Why America is Stuck: Part Three

Getty Images, NPR UNITED STATES – JANUARY 12: Vice President Joe Biden, left, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., make their way to the House floor for President Obama’s State of the Union address, January 12, 2016. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

What if this is the turning point? What if this is the moment when we decide if Mitch McConnell and the currently sidelined Trump represent the way we want to be governed, or if Biden and Harris represent the way we want to be governed? 

Maybe the moment will not happen right now. Perhaps that moment is still ahead of us. But Americans need to think about how they see their government. 

Is it the job of the federal government to simply collect taxes, fight wars, conduct relations with foreign nations and manage international trade period. Is oiling the wheels of those who seem to keep the economy moving (and the money flowing into their pockets), and stopping attacks on the homeland what government should be about? 

Or is our government also important as a kind of social referee preventing abuse of citizens by big corporations, big pharma, for profit medicine, tiny germs, employers, wealth hoarders, those who reject science because it hurts their bottom line. If we want to have some referees then it affects the kinds of people we elect. 

What do you imagine our lives will be like if workers have no support from the federal government and no unions so that they can band together in numbers similar to corporate lobbyists? 

Would you want to work 40 or more hours a week for the rest of your life with perhaps a two-week vacation, and just maybe a few paid sick days? And I do mean for the rest of your life. If you wanted to retire you would be on your own. You would have to have your own plan. You could dabble in the market through an app like Stash or you could check out Robinhood. 

If you did not make enough in your minimum wage job to feed your family or even just yourself, and pay rents that are too high without any subsidy from the government, it would be up to you to improve your lot in life, take night classes, find an apprenticeship if you could. You would have to work 40 hours a week, take care of your family and take some classes and do it all again the next day and the next. 

Even in the event that you could keep up this pace, or put off getting married or having a family, which would be difficult with no birth control, you would still have to find a new job and work at that job every day year after year. Abstinence would become an important word if you had ambitions.

You could go into business, work on a business plan, find an investor and make a good marketing plan, or start from scratch in your kitchen, or your basement, or your garage, and/or online. You might get wealthy. You might fall into debt.

I’m not predicting this life for Boomers. We’re already retired. This is what life would be like for Millennials and GenXers, etc. if Republicans had their way. America would be a society of workers and work would never end. Social Security checks would be a thing of the past. TAP and Pell grants to help with tuition would be up to the states, or just unavailable.

Republicans are Capitalists, corporatists who think if you do not work every day of your long life (or your short life) you are a deadbeat. They despise programs funded by the federal government to benefit workers. They want private businesses to offer whatever safety net programs people might be willing to pay for. And private businesses need to make a profit, a big profit, so whatever you decide to buy will be expensive. 

What will the government do with our tax dollars. That has not been made clear. Some citizens have hoarded millions and billions and they will not be pitching in, so the government will not be able to afford any of the things we have come to expect like public schools, and health care plans. Republicans describe passing laws that allow for a more equal distribution of wealth with a ‘dirty’ word, “redistribution’ (which actually doesn’t sound so bad) — until they tell us that it is ‘gasp’ socialism.

We sold the world on an empathetic society, a society that backs up its citizens with safety net programs. Many foreign countries have offerings that have come to surpass ours. Now we want to change the way we define society. We want to ditch the safety net because, hypothetically, it makes people want to stop working. 

We want the whole idea of society and government to operate under new parameters. All these big ideas about health care and a living wage, and unemployment insurance came about because unions accepted these things instead of pay raises, say the Republicans. Then the unions forced nonmembers to pay dues because they also benefited from these fringe benefits. 

So Republicans have been passing something they call ‘right to work’ laws to make charging dues to nonmembers illegal. Of course, all this actually does is take away bargaining power from unions so they can no longer lobby on behalf of workers effectively. That way businesses can set wages and offer few or no benefits, and workers have no recourse. Unions also back Democrats and that multiplied the power of the party. Shafting unions helps Republicans get elected. At the same time it helps reduce the size of the federal government if they put education, health and welfare programs up for bids from private businesses. If no one wants to provide the service, too bad.

Republicans argue that when our government offers benefits we lose freedom. They should know because they made sure accepting benefits would be onerous. Would we be freer without food stamps? Isn’t it possible some of us would just be hungrier. Perhaps we do need to carefully consider what programs would offer the most help to workers who don’t make enough money to live. Set some priorities with climate and environmental concerns among them.

So, voters, it’s up to us to decide. What is our idea of a society and government? If Millennials and GenXers, etc. let Boomers know what they prefer, then Boomers might help make it so.  Do we want a social contract that agrees we should take care of each other, and that cooperation and caring will make America a stronger nation. Or will business, profits, consumerism, and hard work with nothing to look forward to, no end to working, no such thing as retirement (unless you happen to have a plan for investing that works and nothing happens to ruin that plan), offer the most people the greatest amount of freedom and consistently comfortable lives. If we limit federal government will private companies and foundations fill the gaps? What disadvantages might such a system have?

