Archive for October, 2011

Republicans admit government programs create jobs and therefore their stalling of the Jobs Act is an act of sabotage to the economy

Monday, October 31st, 2011

But away from the cameras, Cantor sometimes pulls right up to the spending trough, including the very stimulus law he panned in public. Letters obtained by Newsweek show him pressing the Transportation Department to spend nearly $3 billion in stimulus money on a high-speed-rail project—not the one he derided in Nevada, but another in his home state. “Virginia … will demonstrate that this historic investment in rail will create jobs, reduce congestion, spur economic growth and improve our environment,” says a letter he signed with other Virginia members in October 2009, cribbing President Obama’s own argument for the stimulus.

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If regulations kill jobs then why did Republicans instill so many? Obama has begun far fewer.

Monday, October 31st, 2011

Republican lawmakers have been raking President Obama over the coals due to what they call a “tsunami” of new government regulations. “Business owners are reluctant to create jobs today if they’re going to need to pay more tomorrow to comply with onerous new regulations,” said Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME). Obama’s “excessive regulations that unnecessarily increase costs” just “make it harder for our economy to create jobs,” said House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH).

As with most GOP talking points, the facts tell a different story. A Bloomberg analysis of regulations reveals that Obama has approved fewer regulations than President George W. Bush “at this same point in their tenures, and the estimated costs of those rules haven’t reached the annual peak set in fiscal 1992 under Bush’s father.” Indeed, the record for the most expensive regulations still belongs to the GOP:

Obama’s White House approved 613 federal rules during the first 33 months of his term, 4.7 percent fewer than the 643 cleared by President George W. Bush’s administration in the same time frame, according to an Office of Management and Budget statistical database reviewed by Bloomberg. […]

In the last 12 months through the end of September, the cost range of new regulations is estimated to be $8 billion to $9 billion, a decrease from 2010, according to non-partisan Government Accountability Office reports analyzed by Bloomberg…The record [cost of regulations] came in 1992 under George H.W. Bush when that total hit $20.9 billion in current dollars. In the last year of Ronald Reagan’s term it was $16 billion in today’s dollars.

We certainly don’t remember Republicans crying about the “excessive” Bush regulations.

More of Obama’s regulations may cost more than $100 million as compared to previous administrations. But many of them help prevent outcomes that would cost exponentially more. For instance, the Department of Interior’s new controls on deep-water oil drilling may cost the industry $180 million, but one oil spill like that caused by Deepwater Horizon could cost the industry $16.3 billion. Some of the administration’s rules, like those governing coal ash, will actually help create thousands of jobs.

The impact of these regulations on small businesses is incredibly minimal. In fact, of the 10,361 mass layoffs last year, only 61 were attributed to regulations. When McClatchy asked small business owners why they have been hesitant to hire, “none of the business owners complained about regulation in their particular industries, and most seemed to welcome it.”

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Let’s put this “Obama said there are 57 states” nonsense to bed once and for all

Sunday, October 30th, 2011

“How on earth can there be 57 primaries when there are only 50 states? No, he really is that stupid.”

I sighed again. “50 states plus DC, Puerto Rico, Guam, US Virgin Islands, the Texas caucus because someone thought it was a good idea to have both a primary and a caucus in Texas and split the delegates so it counts as two separate races, American Somoa, and finally voters abroad like soliders and diplomats that get all lumped together and treated as one separate race. 57.

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FACT CHECK: GOP lawmakers spin funding tall tales

Sunday, October 30th, 2011

WASHINGTON (AP) — It’s an outrageous tale: The federal government spends one out of every $10 in transportation aid on wasteful projects such as refurbishing a giant roadside coffee pot and constructing turtle tunnels.

 

That’s what Republican lawmakers have said repeatedly in recent weeks in the Senate, in public appearances and in news releases. They are trying to eliminate a requirement that states use a portion of their highway aid for “transportation enhancements,” 12 categories of projects from bike and walking paths to scenic overlooks and landscaping.

 

But it’s not exactly true.

 

To make their case, lawmakers have exaggerated and misrepresented some projects that have received aid.

 

Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., raised the issue last month when he temporarily blocked action on a transportation bill. He said he wanted to allow state transportation departments to use all their federal aid on basic needs such as roads, bridges and tunnels, instead of setting some aside for enhancements.

