Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Why I Support Bernie Sanders for President, Part 1

"Bernie Gives the Poor in the United States a Voice Again."
In red it says, "Socialist Catches up to Hillary in Polls."
(The Dutch love Bernie!)

Why I Support Bernie Sanders for President
By George Oeser

America is a great country. Our history is far from perfect, but our people have a hopeful spirit, and we believe in our ability to accomplish things and move forward. We believe in entrepreneurship and innovation. We believe in taking risks and doing things differently. We celebrate the success of those who have achieved great things and believe that if our own list of successes is not that vast it is only because our time has not yet come. 

All of these things have led to America becoming what it is today—the wealthiest nation in the entire history of the world, a place where people have lifted themselves out of poverty to become titans of industry, and a place where we know that hard work combined with ambition and determination can make a real difference. We have freedoms and liberties undreamed of in some other countries, and we take great pride in who we are. This is why America is a great country, and it fills me with pride to be an American.
I am also filled with sadness to see all of this threatened by a government controlled by individuals who care less about what makes America great and more about what increases the size of their personal bank accounts. We are now in the midst of a presidential campaign, one that started off looking as though we would have no choice other than to elect someone who was a wealthy, well-connected member of a political dynasty, one who would continue the status quo and push us further down the path that has led us to our current position. 

Luckily for America this election has turned out to be much more interesting and lively than anyone could have expected. It looks like we may wind up having a real choice, a real chance to alter the path our nation is on. We might actually find that our votes don't have to be for just one side of the coin or the other. 

This is a great thing for America, if Americans put the effort into really learning about the issues we face and how the people running for president will respond to these issues. My own research into the issues and the possible solutions, along with which candidate stands for what, along with some additional information I have that many Americans don’t know, has led to select Bernie Sanders as the candidate who I think is best for America and her future.

Americans are faced with making a very important decision. We are being offered a real choice this time around and the outcome of this election will undoubtedly impact the future of our country in some very important ways. We will turn to the nightly news and our friends and coworkers to get their opinions. We can study the candidate's voting record or history in the business world. We can look for answers in the Bible or the Koran. We can listen to the speeches and late night talk show appearances the candidates make. All of these things can help each of us reach a decision on who to vote for, and I have been paying attention to all of them. 

I also have another set of information that I can rely on that isn't available to the average American, and I want to share this information with you so it can be included in your decision making. It might sway you or it may not, but what I have seen and experienced over the last couple of years makes me believe that it is very much worth considering, and that if we all included this information in our decision making process, it could be very beneficial for America.


The information I want to share comes from living outside of the United States for a couple of years. Specifically, I have been living in the Netherlands, a small country in Northern Europe wedged between Germany, Belgium, and the North Sea. The time I have spent here has allowed me to see, first hand, what happens when a country takes a different path than America: To see the results of certain policies and programs with my own eyes instead of just watching what one talking head or another with a particular agenda has to say on TV. I have been surprised by many of the things I have seen here, and my mind has changed on several issues. It has affected who I will be voting for. I hope you can find this information valuable to your own decision making process.

The Netherlands is a democracy with a very strong work ethic and capitalist background. In its colonial past, the Netherlands acquired new territory mainly through making business deals instead of through military force. Its cities and villages are filled with businesses run by large corporations as well as by individuals and families. Making money is considered a very worthwhile pursuit in the Netherlands. If a demand exists, a business will also exist to meet that demand. In many ways it is very similar to the United States, but there are some important differences as well.

In Holland, everyone has health insurance. It is not typically provided by the government but is instead provided through employers by private health insurance companies. The health care system is effective, efficient, and care is provided with less waiting time than it is in America. It isn't free, but costs are kept under control so that everyone can afford it, and everyone is required to be part of the health care system. 

The cities and villages around the Netherlands are all very well connected by a public transportation system that makes it easy and affordable to get from place to place, and it is well utilized by all sectors of society. This allows many people to have the option of not owning a car, saving them large amounts of money they would have spent on fuel, insurance, maintenance, taxes, and parking. Instead, they can put this money towards other things that they feel are more important.

Homelessness is very rare in the Netherlands, as the government will find places for you to live and make sure you have access to healthcare and food if you can't afford it any other way. Unlike the situation in America, if you are homeless in Holland it is much more likely to have been an actual choice on your part.

Crime rates, when compared to America are exceptionally low. Muggings and pick-pocketing exist, but shootings and other violent crimes are very rare. You feel safe when walking the streets at night in the vast majority of places.

As in much of Western Europe, there are more regulations imposed by the Dutch government than in the US. This doesn't mean that business are more highly regulated here than in America, though. There are numerous regulations handed down by the American government that businesses must follow, but on top of that, America is a country where lawsuits, sometimes frivolous and sometimes not, are exceptionally common. These lead to a secondary layer of self-imposed regulations that most businesses follow. The next time you see a warning label on a product remember that there is a very good chance that it wasn't placed there by the government. Instead it was placed there by a group of lawyers doing their best to try and protect the company from getting sued. This, from what I have seen, leads to businesses in America being much more highly regulated and restricted than they are in the Netherlands.

