I’m having a tough time with something and I invite anyone to help me understand what’s going on with our economy.

We’ve got high unemployment and rampant under-employment; falling wages; an increasing concentration of wealth and power in fewer and fewer hands; a lack of career opportunities for recent graduates who are crushed under the weight of college loans that could follow them forever; an increase in poverty rates coupled with a decrease in socioeconomic and class mobility; tragically high incarceration rates; and, perhaps most startling, the unwillingness of our politicians to acknowledge what’s going on.

To look at it another way, the purpose of our economy is not to hire workers but to produce goods and services. In fact, if goods and services could be produced without any workers at all it would be just fine. No, it would be better than fine: it would be the best that capitalism has to offer.

But what would happen to all the workers who are no longer needed by the economy? What about their American dreams? Should they just go away or, better yet, die? And with this as a backdrop we hear an endless stream of bullshit flowing from Washington calling for reduced entitlements and a diminished social safety net. Really?

No, the American people need entitlements and they should start with our being entitled to political leaders who have the balls to tell it like it is. The system is broken.

So please, anyone, explain why better days are ahead and that I have it all wrong.

In a perfect world the Sunday morning talk shows would provide some measure of clarity in an otherwise confusing and conflicted world. Clearly, it isn’t a perfect world, and just how imperfect it is was on display this morning on Meet the Press. The subject was the fiscal cliff and deficit reduction.

For example, Tom Brokaw said it is ridiculous that he should get the same Medicare benefit as his less-wealthy brother. Sounds reasonable, doesn’t it? Maybe there should be a means test where only those who need Medicare should get it. That way Medicare would be turned into a welfare program that the Right could whittle away at by adjusting the means threshold. Good idea, Tom. How about controlling run-away medical costs, instead? That might work.

Mr. Brokaw also suggested that the maybe Social Security retirement age could be increased to 67 now, and maybe even 70 in a few years. Uh-oh, this is a back breaker…literally.  Some workers, particularly those at the lowest end of the wage scale such as laborers and farm workers, spend their lives doing work that takes a terrible toll on their bodies. Are we going to ask them to work even longer before they can retire? Riding a desk is one thing, as the people in Washington do. Day-after-day physical wear and tear is something else, again. Or, how about this? There are fewer and fewer jobs to go around, now. The effect of asking people to work additional years before retirement would actually increase the labor pool, which would increase unemployment, while driving wages down even more.  Sorry to be picking on you, Mr. Brokaw, but your ideas suck.

David Brooks offered that the Republicans were going to take most of the blame if we go over the cliff, but he was critical of the president for not getting more involved in the negotiations. So, let’s see. Brooks wants the president, who ran on a clearly defined platform of how he wanted to cut the deficit, to bring the Republican caucus around to agreeing to a more conciliatory plan than he actually campaigned on, which the Republican Majority Leader John Boehner was unable to sell to his own party. Really, Mr. Brooks? You want the president to bloody himself on a fool’s errand? As a Republican flack I can understand why that would work for you, but it doesn’t work for the president or the Democats. And let’s not forget that a sizable percentage of Mr. Boehner’s caucus believes that the president stole the election in the first place (Birtherism 2.0), which would tend to harden the positions of the right-wing nut jobs who control the Republican Party.

Finally, there’s the constant banter about how important it is to get control over entitlements. This makes my blood boil. The people need Social Security, Medicare/Obamacare and Medicaid and Obama’s win makes it clear that the people don’t what Washington messing around with these programs. Moreover, the people did not create the economic mess we are in; the banks and Wall Street created it and, in the process of doing so, the inequality gap got larger, unemployment and poverty increased, more families need food stamps, wages declined and the rich got richer. And now the people’s social safety net needs to be reined in to reduce the deficit? Really? What about corporate entitlements? Defense Department entitlements. Tax dodges for the wealthy? Endless colonial wars?

WTF! It least it’s Sunday and there’s football to watch.

Several years ago, while walking through the airport in Rome, I was startled to see how many heavily armed soldiers there were to protect me and the other travelers. I didn’t feel more safe. I felt that maybe Rome wasn’t a place I wanted to be.

That’s the same way I would feel if schools had armed guards. Maybe America isn’t where I want to be.

