Extreme Politicing

I had a good conversation with friends today.  When did politic change from electing representatives to “represent” our views and interests, to now electing people who think they have political capital to pass laws while ignoring the priorities of their constituents.

Seriously, through Facebook, Twitter, Pintrest, Instagram, … I can’t avoid learning the most intimate detail about the lives of friends and strangers alike.  But we haven’t figured out how to use social media to communicate our instructions to the Elected Officials?

Purple StatesHow did we let the failure of private enterprise to provide services catered to our needs progress into extreme Democratic views that it’s solely the government’s responsibility to give everyone an equal playing field, resulting in a safety blanket and handout for all?

And why do we allow Republican ideals of social networks to provide community support individuals need, to convince us that the government cannot effectively provide these services.  Have you heard about health care in Canada?  Compared to the US where individuals have to fight for profit health insurance companies to get the services they are rightfully owed?

The wealthy are using both systems to manipulate the US population (the Americas are comprised of 20 countries across North, South, and Central America).

  • They tell us government programs are inefficient so that they can create a private enterprise that will make a profit and may or may not be a useful service.  But they make it work for the Congressional benefits.
  • They convince of trickle down economics.
  • The only way for non-wealthy people to hold anyone accountable for their behavior and the effectiveness of their goods/services sold is to spend a fortune in legal fees (that they don’t have).
  • They convinced us to eliminate institutions for the mentally ill, who now end up in correctional facilities with no rights to seek treatment they need.
  • Conditions are even worse in detention centers for illegal immigrants, Amnesty International and others have shown the human rights abuses that occur in these centers, often held by private corporations.
  • The wealthy have learned when they can make extra profits, such as non-bid government contracts that no one is complaining about!

How might our costs for welfare, Medicaid, and criminal justice be reduced if we improve education and opportunities to decent paying jobs (where someone can pay for housing, food, and health care in their community)?

Federal Spending

We’re all connected throughout society.  I did not learn to read and write on my own, I did not invent my own internet technology or small pox vaccine, all of which helped me get to where I am today.  We can’t act as if we accomplish everything on our own.  We also can’t act as if people aren’t responsible for their own actions, however corrective repercussions will help society more than punishments.  This Radiolab show about Blame explains how our understanding of the causes of behavior is improving our ability to respond to behavior.

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My “Less Obvious” Problems with Republican Ideology

The red "GOP" logo used by the party...

The red “GOP” logo used by the party for its website (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This post is by no means a statement of support for the Democrats, I don’t think they have the perfect answer either.  Not to mention the politicking both parties are wrapped up in which limits actual progress.
My Problems with Republican Ideology:

  • The concept that Free Markets will run themselves… anyone notice the Great Recession, now in it’s 4th year?  We must also have accountability so that people are held responsible for their actions for the concept of Free Markets to have a chance.
  • De-regulation: see note above.
  • How can anyone ignore science, the search for absolute/unbiased Truth?
  • They tend to act as if anything that makes money is okay, no matter what the impact or consequences are.
  • A few of them believe war is justified when it will stimulate the economy. (How does that reconcile with “Thou Shall Not Kill”?)
  • They believe in the value of their own hard work, which I think is good.  But not in the value of the opportunities, resources, and support that helped along the way, which I think is unfair.  (An idea founded in the science they wish to ignore.)
  • They don’t want to give a helping hand to the working class, as it will teach them to be dependent and lose motivation for working hard.  They must have learned this from supporting Big Oil companies and such.  (I don’t believe in hand-outs, but I think human compassion can go a long way toward setting things straight.)
  • The idea that we should not prioritize our environmental impact because of the discomfort it will cause us.  (Back to that idea of making money is a top priority.)

What would you add?

The Substance of the Occupy Wall Street Movement

The Occupy Movement has received a lot of support from people around the world, and a lot of criticism for not having a clear request or agenda.  To simply state a problem ” We are the 99%”, referencing the wealth gap between rich and middle class (I don’t think this is about or will become a movement the conditions of the working poor) is not enough to gain action from the political powers for change.