 

“We are not pouring asphalt, we are not laying concrete, we are not decreasing congestion, and we are not increasing safety,” Coburn complained. He produced a list of 39 projects that he said exemplify extravagance at a time when states don’t have enough money to repair structurally deficient bridges.

 

Coburn picked his examples from the more than 25,000 projects that have received money since Congress established the enhancement set-aside nearly two decades ago.

 

First on the list: the Lincoln Highway 200-Mile Roadside Museum in south-central Pennsylvania. It was described as receiving $300,000 in 2004 for signs, murals, colorful vintage gas pumps painted by local artists and refurbishing of a former roadside snack stand from 1927 that’s shaped like a giant coffee pot.

 

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., was apparently working from Coburn’s list two weeks ago when he offered an amendment to narrow the types of projects eligible for enhancement funds.

 

“Pennsylvania ranks first out of all states for deficient bridges. Yet it seems to be more important to furbish large roadside coffee pots,” McCain said.

 

But no transportation aid was spent on the coffee pot’s $100,000 restoration, said Olga Herbert, executive director of the Lincoln Highway Heritage Corridor. The money was raised entirely from preservation and civic organizations and local supporters.

 

“We did not use any of this $300,000 award for anything to do with the coffee pot,” she said. “It’s interesting that nobody from Senator Coburn’s office called me about this.”

 

Also on Coburn’s list was a lighthouse renovation in the harbor of Toledo, Ohio, that would be partly funded with $500,000 in federal money. Actually, no transportation dollars have been authorized or awarded. The lighthouse renovation is among projects community officials tentatively hope to get around to in 2019.

 

Coburn’s list includes a 1996 grant for preservation of a “factory used to make saddletrees” – the foundation of a riding saddle – in Madison, Ind. Not mentioned is that the grant wouldn’t qualify for enhancement money under current program rules, according to Transportation Department officials.

 

The Texas Department of Transportation is described as spending $16.2 million in enhancement money to restore the Battleship Texas, docked in the Houston Ship Channel. If so, they weren’t federal transportation dollars. U.S. transportation officials said an application for the money was turned down.

 

The list cited landscaping to screen a junkyard in Aiken, S.C. After checking with state and local authorities, federal officials said the project was canceled years ago and again, no funds were awarded.

 

“We picked some of the more interesting and exciting ones to get our colleagues’ attention,” McCain acknowledged during his effort to pass his amendment.

 

McCain said he was reluctant to mention a $198,000 grant in 2007 to the National Corvette Museum in Warren County, Ky., to build a simulator theater because he fondly remembers owning a Corvette once. But then he mentioned it anyway.

 

“Since a National Corvette Museum simulator theater has very little to do with transportation enhancement, I felt compelled to add this,” he said.

 

The simulator theater is really a driver-education classroom for free driving classes for older people and teenagers, not a chance to pretend to be behind the wheel of a Corvette, museum officials said.

 

But what has provoked the most scorn from enhancement critics are the “turtle tunnels” near Tallahassee, Fla.

 

“Don’t tell the people of Kentucky they need to finance every turtle tunnel and solar panel company on some bureaucrat’s wish list in order to get their bridges fixed,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said last month in a speech decrying President Barack Obama’s request for $50 billion for highways, bridges and airport runways.

 

Kentucky’s other senator, Republican Rand Paul, protested last week: “Something is seriously wrong with government when we are forcing state governments to spend 10 percent of their transportation money on turtle tunnels, white squirrel parks, and movie theaters.”

 

Florida transportation officials federal aid to build mile barrier walls on either side of U.S. 27, a busy four-lane highway along the shore of Lake Jackson, and three culverts that run underneath the road. The lake is teeming with wildlife, but the critters were getting flattened by cars as they tried to cross to the vegetation on the other side.

 

While turtle deaths prompted the project, the culverts are being used by many other species, including beavers, otters, alligators and snakes. They make driving safer for motorists who were swerving to avoid turtles and alligators, said Matt Aresco, the former Florida State University Ph.D. student who led a grassroots campaign for the project.

 

“It’s a significant safety issue,” he said.

