Agitate, America!: Let’s get along: Finding common political ground

Nancy Churchill

By Nancy Churchill
A Progressive Visionary

I’m tired of the vitriol. I want to find common ground with reasonable conservatives of compassion who I know are out there, who are not politicians dependent upon giant Super PACS to get themselves elected, who identify more with workers everywhere than with the unimaginably wealthy 1 percent.

I imagine you watch Fox News, are a Rush Limbaugh fan and have a pretty low opinion of liberals like me. That’s OK. I think if you got to know us, you’d see we’re not so bad, even if our progressive sources give us a whole different perspective on life.

I’d like to see how we might agree on some things that you’ll probably never see watching Fox. Like, what business does Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein have arguing that “[Social Security] cannot ‘afford’ to keep funding longer modern retirements …” (Huffington Post, Nov. 20, 2012). He received $12.6 million of stock plus $2 million base salary in 2010, yet he’s against seniors getting Social Security for 30 years.

Why does he care how long seniors work? The Post continues, “Social Security currently has a $2.7 trillion surplus and could strengthen its financial footing further by simply taxing more of the income of wealthy executives like Blankfein himself.”

Aha, so he doesn’t want his taxes to go up. Fair enough (though I can’t see how he’d miss a few hundred thousand!). But could there be more to it? Might Blankfein have his eye on privatizing Social Security, as CEOs like him have wanted to do since its inception? And now with a $2.7 trillion surplus, there’s even more reason to stick it to seniors and pocket some of that change for himself?

Then, there’s the heartbraking story from Mother Jones about mining rare earths, essential elements that power devices critical to our lives, from cell phones to satellites. The tragedy is, these elements occur alongside radioactive elements, and the extraction process requires “a continuous 49 megawatts (enough to power 50,000 homes) and two Olympic swimming pools’ worth of water every day.”

And not only are workers exposed to radiation, but the resulting radioactive waste must be stored for an incomprehensibly long time — between 4.5 and 14 billion years. Earth itself is 4.5 billion years old!

So, companies process these elements where environmental rules are weak and labor is cheap, like the Baotou of Inner Mongolia, “where waste has leached into waterways and irrigation canals, according to several independent investigations. Communities around one former mine in Mongolia blame at least 66 cancer deaths on leaked radioactive waste, and local people complain that their hair and teeth have fallen out.”

Neither these companies nor Blankfein demonstrate a whit of compassion for the lives they casually dismiss, and, unfortunately, they are the ones most likely to finance news organizations like Fox, where you are unlikely to hear these stories.

My question is, now that you know, is this kind of disregard for life acceptable to you? Because it isn’t to me. Let’s start there.

Highlights of Nancy Churchill’s life are growing up in Congo, Africa, until she was 15, racing stock cars as an adult from 1976 until 2001, and writing as a liberal political junkie since the early ’90s. She lives in Oregon, Ill.

From the Dec. 5-11, 2012, issue

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