The Media


Imagine a society where religion is the central driving force behind everything. Imagine religion guiding every decision in every aspect of your life and shaping every single source of information you consume on a daily basis. Sounds pretty scary? Sounds very much like the theocracies our sons and daughters are fighting against, and sacrificing their lives to defeat, in Iraq and Afghanistan. Sounds like a movement that is just down right un-American, right? How would you react to find out there is a movement afoot to make America just like that? Prepare yourself, because it exists and it is well on its way to becoming a reality.

The movement is called The Seven Mountains and its goal is to assume control over those mechanisms which shape our society and influence how we think. Seven Mountains is as much a strategy as it is a movement, but it is through this approach that Evangelical Christians hope to change everything we do and the reasons why we do it. This movement is designed to force society adopt a homogeneous Christian standard, changing the way society thinks and behaves by using key components (mountains) to adopt this homogeneous norm. These seven mountains of influence are family, church, education, business, government, media and the arts.

The goal of the Seven Mountains movement is to have people in high level positions in each of these key areas where they can have influence and force changes more in line with their belief system. The primary goal is to eliminate all secular structures of society and adopt a 100% Christian perspective in all manners. We’re not talking about a generic Christian ideal either, but a fundamentalist belief that all things done by man is guided by the hand of God. If that isn’t disturbing enough, the God in question is not open to interpretation but is a very specific view of God, as defined by the leaders of this church movement.

The average person my not consider this movement a threat to their way of life, but this post may change a mind or two. A look at each “mountain” may provide some perspective on what our new society could look like if this movement achieves success.

The first mountain is family. On the surface this is the least obtrusive of identified pillars of the new society, but extremely important to the strategy. The belief is that a return to the traditional family will instill the Christian values so cherished by this movement and “lead the world from the darkness it currently finds itself.” There is a little bit of code here and the language does indicate a specific agenda. By framing “family” in the “traditional” sense it immediately brings into question the non-traditional family configurations and the legitimacy of those units. By identifying a family as a man, woman and their offspring, it sets the foundation for challenging any and all other configurations. Single parents who have children out of wedlock will become socially unacceptable. Gay people who wish to have a family will have no place in this society. The frame of the traditional family identifies the only social norm acceptable and disenfranchises anyone who does not comply with that standard.

What the Seven Mountains is hoping for is the return to the 1950’s where wife and children gladly accepted their subservient role in the household and accepted the directives of the family patriarch. The rigid structure of the family, with the father dictating expectations, is the end goal. Western society has shifted away from the patriarchal structure and for good reason. Women have become more empowered and are more active in our society and workforce. The stay-at-home mom has become an anachronism and not a possibility for most families, especially those with a litter of kids to support. Children have become more independent and self-sufficient. The days of good ole dad being the family task master went the way of prohibition for good reason. Each person in the family has learned to use the brain in their skull and exercise that cognitive ability that makes man the apex predator on the planet; free will. While this construct may aid in the indoctrination and control of family members, reverting back to the patriarchal family structure may not provide the continued growth and innovation our culture needs to compete globally.

The second mountain is the church or religion. This, of course, does not mean just any religion or any church. This means their specific brand of anti-science evangelical Christianity which believes in the infallibility of the bible and that prayer can solve any problem. This is the type of Christianity that believes the earth is 6,000 years old, that people coexisted with dinosaurs and that a man lived in a fish for three days before being spat out. This is the type of Christianity that has their believers accepting the lies that come from the pulpit about man having domain over all the earth and that what is not available that God will magically make appear rather than being stewards of the planet and managing our resources accordingly. This is the type of Christianity that has a state governor calling for a day of prayer to bring rain and stop a state from burning. This is the church that breeds ignorance and is proud to put that witlessness on display for all to see. The hope is that a common religion for all men will put everyone at the same intellectual standing, essentially lowering the bar and dumbing down the average person making them much easier control.

The third mountain is education. This is the first of the significant threats to our society. There is study after study indicating that the more educated an individual the less likely they are to be religious. It only makes sense for a religion to spread its tentacles of control they would have to assume control over the education system and either try to change the curriculum to meet their specific ideological perspective, dumb the system down completely, or eliminate systems of public education and standards. For the Evangelical Christians following the Seven Mountains strategy they are attempting all angles. First, they are becoming very active in influential boards of education across the country. The most influential is the State of Texas, because the curriculum there affects every school book printed. Christians have wrestled control over this school board and have instituted dramatic changes which align with their twisted view of history and science. Thomas Jefferson’s importance in American history is limited in Social Studies and History classes while Intelligent Design is pushed into the Science curriculum. Second, standardized testing is attacked so as to eliminate a universal curriculum and achievement level all students must attain, instead allowing for open curriculum where a teacher may inject their specific beliefs with no oversight. Finally, charter schools and home schooling is heavily promoted so specific indoctrination practices can be followed and specific dogma and ideology drilled into children. Much of this dogma and ideology is religious based and not in step with the demands the 21st century places on our children, putting them behind others and more likely to fall back to their religion and religious institutions for help.

This philosophy is not just attacking the K-12 education system. Colleges and universities are under attack as well. Religious groups are infiltrating the ranks at universities and forcing curriculum changes through the use of academic freedom acts and laws. Christian universities, with questionable accreditations, are cranking out students with religious based education in all fields. How exactly is a biology major who believes the earth is 6,000 years old, and does not believe in evolution, going to function in the real world? How is a lawyer educated at Oral Roberts University going to effectively practice law when the only law is they respect the one in the bible? The theology based curriculum does no service to students and leaves them at a competitive disadvantage. This is an intentional dumbing down of people and makes them that much easier to control. While this is a good practice for the church it does nothing but weaken the country as a whole.

The fourth mountain is business. The Christian business network has quickly developed over the past decade. From small to large businesses, religion is finding its way into the mix. Small to medium size businesses are now proudly advertising their Christian affiliation through the display of the Jesus fish or the Christian dove symbols or registering with Christian business directories. Certain businesses are not even subtle, incorporating the fish or dove into their business logo or advertising on their vehicles they are members of the Christian network and will provide discounts to fellow Christians. Other businesses are more on the down-low, choosing to appear hip and gain converts through cultural assimilation. The belief is that if businesses can shape their offerings to a more Christian friendly product line that it will result in greater adoption of the lifestyle. This has become very prevalent when you the popularity and acceptance of the NOTW (Not of this World) line of clothing and products. Religion wrapped up in Ed Hardy style garment or product. Big business is not insulated from the movement, with corporations and large employers being regularly surveyed and ranked on levels of Christian culture and trust. Having influence in business can directly shape the economy and force people to adopt certain standards or practices they may not normally accept.