 

The project used economic stimulus funds rather than regularly budgeted transportation money. Coburn’s list, provided to reporters and posted on his Senate website, said Florida plans to spend $3.4 million on the project, but it will require $6 million more to finish “and it was unclear how long it will take to get the project built.”

 

Actually, the project was finished in September 2010 and came in under budget at $3 million, according to the Transportation Department.

 

GOP members of Congress also have said repeatedly that states are required to spend 10 percent of their transportation aid on enhancements. Actually, the set-aside for enhancements is equal to 10 percent of the aid states receive through one transportation program, not their total federal aid. Enhancement funds amounted to $927 million in the past year, 2 percent of the $46 billion the government spent on highway programs.

 

 

Online:

 

National Transportation Enhancements Clearinghouse http://www.enhancements.org/projectlist.asp

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Professor explains how economic inequality harms societies

Thursday, October 27th, 2011

University of Nottingham professor Richard Wilkinson showed during a recent TEDTalk that economic inequality was associated with the health and basic values of a society. There is no correlation between a country’s economic prosperity and the average lifespan of its citizens, he explained. But as economic inequality increases, overall measures of health decline, and it is not just the poor who are affected.

Video is located here

The US had a Stimulus and the UK did not. What’s the difference?

Wednesday, October 26th, 2011

At Tax.com, Martin Sullivan rebuts those who claim that the 2009 Recovery Act (i.e. the stimulus) did nothing to boost the economy. “Republicans constantly remind us that the Obama stimulus — the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 — did not work. They voted against it. In the United Kingdom the government is led by Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron. His government did not adopt stimulus,” Sullivan noted. “After three and a half years, U.S. GDP is just about returning to the pre-recession peak. That’s awful. But it’s far better than the U.K. where GDP is still five percent ($750 billion in US terms) below its pre-recession peak.”

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The economy actually helped everyone rior to Reagan

Wednesday, October 26th, 2011

There used to be a time in America – when as the country grew wealthier – everyone got wealthier. Following World War 2 – as Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal was taking hold – and a third of the workforce was unionized – and we protected our domestic manufacturing industries – and corporate monopolies were illegal – EVERYONE got wealthier in America. And then something happened.

Thom Hartmann explains in this video

The Tea Party vs. Occupy Wall Street Finally, a truly populist uprising

Tuesday, October 25th, 2011

The Use and Abuse of Government

The Tea Party hates the very idea of government, embracing Ronald Reagan’s famous dictum, “Government is the problem.” OWS also sees government as an enemy when democracy has been corrupted by money and government has been captured by corporations. The Declaration of Principles adopted by the general assembly of Occupy Wall Street in its first days makes this clear, “…no true democracy is attainable when the process is determined by economic power. We come to you at a time when corporations, which place profit over people, self-interest over justice, and oppression over equality, run our governments.”

As Nobel laureate economist Joseph Stiglitz observes government increasingly is the 1%.

Virtually all U.S. senators, and most of the representatives in the House, are members of the top 1 percent when they arrive, are kept in office by money from the top 1 percent, and know that if they serve the top 1 percent well they will be rewarded by the top 1 percent when they leave office….When pharmaceutical companies receive a trillion-dollar gift—through legislation prohibiting the government, the largest buyer of drugs, from bargaining over price—it should not come as cause for wonder. It should not make jaws drop that a tax bill cannot emerge from Congress unless big tax cuts are put in place for the wealthy. Given the power of the top 1 percent, this is the way you would expect the system to work.

But OWS also knows that government is the only vehicle through which the majority can fashion rules that increase personal security and restrain unbridled greed and private power. If we give up on government we give up on our ability to collectively influence our future.

Which is why high on the list of demands by OWS protestors is to minimize the impact of money on politics and increase the number of people voting.

Tea Partiers again take the opposite position. They defend the right of global corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money to influence elections and they advocate policies that suppress voter turnout.

Story is located here

There are far more Christians and more people related to other religious groups in prison than there are Atheists in prison

Wednesday, October 19th, 2011

”Scepticfiles.org” quotes W. T. Root, professor of psychology at the Univ. of Pittsburgh, who examined 1,916 prisoners and said, “Indifference to religion, due to thought, strengthens character.” He is quoted as saying that Unitarians, Agnostics, Atheists and Free-Thinkers are absent from penitentiariers or nearly so.

