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Leopold writes: "If you're worried about where America is heading, look no further than Tennessee."

Tennessee ranks last in per capita tax revenue. (photo: PhotosbyAndy/Shutterstock)
Tennessee ranks last in per capita tax revenue. (photo: PhotosbyAndy/Shutterstock)


Tennessee: Ayn Rand's Vision of Paradise

By Les Leopold, AlterNet

12 April 13

 

Tennessee lawmakers have elevated hatred for government and disgust for poor people to an art form.

f you're worried about where America is heading, look no further than Tennessee. Its lush mountains and verdant rolling countryside belie a mean-spirited public policy that only makes sense if you believe deeply in the anti-collectivist, anti-altruist philosophy of Ayn Rand. It's what you get when you combine hatred for government with disgust for poor people.

Tennessee starves what little government it has, ranking dead last in per capita tax revenue. To fund its minimalist public sector, it makes sure that low-income residents pay as much as possible through heavily regressive sales taxes, which rank 10th highest among all states as a percent of total tax revenues. (For more detailed data see here.)

As you would expect, this translates into hard times for its public school systems, which rank 48th in school revenues per student and 45th in teacher salaries. The failure to invest in education also corresponds with poverty: the state has the 40th worst poverty rate (15%) and the 13th highest state percentage of poor children (26%).

Employment opportunities also are extremely poor for the poor. Only 25% have full-time jobs, 45% are employed part-time, and a whopping 30% have no jobs at all.

So what do you do with all those low-income folks who don't have decent jobs? You put a good number of them in jail. In fact, only Louisiana, Georgia and New Mexico have higher jail incarceration rates.

From the perspective of Tennessee legislators, it's all about providing the proper incentives to motivate the poor. For starters, you make sure that no one could possible live on welfare payments (TANF: Temporary Assistance to Needy Families). Although President Clinton's welfare reform program curtailed how long a family can receive welfare (60 months) and dramatically increased the work requirements, Tennessee set the maximum family welfare payment at only $185 per month. (That's how much a top hedge fund manager makes in under one second.) As a result, the Volunteer State ranks 49th in TANF, just above Mississippi ($170).

Kick 'em when they're down or tough love?

In the Randian universe, it's not enough to starve public education and the poor. You also must blame the poor both for their poverty and for the crumbling educational system. If a poor child is failing it must be the fault of low-income parents. So how do you drive the point home? You take away their welfare checks if their kids don't do well in school, which is precisely what the Tennessee House and Senate are about to do. The KnoxvilleNews.com reports:

The bill is sponsored by Sen. Stacey Campfield, R-Knoxville, and Rep. Vance Dennis, R-Savannah. It calls for a 30 percent reduction in Temporary Assistance for Needy Families benefits to parents whose children are not making satisfactory progress in school.

More amazing still, the bill originally applied to all children of TANF parents, even if they were severely disabled. Realizing that they had gone too far, the bill was amended so that, "it would not apply when a child has a handicap or learning disability or when the parent takes steps to try improving the youngster’s school performance - such as signing up for a parenting class, arranging a tutoring program or attending a parent-teacher conference." (Imagine the uproar if those provision were applied to upper-income parents, assuming any still use the public school system.)

Dennis told the House Health Subcommittee the measure now only applies to “parents who do nothing.” He described the measure as “a carrot and stick approach.”

Obviously, this is insane, right? Not if you've already started down the road of whipping the poor into shape. The proposed draconian cuts are just an extension of previous policies that already made welfare contingent on school attendance. As Travis Waldron reports in ThinkProgress:

When Campfield introduced the legislation in January, he said parents have “gotten away with doing absolutely nothing to help their children” in school. “That’s child abuse to me,” he added. Tennessee already ties welfare to education by mandating a 20 percent cut in benefits if students do not meet attendance standards, but this change would place the burden of maintaining benefits squarely on children, who would face costing their family much-needed assistance if they don’t keep up in school.

By the way, the Tennessee legislature is lily-white: One percent is Latino, 6% AfricanAmerican and 91% Caucasian. But the complexion of poverty is darker. Nearly 80 percent of Tennessee's poor children are black and brown.

Attacking the poor as the answer to the Wall Street crash?

These attacks on the poor, rather than on poverty, are not peculiar to Tennessee. In fact, similar concepts circulate among political and policy elites in Washington. For Ayn Rand acolytes, Wall Street's reckless, greedy casinos couldn't possibly be the real reason the economy crashed. After all, the rich get rich because they are terrific at what they do. We should reward these creators, not blame them for their foresight, their ingenuity and their obvious success. The blame instead should fall on the poor -- the takers -- and on the collectivist government liberals who cater to them. Didn't the government force banks to put unqualified poor people in homes they couldn't afford? (It doesn't matter that the data shows that low-income buyers who gained loans through the Community Readjustment Act didn't default in higher numbers than anyone else. The idea of blaming the poor has power.)

Blaming low-income people for chronic unemployment is the next move. As the rate stays stubbornly high (precisely because all Republicans and even a few Democrats don't want the government in the business of job creation) we hear talk of "structural" unemployment. That's code for the jobs would be there if only the workers were qualified. But you know, those lower-income workers just don't have the skills and work habits to compete in our globalized economy. Even older middle-class workers are hopelessly out of date. So there's really nothing government can do about it.

The final twist is to claim that the richest country in human history doesn't have the means to eradicate poverty. Instead, we are told, rising debt is forcing us to tighten our belts -- rather, we need to tighten the belts of the poor by taking away a few more dollars from Medicaid and Social Security.

How to justify meanness?

It's not easy to be cruel to someone who is down and out. After all, most of us feel ashamed when walking by a homeless person or watching kids crammed into over-crowded classrooms. It requires several psychological twists and turns to make life even harder for low-income Americans.

  • You have to blame low-income parents for their own economic problems. Even if the unemployment rate is sky-high it must be the poor person's fault.

  • You need to feel superior - that somehow you got to where you are today not by an accident of birth but rather by your own hard labors. Anyone not as successful as you, by definition, is inferior.

  • You have to believe that meanness really is tough love - that by taking benefits away from the poor you are actually helping them on the road to self sufficiency.

