Gary's Blogs

January 28, 2021

 

This is my own first submission to our newly inaugurated Blog Webpage. I hope you'll enjoy reading what follows. 

 

-- GML

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It's Time for Secular Progressives to Refocus

and Mobilize

A year ago, late in January 2019, I began creating a new website, Secular Progressive Outreach. My primary goal was to encourage fellow secularists and political progressives to actively contribute to charities and advocacy groups working to improve American society. Even before my website was up and running, however, I was distracted by two major disturbances. No doubt you’ve heard of them: the Covid-19 pandemic and the 2020 general elections.

 

Due to my underlying health conditions, the shelter-in-place recommendations enjoined by public health officials made it difficult for me to work with my technical assistant, except by phone. But the greater distraction from my original intent was the upcoming November 2020 election. Besides a Charities & Advocacy webpage, I also created a webpage for Political Action. I endorsed senatorial, congressional, and presidential candidates, and posted direct links to dozens of campaign websites. We encouraged our secularist and progressive friends to participate in these important campaigns by contributing to them financially. While doing so, I was careful to make clear that neither I nor my website would benefit in any way from these political donations. My personal contribution to the secular progressive cause was simply that of providing easy access to pertinent information.

 

During the run-up to the election, we were unsure, of course, what the results might be. But I assumed, naively, that as soon as the election was over I would be able to refocus my website’s emphasis away from political activity and toward charitable giving – my original objective. Boy, was I wrong. Of course, we all were.

 

Due to President Trump’s refusal to concede defeat and his insistence that the election results had been fraudulently manipulated, the political season was prolonged. For my website to remain relevant, I felt obligated to continue to provide political information – primarily in the form of links to pertinent and timely online articles. Like the majority of Americans, I suspect, I continued to be engrossed by the developing saga: the propagation of “the Big Lie;” the resulting confusion among Trump’s followers; the ridiculous efforts by his sycophants to contest his defeat in court; his devotees’ subsequent attack on the U.S. Capitol Building; and most recently, by the action taken by the House of Representatives to draw up articles for Trump’s second impeachment.

 

Eventually, despite Trump’s subversive efforts to overturn the result of the election, a new President, Joe Biden, was inaugurated on January 20, 2021. And Kamala Harris, the first woman and first person of Black and South Asian descent, has assumed the office of Vice President. Although threats of continuing political obstructionism and violence hang over their administration, it seems America has successfully staved off the possibility of rejecting democracy in favor of autocracy – at least for the time being. The new administration, with its Senate approved Cabinet appointments, reinstated daily press briefings, and progressive executive actions, now provides hope to admitted liberals like me that some of our goals may soon be realized.

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In an introduction to American political parties I previously wrote for my Political Action webpage, I pointed out that both of our major parties are “big tent” coalitions. I indicated that the Republican Party, for its part, draws its support from the rich and from corporations who covet low taxation rates; from Big Business, because of its antipathy toward workers’ unions and workers’ rights; from Small Business owners, due to their aversion to governmental regulations they find burdensome; from the Religious Right who abhor contraception, abortion, and homosexuality, and hope to impose their traditional biblical views regarding patriarchy and sex on society in general; from nativists who resent the influx of immigrants with cultures different than their own, particularly those who are non-English speakers; and from racists and White Nationalists who think only Whites are worthy of participating in leadership roles in American society.

 

In a word, the GOP is NOT a party offering anything at all to those of us who hope for a secular progressive future for our homeland. As a consequence, we are obliged to seek shelter under the only other Big Tent party that offers us any probability of seeing enlightened policies enacted – the Democratic Party.

 

The Dems, as most of you will surely be aware, have come to be known in recent decades as the party that promises to help workers, minorities, immigrants, and the poor. But their promises have not always been kept. Although the Democratic Party is more attractive to those of us who are seculars or progressives, our cohort is not the only one crowded into the big blue tent. There are corporatists and Big Business types here too, always ready with a hand-out to garner influence with whichever party is in power. And then, there are the middle-of-the-roaders. More about them later. Only over on the left side of the tent will we find progressives, and among them, an even smaller number of secularists. Even under Biden-Harris, there’s bound to be a lot of commotion in the Dem’s big blue tent, and both progressives and secularists will have to raise our voices considerably in order to be heard above the din.

 

Now, about those I’m calling “middle-of-the-roaders”: Some of our Democratic Senators and members of Congress are from conservative states or districts. Many of their constituents may actually be Trumpites. These DINOs (Dems In Name Only) will at times be reluctant to vote in league with our more progressive officeholders, especially when their folks back home earn their living in the fossil fuel industry.