Those who work in Artificial Intelligence seem to be working towards a time when there will be fewer jobs for humans. And yet Republicans are telling us that we need to work constantly from graduation to death. Retirees don’t always want to give up working, but what if you didn’t have a choice? What if your back went out, or your partner died and left you alone to raise the children, or any of the many disasters that fragile flesh is heir to came into your life and there was no backup? Would we go back to extended families if we had them?

I would think that everyone would rather fight now for paid day care, and senior care, better health care, cheaper drugs, free community college or training past high school as Biden’s plan proposes than choose that rather minimalist and hopeless nonplan backed by the Republicans. We are stuck because Republicans cannot imagine a better future for our nation and our people and because with Joe Manchin voting with the Republicans the Senate is tied, even with the vote of the VP, Kamala Harris. 

I am saying that you probably do not want to put Trump back in the White House in 2024 and you probably do want to give us more Democratic Senators in 2022 if you are not a fan of a minimalist government, a nose-to-the-grindstone work ethic, and an ‘illiberal democracy’ which is actually a dictatorship. Vote wisely because we are stuck with what the majority votes for.

Economies, Governments and Societies

economies Profolus

I don’t know about you but these times, for me, seem to turn my thoughts to the issues of economies and governments. Is an economy and a government enough to make a society, or are there other necessary components?Does Capitalism only work when it is unfettered by regulations? Does a laissez-faire approach to Capitalism offer the best economic returns? What happens to the economy when the government deliberately tries to create a free market climate or a tax structure that subsidizes private enterprise?

Are societies mostly about economics? Can societies that distribute wealth somewhat equally survive? How much social support should be part of a government, of a society? Does having a class of very poor people unsupported by any kind of social safety net tend to weigh a culture down, or does this have little effect?

Is Democratic Socialism a way to a more equitable distribution of  wealth? Are there successful socialistic countriesaround the globe? How much socialism do we already have in our government? Would it be useful (help delay the demise of our democracy) to alter the democratic socialism/capitalism ratio in our culture?

When economies get too unequal what happens? Will the distribution eventually right itself? Will a nation surrender to authoritarianism to hold onto wealth at the top? Will there be a revolution? Do you agree that Democrats and Republicans seem to be at odds right now about what is of key importance to American success?

It seems that Republicans want to sideline the Federal government and let the states take the lead (this has been a refrain on the right for almost the entire life of our democracy/republic). It also seems that Republicans feel that economics is the essential factor in a culture. They want the government to back away from economic rules and regulations and controls over what are intended to be private enterprises.

society Understanding Society

Republicans do not want social safety net supports to be handled by our Federal government. The Constitution gives the Federal government powers over the military and foreign relations. All other rights, Republicans say are reserved to the states and we have strayed from that separation of powers. If Social Security and Medicare money were not taken from American paychecks those programs would already be gone. They may soon be gone anyway, or privatized.

Republicans have a Constitutional point, but we need to also ask if we are to refer only to our original documents or also to the body of law and tradition which subsequent generations have added? Are these laws and rules part of our documents now or should they all be stripped away until we get back to a kind of minimalism. Does minimalism apply when the population of our nation has exploded since the days of our founders?

Our American economy has always been a sort of amalgamation of capitalism, socialism and even libertarianism, but with capitalism in the lead. Do we want to revise this and have socialism lead, or libertarianism? Is the socialism we are talking about only about how much social support to give to American citizens as workers and dependents, or are we talking about government ownership of industry (beyond health care, senior support, disability support, help to the poor, help to farmers, supports for workers)?

Should our government own utilities? Should they continue to have a say in energy decisions, and decisions about clean water? What are the repercussions if the government gives up all control over these matters? Which brings us to environmental pollution and climate change. What happens to the environment in a laissez-faire system where businesses can dispose of their waste streams as they please, use any kind of energy they please, discharge as much smoke as they wish without mitigating chemicals harmful to humans; where businesses can force government to allow them to take over land that is set aside as public land?

Coal Fossil Fuel Power Plant Smokestacks Emit Carbon Dioxide Pollution

Will this kind of freedom make a better America? Will it make a better world? Will it make America tons of money? Who will pocket that money? Haven’t we already been here? It seems that we would be better served by thinking these issues through together as opposed to retreating to ideological camps. The past is over; it is the future that is at stake.

 

robots BBC

Then we have the issue of who the workers will be. If everyone is equal where do you get an underclass to do menial jobs.? We used to have waves of immigrants who would do whatever works was necessary to survive. They were happy to have work and the freedom to climb the economic and then the social ladder. But when our newest immigrant groups tended to be nonwhite, as in the case of many South Americans and almost all Africans, and when they tended to be from religious traditions that were neither Christian nor Jewish, some Americans objected to having them here at all. They did not want to lift them up by opening our social safety net to immigrants, both to those here through proper channels and those here without permission. How much of this can be blamed on fewer dollars for the 99%?