Wages in the Netherlands are higher than in America. This probably comes as no surprise, but they have also instituted a tiered minimum wage system. If you are 16 year old student the minimum wage for you is not as high as it is for a 25 year old. The 25 year old is much more likely not to be living with his or her parents, and might have a family to support and other additional expenses, so he or she needs to make more money to make sure they are a productive part of society. This allows young people to find jobs easier in entry level positions where few skills and little experience is needed while making sure that older, more experienced workers can make a real living wage. However, the 16 year old still makes more than minimum wage in America. 

The infrastructure in the Netherlands is amazing: not just the roads and public transportation systems, but also the electrical grid, internet speeds, telephone service, water and sewage, and airports. No one in the Netherlands lives very far from an international airport. Since the phone, internet, and electrical lines (except for high voltage transmission lines) are underground, storms rarely cause outages. Internet speeds that would be too expensive for most to afford in America are commonplace and cheap. All of this exists because the government is involved. In my hometown of Nashville, I had very little choice in what business I could obtain high speed internet service from. In Holland, since the lines are controlled by the government but open for many companies to utilize, I have a wide variety of companies to choose from, and the competition keeps the costs down to very affordable levels.

I could go on and on, but this should give you an idea of how the government makes life better for people in the Netherlands. At the same time, the Netherlands is a place where you are free to practice your religion
or not. To say what you think or keep your mouth shut if you choose. To own a gun, provided you are willing to meet the requirements for owning a gun. It is a very free country—possibly more free than America in many ways because the elected officials in the government aren't allowed to be bought and sold by billionaires. This means that officials respond to the wants and desires of the majority of the people they represent instead of only representing a tiny minority of the people. The Netherlands is far from a perfect place, but I think there are many things America could learn from it. 

What else can America learn from the Netherlands? You’ll find out in Part 2 next week on The Bernie Blog.

Bio: George Oeser is a photographer, born and raised in Tennessee but currently living in the Netherlands. He spends much of his time thinking about how much he misses good Southern food.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

An Honest Socialist

Does this mean Bernie can count on your vote, Gov. Jindal?

An Honest Socialist
by A. J. Matthews

Why shouldn't a person be honest about holding socialist views? Why is being termed a "democratic socialist" seen as a negative thing by politicians like Bobby Jindal? Mostly the word "socialism" suffers because of 70 year old rhetoric still being bandied about today.

Socialism got a bad name during the dark days of the Cold War when it was mistakenly equated with Soviet-style Communism. However, there are significant differences:
1. Socialism is an economic system while communism is both an economic and political system.

2. In socialism, the resources of the economy are managed and controlled by the people themselves through communes or councils while in communism, management and control rest on a few people in a single authoritarian party.

3. Socialists distribute wealth to the people based on an individual’s productive efforts while communists farm out wealth based on an individual’s needs.

4. Socialists can own personal properties while communists can not.

5. Socialism allows capitalism to exist in its midst while communism seeks to get rid of capitalism.
These differences were enough to allow the United States from the end of World War II onward to cooperate fully with socialist governments around the world with few qualms since it meant having allies against the Soviet Union. Today, the four Scandinavian countries of Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland can boast of the highest standards of living in the world, and they've had democratic socialist governments for the past seventy years.

Democratic socialists? Who are they?
Democratic socialism is a political ideology advocating a democratic political system alongside a socialist economic system, involving a combination of political democracy with social ownership of the means of production. 
Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Democratic_socialism

The Cold War is over, and yet there are those who'll use the same rhetoric, inspire that same old fear of "The Reds" to cow the American people into voting against their best interests. As always, follow the money. Certain people face serious problems in making vast sums of money if the American government followed democratic socialist principles. These people are the oligarchs, also known as "the 1%." These people tell us socialism is bad.

Let's face it--the odds that any of us reading this blog will become rich enough to be in that 1% are slim to none. We could work hard our whole lives, save every penny we can, and still we'll have less money at the end of our days than one of these oligarchs obtains in one month.

Think on that. While the corporate bosses, multi-millionaires and billionaires to a man (and yes, they are mostly men) quibble over paying employees a living wage of $15 an hour, most of them have an income that calculates to fifteen bucks or more per second. Most of the 1% place their profits into tax havens such as offshore accounts in the trillions of dollars. It was estimated in 2012 that these oligarchs have funneled at least $32 trillion in financial assets out of the country. 

$32 trillion? Exactly how big is that? Take the digits 3 and 2 and stick twelve zeros behind them: $32,000,000, 000, 000. That's enough to give every man, woman and child currently living in the United States $96,969 each.

