Category Archives: Role of Government

Is income inequality the tide that will sink all boats?

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A woman begging outside a church in Barcelona, Spain

There is an article in the New York Times about whether increased income inequality in the United States will lead to slower economic growth. The article quotes prominent economists and includes some shocking statistics.

According to the article:

Income inequality has soared to the highest levels since the Great Depression, and the recession has done little to reverse the trend, with the top 1 percent of earners taking 93 percent of the income gains in the first full year of the recovery.

The 1 percent earns about one-sixth of all income and the top 10 percent about half.

The I.M.F. (International Monetary Fund) has cautioned the United States, too. “Some dismiss inequality and focus instead on overall growth — arguing, in effect, that a rising tide lifts all boats,” a commentary by fund economists said. “When a handful of yachts become ocean liners while the rest remain lowly canoes, something is seriously amiss.”

I am struck by these statistics, despite the fact that I have heard them before. It makes me wonder what impact these levels of income inequality have on people on both sides of the economic divide.

Our country is sharply divided on many levels and on many issues. An earlier post on this blog discussed the lack of opportunities for interaction between people of different classes, due to what Michael Sandel has labeled the “Skyboxification of America.”

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A porche taxi-cab in Frankfurt, Germany

It is much easier for people to act in their own self-interest if they can insulate themselves from people with different backgrounds and experiences. The Skyboxification of America enables people to insulate themselves from people who cannot afford their lifestyle.

But how much money is enough? Some  corporate salaries are far beyond what people need to live a comfortable existence. And yet, people continue to strive to make more money and to acquire more things – while people they work with struggle to make ends meet.

Maybe we should all focus more on acquiring more understanding for other people and their needs and struggles instead of on acquiring more wealth.

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Occupy Frankfurt Demonstration, Frankfurt, Germany

What do you think? Do you think income inequality in the United States has reached a point where people in leadership positions will have to start taking it seriously? What would that look like? Do you know of any examples of CEOs who have worked on leveling incomes in their companies? What will it take for policymakers and corporations to stand together to make some changes to the policies that lead to income inequality? What opportunities do you see for bringing people together to promote better understanding and cooperation? What role do you think the need to save for retirement plays in this equation?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading.

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Filed under Business, Culture, Economy, equality, Ethics, Income inequality, Photography, Photos, Policy, Politcs, Poverty, Role of Government

Tuesday Tunes: Everlast

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Sign and blanket found under a bridge in Boulder, Colorado, one of the wealthiest cities in the United States

Tuesday Tunes between now and election day will be focused on political and social issues that are relevant in the Presidential Campaign. This week, I bring you Everlast’s What It’s Like.

What It’s Like
Everlast

We’ve all seen a man at the liquor store beggin’ for your change
The hair on his face is dirty, dread-locked, and full of mange
He asks the man for what he could spare, with shame in his eyes
“Get a job you f****** slob,” is all he replied
God forbid you ever had to walk a mile in his shoes
‘Cause then you really might know what it’s like to sing the blues

Then you really might know what it’s like (what it’s like) 3x
Then you really might know what it’s like

Mary got pregnant from a kid named Tom who said he was in love
He said, “Don’t worry about a thing, baby doll
I’m the man you’ve been dreaming of.”
But 3 months later he say he won’t date her or return her calls
And she swears, “God ****, If find that man I’m cuttin’ off his balls.”
then she heads for the clinic and
she gets some static walking through the door
They call her a killer, and they call her a sinner
and they call her a whore
God forbid you ever had to walk a mile in her shoes
’cause then you really might know what it’s like to have to choose

Then you REALLY might know what its like (what it’s like) 3x
then you really might know what its like

I’ve seen a rich man beg
I’ve seen a good man sin
I’ve seen a tough man cry
I’ve seen a loser win
And a sad man grin
I’ve heard an honest man lie
I’ve seen the good side of bad
And the downside of up
And everything between
I’ve licked the silver spoon
Drank from the golden cup
And smoked the finest green
I’ve stroked the daddies dimes at least a couple of times
before I broke they heart
You know where it ends, yo, it usually depends on where you start

this kid named Max
He used to get fat stacks out on the corner with drugs
He liked to hang out late
get s***-faced and keep the pace with thugs
Until late one night there was a big gun fight and Max lost his head
He pulled out his chrome.45, talked some s***, and wound up dead
Now his wife and his kids are caught in the midst of all of this pain
You know it crumbles that way
at least that’s what they say when you play the game
God forbid you ever had to wake up to hear the news
‘Cause then you really might know what it’s like to have to lose

Then you really might know what it’s like…
Then you really might know what it’s like…
Then you really might know what it’s like…to have to lose.