In 1997, Rod Swift found that .209% of federal prisoners are atheists (See related link: Rod Swift study).

In 2010, Tim Covell updated that information, and discovered only .08% of the U.S. federal prison population is atheist (See related link: Tim Covell study).

It is claimed that over a period of 10 years , those executed in Sing-Sing Prison for murder were 65% Catholics, 26% Protestants, 6% Hebrew, 2% Pagan, and less than 1/3 of 1% non-religious.

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Obama: Jobs bill to support 37,300 Calif. teachers

Thursday, October 13th, 2011

President Barack Obama’s jobs bill would allow school districts in California to save 37,300 teaching jobs, the White House said Tuesday.

The Obama administration unveiled additional details of the president’s proposed $447 billion jobs act, outlining how much states would receive to support teaching jobs. California’s share would amount to $3.2 billion, the largest allocation of any state. Funding would allow school districts to avert layoffs or rehire unemployed teachers, officials said.

Orange County’s share could come to $256 million, or enough to support about 2,900 teaching jobs, according to county Department of Education estimates. For the current school year, Orange County’s public schools cut a combined 500 education jobs, and have slashed hundreds more over the previous few years.

The White House said the jobs bill would prevent the layoff of up to 280,000 teachers across the country while also allowing states to hire back tens of thousands more.

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The Great Capital Gains Charade

Thursday, October 13th, 2011

Whenever you buy an asset — a house, say, or a share of stock or some other investment instrument — and then sell it later for more than you paid for it, the profit is a capital gain. And unlike you and me, whose income mostly comes from wages, a big part of the income of rich people comes from capital gains. Naturally, then, rich people are extremely interested in having low tax rates on capital gains.

However, since “rich people deserve to pay low tax rates” is not a very persuasive argument, the justification for low capital gains tax rates is usually couched in the language of “capital formation.” This is a concept that’s perfectly legitimate in theory but, in the hands of the Wall Street Journal editorial page, has been corrupted over the past couple of decades into an all-purpose excuse for low tax rates on pretty much everything related to the income of rich people. In fact, a pretty good rule of thumb these days is that any time you see the phrase “capital formation” in an op-ed page anywhere, you should ignore everything that comes after it. It’s just bollocks.

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CHARTS: Here’s What The Wall Street Protesters Are So Angry About…

Thursday, October 13th, 2011

The “Occupy Wall Street” protests are gaining momentum, having spread from a small park in New York to marches to other cities across the country.

 So far, the protests seem fueled by a collective sense that things in our economy are not fair or right. But the protesters have not done a good job of focusing their complaints—and thus have been skewered as malcontents who don’t know what they stand for or want.

(An early list of “grievances” included some legitimate beefs, but was otherwise just a vague attack on “corporations.” Given that these are the same corporations that employ more than 100 million Americans and make the products we all use every day, this broadside did not resonate with most Americans).

So, what are the protesters so upset about, really?

Do they have legitimate gripes?

To answer the latter question first, yes, they have very legitimate gripes.

And if America cannot figure out a way to address these gripes, the country will likely become increasingly “de-stabilized,” as sociologists might say. And in that scenario, the current protests will likely be only the beginning.

The problem in a nutshell is this: Inequality in this country has hit a level that has been seen only once in the nation’s history, and unemployment has reached a level that has been seen only once since the Great Depression. And, at the same time, corporate profits are at a record high.

In other words, in the never-ending tug-of-war between “labor” and “capital,” there has rarely—if ever—been a time when “capital” was so clearly winning.

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How Banks Got Too Big to Fail

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011

The nation’s 10 largest financial institutions hold 54 percent of our total financial assets; in 1990, they held 20 percent. In the meantime, the number of banks has dropped from more than 12,500 to about 8,000. Some major mergers and acquisitions over the past 20 years:

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20 Historical Facts That Republicans Distort Or Just Get Plain Wrong

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011

We all know at least one person that doesn’t know much about history. And we all know that there have been people who have tried to distort history. The Republican Party, however, does both. Over these last two years, Republicans have a made a real effort to distort history as much as possible, to the point where they are now seeking to rewrite school textbooks. The Republican Party has bent over backwards to present their own twisted version of history and it’s starting to look like that one requirement to be a Republican is to be ignorant of historical facts and events. Below is a list of the many historical facts that Republicans have either distorted or have just gotten plain wrong along with corrections of their errors.

