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Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness

The Declaration of Independence is one of the most freedom-rich documents in American History. The language and meaning contained therein describe the value of freedom and provide a never-ending path for the people to demand it. The Declaration pairs well with the Preamble to the Constitution, and together they form a solid a foundation for a government that is of, for and by the people. But have we given up on this life-long endeavor for freedom and equality in the United States? Have we lulled ourselves to sleep at the wheel of democracy?

The Declaration of Independence

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

Read the full text

The words explode from the parchment like fireworks on the 4th of July, and taste like warm honey on a patriot’s tongue. As far as history goes, this document is unmatched for it’s bold stand in defiance of tyranny and demand for freedom. Remarkably well suited for each other, the Preamble to the Constitution adds language that elevates the Declaration to a higher purpose for the people.

The Preamble to the Constitution of the United States

We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Read the full text

The Preamble and the Declaration clearly set the tone for an ‘America of the people’, and make a strong case for preventing unfavorable elements of oppression. Strike that–there is no case that legitimizes oppression, and the spirit of the Declaration and the Constitution set in stone freedom as the ultimate right of the people over all other interests.

In the late 1700s and early 1800s, words meant something, but it seems the ‘will of the people’ has been replaced by inattention, ‘complacency by design’ and incremental oppression has moved in to control the economy and the people. Corporate interests have usurped the spirit of the founding documents by taking advantage of loopholes and coercing our leaders and lawmakers to permit them full access to trample upon our promised way of life in the United States. In effect private interests have mangled the economic system and made it the overseeing system that controls the country.

Every year I am reminded that a great reckoning is forthcoming that could be a disaster for those that have been investing in the status quo and the ‘establishment’ that’s has benefited by the oppressive economy and policies throughout the last 40 years of corporatocracy. Or perhaps not.

Waiting for the establishment to implement far-reaching policy that benefits the people as the Preamble and the Declaration ordained is highly unlikely due to the power that corporations have in today’s Branches of the US Government. It is nevertheless important to recognize that the Declaration and Preamble still speak to the people despite the transgressions of the private economic interests that influence our leaders.

Simply put, the Declaration stands true that the people have the unalienable Right to Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. Are we allowed to pursue happiness and liberty? There’s no evidence that this right has been upheld in American policy and practice for the last 40 years. Moreover, it is clear that ‘whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government’.

Our form of government has been usurped in favor of an economic system that bribes our ‘elected’ representatives who in turn sell out to these corporate interests without shame. Yet we have yet to alter, abolish or institute a new government because we hold out hope that we can change for the better as a whole peacefully. What catastrophe or calamity shall herald such an awakening that will spark our collective will to force change in the face of stagnancy and evermore incrementalism?

We do not have a more perfect union, nor can one argue that we have established justice in America. There is no consistent domestic tranquility, and our common defense is needlessly costing us our freedom. The promotion of our general welfare is seriously lacking with ever-diminishing returns. And to top it all off, the blessings of liberty are conditional to one’s financial status rather than one’s effort and strident citizenship. Making matters worse, the outlook is grim. Greed defines our economy and our domestic and foreign policy. Is this what our founding documents intended?

We are not really celebrating our independence from England. We celebrate the concept of collective independence. What we celebrate on the 4th of July isn’t our failure of democracy over the last half-century, but our strength of purpose. We know we can do better and we strive for it. That’s what makes America Great! It’s the people of America that makes the country great, not the government.

We celebrate the 4th of July because we know in our hearts that we may be forced to rise up again, shoulder to shoulder with our sisters and brothers, sons and daughters, to take a stand for freedom and democracy and against oppression and tyranny. We celebrate what it means to be American despite our imperfect system of government and the failures of democracy that we endure. We celebrate our resilient demand for freedom and the pursuit of Life, Liberty and Happiness for all.

