One of the more common responses of gun rights supporters, besides offering “thoughts and prayers” after another mass shooting, is that “this is the price of freedom.” According to a 2019 report by the Pew Research Center there were 96 democracies in the world including the United States. The only nation among this group where an epidemic of gun violence is the “Price of Freedom” is the United States. There have been over 200 mass shootings in the United States this year, with over 250 deaths and counting. (ABC News, May 2, 2023)
This begs the question, why are other countries able to maintain freedom for their citizens without the scourge of gun violence? People in other democratic nations enjoy as much or even more freedom than people in the United States, without being afraid to go to school, the store, church, shopping, a concert, or just being out among people without the fear of being gunned down by someone with an AR-15. Their price of freedom does not include having to live in constant fear and being exposed daily to the news of another mass shooting in their country.
Americans seem to think that we are the freest people on the planet. In other democracies, women have the freedom to make their own reproductive decisions. People can vote without obstruction and teach real history. Books are not banned from schools and libraries, and the majority actually rules.
If “the price of freedom” in the United States is represented by the slaughter of children in schools and mass shootings anywhere, anytime, then I think we need to reconsider what freedom really means. Because not being free to live a life without fear of gun violence is not freedom at all. It is living under the rule of the gun.
At first glance your letter brought to mind a certain popular opinion regarding public discourse, to wit: it is a waste of your breath and other people’s time to raise your voice against a perceived social problem, unless you are also prepared to offer a practical solution.
For the record, we reject that supposed principle. It says, in effect, this is how things are, and this is how things shall remain. Changes in the status quo are unacceptable, unless and until they survive some nebulous debate—the terms of which, by definition, favor the maintenance of the status quo. In short, sit down and shut up.
This is all beside the point, of course, because you did offer a solution—and a fine one, at that. If we read you right, you’re proposing that we reconcile the glaring contradiction inherent in our actual circumstances, compared to our lofty language, by the simple expedient of speaking the truth.
Of course, if you were to insist on doing that in public, you would run the risk of being shot.
Republican Hacks Attempt Extortion
To the editor;
The statutory debt limit has been raised 78 times since 1960 (three times during the Trump administration) to avoid default on government debt. This year, however, radical House Republicans are threatening default when the debt limit is reached in June unless the Biden administration agrees to a laundry list of extreme budget cuts. The Republicans either do not understand the consequences of a default or are willing to burn down the economic house to achieve their political objectives.
Debate over the size of the debt is a valid political issue but the debate should be a part of the normal budgeting process. Holding the American people hostage by threatening default on previously legislated expenses is not acceptable. The consequences of default are dire. In 2011, when agreement on increasing the debt limit appeared to be deadlocked, the stock market lost 17 percent of its value. Fortunately, a last-minute agreement was reached, but if the U.S. should default today, the stock market decline would be considerable. Goldman Sachs has estimated that 10 percent of economic activity would cease immediately after default. Say goodbye to the value of your IRA and retirement savings and hello to a recession on the level of the Great Recession of 2008. Other sources estimate that upwards of three to seven million American jobs would be lost due to default.
Confidence in U.S. Treasury debt would plummet accompanied by a large rise in interest rates on government debt. Increasing rates on mortgages and credit card debt would follow. The cost of servicing existing treasury debt would increase significantly, making the debt burden worse not better. As confidence in treasuries declined, the value of the U.S. dollar would also decline threatening its status as the preeminent global currency. The cost of global exchange would become more expensive. Financing America’s large trade deficits through the sale of Treasury debt to foreigners would become impossible to sustain, further depressing the standard of living in the U.S. Such a situation would be much to the delight of Russia and China who have long advocated the abandonment of the dollar as the standard for global trade.
Default could have additional unpredictable consequences on fragile world economies. It would follow three years of a global pandemic, supply chain breakdowns, global inflation and Russia’s war on the Ukraine. Global economies are still struggling to recover from these shocks. Another global financial shock may have disastrous effects.
Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy claims that the House’s “Limit, Grow and Save Bill” that defines the desired budget cuts is serious legislation that will lead to the control of the budget deficit. It is not. As he undoubtedly knows, the bill is dead on arrival in the Senate and would be vetoed by Biden. The bill is empty political theater and nothing more than an extremist wish list.
McCarthy fails to discuss the Republican contribution to the debt limit crisis. The 2017 Trump tax cuts that delivered 80 percent of its benefits to corporations and the richest Americans has cost the government $1.7 trillion in lost revenue. If the Bush tax cuts, which also primarily benefited the rich, are factored in, $10 trillion has been added to government debt. Without Republican tax cuts that primarily accrued to the richest Americans, today’s debt crisis would not exist. In a very real sense, our national debt has been used to finance the economic gains of the rich.