The list of complaints includes a variety of topics from the various participates in the movement.  The underlying theme of complaints that seem to be universal include:

  • The economic gap between rich and poor is widening.
  • The quality of living for the middle class is dropping.
  • Capitalism is out of control and has given all the power to the wealthy.

The middle class wants to be able to earn a certain standard of living.  They are doing everything requested of them to earn that lifestyle: gone to college, worked hard to move up the ladder, invest in home, and save for retirement and now the people demand the promised return: 1.  A secure retirement lifestyle with decent health care and 2. Similar opportunities for the younger generations.  They do not understand how those two concepts are now threatened after years of hard work that filled the coffers of the rich 1%.  And the ruling rich do not believe they are responsible for providing those entitlements, but the Occupiers believe  the rich have some responsibility because they have controlled the government spending and taxation which now threaten the promised entitlements.  The rich say: You are now taking more than you paid for these entitlement programs.  But if the middle class was paid more, or the rich didn’t get out of their tax obligation, or the government was forced to save, then the government may be able to support the entitlements, making the necessary revisions as the population ages.

Capitalism has allowed the wealthy to become the ruling class and overpower the majority.  Nothing is perfect, and capitalism certainly is not a perfect economic system.  So I think the real message from the Occupy Movement is that we need to revise our economics (demonstrated on their holiday card) and politics to support our values and responsibilities.

On Monday’s show, Charlie Rose subtly presented the issues and the solution at the root of the Occupy Movement discussion and the Congressional Super Committee deadlock.  His guests presented the two fundamental sides of the issue.   David Brooks discussed ideas relating to he conservative point of view “We need less Government involvement and cost”.   The Tea Party represents the extreme view: we don’t want to pay taxes to support programs with excessive waste and programs that support freeloaders.  Then Dov Seidman discusses his work to help companies develop Ethical Business Practices that are also prosperous because they resonate with the values of the public.

The solution is increase ethics and responsibility in business and politics.  This can’t be mandated, but has to be a cultural change from the ground up.  We have to change our behavior and practices in a way that creates the right incentives for businesses to change, and no longer look for ways to cheat the system.

One of the fantastic developments with this movement is the creation of “Participatory Democracy”.  I think this type of development in the political process is the next revolution, to find a modern political model that represents the wishes of the people and not the ruling class.

The Truth About Retirement

In Western culture,  we currently view retirement as a right, not a privilege. It’s become an entitlement we consider as necessary as health care, education, and freedom.  According to this article on WBUR, the retirement concept and lifestyle is relatively new.  Although the concept was created around 1900 (A Brief History of Retirement), it really became popular when the Baby Boomer generation was entering the workforce, but there were not enough jobs for this generation.

Social Security (an ingenious Ponzi Scheme bringing in revenue for the government under a guise of workers insurance) was invented in 1935, but did not popularize retirement.  Alright, so it’s not quite the same formula as a Ponzi Scheme, the government calls it an insurance plan (LA Times Article), but the formula was designed to work with a pyramid population expansion which has not been consistent, and is not sustainable in the future.

Now the new generations (X and Y) are chasing down the Baby Boomers for their jobs, but the boomers plan to keep working.  As we have seen with housing, jobs, and social security, we need to modernize our social programs, and economy to address the reduced population size with subsequent generations.

But this probably won’t happen until it’s absolutely necessary.

Dispair.com view on Retirement

Embarking on A Democratic Revolution… Or Just Continuing One

Democracy embodies a natural human desire for self governance, where the will of the people direct and control the actions of the government.  This is an ideal that is difficult to implement for the maximum benefit.  The challenge in democracy is balancing of desires and priorities for the group being governed.  I think the key ingredient for a successful democracy is education.   When the general public elects their representatives, they should know the facts of who they are electing and for what purpose, as well as the consequences of their vote.

