A Citizen’s Perspective
A brief prologue:
I want to be clear at the outset; I do not want my government building my automobile, manufacturing my clothes, growing my
food, telling me what I can and cannot consume or wear, where I can or cannot go, monitoring my communications, telling me whom I may or may not marry, or building my house.
What I do want is robust government (We the People) regulation and oversight in education, commerce, and public safety. I want government protection of my freedom of conscience, for freedom of and from religion, for safe food, for the water I drink, for the highways I ply, for the air that I breath, for the safety of my workplace, for a living wage, for the most affordable proactive healthcare system (single payer), and for a social safety net when I’m down on my luck, too sick, or too old to work. I do not want all this just for myself, but for everyone. I want a “We” society, not a “Me” society. I what a just society.
Contrary to disinformation from self interested politicians who claim that tax hikes on the wealthy and closing tax loop holes for the rich is a “redistribution of the wealth from the wealthy to the working class” and that it is “soaking the rich,” it must be pointed out that since the implementation of Supply Side Economics (trickle-down Reaganomics) by the neoconservatives in the 1980s, the wealth of the working class has been steadily redistributed upward to the already wealthy. Thus, restoring a well reasoned tax structure is to return to the working class that which should have been theirs for past three and a half decades..
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This non-comprehensive post will remain fluid as arguments and research progress
Knowing that few, if any readers would have the time to read all of this post, I’ve provided a table of contents so that readers may simply scroll to the section of their primary interest. Please excuse the poor formatting of this article. The editing function simply would not adjust to my needs (or perhaps I to it). I invite readers to highlight any errors and to give comments, arguments and suggestions. I am certainly not an expert in all these matters.
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I. Is Social Justice, Communism?:
A. A commentary on the art of propaganda in American politics
B. Why do we need Government action for social justice in America?
II. What is Social Justice?
Social Justice according to John Rawls’, A Theory of Justice
III. A Formula for Creating Social Justice in the United States (non comprehensive and non prioritized)
A. Finding Common Ground
B. The Formula
1. Addressing the root cause
2. Forcing government action from the voting booth:
*Nine most critical actions
- Publicly financed elections;
- Rescind corporate personhood;
- Ban the use of money as political speech;
- Outlaw Political Action Committees (PACs);
- Ban all lobbying on behalf of corporations;
- Outlaw all corporate contributions, directly or indirectly, to campaigns;
- Outlaw privately funded political advertising;
- Place a permanent and impermeable wall between newsrooms and advertising departments;
- Outlaw all electioneering (election fraud) by the governments in the States
Secondary but still critical actions for true social justice
- Abolish the Electoral and Plurality Voting System;
- Establish Government Contract Transparency;
- Permanently close the government-corporate revolving door;
- Reestablish and invigorate anti-trust laws;
- Lay the legal groundwork and establish incentives for employees to buy out the owners;
- Revive the Glass-Steagall Act (GSA);
- Eliminate loopholes in the tax system;
- Repeal the Reagan tax cuts for the wealthy;
- Close tax loopholes that allow corporations to pay little or no federal income tax;
- Institute severe punishments for insider trading by elected officials and staffers;
- Levy a 1% tax per dollar value on all stock market trading;
- Raise taxes on hedge-fund managers to the appropriate level of their income;
- Make corporations responsible for 100% of environmental damage and individual citizen losses due to corporate environmental damage;
- Create robust incentives for corporations based or operating in the U.S. to keep factories and jobs in the U.S.;
- Remove the cap on Social Security tax;
- Strengthen the federal government’s role in all education;
- Pass a robust minimum wage law;
- Convert the Affordable Care Act to a Single Payer system;
- Mandate a full week of open polls for federal and State elections;
- Legislate the reactivation of the Fairness Doctrine;
- Legislate Federal Firearm Regulations;
- Nationalize, or financially regulate the Fossil Fuel industry;
- Transparency in government activities;
- Mandate a complete biyearly and transparent audit of the Federal Reserve (FED);
- Disqualify Wall Street insiders from nomination to run the Federal Reserve;
- Extend prosecutorial powers and greater oversight authority for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau;
- The decriminalize illegal drugs;
- Legalize the growing of industrial hemp and the use of Marijuana;
- Prison Reform;
- Mandate nationwide housing and urban renewal programs.
* Successful removal of these 9 financial incentive from politics would automatically and positively affect every piece of legislation now influenced by corporate interest at the expense of average American citizens. It would return statespersons to government instead of duplicitous politicians doing the bidding of Wall Street.
3. Education – While mandates to boost social justice efforts would necessarily require some changes in law on the federal level, I’ve made it a category of its own because it is critical for the evolution of society from today’s extreme polarization in politics to a just and harmonious society–at least as much as it can be.
- Funding on a real war footing
- Public financed, comprehensive education
- Enhanced and robust Head Start
- Urban Renewal and income equity
- Health Insurance
b. Operation of Head Start facilities:
- Operational hours and staff
- Underachieving and special needs children
- Adult educational and vocational training facilities
- Drug addicted parents
- Medical access
- Nutrition and fitness
c. Structure of Head Start Facilities
- Physical Aspects
- Nurturing Aspects
- A modern infirmary
d. Federally Required Content in Elementary Schools
- Critical reading content
e. Federally Required Content in Middle School and High School
- Social studies
- Introduction to philosophy, concentrating on ethics and critical thinking
It is of great importance in a republic not only to guard the society against the oppression of its rulers, but to guard one part of the society against the injustice of the other part. —James Madison, “The Federalist” #51
If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be. —Thomas Jefferson, (letter to Charles Yancey January 6, 1816)
A child is born neither Christian, nor Jew, nor Muslim, nor atheist, nor an adherent to any other brand of religious or philosophical order. A child is born a human being with an ability to learn, and from this raw material society builds her walls of nationalism, and religious certitude. —Max T. Furr, The Empathy Imperative (From a thought soliloquy by the protagonist, M. Jefferson Hale, p7)
Relevant Definitions for avoiding confusion (many politicians and writers get this wrong):
Equality – The quality or state of being equal. Equal is defined as the same in number, amount, degree, rank, or quality.