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Alan Grayson on Occupy Wall Street from Bill Maher

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011

Alan Grayson demonstrated why all the media complaint’s about the unclear message behind Occupy Wall Street is nonsense. It took former Rep. Grayson 37 seconds to explain what Occupy Wall Street is about. He almost delivered the perfect 30 second sound bite, but he ran a tiny bit over. It isn’t that the one percent and the Republicans who support them can’t understand Occupy Wall Street. It’s that they don’t want to. The message isn’t complicated.
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Misconceptions and Realities About Who Pays Taxes

Tuesday, October 11th, 2011

A recent finding by Congress’ Joint Committee on Taxation that 51 percent of households owed no federal income tax in 2009 [1] is being used to advance the argument that low- and moderate-income families do not pay sufficient taxes. Apart from the fact that most of those who make this argument also call for maintaining or increasing all of the tax cuts of recent years for people at the top of the income scale, the 51 percent figure, its significance, and its policy implications are widely misunderstood.

In a typical year, roughly 35-40 percent of households have no net federal income liability; in 2007, the figure was 37.9 percent. [8] In 2009, however, two factors combined to cause a large, temporary spike in the share of Americans with no net federal income tax liability — the recession, which reduced many people’s incomes, and several temporary tax cuts that have now expired. The 51 percent figure reflects these temporary factors.

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Who are the 1%?

Tuesday, October 11th, 2011

Occupy Wall Street has focused national attention on the vast majority of Americans who have been left behind by the economic growth of the past few decades. But if OWS is the voice of the 99 percent, who exactly are the 1 percent?

A quick look at the numbers reveals that they aren’t all bailed-out Wall Street execs or brokers pulling down fat bonuses. That’s just some of them:

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Solyndra – Republicans mad because Republicans created it so they blame Obama

Tuesday, October 11th, 2011

One of the Republican Party’s lead campaign groups tried to turn the Solyndra failure into an election issue Tuesday, accusing President Obama and Democrats of creating a “green casino” to gamble taxpayer money — ignoring the program’s creation by GOP lawmakers.

Solyndra, a solar panel manufacturer that got a $535 million loan guarantee from the Department of Energy, went bankrupt last month and was raided by the FBI.

It’s been a major embarrassment to the Obama administration, which oversaw the last steps of the guarantee and granted it in spite of internal debate over Solyndra’s prospects. And Friday emails released to congressional investigators revealed that a Department of Energy official sent dozens of messages about the guarantee even though he had officially recused himself because his wife worked for Solyndra’s law firm.

So Republicans have been exploiting the ugly issue, with National Republican Congressional Committee Tuesday distributing a press release that left out the fact that the Department of Energy’s loan guarantee program was launched by the Energy Policy Act of 2005, created under the auspices of Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas). And the Solyndra application was started by the Bush administration, which selected Solyndra as one of the 16 most promising green energy programs in the country.

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Average CEO Pay in U.S.: $17 Million

Tuesday, October 11th, 2011

$17Million/$50,000 average pay=350.  A CEO almost makes as much in one day as an average worker makes in one year.

The average compensation for the chief executive of a Down Jones Industrial Average company was $17 million last year, according to DSW, Germany’s largest association of private investors.

That’s nearly three times the $6.5 million average for CEOs of companies listed in Germany’s DAX Index. Germany’s highest-paid CEO last year was Martin Winterkorn, CEO of Volkswagen AG, who received $13.4 million, DSW says.

America’s highest-paid CEO in 2010 was Philippe P. Dauman, who heads media giant Viacom, according to The Wall Street Journal, which calculated compensation differently. The Journal says Dauman received more than $84 million, according to The Wall Street Journal, which calculated compensation differently.