  • It's helpful to have access to the broader Randian/libertarian philosophy that argues all forms of collective government action are an attack on freedom. In this view, altruism is seen as a curse that justifies collective government programs which essentially steal money from the makers and to waste on the takers. All collective caring by the state, therefore, is evil, so that all support for the poor via government is evil as well.

  • It's psychologically crucial to have your prejudices confirmed by charismatic alchemists like Ayn Rand, Rand Paul and Paul Ryan who peddle selfishness as the highest form of morality (although only Ayn Rand had the guts to say it so bluntly)

Is Washington locked into increasing inequality?

While the Republicans in Congress are committed to supporting the rich and crushing the poor, smug Democrats can too easily look down upon the bumbling Tennessee legislators. Tie welfare to school success? How crude. But many of these same Democrats also are totally in sync with the Wall Street hucksters who have, for a generation, siphoned off America's wealth into their bottomless pockets. In fact, both parties again are in competition for Wall Street campaign cash as if nothing much has happened. And both parties clearly are unwilling to break up the big banks, cap obscene financial incomes, or create public banks to serve the public interest.

Washington politicians and pundits from Obama on down (with very few exceptions) are enthralled by Wall Street wizardry. Making a million dollars an hour no longer seems strange or repugnant. Too big to fail, jail and regulate are just the natural order of things. In fact, more than a few public servants can't wait to race through that revolving door to get in on the big casino games.

This should tell us that the path to social justice requires a new political movement that operates outside the two great corporate parties.

Is it too late?

I ran into a young woman who is very concerned by the enormous gap she sees between life on campus and the hardships of the low-income people. She wants to know what she can do with her life to really change things.

What can we say? I look back over a lifetime in the cause of social justice and I don't have much to show for it - more war, more poverty, more inequality, more disinvestment in critical human infrastructure. Yes, we've made great strides on gender, sexual preference and overt racial discrimination compared to a generation ago. But how can we explain why America has the world's highest incarceration rates? Why couldn't we prevent a criminal justice system from sending 40% of young black males to prison? How, on our watch, did our relatively egalitarian country develop the most obscene wealth gap in the world? How is it possible that so many of our cities are in worse shape than a generation ago? It's almost to impossible to comprehend, and even harder to change.

But that young woman already senses that we have no choice but to try. And that requires building a movement that targets the core of the problem - the systems that allow the economic royalists and their political minions to hijack our country.

It's a long-term project. After all, it required almost two generations of painstaking work for the Ayn Rand right to take over the national debate. It may take just as long to recapture it. Let's hope there are enough caring young women and men who still have a sense of the common good. Altruism may have died in Galt's Gulch, but it's still alive and well in the hearts of those who share a passion for justice, even in Tennessee.

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+109 # LavenderOpal 2013-04-12 12:57
So now we know why Ron Paul named his son Rand.
 
 
-62 # FilikiEteria 2013-04-12 19:03
This is what's wrong with America today, +35 "likes", the overall winner of the "like" competition by a landlslide, doesn't even contribute to the article in any way shape or form. What is wrong with people? By making fun of Ron and Rand Paul's name (whom I have complete indiffernece towards)you get +35 likes but the person down below who actually had contributing information to add, gets +1 and it was my like. This is America today, ladies and gentlemen. Better give up our rights and enter the FEMA camps real quick. Mind-boggling*
 
 
+49 # jJLLA 2013-04-12 22:10
Actually, Ron Paul did name his son "Rand" after Ayn Rand. LavenderOpal was not making a "tasteless" joke, merely stating fact. It is significant in that these two men admire this woman, and her philosophies.
 
 
+3 # SMoonz 2013-04-15 14:17
Incorrect. Rand Paul's first name is Randall. His parents called him Randy and his wife started calling him Randy for short. The false claim that he is named after Ayn Rand is pretty dumb at this point.
 
 
+2 # SMoonz 2013-04-15 14:19
Incorrect. Rand's first name is Randall and it was his wife who started calling him "Rand" for short. Repeating that absurd statement that Rand Paul was named after Ayn Rand is pretty dumb at this point.
 
 
+24 # kochadoodledoo 2013-04-13 04:09
And in what way, shape, or form did your comment contribute to the article?
 
 
+28 # Todd Williams 2013-04-13 07:25
No FilikiEteria, you are mind boggling. Obviously, what LavenderOpal wrote was a short explanation of the Rand brand. I say it contributed much to the discussion. FEMA camps? I haven't seen that urban myth rear its ugly head in a long time.
 
 
+18 # kelly 2013-04-13 11:06
No. You want to know what's wrong?
People who wnat to talk about getting rid of welfare if they can't perform in school and then cutting funds for schooling. Then talking about only getting guns out of the hands of the insane and cutting funds to the AHA which would help preventive care and even treat the mentally challenged. Lastly they want to punish the poor receiving civil benefits(the ones who need them) but do nothing to rich kids who probably aren't performing either. What services do they use? Despite what they say, they didn't build the roads, they aren't the EMS, they didn't build the schools their kids may be flun king out of, they don't use private policemen.
 
 
-13 # MSecor 2013-04-13 14:12
[quote name="kelly"Las tly they want to punish the poor receiving civil benefits(the ones who need them) but do nothing to rich kids who probably aren't performing either.

Well, here's the thing with that. Taxpayers are not supporting the rich kids who perform poorly, so it's really their parent's business to handle.
 
 
+8 # kelly 2013-04-13 16:22
You don't consider the police, EMS, parks and recreation, benefits?
 
 
-11 # MSecor 2013-04-13 18:15
They are services that we, as taxpayers fund...includin g the parents in question. They are not benefits...we PAY for them, for ourselves and those who cannot support themselves, which is what communities should do. Unfortunately, we also provide them to many who WILL not support themselves.
 
