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Tue Mar 26, 2013 at 12:45 PM PDT

The Real Problem With Conservatism

by georgiaed

    There are a bunch of disadvantages inherent in the capitalist market based system that America relies on.  Human nature is a powerful phenomenon and it is almost impossible to guard against it.  Human nature is a good thing in a market system because it spurs innovation.  It also spurs corruption.  That is why every market needs a mechanism for correction outside of itself.  Hence the reason for governments and regulations.  This is the reason why someone like Ron Paul and Ran Paul some absolutely anathema to progressives and real economist.  Relying on markets to correct themselves tend to lead to things like stagflation, oligarchs, monopolies and then fascism.  Power in a capitalist system tends to gravitate towards those with the capital ie the richest one percent.
 America noticed in the late 1800s that banks individuals had amassed too much power and the system became corrupted leading to a crash and did things to alleviate this.  We put forth plans to break up monopolies and huge institutional banks.  We gave investors more power and removed some of the powers of the richest .01%.  We instituted a tax on the richest at up to 90% of income.  These were all quote progressive measures to loosen up some of the inequality in the system and to protect capitalism from its excesses.
    After the crash of 32 Roosevelt came in with even more progressive solutions.  He created the FDIC(the fed) to insure our money supply which stabilized our dollar and made it the freaking standard of the world(conservatives want to abolish this), created social security, and created the securities and exchange commission which tried to reign in excesses of wall street.  All of these solutions were progressive solutions.  Which coupled with the GI bill and the national highway program and the civil rights act probably made America the country it is today.  This is my contention about what made America great.  The 50’s thru the late 70s were probably the greatest times for any country excepting Rome during Ceaser Augustus’ reign ever.  Man on the Moon, lowest income inequality ever, highest literacy rate et all.  So where did we go wrong?
    I think there are a lot of reasons why America is going wrong now and most of them are for conservative reasons.  First and foremost I think it is the systematic dismantling and destruction of anything conservatives deem too liberal.  Even the word has become anathema.  By labeling something liberal you can dismiss it as out there and fringe and the more things that can fit into this category the easier your job becomes. So in this conservative universe a reasonable thing like trying to do something to combat obvious global climate change becomes impossible because it is deemed a liberal problem.  Something unremarkable and obvious like evolution becomes contentious because it is considered the liberal position.  In this universe something like college is bad because they might make you liberal.  This is the most dangerous aspect of conservatism because with dogmatic beliefs that all liberals are wrong, stupid, or evil there is no working with them to try to solve issues because your problems and their problems are not the same.
    The second issue with conservatism that is the problem is the worship of the rich or the ability to be rich.  Being rich should be a goal for everyone.  But it should not be the goalpost for which we are measured and not the be all for achievement in a society.  The appeasement and protection of this class of people should not be the guiding principal for a party.  It is insane to say that everyone should have to suffer in a system and then put forth a plan that greatly benefits one group of people and severely hurts another group of people and call that fair.  To tell poor people that since they don’t pay any federal income tax they are moochers in the system but rich people they don’t pay any federal income tax because they are job creators is insane and cruel. I paid a higher percentage of my income in taxation than Mitt Romney and it hurt me a lot more than it hurt Mitt Romney.   Look at how much American income from corporate taxes have fallen but how much corporate profits have risen in the last few years with no corresponding lessening of unemployment.  This means the rich are getting richer paying fewer taxes and not hiring people at the same rate.  Since 1979 the growth in personal income for the top 1 percent went up 281% while the bottom fifth saw income growth at about 16%.  This means 95% of the growth went to just the top 1% of people.  We keep making laws for rich people to get richer like no capital gains taxes no inheritance tax no social security taxes, 501c’s, shell corporations, bankruptcy protections, tort reform and citizens united.  We keep giving corporations more powers and protections yet are systematically dismantling those for regular people.
