The Straight Story

Marc D. Goldfinger
Spare Change News

There are so many things going wrong right now in our country that I find it hard to begin because I am overwhelmed. Some of these flaws are worldwide and our country isn’t doing anything about it.

Where do I start? Okay, for one, our species worldwide pushed 564 million more tons of carbon into our atmosphere in 2010 than we did in 2009. That’s an increase of 6 percent.

A 6 percent increase eclipses the individual emissions of all but three countries—the United States, China and India—the world’s biggest producers of greenhouse gases. Gregg Marland, a professor of geology at Appalachian University, said (according to the Boston Globe) that this is a “monster” increase.

Additional pollution in China and the United States is the cause of more than half the increase in potent emissions, said Marland.

India and China are phenomenal users of coal and coal is the biggest carbon source worldwide. The output of coal emissions leapt nearly 8 percent in 2010. Our species is slowly increasing the use of coal and using less natural gas. We should be doing the exact opposite because of obvious climate change.

Now another horror is being foisted upon us—the Keystone XL pipeline. If this pipeline is built it will cause the development of the Canadian tar sands to be rushed into use. These “tar sands” are the second largest pool of carbon on Earth.

If we tap this pool we will be rushing the climate into complete global turbulence. If you think we’ve had dramatic weather shifts so far, just wait a bit. If TransCanada builds this pipeline, we are all so screwed.

Here’s the irony. The State Department was asked to perform an environmental review of the pipeline. It asked TransCanada, the very company that wants to build this monster, for a list of firms to review the environmental feasibility of the pipeline.

The first company they chose was a firm called Entrix. If you go onto the internet and look up Entrix you will see that it lists TransCanada as a “major client.” This action points to the kind of corporate rule and self-interest that Occupy Wall Street is protesting. Hmmm.

Hardly anybody in Washington is speaking up about this. Most members of our Congress are like little mice gobbling up the corporate cheese. Only a small group of brave congressional leaders—led by Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont — are demanding an investigation into this travesty.

John Kerry, when asked about this issue, said that he’d been “too busy” to pay attention. What’s going on here? Even Dick Cheney didn’t pay Halliburton to review itself. He just went hunting. Oops!

But the news is that Kerry is starting to come alive on this issue. We certainly hope so. This is a colossal environmental blunder about to happen if no one stands in its way. Didn’t Barack Obama say, when running for President in 2008, “It’s time to end the tyranny of oil?” “In my administration, the rise of the oceans will begin to slow and the planet will begin to heal.” Didn’t Obama say, “I’ll have the most transparent administration in history?”

You know, I liked Barack Obama. I’m watching his hair turn grey as he goes through his first term. But there’s something going on behind the scene here that is so ugly and dirty that it frightens the hell out of me.

At least we are finally getting out of Iraq. I hope. This December will be a time to celebrate if all our soldiers come home from that country that never had weapons of mass destruction. That’s why George W. Bush brought us into that senseless, destructive, country-draining war.

When Johnny and Susie come marching home again, it won’t be all rose petals scattered in their path. Our soldiers have been traumatized by IED’s, terror bombs, “friendly fire” and God knows what else.

According to the most recent Defense Department data, based on the years 2005 and 2010, it shows that service members commit suicide at a rate of one death every 36 hours. The Veterans Administration differs a bit. They estimate that a vet dies by suicide every 80 minutes.

The sad truth is that no one is actually closely keeping track. While the VA estimates that 18 vets kill themselves daily, this may not be the full extent of the problem.

What’s behind all of these deaths? No one seems to know what to call it. If the vets are snuffing themselves due to mental health wounds caused by their time in active wartime service, then they are falling through the invisible safety net.

Just one more thing. What about these big banks charging fees to make money with our money? Now they don’t just take our money and leave it in a big vault to molder, that’s for sure. When I was young, banks were just glad to get our money, so they could invest it in various ventures, including mortgages, and get rich that way.

Now the banks want to charge fees for holding our money, like it’s work making money with our money. If somebody in 1955 had said, “In just 55 years, banks are actually going to charge you for holding your money,” people would have laughed and said you were crazy.

The Occupy Boston/Occupy Wall Street people have a real point. Move your money to a smaller community bank that will appreciate it. I live in Belmont and a nice community bank that treats people well is the Watertown Savings Bank. And your money is safe there.

They’ve only had one foreclosure in the past 35 years. They do ask for a 20 percent down payment on a house, but that’s just reasonable. Back in the old days, that was standard. The thought behind it was that if you couldn’t afford to save 20 percent of the down payment, you wouldn’t be able to afford the mortgage payments. As much as I’d like to see everyone own a house, I can’t argue with that type of reasoning.

And then there are all those things they’re saying about Social Security. Myth # 1 is that Social Security is going bankrupt. It’s not. Maybe people will have to pay a little more out of their paychecks to make sure it stays solvent, but everything costs a little more now.

Even if we kept payroll taxes the same, Social Security’s surplus wouldn’t run out until 2036 and the payroll taxes at the current rates would cover 77 percent of all the future benefits promised.

In 1983, Congress raised taxes and cut some future benefits to cure an imminent insolvency. The trust fund reserves—now 2.6 trillion—were a byproduct of decisions made then. Congress never veered from its vision of an intergenerational compact: working people pay for those who don’t, or can’t, work anymore. On the other side, the compact requires older people to make some concessions so that younger people can afford it.

For example, the retirement age now is 66, soon to move to 67, then 70. But people can still draw on Social Security at 62, just with smaller benefits.

Furthermore, one thing should be done, if it hasn’t been yet. Congress should pay into Social Security and have an investment in keeping it safe. Let’s face it; Congress is supposed to work for us. Let’s make sure they do. And when they don’t, it’s our Constitutional duty to make sure they know it.

Marc D. Goldfinger is a formerly homeless vendor who is now housed. He can be reached at junkietroll@yahoo.com Marc also has books on www.smashwords.net that can be downloaded for $2.99.

Marc D. Goldfinger is a member of the board of directors of the Homeless Empowerment Project, which publishes Spare Change news. Formerly homeless, he serves as the paper's poetry editor.

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