America: A Land of Warts
The Battle Between Republican Crony-Casino Capitalism And Democratic Socialism
After listening to Republican candidates for the 2016 presidential nomination claim “America is going to Hell” and other undesirable places, President Barack Obama in a recent magazine article counter-claimed: “For all of our warts, the United States has clearly been a force for good in the world.” “Warts?” My God! “Treason!” Admitting we have warts before the entire world? “Un-American!” “Obama hates America!” Actually we have so many warts we probably should have free Compound-W baths for the afflicted. Let’s examine a few warts for just a minute. Last year American toddlers of both sexes under the age of four shot and killed more Americans than world terrorists did. Each day Americans of all ages shoot and kill 30 of their friends, relatives, and enemies on purpose or by accident—and wound another 55 in our revered gun culture. We spent an estimated $229 billion repairing or burying the results of this huge wart in 2015. Another wart reveals that while our infrastructure is decaying and educational institutions suffer greatly from lack of funds, our priorities are really screwed up. The evidence is clear. The highest paid public employee in 37 states is either a university football or basketball coach. A hockey coach tops the list in one state. In seven states the highest paid public employee is head of the state medical school. College presidents are at the top in only five states.
Warts dot the humanscape and humanface in almost every state. Republican Mary Lou Bruner of Texas will most likely be elected to a seat on the Texas Board of Education, an organization that influences what material and history goes into K-12 textbooks in the entire country because of the size of the Texas book market. These are just some of her beliefs: (1) Obama used to be a gay prostitute, (2) Climate change is a Communist hoax personally promoted by Karl Marx, (3) School shootings started only after they started teaching evolution, (4) Slavery did not cause the Civil War--but we have thought that because of a conspiracy formed by historians, and, (5), the best wart of all: We don’t have dinosaurs now because Noah only brought baby dinosaurs on his ark and they starved to death because he turned them loose too soon on land. Well—at least the books she approves could be very entertaining. Most of the Republican candidates for the 2016 nomination have scratched another bloody wart when they claimed our military is in terrible shape and has lost all of its effectiveness. Geez, we spend as much as the next ten countries combined (Russia, China, and that ilk) on national defense and military hardware. The Pentagon even runs 170 golf courses around the world. We could even beat everybody in golf if we had to.
Just What Is Bernie’s Democratic Socialism All About?
Almost all of the most successful governments in the world pattern themselves after the simple principles of Democratic Socialism, the main principle being that both the economy and society should be run democratically—to meet all of the public needs, not to make a huge profit just for a few. In a democracy ordinary citizens participate in the many decisions that affect every aspect of lives. Actually democracy and socialism fit like a glove. Wherever democracy has taken root in the rest of the world socialism has grown trees as well. In America the Republicans have been screaming about the perils of “socialized medicine” so long they have Americans believing that health care is a privilege of money, not a right. They have poisoned the idea that a community or state has a responsibility toward all of its members. Democratic Socialists do not want an all-powerful government. They do not want the government to own all sources of production. Capitalists assume there are only two motives behind the idea of work: to prevent starvation and to acquire money and property. There are many unappealing jobs in society, whether it is picking up garbage or keeping the sewers flowing, but if people are paid well enough they will see that society values their jobs. There is no doubt that, if work is meaningful and worthwhile to society, people will enjoy their work. Having held about 35 jobs in my lifetime, whether cleaning toilets, selling shirts and shorts, serving coffee, rolls, or martinis (which I’m having at the moment), or sorting rotten potatoes, or forking bundles of oats into a threshing machine, or cleaning the barn of manure after cows have hit the pasture and green grass for the first time in the spring, or using a jack hammer to break cement in a tunnel, or shooting a machine gun, I have always felt a certain joy in working for a buck---and have noticed my fellow workers have had the same feeling. Some jobs are not very appealing, so they should not be distributed on the basis of class, race, ethnicity, or gender as they are under capitalism. And undesirable work, whatever it is, should be among the most rewarded work within an economy.
Will Mexico Really Build Donald Trump’s 55-Ft Wall—The One With A Beautiful Gate?
In the March 15 copy of USA Today, Frank Luntz, the famous Republican pollster, Fox News contributor, and focus group organizer, wrote an article about his latest national survey on attitudes of second-time voters ages 18 to 26. His conclusion: this survey of young voters should sound the alarm for the Republican Party (“Snapchat Gen Spells GOP Doom”). His national survey of 1,000 first and second-time voters ages 18 to 26 shocked Republicans because 58% think Democratic Socialism as promoted by “Socialist” Senator Bernie Sanders is the most compassionate political system, Capitalism was chosen by only 33%, and even 9% selected Communism over Capitalism as the most compassionate for all citizens. When asked which major political figure today “do you like and respect the most,” 31% picked Sanders, 18% picked Barack Obama, 11% chose Hillary Clinton, and 9% named The Donald. Sanders scored higher than all Republicans running for the presidential nomination combined. Another telling figure: 44% of the young voters identify themselves as Democrats, only 15% call themselves Republicans, while 42% classify themselves as Independents. Luntz writes: “It’s not that young people love the Democratic Party---they don’t. But they reject the Republican Party and the corporate interests they represent.” Ouch! That statement would not go over well on Fox News.
