Thursday, April 28, 2011

Class-action lawsuits

One of the most powerful tools for the American people to protect themselves against corporate fraud is the class-action lawsuit. This allows a large group of people to collectively sue a company for compensation, even if their individual losses are not worth the effort or money. It makes people's complaints legitimate, and forces companies into courtrooms to defend against multi-million dollar losses.

But a recent ruling by the Supreme Court would allow companies to deny their customers the right to join class-action lawsuits against them. According to the ruling, it is within the rights of companies to add a clause to their fine print contracts that say the individual is not allowed to sue them as part of a collective unit, and must take legal action singly. The significance of this is that it will deter the millions of small claims that come to court every year as a result of class-action lawsuits.

Consider what would happen if you as an individual were cheated out of $50 from a company. You could sue them for the money, but the costs of going through the court system would vastly outweigh the gains you would make by doing so. With a class-action suit, you would have been able to join a million other people who had last $50 from the same company. That turns your lawsuit into one over $50 million, a very large chunk of change, and one that the company would almost certainly fight over. But without the ability to join a class-action lawsuit, your stuck taking a hit of $50 dollars from the company and you have no way of seeking arbitration.

This is the next step in stripping individuals of their rights as American citizens. Without collective lawsuits, there is nothing to stop corporations from continuing their fraud against the people. There may very well come a day when you are overcharged regularly without any explanation or reason, simply because there's nothing you can do about it.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Single Payer on the way

Vermont just passed its bill for a state-wide single payer system to take the place of private and corporate insurance programs. There's been a lot of debate, a lot of misinformation, and a lot of concerns about this system, and I want to address some of them.

There is a radio ad going around that talks about how all of our insurance plans will be gone if single payer is passed. What it fails to mention is that those plans would be replaced by a government-run plan that would maintain cost and benefits better than a private insurance program.

Second, it has been said that single payer is bad for business. But the program actually reduces costs for companies because they no longer have to pay the exorbitant rates that come from private insurers. Also, a worker will no longer be tied to their job because of health care benefits. Their coverage will go with them, and not be contingent on employment.

Third, it's been said that this system will be bad for doctors. However, doctors receive very little compensation from insurance companies, and have resorted to raising rates to meet their needs. Also, they are barred from using certain procedures or medications because they are not covered by insurance. This program would free up some of that, and provide doctors with more compensation for services. I wonder why people think that doctors will not be able to operate in a single payer health system?

Finally, the single payer system makes health care a right for all, not a privilege for those who can afford it. It makes fiscal sense to promote things like preventative care, healthy choices, and shared costs. And, Vermont is already one of the healthiest states in the country. It has the least carbon footprint, has the lowest GDP already, the second smallest population and is one of the least diverse states. All of these things mean that the single payer system will be relatively straightforward. For example there won't need to be as many allowances made for varying socioeconomic status, race, or environment as there would be in a state like New York or California. Vermont is a great test drive state, is exceedingly liberal, and has the added benefit of already being healthy and promoting healthy choices from a young age.

I believe the single payer system will be a great success, as long as it can survive the stigma of this major smear campaign that has tirelessly attempted to derail it. There is a lot of distortion going on that stems from genuine concern over the outcome of this legislation. There are those who stand to lose money, certainly, and those who simply don't know what the end result will be. But for all that, this is a step in the right direction, in fact the only direction, to cutting costs and bringing health care to everyone.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The fight for education

The Tea Party has started focusing more and more on their respective local issues, primarily concerning taxes and education. In many states all across the nation, the battle is on to balance school budgets, elect school board members, and keep costs under control.

The signature Tea Party mantra of "no compromise, no matter what" is going strong in these debates, and its adherents continue to disregard common sense, bipartisanship, and plain old manners. For example, a school board in Florida reached an agreement with teachers to provide a raise of 1.5%, the cost of which was offset by concessions made by the unions. Tea Partiers argued about the raise, and eventually got the measure defeated, meaning teachers wouldn't receive a raise in the coming year, despite inflation, increased costs, and lower budgets for classrooms.