We must find a way to put the gun genie back in the bottle. The crazies can’t be allowed to continue winning this insane debate about guns.

English: The Seal of the United States Federal...

Today I read in the Huffington Post that the “FBI Investigated ‘Occupy’ As Possible ‘Terrorism’ Threat.” I guess the reason was that the FBI figured that economic inequality, the rallying cry of the Occupy movement, had the potential to disrupt the social order, and that the constitutionally protected right of the people to assemble and demonstrate peaceably has limits.

Now, suppose for a moment that the Occupy Movement did to the economy and to families what the banks and Wall Street firms pulled off when they knowingly sold toxic assets all over the world.  What do you think would have happened to the leaders of the Occupy Movement? Guantanamo comes to mind. Then why the hell aren’t those who actually sold those toxic assets and actually brought the world’s financial system to its damned knees treated like the terrorists they are? Of course I know the answer to that question: Over-the-top greed isn’t bad, but demonstrating against it is.

There is an overarching message in this; the people’s interests don’t matter nearly as much as the interests of those who make money off the peoples’ blood, sweat and tears. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.

He doesn’t believe in evolution, but when it comes to social Darwinism, well, that’s another matter. Social forces can have their way with the poor and disadvantaged; however Rick, along with his like-minded zealots, won’t lose any sleep over it because these social casualties simply weren’t fit for survival.

What guys like Rick don’t understand, though, is that a mutation will develop such that these poor, disadvantaged folk will evolve into very pissed off and vengeful people with long memories.

You see, Rick, it’s just evolution.

(Greg, this was just for you.)

Union Beach, NJ, Saturday, November 24, 2012. To many people in New Jersey and New York hurricane Sandy is a bad memory. To those living in Union Beach, New Jersey, a working class community on Raritan Bay, it’s an ever-present nightmare, one that I experienced first-hand as a volunteer helping homeowners to clean up the mess they call home.

When I arrived in Union Beach on Saturday morning I was astonished to see how many volunteers where there to help. And I was told that it’s the same every weekend. Whether they were men, women, teens or seniors, they came ready to work and to go home dirty.

This is my work-group. It was assembled by a progressive advocacy organization called BlueWaveNj, which is headquartered in Montclair. See below for contact information.

To volunteer for Sandy clean-up call (201) 247-4668 or email info@bluewavenj.org.

I was also astonished to see how much work still needs to get done. First floors are a shambles and debris is piled everywhere. In the two houses my group worked on we removed water damaged sheetrock, still-soaked insulation, hardwood floors, paneling and a couple of unusable toilets.

This is the first of two houses our group worked on.

Piles of debris such as this litter many of the streets of Union Beach.

While helping one homeowner get a new boiler out of his car, he pointed to a 20-odd ft. boat sitting on blocks in his back yard. He said that storm surge water lifted that boat to the height of an upper story window where he was able to hang on to it as it slammed against his house. Without doubt there are many stories like that in this ravaged town, but the overarching story is that lots of people who used to feel secure about where they live don’t feel like that any longer. Sandy is a bad memory that just won’t go away.

FEMA is on the case.

Food tents serve hot food to both volunteers and homeowners.

Enough said…

I confess to the temptation, when writing about this subject, to write too much. But I won’t because the argument for a third party is simple. Whether a Republican or a Democrat sits in the White House, working class people get screwed. That doesn’t mean I’m unhappy with the election results; quite the contrary. Romney and his fascist/theocratic supporters scared the crap out of me. However, don’t forget for a minute that it was Bill Clinton who pushed hard for NAFTA and Obama who pushed for a free trade agreement with Colombia, Panama and South Korea. In the case of NAFTA the result has been the loss of nearly one million jobs, a wage race to the bottom, and a trade deficit with Mexico. School is still out with respect to Colombia, Panama and South Korea but it’s unlikely to be any different with respect to lost jobs and continued downward pressure on wages.

So this is a class struggle pure and simple, and the Democratic party and the White House need to know that its two fastest growing constituencies, African Americans and Latinos, will not go quietly into the night after elections are over.  As Paul Krugman said, “This newly effective coalition could be shattered if taken for granted.”

Without this coalition no Democrat will ever again sit in the White House.  That makes a third party not only viable but necessary.