The founding fathers of the United States of American certainly understood the necessity of public educating and developed educational institutions.  But how have we continued that priority?  The US general public today is not as well informed of governmental responsibilities and issues compared to the 1770’s.  For various reasons, we are more consumed by other activities and spend less time researching politics and our government’s actions.  Could this be one cause for the expanding wage gap between the wealthy and the poor?  Could this also contribute to increasing dissatisfaction for the political system?  Are we resolved to cyclically vote in the opposing party and reject that party when they do not conform to our ideals, instead of learning how to influence our elected officials to bring about the desired changes.  I think part of the problem is that our society is so undereducated about politics that we cannot effectively participate in the conversation.  Journalists perform the role of the people’s voice, guessing at various ideas of the people’s complaints and wishes without really understanding what is desired.  Today’s society has changed dramatically since the time of our founding fathers, and our culture must adapt to the current social and political challenges.  Just as we need to simplify the tax code and the health care system to meet our priorities and expectations, we must re-evaluate each segment of government to update the system for modern times.

I believe in the ideal of democracy and hope that all nations can benefit from its strengths.  Each form of government has it’s own strengths and characteristics.  One of the strengths of democracy is the promotion of Human Rights within the culture.  Maybe this is why so many people believe democracy to be the best system of government and the attraction of middle eastern cultures to governmental reform.  This week/month we’re witness history in the making, as democracy spreads across middle eastern countries and the people of those countries gain influence over their government.  I hope they are prepared for the responsibility they now face.  And I hope we (citizens of the US) are willing to address our shortcomings to improve the state of our Democracy.

The Challange of Capitalism

Economies have evolved and for now we are settled on a Capitalists system.  Maybe that is the best system for us right now, I don’t know enough about economic systems to have an opinion on which may be better.  But I think we all should be more cognoscente of the challenges and disadvantages of this system, so that we avoid the pitfalls of the system as much as possible.

With Capitalism, individual benefit and prosperity is the focus.  I think the biggest problem with Capitalism is Fraud and Deceit.  Without significant regulation, and a source of fact checking, the consumers and average citizens have no way to get the right information through all the misinformation forced in front of us.  Even if we try to get a handle on the information needed, the information becomes so convoluted you have to hire a lawyer to explain each sentence.  How do we know who or what to trust?

  • We can no longer trust banking institutions to provide a reasonable loan given a person’s economic situation.  Nor can we trust the securities they are trying to sell.
  • Most commercials are obviously misleading and deceitful.
  • Can we trust our investment advisers?

The thing that worries me, we all know someone who is incompetent for their job, maybe we know many people who we would not trust in that profession.  Yet we inherently trust our doctors, airline pilots, funny guys on TV who give financial advice using funny sounds. Frontline on the public TV station has been highlighting cost saving short cuts taken by the Airline industry that are not regulated by the safety administrations.  Today’s episode of 60 Minutes highlights the hidden fees in 401k programs.  These fees are not hidden in the fine print, they are unpublicized fees that we have no way of identifying.

This could be the greatest opportunity for the government.  Modern society has a reasonable distrust of the government, as we should.  But why is out distrust stronger for the government than for commercials, business, safety regulations, etc.?  Do we really expect big companies, wall street, and real estate agents to be looking out for our best interests?  We have eliminated regulation in favor of cost savings on the various products and industries.  Hopefully with a democratic system, and with our bill of rights, we can have an effective government that is checked and regulated by the people.

We need to regain control of the government by voting, writing to the elected officials, and talking to each other about priorities and ways to solve the most important problems.  And we need to empower them to work against the negatives of capitalism.  Wrong doers should be fined an amount equal to the egregiousness of the crime, and publicized to allow consumers to choose other sources of business.

I think the public fight against fraud is key to this effort.  Individuals and companies should be publicly shamed for such wrongdoing, and others should fear repeating similar action.  We need more institutions to investigate and publicize the actions and promotions of companies.  This requires improved education to show people the difference between factual based news versus the  info-tainment of network news programs.