And this is a debate going on all over the place. In some places, the Tea Party has no resistance and are slashing funding of public schools, leaving large classes in unfurnished rooms with teachers receiving less pay and fewer benefits. In other places, there are those who are standing up for the long-term benefits of a good education and bringing the fight to the uncompromising conservatives in the Tea Party.

With the need-it-now mentality and the apparent disregard for long-term consequences, I worry about the places that have strong Tea Party influence calling the shots. Maybe this new fiscal conservatism is a good thing that will bring about a new age in American education. Or, maybe it will destroy our very way of life. Time will tell, but hopefully before it's too late.

Paying the Price

With oil and gas prices shooting up almost on a daily basis, it's worth thinking about why that's happening. Some people blame the government, saying that restrictions on drilling and forcing companies to limit production causes artificial inflation of the price per gallon. Others argue that its the companies themselves, limiting their production on their own, or simply refusing to ship their oil, so that the demand exceeds the ready supply, the price goes way up, and they can use that as leverage to open up the sanctions and restrictions currently on them.

I tend to believe that it has more to do with corporate greed than government control. For one thing, a lot of these companies don't pay any taxes in the U.S. Also, they are posting record profits. Exxon Mobil, for example, will be posting record profits for the second time in three years. Their quarterly profits are expected to increase by 50% over last year! So, not only is Exxon Mobil raking in huge amounts of cash, they are paying nothing to the Fed, meaning that government gets nothing out of this.

In fact, the only place the government makes money on oil is when they add taxes at the pump. The thing is, those taxes haven't increased since about 2005. The federal tax is 18.4 cents per gallon. Gas is sold by the barrel, with each barrel holding approximately 28 gallons. That means that, in gas tax, the government makes about $5.15 per barrel of gas sold. States also add tax to fuel, generally about 20 cents a gallon. That means that, for every barrel of gas, states make about $5.60 in tax. Considering that a barrel of gas is going for about $112 in the U.S. right now, I think it's pretty clear that the vast majority of the money you pay for fuel goes to the oil company.


So how do we solve the problem of fluctuating oil prices? The most common sense answer is to end our dependence on foreign oil. However, the development of alternative energy that is comparable to gas will take time and money. And Americans can't afford gas at these prices for very long. So, in the relatively short term, the solution has to come from the people themselves. A great way to force oil prices down is to boycott one company specifically and refuse to buy fuel from them whenever possible. The obvious choice would be Exxon Mobil, the largest oil company that operates in the U.S. It doesn't mean you have to stop buying fuel altogether, you just buy gas from companies like Gulf or Sunoco. By boycotting one company nation wide, the profit for that company takes a big hit, and they are forced to lower prices in order to attract customers. Other companies then have to follow suit in order to remain competitive, and the price goes down everywhere.

Critics of this idea will say that it ruins local business. However, most locally owned gas stations only add about 1 cent per gallon for profit. That profit can easily be made up somewhere else if you go in and buy a candy bar or bottled water. Most convenience stores make little or none of their money off of gas sales, relying more on the subsequent sales they get when someone stops to fill up.

For the second time in three years, gas prices are reaching an all-time high. The only way we as the people can secure our financial freedom from these big companies is to show them the one thing that can stop their greedy pillaging in its tracks: A populace united against them.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Factual Statements and vice versa

In a recent discussion over whether to defund Planned Parenthood, John Kyl (R - AZ) said that "90 percent" of Planned Parenthood services are related to abortion. When it was pointed out that the actual percentage is about 3%, an aide for Kyl sent the now infamous message saying that Mr. Kyl's remark was "not intended to be a factual statement."

Well, of course, a comedic gem of this nature could not go quietly. It has been picked up most notably by Stephen Colbert.

So, from now on, you can say whatever you'd like as long as you include the following caveat:

#NotIntendedToBeAFactualStatement


So, here we go:
Tax break for the rich create jobs (NotIntendedToBeAFactualStatement)
Rush Limbaugh is a God (NotIntendedToBeAFactualStatement)
Glenn Beck is right on the money (NotIntendedToBeAFactualStatement)
Fox is Fair and Balanced (NotIntendedToBeAFactualStatement)

Let me know if you have more.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Wall Street and the Fed

We've been debating over budgets that will have ramifications for generations. We have been waiting and watching as our lawmakers quibble over a couple million for NPR and Planned Parenthood while they largely ignore the revenue problem of the federal government. What we didn't know was that the Federal Reserve was giving away billions to foreign and domestic banks, Wall St. CEO's and the CEO's wives.