    This is getting long so I will say the last thing is that conservatives are most guilty of fairness on paper but not real consequences of their actions.  So in the eighties people were driving around with cadillacs while receiving welfare so we need welfare reform.  So what if no real evidence was presented but everyone had a cousin or uncle who took advantage of the system.  It needs to be stopped.  Who cares how efficient the system is and real evidence supports the system fix it.  So what that now in a country that is the richest in the world we just consigned millions of people to endemic poverty because some people maybe took advantage of the system.  The same with the budget.  We need to have a balanced budget beyond all things.  Why?  To appease the markets.  So American markets appreciate when the government stops spending up to 60 percent of discretionary spending?  Markets love it when you remove capital from a system.  All for some arbitrary budget number.  Im sure your family wont eat for a week so that your check books are balanced at the end of the year.  They ask for this reduction in spending for discretionary spending at the same time calling for the reduction of taxes for the rich because they are job creators except they are not because they don’t have anyone to buy their products.  
    Its maddening when I talk to conservatives.  No acknowledgement of what their policies would mean in a real world and no desire to engage on facts.  Only theories and false equivalencies.  I can list a lot of different policies that were enacted because of conservative theory that failed because theory sounds great in theory but not in practice.  A few of them are the whole war on drugs, wall street deregulation, mandatory minimums, welfare reform, laissez faire economic theory etc.  All of these things sound reasonable on paper.  Who doesn’t want drugs out of their communities?  But waging war on ubiquitous things like drugs only lead to deleterious outcomes.   All of these things are real problems but the conservative answer to these and other problems are always the most extreme and wrong-headed.
    But the last and the most dangerous things conservatives have done to America and the economy as a whole is to destroy the civic institutions and dismantle efforts to have a more fair and equitable system.  This is a deliberate strategy born out of think tanks and practiced with ruthless efficiency and skill.  Take unions for example.  I know people who make minimum wage who argue against unions.  Unions are the cornerstone of a progressive society.   Unions help to make workplaces more equitable and remove barriers from the workers and their bosses.  We have seen union participation dismantled in this country and today we have the lowest unionization rate since the 1910s.  Why?  Conservatives have denigrated and abolished unions wherever possible and continue to pursue policies that make it harder for unions to form.  The reduction in wages for the average American and the loss of union jobs in America are exactly parallel.  I wonder why?  
    One thing that conservatives are doing and it is little talked about is the the destruction of public infrastructure.  This is exceptionally pernicious because no one really questions this or thinks of it as a conservative principle.  When a road goes unrepaired alternative means of transportation is required.  But you don’t have the funding for public transportation.  Oh well we need to balance our budget.   Maybe since we cant publically pay for roads anymore maybe we need to allow the market to work hence the new phenomenon of toll roads.  Public schools are failing.  Oh well privatize them.  Everyone cannot afford them.  Oh well we need to balance the budget.  So rich peoples kids are ok they can afford the private school system but poor people we are handing out vouchers to some and the others sorry.  Boot straps.   We cant afford libraries, playgrounds, public health programs at all for the poor.  The rich don’t need them they can afford their own within their gated communities.  
    I don’t think conservatives are bad or evil.  I think they are shortsighted and narrow and seem not to care for the consequences of their actions.  They are capricious and selfish on certain issues and dogmatic and seemingly racist on others.  While they themselves might not be racist their policies and the consequences of their policies are.  This leads to a whole other discussion which I will discuss later.