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  And actually the AVERAGE Dow Jones CEO pay is $17million and that was LAST year and THIS year it will be higher as corporate profits have gone up since last year. So $17Million/$50000 AVERAGE pay for workers=340 so basically that is one day average CEO pay=one YEAR average worker pay. NOW…that $50,000 is INCLUDING the CEO and top 1%….if you take what is more realistic for workers and you use the “average pay” of just the bottom 90% of workers you see their average pay quite close to $40,000 per year. So if you take that $17million divided by $40,000 the math above results in 425. So the average Dow Jones CEO makes as much in what…by about 2:30pm that the average worker makes in a year…hence the rounding of 2 days is…just like the other article…in the ballpark…with the overall concept of obscene CEO pay holding 100% true. Of course the work year is only 250 days considering weekends and holidays….so if you REALLY want to be technical the imbalance is larger still and the bumper sticker for the claim above is quite close.. And if you see what foreign CEOs make in this article you see American CEOs are far overpaid. 

It is not the 475…430…..325 which is the issue….it is the fact that they are far overpaid and workers are far underpaid as worker productivity has lagged pay since 1980 as the two were intertwined prior to that. BUT CEO pay has rocketed.

A brief discussion of taxes and income inequality: the rich pay 70% of all income taxes. Boo hoo.

Sunday, October 9th, 2011

“[Obama] repeated the old half-truth about millionaires not paying as much in taxes as their secretaries. (In reality, the top 10 percent of earners pay nearly 70 percent of all income taxes, according to the I.R.S. People in the richest 1 percent pay 31 percent of their income to the federal government while the average worker pays less than 14 percent, according to the Congressional Budget Office.)”David Brooks

Timothy Noah responds (via: azspot): David Brooks Is Unwell

Oh, please. The top 10 percent pays nearly 70 percent of all income taxes because the top 10 percent makes half the income–49.74 percent, including capital gains, before the recession and only slightly less now… The relevant statistic isn’t what proportion of the nation’s taxes comes from the rich. It’s what proportion of the rich’s income gets paid in taxes. Brooks cites a Congressional Budget Office report that says people in the richest 1 percent pay 31 percent of their income in taxes to the federal government. Boo hoo. What he doesn’t say is that back in 1979, on the eve of the Reagan revolution, the richest 1 percent paid 37 percent of their income in taxes to the federal government, even though its share of the nation’s income was much lower than it is now (34 percent, including capital gains). Effective tax rates on top earners didn’t change as much as many people think during the past 30 years, but they did go down (except for a brief uptick in the early Clinton years). For the very richest Americans, the drop was more precipitous. As recently as 2000 the 400 richest Americans paid 22.3 percent of their adjusted gross income in federal taxes. In 2008 (the last year for which data are available) they paid 18.1 percent. Again, this occurred while their income share was going up, not down.

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What if America truly were a Christian nation?

Wednesday, October 5th, 2011

Not a Southern Baptist nation, or an Episcopal nation, or a Roman Catholic nation. Not grounded in the doctrinal and ecclesiastical isms that have grown up over the centuries. But a Christian nation, doing what Jesus did.

Well, we wouldn’t be arguing about sex, that’s for sure. Jesus devoted no time to matters of sexuality.

We wouldn’t be leading cheers for any particular economic system, capitalist or socialist, for in his many teachings about wealth and power, Jesus saw both as snares and delusions.

We wouldn’t be taking votes on who gets medical care, or who gets to live, or who gets to learn, or whose rights matter more, or whose race or religion can’t be allowed to breathe freely. For Jesus gave healing to all who asked, defended the lives of sinners, taught all who were eager to learn, welcomed all to his circle — even outcasts, lepers and children. He had no regard for his own tradition’s finely tuned boundaries.

We wouldn’t be loading great wealth onto the already wealthy, but rather would be asking them to follow the lead of biblical tax collector Zacchaeus and to give away half of what they have.

We wouldn’t need as many lawyers, because generosity would trump tax-reduction strategies, parables would trump rules, property would be shared as needed and people would be forgiving — not suing — each other.

If we were a genuinely Christian nation, we would be gathering the harvest of this abundant land and sharing it with the hungry of our own land and of many lands. We would forgive our enemies, speak truth to power and go forth to serve and to sacrifice, not to rule.

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An overview of the start of the Teaparty

Monday, October 3rd, 2011

Here is where and how the Teaparty began.

Video is located here