Both political parties need to engage in serious dialogue regarding government debt, but the refusal of the Republican Party to increase the debt limit needs to be recognized for what it is—an unconscionable extortion that places the prosperity of all Americans at risk perpetrated by ignorant, self-serving political hacks.
Robert D. Russell, Ph.D.
It is a pleasure to present our readers with such an argument: calm and coherent, yet forthright and forceful. In honor of such sterling self-control, we tip our green eyeshade in your direction, sir.
They Say They Care. They Don’t.
To the Editor:
The GOP members of the U.S. House of Representatives voted to raise the debt ceiling only if government funding for everything except Medicare, Social Security, the military and ethanol were cut back to what they were in 2019.
Inflation is 21 percent higher than in 2019 so Speaker Kevin McCarthy and his party voted to cut all other programs by 21 percent. The GOP is constantly taking photo ops at the Mexican border to complain about immigration, yet they voted to cut spending on the Border Patrol by 21 percent. They complain about our illegal drug problem, but they voted for 21 percent spending cuts for the DEA, FBI and Customs.
In 2019 the war in Afghanistan cost $52 billion. The war is over, but cutting defense spending is off the table. The administration said the cuts would cost 81,000 health care jobs at the Veterans Administration. Clearly, the GOP cares more about defense industry jobs in their district than their own veterans.
Kevin McCarthy says these cuts will save $2 trillion over 10 years which is the same amount the Trump tax cuts created in deficits. His party did not care about deficits then. They do not care about the country now.
Jeezum crow… when you put it like that, it’s almost as if Republicans—despite their constant pious posturing—don’t give a bleep about the Ninth Commendment. (As all our readers will instantly recall, that’s the Commandment that—paraphrasing from the original stone tablets—says “don’t tell lies.”)
Ewing’s Latest 288-Word Hate
To the Editor:
Democrats talk about Democracy, but they only care about Democracy when the people elect them. For example, after voters elected Republicans to cut the bloated spending fueling today’s painful inflation, in an unprecedented move less than two weeks before the new Congress was sworn in, the formerly Democrat [sic, passim] controlled Congress (with a few unneeded/irrelevant Republican votes) pushed through a bloated spending package benefitting their favored special interests and further fueling today’s painful inflation.
Democrats passed it knowing that voters wanted a more sensible spending package. Democrats passed it without the decency to increase the nation’s debt limit that their spending breached; they left it for the new Congress to clean up the mess they created.
Soon, the media and many politicians will try to make everyone panic because, you’ll be told, we’re about to default on our nation’s debt… and they will try to blame Republicans for this problem created by the formerly Democrat controlled Congress.
But, Republicans in the House of Representatives have already passed a bill to increase the debt limit. This bill is far too generous in my opinion, but it starts addressing inflation and avoids defaulting on our nation’s debt.
The next step is for this House bill, or a negotiated bill, to be passed by Congress and signed by President Biden.
So far, neither the Democrat controlled Senate nor President Biden seem interested in acting to avoid the potentially disastrous consequences of defaulting on our nation’s debt.
Our nation’s credit is only threatened because Democrats passed an undesired, unwise, and bloated spending bill against the wishes of the American people, they didn’t deal with the debt limit, and now Democrats refuse to act responsibly to protect our nation’s credit and the American people.
Decades of observation have led us to suspect that the fear-based products being marketed to right wingers are universally fraudulent.
Take, for example, the insurance policies for gun owners which are marketed by Sean Hannity. They purport to protect the policy-holder against lawsuits filed by surviving family members of the deceased. Specifically, we’d like to know why Hannity never reads quotes from satisfied customers: “He cut in line at Subway—what did he think was going to happen? Sean Hannity had my back, though, so I’m still a free man!” These policies are obviously a scam, because they’re completely unnecessary. Go ahead and shoot the guy—no one’s going to hold you accountable.
We particularly like the ads that promise a secure old age, thanks to an “investment” in precious metals. Such brilliant advice. How does that work? Do you go to the supermarket and wave a piece of paper at them? Or do you bring silver dollars, and a hacksaw to make change?
You, though, are clearly a discerning customer. Congratulations! Judging from this letter, it appears that your solid-titanium Official GOP Epistemic Bubble™ remains perfectly intact.
Remember the Liberty!
June 8th marks the 56th anniversary of the attack on the U.S.S. Liberty (GTR-5), in international waters, approximately 17 miles off the Gaza Strip. I was aboard one of Liberty’s sister ships on that decisive day, the U.S.S. Jamestown (GTR-3). Having departed Singapore we were enroute to our assigned station off the coast of Vietnam.
