Posts Tagged ‘Economic Issues’

Squelching Economic Royalists

April 22, 2014 Leave a comment

Common Dreams featured a blog post by Robert Borasage titled “Can Democracy Tame Plutocracy?” In the post Borosage describes how long it took for our country to move away from the oligarchy in place at the turn of the 20th Century, noting that it required years to accomplish. He then included a paragraph describing how FDR educated the public about the economic realities of his times and played to the big-heartedness of the country:

In “The Fight for the Four Freedoms: What Made FDR and the Greatest Generation Truly Great,” Harvey Kaye provides a broad overview of this period. He details how FDR educated and mobilized Americans to take on the “economic royalists.” As we headed into World War II, FDR evoked the Four Freedoms – freedom of speech and of worship, and freedom from want and from fear – as the goals for which Americans would fight. As victory approached, he made the agenda clearer in his 1944 State of the Union address calling for an Economic Bill of Rights. Coming out of the war, millions of Americans took up the banner for their fallen leader.

But the battle for control of the economy never really ended… and as many progressive bloggers have noted by the early 1970s businessmen were quietly organizing think tanks that developed messages about how government is the problem and regulations squelch entrepreneurs and how free trade is necessary to compete in the global marketplace… and test messages, repeated frequently and persistently have permeated the American psyche to the extent that “government run schools” are now perceived as ineffective and inefficient.

Early in his essay, Borosage asserts that “we are living in a populist moment” and he closes with these paragraphs:

Kaye argues that fulfilling FDRs pledge may be hard, but it is not impossible. “Democracy is never given. It must be taken.” Or as FDR put it, “Democracy is not a static thing. It is an everlasting march,” and echoing Jefferson, “it is time for the country to become fairly radical for a generation.”

Now the battle of ideas has just been joined. The new populism needs to be nurtured, developed and spread. Hopefully, we won’t need to experience another calamity or world war to rouse Americans to take their democracy back.

As I noted in my comment, one way to fuel the flame of populism is to get the parents and school board members in this country to see that corporations want to control public education and will stop at nothing to do so. Another way would be to get a progressive liberal to run for president even if it is a quixotic campaign. NO ONE in the Democrat party seems willing to call the oligarchs “economic Royalists”… instead the neo-liberals want to praise businessmen and turn over the operation of public enterprise to them because “government is inefficient”… It would be refreshing to have someone remind the public that government regulation is necessary to keep oligarchs in check and opportunities more equitable. 

Here’s hoping both of these ideas take root in the coming months.

Science Proves We Are Oligarchy

April 17, 2014 Leave a comment

Over the past two days I’ve read about a recently released report by Martin Gilens and Benjamin Page in two different progressive blogs: Common Dreams and The Math Babe. The report is a detailed statistical analysis of the role citizens play in the decision making in our country and concludes that we are not living in a democracy but rather in an oligarchy. Gilens and Page are not advocates of any political party, they are academics: Gilens works at Princeton and Page is from Northwestern. Their study will appear in the Fall 2014 edition of Perspectives in Politics, a scholarly journal of the American Political Science Association. Their findings are sobering.

Eric Zuess, the Common Dreams blogger concludes his post with this paragraph:

The clear finding is that the U.S. is an oligarchy, no democratic country, at all. American democracy is a sham, no matter how much it’s pumped by the oligarchs who run the country (and who control the nation’s “news” media). The U.S., in other words, is basically similar to Russia or most other dubious “electoral” “democratic” countries. We weren’t formerly, but we clearly are now. Today, after this exhaustive analysis of the data, “the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.” That’s it, in a nutshell.

Cathy O’Neill, the Mathbabe, concludes her lengthy and detailed post supporting for the statistical models and findings with the authors’ conclusion:

What do our findings say about democracy in America? They certainly constitute troubling news for advocates of “populistic” democracy, who want governments to respond primarily or exclusively to the policy preferences of their citizens. In the United States, our findings indicate, the majority does not rule — at least not in the causal sense of actually determining policy outcomes. When a majority of citizens disagrees with economic elites and/or with organized interests, they generally lose. Moreover, because of the strong status quo bias built into the U.S. political system, even when fairly large majorities of Americans favor policy change, they generally do not get it.

With fewer people controlling ever increasing shares of the media and with more and more money required to run for office it is increasingly difficult for the voices of people like Gilens and Page to be heard and increasingly difficult to change the status quo politically… which means making changes to schooling will require the support of the oligarchs who, to date, seem to view public education as a vehicle for increasing their wealth. Tough sledding ahead!

Privatization = More Inequality

April 16, 2014 Leave a comment

A post in the  Angry Bear blog, described as a “Slightly left of center economic commentary on news, politics and the economy”, describes how the emergence of Private Public Partnerships (P3) contribute to inequality by rewarding the oligarchs who can afford to make the private investments and effectively penalizing the consumers who pay increased fees for formerly public services. The article uses Chilean highways and Chicago parking meters as a means of explaining how the oligarchs profit and consumers are bilked. After reading the post, I left the following comment: 

The P3 idea is emerging in public education to ill effect… and accountability based on standardized testing is accelerating the trend. Affluent communities whose test scores are high to begin with are spending more and their students are retaining the broad curriculum offerings and solid teachers. Urban schools serving children raised in poverty get low test scores and are then replaced by for-profit charters whose focus is on the topics tested, whose operations are less costly, and whose profits are returned to shareholders instead of being used to expand social services needed by the students.

Politicians in both parties hail P3 as a means of bringing business practices into the private sector, getting work done more quickly and efficiently, and avoiding the need to raise taxes. What politicians don’t tell voters is the back-end costs for these P3s are more expensive, corrosive to democracy, and contribute to inequality.