Mon Feb 18, 2013 at 03:46 PM PST

Why did I have to be born white?

by georgiaed

     Imagine applying to college and not getting in.  The college allows for all of the top ten percent of high school graduates to get in.  You were not accepted.  You did not meet the automatic acceptance criteria.  You can afford to attend any school you want to so you have to attend the second school of your choice from which you have already graduated.  Is this a matter that rises to the level of the Supreme Court?  Have you been so inconvenienced that the highest court in the land needs to hear of your harrowing ordeal of having to attend your second choice and judge those who have wronged you?
     Apparently that is the case for Abigail Fisher(Fisher vs University of Texas 2009).  When she was denied entrance to the University of Texas in 2008 she sued on the basis of racial discrimination.  She lost.  But undeterred she took her case higher and lost again.  But showing a scrappy underdogs fight somehow got her case all the way to the Supreme Court where it is presumed she should win based on the current conservative nature of this court(no decision as of this writing).
     This case brings up what I think of as the Rise of the White Mans Lament.  Whites perceive their power as being radically lower than what everyone else's perception and reality actually suggest.  They believe that in the race for diversity it has somehow weakened their stranglehold on the power structures in America and their social and economic advantages are being challenged or in danger.
     Reality would suggest that this is not true.  White people in America are not an oppressed minority.  I repeat, white people in America are not an oppressed minority.  Call me crazy but I cannot find any area of society where white people are hugely discriminated against.  I bet if you asked conservatives what is the most pressing civil rights issue in America today they would say that it is reverse racism or affirmative action.  Apparently being in control of every level of government,  all educational institutions, 99% of corporate boards, all of the entertainment industry, and every daily newspaper is not enough.  Crushing even the opportunities for minorities to somehow catch up seems to be de cause du celebre of the conservative movement.
    Just some facts.  The average white family has an average wealth of $100,000 compare that to the average family household wealth of around $5000.  Black males are six times more likely to be incarcerated than white males.  Black males represent 12% of drug users but 40% of drug arrest.  White high school graduates are more likely to enroll in college 47% to 41%.  I fail to see the institutional white biases in these numbers.  Actually what I see is the opposite of what the "oppressed white majority", seems to believe.
     How is somehow trying to figure out a way to make a school more racially diverse a matter of discrimination for someone with every advantage that our system can provide.  When a middle class white person of means is told you cannot attend your first school of choice they are able to attend another school because of the inherent privileges of being white.  At the same time in order to achieve some kind of false fairness and equivalence we dismantle diversity programs that disproportionally affect those who do not have the advantages of race and wealth.  Without the admittedly minor advantages that diversity programs have provided minority attendance rates would be dramatically lower.  This is not anecdotal it has been proven in states like California, Michigan, and New York where minority admissions are lower after the dismantling of their affirmative action programs.  So in order for a white person to be able to have everything they want minorities should just shut up and let "fairness" reign, regardless of the implications for a society as a whole.
     As the richest most diverse economic and politically stable country in the world it would seem to me that we would want to achieve the same kind of diversity within the social makeup of our country.  Maintaining a large singular ethnic stranglehold on wealth and power seems to me to be antithetical to everything the founding fathers fought for.  I guess I can see how Abigail Fisher can feel sort of aggrieved.  She wanted to attend  the  University of Texas and was not admitted.  I would be upset also.  But her responses are of those of a spoiled rich person who wants everything damn the consequences.  If she has her way their will be no more affirmative action in America and minorities and the poor would be deprived of the one thing that is guaranteed to raise economic outcomes and growth potential a college education.  Is this the response of everyone in America or are we a little better than spoiled Texas rich girls?


Republicans have it all wrong.

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Thu Jan 19, 2012 at 12:12 PM PST

Pushback to Gingrich

by georgiaed

    We live in a country that is so galvanaized and polarized as to be laughable.  Our side taking and insane cultural polarization allows for a seperation of goals that should be in the national interest.  It allows those in power or those who want to achieve power to play on our baser instincts and to use what should be our shared interest against us.  How is it that a leading conservative figure can make a statement that school children could replace janitors in schools and this recommendation get applauded.  At best this statement is offensive to custodiens or janitors in schools who sometimes do dangerous unappealing jobs most of the time for low pay and very little respect.  At worst this is  an insult to all school children especially the poor.  By any measure students who work and attend school do poorer than those that dont.  So not only do they have a gap in terms of income but they also have a disadvantage as their study time is now cut because of working hours.
    Gingrich's assertion is that poor people dont have the necessary work ethic to compete in the national economy.  But this is just that an assertion.  There is ZERO evidence that this is true.  Not one study shows this is true.  What is actually the case is that those from poor or disadvantaged school systems probably come from neighborhoods where there are no jobs or who have very high unemployment rates.  Its not that they dont want to work it is that no jobs are available.  Work ethic is not something that these people have to be taught.  Being raised in a house where your parents or parent is forced to work two or three jobs just to keep the lights on and the water flowing is usually enough to make someone want to do anything to alleviate their situation.We have allowed the conservatives and the politically powerful to call all of the shots.  They have captured the public psyche and turned what should be virtues into poison.  They have built up black strawmen to beat down.  Ronald Reagen decried welfare queens and denied the role of government in alleviating poverty and societal ills.  As if anything other than a society should be used to fix the problems with that society.  We should be trying to alleviate poverty through fair and reasonable public policy and a national consensus that their is a problem and a national dedication to fix it.
    The problem is that we have started to denigrate the poor and needy. It is easy for Newt Gingrich to make these kinds of assertions because no conservative would deny his premise. There is no political cost for this outright racism. In fact is probably a positive in conservative politics.   Almost all conservatives believe that it is your fault that you are poor and the government is being corruptive and evil in trying to fix this thru monetary policy or progressive public policy.  Asking rich people to shoulder a heaver burden is class warfare and they should not have to help the poor if they do not want to.  Anything more is socialism.   We have lost a basic sense of community and compassion that used to be the fabric of American society.  Give Me Your Tired Your Poor Your Needy was a mantra that we actually stood for.  Now it rings hollow in my ears everytime I hear it.  

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