I read the angry letters on opinion pages in the papers and on political blogs conveying a concern that under Obama our freedoms are being removed and our way of life destroyed. Yet as one who lives among those making such ominous threats, I’m not seeing any of it. At least not in the ways these anti-government, anti-Obama types are claiming
At age 63 I’ve awaken each morning of my life to find my basic freedoms are still intact after all of these years. You would think though that this wouldn’t be true based on some of the claims those on the right have been making since Barack Obama took office. As a white male, much hasn’t changed for me, but that’s not always been so with minorities, the elderly and women in the American social culture. Only through the efforts and struggles of others have we eventually seen gains made for these groups during the civil rights era of the 1950’s, 60’s and early 70’s.
Jim Crow laws in the South were found unconstitutional and affirmative action opened the ways for blacks to gain access to all institutions of higher education. Many of the elderly and poor children no longer fall into poverty thanks to Medicare/Medicaid that helps cover the high costs of health care which many couldn’t afford. And women gained the right to control their own bodies following the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade that would allow abortions for all women who had been raped by a stranger or relative, or simply wanted to end an unwanted pregnancy that occurred at a weak moment when passion overtook sensibility.
Yes things remain the same for me but it looks like there are those who want to take us back to the bad old days when women, the elderly and minorities are being expected to resume their inequalities.
FREEDOMS BEING THREATENED
Republican governors and legislatures and right-wing extremist groups have been working overtime this year to get measures past that would suppress the vote for many and serve to reinvigorate a 21st century version of Jim Crow.
Republicans have proposed voting restrictions in a majority of states since 2011, including strict voter ID laws and limits on early voting and voter registration. Though many of the laws have been blunted, confusion about voting requirements could still make it harder for many Americans to exercise their right to the franchise. At the same time, the Tea Party group “True the Vote” — which has been accused of voter intimidation — is pledging to send one million observers to polling places on November 6, and has been filing largely baseless lawsuits to purge voters from the rolls. SOURCE
Ten states have been singled out by Steven Rosenfeld, author of “Count My Vote: A Citizen’s Guide to Voting” that have gone beyond mere efforts to require all citizens to have photo IDs to vote. All of the research has conclusively shown that voter fraud of any consequence does not exist, yet many conservatives have been convinced by GOP operatives that restrictions like picture ID’s are essential for a free and fair election.
People for reasons of health or choice who no longer drive won’t have a pictured driver’s license. Many people who have lost everything in this recession and now find themselves homeless have lost their personal records these states now require to register to vote, like a birth certificate. In some states gun owners can use their registration certificates to vote where out-of-state students with picture IDs can’t. There are also efforts to inhibit opportunities by limiting early voting times or reducing the number of voting places, especially in poor neighborhoods. Such restrictions are aimed at imposing burdens on those demographics that are likely to vote Democratic.
Depriving the economically disadvantaged.
Despite the claims of Paul Ryan in the vice-presidential debates, neither Social Security nor Medicare are going bankrupt. Yet this premise is part of a long time scheme by wealthy financial interests in order to get their hands on payroll tax money that funds these safety net programs. The promises of Wall Street are alluring but anyone watching the volatility of the markets today can see that security of investment is not guaranteed, unlike the returns on the Social Security trust fund.
These privatization efforts by the GOP are also seen as a means to reduce the elderly’s Medicare and Social Security benefits through a variety of tricks by raising retirement ages, using a different formula for establishing the cost of living allowance (COLA) and worst of all, enticing unsuspected younger voters to buy into the notion that payroll contributions into Wall Street towards their retirement are safer than the secure system that has served the needs of seniors beautifully for 75 years.
One third of the retirees in this country depend solely on their Social Security benefits to pay out-of-pocket costs for housing, food and medicine. By itself Social Security benefits will not sustain the elderly in a fashion they are accustomed to so other retirement investments need to be considered by people currently in the work force. But Social Security should not be excluded from anyone’s retirement plans.
Today’s youth need to be very leery about the promises of privatization that have robbed many a 401k pension of funds that retirees were relying on to buy that retirement condo in Florida or that 4-week cruise around the world. Take it from someone whose done this and is there now. It ain’t cracked up to be what the claims say. Investments deductions from your paycheck in the market are unreliable, unlike those deductions that have traditionally ben deposited in the Social Security trust fund.
But I guess what is perhaps the most egregious affront to me, as it should be with everyone, are those actions by people who claim to be grieved about losses of personal freedom yet who want to control the bodies of women and forbid them necessary medical attention that could in fact prevent the very thing that many of pro-life “reformers” claim they are against – ABORTION.
By creating barriers for many poorer women to purchase contraception through their insurance providers, some employers, along with the support of local and state governments, are in fact inviting unwanted pregnancies that may well result in abortions. And though the pro-life camps have always vigorously fought to repeal Roe v. Wade there were those who were still willing to allow abortions in the cases of rape and incest, along with saving the life of the mother. But that’s changing now. Today there are many, including Republican vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan, whose interpretation of scripture claims that God uses even a brutal rape to promote new life and that to abort the effects of this crime against women would be in opposition to a plan these Christians are willing to attribute to someone who even they claim they cannot understand at times.
So when I read and hear opinions from those who bemoan our loss of freedom, I know that they are NOT talking about women, the elderly and minorities. I am equally certain that they are not speaking for all older white guys like me either unless of course you are part of that wealthy 1% who owns 40% of the nations wealth. That 1% who are focused on their portfolio returns from corporate profits gained in large measure by sending jobs overseas to cheaper labor markets and avoiding their fair share of taxes by manipulating legal schemes for placing profits in off-shore and overseas accounts.
Claiming that taxes and regulations are hurting them from investing more to create new jobs is extremely misleading. The 1% has seen their earnings and profits sky rocket while most low and middle-income wage earners have seen stagnant or reduced wages. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, though the U.S. Corporate tax rate on the books is one of the highest in OCED countries, the “effective tax rate” that they actually pay after many deductions, credits, and other mechanisms by which corporations can reduce their taxes, is significantly lower than many other capitalist nations. Another report in an October analysis by Bloomberg in 2011 showed there were actually fewer new regulations under Obama than under Bush and yet we hear the hue and cry of people who are sitting on billions claim that their trickle down policies won’t work until such taxes and regulations are cut even further.
Such views are not a part of our reality so I can only conclude that these people live in another world. One where real freedom exists only for white, male property owners and where clean air and water are abundant, uncontaminated from industrial pollution. There was a time in our early past when this was the norm. Could it be that this is the world of those who support Romney/Ryan want us to relive? Is THIS the America they want to recapture?
Hey! I’m a white guy who owns some property. Why should I care? Perhaps because if one person is unduly harassed and oppressed by stronger, wealthier interests we are all on the hook to ensure that democratic principles which began over 225 years ago are not slowly eliminated in piecemeal fashion, leaving us with a system of government that is once again concentrated in the hands of an elite few.