Now we have to consider who will do the jobs that require physical labor? Who will serve the wealthy? Are people being encouraged to forego an education to make sure there is an underclass to serve richer Americans? If we only want highly educated and/or trained individuals from European nations to immigrate to America how does that help us fill jobs that pay less. Even though some people do not agree with paying unskilled workers more, without influxes of new workers will hourly wages eventually have to rise? Will robots be ready to fill the gaps? How does a robot clean a public restroom? I guess it could happen.

immigration detention UPI.com

How much does it hurt our nation to treat migrants and refugees badly? Is it another trap that can weigh down a nation? How much does it affect the way we are viewed around the world? Does it make us appear strong or just inhumane and fearful? Right now it puts us in the company of other authoritarian nations.

Do we really want to be a nation that puts anyone who comes to our shores asking for asylum in jail (detention)? Will putting children in jail (detention) even with their parents turn out to be a positive approach? It is easy to believe that with a some cooperative brainstorming by people in the field we could produce a better plan than the one we are seeing now. Do we really want to continue to believe that skin color has any relevance whatsoever in terms of talents or intelligence or value as a human being?

society Digital Synosis

One more consideration – are humans so flawed that they cannot create a balanced society (government and economy) that is difficult for people with bad impulses to destroy? Is it wrong to make laws to curb our worst behaviors, our exploitative behaviors? Will lassez-faire capitalism always be easily skewed by human tendencies towards selfishness, entitlement, and greed?

So much of our current political divide swings between the ways people answer these questions. We are called upon in this election and the ones in the near future to make these choices. I believe it is clear what you get if you vote for Republicans and what you get if you vote for Democrats. I only wish we could have informative conversations about these matters that did not send us back to our separate corners. Even if we can’t solve these weighty issues by November we need to vote.

Photo Credits: From Google Image Searches – Profulus, Understanding Society, Fortune, UPI.com, BBC, Digital Synosis

Capitalism Run Amok

What if the only thing wrong with our government is that it has too many Capitalists messing with it? It occurs to me that perhaps the Great Factory Migration, globalism, and the rather turgid state of the America economy, and in fact the slowing economies of what I will call “old” Capitalist nations are all creating panic attacks in the ranks of our millionaires and billionaires. These folks have decided that they can boost the economy by pulling the strings of government. Am I against Capitalism as a way to do business? No, I am not. But what we are seeing convinces me that Capitalism definitely needs to be regulated.

Why are rich businessmen way too involved in our government? They blame the government for the current state of the economy and of business in America. Everything the GOP regurgitates as domestic policy has been dictated to them by their pals in the private sector. Who does it benefit to trim back the responsibilities of the federal government to only those spelled out in the Constitution? Well, since it includes plans to get rid of our social safety net programs, it doesn’t benefit we the people so that makes it fairly easy to ascertain who benefits. Wealthy corporatists benefit.

Who is most happy to see the House of Representatives and Donald Trump go on a spree reversing every regulation on business and on the environment? Well these reversals do not benefit we the people regardless of what some Americans have been lead to believe. Once again the benefits accrue to big business (which has not been looking big enough to please the wealthiest Conservative businessmen.)

While it may be true that the President cannot have any significant effect on the stock market, the Capitalists can. They can be more bullish about investing and freer with their dollars when they like the direction in which governance is moving. Since the Capitalist have bought and paid for the GOP and since the GOP is in charge of all three branches of government our “oligarchs” are, in a sense, applauding the current state of affairs in Washington. This is the sort of gentlemen’s club way of saying, “now we’re talking.” Donald Trump doesn’t bother these folks. He may be gauche but he is still one of them. One of them One of them.

Perhaps it is not really members of Congress who still believe in “trickle down” economics at all. Perhaps they have been “body-snatched” by corporate heads who like the way this economic approach lines their pockets. Corporate types must realize that if they corner all the dollars there will no consumers, and that will be bad for their profits and their comforts. It won’t be much fun to live in a dirty, sick, and poverty-stricken world. But I guess they can arrange to turn certain states (not blue states) into small worlds that they can control as they have already established control, with the help of the Republicans and ALEC, of at least 30 state governments.

It seems that if we could get money out of government, get these billionaires and millionaires a new hobby then our government might be able to return to regular order. How do we do that? We could try to overturn all the invasive laws passed at their command, such as Citizen’s United v FEC, etc. but the numbers are not on the side of we the people right now. Perhaps these wealthy meddlers are just bored.

Space is the answer to everything. We could be like North Korea, a nation which puts all its resources into bombing those who they hate, except we could put all those resources that are lining the idle pockets of the corporatists into figuring out how to travel in space, and do it without starving the American people. Think of all the resources that could be mined without ruining the few pristine spaces left on this planet. It couldn’t hurt to have the focus of every nation turned skyward so that we would perhaps stop sniping at each other on this planet which is seeming too small to contain us.

You may think that I am just a nut, but I am quite serious about this. Of course it will not bring only positive things but it will be interesting enough and, in the end, profitable enough to keep us occupied for centuries as the last Age of Discovery did. It involves terrible risks and I suppose the entire human race could be wiped out, but that could happen if we don’t try for the stars, and it would be far from a noble experience.

See https://www.tremr.com/jim-mcguiness/criminal-conquest-of-the-united-states-of-america which led me to think these thoughts.