We the Who?: A Citizen's Manifesto on America

Overview

America was formed based on a vision of democracy where supreme power is supposed to be vested in the people. In We the Who? author Brett H. Lewis asks if Americans are losing sight of who “we the people” are and, more importantly, who we need to be in order to regain our collective identity and ensure America’s continued growth and greatness.

We the Who?
presents a collection of essays and opinions that probe into the nuts and bolts of ...

See more details below
Paperback
$15.68
BN.com price
(Save 7%)$16.95 List Price
Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (5) from $12.66   
  • New (5) from $12.66   
We the Who?: A Citizen's Manifesto on America

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 7.0
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 10.1
  • NOOK HD Tablet
  • NOOK HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK eReaders
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK for Web

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook)
$3.49
BN.com price
(Save 12%)$3.99 List Price

Overview

America was formed based on a vision of democracy where supreme power is supposed to be vested in the people. In We the Who? author Brett H. Lewis asks if Americans are losing sight of who “we the people” are and, more importantly, who we need to be in order to regain our collective identity and ensure America’s continued growth and greatness.

We the Who?
presents a collection of essays and opinions that probe into the nuts and bolts of current issues facing America today. Lewis tackles the subjects of classism, racism, justice, politics, the military, and the economy. Through these discussions, he encourages the American populace to be alert and aware to ensure that government of the people, by the people, and for the people continues to be at the forefront of today’s America.

Drawing from history, logic, social inclinations, religious beliefs, and personal experiences, We the Who? seeks to inform the public and to encourage them to ask questions, express opinions, and hold elected leaders accountable. It communicates the necessity to be informed in order to make quality decisions about our lives.

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781491708699
  • Publisher: iUniverse, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 11/21/2013
  • Pages: 200
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.46 (d)

Read an Excerpt

We the Who?

A Citizen's Manifesto on America


By Brett H. Lewis

iUniverse, LLC

Copyright © 2013 Brett H. Lewis
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4917-0869-9



CHAPTER 1

CLASSISM AND RACISM

There's no greater conflict within me.


Bitter debates about classism were at their height during the 2008 recession, especially when individual pension, investment, and retirement packages were being drained while corporate and Wall Street executives continued to receive exorbitant compensation and golden parachute severance packages while millions of rank-and-file employees were being discharged en masse, home foreclosures were at a record high, the automobile industry was close to bankruptcy, and major banking institutions were failing. As the recession receded and the economy began a slow recovery, rich-versus-poor sentiments also mellowed; however, the debates continued in areas such as corporate executive greed and taxing the rich at higher federal income tax rates.

On the other side of the coin, racism has morphed into a covert and institutionally malevolent form since the 1960s, and is still as pervasive and debilitating as ever. Granted, the racial climate in America has improved as compared to the days of Jim Crow, but remember that some poisonous snakes appear to be smiling before they strike. Some of these snakes have interesting names, such as colorism, the n-word, and voter suppression.

Another insidious "ism" is sexism. As a male, I cannot appropriately convey the frustration felt by women when confronted with sexism's crippling effects. Therefore, I will not discuss sexism in We the Who?; however, sexism is another poisonous snake that needs to be defanged.

Since classism and racism are deep-rooted facts of life, I will discuss several topics that I believe paint a clear picture of these "isms" in America:

Classism

• En Masse Employee Layoffs

• Executive Greed

• Should the Rich Pay More Taxes?


Racism

• Barack Obama and Other Victims

• Colorism

• New N-Words

• Sandy Hook and Chicago: A Tale of Two Cities

• Voter Suppression

• Wealth, Power, and "Forty Acres and a Mule"

• Who Controls the Fountains?

• Zimmerman: The Last Straw?


Classism

Is America divided into two economic classes of haves and have-nots? Lynari Morales asked this question in the Gallup article Fewer Americans See U.S. Divided into Haves, Have-Nots. The answer surprised me. After the 2008 recession, I thought most Americans recognized the class division between the haves and have-nots.

Apparently, I was wrong. In mid-2011, 41 percent said "Yes, divided," and 58 percent said "No, not divided." To explain, Morales wrote: Americans' views of their own position as "haves" or "have-nots" have been remarkably stable, even as the nation's economic problems have intensified. Still, the finding that fewer Americans now than in 2008 consider U.S. society as divided into "haves" and "have-nots" suggests a decreasing, rather than increasing, level of worry about unfair income distribution in the U.S. at this time. (Morales 2011)


However, there has been a steady increase of Americans who are in the have-nots category, indicative of a decrease in the distribution of wealth to the middle class and poor. As a member of the middle class, I am concerned about this inequity and the behaviors of the top 1 percent of the "haves."

Focusing on the top 1 percent of the haves (super-rich corporate and Wall Street executives) and the rich in general, two stories emerge. The former is a tale of greed and financial gluttony, and the latter a tale of unfair stereotypes and taxation. In this regard, my concerns are (1) the en masse discharge of employees by corporate and Wall Street executives who protect their own security with disproportionate compensation packages and golden parachutes and (2) income tax legislation requiring the rich to pay income taxes at a higher federal tax rate than lower-income taxpayers.