 
+8 # drivensnow 2013-04-14 07:54
Quoting FilikiEteria:
This is what's wrong with America today, +35 "likes", the overall winner of the "like" competition by a landlslide, doesn't even contribute to the article in any way shape or form. What is wrong with people? By making fun of Ron and Rand Paul's name (whom I have complete indiffernece towards)you get +35 likes but the person down below who actually had contributing information to add, gets +1 and it was my like. This is America today, ladies and gentlemen. Better give up our rights and enter the FEMA camps real quick. Mind-boggling*


Is this Sarah Palin's newest screen name ??
 
 
+39 # kelly 2013-04-12 15:49
This is taking the company that John Galt allegedly left in a fit of individualistic glory and embodying it in Tennessee...onl y instead of Galt walking away because the company made it corrupt, Galt corrupted it then walked away.
 
 
-35 # Depressionborn 2013-04-12 16:33
re: Galt corrupted it..

In the book I read Gault walked away from tyranny. What book did you read?
 
 
+15 # Cdesignpdx 2013-04-12 23:13
A tyrannical rule is an unjust rule. That's the irony of Rand's acolytes. they would never be able to survive or understand their own dictates had they not been granted the divine gift of free will.
Empathy allows us to know others and is the finest act of humanity.
 
 
+31 # Todd Williams 2013-04-13 07:27
I read the same book that Kelly read and found it to be a poorly written piece of trash. And I still feel the same way about it that I did when I was 18, 44 years later.
 
 
+140 # fredboy 2013-04-12 15:57
A fascinating study. When we lived in Tennessee we often heard the term "tough love" -- even heard a highly educated colleagues brag about how often his grandmother would beat him and his siblings. That's the kind of thinking that's admired in the grisly Volunteer State.

The worst comment I heard there came from a neighbor who was a fanatical Republican. He once bellowed "Every kid on welfare should be born in prison!" A disgraceful human being.

What was most amazing was the vast number of churches yet the rare presence of anyone bearing any resemblance to a Christian. Just lots of mean.
 
 
+75 # curmudgeon 2013-04-12 16:31
Living in TN years ago, I'll never forget The born-again Christians against drinking and smoking making their livings from tobacco and hops;-)

My main memory is watching the Kenedy cortege at a breakfst house in Nashville 50 years ago.

The entire audience erupted in rebel yells of celebration
"We got that N-------lovin' SOB'
just a sample

Glad to see nothing has changed in their hypocritical and mean-spirited attitudes.
 
 
+16 # FilikiEteria 2013-04-12 19:04
Thank you for your awesome point*
 
 
+26 # lorenbliss 2013-04-12 21:42
Having also had the gross misfortune of living in Tennessee, I can attest to the absolute truth of all but one of fredboy's points -- the "rare presence of anyone bearing any resemblance to a Christian. Just lots of mean."

Unfortunately for humanity, history proves beyond argument that "lots of mean" is the very quintessence of Christianity -- of the other two Abrahamic religions as well.
 
 
+17 # kochadoodledoo 2013-04-13 04:12
Love those mountains, but I'm boycotting Tennessee from any future travel plans.
 
 
+17 # mdhome 2013-04-13 08:01
He once bellowed "Every kid on welfare should be born in prison!"

Does he even have any idea what it costs to keep someone in prison??
 
 
-41 # Depressionborn 2013-04-12 15:58
What about New York and California?
 
 
+29 # reiverpacific 2013-04-12 19:11
Quoting Depressionborn:
What about New York and California?

Stick to the point s'il vous plait.
You from Tennessee or are you an equal-opportuni ty mean-spirited reactionary?
 
 
-25 # Depressionborn 2013-04-12 21:30
Hi there riverp

You suggest I Stick to the point. Can't. I forgot the point. sorry.

And never been to Tennessee, and don't believe equal-opportuni ty is possible and don't really qualify as an equal-opportuni ty mean spirited reactionary, whatever that is. Enlighten me if yu can.

Forget equality. The best we can hope for is a little equality under law, and that's doubtful. But if your point is that you want some of my stuff you can pound sand. Its mine and you can't have it. I worked too hard at being lucky.

Then you went on to deride MSecor for not accounting for a white and power hungry depriving ruling class. Hogwash, I grew up deprived among lot of others deprived. We didn't whine and cry and bitch and blame a ruling class. We ruled ourselves. We got on with our lives and often prospered.

Interesting we were taught we lived in a self-governing nation and we believed it. Whoever taught you should give you your money back. You was robbed.
 
 
+16 # reiverpacific 2013-04-13 09:47
Quoting Depressionborn:
Hi there riverp

You suggest I Stick to the point. Can't. I forgot the point. sorry.

And never been to Tennessee, and don't believe equal-opportunity is possible and don't really qualify as an equal-opportunity mean spirited reactionary, whatever that is. Enlighten me if yu can.

Forget equality. The best we can hope for is a little equality under law, and that's doubtful. But if your point is that you want some of my stuff you can pound sand. Its mine and you can't have it. I worked too hard at being lucky.

Then you went on to deride MSecor for not accounting for a white and power hungry depriving ruling class. Hogwash, I grew up deprived among lot of others deprived. We didn't whine and cry and bitch and blame a ruling class. We ruled ourselves. We got on with our lives and often prospered.

Interesting we were taught we lived in a self-governing nation and we believed it. Whoever taught you should give you your money back. You was robbed.

I didn't pay for my education; I was raised in a country that actually values education -just got through high school and college (twice) with high grades and thereby scholarships -and a bit o' part-time work so I could live reasonably well.
The rest was gained in living with an open mind, gaining rich experience around the world.
-And don't give me that "self-governing " crap- even you can't possibly believe that bit of jingoist status-quo propaganda.
So when's your refund comin'?
 
 
0 # Depressionborn 2013-04-13 15:45
[
-And don't give me that "self-governing " crap- even you can't possibly believe that bit of jingoist status-quo propaganda.
So when's your refund comin'?

actually we were told in Civics many times that we were a self-governing nation. It was said a democratically elected republic where majorities could not rule, and minorities were protected.

Of course that was a long time ago and my education was not extensive. Where did yu larn to be so mean-spirited?
 
 
+2 # reiverpacific 2013-04-13 19:54
Quoting Depressionborn:
[
-And don't give me that "self-governing" crap- even you can't possibly believe that bit of jingoist status-quo propaganda.
So when's your refund comin'?


actually we were told in Civics many times that we were a self-governing nation. It was said a democratically elected republic where majorities could not rule, and minorities were protected.