This most recent article by Matt Taibbi discusses why the Fed budget has ballooned to be equal in size to the federal budget we all know, and how and why it was hidden from the public until now.

After reading this, I have a nagging sense of impending financial doom. How can such practices be rooted out? How can we regulate fiscal malpractice between the Fed and Wall Street if our lawmakers can't even come to a common sense decision to raise taxes to help the economy and get rid of debt? Right now, all the people are focusing on is the congressional budget. They're watching the debate over raising taxes and cutting funding. The underlying cancer of deliberate financial roulette with taxpayer dollars to benefit the super-rich (who the cons are defending as being to strapped with taxes already) is not being addressed. Until we force the Fed to give up these practices and keep taxpayer dollars working for the taxpayer, we're not going to get an inch closer to financial stability and deficit and debt reduction.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Beating the dead horse

I feel like there's so much turmoil going on with the budget. Everyone is throwing their two cents in, everyone is debating points and counterpoints, and arguing over whose rhetoric is right and winning. The problem is that there are no winners when politicians play games with this kind of legislation.

The thing is, our government can't run effectively on uncompromising extremists. It simply doesn't work that way. Our country needs compromise, it needs to have a melting pot of ideas that result in the best outcome to benefit everyone. But people, particularly the conservative Tea Partiers, don't think they need to compromise. They believe that if they stick to their guns that the seas will part and their proposals will simply be accepted by the establishment is practically holy, not to mention the most fiscally responsible. Yet, their proposals are also the most insane, the most damaging, and the most out of touch with common sense and actual progress.

There are no provisions, for example, that allocate money to infrastructure. There are incredible slashes to entitlement benefits, including the very programs that the Tea Partiers use (remember the famous quote "Keep your hands of my medicare"). There is no reasonable taxation, no closing tax loopholes that allowed major businesses to not only pay nothing but actually receive refunds, and increased pressure on middle and working class people to foot the bill for their own care.

And what about the plans for health insurance? A voucher system? But only if your younger than 55, so that the big red block of GOP support that are older than that don't feel the increasingly negative effects of such a system. The voucher system, as has been said before, doesn't eliminate costs, just shifts them to you and I. We don't get anything from this proposal except the promise that we will be able to exist more independently of government support (i.e. "intrusion").

I know I've talked about this a lot lately, but it really bothers me that there are people in this country who actually say this bill doesn't go far enough. They say that, until there are no abortions, no reproductive rights, no public education, public health care, public transportation, or anything else with the word "public," there will be too much government. It just boggles my mind.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Inequality in America

A great article by Joseph Stiglitz about income and wealth inequality. 

The underlying problem with inequality is not the fact that it continues or that it is not addressed, really. The problem is that it's not seen as a problem or even thought of at all. No one seems to ask what the long-term cause of upper-class tax cuts and benefits are. No one in Washington is pointing out that, after the biggest tax breaks, deregulation, and despite bailouts and corporate profit in the multimillions, we are still struggling economically, are still facing serious unemployment in the private sector, and are still being told that if we just allow money to continue pouring into the pockets of the super-rich then we'll all be better off.

In his most recent budget proposal, Paul Ryan calls for a tax cut of nearly a third for the top wage earners. In an earlier post, I said that if this proposal was really meant to help combat debts and deficits that a tax break makes no sense. In fact, it would be more effective to keep the taxes where they are in order to generate more revenue which can be used to pay off debt. But, once again, we see a plan that overwhelmingly supports the upper class, and fails to acknowledge the upward shift of money, and the continued hoarding of money by the rich and big business.

Does it not make sense to tax those who can afford it? Doesn't it create a lesser Democracy to allow the wealthy a greater and more influential piece of the pie at the expense of those at the working class? And how can those at the bottom hope to retain their own wealth and voice in such an environment?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Ryan's Budget Proposal

There's a lot going on in the new budget put forth by Paul Ryan, primarily concerning medicare, medicaid, and taxes. Specifically, medicare would be turned to a voucher system, medicaid would be handled by block grants, and the tax rate for the wealthiest would be cut from 35% to 25%.