In the sense of this article, equality means equal rights. Freedom is not absolute for anyone. Under the U.S. Constitution a citizen’s rights do not allow him to diminish the rights of others (e.g., religious freedom does not mean that one has the right, because of his sincerely held religious belief, to deny or diminish other citizens equal rights— such as the right to marry someone he or she loves, or the right to deny a person equal access to legal commerce. As well, a licensed business may not deny someone the right to its service because of the baker’s religious convictions.
Equity – The quality of being fair and impartial, (e.g., income equity, bur not equality).
Value is the result of labor, and when labor produces greater value (the Gross National Product of combined labor), the workers who produced that greater value should have an equitable share in its profit which may be at least an equal percentage as that of the owners, managers, etc. (this is quite variable and complex, of course, but at all times, it must be a fair share).
I. Is Social Justice, Communism?:
A. Commentary on the art of propaganda in American politics
The term, “social justice,” especially in conservative/corporate circles, is often defined as “socialism,” which, in turn, is often and erroneously equated with communism (already a pejorative word in the American psyche).
This misconception is promoted by leading conservatives (most of whom, I suspect, know better) as a means of demonizing the socio-political concepts of equality and equity.
Demonizing words and people by negative association is a key mechanism of propaganda used on the American electorate. In the realm of economics, it is used to promote the concept of free market capitalism (few or no government regulations and little or no oversight of corporate activities—a key part of supply-side economics, which is basically a redistribution of the wealth of the working class to the already wealthy).
Word demonization by association is a means of demonizing a political party, policy or opponent. Note, especially, that conservative leaders and their media almost never mention a liberal, progressive, or Democrat in a positive sentence. Across the board, conservatives invariably talk of the President’s “failed policies,” but fail to suggest what might be better. Indeed, even the grammatically correct phrase, “Democratic Party” is often ungrammatically stated as the “Democrat Party.” This is meant as a slur to emphasize the “rat” ending of the word.
When I engage in a debate and my interlocutor, early on, uses the phrase, “Democrat party,” most often I end the debate right there because I know that my opponent isn’t interested in a civil debate on the issues, but is only interested in the emotional aspect of denigrating and demonizing. Facts simply will not matter because he is driven by emotion.
Note, too, that conservative officials virtually always mention a conservative in a positive sentence except during primaries. They’ve gotten away from the Reagan doctrine of never speaking ill of fellow conservative. Character assignation of liberals, of course, was fine.
Obviously, the intention of propaganda is to appeal to the emotions of the electorate rather than their powers of reason in order to gain and hold power in the financial interest of themselves and those already advantaged. This is the endgame of the neoconservative worldview, and virtually all leading conservatives have adopted that worldview.
The vehicle on which the endgame (wealth and power) is reached is the Machiavellian tactic of the ends justifies the means, and already it has accomplished that end for many politicians to the detriment of the American public.
What many tend to forget is that the U.S. has many socialist program and institutions (pure and semi): The Veterans Administration, public highways and roads, police, fire departments, public libraries, public utilities, public schools, public landfills, the postal service, FBI, CIA, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and many, many others. Yet, we are not a socialist nation.
Just as Aristotle remarked, “One swallow does not a summer make,” a collection of social programs does not a socialist nation make.
Still, what we do not have is social justice. And, yes, social justice would require more socialism—an agreement among the citizens that capitalism alone will not solve some social/economic disparities, and that current social programs are inadequate.
In fact, poorly regulated or unfettered capitalism, alone, increases social disparities (the loss or degradation of some rights, income, and privileges while others gain and continue to gain by virtue of their economic advantages and governmental influence/control).
To return to Aristotle for a moment, his wisdom, applied to governments, might suggest that democratic societies should neither be 100% capitalist, nor 100% socialist, but should exist within a Golden Mean, i.e., the center between the extremes. I consider two models here:
Model 1 – In order to achieve the closest approximation to a just nation, we should create and maintain a harmonious balance between socialism and capitalism. This would entail that we retain our governmental system, but eliminate all corporate influence in legislation and heavily regulate industry in the interest social justice. Workers would form unions, have complete equity of income, and have a collective voice in the operation of the business. I call this a mild form of Democratic Socialism. Some details are enumerated later in this post.
Model 2 – This would be properly called a strong form of Democratic Socialism where the political system is the same constitutionally limited, representative democracy, but the economic system is socialist).
Under this model, the “government” does not own the means of production and distribution as in the case of a pure socialist system, but it is owned and managed by the workers (as opposed to a central government bureaucracy). The workers hire the managers or promote them from their ranks. All personnel would make the same salary based on total value of production and sales.
Such businesses would still require close regulation to prevent workers from agreeing among themselves to cut corners for more profit or in some way attempt to illegally influence government officials.
Too, such a system would not dampen entrepreneurship. A single person could start and run a business and hire personnel, but the personnel would make the same income so long as their position is considered a critical part of the operation of the company. This would be true from the facility maintenance personnel to the president.
Under our present system, however, Model 2 is not possible. I really don’t know if it is possible anywhere in the advanced world simply because self interest is a natural human proclivity. In the United States, ironically, capitalism has become practically synonymous with Christianity, and has had over two hundred years to ingrain that concept in the collective American conscience under the pretext of individual “freedom.”
I believe model 1, however, to be possible, but it will take time and much effort. Resistance to social justice is fierce, has it’s own propaganda network, and is extremely well funded from by privileged and the financially influential.
Therefore, in order to change the system to work for all citizens, we will have to educate the public and force government action.
B. Why do we need Government action for social justice in America?
Possibly the major reason for the existence of social programs in the U.S. is that corporations refuse to pay their lowest level employees a living wage, and congressional conservatives fight to keep it that way. This ensures that corporations will enjoy a large, cheap labor force producing more wealth for the wealthy, and the workers at the lowest levels must depend on government assistance for proactive healthcare as well as food..
The major objection to bringing about social justice for all is economic, and it is the same reason slavery was maintained in the U.S. until it was brought to an end by a war that killed 620,000 men.