 

Then, we must also be aware of former Republicans now scurrying to be allowed entry to the Democratic Party. There are erstwhile GOP operatives, such as those who ran the Lincoln Project ads, (Rick Wilson, John Hielemann, Steve Schmidt, George Conway, and Jennifer Horn) who think they helped the Dems win the White House and the Senate – and perhaps they did. And there are other former Republicans – some politicians (like David Jolly), others TV anchors, political analysts, and commentators on CNN and MSNBC (e.g., Nicolle Wallace, Michael Steele, Joe Scarborough, S.E. Cupp, Ana Navarro, and Olivia Troye) who were turned off by the Trump takeover of the GOP. Now they find themselves without a party. Some of these Never Trumpers may morph into Independents, but others realize that, of the two major parties, the Dems now represent democracy while the Republicans epitomize autocracy. If they become Democrats, we may be persuaded to welcome their political expertise; but how much of their conservative ideas will they bring with them? And how ardently will they attempt to influence the Dems into mutating into Republicans-light?

 

My point is this: There are middle-of-the-roaders within the Democratic Party who may be only moderately progressive. Unless the Biden-Harris administration is pushedhard – by progressives and secularists within the party, it is likely that our cherished goals will be compromised. Currently there is a willingness on the part of moderates to bend over backwards to negotiate with Republicans, “meet them halfway,” and in a bid for “unity,” water down our progressive agenda. But if anyone is going to push the party to the left, to boost the influence of true progressives like Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Sanders, and Alexandra Ocasio Cortez, who better to assume that role than secular progressives like ourselves? We must be at the forefront, advocating for real reform and measureable progress – in order to form a more perfect union and promote the general welfare.

 

Therefore, en route to my goal of transitioning my website’s emphasis from political action to charitable donations, I’ve reformatted my Political Action page. At present, visitors can find four columns there filled with recommendations from secular and progressive entities. In one, a to-do list from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU); in another, suggestions from the Americans United for the Separation of Church and State (AU); in still another column, guidance from the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF); and in the last one, proposals from Bernie Sanders. I urge you to study this webpage to find ways in which you can promote the good. For some of you, that may mean calling government officials; for others, participating in marches or demonstrations; for yet others, contributing financially to deserving charities or effective support groups. One way or another, we must mobilize. The times demand it.

 

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Now, if you happen to have browsed through my list of worthy charities and advocacy groups, you may have counted the number of issues of concern I categorize there. So far there are 21. No doubt you can think of more. In the near future I intend to ask YOU to choose at least ONE issue that motivates you enough to act.

 

Are you interested in charities working to alleviate hunger and poverty? Or is your foremost concern that of defending women’s rights and guaranteeing their access to reproductive health care? No doubt one of you will be animated by the need to address voter suppression in the U.S. Or the desire to contribute to entities supporting minority rights, or workers’ rights. Or combatting global warming and protecting our environment.

 

For my part, I’m interested in all these issues. But my resources, perhaps like yours, are limited. I grow discouraged knowing that I can’t contribute to them all. But I would find it so reassuring to know that some of our fellow secular progressives, whose philosophy of life parallels my own, are collaborating to improve the conditions of humans everywhere.

 

In the near future, here’s what I intend to do. I’ll be sending out monthly missives, highlighting first one issue and then another, in hopes of recruiting someone who is willing to take on a particular issue as their personal focus. And I’ll include the names and links to charities and advocacy groups working to solve the problems you’re most interested in solving.

 

In turn, when you contribute to one (or more) of these entities, I would hope you would notify us of your decision, with a view of inspiring others to become active in a similar way. And as you receive feedback from the entity you’ve chosen to support, I’d ask that you commit to posting periodic reports on our Contact webpage. In this way we can improve conditions in the world around us and inspire others to do likewise. Assuredly, these are appropriate endeavors for secular progressives, aren’t they?

 

Gary M. Linscott

Guest Blogs

January 25, 2021

Our website is very pleased to inaugurate its Blog Webpage with this interesting submission by our very first Guest Blogger, Cy Chadley. We urge visitors to carefully read his submission. Note that the author's bio appears at the end of the article. If you wish to comment on this or any blog, please send us your responses by email to:  

garymlinscott@gmail.com 

After editing, your missives may be posted on our Contact page.

U.S. Inequality of Wealth & Income

Dear Fellow Humanists:

 

We can breathe a sigh of relief. Joe Biden has won the presidency, and with Kamala Harris becoming Vice President, the Democrats have scraped together a majority in the house, though with disappointingly reduced numbers. However, we must recognize that over 74 million people voted for Donald Trump. The Trump cult is not going away. The first priority of the new administration is to manage the Covid-19 pandemic and carry out Joe Biden’s promise to vaccinate 100 million Americans in his first 100 days.

 

The next priority is to activate the second Stimulus Package approved by the Senate and to initiate a third. However, I am not satisfied with the government providing $600, and possibly another $1,400 to all Americans earning less than $75,000 per year; I would prefer to see support given to the unemployed and to the poor. There is no guarantee that the proposed payments will stimulate the economy. Many will simply be put into savings, and of those spent, much will be spent on consumer goods imported from China and other foreign countries with which the USA already has trade deficits.