En Masse Employee Layoffs

Executive and rank-and-file employees should equally incur the consequences of company failures as well as the benefits of success and profits. In other words, the needs of the "many" rank-and-file employees should equal the needs of the executive "few" with all having the same opportunities in their collective pursuit of happiness. However, as evidenced by frequent en masse layoffs, the needs of executives seem to outweigh the needs of all other employees. This said, I concede there will be situations, such as the potential insolvency of a business, when en masse layoffs are a last resort; however, this should not occur without legal oversight. Currently, the only restrictive requirement is the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act that requires all companies with over a hundred employees to give a sixty-day notice of an en masse layoff (Department of Labor).

Without considering union contracts, the following recommendations could provide the suggested oversight:

• Mandate the creation of a federal business court and expand existing state business court systems to all states, with the legal authority to allow or disallow the en masse discharge of employees. If an en masse layoff is approved, confirm the appropriate number to be discharged to ensure a company's solvency. If a company offers severance packages for voluntary discharges (financial incentives for employees to voluntarily quit), this action would be exempt from business court approval.

• Based on the total number of employees, establish a threshold percentage of discharged employees that would be considered an en masse layoff and trigger a business court review. To prevent companies from conducting multiple layoffs over a short period of time with each below the threshold percentage, set appropriate time constraints. For example, if the layoff threshold were 1 percent of total employees and a company conducted two nonreviewable layoffs of a half percent each, any future layoffs for the next five years would require a business court review. In other words, a company cannot lay off more than 1 percent of their total workforce during any five-year period.

• If the layoffs affected one state or multiple states, state and federal business courts would have jurisdiction, respectively. Appeals of a business court decision would be expeditiously handled by the appropriate state or federal courts of appeal.


Regarding the aforementioned business court requirement, there is precedent for this approach. Title 11 (Bankruptcy) of the United States Code specifies time limits on when someone can file again for bankruptcy protection, and the court will review multiple filings and deny those it believes are an abuse of the code. The court must also approve the terms of any bankruptcy. For corporations, the rules are different. There are virtually no restraints on how many times a corporation can file for bankruptcy protection or the length of time between corporate Chapter 11 filings; however, the court must approve the terms of all corporate bankruptcy filings.

Regardless of whether or not my suggestions are feasible, changes are needed. En masse layoffs should be a last resort and, without regulation, will continue with impunity. All Americans have the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and earning a living is definitely a critical component of the pursuit of happiness. Accordingly, companies should be required to show cause in court before executing en masse layoffs.


Executive Greed

In 1787, Thomas Jefferson wrote:

It seems to be the law of our general nature, in spite of individual exceptions; and experience declares that man is the only animal which devours his own kind, for I can apply no milder term to the governments of Europe, and to the general prey of the rich on the poor. (Jefferson 1787)


As an example, greed is a ravenous enabler of classism and a defect within our economic system that enables the preying on others who are not wealthy or powerful. In order to understand this better, look no further than the greed of corporate and Wall Street executives and their credo as articulated by fictional corporate raider Gordon Gekko in the 20th Century Fox movie Wall Street, who says, "Greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right. Greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit" (Douglas, Wall Street, 1987). One of the ancient Dead Sea Scrolls, the War Scroll, expressed a more appropriate credo: "Every creature of greed shall wither quickly away like a flower at harvest time" (WildBranch Ministry).

On many occasions, corporate executives proclaim that employees are a company's most valuable asset. In my opinion, the mantra is that executives are the most valuable assets and rank-and-file employees are the most expendable commodities or, more accurately, corporate chattel—quintessential classism. I am reminded of a defense proffered by Al Pacino, in the Universal Studios movie Scent of a Woman, while defending a friend. "He won't sell anybody out to buy his future," he says, "and that, my friends, is called integrity. Now that's the stuff leaders should be made of" (Pacino 1992).

Can the same be said about corporate and Wall Street executives who lay off employees en masse while reaping the benefits of exorbitant compensation packages and are contractually protected by extravagant golden parachute severance packages? According to a report by Governance Metrics International (GMI), a corporate governance consultancy, many golden parachutes are so large that they seem to be only in the interests of the departing executives. The report lists twenty-one CEOs whose golden parachutes are worth more than the average US worker would make in forty-nine lifetimes. In the case of General Electric's former CEO, John Welch Jr., the figure is $417 million, or 203 lifetimes for the average American worker. Another example is Viacom's former CEO, Thomas Freston, who worked for only one year and received a $100 million-plus golden parachute (Harkinson 2012).

Executives are expected to be the highest-paid employees because most are custodians of millions or billions of dollars of assets and have fiduciary or profit-and-loss (P&L) responsibilities. With some exceptions, most nonexecutive employees do not carry a fiduciary or P&L burden. However, from the CEO to the lowest-ranking worker, all are employees of the company and, with the exception of the exempt or nonexempt employee status regarding overtime pay, the mechanism by which terms of employment and compensation are established should be the same for all employees based on rank and time of employment. To explain this concept further, let's examine the military compensation model.