Every administration since Lyndon Johnson has down-played the attack and national media cooperates by rarely mentioning the event. The reason is clear. Liberty was not attacked by an adversary but by our “friend and ally,” Israel. Without warning or provocation, Israeli Air Force Mirage fighters strafed Liberty, resulting in 820 rocket and cannon holes topside. After the fighters, Mystere bombers dropped napalm. While the crew battled fires, Israeli torpedo boats fired five torpedos at Liberty with the clear intent to sink her. Fortunately, four missed, but the one that didn’t left a 40-foot hole in her starboard side, killing 25 men.
When the smoke had cleared, 34 sailors were dead or missing and 171 were wounded including the Captain (CDR William McGonagle) who, though severely wounded, refused to leave the bridge. Only the bravery and resolve of the captain, officers and crew prevented Liberty from sinking with all hands.
Liberty managed to send an SOS to our 6th Fleet and two aircraft carriers (the America and the Saratoga) launched Navy fighter-bombers to aid Liberty but they were recalled. When Rear Admiral Lawrence Geis (Commander of U.S.S. America’s battle group) protested the recall, Defense Secretary Robert McNamara retorted, “President Johnson is not going to war or embarrass an American ally over a few sailors” (Chicago Tribune – Web Edition – October 2, 2007).
Liberty is one of America’s most decorated warships, earning a Congressional Medal of Honor, two Navy Crosses, 38 Silver or Bronze Stars, a Presidential Unit Citation and 205 Purple Hearts, and if you don’t see this letter, it’s unlikely you’ve ever heard of the Liberty. The Medal of Honor is traditionally conferred by the President in a ceremony at the White House. Commander McGonagle was handed his by the Secretary of the Navy at the Washington Navy Yard.
For 56 years, no U.S. President or Congress has attempted to hold Israel fully accountable for this murderous and unconscionable act of aggression, accepting the blatant lie it was a case of mistaken identity.
It’s painful for Liberty survivors and families of those lost never to have experienced satisfactory closure to this totally unnecessary loss of life and ship. To keep faith with them and their loved ones, we who served in uniform on that fateful day think often of the U.S.S. Liberty, the captain, officers and crew; we pause, and we remember. RIP Shipmates… .
David L. Snell
Thank you for this timely reminder. It has served to prompt us to begin a piece about the U.S.S. Liberty which we hope to have ready in time for our paper of June 2nd. For now, we’ll leave it at this:
Wikipedia has a page euphemistically titled, “The U.S.S. Liberty Incident.” It includes the following sentence: “Both the Israeli and U.S. governments conducted inquiries and issued reports that concluded the attack was a mistake due to Israeli confusion about the ship’s identity.” What it fails to say is that those inquiries were inadequate, and the subsequent reports were misleading.
In Defense of “The Rebel Girl”
To the Editor:
Fact: “The Ford-F Series is our best-selling truck for 46 consecutive years.” Henry Ford’s politics, however, are now seen by some as negatively as those of Elizabeth Gurley Flynn. Have Henry Ford’s politics had a negative impact on that sales record? Probably not.
In 1938, Ford admired Adolf Hitler and Germany. In 1938, he accepted the Grand Cross of the German Eagle, the Nazi regime’s highest medal for a foreigner. Elizabeth Gurley Flynn’s equivalent behavior came after decades of working for America’s labor class, traveling to Russia, receiving an award for her devotion to her choice of economic philosophy, communism. Now we buy communist-China-made products galore (as well as Ford trucks).
Ford’s historical marker—“where stood the home in which Henry Ford was born on July 30, 1863, the farmhouse… owned by Ford’s parents, William and Mary Ford”— gets no complaints. Markers honor people who made outstanding contributions. We see no historical markers for Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, or convicted serial killer Aileen Carol Wuornos.
Now, we honor Concord-born Elizabeth Gurley Flynn. She began early, working for labor rights, women’s rights, the right to vote, and access to birth control. She was a founding member of our American Civil Liberties Union. Her marker should not be removed in a knee-jerk reaction to “trigger words.”
Lynn Rudmin Chong
Yup—yet another un-needed reminder that, as the saying goes, “every accusation is a confession.” Right wingers love to accuse the left of stifling free speech and “canceling” conservative voices. How is this not an example of that?
Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, In Her Own Words
“We… never thought it would be possible, that there would be social security or unemployment insurance. Those were the results of the 30’s. The great struggle that came out after the decline of the IWW. Also, we never heard of vacations with pay. We never heard of vacations, let alone vacations with pay. We never heard of seniority as it is understood today. There were no pensions for retirement of workers. There were no welfare funds of unions. There were no health centers of unions, and there were no trade union schools such as there are today. All of these things have come with the unions that have come into existence since the period of the IWW.”
“… the hatred against the I.W.W. was so great… that editorials in papers would say, ‘They should be arrested at dawn and shot before breakfast, without a trial.’”
“There is less violence against labor today, but there are more legal restrictions. There are more attempts to invade the rights of labor by repressive legislation… .”