The following piece appeared in January 28, 2008, edition of Counterpunch.
Do Right, Risk Consequences
Survival Tips for Hard Times
by Nancy Oden
Our country has been bankrupted by wars, corporate and political corruption, and tax breaks for the rich. Times are getting harder and harder. We know all this. What can we do to survive?
States can help their people by:
- Eliminating all corporate subsidies and tax breaks. Corporations complain, but they pay fewer taxes than they did 25 years ago. This would give us billions nationally every year.
- Saying "yes" to new taxes if they benefit people, not corporations. Tax luxury boats, expensive cars, jewelry, furs, and heavy taxes on personal and corporate income over $500.000, no taxes on personal incomes below $25,000.
- Eliminating 2/3 of state universities' administrators, which would free up millions in every state for tuition breaks and more teaching faculty.
- Building community gardens and driving able-bodied people on welfare and their children to the gardens regularly to grow their own food, saving us money and teaching self-reliance.
- NO tax rebates because they do NOT help the neediest. In order to qualify for a tax rebate, one must make enough money to pay taxes. Millions of people do not. Instead, allocate grants so that every adult has at least $1,000 a month to live on.
- Social Security tax stops being taken out of people's paychecks after they've grossed $102,000. in any given year. I propose states start taking the same amount at that point, then start again after the $102,000. mark is reached each year. No one making that kind of money will even notice.
- Eliminating control of pesticides from state agriculture departments, which never saw a pesticide they didn't like. Put pesticide control in with other hazardous chemicals departments where they belong. This should save millions of dollars in each state and provide better oversight of these too-ubiquitous poisons.
- Encouraging people to share their homes, and give willing homeowners grants to make separate apartments, either to save fuel in winter or year-round.
- State could lease large homes so several women on welfare and their children could live together. Single moms can then share household costs and chores, grow gardens, and get jobs because they'll be sharing child care.
- States set example on energy conservation:
--Turn off room lights in all State building rooms with windows, letting the sun provide natural light;
--Encourage public agencies to set thermostats at no more than 60-62 degrees in winter and 75-78 in summer; encourage people to dress for the weather, not the latest half-naked fashion. I say this as I sit here in my 56 degree farmhouse wearing three pairs of socks, long underwear, turtleneck with two wool sweaters on top while the thermometer outside reads 5 degrees. Here in Maine we dress appropriately or freeze to death;
--Turn out streetlights nearly everywhere. This alone would result in huge energy savings and taxpayers' money throughout the country;
--Do not encourage more methane burners as at certain older dumps or manure piles, since methane is a key greenhouse gas;
--Do not support the importation of LNG, since burning LNG also leads to global warming;
--Break up the big power grids, build more local power generators-wind, solar, small hydro, etc.--so we aren't all power-less when one little squirrel gets into a generator three states away. Also, rural people should not have to pay for huge, energy-generating facilities to keep heedless cities' air conditioning and lights on all night;
- Any new prisons should be large, organic farms so inmates can grow their own food and be taught useful life skills. More on this at http://www.counterpunch.org/oden08182007.html.
- States should purchase all the oil used in their state at best possible price using their superior buying power (from Venezuela, most likely), pass those savings along to oil dealers, who will pass the savings on to customers.
- State should buy efficient wood stoves and sell them at cost to low-income people who need them, along with a safety course. Everyone should have backup for when the power goes out, as it does, and will more from now on as we move into more frenetic weather events.
- "Economic Development" (read "I want to make money from this") people bemoan the fact that there are too many older and retired people. Having many older people should be cause for rejoicing. Older people spend locally, are involved in virtually no crime or drug dealing, have no small children to raise our school taxes, have low accident rates, and are good citizens. Retired people should be treated as a precious resource, full of knowledge, who can be called upon to help guide local affairs and mentor younger people.
- Health care: let's pool our money and self-insure. Already insured: Social Security and disability recipients, prisoners, current and ex-military, federal and state employees, federal and state legislatures, governors, university employees, people on welfare, Indian tribes, homeless and others in total penury (it's called "emergency room," and we end up paying for it, as most of the above), and some fortunate corporate employees whose health care packages haven't yet been shredded. With so many already health-insured, it should be a rather simple matter to turn health care into one, big, all-inclusive system, thereby saving billions in corporate insurance companies' "overhead" and bloated profits.
- Stop allowing our natural resources to be wasted by simply dumping "garbage" into pits. Re-use all reusables, compost food waste, recycle everything possible, take buildings apart carefully so still-good materials can be re-used. This will save tipping fees and help keep our woods and waters clean.
- Banks should be leaned on to provide low interest rates to lower-income people struggling to pay their mortgages. This is an important task for states' governors.
But, in order to effect Real Change, we need to have Real Democracy where We, the People, make the decisions that affect our lives.
This country has been disgraced by the actions of a few in the eyes of the world. We. the People, can help restore the respect of the world by our good works.
Do right, and risk consequences.
Nancy Oden is an environmental and political activist. She lives in Jonesboro, Maine and can be reached at .
Her website is www.cleanearth.net.
She welcomes your ideas for how we can survive the coming difficult times.