I have no doubt that in the antebellum South, conservatives argued that if slavery was abolished—eliminating their very cheap labor force—prices at the market would rise. It was a persuasive argument for most whites (as it is for a great many advantaged Americans today) because low prices for those who had some money and those who had lots of it, easily trumped injustice. Americans still happily scarf up low price items at Wal-Mart that were made by virtual slave labor in foreign nations, giving no thought at all to the injustice. Indeed, the working poor have no other choice but to support the very system that oppresses them.
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So, can economic injustice be turned around in America such that social justice can be realized?
Let’s take a look at “social justice” from a Rawlsian “original position” to which all people would agree from a particular circumstance. Then I will suggest a course of action that could bring about social justice in the U.S., improve the economy, significantly reduce crime, reduce the deficit, and eliminate hunger and poverty.
Sounds impossible? You be the judge.
II. What is Social Justice?
Social Justice according to John Rawls’, A Theory of Justice
Philosopher John Rawls (Feb. 21, 1921 – Nov. 24, 2002), unhappy with previous theories of social justice, suggested that the way to achieve a true understanding of its nature was through a mental exercise.
Suppose that I were in a room with a group of other people, and all of us wanted to create a social contract (form a society/nation). Suppose, too, that this special room exerted a “Veil of Ignorance” under which no one knew anything unique about themselves that might separate one from another in social ranking, real or imagined. Our minds have been expunged of specific, personal knowledge such as ethnicity, social station, income, general interests, financial worth, education level, political opinions, social opinions—anything that may influence us in any way in relation to others.
What sort of fundamental, founding principles would I—and each of the others—most likely agree to codify as the basic and permanent principles for a society that would be fair to me, personally?
- Because I know that I would not want to be disadvantaged relative to others in this society, certainly I would choose to have all the basic advantages, rights and liberties (including political) as all others.
- Knowing as well that because not everyone has the same physical and mental abilities, inequalities will inevitably arise. And, since I do not know my abilities relative the others, I would want these inequalities to be arranged such that they are to the advantage of all citizens, (i.e., no one gains at the expense of others—and no one can be blocked from any position to which he might be qualified).
While I agree with Rawls on these basic principles, and I like his argument from self interest (what’s best for me in a new society), but once understanding the nature of justice, there would have to be at least one more condition for it to work that cannot be added structurally, and that is empathy. For social justice to prevail, empathy must be an attribute of each person, and it can only be realized within each person primarily from concepts derived early in life through proper nurturing and education.
Upon agreeing to the two founding principles, personal integrity and empathy would demand that I remain true to the founding principles even if I find that I possess greater abilities than others that will lead to financial success (however “financial success” is defined). After all, I could have been born with fewer abilities or suffered from poor nurturing and other disadvantages. Necessarily, then, I would vow to use those abilities to further the living standards of all.
III. A Formula for Creating Social Justice in the United States
A. Finding Common Ground:
The public’s approval rating of Congress is at an all time low. This shows that most Americans, politically right and left, abhor the rancor, the infighting, the duplicity, the divisive rhetoric, and the gridlock.
It has become so bad that a great many Americans have become apathetic and do not vote at all. It is the “my-vote-won’t-change-a-damn-thing” mindset. And of those who do vote, too many vote for the wrong reasons, usually misguided by the emotional rhetoric of self serving politicians, pundits and networks.
There is, however, one thing that can cure most of our political problems, remove most of the rancor in legislation, restore honor and honesty, and bring back statesmanship instead of political duplicity.
This is something to which virtually all Americans (minus corporatists) will agree—Get the money out of politics!
B. The Formula:
1. Addressing the root cause – Without performing a serious change in the way government operates, we will continue
to be distracted by emotional rhetoric while our nation continues its slippery slide to oligarchy. Duplicitous politicians are only the symptom of our very sick and dying republic. This cannot be rectified by simply voting them out of office because such actions are an attack on the symptoms, not the disease (many return to government as corporate lobbyists with bushels of money in tow). We must recognize this to be the root cause of an unjust government.
This is the first priority. There is no greater priority—not the environment, not our safety, not the economy, not war, not terrorism, not poverty, not abortion, not infrastructure, not church and state issues, nor even crime. For once, forget these important symptoms and address the cause of the symptoms.
I think most folks are likely to agree that the root cause of corruption in government is our current system of legislation-by-financial-influence. Money has the final say in virtually all of the afore mentioned problems and concerns in our nation. The pursuit of money drives elections and often dictates what politicians say. The pursuit of money by those already advantaged is the root cause of most political and social ills.
The path to justice, then, leads first through our corporate controlled political system. So powerful is that control that it will require a massive social revolution in the voting booth to return the government to We the People. If this first task is not accomplished, greed and indifference will continue to rule over justice, ethics and honor.
2. Forcing Government Action: The majority of voters from all parties must agree to elect only those political candidates—for any government office (local, state or federal)—who specifically promise to make the elimination of personal financial incentives in legislation their top priority and, once elected, actually introduce, fight for, and vote for bills in State legislatures and in Congress to that effect,
Nine most critical actions necessary to move toward justice
- Publicly financed elections for the entire nation (local, State, and federal. I believe this to be the most important action of all and the one every candidate must promise to pursue. Even if nothing else, it will bring back a modicum of integrity to campaigning. But to bring far more integrity, more must be done;
- Rescind corporate personhood. Pass a law that clarifies the word “people” in the Constitution to mean biological people and not corporations. Individual people may post their opinions to blogs, social media, and write letters to the editor of newspapers, but corporations cannot;
- Ban the use of money as speech in politics. This Supreme Court edict in Citizens United has legalized corporate electioneering by allowing unlimited contributions to the political process. If money is speech, then the public has been virtually silenced by the megaphone the Court gave to corporations.