How this will impact the overall economy? In the short term it should have minimal impact. There have always been undercurrents in the economic system, where subcultures have developed their own underground economy. Where this could have significant impact is if large scale retailers shift their practices or products they elect to carry. If Walmart begins to exclusively carry Christian network products that could be a game changer (more on this in the seventh mountain). If the economy becomes dominated by a theological perspective you could see the economy isolated from the global markets, hurting the overall American market and restricting access to specific goods and services.

The fifth mountain is government. One look at the 2012 Republican primary field will give you a good indication just how much Evangelical Christianity is influencing the politics of the United States. Rick Perry and Michelle Bachmann are backed by Christian groups and are gaining significant traction in their bid to be the GOP nominee. The number of representatives who have adopted a Christian religious perspective has exploded as the religious right continues to provide warm bodies at the polls for anyone willing to represent their specific agenda. This may be the one mountain that does not need much exploration as it has been front and center for the past three to four elections.

The sixth mountain is media. The ability to get your message out in the public consciousness is extremely important in shifting perception and adjusting norms. This movement recognizes the power of mass media and has made establishing media organs as a key factor to making this strategy successful. This has spurned the formation of bodies like the National Religious Broadcasters, the United Christian Broadcasters, the Christian Media Association and the Association of Christian Broadcasters. This number of associative bodies should give you an indication just how quickly media has been penetrated by Christian ideologues.

Participation in mass media by Evangelical Christianity is a disturbing development. Our public airwaves should be free from ideological or theological propaganda. While the first amendment does provide a freedom of speech it also provides for a freedom of religion, also meaning a freedom from religion. The mass media should remain secular, providing information for general public consumption, so a series of mass media bodies which promote Christian ideology is alarming. The freedom 24 hour specialty stations provide has been bastardized by a few and turned into ideology delivery mechanisms. The FCC, the government agency responsible for broadcast licensing, must be careful here. Allowing access to subscription service is one thing, but providing access to basic programming is an affront to the first amendment and is the first step on a very slippery slope to government endorsement of a specific theology. How this plays out internationally is anyone’s guess, but the United Christian Broadcasters is a media group with affiliates in 25 countries!

The final mountain is the arts and entertainment industry. There is a dirty little secret being well hidden in the entertainment industry. A rapidly growing, and extremely profitable, segment of the entertainment industry is developing and promoting Christian content. Movie and television production houses are producing a plethora of products with spiritual (nee religious) underpinnings. When you walk into Walmart you can find a section dedicated to movies and programs which promote Christian values. Studios are looking for the next Soul Surfer or The Blind Side, knowing they guaranteed an audience and will be well promoted by Christian groups across the country. The same spills into the music industry. It used to be that a band like Jars of Clay would crossover onto the pop or adult contemporary charts and become reasonably popular. Now you’re finding bands cross over in unexpected places, like Anberlin and Skillet in the alternative genre, and RED and P.O.D. in the metal or hardcore genre, all garnering substantial audiences. Christian titles are big in books too. The media remains irrelevant but the message is always subtle, but the same, and telling the consumer that happiness and salvation is but a prayer (or relationship with Jesus) away.

Why is the Seven Mountains an issue worthy of notice? Because it has potential to change everything in our “open and free” culture. It is a movement that could restrict your freedoms simply because you are not part of their exclusive club or choose to believe something else. This is important because it is being embraced across North America by Evangelical Christians as they hope to broaden their sphere of influence. The end game is to have everything controlled or influenced by God, or more accurately, their God. These Christians want to have people who think and act like them in places of high influence so they can shape our culture and control our society. It is happening, quietly and without much notice from the general population. The potential is there to turn our society into the exact thing our kids are supposedly dying for in the Middle East. If you don’t want your kids going to school in Christian versions of the madrasah, and don’t want to have our society focused on ideology based on theology, then you better wake up become aware of this movement. It is real and it has taken root in many of those institutions that can manage cultural change.

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The mass media has become a very effective tool at leading our society astray. The mass media got the average American whipped into a frenzy which allowed our country to become bogged down in two ugly wars. The media flew high cover for the treasury to be raided and trillions of dollars stolen out from under our collective noses. They have aided these, and other, social atrocities through questionable journalistic practices. By playing fast and loose with the facts and presenting information in way so as to project balance where no balance exists, the media has cajoled us into a false sense of security and made us pliable to any lie, as long as it is presented in what appears to be an impartial and fair way. The mass media is doing us no favors.

Balance and impartiality is not established by finding two voices with opposing views. That’s easy. That is actually the lazy way of approaching a subject. Regardless of the issue you will always find a voice in the wilderness to counter the position of another. Whether it be the benefits of clean water, the sainthood of Mother Theresa or the twisted beliefs of an oppressive regime there will always be someone willing to speak to the polar side of an issue. This is a strategy for the promotion of argumentation not a road to the discovery of fact. To discover balance and maintain impartiality it requires some measurement and disclosure of findings surrounding the positions on any issue. Failure to do so establishes the conditions for a problematic practice becoming more and more prevalent in mass media today; the false equivalency.

A false equivalency is when one position is presented and then rebutted with a contrarian view with little regard paid to the support of either position. A classic example of this is found when a one political party defends its actions by pointing out a similar action by the other. The real world example being, in the wake of the financial system implosion, Republicans defending their decades of promoting deregulation by pointing out Clinton, during his time in office, participated in deregulation himself. The decades of behavior is excused by a very small two year sample which was caused by extenuating circumstances. The false equivalency is presented to project balance and give a feeling of impartiality during the discussion of the issue. There is always more to the dispute than that exposed, but the presentation of two instances of the theme provides the appearance of balance and equality on each side of the rhetorical fulcrum.

The false equivalency is also used to obfuscate issues and continue debate where none should exist. This comes about as a result of overwhelming evidence being ignored by the media and presenting the contrary view as having similar rhetorical and factual weight. The best example of this behavior is in the climate change debate, where equal time is given to both camps, regardless of the strength of support on either side of the discussion. The facts and overwhelming support on one side of the issue become irrelevant because the same weight is granted to the counter position in a hope of striking balance by the reporter. One voice is passed off as an equivalent expert, regardless of the actual expertise on the subject matter, so the journalist appears to have presented both sides of the story. Superficial information is presented and key facts are suppressed just to continue the debate and say the problem is unresolved.

The damage that a false equivalency can do in the public consciousness is immense. The climate change “debate” is still considered alive in the United States, thanks to the poor job done by journalists and the mass media. Equal time is presented to both sides and little fact checking is done to verify the validity of the information presented. The issue will be discussed in an article where an actual climate scientist will present information on the subject. To provide balance the article will then present a counter view from another “expert” without drilling down into whether the person in question has the expertise in the field to even question the stated research. Nothing is mentioned about the numbers or facts on each side of the argument. Many times irrelevant facts will be presented in an effort to confound or obfuscate the issue, allowing for an equivalency to be drawn regardless of the facts.

An example of this obfuscation comes from a recently published report from Fox News. In this article Fox reports that an important scientist had abruptly announced his resignation from the American Physical Society over anthropomorphic climate change. The facts and implications of this scientist’s actions paint a different picture. The scientist, Dr. Giaever, is a physicist who achieved fame studying semi-conductors. He has no expertise in climate science nor any dealings with climate science or climate scientists. Giaever’s closest link to climate is his study of biophysics, the study of the molecular scale organisms and ecosystems within cells. His resignation was nothing more than a decision to not renew his membership because of the use of the word “incontrovertible” in an APS statement in support of anthropomorphic climate change.

To someone who has little interest in the subject, or intellectually lazy and unwilling to fact check, this would seem like a big thing in the climate change debate. Except it isn’t. This scientist has no bearing on the subject matter and the issue is overblown by a network with an agenda. This would be like reporting a brick layer was indignant about the job your dentist did in filling your tooth (a false equivalency of my own). It does nothing to forward the debate or focus on the facts. The witness in question has no expertise in the subject matter making his testimony irrelevant and not admissible! The introduction of this concern into the debate is strategic in nature and only done to cloud the issue itself. In short, textbook obfuscation.

This is the type of behavior we must keep a look out for as we consume media. All too often we accept what the mass media presents without actually looking into the details of the subject matter. We let the media present “experts” or “skeptics” from think tanks paid for by those industries, who would suffer from the facts finding root in the public consciousness, without questioning the information or their motivation. We ignore the overwhelming support of the IPCC and accept the information provided by the many front organizations funded by Exxon Mobil, Koch Industries, Shell and friends, simply because we don’t think for ourselves. We allow these false equivalencies to be promoted and allow them to poison our debate and the facts in the public consciousness. We need to be more aware of these practices and guard against them. We need to protect ourselves from the lies which have done so much damage to our society, perpetrated by those with nothing more than money and power on their side. If we don’t, who knows how far loose facts will lead us?

America is in trouble. The economy is in decline and shows few signs of rebounding. This is because our economy has changed. The mindset of how to make money has dramatically evolved over the past 40 years. Unfortunately the way to create jobs has not. Listening to our politicos and talk heads in the media drone on about job creation leads one to believe we are in greater trouble than anyone cares to admit. They may be right.

The United States economy was once based on manufacturing and was sustainable by selling its goods to domestic and foreign markets. People made good livings manufacturing the same goods they themselves would buy. Those good people the corporations employed to build and make their products were the same people those corporations counted on as their best customers. The domestic marketplace was the most stable for corporations because the employee was likely to buy the products they themselves, or their brothers in manufacturing arms for the same enterprise, were making. The corporation paid the worker well, but the work paid back the company by consuming that which it produced. A symbiotic relationship developed.

The mindset changed and the worker became a cost center. As corporations yearned to make larger and greater profits each quarter the idea of cost cutting became common practice. Workers were an easy target. First came lower wages. Then came reductions in work force size. Then came outsourcing. Then came the offshoring of jobs. These practices not only crippled the American manufacturing sector but decimated the working class in America. Gone were hundreds of thousands of good paying jobs, replaced by the paper hat (low paying service industry) type jobs.

To compound this economic trend another was developing which would reshape our economy completely. America shifted from a production economy to a consumption economy. Americans slowed in making goods but increased in purchasing goods. Consumerism took hold and, with the availability of cheap credit, Americans learned to spend to excess. The jobs were not there to sustain this trend so credit drove our consumer society forward. Then the credit market crashed.

The credit crash exposed the base weakness within the economy. Much of the problem extends from the gutting of our manufacturing sector. With the loss of the hundreds of thousands of jobs we lost the fuel for our economic engine. The continual loss of jobs that paid a living wage left a large chunk of America without the ability to earn money to put back into the economy. Earning minimum wage left much of the population without disposable income. Lacking credit you are unable to buy those luxury items that had the American economy churning prior to the crash. The only reasonable solution to this economic crisis is then to create jobs. Jobs which pay a decent living wage. But how does this job creation take place?

There is the trillion dollar question. How do jobs get created? There are naturally two opposing views in Washington. One says it is the responsibility of the “job creators” (an ambiguous and confusing term coined by a think tank) to create jobs. The other says it is the government who will have to kick start the economic engine to get those jobs created. Who is right? Who do you trust? What is going to work?

Republican dogma focuses on tax cuts for the wealthy, kick backs and tax breaks to corporations and limited government. Their story is that the largest employers in the country are corporations so by giving them more money will encourage them to create jobs. Through deregulation and elimination of government agencies corporations would throw open the doors to factories and rehire those jobs sent overseas. At least that’s their hope. This makes little sense and is an unexplainable position when challenged.

Corporations and the wealthy do not spend money unless there are tangible benefits associated with the expenditure. Simplistically, they refuse to spend a buck unless they can make two. The wealthy got wealthy by not spending their money. Corporations are able to return value to their shareholders by not spending money, which leads to increasing revenues. Giving money to either the wealthy or corporations does not mean a job is going to be created. In fact, giving money to either does nothing but meet their primal desire to gather more wealth and generate more return for themselves. Giving money and tax breaks to either only increases their bottom line. Spending is only going to happen if there is potential for greater return from those invested dollars. The only way that returned investment is going to happen is if money is available to those who buy the products and services, which is the majority of Americans, many of which need jobs. Jobs will not be created without an increased demand for products and services, which is dependent on people first having money to spend.

It is also important to recognize that profits do not guarantee job creation. Exxon Mobil has made billions in profits in the last decade and has led to a reduction in jobs with that corporation. They have received billions of dollars in tax breaks and rebates and have not created the much needed number of jobs that money should or could create through other means. In that same vein, General Electric (GE) has made billions in profits and paid no income tax. At the same time GE has used loopholes in the tax code to earn billions in tax refunds for sending American jobs overseas. You’ll never guess who wrote these changes to the tax code allowing for such massive abuses (your clue: an elephant never forgets!).

The Republicans are dead set against government involvement in job creation. They want greater reductions in what they consider government interference in the business environment. They want the protections afforded by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) removed so business can maximize their profits. This, again, will not lead to job creation. This will only remove national barriers to generating greater global profit. In fact the whole claim of smaller government just doesn’t ring true when you consider the expansion of the military budget and the number of soldiers and security industry partners (nee contractors from interests like Blackwater / Xe) benefiting from increased government spending. This government expansion and increase in spending has provided a fertile environment where one profession has seen a healthy expansion in employment numbers. Smaller government will not lead to more jobs, it will just lead to greater profits.

Continuing on with the Republican smaller government contradiction, the conservative agenda sees no problem in spending money on corporations and the wealthy. Tax breaks and rebates are essentially spending. Taking money away from the coffers through these revenue reductions is essentially passing the bill (lost revenue) on to future generations. These are gifts to those who already have the money, passing on the cost to those who do not. This is the perfect example of the rich getting richer on the backs of the poor. These tax breaks have not lead to an explosion of jobs as promised by conservative thinkers. On the contrary, it has feed the greed of those with money, encouraging them to sit on their fiscal assets that much more. The Republicans like to talk about the welfare state and people getting money for doing nothing, but isn’t that exactly what these tax breaks and rebates do for the rich? These breaks are a windfall of found cash for those who already control the majority of the wealth in the country.

The Democrats are no better. They talk a good game but don’t do anything to rock the corporate boat. Not a single good jobs plan has been delivered by anyone in the Democratic Party. Obama recently made a good effort, but appears to come up well short. No where does the plan identify any transformational idea or technology to be the driver of a new spate of jobs that will pay a living wage. The Democrats don’t appear to have the intestinal fortitude to make the political commitment required to push a program of this size through.

Where do we go? Where do jobs come from? The answer is sadly with the government. Many of the jobs that will need to be created will have to come from large scale projects. Projects with a scope so great it will scare off industry until long after the dust settles. This means infrastructure projects. Long-term infrastructure projects like new dams, a new energy grid, a new transit system to move people and goods around the country, and so on. These are massive projects transcending state borders so will require federal direction and mandates. These are projects which require cooperation by those on both sides of the political aisle. Republicans are going to have to work with Democrats to establish a national infrastructure program to build the systems which will support business, give people a wage they can live on, have some disposable income to spend, and generate consumer good demand for the “job creators” to do their thing, and create some quality jobs. Yup, the talking heads are right. America is in deep, deep trouble.

The United States is a divided country. Much of the limited discourse that does take place is poisoned by divisive rhetoric. Rational thought is cast aside and ridiculous arguments based on unintelligible talking points rule conversation on any important issue of the day. Those talking points can be reduced to several core ideas, believed to be originated by the founding fathers of this country, but instead bastardized by politically motivated think tanks and shyster wordsmiths. To better understand the damage being inflicted upon our nation by these contemptible entities these core ideas will be examined in a series of essays, each focusing on one of the base terms that find their way into our national dialogue, attempting to find greater understanding of the idiom and those who use it as a shield.

This post, another in the series about pervasive content in the zeitgeist and terms we need to understand, is on Expansion of Government.

There is a very common talking point prevalent in all conservative discussions about government. That is, the size of the institution and how obtrusive it is in our lives. The familiar meme is to discuss how Democrats, or more importantly, liberals, have greatly contributed to the expansion of government, increased the amount of tax dollars required to support the beast and infringed upon our rights as Americans from oppressive taxation. The narrative has been repeated for decades and has stuck in the public consciousness. The average American firmly believes that Democrats are responsible for the vast majority of government expansion and spending. This article will examine the facts behind these claims and try to distill some truth to the meme.

It doesn’t take an economist or a rocket scientist to pigeonhole government expansion. A simple look at the budget will tell us where our money is being spent. If we look at each of the major line items, and see when and who created these departments, we should begin to see how the expansion of government took place and under whose watch.

The 2010 budget called for discretionary spending to the tune of $1.378 trillion dollars. That is up 13.8% from 2009. There are talking heads in the media that will claim this to be proof of the expansion of government, but this is just the cost of doing business with the institutions passed from administration to administration. While the dollars spent are important, it is actually the portfolios themselves which give us the markers of government expansion.

The number one line item on the discretionary spending list is the Department of Defense. This is a complex and nuanced portfolio to examine so will be discussed last. The next line item is the Department of Health and Human Services ($78.7B). This portfolio was created under the Harding administration. I don’t think that anyone will argue that this is a much needed portfolio and that the intent was positive. This contributed to the growth of our nation and the rights of many citizens. It allowed for many programs that protected the nation poverty and disease. For this discussion it is important to note that the portfolio was created by a Republican administration. It should also be noted that the Department of Education ($46.7B) was a component of this portfolio, but was spun out into its own portfolio by the Democratic Clinton Administration so it would become more nimble and reactive. This was not an expansion, but an attempt to make government more responsive in a key aspect of maintaining American market superiority.

The number three line item is the Department of Transportation ($72.5B). This portfolio was created under the Johnson administration and was an effort to manage the flow of people and products in and around our nation. This folio leveraged the incredible infrastructure the Eisenhower administration left behind with the implementation of the interstate hi-way network and assumed responsibilities of maintenance and expansion of the system. This “expansion of government”, another greatly needed portfolio, was created by a Democratic administration.

The Department of Veteran Affairs ($52.5B) is next on the hit parade. Established under the Hoover administration this portfolio assumed all responsibilities for managing those special needs of those who served in the defense of our nation. Not much needs to be said about a portfolio created to look after those who would elect to protect those who cannot protect themselves. The Republicans did the right thing when this department was created.

The next line item is the State Department ($51.7B), a portfolio which has been around since the adoption of the constitution. For this conversation, focusing on the expansion of government, this department gets a pass, unless someone wants to take a run at Washington, Jefferson, Madison, et al.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development ($47.5B) is the next portfolio on the budget. Created by the Johnson administration during the Civil Rights movement this was a department focused on the poor and disenfranchised in the nation and helping them find acceptable housing and living conditions. The other side of this cabinet coin is the urban renewal projects it encourages, limiting sprawl and inner city decay. Another valuable portfolio founded by a Democratic administration.

Six of the next seven line items were created by Republican administrations. The Department of Homeland Security ($42.7B) was created under the Bush (43) administration, the Department of Agriculture ($26B) was created under the Lincoln administration, the Department of Justice ($23.9B) was created under the Grant administration, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration ($18.7B) was established under the Eisenhower administration, the Department of Commerce ($13.8B) was founded under the Teddy Roosevelt administration and the Department of Labor ($13.3B) was created under the Taft administration. The only exception to the Republican domination in this regard is the Department of Energy ($26.3B), created under the Carter administration.

One of the greatest ironies in the expansion of government, and the endless harping about government interference in business, is the Environmental Protection Agency ($10.5B), established under the Republican Nixon administration. This is the last of the $10 billion plus portfolios and give us a good idea of the size of government and who was responsible for the expansion.

The last portfolio to discuss is actually the first mentioned, and most complex to understand, the Department of Defense. It is not common to consider defense spending expansion of government, but this is a government body identified in the constitution and paid for through direct taxation. Any increase in spending in this regard is then a direct expansion of government.

The Department of Defense was established under the Democratic Truman administration immediately after WWII. This unification of the armed forces under the Joint Chiefs was as much budgetary as it was strategic. The creation of this new portfolio is just scratching the surface of government expansion and who was responsible. The inflationary numbers under certain administrations tells the full story.

The real spending sprees began with Vietnam. Under the Johnson (D) administration the military spending ranged from $333.1B – $449.3B for a total of $1,550.6B during his term. The first Nixon (R) term saw a minor overall increase in spending to $1,558.8B, but a rapid decrease in spending from year-to-year, dropping from $438.1B – $283.8B. In the second Nixon term we saw the last great reduction in spending under a Republican president, where the military spending shrank 23.7% down to $1,190.1B over four years. The Carter (D) administration reduced the military budget by another 3.2%, down to $1,152.1B over his four year term.

The Reagan terms in office were a return to vast expansion of the military and size of government. During Reagan’s first term the military expanded greatly with direct spending returning to near Vietnam levels. Spending increased by 21.97% and totaled $1,405.2B in Reagan’s first term. In his second term the Republican president increased spending another 20.88% to a record $1,689.3B. The expenditures and size of the military were never larger and would only be surpassed by another Republican president, a decade and a half later.

Under the first Bush president spending was reduced by a modest 6.7%, but still maintaining spending levels above that of the war time Vietnam era. The $1,575B in spending maintained much of the expansion the Reagan years has forced upon the nation. The Clinton administration saw spending continue to shrink. During his first term Clinton decrease the size of the military and spending by 15.8%, reducing total spending to $1,326.2B. Clinton further decreased spending by 8.7% to a total of $1,212.1B. The budget, and size of government, was becoming smaller and easier to manage. Then came W.

George W. Bush was the spending champion. During his first term in office military spending expanded from $307.8B to $494.4B, or $1,497B for an increase of 23.53%. Bush was even more reckless in his second term, increasing spending another 37.1%, to an incredible $2,053B. This is just his spending on the military and does not include the contracts made under other agencies for services in Iraq and Afghanistan. Considering there was almost a 1:1 ratio of contractors to military personnel in Iraq by the end of the Bush administration you get the sense that the numbers are much higher than captured in a budget report. When you add into the mix the tax cuts, which are in effect nothing more but deferred spending, a disturbing trend emerges.

The massive expansion of government has actually taken place under Republican administrations. Of the 16 departments with a budget over $10B (not including the DoD), only three were created by Democratic administrations, and one (Transportation) was a direct fallout of a Republican program (the interstate system) and another was (Education) was split off for efficiency purposes. The greatest expansion of government has taken place in the military-industrial complex, with the greatest expansion taking place under Reagan and Bush 43. Democrats have been largely responsible for the reduction in government spending, or at worst, shifting of spending to much needed domestic programs.

A lot can be said about the complexity of government and what it provides for the American people. If you bother to take a look at this “expansion” you can see it was mostly done for the right reasons, regardless of who did it. All of the departments were developed to look after the common good, to provide for the weakest, knowing that by doing so would make our country stronger. The overall management of the system maybe a failure, and require some retooling, but overall the portfolios make sense. Where we get into problems is the philosophy of how the system should work. Where we fail is how the bill gets paid.

The Republican philosophy is to borrow to pay for programs. The Democrat philosophy is to tax to pay for programs. The Democrats tax and then spend, in a balanced budget approach. This has given the Republicans much ammunition to develop narratives about the Democrats and liberals. While there is some truth in the meme they have developed, the narrative about expansion of government is highly inaccurate.

As this exercise has shown the expansion of government took place on the Republican watch, with much of the negative aspects as a result of military spending. It is ironic that an out-going Republican President (Eisenhower) would warn us of the quickly expanding military-industrial complex and the potential harm it could do to our country, yet his own party would ignore his prescient comments. Instead of acknowledging their role in the expansion of government the Republicans have instead chosen to obfuscate and develop narratives about how “tax and spend Democrats” have got us in this fiscal mess. I only hope that one day the Democrats will find some spine and mount a counter attack, identifying the Republicans as the true source of government expansion and label them accordingly, as the “credit card conservatives” they have turned out to be.

The United States is a divided country. Much of the limited discourse that does take place is poisoned by divisive rhetoric. Rational thought is cast aside and ridiculous arguments based on unintelligible talking points rule conversation on any important issue of the day. Those talking points can be reduced to several core ideas, believed to be originated by the founding fathers of this country, but instead bastardized by politically motivated think tanks and shyster wordsmiths. To better understand the damage being inflicted upon our nation by these contemptible entities these core ideas will be examined in a series of essays, each focusing on one of the base terms that find their way into our national dialogue, attempting to find greater understanding of the idiom and those who use it as a shield.

This past weekend the South Carolina GOP held a convention to fire up the troops and scare the bejesus out of anyone who would listen. It was the same old series of talking points from the usual suspects of criminal stupidity. Senator Jim DeMint, Representative Tim Scott, and ex-Governor Rick Santorum were all bringing their best scare tactics to the table in hopes of finding traction with their base.

Senator Jim DeMint spoke about the creep of socialism and told attendees “this is our last chance to get it right. 2012 is when we have to lay it all on the line. We have to go to the mat.”

Representative Tim Scott continued down that same avenue. “There’s no question that we are moving, step by step, closer to socialism. So that puts democracy at risk to some extent.”

Rick Santorum, the ex-Pennsylvania Governor and possible candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, attempted to raise the specter of Benito Mussolini’s Fascist Italy when discussing government intrusion into the lives of Americans. He was especially critical of education, saying, “I don’t know, maybe they called it early pre-K or something like that, that the government sponsored to get your children in there so they can indoctrinate them.”

This is the stuff that makes the head of the average non-American explode in frustration. The contradictions and dissonance in their policy position is astounding. These people who represent our supposed better interests pick these terms out of mid air and attempt to use the stupidity of the common man against them. Terms like socialism, fascism and indoctrination all have a negative connotation in American society, simply because Americans have been indoctrinated to view these words as euphemisms for negative consequences. If people would learn the true meaning of these terms they would see through these snake oil salesmen and see the obvious lies in what they say.

First, let’s examine the bugaboo of socialism and why it is evil. It is hard to believe that a political or social philosophy could be evil but that is the talking point from a certain party in American politics. This concept is mind numbingly stupid when you consider that almost every other country in the G20 is more socialistic in their governmental structure than the United States, and, last I checked, none of the citizens of these countries were crushed under the yoke of oppression. In fact, using the adjusted Human Development Index as a measure, the United States ranks 12th in quality of life for its citizens, and quickly dropping in that measure.

The textbook definition of socialism is a system where the means of production is commonly owned and controlled through cooperative interests. This definition is open to much interpretation and, in the extent of socialistic practices, varies greatly from example to example. I could go to great lengths to explain socialism in action, but that is a moot point. The important thing here is understand why the Republicans use this as a scare tactic and why they are bastardizing the term.

Socialism to the Republicans is the artificial control of the free market. That is really all they are concerned about. They want nothing more than to have a non-regulated marketplace where anything can be done to make a buck. Anything that is restrictive of that marketplace is socialism in action. I don’t think we need to go very far to find examples of why an unregulated marketplace is a bad thing. Whether it be lead in paint, salmonella in food, immoral lending practices by banks or unscrupulous trading practices by corporations I think we can agree that regulations are required to protect the common good of our society. These controls are not examples of socialism, they are illustrations of a functioning society acting in a responsible manner. Acting collectively, to protect everyone equally, is a core tenet of the constitution, so it shouldn’t be scary in any shape or form. What is scary for Republicans is the idea that acting collectively might just give everyone the same access to those aspects of our society that we deem as being necessary for a quality life. If we did act collectively, as our government was designed by the founding fathers, we could have the same freedoms that other G20 countries have, like universal healthcare, quality education, equal access to low cost food and drugs, and a removal of the corporate power structure.

I find it ironic that Republicans and conservatives continue to fall back on using socialism as a scare tactic when they themselves embrace some of the most socialistic constructs any free society can develop. Conservatives, as a stereotype, are a religious bunch. They fall back on their religion and all for it to be the central focus of their being. They come together and work collectively under the banner of their particular church, gaining the benefits of a community. This is socialism in action. Republicans and conservatives are huge supporters of the military and military spending, yet this is as socialistic as you can get. We use our collective resources to fill the ranks and pay for the weapons systems. That is socialism in action. The Republicans are also huge supporters of big business. Most corporations, who get so much from their political stooges, generate their working capital from selling common shares. A group of people come together to commonly own and cooperatively control the production of a product. This is socialism in action. When these huge corporations suffer from their own stupid mistakes it is the tax payer that is expected to bail them out and pay for their operational errors. It can be argued that this is socialism for corporations in action, (although it is more accurately aligned with fascism). Conservatives don’t hate socialism, per se, they just hate it when it helps out people who have different beliefs as them.

The second term of discussion is fascism. Republicans like to use the term fascism and socialism interchangeably, even though they are contrary political positions. This is another term badly misused or mischaracterized by conservatives and the mass media alike. Fascism is an ideology based on authoritarian nationalistic beliefs. People are taught from a young age (called indoctrination) that their country and their belief system is superior to that of any other. Fascism relies on the development and promotion of a national mythos where ancestry and culture make the country unique and powerful. This helps develop a singular collective identity, where others who have different ideas are ridiculed or purged from society all together. An example of this is American exceptionalism preached by hardcore conservatives.

Core functions of fascist regimes have been control over education, family policy, and an embracement of militarism, showing a willingness to freely use force without significant provocation. Fascist states believe that the individual does not exist but is nothing more than a cog in the corporate machine. During WWII, corporations were key partners in running the government and collected huge profits for doing so.

When Republicans toss out the term fascism it is hard to keep a straight face. This is the party that believes in American exceptionalism and is pushing for the establishment of state religion through adoption of Christian standards. They are strongly pro-life, wanting to outlaw abortion and the mother’s right to choose. They believe education should not be an open system, but instead should be closed with a very dogmatic curriculum. These Republicans and conservatives also believe that we need a strong military and should be free to use it as often as possible. Finally, and most importantly, the GOP firmly believes that by empowering the corporations, and drafting policy for their benefit, we make our country stronger. How this group of people can call anyone else fascist is beyond logic?

The final term to pick apart is indoctrination. Merriam Webster informs us that soft definition of indoctrination is the instruction of fundamentals or rudiments of any given subject. Basically, this is called teaching. If we assume this to be the definition then we are all indoctrinated into believing what we think we know. The harder definition tells us that indoctrination includes the imbuement of a usually partisan or sectarian opinion, point of view or principle. This is the indoctrination that the Republicans like to roll out there as a scare tactic and an example of all that is wrong with our education systems. The only problem with their allusion is it is flat out wrong.

Indoctrination really boils down to the teaching of a single point of view. This is done in fundamentalist religions and totalitarian societies. The regulated curriculum in our school system is exactly what prevents indoctrination, forcing instructors to provide an open perspective to their students and abide by a secular point of view. This important to recognize because it is aligned with the constitution and the freedoms guaranteed in the first amendment. If indoctrination is taking place in this framework then the entire system the founding fathers framed is an abject failure. Seeing as how these “patriots” are so enamored with the founding fathers we can assume this is not the case. If these merchants of misdirection were honest they would be looking in their own backyard for examples of indoctrination.

The reality is the Republicans prey on those people who have a very closed perspective, one developed because of indoctrination. The GOP base is very decidedly Christian, most of which being fundamentalist. This component of the base was brought up to believe that their interpretation of God is the only true deity and all others are false idols. They believe they are the chosen few and are bent on promoting their own kind into positions of power. If you are not one of them, you are the enemy and inherently evil. Most of these people were home schooled and force fed religious belief as children. This prevented them from developing a broad perspective and questioning their teachings. If we look at the definitions again we’ll find that this is the textbook example of indoctrination.

At this time in our country’s history it is important to recognize the snake oil salesmen and call them on their inaccuracies. We can’t let them get away with the twisting of the facts and the scapegoating of ideologies or beliefs which they have twisted in shapes beyond recognition. We need to be aware and not fall for it. We need to be able to look at all potential solutions to the problems that plague our nation and adopt the solutions that best work regardless of the scary words some may try and wrap them in. There is a rhetorical battle going on in the country where negative euphemisms are quickly attached to solutions in hopes of marginalizing them or eliminating them from the discussion. Socialism, fascism and indoctrination are just a few of the terms used to scare people into thinking their country is at risk. Ironically, as people run from these solutions they run right into the trap of greater corporate control. In fact, these terms that are being used against the people only become accurate when the word corporate precedes them in a sentence. I think that the next time the Republicans toss out the terms socialism, fascism and indoctrination that they should be fed the terms projection, transference and introjection.

I first heard the news from my wife, who received an update on Facebook. Al Qaeda leader and financier, Osama bin Laden, had been reportedly killed during a raid of a compound outside Islamabad, Pakistan. Watching a re-run of The Taking of Pelham 123 was now a secondary interest. Learning more about the assassination of bin Laden became primary.

Information was slow to come out as the press corps appeared to be waiting for the official announcement from the President. Even though the details were sketchy there was a definite reaction from the American people. The one term that kept coming up in describing the events was “jubilation.” For some reason this troubled me. I decided to turn in for the night and wait for more details surrounding the events and the potential fallout from the action.

When my dogs dragged me out of bed to feed them the following morning it gave me opportunity to check the newswire and see what other details there were in regards to the stunning news of bin Laden’s death. I read as much unique information as I could find but details were still sketchy. What was made very clear in the media was the American reaction. From political leaders to first responders to the common man on the street the response was similar. The same word that still resonated through the media was “jubilation.” This still troubled me. I needed to figure out why.

I began to look at the many photos of the American reaction that were splashed all over the Internet. What I saw was a wild, almost uncontained, celebration of bin Laden’s death. These pictures looked all too familiar to me. We’ve seen these types of scenes in the Middle East when a key campaign is won or someone is martyred. These are the types of scenes that we have openly criticized as being irrational or the people being over-zealous in their support of a flawed cause. Had we become that which we most often criticized?

I can understand the desire to see the leader of Al Qaeda killed, but this reaction seemed over the top. There was a disconnect in logic. It had been almost 10 years since the September 11th attacks, and our reasoning for going into Afghanistan and Iraq had changed multiple times since then. Osama bin Laden had become an afterthought in the search for redemption. Why was there such an outpouring of emotion for this killing when the world had changed so greatly since 9/11? This is likely the dilemma my conscience was wrestling with. What has this changed and is this action worthy of a celebration?

As I sat in the dawn’s early light of the day after bin Laden’s killing, the thing that kept running through my head was what has changed? Was the economy going to get better? Were more jobs going to become available because of this death? Was the value sucked out of my house by the housing bubble going to magically return? Was my retirement any more secure, or were the political vultures going to continue to pick at that corpse? Were health care costs going to drop and become affordable? Was anything that directly impacted my current existence going to change as a result of this assassination? I couldn’t see how this made any difference to the issues that matter.

I will admit that I do find some satisfaction that another terrorist has been killed in a very grizzly fashion. I also think it is great that it was our intelligence community and one of our SEAL teams that got the job done (this is how you respond to instances of terror, not through large military engagement). Unfortunately I don’t think this is a time to take to the streets and celebrate. Not when the streets are filled with the problems caused by chasing the shadow of bin Laden and his ilk with the costly machinations of our military. When measured against the trillions of dollars spent in making war against two nations one has to wonder, was the over-reaction all worth it? Did we win anything by killing bin Laden or did bin Laden win the war by bankrupting our nation?

It is tough to be celebratory, even when achieving a long term goal like this. Not when there are so many other troubles facing this country. I’ll take to the streets in celebration when the villains from Wall Street get tracked down and dealt with in a similar fashion. Or when the economy gets fixed and well paying jobs are available again. Or when things become affordable based on my miserable ever shrinking salary. Or my future is re-secured with the money and tax dollars I invested in vehicles like my home and retirement saving plans. Until then I’ll remain reserved over the killing of another terrorist mastermind and hold my celebrations for when my country is made whole again.