Defintions

self-ev·i·dent
adjective
not needing to be demonstrated or explained; obvious.
“self-evident truths”
synonyms: obvious, clear, plain, evident, apparent, manifest, patent, axiomatic

en·dow
inˈdou,enˈdou/
verb
past tense: endowed; past participle: endowed
give or bequeath an income or property to (a person or institution).
“he endowed the church with lands”
synonyms: provide, supply, furnish, equip, invest, favor, bless, grace, gift.

un·al·ien·a·ble
ˌənˈālēənəbəl/
adjective
unable to be taken away from or given away by the possessor.
“freedom of religion, the most inalienable of all human rights”
synonyms: inviolable, absolute, sacrosanct.

pru·dence
ˈpro͞odns/Submit
noun
the quality of being prudent; cautiousness.
“we need to exercise prudence in such important matters”
synonyms: wisdom, judgment, good judgment, common sense, sense, sagacity, shrewdness, advisability.

usurpation
yoo-ser-pey-shuh n, -zer-/
noun
an act of usurping; wrongful or illegal encroachment, infringement, or seizure.

des·pot·ism
ˈdespəˌtizəm/Submit
noun
the exercise of absolute power, especially in a cruel and oppressive way.
“the King’s arbitrary despotism” a country or political system where the ruler holds absolute power.

cor·po·ra·toc·ra·cy
ˌkôrpərəˈtäkrəsē/
noun
a society or system that is governed or controlled by corporations.
“in this age of corporatocracies, the money goes not to the inventor, but to the company”

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The terror of the high cost of living in America

Over the last few years I have been researching hundreds of alternatives to traditional housing because the largest chunk of the cost of living that’s unmanageable is housing. What I’ve discovered is difficult to stomach.

PROBLEMS

1. More then 150 million people in the USA live in fear. Yes, I said fear. Fear of poverty and all the societal problems associated with poverty. Fear of becoming homeless; fear of not being able to pay bills. Fear of not being able to provide food for their children. Fear of being forced to live in substandard housing or in dangerous neighborhoods. Fear of getting ticketed because the registration is expired. Fear. Real terror. People respond by cutting corners, taking on too much work, neglecting their kids, suffering through health problems, malnutrition, taking advantage of others, crime, violence, and most often, seeking alternatives to the oppressive system.

ter·ror

ˈterər noun
1. extreme fear.
“people fled in terror” synonyms: extreme fear, dread, horror, fear and trembling, fright, alarm, panic

The percentages of people living below the “poverty line” is staggering. It’s unfortunate that the “poverty line” calculations leave out the cost of housing. Yup, the poverty line calculations don’t include housing costs, or perhaps the bureaucracy is so deep into the propaganda business that it’s lost touch with reality. According to the US Govt there are 49 million people living below the poverty line. Another 100 million cannot afford the cost of living and are living paycheck to paycheck in a rollercoaster lifestyle of debt and crisis, managed ineffectively by beg, borrow and steal.

2. The war on poverty brought us more of it. The cost of living, especially the cost of housing, has risen far faster then wages and income every year since the 70’s. This has resulted in people working 2, 3 or even 4 jobs, 7 days a week just to survive. And they live in fear of what’s happening to their kids, their sanity and their physical health. Poverty has been scientifically proven to cause mental illness. The United States and it’s oppressive economy contributes to this. In fact, most Americans resort to stress relief wherever they can find it; drugs, alcohol, bad decisions, violence, unhealthy lifestyles, family abandonment, escape from society, suicide, and many other serious side effects of poverty and income disparity. Yes, society is to blame for not preventing this with bold policies and forward thinking in government.

3. The institutionalized and oppressive housing market demands regular profits causing an inability of the public to afford traditional housing. Fewer people invest in their future today then ever before. Meanwhile all efforts of people to try to live in alternative housing situations and/or offgrid living are being systematically outlawed to funnel people back into the traditional housing market. This has led to people being arrested for growing food in their yards, collecting rainwater, or living in their cars. The predatory partnership between the government and elements of the oppressive economy has forced extremism in many forms because with poverty comes limited options. When I say extremism I mean non-traditional alternatives such as tiny houses, living in vehicles, stealth camping, homelessness, multi-families living in one or two bedroom apartments, tent cities, communities in abandoned buildings, etc. All of these things are illegal in parts of the US. Is this a free country? I think not. It’s not even affordable anymore. Free? What the fuck is that?

4. Debt has become the crutch for the economy in America because without it most purchases would not occur. 50% of all Americans spend 110% of their income every month on bills, shelter and food. This has led to a huge “savings bubble” where funds for emergencies and retirement are simply not available. Only those who qualify for credit can use it for emergencies or needed purchases like school supplies or books, clothing, auto repairs, registration, taxes, health insurance, etc. Even school tuition loans are a billion dollar profit center for banks and institutions creating a 20 to 30 year financial burden for college kids to look forward to. If you don’t think this is sick, what’s your problem? We should be taxing the shit out of financial institutions that issue credit and those funds should be used to bail out Americans suffering from debt starting with student tuition.