- Outlaw Political Action Committees (PACs). These are used mainly for supporting particular candidates by creating and publishing often misleading and false attack ads—propaganda. As well, some PACs keep donors ammoniums. We must have 100% transparency in campaign financing to ensure no private money, especially secret, private money, is manipulating the process.;
- Ban all lobbying on behalf of corporations. This would be overseen and policed by the Department of Justice. All government legislation should be influenced only by the effect it may have on the public at large and focused on social justice.Yes, this would destroy the lobbying industry, but to the benefit of all Americans. With today’s virtually unlimited and pervasive power of communications available to the public and especially with many political polling organizations taking the nation’s pulse on issues, it would be difficult to imagine that our legislators would not know the will of the people who elected them. Corporations could have input in open hearings, but such hearings would include Labor reps and economists who speak for the working class.
A good example of an unjust government hearing was the Senate Finance Committee headed up by conservative Democrat Max Baucus back when they were discussing health insurance (before the ACA came into existence).Virtually all people invited to the speak were corporate reps, but no one (doctors, nurses, economists) who advocated for single payer (the most inexpensive proactive health care model) was allowed to be at the table. Thus, it was a classical example of corporate profit/political profit gain taking precedence over the public good. It is the overriding dynamic in our government.
- Outlaw all corporate contributions, directly or indirectly, to campaigns, including political ads. Already it is estimated that the 2016 elections could cost five billion dollars! How much good could that amount of money do for needed programs, especially in the realm of education?;
- Outlaw all privately funded political advertising. The public owns the airwaves. The public’s right and need to know the facts and decide the course of the nation outweighs an individual’s or broadcaster’s right to broadcast advertisement propaganda in the guise of free speech. All political advertising would be publically financed on a fixed budget. Broadcasters may do commentaries on politics, but would be subject to the Equal Time Rule (an opposing commentary by a campaign at the public’s expense).Too, newsrooms would still be able to investigate comments by candidates and report comments that may be misleading or untrue. Newsrooms would be held accountable by the public to broadcast truth. Private individuals may still voice their opinions on social networks and post commentaries on websites or write letters to the editor. Yes, this would significantly reduce the profits of corporate news networks, but it would be for the public good because of the serious reduction in the level of corporate propaganda, attack ads, and the influence of these tactics in politics;
- Place a permanent and impermeable wall between newsrooms and advertising departments. Broadcasters may not skew the news at the demand of advertisers—punishable by loss of broadcast license. This, alone, would restore a degree of integrity to the newsroom.
- Outlaw all electioneering (election fraud) by the governments in the States. Gerrymandering is most often used by a political party to divide a state into political unites such that it give one group an unfair advantage in voting/power. Currently, it is used primarily in Republican controlled states. Other methods of electioneering and voter suppression tactics are; changing voting hours; eliminating early voting days; reducing the number of voting stations or voting machines in order to increase the waiting lines and the unreasonable time it takes to vote (in predominately democratic areas); causing difficulty in reaching polling places; voter challenges; unreasonable voter I.D. laws (designed to keep the poor from voting); purging voter rolls and engaging in voter caging, etc. (Actually, getting the money out of politics would eliminate this problem).While many of these tactics are already against the law, since the federal government currently cannot oversee every election in every state, State governments persist in electioneering with little fear of investigation.
Secondary, but also critical for a truly just nation
- Abolish the Electoral and Plurality Voting System and establish a fair voting system. While virtually no voting system is perfect when many voters are not honest in their preferences (attempt to game the system, especially in open primaries), several systems are possible that would make elections more fair and significantly wrest control of our election process from the corporate media and the two main parties. From what I’ve determined, in the following voting systems, “spoiler candidates” are eliminated and so are runoff elections. These methods are:
Voters rank their choice of the several candidates (first choice, second choice, third choice, etc.). The last few chosen by most voters are eliminated because, statistically, it would be impossible for them to win (the numbers of candidates above them garnered the majority of votes/choices). Then the upper ranked votes would be compared via priority votes, and the lesser being eliminated, leaving the top two, and then, of course, which ever has the most votes wins.
1. A majority winner from one election, so no winners-without-mandates and no costly runoff elections.
2. Less negative campaigning, because a candidate must ask a rivals’ supporters for their 2nd choice votes.
3. No hurting your first choice by ranking a 2nd, as the 2nd does not count unless the 1st choice has lost.
4. No lesser-of-two-evils voting, as the voter can mark his sincere 1st choice without fear of wasting his vote.
5. No spoilers, as votes for minor candidates will move to each voter’s more popular choices.
Range Voting (or Score Voting) –
Similar to IRV, except that each voter ranks his choice among all running by ranking them numerically (0-100), according to how much the voter approves of each. The candidate getting the highest number from all voters, wins.
Approval Voting – “Approval Voting is a voting procedure in which voters can vote for as many candidates as they wish. Each candidate approved receives one vote and the candidate with the most votes wins. It was independently proposed by several people in the 1970s. In the United States, the case for Approval Voting seems particularly strong in primary and nonpartisan elections which often draw large fields of candidates.
“Unlike more complicated ranking systems, Approval Voting is simple for voters to understand and use. Approval Voting is used today by various governments and organizations around the world (including its use by the United Nations to elect the secretary-general). And, lest you get lost in the details, keep in mind that almost everyone agrees that the traditional single-vote plurality system does the worst job of picking the best candidate.”
Condorcet, or Round Robin Voting – According to Ballotpedia, ” A Condorcet method is a voting system that will always elect the Condorcet winner; this is the candidate whom voters prefer to each other candidate, when compared with them one at a time.”
This is quite similar to what the media political pundits now do when comparing their candidate to others, one at a time, to determine how their candidate is fairing in the polls (“If the voting was today, how does our candidate do against candidate “A.” How about candidate “B.” How about candidate “C,” and so forth).
Thus, the ballot would operate the same way—the one who is preferred over each of the other candidates, wins.
- Establish Government Contract Transparency: All corporate-government contracts would be transparent and awarded strictly on a bid process—allowing bids only from businesses quality assessed for workmanship and financial integrity. The complete, unedited records of such contracts would be publically available. Records would include all corporate-government interaction in both the corporation’s history and employee government connections. Contracts would be inspected/policed using a random, unannounced, quality assurance method by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO), and or the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), and its findings made 100% transparent. Because current corporate-government dealings normally benefit the corporation and the politician(s) at the expense of the public, in addition to contracts being 100% transparent, the CFPB would work with the CBO to oversee the financial impact on the public. The CFPB must be capable of prosecutorial powers and have access to all corporate activities, including research and development (proprietary or not).