Of course that was a long time ago and my education was not extensive. Where did yu larn to be so mean-spirited?

You tell me; you seem to have an inside track on the subject .
Look, I'll make a wee deal with you; let's agree to disagree. RSN is better than our little squabbles. OK?
 
 
+2 # kelly 2013-04-13 10:56
Did anyone ask you what your grades were before they built the road running by your house? Because that is a public service if any kid made a D the street should stop and all EMS service should too until they get their act together and perform.
 
 
-5 # MSecor 2013-04-13 14:16
Um no...because I paid taxes to fund that road. Take a deep breath and try a bit of logic. It's rather liberating. Really it is.
 
 
+2 # kelly 2013-04-13 16:32
The EMS service? Take a deeper breath and answer the entire question. You knew what I was asking. Like the gun control issue, you are trying to deflect from the point. No one is asked their grade before receiving services. It is a preposterous proposal.
 
 
-2 # MSecor 2013-04-13 18:05
I'm sorry, perhaps I've missed something. When did this become about gun control? And, have I expressed any opinion at all on that matter?

This is not about EMT service either, which people on welfare do indeed get, paid by medicaid, or roads.

Just who is trying to deflect? And from what point, exactly? See, because you are being disingenuous here, attempting to insinuate that I or anyone else has stated that people should be prevented from accessing emergency services or roads.

I've answered your questions quite clearly, as patently ridiculous and completely off-topic as they were.

But, just in case you're having a comprehension issue, I will spell it out for you. No, nobody has a right to question my grades, or my children's in relation to services...beca use nobody supports us but me, and I pay taxes to fund those services and have since age 14.
 
 
0 # kochadoodledoo 2013-04-15 05:44
But did you pay as much as your neighbors?
 
 
0 # Todd Williams 2013-04-13 07:29
Yes, and your point is?
 
 
0 # kochadoodledoo 2013-04-15 05:47
The point is superiority. Those with the good fortune to succeed feel superior to those less fortunate.
 
 
+30 # kyzipster 2013-04-13 07:45
Both New York and California pay more to the US Treasury than they get back. Tennessee and every other Southern red state receives more than they pay in. This is how they can maintain their infrastructure and eliminate their state income tax. This is how they can give their poor food stamps and housing assistance. Forcing poor people to pay 9% sales tax on food is only part of the picture.

Any Ayn Rand cult member should be outraged by this socialism, the loser economies in the south feeding from the teets of more productive blue states.
 
 
0 # kochadoodledoo 2013-04-15 05:50
Alabama does have a state income tax and every time I received a refund from the feds I still owed the state. And on the coast we pay up to 12% tax on food.
 
 
-2 # kyzipster 2013-04-17 05:02
The article is about Tennessee, not Alabama which gets back $2.03 cents for every $1 paid to the US Treasury. Imagine what state taxes would be in Alabama if not for this socialism.

I'm not sure which coast you're referring to but sales tax could be much less in California if it wasn't burdened with keeping red states afloat.
 
 
-57 # MSecor 2013-04-12 16:39
Why, exactly, is it considered cruel to expect parents to take an interest in seeing to it that their children are educated? Really? It's kinder to let them remain uneducated to continue the cycle of grinding poverty? And, really, it seems that simply showing up once or twice a year at a parent-teacher conference is enough to meet the requirements. I'm just not seeing a terrible burden to those parents here...an hour or two out of their lives to take responsibility for their own offspring?
 
 
+48 # reiverpacific 2013-04-12 19:31
Quoting MSecor:
Why, exactly, is it considered cruel to expect parents to take an interest in seeing to it that their children are educated? Really? It's kinder to let them remain uneducated to continue the cycle of grinding poverty? And, really, it seems that simply showing up once or twice a year at a parent-teacher conference is enough to meet the requirements. I'm just not seeing a terrible burden to those parents here...an hour or two out of their lives to take responsibility for their own offspring?

You are talking about a whole demographic that has endured generations of educational deprivation by the white and power-hungry ruling classes.
Just as the Corporate State and it's owner-media are trying to the do to the rest of the country -hence the first paragraph of the article "If you're worried about where America is heading, look no further".
Pop over to Appalachia sometime if you want to see it still in action. Re' your utterly unknowing statement, there were "Settlement schools" in the mountains and hollers where kids would walk great distances for a day or two and stay in basic dorm/classrooms , then walk back (barely shod) whilst their fathers were killing themselves down the mines for little pay and the women supporting them as best they could, often recording the struggles for basic survival against the overweening meanness and brutality of the coal barons.
And that's just the White people.
Educate YoURSELF; check out, appalshop.org
 
 
-21 # MSecor 2013-04-12 20:29
OK, they have generations of educational deprivation. So that means that parents and children should not be encouraged to break that cycle? They should continue to deprive themselves of education by not taking advantage of educational options currently available? I'm reasonably sure they aren't walking a day or two in bare feet to reach those opportunities now.
 
 
+20 # kochadoodledoo 2013-04-13 04:18
Should Wall Street be similarly "encouraged" to behave ethically?
 
 
-2 # Depressionborn 2013-04-13 09:24
Ethically? sure, what makes you think it will work? I don't tink so.
 
 
0 # kochadoodledoo 2013-04-15 05:53
I don't tink so either.
 
 
+27 # The Ice Maiden 2013-04-13 07:31
Of course we should encourage parents to help their kids get better educated. But it is disengenuous (and disgustingly ruthlessly cruel and STUPID) to claim that the way to do that is to starve the family. The TN welfare benefits are shamefully inadequate, and to reduce those amounts based upon a CLAIM that the parents are not interested in helping their kids succeed (who, I wonder, is making this determination and in what court/arena?) is the same thing as kicking the family under the bus.

Man-up Tennessee congressmen! I dare you to admit you're intentionally throwing your poor citizens into the trash.

And no doubt you're doing it and going to church on Sunday.

Heaven help us. Because nobody in TN is lending a hand.
 