Is the hoarding of $32 trillion fair and equitable? No, of course not! It's obscene. Socialism offers a way to place a firm cap on the naked greed of the 1%. It's an honest form of government. To give an example from Bernie Sanders' policies, taxing Wall Street at a tiny .1% per transaction will generate enough money to give everyone who wants to attend college four years free public university tuition, which is in line with many European countries. 

And you read that right--the tax is really that small: just one-tenth of one percent. Consider the kind of wealth Wall Street generates to be able to raise that much money from such a miniscule tax. It's staggering.

There are some folks, usually people who dream of being in the 1% one day, who say, "Socialism means giving someone the shirt off another person's back." This statement is downright misleading and deceptive. The 1% don't care if you have a shirt or not. If you can't afford to buy a shirt from them, the 1% are not interested in you. They've got better things to do, like demanding that their paid-for politicians give them more tax cuts and more corporate welfare subsidies, the money for which comes out of the pockets of the working poor. 

"Shirts for the poor?" asks the 1%. "Who cares about shirts? Who cares about the poor?

There's a lot wrong with this country. Democratic socialism can and will fix it. If the term "Democratic Socialist" still bothers you, perhaps you can use the term "Progressive." Bernie Sanders terms his policies "progressive policies." If you do a little investigating, you'll see how the policies Sen. Sanders has proposed differ very little from those espoused by the Republican Party sixty years ago or those of the Democratic Party forty years ago.

Think about the many benefits we enjoy today, thanks to socialist-oriented policies such as the Interstate Highway System, instituted under Republican president Dwight D. Eisenhower, and Social Security and Medicare benefits for our senior citizens.

If any of this resonates with you, then you'll want to vote for Bernie Sanders!

Bio: A. J. Matthews is an author and artist who says to all his fellow Bernie supporters: #FeeltheBern 

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Seeing Past the Smoke

Is he? Seems the "fringe" takes up a large portion of American voters...

 Seeing Past the Smoke
 by Carl Elderton

My wise wife pointed something out this morning that I thought warranted sharing.

In the USA, we live in a society in which we are relentlessly barraged with advertisement campaigns. These campaigns amount to psy-ops wherein our very self worth is challenged if we do not purchase, use, and help promote brands of products that in some instances actually endanger our own existence. For example the Standard American Diet is a killer, but if we don't eat red meat and potatoes, or some laboratory concocted substitute, with every meal we eat we're somehow un-American. We're not man/woman enough if we don't wear the right clothing fashions. We're sexually repulsive if we don't use the correct brand of toothpaste or scent.

We see the same divisionary/exclusionary tactics used in our political campaigns. Support this candidate because he talks just like you do with the implication that if he talks the same, he thinks the same, and his words mean the same as when you use them.

Is it any wonder that so many people are recognizing on some level that they are being manipulatedand experiencing the frustration and rage that comes with that realization?

Is it any wonder that the perpetrators of this systemic subterfuge are unable to recognize that the U.S. public are beginning to see past the smoke, the mirrors, the subtle (and not so subtle) misdirections, and the outright lies to realize that the American Dream has become a nationwide game of three-card monte?

It requires only a few minutes exposure to corporate media to understand why people are rebelling against the establishment candidates to support either Donald Trump, who epitomizes the self-centeredness of libertarianism, or Bernie Sanders, who exemplifies the unity of the self-proclaimed United States.

Outside these two, our candidates are the products of the special effects masters of Madison Avenue, the finely honed instruments of the psychological warriors of Wall Street. Each candidate is finely crafted to appeal to the differences that separate us and keep us manageable. 

Looking at Trump and Sanders, each with their fatally flawed hairstyles, neither of them seem to be what we're conditioned to think of as textbook leaders. And therein lies their appeal--they are real. 

Bernie Sanders is what he has been for decades. He knew what was right from the beginning and has consistently followed that course. He doesn't sell out. He finds ground to work towards progress for all with anyone who will listen. He's a statesman, not an ideologue.

And Trump? Well, "Trump bees Trump." He's like John Wayne, with a little John Wayne Gacy thrown in. He'll do what he thinks is right for him, no matter who has to pay.

In the end, "there can be only one." Whoever wins will, for better or worse, represent this nation and its people (you and I) to the entire world for at least four years.

We've got one chance to get this right, U.S.A. Don't screw it up!

Bio: Carl Elderton is a Bernie supporter who hails from the St. Louis area. Here's what he says about himself: "I'm a 59 year old career woodworker who's experienced forty years of economic stagnation. Bernie Sanders offers the best plan for an end to the economic pillaging of the middle-class, and an alleviation of poverty in this nation. Plan for change, then work the plan!"
* * *
Here's a just released video from the Sanders campaign. It's a must-watch for voters of every persuasion. Watch it and be sure to share it with your friends and family members. Help them "see past the smoke" and vote for the candidate that serves their best interests.

Bernie Sanders: In-Depth Explanation of Income Inequality
Let me tell you something about our country that the billionaire class doesn’t want you know...
Posted by Bernie Sanders on Monday, September 14, 2015

This video can also be found at these links: