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    Capitalism; Competitive Markets Cut To The Core; Inequity Is Inevitable


    by: Betsy L. Angert

    Fri Sep 07, 2007 at 13:00:00 PM EDT



    American propaganda - Capitalism (1948)

    copyright © 2007 Betsy L. Angert

    Decades ago, Americans watched a televised spoof of current events, the Rowan and Martin Laugh-In Show.  A cast of characters sang "What is the news across the nation?"  Then they assessed the antics of politicians and celebrities alike.  Serious situations were satirized; silliness was glorified.  Americans were given an opportunity to reflect and see how sadly corrupt and irrational our competitive Capitalist system is.  Exuberance envelops us.  Avoidance advances.  Americans consume, compete, and settle into complacency.

    This week, as we again set aside time to honor laborers in America, this reality seemed ever-present.  Labor's failure is perhaps industrialism at its best.  Free enterprise follows the market or perchance it creates a product for America to buy.

    Betsy L. Angert :: Capitalism; Competitive Markets Cut To The Core; Inequity Is Inevitable
    In recent weeks, the American public was again able to purchase the absurdity that passes for news.  The current craze streaming through the airwaves is Senator Larry Craig was arrested in an airport bathroom.  Although he plead guilty after being accused of a crime, Idaho Senator Craig, stated, I did nothing 'inappropriate' in [an] airport bathroom.  What the Senator did do, regardless of whether he solicited sex from a male officer or not, is provide Americans with another welcome distraction.  That is glorious; that is entertainment!  In a free-enterprise marketplace economy, we demand diversions.  The truth of our status is too painful to bear,

    The weighty news daunts and haunts us.  There are moments that we wish to share what is thought significant to Americans as a whole.  However, these are few and far between.  U.S. Workers Are Most Productive.  As we read this banner headline, we exclaim, 'Hooray!'  America is still Number One!!!  Citizens are reassured.  The public need not look any further.  Nor is there a need for the mainstream media to dwell.  Citizens of this country are secure in their knowledge.  This nation is great.  The numbers support our sense of self, or at least this calculation does. 

    However, sadly, days later, we learn,  4-Year Growth in Jobs Ends; Dow Off 200. This pronouncement did not appear as prominently; nor did it receive the attention Larry Craig's resignation did.  Few wanted to discuss the devastation in the job market or the blow to the economy.

    Not only did the report show that there was no job growth last month, but it also found that the job market was significantly weaker in June and July than the government first reported.  Revisions to earlier jobs reports showed that 81,000 fewer jobs were created than initially estimated.
    This bulletin is not novel.  Buried in the back pages a thorough reader often finds words that might destroy the illusion.  Opinion: Pay heed to needs of the American worker.  However, statements such this are far less titillating.  Sex sells.  Super star sensationalism stimulates.  A member of Congress in crisis is a celebrated chronicle.  Accounts of Labor Day festivities, those filled with fun and folly can help to affirm America is on solid ground.  Any information that attests to the good of Capitalism is treasured.

    However, if we care to probe deeply, beyond the hype, we might question the system that leave its citizens steeped in debt, despair, and economic depression. 

    Just prior to Labor Day, John Sweeney, President of the AFL-CIO, [American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations] published an editorial that appeared in no more than one or two periodicals.  Sweeney spoke of the plight of the American employee, the drudge.  He discussed circumstances that are yours and mine.  We, the laborers, the common folk that sustain this country, and make the United States great may wish to understand.

    'What's wrong with America?"  That's the question Steve Skvara, a disabled, retired steelworker, asked seven Democratic presidential candidates several weeks ago at the AFL-CIO Presidential Forum in Chicago.  Skvara struggles to afford health care for himself and his wife after the company he worked for declared bankruptcy and abandoned its commitment to those who gave the best years of their lives to their employer. 

    As we approach Labor Day, many of America's workers are echoing Skvara's question.

    Corporate greed and nearly seven years of wrong-headed Bush administration economic policies have fed a growing gap between the haves and have-nots.  Americans are less secure about their jobs, retirement, health care, and standard of living.

    The issue that Skvara so poignantly raised - health care - is on the mind of nearly every American. 

    Our system is broken; it's left 47 million without insurance coverage and millions more with inadequate or unaffordable care.  Rising health costs are crippling families and making it harder for responsible businesses to compete. A recent study by the New York City Department of Health found that one of every six adults in New York has no health insurance, though nearly two-thirds of those without coverage have jobs.

    Americans now work longer hours than workers in any other developed country, and as a result, we generate a whopping $13 trillion in income every year.  Yet, at the richest moment in our nation's history, the wealthiest 1 percent claims more than 20 percent of the nation's income.  As a result, workers have seen their slice of the economic pie shrink to a sliver.

    Yet, those with an empty stomachs are grateful for the smallest serving.  In America, we are trained to believe there is a limited supply.  Resources are scarce.  There is only enough for a few.  Some will have, others must work diligently to acquire a pittance.  Citizens are reminded there is reason to hope.  The news is filled with success stories.  The masses are asked to suspend disbelief.  They too must dream. 

    In truth, opportunities are not equal.  This reality may seem obvious if you are among a minority, or born poor.  Nevertheless, even those that struggle to do well in America, aspire to greatness.  After all, this is the land of the free market, free enterprise, freedom, and opportunity.

    Citizens and immigrants alike believe as their great grandparents, grandmothers and grandfathers did.  We trust in the words of Mom and Dad.  America is the land of opportunity.  People have faith that in America anyone can make good.  Perhaps, early in our nation's history some did.  Narratives are nuanced.  Nonetheless, today there seems less reason to dream.

    [T]he Pew Charitable Trust published the first of its studies on economic mobility.  The nonpartisan project is taking input from top economists and researchers across the political spectrum in an effort to measure American mobility - the ability of a person to move up or down the income ladder.

    The study finds that economic mobility in America is "less than has long been presumed." It says economic mobility is actually declining for men in their 30s, who are doing worse (as a whole) than their father's generation when measured by incomes: "This suggests that the up escalator that has historically ensured that each generation would do better than the last may not be working that well."

    The study also says that, based on other research, "about half of the advantages of having a parent with a high income are passed onto the next generation," which means "one of the biggest predictors of an American child's future economic success - the identity and characteristics of his or her parents - is predetermined and outside that child's control." In other words, the existing rich are just getting richer and the middle class tends to stay middle class.

    Our countrymen complain; yet, customarily, we accept, 'Life is not fair.'  In the spirit of an entrepreneur, Americans believe.  After all, in this great nation our Constitution confirms, "All men are created equal." 

    Nevertheless, Economists theorize.  Researchers reassure us, the reality that the 'rich get much richer' is a new phenomenon.  It is only in recent years that the Middle Class struggles to sustain a comfortable life style.  Always in the past, the poorest among us had a chance at success.  In America, the streets are paved in gold.  Anyone can make it here. 

    An individual merely needs to maintain that competitive edge.  A word to the wise and those that want more, keep your chin up and nose to the grindstone.  Pay your dues.  Good comes to those that work hard for a living and wait.  Americans accept these standards.  Conventional wisdom serves to secure the workforce as is.  We understand, We must keep hope alive if the USA is to remain Number One. 

    The public is encouraged to think the best of the current situation, regardless of reality.  Rarely is the populace exposed to fiscal facts.  The news is just too disturbing.  Besides, in a market economy, actual statistics are dry.  Data does not sell.  Nor do formulas and figures entertain a society groomed to crave comedy, short stories, drama, and special effects.  No one wants to know the myth is a manipulation, necessary to maintain inequality.

    Recent studies suggest that there is less economic mobility in the United States than has long been presumed.  The last thirty years has seen a considerable drop-off in median household income growth compared to earlier generations.  And, by some measurements, we are actually a less mobile society than many other nations, including Canada, France, Germany, and most Scandinavian countries. This challenges the notion of America as the land of opportunity. 

    Despite these potentially troubling findings, the current national economic debate remains focused too narrowly on the issue of inequality, leaving aside the more important core question of whether the foundation of opportunity, economic mobility, remains intact.  As Federal Reserve chairman, Ben Bernanke recently noted: Although we Americans strive to provide equality of economic opportunity, we do not guarantee equality of economic outcomes, nor should we. Indeed, without the possibility of unequal outcomes tied to differences in effort and skill, the economic incentive for productive behavior would be eliminated, and our market-based economy - which encourages productive activity primarily through the promise of financial reward - would function far less effectively.

    Elected officials grasp, inequity is exceptionally good for the economy.  Indeed, it is essential.  Noted Liberal Senator, Barney Frank finds no fault with disparity.  The Congressional Finance Chair merely struggles when the difference between the rich and poor is extreme.  In a News Hour interview, on a day set aside to honor labor, no less, the Progressive Massachusetts representative concedes.
    Inequality is a good thing. You don't have a capitalist system without it.  But we are in a position now in which inequality is excessive.
    One might ask, in a system that promotes scarcity among the poor, and advances policies that allow the affluent to become more so, how can we expect any outcome other than what we witness today.  Yet, Americans do not inquire why or how an economic system that requires inequality is adopted in a nation whose Constitution states, all men women, and children are of comparable worth. 

    Instead, common-folk suffer in silence.  Individuals stress.  People in this great country, the land of  opportunity, blame themselves for not being better, or at least for not being the best they could be.  Our countrymen are convinced the sky is the limit.  They watch others on their televisions and think, someday. 

    Actors and actresses on the silver screen are larger than life.  Surely, the audience thinks that could be me.  Industrialists are featured in periodicals.  We see them in commercials.  Businessman and businesswoman write books.  These Capitalist share their secrets.  People are captivated by the promise that they too could become rich.  Competitive drive is all we need.

    The media, just as free enterprise Economists, remind us of this in each moment.  Residents of this country are persuaded to cling to stories of celebrity, self-made millionaires, and corporate genius.  The thought is, if he or she made it, so too can I.  As much as Americans enjoy success stories, we much prefer tales of woe.  Thus, for weeks now, we have been guided to the toilet.  The Larry Craig story lives large.  The Senator's sexual preference has been discussed with greater vigor than all other matters since it was first exposed.  Howard Kurtz of Cable News Network's Reliable Sources offers his hypothesis for why this might be.  He states.

    Celebrity scandals have become embedded in the media's DNA.  Every couple of days, it seems, somebody somewhere who's been mentioned in "People" or "US" or on "Access Hollywood" gets into some kind of trouble and we all start buzzing about it.

    Now comes "Entertainment Weekly" with a cover story on the 25 biggest celeb scandals of the past 25 years.

    Again, we might question why do Americans focus on the failures of the famous.  Perhaps, other indulgences, such as sex, drugs, and drink have not significantly dulled the pain.  Try as they might, people in this prolific territory, never seem able to compete with the images they have of themselves.  Middle Americans do not often live up to their expectations.  People become impatient with themselves and with all those around them.

    Residents in this wealthy nation want, they need.  We cannot wait.  After all, in movies, on television resolution and riches comes within minutes.  Granted, people in the United States are greedy.  As well they should be.  Capitalism demands such an attitude.  Immediate gratification is cultivated by corporate America.  Once more, Journalist Howard Kurtz assesses this truth in his meta on the media.  As Kurtz and his guest correspondents, digest the dynamic of media coverage as it pertains to hurricane Katrina, they accept what many of us perceive.  During the tempest, there was much drama.  Now two years after the storm, the interest in the circumstances and the people affected has died.  The audience is flippant.  They are a product of a competitive free-market society.

    Kurtz:  [O]bviously, John Dickerson, it lacks the drama of the hurricane itself, when you have people clinging to roofs and water rushing in. And, you know, anybody who goes there -- I went there about eight months after the storm -- is just struck by the continuing miles and miles of devastation and abandoned houses and all that. And you come back and you want to sort of tell the world about it. But in the world in which we live, it's got to compete with Michael Vick pleading guilty to dogfighting and Larry Craig and everything else.

    Dickerson: That's right.  And what was interesting is, after Katrina, there were a lot of people -- you know, even Condi Rice said we need to have a national conversation about race. And what everybody said was, you know, we had forgotten about this story of America's forgotten people and the poor before Katrina, so let's all think about it now. But now we've seen that that conversation, even after this devastating tragedy, has, in fact, shrunken away.

    For the masses, much fades from memory, even when we marinate in what is.  Distractions are often a welcome break.  The misery
      of another can be the source of great entertainment, particularly when, in a nation of lopsided wealth personal fulfillment does not seem possible in the near future.

    A year ago, also on the Labor Day weekend, another report surfaced.  Only the affirmative aspect of this study was considered suitable for distribution.  The Public Says American Work Life Is Worsening, But Most Workers Remain Satisfied with Their Jobs.  The qualifier is important to note.  People may rant, 'We must make a change.'  However, humans adapt easily.  Mankind is comfortable when our essential needs are met.  People gravitate towards the familiar.  If we feel safe and secure in our knowledge, 'life is fine,' we will likely do little to alter what is.

    Years ago, I lived in a roach infested studio apartment.  I slept on a Murphy, pullout bed.  The springs poked through the thin mattress.  The stove in my minuscule kitchenette had two small burners.  The furniture was used, dirty, and dilapidated.  Nonetheless, I was content.  Settling seemed more sane than venturing into the unknown.  To others my state of affairs seemed sad.  For me, all was good enough.

    It is good to know, people adapt.  They make due.  This fact benefits those averse to accepting less than the best.  In a Capitalist culture, the affluent must be certain there are those willing and able to serve.  The underclass, if gratified with crumbs will continue to work for the wealthy.  Thus, the rich can get richer and the economy survives.  The elite among us thrive.  The poor ultimately perish at an early age.  No matter.  Reproduction will help sustain the imbalance necessary for Capitalism to flourish.  There will be a continual supply of underprivileged to meet the demands of the corporate class.

    However, the health of the working class is in rapid decline.  Few are able to prevent illness.  Health insurance is frequently not provided by employers.  Government programs are restrictive.  In a Capitalist country, programs that might prevent illness are labeled, "Socialist" and therefore unacceptable.  Let people fend for themselves.  "Pull your self up by your boot straps," even if the price of foot-ware is beyond your reach.

    Poverty Rate Up 3rd Year In a Row
    More Also Lack Health Coverage
    By Ceci Connolly and Griff Witte
    Washington Post
    Friday, August 27, 2004; Page A01

    The number of Americans living in poverty or lacking health insurance rose for the third straight year in 2003, the Census Bureau announced yesterday, reflecting a job market that failed to match otherwise strong economic growth.

    Overall, the median household income remained stagnant at $43,318, while the national poverty rate rose to 12.5 percent -- 35.9 million people -- last year, from 12.1 percent in 2002. Hit hardest were women, who for the first time since 1999 saw their earnings decline, and children. By the end of 2003, 12.9 million children lived in poverty.

    As expected, the number of people without health insurance grew last year, to 45 million -- an increase to 15.6 percent from 15.2 percent. White adults, primarily in the South, accounted for most of the increase. The proportion of people receiving health insurance through an employer fell to 60.4 percent, the lowest level in a decade, from 61.3 percent.

    The census report provided hard numbers to anecdotal evidence that the recent recovery has missed certain regions and segments of the population. An additional 1.3 million Americans fell below the poverty line in 2003, as incomes dipped for the poorest 20 percent of the population. An additional 1.4 million became newly uninsured.

    "This recovery has failed to reach those in the bottom half," said Jared Bernstein, a senior economist with the Economic Policy Institute.

    As the years pass, we realize red flags remain ignored.  The poor are not the only persons affected.Study: More Middle Class Uninsured.  an income once thought opulent now is substandard.
    Middle-Class Americans Join Ranks of Uninsured in 2006 as Private Coverage Shrinks

    Number of Uninsured Swells 2.2 Million to 47 Million

    15,000 Doctors: "Single Payer National Health Insurance is the Only Solution"

    Chicago - The U.S. Census Bureau released data today showing that the number of uninsured Americans jumped by 2.2 million in 2006 to 47.0 million people, with nearly all the increase (2.03 million) concentrated among middle-class Americans earning over $50,000 per year, according to an analysis by Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP). Strikingly, 1.4 million of the newly uninsured were in families making over $75,000 per year. An additional 600,000 were in families earning $50,000 to $75,000 per year. (The median household income in 2006 was $48,200).

    "Middle income Americans are now experiencing the human suffering that comes with being uninsured. It makes any illness a potential economic and social catastrophe," said Dr. Steffie Woolhandler, co-founder of Physicians for a National Health Program and Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School.


    When Americans have health insurance, the coverage is often inadequate.  Half-truths flourish in a Capitalist culture.  It is imperative we maintain the myth.  However,  we need only look at our own lives to realize the vibrancy of the "Middle Class" is not what we are led to believe. 

    Granted, more Americans may have color televisions.  Cellular telephones are abundant.  Much in the way of supposed material wealth fills our homes, or more honestly, the house the bank owns and we live in.  Nonetheless, most of what we possess is not fully ours.  We made the down payment on our wares and we continue to pay the bills.  Our purchases ensure the economy will remain healthy.

    In America, credit card debt is up.  Homeownership is down.  The miracle of a home ownership with a 'no money down' mortgage was merely a mirage.  Ultimately, as might have been expected the bubble burst.  Bankers did as the public does.  They borrowed from Peter to pay Paul.  Our pal Paul had investments on paper.  His worth was inflated.  Industrialists are able to create great illusions.  Print more money; it is the magic cure.

    For years, Americans believed as businesses invited them to do.  All this can be yours.  A signature is all that is required.  Brokers said, 'You too can buy a beautiful home."  Your good name is enough to secure a loan.  Today,  Mortgages in foreclosure at record high.  The sub-prime fiasco is as much is in a Capitalist society, a front for failures.

    We, as Americans fail to save dollars or cents, sense [sic.]  We have no time or knowledge of how to do other than what we have done, keep up with the Jones's.  It is a competitive world out there.  Only the strong survive.  Strength is measured in dollars.  Yet, all that glitters is not gold.

    In a world where inequity is thought excellence, there is much to consider.  Americans may speak about a need to change.  However, when asked to do so, we proclaim.  I do not want to give up the creature comforts that destroy the environment. 

    Rarely, do we consider that if we work together to better the Earth for all it inhabitants equally, the quality of life will improve for everyone.  We dare not contemplate industry and government together can create jobs that nurture nature.  This topic is taboo.  Government and industry, must remain separate.  In truth, they never were in the United States.  Capitalism spreads freedom, free enterprise, even as democracy, the free and equal right of every person to participate in a system of government, falters.  Thus, we have it income inequity increases.  The rich get richer.  The masses sink further into oblivion.

    Capitalism thrives for citizens of this great nation comply.  They accept familiar and comfortable circumstances.  It is far easier to do as we have done for centuries.  People in this Capitalistic culture continue to claim this "civilized' lifestyle is unsurpassed.  Certainly, no country is as great as ours. 

    Americans compete in a desire to feel complete.  We shop until we drop.  We drown our sorrows.  Those in this, the wealthiest country on the planet, dive into drug-induced stupors.  The general public hopes to find happiness. However, they must know, in a culture that breeds inequity, they are powerless. 

    An educated community exercises their right to free speech.  Speaking out pacifies anxious Americans ; still frustration lingers.  Ultimately, even the scholarly escape in various forms of entertainment.  Men and women in this glorious nation gossip, indulge in rumors,  and temporarily absorb themselves in reports to release the pressure.  Capitalism and the active marketplace appease the masses and sustain the classes.

    Thank goodness, Americans excel at avoidance and diversions are everywhere.  If it were not for a Conservative Idaho Senator and his circumstances, Amid sex scandal, Senator Larry Craig resigns we might have to question the quality of a competitive market economy.  So, embrace the fury.  It is your duty as a Capitalist.

    Capitalism, Inequity, and Deplete Resources . . .

  • 11 Arrested in New Jersey Corruption Inquiry, By David W. Chen.  The New York Times. September 7, 2007
  • pdf 11 Arrested in New Jersey Corruption Inquiry, By David W. Chen.  The New York Times. September 7, 2007
  • Quarterly Foreclosure Rate Again Sets Record, Defaults May Hurt Home Prices, Overall Economy. By David S. Hilzenrath and Dina ElBoghdady.  Washington Post. Friday, September 7, 2007; Page D01
  • pdf Quarterly Foreclosure Rate Again Sets Record, Defaults May Hurt Home Prices, Overall Economy. By David S. Hilzenrath and Dina ElBoghdady.  Washington Post. Friday, September 7, 2007; Page D01
  • Labor's failure. By James Carroll.  The Boston Globe. September 3, 2007
  • Craig Arrested, Pleads Guilty Following Incident in Airport Restroom By John McArdle. Roll Call. Monday, Aug. 27, 2007; 4:48 pm
  • Craig: I did nothing 'inappropriate' in airport bathroom.  Cable News Network. August 28, 2007
  • 4-Year Growth in Jobs Ends; Dow Off 200. By Jeremy M. Peters.  The New York Times. September 7, 2007
  • pdf 4-Year Growth in Jobs Ends; Dow Off 200. By Jeremy M. Peters.  The New York Times. September 7, 2007
  • Opinion: Pay heed to needs of the American worker, By John Sweeney.  NewsDay. August 31, 2007
  • pdf Opinion: Pay heed to needs of the American worker, By John Sweeney.  NewsDay. August 31, 2007
  • Public Says American Work Life Is Worsening,  But Most Workers Remain Satisfied with Their Jobs.  By Paul Taylor, Cary Funk, Peyton Craighill.  Pew Research Center.  September 2006
  • The New Rich: Self-Made or Family-Made? By Robert Frank.  Wall Street Journal.  May 29, 2007
  • Reliable Sources.  Cable News Network.  September 2, 2007
  • Middle-Class Americans Join Ranks of Uninsured in 2006 as Private Coverage Shrinks, By Steffie Woolhandler, MD, Quentin Young, MD, Don McCanne, MD. Physicians For a National Health Program. August 28, 2007
  • pdf Middle-Class Americans Join Ranks of Uninsured in 2006 as Private Coverage Shrinks, By Steffie Woolhandler, MD, Quentin Young, MD, Don McCanne, MD. Physicians For a National Health Program. August 28, 2007
  • Mortgages in foreclosure at record high.  By Patrick Rucker. Reuter. September 6, 2007
  • Amid sex scandal, Senator Larry Craig resigns.  Cable News Network. September 2, 2007
  • Report: U.S. Workers Are Most Productive.  Associated Press.  The New York Times.  September 2, 2007
  • pdf Report: U.S. Workers Are Most Productive.  Associated Press.  The New York Times. September 2, 2007
  • Taming your office ego.  Market Place Morning. September 3, 2007
  • Oh, Everyone Knows That (Except You), By Amy Goodnough.  The New York Times. September 2, 2007
  • pdf Oh, Everyone Knows That (Except You), By Amy Goodnough.  The New York Times. September 2, 2007
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    Capitalism; do you buy the concept . . . (0.00 / 0)
    . . . or consume as the supply demands.

    It is only the giving that makes us what [who] we are. ~ Ian Anderson. Jethro Tull

    Betsy L. Angert

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