their administrators in every school that they have taught in. My parents are involved in their schools–My mother single-handedly instituted and manages an annual science fair for every grade in her school, and students prepare their projects all year long. My father holds an administrative degree and often stands in as assistant principal when other school administrators cannot be at school. My father also helped implement the school’s after-school PBD program, which helps students who fall behind in classes and grades catch up to their peers, and you can bet that he is there, helping those students after school hours are over, too. And probably most endearing, my father volunteers as a prom valet every year. Last spring, my father broke his leg, and even though he was in a wheelchair and couldn’t drive, he still showed up at Prom to wish his students a fun night.

My parents love their students and take a lot of pride in what they do. So you can imagine their sadness, and my heartbreak, when they are told that their work is essentially worthless. Why are they being told this? Because you, Governor Brownback, tell them that everyday that you allow budget cuts to continue for Kansas schools and education. Since you decided that a small percentage of Kansas’s tax dollars were worth more than funding our schools, you have caused salary freezes, supply cuts, and stricter regulations on paid teacher time, which does not mean that teachers are working less–it means that teachers are simply working more unpaid time.

You see, what you might not realize about working in education is that it isn’t like a normal 9-5 job. You don’t just go in to work, do your time, and then leave it in the classroom. Many teachers–even ones who work in states that actually care about education and paying their instructors–put in hundreds of hours outside of those they get paid, just prepping their classrooms and lesson plans, not to mention being a visible part of their students’ lives, so that their students feel supported. Many teachers also spend their own money suppling their classrooms, as–even on a regulated budget–schools do not typically have enough funding to cover every classroom purchase. Teachers do this out of love; love for their jobs and love for their students, because teaching isn’t a job, it’s a calling.

But when, for nearly five years, you continually “thank” them for their dedication by providing them less and less financial support, spirits begin to break. Educators who were once eager in their work are looking for ways out. My own parents, who have dedicated a combined 50+ years towards education, are at their breaking points. People are tired, and they can only carry the weight of your ignorance for so long.

And what’s really sad is what this means for our children. A whole generation has lost five years’ worth of quality education because their teachers’ hands have been tied, their wills broken, and their funding made nonexistent. And the cherry on top? The fact that schools closed early this year because of your budget cuts. Why has education been so unimportant to you? Do you hope that by dumbing down the masses, you might be able to continue on in an otherwise damned career? Frankly, I would like to know what idiot politician cut school funding while you were learning economics, because the damage is evident.

Though I can only speak directly for the education realm, I have no doubt that every other facet of this state that has felt your budget cuts has similar woes. No, I don’t think there is really anything you can do to make up for the idiocy that you’ve instilled trying to run this state for the last four and a half years. You can start trying, though, by eliminating the tax cuts that you’ve put in place for the last four and a half years. Just remember, you can’t change the damaged past.

For everyone reading this who isn’t Brownback (which is probably all of you) I can’t stress enough how important it is to be an educated voter and VOTE EVERY TIME. Please, for everyone’s sanity, VOTE VOTE VOTE, and educate yourself ahead of time.

Thank you, and please get your shit together, Brownback.

-A concerned ex-Kansas-resident (that’s right, I left because I couldn’t stand you), tlc

What No One Will Tell You About Minimum Wage and Capitalism

I’ve been told too many times to count that I’m naive when it comes to the way I think about the world and the “liberal” views that I hold on the way things work–or at least, the way I think they should work. And I willingly admit that I am a deeply opinionated person who probably holds too many opinions on things she knows very little about. But on the flip side, everyone who’s ever told me I’m naive has just as many opinions on things that they equally know nothing about. I’m no economist, but I am living the hourly grind, and with all the fuss that comes with cities like Los Angeles and Seattle raising the minimum wage, I wanted to share something that I’ve had a lot of time to think about: My thoughts on minimum wage.

Let’s begin with the concept of “deserve” because this buzz word seems to come up a lot in conversations about minimum wage salaries. Let me breeze through this one quickly by saying if you use this as an argument for, or against, raising minimum wage–either way–just go home now. Whether a person “deserves” to be paid more or less is a totally inoperable way of thinking, as not only does everyone have differing opinions as to who deserves what, it’s invalid in its reasoning because everyone “deserves” to live, and part of living is making a living wage. (In this case, the term “living wage” is used to mean a specific income that is required to meet basic human needs.)

Speaking of the “living wage,” did you know that the living wage for Los Angeles is around $13/hr? Do you want to know how much minimum wage in Los Angeles is? $9/hr.

Huh.

Well that seems weird because that would mean that men and women who work full-time minimum wage jobs are not making enough to provide for their own basic needs. Which means that they aren’t making what they “deserve” (just to drill it home for you).

Yep.

But doesn’t that go against the whole idea of “minimum” wage? Like, there’s a minimum wage possible that you can pay your employees because they have to be able to live?

mmmhhmm.

I once took a class in college that studied the history of peace and conflict and the historical causes of certain instances of peace and instances of conflict and war. The class was amazing, and I learned so much about structural and hidden violence, stereotypes, and think tanks. However, something that my teacher told me that has not only stuck with me, but also haunted me since is this: “Capitalism was built on slavery, and survives on slavery. The only difference being that in today’s world, capitalism is functioning on less visible forms of slavery. So, sweatshops, minimum wage, unpaid internships–you know, the things you’re already used to seeing/hearing about, might have experienced yourself. If a company isn’t outsourcing, then they are acquiring source materials for a free or extremely cheap rate to keep costs low and competitive–this usually results in some form of abuse on natural resources, like bottling companies that drain community water reservoirs because they are not strictly regulated.

In other words, the “greed” which “fuels” corporations and businesses to compete and grow or die trying (the philosophy behind Capitalism) also fuels “resources” like poorly-paid sweatshop and field workers in third-world countries and creates reasons as to why minimum wage workers here can’t be paid a proper living wage.

And yes, there are arguments against increasing minimum wage because of the damaging inflation it causes and the fact that sooner rather than later inflation will catch up to the wage (probably before a new minimum wage even goes into effect) which will render the new minimum wage obsolete. It’s a vicious cycle. But it’s a vicious cycle that’s also partly fueled (again) by the desire to make as big a profit margin as possible. Yes, companies raise prices to cover larger staffing expenses. But they also raise prices to keep their profit margins the same, because they can’t accept living on a smaller profit.

Now, this obviously isn’t a perfect argument, as small business often get thrown under the bus with big corporations when they are simply trying to keep their heads above water. I’m not saying that every single business has a huge, greedy profit margin. That’s not always the case. But it does bother me that there are people who work at places like Walmart and still need public assistance, and while that’s going on, others are being ignorant assholes using the whole “deserve” argument I mentioned earlier.

The living wage is different in every city, and so perhaps $15/hr minimum wage doesn’t make sense in every place. But my bet is that with inflation the way it is now, by the time LA hits the year 2020, even $15/hr won’t be livable.

So that’s my two cents. Hate me, call me names for trying to knock capitalism off its stupid pedestal, say I’m a socialist (I’m okay with that), whatever. I don’t care. This is how I view the world.

-tlc