 
+8 # reiverpacific 2013-04-13 09:51
Quoting MSecor:
OK, they have generations of educational deprivation. So that means that parents and children should not be encouraged to break that cycle? They should continue to deprive themselves of education by not taking advantage of educational options currently available? I'm reasonably sure they aren't walking a day or two in bare feet to reach those opportunities now.

I give up!
I've SEEN this in it's final stages and am not making it up. Read the rest of the article please.
You've missed the whole point and are obviously unreachable and blinkered in a wee insulated box.
I'm done and the points are made.
 
 
-10 # kochadoodledoo 2013-04-13 04:15
Your comment is just so naïve and uneducated.
 
 
+25 # Todd Williams 2013-04-13 07:31
Bullshit and you know it! Punish the entire family because a kid is having trouble in school? That's not only stupid but a very sick way of treating people.
 
 
+1 # kochadoodledoo 2013-04-15 05:56
Hope I was not understood. I would never consider punishing a family because a kid is having trouble in school. Unfortunately, nowadays they just give them "kiddie cocaine" which to me is worse.
 
 
0 # kochadoodledoo 2013-04-15 05:50
Just curious, are you white?
 
 
+63 # tamotellico 2013-04-12 16:49
I live in Tennessee, and your analysis is spot on. That's why I refer to it as the Green Ghetto.

In my small lily-white town, there are any number of people who can't read and write, and the schools are tragically inept and underfunded.

One reason for that if that education is not valued here; quite the opposite. Some of that is left over from frontier days, when ordinary folk were tricked out of their land and/or money by "learned" scoundrels.

Judging by what's going on with Wall Street banksters, such suspicions are not unwarranted. But -- the cure for the problem is hardly to renounce education and remain ignorant.

But that sort of perverse "logic" permeates the populace here. And that's one reason people here vote so persistently against their own interests and elect the very kind of scoundrels that do rob them blind.
 
 
+22 # kochadoodledoo 2013-04-13 04:21
Unfortunately, the entire south votes "persistently against their own interests..."
 
 
+14 # reiverpacific 2013-04-13 09:54
Quoting tamotellico:
I live in Tennessee, and your analysis is spot on. That's why I refer to it as the Green Ghetto.

In my small lily-white town, there are any number of people who can't read and write, and the schools are tragically inept and underfunded.

One reason for that if that education is not valued here; quite the opposite. Some of that is left over from frontier days, when ordinary folk were tricked out of their land and/or money by "learned" scoundrels.

Judging by what's going on with Wall Street banksters, such suspicions are not unwarranted. But -- the cure for the problem is hardly to renounce education and remain ignorant.

But that sort of perverse "logic" permeates the populace here. And that's one reason people here vote so persistently against their own interests and elect the very kind of scoundrels that do rob them blind.

Thank you for your affirmation from the front lines.
Unfortunately, there are those who wouldn't recognize a bald fact if it was served to them on a sizzling platter. The only believe what they want to believe to make them feel better about rampant injustice in the beloved plutocracy.
 
 
+31 # DPM 2013-04-12 16:53
A "reckoning" must come. I don't know what form it will take, but can only see two choices. It will either be relatively fast and catastrophic (to what end I can't imagine) or be, basically, a highly restrictive "police state". We are moving toward the latter. Working within the system, I don't believe will change it. Sorry.
 
 
+62 # turtleislander 2013-04-12 16:59
New York and California? Add Massachusetts and a couple more and you have the states that contribute more than they get back. They are supporting the "John Galt" red states. On top of that they are as close as this benighted land gets to an almost-european standard of living. Remember when America was the envy and marvel of the world? I do. Eisenhower era - 90% top tax rate. We were fabulous then. Now we are known as an evil empire which lets its own citizens die on the streets.
 
 
+52 # Penelope Jencks 2013-04-12 17:30
As long as money controls the politicians the inequality gap is inevitable!
 
 
-79 # egbegb 2013-04-12 17:31
Our cities are in such bad shape because they are run by Democrats and have been for 50+ years. Detroit, Rochester, Cleveland, Baltimore, Camden, Buffalo, Washington DC, ...
 
 
+36 # FilikiEteria 2013-04-12 19:06
Please don't fail to understand and comprehend the fact that it is no longer Democrats and Republicans. They are in bed together. Our government has been auctioned off the the highest bidder and then they used the American People's money to buy said government, thereby rendering us indebted slaves.
 
 
+37 # reiverpacific 2013-04-12 19:09
Gosh; it reminds me of the policies of the recently deceased -and much glorified by the status quo mouthpiece media - Thatcher.
Good ol' Bible-Belt and Ol' Testament "Christian" policies ("Spare the rod, spoil the child").
And I've seen the Southern "Correctional" systems up close: they are the worst racist and revenge based "Kill 'em or throw away the key"!
Succession might not be a bad idea for a lot of Southern states with refugee access to others; a kind of modern "Underground railroad".
The US is regressive enough without the likes of this gulag state dragging in backwards even farther.
What price the glamor of Nashville???
 
 
+16 # reiverpacific 2013-04-12 19:11
Quoting egbegb:
Our cities are in such bad shape because they are run by Democrats and have been for 50+ years. Detroit, Rochester, Cleveland, Baltimore, Camden, Buffalo, Washington DC, ...

Stick to the point s'il vous plait.
You from Tennessee or are you an equal-opportuni ty mean-spirited reactionary?
 
 
+15 # Madmedic 2013-04-12 22:07
Most, if not all, of those cities you list are in states that subsidize (do you know what that word means?) the welfare of the "Southern Paradises" that you, no doubt love.

Here's an idea, let those states keep the money they send to Alabama, Ark., Miss., S. Carolina, KY, LA, etc. and let them spend it on their own citizens in those cities. You know, back to the old adage, "charity begins at home." The poor (as well as a lot of the middle class) in your Southern Paradises would literally starve if it weren't for the Federally enforced generosity of those states where the the cities you criicize are located.

Having moved from the North to the South 8 years ago, I've discovered that the biggest deficiency of Southern education is that they teach the locals how great their states are. They fail to explain that their states are really welfare cases that are dependent on the welfare dole of the Federal Government.