5. Rental leases are unethical. That’s right, I said it. They are the immoral outcropping of a society that accepts greed and condones the wealthy taking advantage of those without significant financial resources. A rental lease forces tenants to remain in a specific rental for the duration of the contractual term despite that lower rental situations might come up during that term and therefore the tenant cannot take advantage of the more affordable rents as a direct result of leases. Same goes with deposits. Deposits for rentals cripple a tenant to a specific rental because the tenant cannot afford to move unless they can come up with a full months rent at the new place AND the deposit for the new place which is likely the same as a months rent. And the tenant has to do all this in addition to finding a new place to move to in the final 30 days of the lease. The landlord has complete control over the deposit for the current rental and may or may not give the deposit or a portion thereof back to the tenant in enough time to make those fund available for the new rental. In almost all cases the tenant has the hardship of losing the deposit and they’re forced to accept whatever available rentals are there, even more expensive rentals because of leases and deposits.

We are at a crossroads with housing and the cost of living. It’s finally at peak affordability in America. The housing market bubble screwed Americans in 2008-09 to the tune of 9 trillion, some say much more. Now the bubble is back again. Landlords and the real estate industry has seen gigantic profits for the last 40 years and it has decimated the middle-class and debilitated the lower-class by epic proportions. You can dispute or debate the facts but that’s not going to change anything because the state of the union is clear and undisputed. America is fucked.

SOLUTIONS

Solutions are many, but not so palatable by right wing republicans and moderate, right-leaning democrats, and especially libertarians who are lost in their own failure to comprehend reality.

A. First, we must enact major rental control laws that provide simple ways tenants can break leases whenever their financial situation changes, the tenant has opportunities elsewhere, or they find lower priced rentals. Landlords can always get insurance or save up for expected loss of tenants due to lower rents (or they can lower the rent). Oh, and if they don’t like it, too bad. If you’re a landlord that “needs” high rent to afford the mortage, that’s your problem. You made a poor decision.

Rent controls need to prevent rents from going higher then 33% of the tenants income or more than 40% of the median income for a given area. Currently many renters pay 50% or more for rent. And deposits should be given to the tenant immediately and the only deductions should be for damages proven in a civil court. Otherwise the tenant should get the deposit back upon giving a notice to vacate the rental.

B. Debt should be a maximum interest rate of what banks will give for a saving account. That means that if a bank will pay 5% for depositing money, then the maximum interest on credit cards, auto loans and mortgages should be no more then 5%. I’ve seen people paying 29% on a $10,000 credit card for decades and they still are unable to pay that balance off due to the interest. Credit card debt is immoral. It’s the disgusting business of fucking other Americans without consent. And then there’s student debt. What the fuck is wrong with Americans who think burdening kids with debt for decades is acceptable? Educating our children is an investment in the country. Everybody benefits from an educated public except the corporations who maintain the status quo. It’s time they paid for all education. Period.

C. The government must be made to either (1) leave people alone who are seeking out alternatives and let them live unmolested freely in society, or (2) provide 100% of the needs of those who fall through the cracks in the economy including housing, income, food, energy, transportation, etc. The best solution here is called a “universal basic income” or UBI. Google it. People wanting to live in tiny houses or live in cars or in tents on BLM land or public land should not be bothered or harassed by police and laws should be made to prevent the police or the government from preventing people from living on their own in alternative housing situation and lifestyles. Because the UBI is unlikely in our capitalistic greed-based society, the affluent public needs to shut the fuck up about people living in the streets or in their cars. The affluent (or naive) public and the government needs to back off and permit tiny houses and other forms of offgrid living because the government hasn’t done poor people any favors that help them survive in this oppressive country; in fact, they’ve made America into a third world country, so the people should be able to live as such with the freedom to build shanty towns and makeshift shelters in parks and on the sides of hills where poor people can survive. The economic slavery model isn’t working for 80% of the public. So the solution here is for the government to provide a basic income that covers the cost of living minus luxury items to every man, woman and child in the USA or they need to eliminate any laws preventing people from finding alternatives on their own.

D. Minimum wage should be tied to the cost of living unless there is a UBI in place to offset the disparaging wages in America. Unless and until a basic income is implemented, minimum wage should match at least 50% of the cost of living. Currently in some states the cost of living is around $60,000 per year, so minimum wage should be around 50% of that at a very minimum ($30,000/year). The arguments against this don’t wash. What I mean is, that if you are against either the Basic Income or tying the minimum wage to the cost of living, then your opinion no longer matters. That’s right, you have failed the citizenship test. You don’t get it. You’re not worth the time it takes to school you on the realities in America. Am I being too harsh? Get fucking used to it!