- Permanently close the government-corporate revolving door. No politician may ever be hired by any corporation to any position of advisement with respect to corporate-government interface, directly or indirectly. To insure that ex-politicians have a good, stainable income when they do not have a professional position of their own, a living stipend will be available, the amount of which is based on any other income or level of wealth they possess. This will insure that the non-wealthy can run for office without fear of poverty after their service;
- Reestablish and invigorate anti-trust laws. Break up monopolies and all “too-large-to-fail” corporations. As Bernie Sanders said, “if a corporation is too large to fail, it is too large to exist.” We must not allow, as is allowed now, corporations to privatize the profits but socialize their loses. We the People should not be in the business of bailing out private corporations;
- Lay the legal groundwork and establish incentives for employee buyouts of corporations.
- Revive the Glass-Steagall Act (GSA) by abolishing the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act. The GSA was the law established after the Great Depression that prevented banks from speculating with their assets (depositors’ money) a major cause of the Great Depression of 1929 and the Great Recession of 2008.The GLBL was passed by a conservative congress in 1999 and signed into law by Bill Clinton. The demise of the GSA was a major step in the neoconservatives’ Supply-Side Economics scam.
- Eliminate loopholes in the tax system – The added revenue can be targeted to education and/or urban renewal. A progressive tax system is necessary because the wealthy use far more of the commons than the average worker—especially the extraction of minerals that should be part of the commons;
- Repeal the Reagan tax cuts for the wealthy. When we cut taxes for the wealthy, they become wealthier. (If they wanted to build more factories in the U.S., they already have the money and the bank credit to do so). Cut taxes for the working poor and the middle class, they get more buying power and the nation realizes a more robust economy.
- Close loop holes that allow corporations to pay little or no federal income tax. Especially eliminate all tax exemptions for research and development for companies/corporations that have earned profits of better than 10% and have a net worth of over $10,000,000 (these figures are arbitrary pending further study and debate);
- Institute severe punishments for insider trading by elected officials and staffers. No one may buy or sell stocks in any corporation for which pending legislation may have a financial impact. All stock holdings must be placed in blind trust the moment a person announces his candidacy and no politician may vote on legislation that might positively affect the entities in which he has holdings;
- Levy a 1% tax per dollar value on all stock market trading. Use the revenue strictly for education (although I’m toying with the idea of eliminating stock markets in the U.S.);
- Raise income taxes on hedge fund managers to the appropriate level of their wealth;
- Make corporations responsible for 100% of environmental damage and individual citizen losses due to corporate environmental damage. After a short investigation into individual claims conducted by an independent party, a corporation would not be allowed file appeal but would have to pay up for damages as well as punitive fines. This should be overseen by either the Department of Justice and/or the CFPB.
- Create robust incentives and punishments for corporations based or operating in the U.S. to keep factories and jobs in the U.S. (e.g., outlaw the buying of foreign steel for U.S. projects). Yes, this would definitely boost prices somewhat (as would the minimum wage of $15 per hour), but to an insignificant degree while boosting every minimum wage worker’s income and greatly stimulating the national economy through greater demand for products.
- Remove the cap from the Social Security tax. The wealthy should pay no less than the same percent as the highest bracket of the middle class. Where the maximum rate (the current cap) stands, the rate for all higher incomes could simply flatten at that level. This would make Social Security solvent in perpetuity.
- Strengthen the federal government’s role in all education. The need for a well educated and informed public, especially in civic and social studies, is critical for the strength of the republic. This necessity outweighs States’ rights to decline to teach such subjects. (see section B below);
- Pass a robust minimum wage law, and fix it to a point above the estimated poverty level. This likely will require a new model of how “poverty line” is evaluated, likely based on the cost of living in the major cities in certain zones of the nation (such as the New York City in the Northeast, Miami in the Southeast, etc.).
- Convert the Affordable Care Act to a Single Payer system. Contrary to the propaganda from the corporate-centric conservatives, a single payer system (universal healthcare) would not be a government take-over (or socialization) of the nation’s healthcare industry. It is a socialization of basic healthcare finances in order that all Americans would be covered at very low cost. Basically, it would simply be universal, enhanced Medicare, and the cost would be far less for everyone than corporate health insurance is now. Corporations would still be free to sell policies for procedures not covered by single payer. Note that corporate healthcare insurance is based on profitability. With Single Payer, there is no profit incentive on the part of the government—just sustainability.
- Mandate a full week of open polls for federal and State elections. All American citizens must have easy access to the polls;
- Legislate the reactivation of the Fairness Doctrine. This would greatly reduce the misinformation and disinformation from propaganda. The public’s need to know, without having to change channels, the unedited arguments from all sides. This policy outweighs a broadcast entity’s perceived “right” to promote propaganda under the guise of “free speech” using the publicly owned airwaves;
- Legislate Federal Firearm Regulations such as:
- Nationwide, federal gun regulations are a must. The Second Amendment of the United States Constitution reads: A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
- Because the nature and purpose of a “militia” as presented in the Constitution has changed since the Second Amendment was passed (it was intended that there be no standing army and that each individual would be in an official, regulated State militia ready for call up when the nation was threatened), and because today it is clear that the government will not conscript every person into an official State militia that is well regulated, and the fact that we do have a standing army, only the firearms should be regulated. The Constitution is a “living document” and therefore should grow as definitions and intent changes.
- Every firearm would have a unique registration certificate very similar to automobile titles, and function in the same way. This would require an implementation period over at least a year. Any firearm sold privately would have to transfer. Any firearm stolen would have to be reported. Every registration would carry the owners name, address, and age. Age restrictions would apply.