Although you couch it in political party terms, what you offer in your comment is just plain old pure redneck racism, maybe softened up a little by the tender racial code training of that great humanitarian, Newt Gingrich.
 
 
+37 # la jardinera 2013-04-12 18:22
California isn't perfect, but, in spite of all the economic difficulties, mostly brought on by BAD economic policies of the right-wing Jarvis low-tax crowd and the Republicans in general, CALIFORNIA IS NOW SOLIDLY BLUE AND DOING BETTER EVERY DAY. To do it, we had to push our electorate to a super-majority of almost 80% registration and voters, but we have been working on this fix for twenty years and we are finally experiencing the beginning of a better life. We are still, unfortunately, citizens of this benighted nation, beset with structural problems provided by our creative but short sighted founding fathers who set up this nation with entirely too many checks and balances, so, with hardly any effosrt at all, the obstructionists can keep our country mired in the heavy clay of the Tennessee (and Alabama, and Georgia, etc.) way of life. A pox on all those southern states! They have been our undoing from 1776 to the present day!
 
 
+26 # Mrcead 2013-04-12 18:24
Again, remind me why we crushed Hitler? To prevent what exactly? It doesn't feel much like a win against evil or maybe I am on the wrong end of the gun?

It pains me to hear people shrug off decency and hang it on the head of "the institution" to escape any sense of guilt. "God helps those who help themselves", "you only have yourself to blame", "you should have thought about that before you did XYZ" , "you shouldn't have been born poor" and other such lovely anecdotes, double binds and circle jerk phrases. How has society become so cold and literal? People have arguments that start on on a specific topic then focus on the explicit meanings of words rather than the context they represent going off on wild tangents. It is mind boggling to hear 2 people argue this way. I would hazard a guess that people argue 80% semantics than the actual matter at hand and never resolve their issues. Don't get me started on dog whistle rhetoric. It's a keyword nightmare. You have to choose your words very carefully or it's down the rabbit hole you go.
 
 
+11 # kochadoodledoo 2013-04-13 04:33
How has society become so cold and literal? I would have to answer the American Dream--money, money, money! We no longer have "reverence for life" (Schweitzer), only money. We do not "study nature as the countenance of God" (Kingsley), we destroy nature and therefore ourselves every chance we get for money, money, money. Without a spiritual revolution (and I said " spiritual" not "religious") we are doomed.
 
 
+19 # WillD 2013-04-12 18:40
Mean crazy bastards!
 
 
+3 # kochadoodledoo 2013-04-13 04:33
Mean, crazy, volunteer bastards!
 
 
+37 # giraffee2012 2013-04-12 18:46
Kill Citizens United so we have government run by anything but BIG$$ (i.e. top 1%)

Begin by getting Scalia out of Supreme Court - for he brags that he votes as he is paid to (despite fact that there are cannons (rules) that a Justice must vote by the U.S. Constitution. The RAT doesn't even pretend to mis-interpret the constitution

Tomas, Alito should also go as they are tied to Koch brothers (openly) and Roberts is usually part of that RAT PACK

Obama - I hope you can appoint a new Justice in this term. Maybe one of the RATS (over 70 years old) will die in the time allotted and how much better off "we the people" will be

Yes, I said it and since nobody in the House will start impeachment of the RATS, I can only hope they leave anyway possible
 
 
+2 # kochadoodledoo 2013-04-13 04:35
Kochadoodledoo!
 
 
+34 # fliteshare 2013-04-12 18:48
Just in case some true patriots forgot. "We The People" is a collective. And "Forming a more perfect Union" is collectivism.
Let's assume, our Forefathers knew exactly what they wanted America to be. Unlike miss Ayn (shifty eyes) Rand with her pseudo individualistic simpleton views.
 
 
+8 # kochadoodledoo 2013-04-13 04:38
Speaking of collectives, and I know this is changing the subject, but, a "well-regulated militia" is also a collective, not a guarantee for every Tom, Dick, and Harry to own assault weapons.
 
 
+16 # The Ice Maiden 2013-04-13 07:34
And she was a fraud. When her chips were down, she lived off social security $$ and took advantage of old age medical benefits.
 
 
+26 # Majikman 2013-04-12 19:00
Inequality? More like predator or prey with the thieves and hucksters rewarded and protected by their fellow predators until the weaker predator becomes prey in turn. Randian paradise indeed....nasty , brutish and short just as Rand's actual life was and not the fantasy of her books.
Interesting thing about the "I got mine and screw you" mind set....ain't nobody there when you become the screwee except to pick over the carcass.
 
 
-27 # massager2002 2013-04-12 20:56
Parents do have a responsibility to be the primary educators of their children. Leaving it to the public school government education system has left our children wards of the state, without control for their own autonomy. Breaking out of the cycle pf poverty should be the primary goal of education , but by accepting public assistance beyond the most needy reasons, we have created a monster where we blame the government for all our ills and do not take personal responsibility for digging themselves out of their predicament. Tragedy happens but the will to live and prosper is an ingrained trait of all humans unless we just all roll over and play dead and acquiesce to the tragedy.
 
 
-1 # MSecor 2013-04-12 22:32
Exactly. I'm sure that I'll be accused of a basic inability to understand the plight of the poor for my comments above.

However, that couldn't be farther from the truth. Fact is, I grew up in an inner-city "ghetto" in far less than ideal circumstances. A drunken, abusive father and in poverty. We had frost on the walls throughout the house many winters because we couldn't afford heat in during NY's sub-zero weather,and we lived on beans and rice and split pea soup for months at a time...because it was cheap. Couldn't look at either of those for years without feeling ill.

I guess I could have wallowed in my childhood traumas and continued that cycle with my own children...that does so seem to be encouraged these days. However, I made a choice, after looking into the face of my first child, to make his life different, and proceeded to work my behind off to do so.

At some point, each and every person has to accept responsibility for how they choose to handle the circumstanced of their lives.
 
 
+2 # kochadoodledoo 2013-04-15 06:11
I've heard many people say "I want to be able to give my children more than I had." That has never been my dream. I want my children to know this is their only planet and they have a brief time on it. Cherish both.
 