What do you think? Why do we find it so easy to judge other people and their personal choices? Do you prefer your elected officials to be people who can relate to you or does that not matter to you? Why do we see so many things in black and white instead of recognizing shades of grey?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading!

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Filed under Culture, Economy, equality, Ethics, Income inequality, Love, Music, Photography, Photos, Poetry, Policy, Politcs, Poverty, Role of Government, Stereotypes

Photo Friday: Frankfurt

The European Central Bank – I like the reflection of the historic building in the windows
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We arrived in Frankfurt by train from Berlin bright and early. We thought this would just be a quick stop on our way to the airport.

We were exhausted from all of our adventures, so we thought we would finally step foot on a tour bus for the first time this trip. We realized that we had not been in a car during the entire journey! How refreshing!

We took the train from our hotel near the airport, to the main train station, with the idea of hopping on a tourist bus. But when we got to the tourist information center, the woman informed us that Frankfurt is small enough to walk.

So, we set out on foot to explore the city. And we loved it!

We were too tired to go into any actual museums or anything, so we spent the day like locals.

We ate bratwurst from a stand outside the train station, walked through the city taking in the mix of old and new, ate pastries by the river, and finished the day in a residential neighborhood with one of the most authentic meals we had the entire trip.

The Bratwurst stand outside the train station where we had lunch
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We did not consult a guide book for the first time in weeks, and just enjoyed exploring the city without plans or agenda. It was decadent.

What struck me most about Frankfurt was the contrast of history and progress. Castles stand side by side on the same street with sky scrapers.

An Occupy Frankfurt demonstration outside the Central European Bank illustrated the ongoing debate about the European Union and Germany’s role in the Union.

It was delightful to experience the city without feeling like tourists. My favorite part had to be simply sitting outside in a residential area we discovered and watching the world go by. I hope we get to return and do more of that.

I feel so fortunate to have been able to take this trip. It was an extraordinary opportunity to visit places with such rich history. The museums and cafes and food and lifestyle were simply seductive. I must go back.

But for now, I will have to survive by looking back at some of my favorite photos. Here are my favorites from Frankfurt.

Castles next to skyscrapers – A great reminder that we don’t have to tear down the old to make way for the new
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The Occupy Frankfurt demonstration
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A cafe outside the Opera House
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One of the signs from the Occupy Frankfurt demonstration. I don’t know what it says, but I figure that anything with Millionaire and Democratic on the same sign is probably something I would be interested in
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The view across the river
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The Beer Garden where we had our last meal in Europe. It was a charming neighborhood restaurant where everyone knew each other. Such a perfect ending!
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Flowers from a neighborhood shop
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What do you think? Have you ever been on a trip and just decided to skip all of the tourist attractions and live like a local? When and where? What was that like? If not, does that sound like something that appeals to you or do you feel like if you are going to go somewhere, you have to see the most famous destinations in that location?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading.      

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Filed under Architecture, Art, Business, Culture, Economy, Food, History, International, Photography, Photos, Policy, Politcs, Role of Government, Technology, travel

Tunes Tuesday: Steve Earle

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The presidential election is just around the corner. For this reason, I am dedicating the next few Tunes Tuesdays to songs about politics and political issues.

This week, my Tunes Tuesday pick is Steve Earle’s, “Christmastime in Washington.” I could have chosen a number of Earle’s songs – “Ellis Unit One” certainly comes to mind, but this one has always stuck with me for its combination of cynicism and hope about our political environment.

Christmas In Washington
Steve Earle

It’s Christmastime in Washington
The Democrats rehearsed
Gettin’ into gear for four more years
Things not gettin’ worse
The Republicans drink whiskey neat
And thanked their lucky stars
They said, ‘He cannot seek another term
They’ll be no more FDRs’

I sat home in Tennessee
Staring at the screen
With an uneasy feeling in my chest
And I’m wonderin’ what it means

Chorus:
So come back Woody Guthrie
Come back to us now
Tear your eyes from paradise
And rise again somehow
If you run into Jesus
Maybe he can help you out
Come back Woody Guthrie to us now

I followed in your footsteps once
Back in my travelin’ days
Somewhere I failed to find your trail
Now I’m stumblin’ through the haze
But there’s killers on the highway now
And a man can’t get around
So I sold my soul for wheels that roll
Now I’m stuck here in this town

