Author Archives: Bob Lord

Five Powerful Families

[Cross-posted from Inequality.org]

We’ve reached the point where a handful of extraordinarily wealthy clans essentially have the power to suffocate our democracy.

Five powerful families? Is this about the mafia? No, for these five families, it’s not la cosa nostra, “the thing of ours.” Rather, it’s la cupidigia nostra, “the greed of ours.”

And it’s their greed that’s killing our democracy.

Six hundred billion dollars approximately equals the budget for the United States Department of Defense for an entire year — enough to pay, feed, and house over 1,000,000 active duty service personnel and 800,000 reservists, operate close to 1,000 military bases, pay 750,000 civilian personnel, and fund all military equipment purchases.

That $600 billion also equals the combined wealth now hoarded by just five American families — specifically, the Walton, Bezos, Koch, Gates, and Mars clans. The Walton family alone has a combined net worth estimated at $150 billion. The poorest of the five families, the heirs of the Mars candy fortune, hold about $90 billion.

What happens when we let just five families in a society of over 325 million hoard that much wealth? Society suffers.

Continue reading

Rodney the Ungood

[cross-posted from Pima Liberator]

By Joel Feinman

Note to BfAZ readers: In the annals of political takedown pieces in Arizona, this piece should have a secure place. Upon reading it, I emailed the author, Joel Feinman, and asked if I could share. And the target, Rodney Glassman, is so deserving. Those of you with sizable social media followings, please share.

“Oh, he’s a wondrous talker and has the power / To tell you nothing hour after hour / If, by mistake, he ever came to the point / The shock would put his jawbone out of joint” – Molière, The Misanthrope

American politics has vomited up some truly repellent characters as of late, but few are as soulless as Arizona Corporation Commission candidate Rodney Glassman. Trying to explain who and what Rodney is to people who have never heard of him can be challenging. A polite commentator might describe Rodney as a lawyer with a colorful past, who has been active in Arizona politics for many years as a Democrat and now as Republican. Others who are less polite and more judgmental could describe him as a supremely egotistical and morally corrupt individual, who would join any party and advocate for any cause, as long as doing so would advance his political career by the radius of a single electron. Continue reading

The Democratic Dilemma

The Facebook fights are raging these days.

Democratic loyalists fall into two strategy camps: progressive and old school. The progressive camp believes in the power of unabashedly progressive candidates, fueled largely by small-dollar donations and shoe leather, to inspire thousands of new voters from the ranks of those demographics whose participation rates have lagged those of older white Americans. The old school camp, fueled largely by major donors and establishment political operations, believes in the Bill Clinton recipe of winning the votes of supposedly centrist white voters, including suburban pro-choice women and the “socially liberal but fiscally conservative” crowd.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with either strategy. Each has its own logic. Each has had its victories.

The dilemma is that the two strategies are nearly always competitive and almost never synergistic. Hillary Clinton whiffed badly with millennials, for example. But how would Bernie Sanders have done with the country club crowd?

Is it possible for the two strategies to work together? Continue reading

Congress Made it Harder to Give Teachers Raises

Distributed via OtherWords.org

[Note to readers: Due to technical difficulties, I’ve not been able to post for awhile, but the problem seems corrected. This is a piece I had published at our free syndication service. OtherWords.org, two weeks ago, for those who’ve not seen it elsewhere]

In just a few months, we’ve seen teachers in five states walk out of the classroom to protest their abysmal pay.

Stingy state budgets are mostly to blame for low teacher pay and poor school conditions, but there’s a federal tax connection, too. Unfortunately, last year’s Republican tax plan could make keeping good teachers in the classroom more difficult than ever.

Raising teacher pay requires money, which at some point requires new state tax revenue.

Now, most state taxpayers will tolerate tax increases when they know those taxes will fund education. But in many places, state lawmakers have only so much room to raise taxes before voters express their displeasure come election time.

The jam state governments may find themselves in is that Trump and his Republican friends in Congress effectively just increased state income and property taxes. A lot. Which means voters won’t be too keen to see another increase so soon.

How can Congress increase state taxes? By increasing the real cost of state taxes people already pay, that’s how. Continue reading

An Open Letter to Michelle Wolf

Dear Michelle Wolf:

I’ll keep this short.

I’m one of the millions you inspired with your performance Saturday night.

Whatever you do, please, please, don’t surrender to the attacks. Don’t apologize.

The line drawing the fire, as you know, is your brilliant and courageous comparison of Sarah Huckabee Sanders to Aunt Lydia in the Handmaid’s Tale.

No surprise. The attacks on you are not about impropriety or stepping over the line or being mean. They are about truth spoken to power in a way that, for those in power, was alarmingly dead on. After all, what is Sarah Huckabee Sanders if not a high-level functionary for a corrupt regime, just like Aunt Lydia.

You exposed Sanders as a modern-day brown shirt, just as Colbert once exposed the ineptitude of the Bush administration and Larry Wilmore exposed the brutality of Obama’s drone bombing. On each occasion, the room fell silent. Ugly truth wrapped in humor can be unsettling.

So, when pressed to apologize, respond by saying that you’ll apologize as soon as Sarah Huckabee Sanders apologizes to Jim Comey, Hillary Clinton, and countless others she has smeared at the behest of the wannabe tyrant to whose black hole she has so willingly, eagerly and treacherously hitched her wagon.

Comey’s Higher Loyalty: A Must Read

I’ve noticed over the years that media coverage of books can be wildly at odds with my own impression, more so than media coverage of just about anything else.

There’s a logical explanation for that. It would be pretty much impossible to write a 300-page book and not get something wrong or include material that perhaps should have been left out.

The textbook case of this was the criticism of Jimmy Carter’s book, Palestine: Peace, Not Apartheid. Alan Dershowitz (yeah, the pseudo-liberal currently defending Trump) and others found a handful of items Carter had wrong. Carter actually admitted to getting a few things wrong. Reading that criticism, I lost interest in the book, as Carter’s view also clashed with my own beliefs at the time about Israel-Palestine. Eventually, however, I read it. For everything Carter got wrong and for which he was lambasted by the pro-Israel American media, he got about 50 things right. Ultimately, the book had a profound influence on my own views.

We’re seeing a repeat of this with the media reporting on Comey’s book, A Higher Loyalty. In this case, it’s not as much things Comey got wrong, but passages he included that the media have labeled spiteful or petty. When you read A Higher Loyalty, however, you see that Comey’s critics are the ones engaged in spite and pettiness. Continue reading