Monthly Archives: February 2011

money where our mouth is

On last week’s episode of Real Time with Bill Maher, Tavis Smiley suggested that a nation’s “budgets are moral documents. And when we see what you put on the table, we know then what you really believe.”

What do we value? What do we consider most important? What do we consider expendable?

Some of those answers are found in the graph below (click on image to enlarge), put together by the folks at the Center for American Progress, which details the social service programs that could have been paid for by the various specific tax breaks that were granted to the wealthiest among us.

If we agree with Tavis Smiley, then these cuts, to both the taxes owed by our most financially secure citizens, and to the programs that provide the safety net commonly referred to as economic opportunity, or even economic equality, to our most economically burdened citizens, is a graph that expresses our nation’s morals today.

Read ’em and weep, as the saying goes.

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Filed under Accountable Wealth, American Dream, Class, Economic Justice, Economic Opportunity, Fair Taxation

johnny cash’s “satisfied mind”

I recently rediscovered Johnny Cash’s version of “Satisfied Mind,” which was made famous a few years ago in Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill, Volume 2 (in the scene where Michael Madsen’s “Budd” is about to shoot Uma Thurman’s “The Bride,” as she hunts him in his trailer).

While made famous by Cash, it was originally written and performed by Red Hayes (with Jack Rhodes), after Hayes’ father-in-law suggested to him that “the richest man in the world … is the man with a satisfied mind.”

In this way, the song does a great job of speaking to the temptations, and limitations, of material wealth. And its lyrics remind me of this quote from John Heider’s The Tao of Leadership: Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching Adapted for a New Age (yes, today’s post will include thoughts on New Age philosophy as related to Johnny Cash):

“There is a problem with owning a lot. There is a problem with getting more and more. The more you have and the more you get, the more you have to look after. The more you might lose. Is that owning or being owned?” (#44 on linked page) Continue reading

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Filed under American Dream, Consumerism

give me a 3! give me a 50! what does it spell? local economy!

The other day, walking around downtown, I came upon these small flyers about something called “the 3/50 project.” At the top of the flyers it reads “Save your local economy… three stores at a time. (Italics theirs.) (I always wanted to write that.) The project’s motto is “Saving the brick and mortars our nation is built on.”

Huh. Nice.

Living in Western Massachusetts, where we’re constantly urged to “be a local hero,” I’m not unfamiliar with the adage of shopping locally, and the economic and ecological reasons for doing so. But this flyer indicated an effort, a group, that was organizing the effort.

Pick 3 independently-owned businesses in your area. Dedicate yourself to supporting their bottom line. Try to spend at least $50 each month in each store/restaurant/whatever. “If just half the employed U.S. population spent $50 dollars each month in independently owned businesses, their purchases would generate more than $42.6 billion in revenue.” Why do this? (Other than being nice and neighborly, of course.) “For every $100 spent in independently owned stores, $68 returns to the community through taxes, payroll, and other expenditures.”

Huh. Nice.  Continue reading

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Filed under Community Investing, Consumerism

quote of the intermittent time period IV

“Money is like heroin, and I grew up in a neighborhood that was destroyed by heroin. I’ve watched addiction all my life. Celebrity is like heroin. And constant praise is like heroin. And, you know, no one can resist constant praise.” – John Patrick Shanley

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really simple?

I have a confession: I’m addicted to simplification. The allure of getting rid of what you don’t need, using everything you have, and (of course, the big one, the condition that separates the practice of simplification from the reality of impoverishment) having everything you need.

It’s like that old Nissan XTerra commercial: “Everything you need. Nothing you don’t.”

How fabulous. How enticing. The illusion of simplification. The oversimplification of simplify.

But simple ideas can come in complicated packages. Not unlike a Nissan XTerra, or its advertising budget. Or Real Simple, a monthly publication devoted to a “life made easier” (their tagline), while being printed on nearly 200 pages, and having a masthead that lists over 100 people. Sort of not that simple, really.

Still, the girth of Real Simple notwithstanding, each issue usually contains an article, or list, or suggestion or quote, about simplifying, that is worth pondering for a bit. This month’s cover teases we wannabe simplifiers with a piece advertised as “the clutter cure: expert advice for pairing down.” So I immediately turned to page 124 and began reading away, eager to breathe easier, be more relaxed, and live more simply.  Continue reading

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Filed under Consumerism, Economic Opportunity, Lifestyle Economics

office supplies for non-profit philanthropy!

Need some paper, staples, or pink, square, sticky-notes, but don’t want to stress about supporting a (dreaded) big box store? Look no further, Give Something Back Office Supplies is here!

As our friends over at Bolder Giving noted via their recent Facebook post, “Some businesses aim for more than just the bottom line.” Every year, office supply store Give Something Back “donates their profits to the causes that their customers vote for … sometimes donating as much as 75% of profits!”

What? Impossible.

“Over 19 years, Give Something Back has donated almost $5 million dollars in profits back to amazing nonprofits,” their website proudly proclaims.

Sound crazy? Check it out for yourself, buy a highlighter or two, and vote for the non-profit organization you most want to support.

Democratic consumerism, ethical business practices, and sustainably-funded non-profits. Oh my!

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Filed under Accountable Wealth, Consumerism, Philanthropy

profit-masters of sport: dave zirin’s bad sports

Worried about the impending NFL lock-out that lies unresolved amidst the uber media-hype leading up to Super Bowl Sunday? Tired of millionaire athletes wanting more money, and billionaire owners refusing to budge an inch?

Here’s my review of Bad Sports: How Owners Are Ruining the Games We Love, Dave Zirin’s thorough breakdown of everything you’ve ever wanted to know about professional sports ownership, but are (rightfully) afraid to ask.

My review in the current issue of the International Socialist Review, though not on their website.

PROFIT-MASTERS OF SPORT

Cage-dancing cheerleaders. Beer you can buy in the bathroom. Stadium security guards who prevent fans from leaving their seats during the Seventh Inning Stretch. American flags branded by Lockheed Martin that are handed out at the ballpark in celebration of July 4th. A 73-year-old grandmother and lifetime season-ticket holder who is sued by the team she adores. Welcome to the world of sports, early 21st-century style. We’ve come a long way since the naive, simple-minded days of Dr. James Naismith and Abner Doubleday.  Continue reading

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Filed under Accountable Wealth, Class, Consumerism, Lifestyle Economics