Chorus

There’s foxes in the hen house
Cows out in the corn
The unions have been busted
Their proud red banners torn
To listen to the radio
You’d think that all was well
But you and me and Cisco know
It’s going straight to hell

So come back, Emma Goldman
Rise up, old Joe Hill
The barracades are goin’ up
They cannot break our will
Come back to us, Malcolm X
And Martin Luther King
We’re marching into Selma
As the bells of freedom ring

Chorus

What do you think? Do you think that there are inspirational leaders like Woody Guthrie and Martin Luther King,Jr. in this day and age? Why or why not? Who is your favorite inspirational political figure or head of a political movement, either current or historic? Do you think the world needs a visionary leader right now?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading!

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Filed under Culture, Economy, Income inequality, Music, Policy, Politcs, Poverty, Role of Government

Photo Friday: Berlin

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Border between East and West Berlin, where the Berlin Wall used to stand. Most of it is torn down now.

After leaving the quaint, but bustling Amsterdam, we took an overnight train to Berlin. We stayed in East Berlin, just down the street from Alexanderplatz, which was really the heart of East Berlin.

After all of the beauty of France, Spain and Holland, East Berlin was striking for its lack of decoration. It was a fascinating place to visit for its history, but the sadness and anger were palpable.

From what we observed, the division between East and West Berlin still exists to this day. We spent the vast majority of our time in East Berlin, going to what we were told was the trendiest neighborhood for dinner and visiting the historic sites.

But it is striking to stand where the wall used to stand and to look to the East and to the West. The East is full of cranes and development, but I couldn’t help feeling that the West kept moving forward while the East was stuck in time.

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Construction in East Berlin

East Berlin feels like a savagely damaged city, just now showing signs of rebirth. The evidence is everywhere, showing a city devastated by war, and then severely restricted and terrorized during the Communist occupation. It is simply tragic.

There is a solemn beauty to the city, however, even in the midst of the melancholy. I share some of my favorite photos here.

For those who would like to read more of the history of Berlin, this 1963 speech by President John F. Kennedy is a powerful denunciation of the communist occupation. When you visit Berlin, you understand this speech much more.

What do you think? Have you been to Berlin? What was your impression? Do you think that East and West Berlin will ever truly integrate? What kind of impact do you think a history like this would have on a culture?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading!

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This has to be one of my favorite photos from the whole trip! I snapped this shot at a metro stop.

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A watchtower over Checkpoint Charlie

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The view from our hotel. You can see the Soviet TV Tower in East Berlin and the tall hotel in West Berlin. The hotel staff told us this was done intentionally by West Berlin to show their strength and contrast.

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An old car in East Berlin

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A powerful holocaust memorial

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A pretzel seller

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Berlin Cathedral

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Chairs in an historic East Berlin Cafe

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You can see the bullet holes in the old buildings

 

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Checkpoint Charlie now

 

 

 

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Filed under Culture, Economy, History, International, Photography, Photos, Politcs, Privatization, Role of Government, social pressures, Stereotypes, Terrorism, travel, Uncategorized, violence, War

Tunes Tuesday: Are you registered to vote?

Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

The first presidential debate is tomorrow evening. Regardless of which candidate you plan to vote for  – and especially if you have not decided yet – I hope you will take a moment this week to make sure your voter registration is up to date.

Most states have a registration cut-off about a month prior to the election. In Colorado, the cut-off is October 9th. If you miss that deadline, you cannot vote.

Again, regardless of who you plan to vote for, the only way to have a meaningful democratic election is if we all take our voting responsibility seriously and get out and vote!

To check out the registration requirements in your state, go to www.registertovote.org.

Since it is Tunes Tuesday, I am going to recycle one of the best moments from the 2008 campaign and highlight the seventh graders from the Ron Clark Academy, who wrote and performed the song “You Can Vote However You Like.” If this song doesn’t pump you up about the future of our country, you might need to get a check-up!

You Can Vote However You Like
Ron Clark Academy

Obama on the left
McCain on the right
We can talk politics all night
And you can vote however you like
You can vote however you like, yeah

Democratic left
Republican right
November 4th we decide
And you can vote however you like
You can vote however you like, yeah

(McCain supporters)
McCain is the man
Fought for us in Vietnam
You know if anyone can
Help our country he can
Taxes droppin low
Don’t you know oils gonna flow
Drill it low
I’ll show our economy will grow

I want Obama
FORGET OBAMA,
Stick wit McCain you gone have some drama
MORE WAR IN IRAQ
Iran he will attack
CAN’T BRING OUR TROOPS BACK
We gotta vote!

