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Let's work together to tackle reality

It's that time of year when we vow to be better, smarter, neater, healthier, etc. -- and then abandon the plan before the Christmas tree is even discarded.

The problem is obvious: Such promises are hard for individuals to keep.

Fortunately, there's strength in numbers. That means we have a good chance of keeping our 2012 resolutions by working together. Come midnight Saturday, we can collectively vow to:

*Quit smoking whatever we're smoking that still makes us believe we can be in the 1 percent.

Belief in that canard is the only explanation for why we continue to cling to trickle-down economic theory as wealth gets more and more concentrated at the top. With the upper 1 percent raking in nearly a quarter of the nation's income and owning 40 percent of its wealth, it's baffling that any candidate preaching more tax cuts for the rich doesn't get laughed off the campaign trail.

Yet they don't. Apparently, the rest of us expect to be rich any day now.

*Stop drinking whatever makes us buy the argument against raising taxes on millionaires because they are the "job creators." Where are all the jobs they created during the last decade when the Bush tax cuts have been in effect?

The least noticed -- but most revealing -- part of the temporary payroll tax cut extension is that it won't be paid for by the people who benefit most from our economy, as originally intended. Instead, it will be financed by hiking fees on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac mortgages -- fees that will get passed on to working-class people trying to pursue homeownership.

*Find your soul mate. Just don't look in Congress, where they continue to separate themselves from the folks they're supposed to be kindred spirits with. According to the Washington Post, House members' median net worth skyrocketed to $725,000 over the last 25 years while the average American family's median wealth actually declined, to a mere $20,500.

With that kind of gap between the governing class and the governed, the next time you hear House Speaker John Boehner invoke "the American people," your first thought should be, "Which American people?"

*Help others. If you're a worker, you're already doing that. As part of the laboring class, you've helped your boss recover from the recession -- even if you haven't. Median CEO pay jumped by 27 percent over the prior year, while private sector workers saw their compensation grow by a mere 2.1 percent.

This could reflect the fact that your boss is nearly 13 times smarter than you are and that he works 13 times harder.

Or it could reflect something else.

*Spend more time with friends and family. Of course, if you're a politician, all you have to do is show up for work. Whether it's political associates like the Grassrooters who followed Byron Brown into City Hall, or the blatant nepotism that prompted Cheektowaga to re-examine its ethics policies, patronage hiring is as ingrained in local politics as losing is in local sports teams.

*Finally, we can all learn to manage stress. You can do this if you stop believing you deserve the American dream. That's no longer part of the plan, merely an enticement kept just out of reach, like the mechanical hare that keeps greyhounds racing around the track.

The difference is that greyhounds never expect to have their pensions protected, their retiree health care safeguarded or their offspring do better than they did. That's why they feel no stress.

Once we give up those fantasies, we won't, either, and we'll need far less smoke and drink to make it through 2012.


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