Monday, September 23, 2013

A Survey Of The Country's Problems

America has problems, numerous problems.  Some of them get a nod, some get a wink, and some of them are ignored all together.  Here’s a list.

You will notice that abortion is not on the list.  That’s a problem for one woman at a time, and the best way to handle it is to just leave them to it.  Guns are not on the list.  Addressing some of the problems that are on the list would go a long way to eliminating the gun problem.  Gay marriage?  That’s not a problem, and you know it.  The ACA, Bengazi, Obama’s birth certificate, video games, Hip-Hop . . . no, no, no, no and no. 

This is a list of REAL problems, problems that have the power to create negative outcomes for the entire nation, if not the world.  Some already have.  Some are natural; some are man-made; and some lie somewhere in between. 

Which one is your favorite?


1.  The Permanent Emergency.  Franklin Delano Roosevelt declared a state of emergency in 1940, and it has existed continuously ever since.  It allowed him to gear up for the coming war, with massive increases in military spending and the institution of a draft.  After the war, the emergency was transferred to the Soviets; after the Soviets it was transferred to “Terrorism.”  There was a small interregnum between the Soviets and Terrorism, but the state of emergency persisted.  This is why we still have ridiculously high levels of military spending and a national security state;

2. The Shadow Executive.  The executive branch of the government includes the Federal agencies.  By now it effectively includes the military as well.  It includes all of the national security agencies, like the CIA, the NSA and others, no doubt, that we are still unaware of.  That’s a huge amount of manpower, on a career basis, completely unelected.  Does anyone think that it matters anymore who is the president?  Can you imagine two more different people than George Bush the Lesser and Barack Obama?  Any new president, on his first day, discovers his situation when it is explained to him by this unelected bureaucracy;

3.  Militarized Police Forces.  The police forces of any large urban center are unrecognizable from the quaint police of my childhood.  They come now in large groups, in armored vehicles,  wearing helmets and vests and carrying assault rifles.  There are a lot more shootings and ass kickings by police too.  Lots of stop and frisk, and lots of invading the wrong premises, and very little “excuse me.”  I recall mocking other countries because their people had to fear their own police.  That’s the boat that we now find ourselves in;

4.  The Privatized Military.  Private contractors building bases, cooking and cleaning, and fueling planes and vehicles.   Private detective agencies are providing security.  This increases costs and transfers tax money to corporations, it also dulls the chances for oversight;

5.  Corporate Prisons.  This is such a terrible idea that I’d like to meet some of the politicians who support the idea.  These corporations charge by the head, and they demand quotas that are written into the contracts with the states, and they insist on very high levels of occupancy.  If the prison population falls below the prescribed levels, penalties must be paid by the state.   I keep waiting for this scandal to blow up in someone’s face, but I remain disappointed;

6.  Health Insecurity.  Americans live with such enormous health insecurity that it amazes me every year that goes by without a revolution.  America is almost alone among the developed countries of the world in not having a single-payer system.   No, we prefer an adversarial relationship with predatory health insurance providers and various other medical entities.  Most Americans are one medical catastrophe away from financial ruin and/or actual death.   In return we spend, as a nation, about twice as much in terms of GDP as the other, more sensible developed countries.  For this we get no increase in the quality of care.  Even if you have good insurance, the co-pays will kill you.  It’s the worst health care in the world.  And don’t go off about the “takers” either.  Sure, someone with no money and no assets can get free treatment in a hospital, but it’s no alternative.  They are merely stabilized and sent home.  This problem really galls me;

7.  The Death Of The Oceans.  The oceans are warming up, they are being over-fished LAMF, and the waters are acidifying.  The only ones who like the state of the oceans of the world are the jellyfish.  They are thriving to a degree that is shocking, colonizing new areas by hitch-hiking around the world in the ballast water of commercial ships.  We’ll need to start writing jelly-fish cook books pretty soon;

8.  Global Climate Change.  A separate problem from number 7.  Whether you believe that Global Climate Change is man-made, or whether you believe that it’s cyclical and normal, or whether you deny that it is happening at all, it is a very real phenomenon.  It is observable and measureable, and the negative effects are already being seen.  It’s going to be a real party in forty or fifty years, if not sooner;