E. Lastly, let’s resolve fear. To eliminate the fear that is pervasive in poverty the only tangible answer is a universal basic income coupled with realistic rent controls and the freedom of the people to freely seek out alternatives to the oppressive economy in America. Otherwise, fear will “motivate” people instead of passion, compensation, recognition, loyalty, honor, morality and ethics. Additionally, we need better education in high school that teaches our kids to avoid debt and teaches them about how corrupt and fucked up oppressive policies help corporations and big businesses screw them out of their life savings and give them no future by ruining the environment.

Given the recently purchased presidential nomination process by Wall Street interests, much of these solutions are unlikely unless the American people rise up and demand real change under threat of a revolution. That’s unlikely as well because the system has so pervasively institutionalized the addiction to greed that few Americans can disconnect from the very system that oppresses them.

Notes: Not all government officials, landlords or policies are bad, but the solution to our situation in America cannot be more of the same incremental changes or half-measures. We need bold action. This means we can’t afford more greed-based practices or policies.

We must be bold

O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!

Who knew back in 1911 when this version of “America the Beautiful” was popular, that in a little more than 100 years later the country would be in so much trouble.
What happened to brotherhood and sisterhood in the last century in America? Seems we’ve lost our way. We need to boldly change this. Are the plains still fruited? Yes, the mountains are still majestic, but for how long? How much of this pollution and profiteering can these mountains handle?

Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears!
America! America!

Cities no longer gleam undimmed by human tears. For millions upon millions of Americans the factions of profit over people have held the people down. It’s time to be bold and help each other break free from the bonds of economic slavery.
Back in the early days another song came forth in celebration of America:

Oh, give me a home where the buffalo roam,
& the deer and the antelope play,
Where seldom is heard a discouraging word
And the skies are not cloudy all day.

Sadly, the buffalo no longer roam like they once did, and often is heard a discouraging word. And not everything back then was great, but there was hope that one day freedom would sing, and the cities would gleam and not a discouraging word would be heard. The hope was that America would evolve into something better, progress for the good of all.
The history of progress in America sadly isn’t the story of how the people evolved and overcame sickness, scarcity and poverty. It is the story of a struggle between the opposing forces of the Establishment vs The People for control, money and power.
The seemingly eternal plight of the people to overcome elements of control artificially places upon them by the establishment has creeped up incrementally to where we are today. The burden now upon the American people is too heavy and we can no longer afford to continue this struggle in half-measures and minuscule incremental change that could take decades or centuries to accomplish at great sacrifice. We must be bold. We must act now.

The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.
— Franklin D. Roosevelt

This struggle isn’t just about people, it’s about the planet. We cannot survive without a mutually supportive and healthy relationship between the people and the Earth. This means we must take bold action to save our world and preserve it forever. We all depend on this. The test score of our progress is an F. We failed.
There is still hope. We can do this but we must do it together. We must act now and be bold.
The profiteers that control this country need us, so we should use this leverage to regain control from them. We must take a stand against these powers now. Our place in the dirt is getting smaller giving way to every-increasing for-profit enterprises, and the environment is suffering. If we are to become less dependent upon the profiteers we must become self reliant and vigilant. We must be bold.
Let’s save the planet and the country for the sake of the future for all of us. Unfortunately we’re late, but there’s still a chance if we act now and be bold together. We don’t need big oil, big pharma, big business, big banks, big government and big oligarchy.

Do not go gentle into that good night; Old age should burn and rave at close of day. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
— Brand, Interstellar

We must consider the option of a peaceful revolution if we cannot change our country through peaceful political efforts. It started back in the 60’s and 70’s, and we’ve tried a million different ways to bring about change peacefully. In these next few years we must do our best to overcome the oppressive forces that are preventing the American people from progress on wealth inequality and protecting the environment. If we act boldly now and are still unable to effect positive change, we must consider more serious action. If voting in elections hasn’t brought us better conditions in the last 50 years, why would we continue to think the next 50 years are going to get better unless we do something different.

We used to look up at the sky and wonder at our place in the stars. Now we just look down, and worry about our place in the dirt.
— Cooper, Interstellar

We must be bold. We must act now.

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