The United States is a divided country. Much of the limited discourse that does take place is poisoned by divisive rhetoric. Rational thought is cast aside and ridiculous arguments based on unintelligible talking points rule conversation on any important issue of the day. Those talking points can be reduced to several core ideas, believed to be originated by the founding fathers of this country, but instead bastardized by politically motivated think tanks and shyster wordsmiths. To better understand the damage being inflicted upon our nation by these contemptible entities these core ideas will be examined in a series of essays, each focusing on one of the base terms that find their way into our national dialogue, attempting to find greater understanding of the idiom and those who use it as a shield. This post was originally written for a friend’s blog, published there in April, but, in retrospect, should be part of my own blog as well.

Thomas Jefferson believed that government was a direct reflection of the people, and if the people were ignorant of the issues the government would not be representative of the common need. With this reason in mind, I’m going to begin a series in which important terms, repeated in the media and used to frame issues, are fully explored and explained in way to help people understand the issues that much better.

As we arrive on the eve of the much talked about shutdown of the federal government, we have to wonder what is to become of this country? Not because a bunch of egomaniacal politicians, bought and sold by corporate interests, have decided to hold hostage the citizens of the country in a game of ideological chicken over budgetary table scraps, but because of the sheer stupidity that the common person displays when trying to discuss the details of the issues. All too often people are easily deceived into believing the misinformation floated in the mass media simply because they are confused (no, baffled is the better term) by the terminology dreamed up by spinmeisters like Republican pollster, Frank Luntz. Until people can cut through the obfuscation and understand the language being used against them this country is heading in the wrong direction.

Today’s term is Entitlement Program, and is brought to you by Medicare/Medicaid, Social Security, Unemployment Insurance, Education spending (Pell Grants), and programs that supplement the poorest in our nation.

Republicans and Democrats are having a very public hair-pulling session over budgetary cuts. They try and tell you that these are important to the future of the country, but they aren’t being honest. The Republicrats are arguing over what amounts to somewhere between a .8% to 1.7% cut in spending, and much of that scheduled to come from entitlement programs. The politicians argue that cutting in these areas is important because it is spending we can’t afford. On the surface this makes sense, until you actually start to drill down into what they are saying and begin to see what their real motivation is. We need to cut through their obfuscation and really see what they are proposing.

First, what are entitlement programs? We hear so much about them, but the average guy on the street doesn’t know what they are. Entitlement programs are those institutions of government which provide personal benefits, either through financial or social means, to each and every taxpaying citizen of the country. Unfortunately, the context used to describe these programs has changed over the years and taken on a whole new meaning. The term has become a euphemism for giving benefits to the undeserved, completely altering the meaning altogether.

As previously mentioned, entitlement programs come in many shapes and forms. The big ones are Medicare, Social Security and Unemployment Insurance. These are the ones that Americans really need to get their head wrapped around because these are the ones that should hit home the hardest. These programs are not a giveaway of taxpayer money. They have a specific purpose and provide specific long term benefits. These are mandatory programs that taxpayers have contributed toward for generations. These are entitlements that you and I are currently paying into. When you get your paycheck stub there are line items which outline how much is taken out for each of these programs. This tells you the amount you contribute to this pool every two weeks. These are long term benefit programs, underwritten by the government, guaranteed to payout in the future when you need them. The only “entitlement” I see in these programs is that we are all entitled to receive benefits because we have paid into them our whole lives. I will repeat this, because it is the money shot.

We are entitled to these benefits because we have paid into them our whole lives!

This is like being forced to carry automobile insurance. You pay into the pool knowing that if unfortunate circumstances arise you will have access to the resources to pay for damages to your car or the property of others you may have damaged through your negligence. The major difference is that you may never use your automobile insurance and may never gain benefit from that coverage. With these entitlement programs you will, unless you die prematurely, receive benefits in the future. The money you pay into these programs will be returned to you in your later years through Social Security payments and Medicare benefits. You will be getting back the money you paid into the program as long as you live long enough to collect!

So why are politicians attacking entitlement programs? Because there is a massive pool of money there to be exploited! Think about it. Every working stiff in the country has been paying into these programs since the 30s. That is a lot of coin. That much money can buy a lot of power and influence.

There currently are two streams of thought focusing on limiting these entitlement programs. One is to restrict payments while the other is to privatize. Both are nothing but pure power plays and a way to allow corporate interests to dip into that big pool of money.

If politicians can delay or reduce payment of benefits it gives them an incredible reserve of free money to play with. This liquid capital can then be moved around to where it can influence and buy greater power, or just siphoned off into corporate welfare programs. The money that the likes of GE, Exxon, Boeing, Bank of America, Microsoft, CitiGroup and Google get back in tax rebates (all of these companies paid less taxes than you did last year, and most of them paid none) have to come from somewhere, and it is most likely coming from the pool of entitlement programs you and I pay into every two weeks. This is why the age and requirements keep changing, and not to our benefit.

The other popular entitlement elimination strategy bounced around is privatization. Some of the deep thinkers in our political world actually think that Americans should be given private accounts where their retirement savings are gambled in the stock market. Yeah, we’ve seen how that has turned out, time-and-time again. How many Wall Street scandals and collapses of investment firms do we need to see to know that this has disaster written all over it? Now, this doesn’t stop these pointy headed idiots in Washington from pushing this concept forward. Why? Because they get grotesque amounts of money from Wall Street lobbyists who want nothing more than to get their hands on the trillions of dollars in these systems. These parasites make money by gambling yours, and they make money whether they win or lose. To them, it doesn’t matter if they lose your life savings, because the money isn’t theirs to begin with. The only thing this idea proves is that politicians don’t don’t really care about you or I and they are only in the public sector because it provides access to power and money.

You know, the reason why Social Security is such an important and successful program is because it is government run and underwritten. Once you pay into the system your money is guaranteed. There is no potential to lose it because the government has a social contract to pay these funds back to you in your retirement years. There is oversight and regulation in place to safeguard these monies. This is as safe an investment you can make, as long you continue to hold your representative’s feet to the fire and make him protect your money!

So as we ponder the shutdown of the federal government, we need to better understand the issues these so called representatives are using against us. Only by understanding the language and how it is framing the issue will we be better prepared to protect our individual investment in our country and protect ourselves from the real transfer of wealth that is taking place. The money you pay in taxes should be going to help people like you and me through the long established entitlement programs and not to aid corporations who make billions in profits. We are entitled to these programs we pay into because it is our money and we have the pay stubs to prove it!

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