 
+7 # wwway 2013-04-13 00:44
Public education is the best bargan around. Anyone who leaves education to private or public school system isn't parenting. Anyone who takes full advantage of bettering themselvs with the best bargan around is doing exactly what the public system was designed for. However, digging ones's self out requires tools and others of good faith. None of us "dig out" alone!
 
 
-8 # MSecor 2013-04-13 12:00
Quoting wwway:
Public education is the best bargan around. Anyone who leaves education to private or public school system isn't parenting. Anyone who takes full advantage of bettering themselvs with the best bargan around is doing exactly what the public system was designed for. However, digging ones's self out requires tools and others of good faith. None of us "dig out" alone!


Um...yeah, the "you didn't build that" meme.

Well, you know, I really did. I helped myself out of poverty. I worked three jobs to support the children I chose to bring into this world, rather than imposing that responsibility on others. When I wanted a secure home for my family, I delivered thousands upon thousands of newspapers and telephone books to earn the extra money I needed for a home down-payment. Nobody gave me a damned thing. I have never, in my life, been on welfare, food stamps or any other "entitlement" program. I worked for mine.

And you know what? People that work for theirs are empowered. They have EARNED self-esteem and developed character. We do our citizens no favors by perpetuating the cycle of dependency, rather than encouraging the self-sufficienc y that leads to self respect and prosperity.
 
 
-8 # MSecor 2013-04-13 19:26
Well, I posted this before, but it seems to have disappeared.

The "you didn't build that" meme is faulty.

I did "dig out" of poverty on my own. I worked three jobs to take care of the children I chose to bring into this world, rather than push off that responsibility on others.

When I felt the need to offer my family the security of their own home, I delivered thousands upon thousands of phone books and newspapers to come up with the extra money I needed for the down payment.

Nobody gave me a thing. I have never been on welfare, food stamps or any other "entitlement" program. I worked for mine. Every last bit of it.

And, you know, people who earn theirs, rather than being dependent, develop strength and character. They EARN self-esteem.

We are not doing our citizens any favors by perpetuating the cycle of dependency that so limits their potential to achieve. We should be encouraging them to become strong, self-sufficient members of society. It truly is the right thing to do...for them and for society. Dependency is a dead-end, a trap we should be helping people avoid, not steering them into.
 
 
+10 # kochadoodledoo 2013-04-13 04:53
Unfortunately, all men are not created equal. Some are born into terrible conditions that those of us who have never experienced the likes of cannot fathom let alone empathize with. I am grateful to be fortunate and intelligent enough to be one of those who has always considered myself my children's home-school teacher, but those less fortunate should not be punished because they do not have the physical or mental resources to do so. They need help. The inequity of the nation's wealth has gone way beyond prosperity. The wealthy "take responsibility" along with tax breaks, free land, free money (subsidies), cheap loans, biased laws and courts, military assistance, bailouts, handouts, and all the other corporate entitlements.
 
 
-6 # MidwestTom 2013-04-12 21:32
"the most obscene wealth gap in the world", the author has not been to many countries outside of the US and Europe. O do not like we have here, but we a long way from the biggest gap between rich and poor. We consider people poor who have a car, a television, and a more than two changes of clothes; there a BILLIONS who do not.
 
 
+9 # reiverpacific 2013-04-13 10:13
Quoting MidwestTom:
"the most obscene wealth gap in the world", the author has not been to many countries outside of the US and Europe. O do not like we have here, but we a long way from the biggest gap between rich and poor. We consider people poor who have a car, a television, and a more than two changes of clothes; there a BILLIONS who do not.

You are obviously a bit short in the travel department yourself.
Many if not most of these countries in their deprived states are those who lived under the US imperialist, extractive -exploitative-m ilitary-enforce d and dictator-buttre ssed yoke for generations. Thankfully at least in much of Central and South Americas, they are getting wise and prospering.
Closer to home, in relatively boom times you may observe in Appalachian Tennessee/Kentu cky/Virgina/Wes t Virginia/Easter n Ohio, rotting trailers in hollers and hillsides you wouldn't keep a scabby dog in, trash spilling down the embankments, abandoned appliances, rusting truck carcasses, with a brand new shiny SUV, truck or huge, ostentatious car outside -and usually a big screen TV dominating the interior.
School attendance doesn't improve in these unpredictable better time, all managed by the status-quo to keep the poor buggers insecure enough to be obedient.
How else could they get some of them to work at the more recently devastating mountaintop removal and toxic tailings? Maintain generational ignorance, environmental insouciance and anti-democratic mores.
 
 
+2 # MidwestTom 2013-04-13 11:11
"You are obviously a bit short in the travel department yourself."

You obviously define poverty by American standards. Visit Honduras and see people living in dirt floor shacks; but if you want income gap go to sub-Saharan Africa where 5% to 10% fly first class, drive Mercedes, and live in homes with air conditioning and satellite TV, while millions live under several sheets of rusting metal, and survive by doing little things for food, or selling sex to anyone that will pay $2 (or less on some cases). Visit South Sudan, Chad, parts of Nigeria, rural southern Mexico, and many others.

Unfortunately the areas you describe in this country are the vary areas that our military machine like to recruit from. War has historically been very discriminatory killer.
 
 
+6 # reiverpacific 2013-04-13 20:06
Quoting MidwestTom:
"You are obviously a bit short in the travel department yourself."

You obviously define poverty by American standards. Visit Honduras and see people living in dirt floor shacks; but if you want income gap go to sub-Saharan Africa where 5% to 10% fly first class, drive Mercedes, and live in homes with air conditioning and satellite TV, while millions live under several sheets of rusting metal, and survive by doing little things for food, or selling sex to anyone that will pay $2 (or less on some cases). Visit South Sudan, Chad, parts of Nigeria, rural southern Mexico, and many others.

Unfortunately the areas you describe in this country are the vary areas that our military machine like to recruit from. War has historically been very discriminatory killer.