I have a couple questions about this, though. First of all, how is the voucher system any good for the people who rely on medicare? Sure, it looks good on paper, and it will result in lowering government operating costs, but it does not eliminate or reduce the cost of medicare. It simply transfers those costs to the individual. If this budget proposal is meant to help the economy, why would Ryan set out a proposal that would leave less money in the pockets of Americans for them to invest in the economy?

Second, what about the proposed medicaid block grants? Again, this solution doesn't actually solve the problem of skyrocketing health care costs, it just forces those who need medicaid to bear that financial burden. It would result in states receiving a set amount of money, which could change over time, and that's all there is. So, if more people request medicaid assistance, or if costs continue to rise, the money will run out and people will be left with nothing. How does this benefit the country?

Third, if this a budget that is designed to help us pull our way out of debt and reduce the deficit, why on earth would there be a proposed tax cut for the wealthiest Americans? How does this help anything? It's possible that, if this tax cut were not included, that the extra revenue could cover part of the medicare and medicaid costs. If there was an equivalent tax increase, that would only make it better. And remember, these are the wealthiest Americans, those making over $1 million a year. They can afford higher taxes. It's not like a higher tax rate will result in their losing their homes, being unable to feed their children, or educate them.

The problem with this budget is that the money it saves is meaningless since it is simply money that the people will be expected to pay. It does not cut costs, it does not make sense financially, and it doesn't help anyone except those at the top of the income bracket. If we're talking about ending the deficit and paying back our debt, how does a tax cut for billionaires make sense? The argument, as I understand it, is that upper-class tax cuts will turn into economic investment and job creation. I have never seen any evidence of this occurring, and so I'm pretty skeptical.

I was hoping for economic common sense, for solutions that would benefit the majority of Americans. Instead, we get a joke, an attack on the working classes, and more conservative BS. At least we won't have to see it passed. Let's hope the next proposal is better balanced.

Also, look at this claim by Paul Ryan. Apparently, he is also going to eliminate the unemployed.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Freedom and Entrapment

Here's a great cartoon about health care and the trap that is employee-based health insurance.

It surprises me that more people don't support single-payer and other government-based health programs. I guess the scare tactics about death panels and limited health options really got to them. There's really no reason to support job-based health plans because, as this cartoon so accurately shows, they are the perfect way to trap employees in a job they may not like and which pays them less than they could get elsewhere.

McDonaldization

This is a term that has been put forth by George Ritzer, a sociologist who has studied American culture and published the book The McDonaldization of Society in 1993. The idea is that the values of a place like McDonald's have been applied to our society and culture as a whole: immediate, cheap, one-size-fits-all solutions.

These values have become so ingrained in our society that people have come to expect immediacy in everything, from internet downloads and news to political decision-making and economic recovery. Consider the kind of things that are most widely labeled as "progress" in our political sphere today: stop-gap budgets, piles of spending cuts, lowered taxes for the rich and businesses, and the application of moral conservatism as a tool for economic redirection. None of these solutions bring long-term prosperity and can actually be financially ruinous in the long run.

Consider the economic ramifications of cutting medicaid or privatizing social security and entitlements. The burden of these expenses are then relegated to the people who buy into them, limiting the money they can spend to stimulate the economy as a whole, which reduces profits for business and drives down the economy. Given enough time, the decisions being made and actions being carried out on the federal level will likely result in a worse situation, or at least one that is not as easily remedied. There are only so many cuts you can make, only so low you can put taxes before the country starts literally and figuratively falling apart.

McDonaldization has reached the minds of Americans as well. One of the reasons people are dissatisfied with Obama and the government is that the economic recovery does not seem to be going as quickly as expected. In fact, it's been doing very well, with unemployment at it's lowest in two years and businesses posting record profits again. The very best economists have said that the economy will not fully recover for at least ten years, and possibly many more. But that's not what people have been taught to expect. They have learned,  by the example of our fast-paced market, to expect immediacy in all things. We have been conditioned by our media and culture to expect things as soon as we think of them. We value speed and short-term answers more than long-term solutions.