The Republican Party, the representative of the rich and the corporations who have made them so, has always trumpeted that the United States is an “exceptional country.” The Republicans have lost this argument with the young voter also: 58% say “America isn’t any better or worse than most countries.” Think income inequality, waterboarding and other tortures, Iraq and Afghanistan Wars, the Supreme Court nomination, “JUST SAY NO” Congressional obstructionism of Obama, racial bigotry, yelling “Liar!” at Obama during a State of the Union address, and more than 60 votes on repealing ObamaCare. Luntz adds: “Americans aged 18 to 29 made up 19% of the vote in 2012, and President Obama pulled about 60% of their support….In this survey 87% of young voters say they are extremely or very likely to vote in the general 2016 election.”
From The Anarchy Of War In Afghanistan To The Social Democratic Peace Of Norway
American war correspondent Ann Jones had had enough of war, suicide bombs, land mines, Taliban ambushes, and dead Americans in Afghanistan for more than a lifetime, so she moved to another mountainous country just the opposite of Afghanistan, a “peaceful, prosperous land where nearly everybody seemed to enjoy life, on the job and in the family” called Norway. After spending four happy years of living among happy Norwegian workers and families she decided to return to the United States and “settle down.” Returning to the U.S., and in a sense, encountering another war, she later wrote an essay “After Living in Norway, America Feels Backward. Here’s Why.” She writes: “It felt quite a lot like stepping back into that other violent, impoverished world, where anxiety runs high and people are quarrelsome. I had, in fact, come back to the flipside of Afghanistan and Iraq: to what America’s wars have done to America. Where I live now…There are not enough shelters for the homeless. Most people are overworked or hurting for jobs; housing is overpriced; hospitals, crowded and understaffed; schools, largely segregated and not so good. Opiod or heroin overdose is a popular form of death; and men in the street threaten women wearing hijab. Did the American soldiers I covered in Afghanistan know they were fighting for this?”
In her essay Jones points out the difference between the crony-casino capitalism of the United States and the democratic socialism of Norway. Norwegians work about 37 hours a week and have about a month’s paid vacation a year while full-time salaried workers in the U.S. scheduled to work 40 hours a week actually average 49, with 20% working more than 60— are not paid overtime—and are not guaranteed vacation time. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) measures 11 factors of international well-being in developed countries such as affordable housing, quality of life, employment, health, quality of education, life expectancy, voter participation, and overall citizen satisfaction. This annual survey has determined that the Nordic countries of Norway, Sweden, Finland, Iceland, and Denmark consistently are in a cluster at the top—with the U.S. lagging far behind. On the UN Development Program’s Human Development Index Norway has ranked first for 12 of the last 15 years. In one paragraph Jones enumerates the difference in governments: “What is it that makes the Scandinavians so different (from us)? Since the Democrats can’t tell you and the Republicans wouldn’t want you to know…What the Scandinavians call the Nordic model (Democratic Socialism) is a smart and simple system that starts with a deep commitment to equality and democracy. That’s two concepts combined in a single goal because as far as they are concerned, you can’t have one without the other. Right there they part company with capitalist America, now the most unequal of all developed nations, and consequently a democracy no more. Political scientists say it has become an oligarchy—a country run at the expense of its citizenry by and for the super rich. Perhaps you noticed that.”
Crony-Casino Capitalism Happens When The Top 1% Have More Wealth Than The Bottom 90%
This is the difference between Democratic Socialism and crony-casino Capitalism. An American couple was excited about the husband winning a Fulbright scholarship which meant a year living in Norway. The wife was pregnant but they had State Department insurance. However, the insurance in small print said “Pregnancy is a pre-existing condition,” so she was not covered. They called the consulate in Trondheim, Norway. The Norwegian representative immediately said, “Come over and have your baby. It won’t cost you a dime because we have universal coverage. If you had been working here for six months you would also be eligible for a monthly payment of $150 for raising the child until he or she is 18 years old.” Now, that’s family values, but it takes taxes to cover such benefits.
In the wealthiest country in the world we don’t have those priorities. General Electric paid no federal income taxes in 2015. Boeing for the last seven years has paid a taxable rate of 1.8%--but actually got back $177.6 million in tax rebates. If the seven top U.S. pharmaceutical firms actually paid taxes on their offshore profits we could repair every bridge in America. Apple has dodged $74 billion in taxes over four years by hiding its dough in tax havens around the world. That’s enough money to pay the tuition for every college student in America in 2016. Koch Industries made $115 billion in revenue last year and paid less than 1% in taxes—while spending almost $900 million to help buy the presidency and Congress so they can pay less. This is crony-casino Capitalism.