 

Underlying the USA’s financial problems is the National Debt that is approaching $28 trillion. This enormous sum now exceeds the U.S. annual GNP. It is simply irresponsible to leave this sum for our children and grandchildren to pay off.

 

Another huge problem for the Biden administration is that of the growing inequality of income and wealth in the USA that has been developing during the last 50 years. Numerous reports providing details of the disparity have been produced, especially since the publication of Thomas Piketty’s book, Capital in the 21st Century, (released in English in 2014). For example, the Economic Policy Institute in August 2020 reported that in 2019 the average top CEO compensation for 350 firms was $14.5 million, and the ratio of CEO-to-typical-worker compensation was 320-to-1, compared with 1965 when it was 21-to-1, and 1989 when it was 61-to-1. It may be claimed that such high pay is justified by CEOs making their companies more efficient. But this is a myth. There has not been anywhere near enough of an increase in productivity to merit such exorbitant compensation packages. It should be noted that the fastest growth of the U.S. economy and productivity was in the 1950s and 60s, when post-war marginal income tax rates were still high.

 

As we saw in the 2008/9 depression and are seeing now, many rewards have been granted alongside failures. Bernie Sanders has reported that, “incredibly during the pandemic 650 billionaires have increased their wealth by more than $1 trillion.” Exorbitant compensation for CEO’s and directors is a problem for shareholders; but the problems for the new administration include implementing policies that seek to provide a just and fair society for all Americans, while garnering more support for the 2022 mid-term and the 2024 general elections. Most likely the Biden administration’s advances will be gradual, and they will not please all the people all the time. Thoughts of bringing the whole nation together are disingenuous if this includes the Trump wing of the Republican Party. To cite the recent words of Robert Reich, “most of today’s GOP live in a parallel universe. There’s no ‘center’ between the reality-based world and theirs.”

 

President Biden has promised, among other things, that he will reverse the tax cuts effected by Donald Trump in 2017; that he will double the federal minimum wage from $7.50 to $15 per hour; that he will improve upon Obamacare; and that he will forgive student loans. This initial program, in addition to dealing with Covid-19, will take us well into 2022. Hopefully, he will be successful in persuading the electorate to provide him with increased majorities in Congress so that he can implement even more progressive policies from 2023 on. These should include progress towards establishing a national health plan; improved education and job opportunities for poor people, including vocational training; and free university education for those that qualify. The U.S. physical infrastructure also has to be improved – not just the decrepit roads, bridges, and buildings, but the welcoming of a coming age of renewable energies and of combating climate change.

 

To pay for these policies and to reduce the national debt, it will be necessary to increase income tax rates. People forget that during World War II, marginal tax rates of over 90% were introduced to fight the war. We now have another war to fight. The threshold for paying any income tax should be based on the minimum wage, and the marginal rates should then be increased so that the highest marginal rate, possibly 90%, are applied to incomes over $1 million.

 

Various reports show that nearly 70% of the nation’s wealth is owned by 10% of the population. My humanistic feelings tell me that there is something wrong with the USA’s obscene disparity of wealth; we should be seeking a more egalitarian society. James Madison has been attributed with warning over 200 years ago that “the day will come when our Republic will be an impossibility. It will be an impossibility because wealth will be concentrated in the hands of a few. A Republic cannot stand upon bayonets, and when the day comes ... we must rely upon the wisdom of the best elements in the country to readjust the laws of the nation to the changed conditions.”

 

It is past time for the introduction of a Wealth Tax on those who have benefitted most from the security and support the nation has provided, which has enabled them to reap great wealth even during the War on Terrorism and financial depressions. As a starter, Senator Elizabeth Warren’s proposed rates of 2% on net wealth above $50 million and 3% above $1 billion should definitely be considered.

 

What do you think?

 

Cy Chadley

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Cy Chadley was born and raised in the United Kingdom where he graduated from University College London, majoring in Economics. His career with an international construction company took him to many parts of the world and brought him to San Diego in 1981 where he retired in 1991. Cy became a U.S. citizen in 1993.

In addition to his career, he has traveled extensively. He is a member of the United Nations Association, USA, and was presented with the 2010 Carroll and Noah Cannon award for his promotion of the values contained in the UN Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. He is a life member of the International Humanist and Ethical Union and both the American and British Humanist Associations.

Mr. Chadley has been active with the San Diego World Affairs Council since 1995, acting as President of its North County Chapter from 2004 to 2008. and its Chief Financial Officer from 2014 to 2016. He is also a past board member of the Continuing Education Center in Rancho Bernardo and of the Humanist Fellowship of San Diego.

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