- Every qualified citizen who passes a thorough background check and is of age may freely purchase a registered firearm, but anyone found to possess an unregistered firearm would be subject to heavy fine and the firearm confiscated and destroyed. This does not infringe on the right of a law-abiding, mentally competent citizen to own a firearm.
- As mentioned above, corporations (gun manufacturers in this case) are forbidden to lobby politicians, directly or indirectly, or engage in political advertising. This includes the NRA because it is the de facto lobbying arm of the gun manufacturers.
- Nationalize, or socially regulate the Fossil Fuel industry. Because all in-ground potential energy products are initially the property of the government (We the People), then We the People should realize a significant benefit when it is taken by private companies for private profit. Therefore, all private corporations engaged in oil drilling or coal mining would be required to substantially reimburse We the People for its extraction and sale.
- Transparency in government activities—especially in matters of foreign trade. Make all government actions and deliberations completely transparent except for national security purposes—to be approved by a non-partisan Citizens’ Oversight Committee and/or a revamped FISA court that includes non-partisan lawyers arguing for the citizens’ rights to privacy. Such proceedings could be made public sans specific names.
- Mandate a complete biyearly and transparent audit of the Federal Reserve (FED);
- Disqualify Wall Street insiders from nomination to run the Federal Reserve.
- Extend prosecutorial powers and greater oversight authority to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, significantly expanding oversight of corporate financial activities in the U.S. and the having the authority to execute investigations and/or inspect corporate records at any time without prior notification (as noted elsewhere).
- The decriminalize illegal drugs. Decriminalization would be necessary in order to provide proper, free medical assistance to those drug addicted, and such assistance would be mandatory. Medical facilities would be available for free inpatient care if necessary. Children of addicted patients would be taken care of in local, school dorms (see Operation of Head Start Centers under “Education”).
- Legalize the growing of industrial hemp and use of Marijuana. Hemp—cannabis sativa—can be a significant crop for the production of health foods, organic body care, textiles (clothing) construction materials, biofuels, plastic composites and much more (according to one source, more than 25,000 products can be made from hemp). Another benefit would be a very serious reduction in the prison population.I’ve little doubt that why hemp is still banned in much of the U.S. Large corporations are deeply invested in fossil energy, forest products, agricultural products, health products, etc. Legalization could likely significantly reduce their profits and, along with other green energy sources, virtually destroy Big Oil and Big Coal (if they didn’t retool and convert to production of clean, environmentally safe biofuels).This also would have a huge negative effect on the illegal drug market.
- Prison Reform. All prisons would be converted to Educational Detention Centers (EDCs) where education (vocational or scholastic—prisoner’s choice), psychological care, physical and social education, and motivational instruction would be mandatory. All EDCs (federal and state) would be overseen by the Department of Justice. Non-violent prisoners would be completely separated from prisoners of violent crimes. The structures themselves would be renovated to a more modern, clean, educational environment. Guards and instructors would be well qualified in psychological and motivational techniques, and be well paid. No prison may be privately owned.
- Housing and urban renewal. Housing and Urban renewal must be an integral part of the evolution of social justice. Run down neighborhoods must be raised, replaced with modern housing, and/or renovated. Safe parks must be accessible to all. All residents able and available would be strongly encouraged to participate in the reconstruction, and paid a living wage.
- Funding on a real war footing: First prerequisite for properly educating all citizens is for the public to understand that the underfunded “war on poverty” requires a second front: A real “War on Ignorance” (non pejorative). Funding, therefore, must be on a real wartime footing both in education and community rehabilitation/urban renewal that promotes a learning environment. No student will have less an opportunity as any other.
- Public financed, comprehensive education: Because education is most often the key to a successful life, to a reasoning mind, and to a strong republic, education and all necessary material for that education must be free to all students from pre-K through vocational or graduate school, and beyond. If more colleges are needed, then more should be built.
- Enhanced and robust Head Start: According to the Third Grade Follow-Up to the Head Start Impact Study’s final report, while cognitive improvements have seen significant positive results during the program, compared with non-Head Start children, these results largely “evaporated” in elementary school. Certainly this is a very complex issue, but although further investigation is needed, it seems to me that a significant part of the “evaporation” certainly economic in origin. Some poor families suffer from much more economic stress than others. Indeed, the evaluation takes degrees of family depression into account. Surely it must be significant that children, while finding themselves improving early on, realize that their home environment is not improving.
- Urban renewal and income equity: The psychological impact of poverty on parents and children, in my opinion, is the major cause of continuing poverty in the U.S., but it is not the root cause. The root cause keeps staring us in the face, and we usually talk around it. The root cause is economic. It is a vicious circle that feeds on itself. Low family income causes stress, stress causes parental depression, parental depression affects a child’s mental growth and outlook, which in turn causes stress and waning positive attitudes. Therefore, poverty ridden, dilapidated neighborhoods must be eliminated and the minimum wage must be raised to at least $15 per hour for both full time and part-time workers.
- Health Insurance: Because many children suffer from malnutrition (healthy foods are more expensive), are overweight, and/or tend to more instances of illness, a universal healthcare system should be in place (basically, enhanced Medicare for all).
b. Operation of Head Start facilities
- Operational hours and staff: Because a great many children do not currently have a proper learning and psychologically nurturing home environment, all centers would be open 24/7, be capable of housing students, and staffed with highly qualified and well paid teachers and child psychologists/motivational personnel.
- Underachieving and special needs children: would be encouraged to enroll their children on a 24/7 basis with open visitation (no time limit) during non-instruction hours. This would free up parents to further their own education and/or seek vocational training.
- Adult educational and vocational training facilities: would be available during the day and in the evenings for those who work during the day. Free daycare would be accessible to all working mothers and those attending an educational institution.
- Drug addicted parents – Because a significant number of children are traumatized by their parents addiction to drugs, free but mandatory medical care/recovery and educational programs would be instituted. No criminal record would be involved and no future employer would have the right to know.
- Medical access: Because students cannot concentrate when they are not healthy, each learning center would be staffed with medical personnel (24/7), a nutrition expert, a cafeteria staff, and at least one physical education instructor. All would be well paid according to their positions, including the facility maintenance crew.