9.  Compound Interest.  Not often thought of as a problem, I admit.  I appreciate the benefits of it myself, at least when the banks are offering interest that is not just a joke.  Now, though, we have a situation where virtually all of the money is being sucked up to the top of the benefit chain.  Don’t the Walmart heirs alone have twenty something percent of all of the money these days?  As the rich get richer, and compound interest works its magic, money will have to be printed at a frightening rate to keep some of it available for wages for the rest of us.  What happens then?  Prices go up?  You’ll have to be a Walmart heir to afford food;

10.  Politicians Selling Their Asses Ridiculously Cheaply.  I almost understand politicians benefiting financially from their positions.  Within reason I could tolerate it pretty well.  I find it annoying, though, that instead of selling off a little bit of benefit for good money, we elect guys that are such piss poor negotiators that they sell off the whole game for a pittance.  They cheerfully give away billions of dollars of benefit for a few measly hundreds of millions of dollars.  Then they preen around like hot shots while they are begging for rides on private jets that most of them can’t afford for themselves.  Pathetic;

11.   The Death Of Privacy.  Oh, I know, just the idea of “privacy” is so quaint by now.  How can it be a problem when it doesn’t even exist anymore? 

12.  The Death Of Compromise.  Democracy cannot exist without compromise.  We are now discovering the truth of that statement.  Nobody’s interested in finding the middle ground these days.  Remember arguing with the Soviets?  They started out with a list of demands and if you asked them to forego the dot over one “I” they would scream like you were killing them and claim that they could not possibly abandon their principles to accommodate you.  This lesson was learned by the Republican party, to our detriment;

13.  High Productivity/Low Wages.  In the last thirty years, human productivity has gone through the roof, it has exploded to levels that would have been science fiction back in the 1960’s.  What have workers gotten from all of this productivity?  Lower wages in real terms.  Unions destroyed, benefits eroded, and all of the old covenants between labor and management abrogated by the corporations.  The productivity itself has led to higher systemic levels of unemployment, which also serves to lower wages.  All of the money generated by the high productivity has accrued to the benefit of the investment class;

14.  Income Inequality.  Think of the Willard Romney family and Honey Boo Boo’s family.  Get the picture? 
15.  Our Unbalanced And Regressive Tax Structure.  Over the last thirty or forty years the tax structure has been altered to lower rates on income derived from capital gains while raising them on  wages.  So Warren Buffet’s secretary pays a rather higher percentage rate on her income than he does on his.  Add in the more recent infatuation with sales taxes and fees for everything imaginable and you get a tax system that oppresses the lower income ranges while giving the upper ranges a virtual pass; 

16.  The Threat To Public Education.  I never went to public schools myself, but my children did.  I believe that managed correctly they are the great levelers that can be so important to a democracy.  In a simpler age they functioned to homogenize the diversity of America, rendering all students “Americans” with a common experience.  They could serve this purpose again.  And they already provide as good an education as private schools or so-called charter schools.  I believe that private schools should be subject to a luxury tax, and that charter schools should be done away with all together.  Charter schools have not demonstrated any superior ability to educated students, and they just suck up public money and hand it to corporations who do nothing to earn it;

17.  Religion.  I mean religion in general, all religions, all around the world.  Religion needs to sit the fuck down and shut the fuck up;

18.  The Democratic Party;

19.  The Republican Party;

20.  The Illusion Of Being Well Informed.  Thanks to the Internet, everyone thinks that they are a genius these days.  This is a problem.  Everyone feels like they are just so well informed, because, after all, they watch TV news, listen to talk-radio, and read news accumulation sites on the Internet.   This state of high-quality intellectual readiness gives everybody an apparent license to have an opinion, which will be promptly Tweeted or otherwise distributed.  To this new genius class I say, paraphrasing Oliver Cromwell, “I beseech you in the bowels of Christ, please consider that you may be wrong.” 

Well, my fingers are tired.  That should be enough reading for now anyway.  Maybe you could transfer it to your Kindle!  That would be modern! 

For anyone who makes the heroic effort required to read this whole thing, please accept my sincerest thanks. 


Green Eagle said...

An excellent list. I really don't have much else to say, but you covered a lot of bases here.

fred c said...

Another triumph to cross off my bucket list: a comment from Green Eagle. Thanks man, really.

Jorge Morales said...

Man, did you just depress me . . .


fred c said...

It's like Keith used to say when he worked up at UCLA with the dying babies and I asked him, so, isn't it kind of sad when they die? He told me that whether he was there or not, they were dead, and while they were alive he could help them, and they needed it. Same here, knowing doesn't make the problems worse.

Or, maybe I should just say: sorry, Jorge.