Obama on the left
McCain on the right
We can talk politics all night
And you can vote however you like
You can vote however you like, yeah

Democratic left
Republican right
November 4th we decide
And you can vote however you like
You can vote however you like, yeah

McCain’s the best candidate
With Palin as his running mate
They’ll fight for gun rights, pro life,
The conservative right
Our future is bright
Better economy in site
And all the world will feel our military might

(Obama supporters)
But McCain and Bush are real close right
They vote alike and keep it tight
Obama’s new, he’s younger too
The Middle Class he will help you
He’ll bring a change, he’s got the brains
McCain and Bush are just the same
You are to blame, Iraq’s a shame
Four more years would be insane

Lower your Taxes – you know Obama Won’t
PROTECT THE LOWER CLASS – You know McCain won’t!
Have enough experience – you know that they don’t
STOP GLOBAL WARMING – you know that you won’t

I want Obama
FORGET OBAMA
Stick with McCain and you’re going to have some drama
We need it
HE’LL BRING IT
He’ll be it
YOU’LL SEE IT
We’ll do it
GET TO IT
Let’s move it
DO IT!

Obama on the left
McCain on the right
We can talk politics all night
And you can vote however you like
You can vote however you like, yeah

Democratic left
Republican right
November 4th we decide
And you can vote however you like, I said
You can vote however you like, yeah

I’m talking big pipe lines, and low gas prices
Below $2.00 that would be nice

But to do it right we gotta start today
Finding renewable ways that are here to stay

I want Obama
FORGET OBAMA,
Stick wit McCain you gone have some drama
MORE WAR IN IRAQ
Iran he will attack
CAN’T BRING OUR TROOPS BACK
We gotta vote Barack!

Obama on the left
McCain on the right
We can talk politics all night
And you can vote however you like, I said
You can vote however you like, yeah

Democratic left
Republican right
November 4th we decide
And you can vote however you like, I said
You can vote however you like, yeah

(SPOKEN)
When I say John
You say McCain
JOHN
McCAIN
JOHN
McCAIN

When I say Barack
You say Obama
BARACK
OBAMA
BARACK
OBAMA

What do you think? What do you think inspired these kids to create something that, in the middle of a divisive political battle, was able to unite and inspire the entire country? Do you think more schools should encourage this type of youth involvement in elections or do you think that parents would oppose this type of activity?

I would love to hear your thoughts! Thank you for reading.

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Filed under Culture, Economy, Education, History, Music, Parenting, Policy, Politcs, Role of Government, Social Media, Youth Leadership

Hunger Knows No Borders: Poverty at Home and Abroad

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There is an article in the New York Times this week about the increasing number of people living in poverty in Spain.

The article references the fact that the unemployment rate in Spain is over 50% for young people and that over 20% of families in Spain live in poverty. It tells the stories of people who find themselves forced to search for food in trash bins in order to feed themselves and their families.

It is striking to read about how dire the situation is in Spain right now, especially after having just visited the country. We were blown away by the food and the beauty, but this article makes it clear that there is another, much more tragic, story to be told.

As I read this article, I felt like I was reading about the United States. The article spoke of people who had never been on government assistance who are now accessing food pantries or searching through dumpsters for food.

So frequently, we read an article like this and look at it as an interesting, but sad anecdote from a foreign land. But the truth is, we can see the same thing here in our own back yards every day.

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The recession has had far-reaching implications across the globe. The number of people in the United States who are accessing public benefits has sky-rocketed.

Some people complain about the number of people who are accessing government assistance, including food assistance. I don’t understand this.

If jobs are not available and people are hungry, why would we not be grateful to live in a society where people who have hit rock bottom have a place to go to feed themselves and their children? How can we be so sure that we will not be the next family to come upon hard times, through a loss of a job or through a medical emergency that leaves us financially devastated?

I am honestly baffled and saddened by the lack of compassion in much of the United States during these difficult economic times.

What do you think? Why do you think people are so critical of government efforts to support low-income families? Why do you think people are so quick to judge families who have come upon hard times? How can people be so sure that they will not be the next person to need a little help? And how can we reduce the stigma associated with accepting government assistance so that more people can have a bridge to survive their current hardship in the hopes of eventually getting a job and escaping poverty?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading!

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Filed under Culture, Economy, Ethics, Health, Income inequality, International, Photography, Photos, Policy, Politcs, Poverty, Relationships, Role of Government, Stereotypes, travel