- Nutrition and fitness – No sugar laced beverages, chemically sweetened beverages, candy, or high-carbohydrate snack food would be available. The centers would concentrate as much on health and fitness as on academics and motivational instruction.
I tend to favor the idea that, beginning in the first grade, students would wear snappy uniforms, tastefully emblazoned with the school logo and/or sports teams, all provided at no cost to parents. This would eliminate, for the parents, the high cost of corporate-driven styles of clothing and footwear, which becomes a point of competition among children. As well, uniforms would provide for a source of pride and unity in the Center.
c. Structure of Head Start Facilities
- Physical Aspects: Centers would be modern buildings of a pleasing architecture optimized to provide the latest in a technological, academic and physical-training environment. The esthetics should be a source of pride for students and facility. A gymnasium would be necessary as well as outside sports facilities such as baseball, basketball, soccer, track and field.
- Nurturing Aspects: would include an educational/nurturing environment 24/7 for housing children as young as 2 years for those who live in a high-stressed environment at home. Everyone needs to know they are loved and accepted, and this is especially true with very young children. The nursery, then, must be staffed with loving, caring, well paid, and well qualified personnel who concentrate on creating a home style environment.
- A modern infirmary would be open 24/7 as well as a modern cafeteria.
d. Federally Required instruction in Elementary Schools:
NOTE: While early childhood education is giving about 95% of its time to reading and reading comprehension, according to the 1983 report of the National Commission on Excellence in Education, “A Nation at Risk,” the reading material is “wholly inadequate” in terms of content (history/social studies*, science, literature, and arts).
In reaction to the report, virtually all effort to improve education at the high school level, elementary grades were largely ignored. This has not changed in the post 1983 decades.
According to the study;
- 42 percent had no subject-matter content at all (defined as covering theories, facts, and information from typical elementary subjects, such as math, science, and social studies*);
- 20 percent had content that was of a language arts nature—how words were formed, etc.;
- 20 percent had social science content (a third of which was “social themes,” concerning “enduring problems of individual and social life,” such as growing up, living with family members, etc.);
- 12 percent had science content;
- Less than 6 percent had content in any other major subject-matter area, including art and music.
Because these years constitute a major part of a child’s formative education, greater content, especially in science and history/social studies, would greatly enhance a child’s understanding of the natural world and the various human cultures, including their religions.
- Critical reading content: Social Studies is in serious need of facts about world religions. This is, without a doubt, the most difficult area in which to teach—not because children will not understand, but because many (most?) parents would be enraged that their children are being implanted with the very seed of reason that grows into religious tolerance and brother/sisterhood. This is why such information must be mandated on the national front. This is not teaching religion, but teaching about religion. Social Studies should be about teaching children to feel equal, not superior to others.
Requisite in this instruction is the need to convey the understanding that religious beliefs are most often a function of parental/societal teachings—that a child born to a Muslim family will be taught to believe the tenets of Islamic just as a child born to a Christian family is taught to believe Christian beliefs. This is why various religions continue to exist and it is why most people of most religions believe all others are false.
Equal treatment is the intent of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States; that the views of each citizen in matters of religion is equal to all others under the U.S. Constitution and none may have political dominance over any other. This is the very nature of freedom of conscience and it is the reason why no agent of the government (including teachers) may promote their particular views on religion to a captive audience.
NOTE: Currently, there are no federally mandated standards of learning although there are federal standards the States may implement if they want federal dollars, but each state institutes its own. Forty-three states, however, have agreed upon and implemented Common Core, “a set of clear college—and career-ready—standards for kindergarten through 12th grade in English language arts/literacy and mathematics.”
The State Common Core standards dictate what a child should learn, but not how it is to be taught. Thus, teachers may choose any set of books and other learning material, and convey instructions as suites each teacher.
Too, Common Core does not focus on the importance, in the most formative grades, of social values such as social equality and empathy.
I am not a child psychologist and nor am I trained in early childhood education, but whatever standards each state might set for PreK-3, I believe it is imperative that children are imbued with the tools from which an understanding of the nature of empathy may be gained. Far too many adults today are indifferent about the suffering of the poor and their children, and too many are selfish and/or greedy. This must be addressed at the lowest levels of education and consistently and intensively enhanced in every grade thereafter.
My argument is that there should first be an understanding of the meaning of “sympathy.” this may be accomplished by a continuing, concentrated effort to impart to the children the Golden Rule. Sympathy is the tool by which empathy may be achieved. This focuses the mind of a child on the less fortunate in a positive way.
While having sympathy for someone is to understand their circumstance and feel sorry for them, empathy requires that one put himself in their place, feels their experience (walk a while in their shoes), and try to do whatever one can to help them. Because it is true that one person, or even many, cannot effect the poverty rate while Wall Street controls Washington, a return to the idea of the government as We the People, collectively, in the voting booth, is the best means of significant effect.
e. Federally Required Content in Middle School – High School
- Civics: According to the Stanford’s, Youth Civic Development & Education: A conference consensus report, “. . . civic education as practiced in schools throughout the United States is not preparing students for effective participation in civic life. “Few young people are sufficiently motivated to become engaged in civic and political activity. Students are not finding inspiration in civic values as taught in schools today, nor are they gaining a sense that they are able to engage effectively in civic and political domains.”This, of course, leaves 10s of millions of Americans ignorant of the workings of their government and how politics directly affects their lives in terms of economics, career management, education, health, war (their lives and the lives of family members), safety of food production and consumption, safety in the workplace, etc.Because of these voters’ lack of knowledge, they are often taken in by the emotional rhetoric of self-serving politicians and their propaganda networks.In a just nation, once a child reaches high school, he would already have a good idea of the nature of various governmental systems and of the way our government—a constitutionally limited, representative democracy—works, and especially have an understanding of the intent of the Establishment Clause.
- Science – First requirement would be to instill a good understanding of science and the scientific method. Objective instruction in stellar, geographical, and biological evolution would be required.As well, I am of the opinion that during the first week of the first science class that the teacher visually demonstrates on the board the difference between the scientific method and the creationist method. This should, if presented objectively, demonstrate that the scientific method is the only means of discerning objective facts about natural phenomena. Again, it would teach the children how to think objectively, not what to think.