Military compensation is based on a graduated pay scale determined by rank and time of service, not individually negotiated contracts as is the case with many corporate and Wall Street executives. Enlisted service members and officers can look at their respective pay scales and know exactly what their monthly base pay will be—no exceptions. Good performance is rewarded by recognition, awards, medals, and promotions—not monetary bonuses. Lastly, service members are eligible for full retirement benefits after twenty years of service and are all subject to the same formulae to determine retirement pay—set percentages of their monthly base pay based on rank and length of service at retirement.

The military also has predetermined perks based on rank or assigned duty. For example, service members of any rank can receive additional hazardous-duty pay if assigned to a combat zone or explosive ordinance disposal, jump pay if required to parachute, and so on. Also, the military awards one-time signing bonuses to entice enlistment or reenlistment for service in critically short skill sets. The type of authorized military housing is determined by rank and marital status. General officers in designated positions warrant the assignment of officer aide-de-camps and enlisted aides, chauffeured transportation, and the like. Unlike corporate and Wall Street America, all military perks end upon leaving the service, and there are no negotiated golden parachute packages.

Returning to corporate and Wall Street America, as explained in an excerpt from a Western Washington University journalism paper entitled America's Rich Get Richer, compensation is disproportionately skewed in favor of executives:

The December 21, 2011, Seattle Times ... noted that average U.S. household income increased sixty-two percent between 1969 and 2007, but income for the top one percent rose more than 300 percent.

Paul Krugman [Nobel Prize-winning economist and New York Times columnist] noted in November 2011 that all American redistribution of income away from the bottom eighty percent has gone to the highest income one percent and that a report looking only through 2005 found that almost two-thirds of the rising share of top one percent income went to the top 0.1 percent (the richest one-thousandth), who saw their income rise more than 400 percent from 1979 to 2005. (Western Washingtom University 2012)


Earnings for production and nonsupervisory workers, who comprise about 80 percent of the private nonfarm workforce, have risen just over 6.2 percent since June 2009, and consumer prices have risen nearly 7.2 percent. Adjusted for inflation, wages have fallen 0.8 percent, yet executive compensation remains at astronomically high levels (Wiseman 2012). For additional perspective, let's look at the current CEO-to-worker pay ratio:

The ratio of CEO-to-worker pay has increased 1,000 percent since 1950, according to data from Bloomberg. Today Fortune 500 CEOs make 204 times regular workers on average, Bloomberg found. The ratio is up from 120–1 in 2000, 42–1 in 1980 and 20–1 in 1950. (Huffington Post 2013)


To level the playing field and take greed out of the equation, consider a compensation model that includes these components:

• If executives warrant employment contracts, so do all employees. Otherwise, eliminate employment contracts.

• As in the military, establish a graduated pay scale for management and nonmanagement employees based on rank and time of employment. Management and nonmanagement employees would be analogous to military officers and enlisted personnel, respectively.

• Eliminate golden parachute packages. Executives should be subject to the same severance criteria as all other employees (i.e., salary and benefits based on time of employment and rank).

• Implement mandatory profit sharing, which could be a combination of cash and stock, as appropriate. Other retirement and investment options, such as 401(k)s, savings accounts, or IRAs, can be offered as discretionary additions.

• Unlike the military, maintain monetary bonus systems based on performance. For example, if, as part of a bonus, executives get additional stock options as a percentage of their salaries, all employees should enjoy the same stock options as a percentage of their respective salaries.

• Eliminate non-business-related perks, but as in the military, maintain a consistent set of basic perks available to all employees based on their job description and disruptions to personal and family life, such as business travel requirements and personal security needs.

• Discontinue perks after an employee leaves the employment of the company.


There is one scenario not addressed in the above suggestions. In the military, enlisted and officer positions are filled from within among personnel that started their careers at the lowest officer or enlisted ranks, starting at an age that allows for twenty years of service (the minimum full-retirement threshold). The exceptions are medical doctors, chaplains, and attorneys, who receive direct commissions as captains. However, in corporate and Wall Street America, many senior executives are hired from outside the company and, because of their age when hired, will not be able to accrue the time of employment necessary for traditional early or full retirement; however, this should not be an issue. The exorbitant levels of executive compensation should be more than enough to overcome the financial impacts of not being eligible for a company's retirement plan. If an executive chooses to leave one company to join another, voluntarily chooses to stop working, or reaches a mandated retirement age, it is done at his or her own risk. This is the way it is for lower-level employees. Executives should not be treated any differently, but that is usually not the case, especially when executive golden parachute packages are involved.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from We the Who? by Brett H. Lewis. Copyright © 2013 Brett H. Lewis. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

Contents


Disclaimers, v,

Acknowledgments, xi,

Introduction, xiii,

Chapter 1: Classism and Racism, 1,

Chapter 2: Justice, 60,

Chapter 3: Politics, 89,

Chapter 4: Socioeconomic, 108,

Chapter 5: US Military, 145,

Epilogue, 163,

Bibliography, 165,

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(0)

4 Star

(0)

3 Star

(0)

2 Star

(0)

1 Star

(0)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously

    If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
    Why is this product inappropriate?
    Comments (optional)