Consider the societal impact of McDonaldization the next time you hear a politician talking about shoring up the economy, cutting taxes to stimulate job growth, or cutting entitlements to help balance the budget. Ask yourself why there is no discussion of the long-term impacts of these decisions and why no one thinks more than a year ahead anymore.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Rational Rights

The thing about our constitutional rights is that are meant to be taken with a good dose of rational limitation. There are no all-encompassing rights. Even your right to free speech stops when you are charged with defamation, libel, or threatening behavior. Despite the somewhat general consensus that there should be reasonable restrictions on our rights, the one right that ironically seems to be at the forefront of liberty debates is the Second Amendment.

The right to bear arms in this country has been touted as the right that ensures all of the others. It has also been argued (primarily by the NRA) that there should be absolutely no restrictions on gun ownership or wear weapons can be carried. This argument is incredibly devoid of common sense when you consider what happens when guns in the hands of madmen have done in the name of exercising their rights. How many school shooting have occurred in the last 10 or 15 years? How many office shootings? How many people with guns have tried to shoot lawmakers or abortion doctors, ex-lovers and people that they begrudge for some reason or another? The numbers are undoubtedly in the thousands.

Well, now Texas is looking to loosen the restrictions on carrying concealed handguns on college campuses. Currently, only Utah has such a law, but Texas wants to be next. Lawmakers are debating the amendment which would certainly allow people to exercise their right on college campuses, but could also very well endanger lives.

Why is it important to carry a gun on a college campus? Do people think that the teachers are going to attack? And if they're going to loosen those restrictions, why not eliminate all gun restrictions. That way, we can carry guns into the Texas state capitol building and arm ourselves when we listen to our lawmakers. We can bring our pistols to the doctors office and the supermarket, just in case.

In case what? I don't understand why it is so important to arm ourselves 24/7 when we clearly have so many issues with guns as it is. I don't think it makes sense to allow people to carry weapons wherever they want until our nation as a whole shows some responsibility and restraint in our use of handguns. Until we end the sale of fully automatic rifles and handguns, and place common sense restrictions on where and when and how a firearm can be used, we shouldn't rely on the Second Amendment to exercise our liberties.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Burning bridges along with books

March 20, 2011 may well be the day we look back and point out the beginning of the end for peace in the Middle East for Americans. What has happened on this day is the culmination of nearly a year of controversy over the plan to burn Qurans as a public display of protest against Islam. Terry Jones, who backed off his plans for a Quran-burning last summer, has now gone ahead with it, endangering relations with every Middle Eastern country and Muslims all over the world, not to mention the lives of civilians and American soldiers. And for what?

Terry Jones is quoted as saying "Muslim dominated countries can no longer be allowed to spread their hate against Christians and minorities." The hypocrisy of Mr. Jones's actions are almost too numerous to count. First of all, you have a man who, while condemning Muslim countries for hate, he is promoting xenophobic fear and hatred here in America. Secondly, his actions will likely spark further hate toward Christians in Muslim-majority nations. The sad part is that their reactions - the demonstrations, the riots, and the subsequent deaths and violence - bring us back to square one in terms of creating a bridge to that culture so very different from our own.


It makes me wonder what would happen if there was a well-publicized Bible burning in the United States to protest the intolerance of fundamentalist Christianity. I can imagine that there would be an endless firestorm. Christians would be aghast to have their holy book burned because the group doing the burning believes they are intolerant and hateful. They would be rightfully upset to be labeled so callously, to be diminished to the size of a label, and called oppressive. It would be wrong. And so is Mr. Jones. 


I don't believe that Islam is a religion rooted in hate, any more than Christianity is. True, there are passages in both the Quran and the Bible that sound like they promote hate and intolerance of others. But if Christians can claim that their holy book does not promote hate despite those passages, why aren't Muslims allowed to make that claim? 


It's a shame that this act of intolerance had to be committed in the U.S., and that it was meant to be a protest against perceived intolerance. It is the product of ignorance and blind hate, and will likely translate to greater unrest, more death, and less amicable diplomacy in the Middle East for a long time to come.