- Social studies – Social Studies would include more detailed instruction in world religions, including their origins, and take an honest review of American social history from the discovery of the continent to present day. This would include our honorable and dishonorable actions (our warts and our blemishes), such as the real stories of Christopher Columbus, slavery (how it was justified, economically and religiously), massacres of American Indians (including giving them smallpox-laced blankets that destroyed whole villages), war crimes (including criminal orders from the White House such as torture and engaging in illegal wars), religious riots, hatred of immigrants, etc.
- Introduction to Philosophy with a concentration on ethics and critical thinking.
Conservatism: Belief in the value of established and traditional practices in politics and society. Dislike of change or new ideas in particular areas.
Social Conservatism: In the United States, contrary to their mantra of individual freedom, is the belief, in principle, in general government regulation of people’s personal freedom, often as a result of their religious beliefs.
Social conservatives tend to favor [and make] laws against abortion, gay marriage, embryonic stem cell research, physician assisted suicide, gun control, affirmative action, but tend to favor Christian prayer in public schools and government meetings [under the guise of “religious” freedom], capital punishment and [military] support of Israel.
Fiscal Conservatism in the U.S. “calls for lower levels of public spending, lower taxes and lower government debt. It is a variety of conservatism concerned with economic rather than social issues. Fiscal conservatives oppose unnecessary government expenditures, deficits, and government debt. They take the perspective of the present and future taxpayers, and worry about the possible burden on them. They support balanced budgets” (a contradiction to their opposition to the fiscal policies of President Bill Clinton which actually did balance the budget and create a surplus).
“This should be contrasted with those who believe that lower taxation will stimulate industrial development, even though it causes higher deficits.” (Parenthetical comment and italic, author’s)
Neoconservatism, a radical form of both social and fiscal conservatism, calls for an eventual and virtual abandonment of the federal government in favor of State sovereignty and a “free” market (corporate supremacy), leaving Washington capable only of maintaining a strong military (much of which is privatized), and protecting the free reign of corporations. State and local governments should be able to make religious laws controlling individual freedom according to the religious conviction of the majority. States could, as well, establish a State religion.
Born in the 1960s from a group of young ex-liberals disgruntled by liberalisms failure to bring about social justice, they turned inward as they became motivated by Professor Leo Strauss, considered by many to be the father of neoconservatism. They were soon joined by the social conservative Southern Dixiecrats (ex-Southern Democrats who had defected from the Democratic Party because of their opposition to their party embracing the concept of civil rights). The neoconservatives became a driving force in the Republican Party, which had morphed from liberalism to conservatism.
Supply-side economics (trickle-down/Reaganomics):
The key economic policy of neoconservatism. It is an economic philosophy that denies consumer demand is the major driving force in the economy. It says, instead, that economic prosperity will be realized by lowering taxes on corporations and on the wealthy; drastically deregulating the big banks on Wall Street; dropping oversight over the market (leading to a virtually unfettered free market); militant militarism especially in the oil rich Middle East (greater funding to the Military Industrial Complex); deregulating work-place and consumer safety; destroying workers unions which provide workers an equitable share in corporate profits; severely restricting the authority of the federal government; eliminating Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid and virtually all social programs designed to help the poor, the sick, and the elderly; abolishing the minimum wage, and; eliminating free public education (tax paid), in favor of private, religious, and/or corporate profit education.
Basically, Supply-side economics suggests that unfettered profit should be America’s greatest, if not our only value.
It is believed by many conservatives that such policies will lead to increase government (and personal) revenue and force the poor to pull themselves out of poverty without government assistance, while at the same time eliminating minimum wage laws such that corporations could pay even less and have a virtual unlimited, poor, workforce.
It is believed by many progressives, who know the history of neoconservatism, to be an insidious mechanism to transform the republic into an oligarchy/plutocracy—control by the few and the wealthy.
History shows us that supply-side economics will do precisely what progressives predicted. Since its institution by Ronald Reagan, the first neoconservative president, it has created and perpetuated an enormous and increasing income disparity between the wealthy and the middle class—shrinking the size of the middle class, while increasing the ranks of the wealthy and the poor. The wealthy have become much wealthier while the income of the working class has stagnated. As well, Reaganomics, along with the help of the conservative majority of the U.S. Supreme Court has led to the virtual marriage corporations and government (neo-fascism primarily based on Italian classical fascism).
Virtually the entire Republican Party has now adopted the neoconservative world view even though its policies of deregulation led to the Great Recession of 2008.
Liberalism (as opposed to Neoliberalism): “A social and/or political philosophy advocating the freedom of the individual, parliamentary systems of government, nonviolent modification of political, social, or economic institutions to ensure unrestricted development in all spheres of human endeavor, and governmental guarantees of individual rights and civil liberties.”
Social liberalism is a “political ideology that seeks to find a balance between individual liberty and social justice. Like classical liberalism, social liberalism endorses a market economy and the expansion of civil and political rights and liberties, but differs in that it believes the legitimate role of the government includes addressing economic and social issues such as poverty, health care and education. Under social liberalism, the good of the community is viewed as harmonious with the freedom of the individual.”
— Max T. Furr is author of The Empathy Imperative, a philosophical novel exploring society’s cognitive dissonance between its belief in Divine Justice, mercy, and benevolence, and today’s moral values. Was Descartes wrong and God was a deceiver, after all? Max gives life to Carl Jung’s symbolism in Answer to Job as the Creator becomes subject to psychological analysis in an ethereal Court of Answers.
Based on biblical literality and opening with the beginning of the Tribulation–the Time of Sorrows–as foretold in the Book of Revelation, a professor of evolutionary biology becomes the target of a religious-political purge of liberal educators as politicians scramble to make laws proving to God that they are worthy of salvation.
Yet something extraordinary, unforeseen even by Yahweh, is happening in that timeless realm where gods reside, and through our protagonist, everything will change . . . forever.