I thought that you were the one that was defining poverty by American standards.
And BTW, I've lived and worked all over South and Central America, S.E. Asia, parts of India and N. Africa (as well as more "civilized' countries of the S. Pacific).
Your reference to Honduras is appropriate asnd affirms my original point -re' a recent coup, like that in Paraguay, which has thrown the country back into a period of "La Violencia" supported or at least diplomatically tolerated by the Obama administration after an all-too-brief respite.
I agree with your last paragraph and leave it to you to reconcile your somewhat contradictory stances.
Can you sat "Fort Benning, Georgia"?
 
 
+14 # GeorgiaGirl 2013-04-12 23:57
I grew up in Tennessee in a liberal Democratic family and still have family there. I have lived my entire adult life in Georgia. Believe me when I say that it's very hard being a progressive liberal down here!
 
 
+17 # wwway 2013-04-13 00:40
A friend of mine moved from a wonderful community in northern CA to Tennessee. She wasn't there a month when she called to tell me that it was a huge mistake because the state is really messed up to the point where she described it as the worst of "good ol boy" corruption and a place where no fresh fruit and vegies are available. Unfortunately, when one leaves CA for a "cheaper" cost of living in Tennessee, Arkansas, and other states in the South, it's expensive to move back. State corruption isn't rare. At the time my mother and her siblings were growing up in Arkansas that state was the most corrupt in the country. Such is the vision of Ayn Rand. Social, political, economic anarchy which leads not to freedom but free for all corruption.
 
 
+10 # Lute_Harmony 2013-04-13 06:16
I recommend that the so-called "Christians" in government read the Bible, especially the New Testament.
Obviously, the Repubs and Dems never heard about Jesus Christ.
And I'm an atheist.
 
 
-16 # Depressionborn 2013-04-13 09:39
I am not a reub, nor an atheist, but I love the Bible as God's word.

Jesus said charity is the first virtue. I believe him. Taxes are not charity, and government is not god. And Atheism is a religion. (supreme court!) How sad for you but you do get your choice
 
 
+1 # giraffee2012 2013-04-15 11:06
Quoting Depressionborn:
I am not a reub, nor an atheist, but I love the Bible as God's word.

Jesus said charity is the first virtue. I believe him. Taxes are not charity, and government is not god. And Atheism is a religion. (supreme court!) How sad for you but you do get your choice

You are entitled to "love the Bible" as anything you want and believe in it as you wish - JUST don't try to push your "beliefs" on me and my rights.

The U.S. Constitution is the "rule" (or law) of the land. Lest you forget or didn't learn in school - (although it's been around longer than the Depression) - there is a Separation of "bible" belief and bible "whatever" AND the Constitution (LAWS of the U.S. that is "the word"

It's really difficult to argue against something that has never been proven and is a "belief" "love" "dogma" or "taught to someone since they were born" - but I gave it a try.

Those who follow Any Rand or Grover Norquist (etc)seem to not understand those people are not Kings or Queens and have NO PLACE over our constitution law.
 
 
+14 # turtleislander 2013-04-13 07:45
I drove around the US last fall. Coast to Coast in a zig-zag. Except for Knoxville which is a university towwn, Tennessee looks like the other poverty stricken states I saw like Arkansas, East Texas,Virginia through the Shenandoah valley, and Kentucky. No wonder such states need welfare from the far richer states like California and New York. We should not bite the hand that feeds us. Clean up your act and get out of the early 19th century. Diversity, tolerance, a fair hand, and a happy and healthy population brings prosperity and this is a fact, not a political position.
 
 
+5 # Todd Williams 2013-04-13 11:29
And the biggest mind fuck is that these poor states that are subsidized by the wealthier states are all Rethug dominated in the state legislatures and the governorships. And they keep voting for the GOP despite the poverty. This so dumb that's it's almost unbelievable. How about making these states live within a budget? What's wrong with equalizing the federal help? Let's make it so that for every $1 a state sends to the feds, there is only $1 returned? The South has been unable to support itself since the end of the Civil War and slavery. The only reason the South was somewhat prosperous before the war was because it had virtually free labor to harvest its crops. The only reason it had any manufactured products was because it traded and sold cotton and tobacco with the North and Europe. During the war, the South failed due to several reasons, a major one being that the Union blockaded the ports, thus starving the South of weapons and ammo.
 
 
+11 # Yaice 2013-04-13 09:13
The right-wing desire to scrap government is spear-headed by large corporations and wealthy individuals. Their only concern is maximizing profits and personal income -- all else be damned.

What a mess we would be in if we did scrap the government and allowed corporations to have their way with things. Tennessee is a good example.
 
 
+9 # Edwina 2013-04-13 11:21
Yes, "the state" always trends towards control and over-reaching. That was the point of setting up checks & balances -- so no set of interests would become too powerful. The issue is the kind of government we have. Without a central government (to enable the private sector)we would not have a rail system, communications system, or highway system. On the down side, neither would we have an expansionist foreign policy. Would we be a bucolic nation, living in a peaceful, (imagined) 19th Century? I think not. We would still be fighting over slavery. . .oh, wait: we are still fighting over slavery. How quaint.
 
 
+1 # kochadoodledoo 2013-04-15 06:04
Thank you for reminding us. You are right.
 
 
+6 # ted_barnes 2013-04-13 13:37
I am writing from the "front line" (Tenn) as well. Much of what is said is true, perhaps because Tenn and the South are still living the civil war, and vote against their own best interests as a result. However there is hope, given the right candidate. Bill Clinton won here.
 
 
+14 # moonrigger 2013-04-13 16:25
American schizophrenia: force poor women with no money to have babies they don't want, then withdraw any kind of support. Then make the poor kids responsible for withdrawal of any meager support. If they don't like it, encarcerate them.
 
 
+8 # kochadoodledoo 2013-04-15 06:02
The pro-lifers apparently are only pro-life until the child has left the womb. Should a child be forced to be born into a society that will not support it if the parents cannot?
 
 
+1 # tm7devils 2013-04-21 02:49
When you have a state where the governor and the legislators have an average IQ of less than 90 and are morally bankrupt...what do you expect? Add to that having no jobs and a failed educational system ...and you get Tennessee in its present state.
What a waste...
 

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