Friday, April 1, 2011

The Business Model

The fundamental characteristic of the conservative view of government is that it is a business, and therefore must be productive. In this political-business model, the government must produce a marketable good or service that can be traded for revenue or other goods and services. In cases where this marketable outcome is not apparent, such as education and health care, the conservative model dictates that these divisions be made directly profitable by producing capital.

Since the government is not designed to directly profit from these programs, and because conservatives believe in the potential of the free market private sector, these profits have been pushed to privately owned enterprises. Conservatives continually vote to reduce federal budgets for health care and education, relegating those duties to the private sector where such work makes a visible,  tangible profit. Such a mechanism makes more sense to a conservative ascribing to the business model of government because they are able to see and control fiscal outcomes.

It is telling of the nature of this view that conservatives who believe in profit-driven legislation and practice are the first to call for cuts in those areas they see as least profitable: education and entitlements. Thus, congressional conservatives continually reduce budgets as a way to stop what is to them a financial black hole into which millions of dollars disappear annually with no returns on the investment.

The business model encourages and expects short-term, direct, and usable returns. Short-term means that those who invest their time and money see an immediate profit or profit potential. While this might work for private sector business, it is an unfortunate and detrimental outlook for something like health care. This is because those who seek a profit in something like medicare have a vested interest in not providing financial support to their clients as that support would eat away at profits. Similarly, in education, reducing overhead costs at the expense of education value, supplies, pensions, benefits, and salaries for teachers and aides is the chief mindset to the privately run school system and the chief cause of recent failings of public schools to meet ever-increasing standards of excellence.

Direct returns on financial investment refer to returns that come directly to those who invest. In our traditional education system, it is understood that the long-term benefits do not fall to the investor, but the student. In this classical view of education, the student on whom money is spent will eventually become a valuable individual in the community at large, thereby creating returns on their education by providing high quality services and/or goods and stimulating the economy by purchasing goods and services. Unfortunately, this view is not supported by the business model, in which investors seek to have the returns on their investment come back to themselves. In this way, conservatives strive to create an environment in education and health care whereby the private industries that control those services receive direct compensation for their investment that exceeds their investment.  The only way this can occur in education or in health care is if the money of individuals who pay into the system goes directly to the company. Thus, more money would flow into the private sector, bleeding more from the populace and, by extension, the economy at large.

Usable returns refers to compensation that can be turned around and used for future investment or overhead. In something like education, the return of a good, high-paying job for the student is not a usable outcome for the private company that may have provided the education. To follow this thought, it is actually in the best interest of the private company to not educate its students so that they may see greater profits per student than if the child received a valuable education. Usable returns are a staple of private business. If a company receives a good or service as compensation that they cannot use that compensation becomes static and a financial burden. This is why something like money is the most sought-after compensation because it is the easiest to transfer to other investments or projects. Thus, it is money that conservatives of the business model seek as compensation for private educators and the health industry.

In America today, we are beginning to see this model being implemented by our lawmakers. As education budgets are continually reduced at the state and federal levels, teachers' salaries, benefits, and classroom budgets being limited, and standards being raised ever higher, there is the feeling that we are demanding our teachers to do more with less. This is a central philosophy of the private sector, one that has recently led to record profits for corporations that have refused to hire employees because their productivity is at an optimal level with fewer workers. As the budgets for education and health care services are reduced at all levels, those who pay into these programs must take up the extra cost or see their benefits disappear. As our education systems fail us, and our medicare, medicaid, and social security lose money, lawmakers are able to use this as an excuse to further reduce budgets and raise standards in order to "encourage excellence". It is generally ignored that the budget reductions were the cause of the lowering standards of education and health care in the first place, and it is said that by cutting budgets there is an incentive for teachers to work harder.

Because budgets are being reduced and pay and benefits are stagnant for all but the most powerful and wealthy Americans, the money being funneled into programs like medicare and social security is going down, since these are fed by a percentage of income being taken out of American paychecks. As the revenue is reduced, the programs begin to fail, and that failure is used to push for their deconstruction and privatization.

By applying the business model, conservatives continually push for the privatization of our health care services, social security, education, and regulatory control. They even promote views of government that call for a small, unobtrusive body of legislators, one that controls the military, collects taxes, and protects the rights of citizens and corporations from itself. Conservatives of the business model believe that private enterprise can govern itself, that regulation of things like carbon emissions and banking practices is limiting to companies and thus should be removed to allow maximum growth and, by extension, in their minds, maximum competition. But even competition has become a moot point as America's most powerful corporate giants have reached levels at which there is no competition that leads to cheaper and higher quality goods and services, but instead leads to corporate cooperation at the expense of the consumer.

My fear in all of this is that our education will become profit-driven, that our health care will be more concerned with the bottom line than the health of our citizens, and that we will start to see a drop in the quality of these services in order to line the pockets of the private owners who control them. Imagine an education system that exists for the profit of those who run it. The money used to buy books, new teaching tools and technology, and thus better educate our children, would be cut in favor of higher profit. Students would be numbers on financial spreadsheets, their test scores and grades being the foundation for funding for their schools. Teachers would no longer earn the pittance that they do, as their wages would be based on the outcomes of their students , but they would receive less support for teaching. In this outcome, education becomes a commodity, in which those who cannot afford education do not receive one. That, perhaps, is the most dangerous and depressing view of all.

And consider the impact of social security or medicare being privatized completely. Imagine your retirement being traded away for the investor's profit, losing everything when the economy tanks due to poor investment decisions. What would happen if our medicare was run by a private industry? Would citizens be told that their procedures and medications are too costly to cover, and so they must die in order to raise profits? Would the quality of our medicines and procedures be reduced in order to make more money?  We have already seen the debate between generic and name-brand medications, which is evidence of the profiteering that is inherent in the private sector that exercises complete control over entire spheres of society.

And what would happen to the finances of the working and middle class Americans? What about the millions who don't own their own business, that work in the fields, or at a desk, or in a mine, or in any of the thousands of other unseen places? How would they be affected if every cent they paid for education and health care went into the pockets of a corporation? How could a small business compete in such an environment? How could anyone survive when the money they invest in their futures doesn't stay local, but is shipped off to the bank vaults of billionaires? And when you consider that many large corporations do not pay taxes at all, but relegate the tax burden to the lower middle and working class, it is apparent that those at the bottom would only suffer in the privatization of America.

It is a dangerous model for us to pursue, and a dangerous precedent to set in our country. The value of government-controlled sectors of society cannot be overstated. In order to keep a balance of power and influence, in order to hold back the control of the private sector in every aspect of our lives, and in order to ensure increased excellence in our education and health care systems, we must allow the government to exercise control over those systems. The day we allow our private sector to control what we are taught and how we live is the day that we can shut the doors on democracy, individual freedom, and public influence.

Pundits and the GOP

Katrina vanden Heuvel has a great piece on how crazy punditry in the media has become. She describes several people that have been called on to discuss issues such as Libya and the economy when those individuals have been known historically to be bad influences on these things. For example, former Col. Oliver North, who orchestrated the involvement in Nicaragua under Reagan, was brought on to Fox news to tell people why Obama was wrong not to seek Congressional approval for his action in Libya.

Then, you have the GOP, who are scrounging for candidates that are either a)not insane, b)not stupid, or c)not hypocrites. They're having a tough time with this, and their inability to nail down a decisive candidate could very well lead to a second Obama term.

The thing that strikes me is how serious everyone is about ignoring the obvious reasons for these issues. It should be clear that the conservative base of the GOP can't produce a candidate because it is in shambles. It should be clear that Americans allow someone like Alan Greenspan to discuss how we can fix the recession because we have become numb to hypocrisy, history, or both. No one cares anymore about who is saying what, or even what they're saying. What matters is how they say it and how firmly they believe what spills forth from their minds and mouths. Everything has become opinion because it can't be disproved.

I suppose you can't blame the GOP. After all, their base finally blown a fuse and splintered apart, becoming the illustrious Tea Party. No wonder they are having trouble; this may be the first time there is no consensus on the Right, and they don't know how to fight a civil war in their party.  And you really can't blame the media. They've been forced into a collective ADD and amnesia where everything that happened last month is "old news" unless it still sells newspapers or air time.

So, what can you say, other than that the GOP is trying to run unstable candidates, the media are using unstable pundits, and the people are being subjected to unstable talking points and opinion thanks to our privately owned media system.