Dem Rx

Certain folk are complaining that the Democratic Party has gone off the rails, and is incapable of doing anything right. Nonsense. Dems believe in what they have always believed, that the strength of our democracy depends on how well our citizens are treated.

It’s the Republicans who have gone off the rails, and are now devoting all their time to serving the very rich and living in a fantasy world where magic works just fine. In recent decades Republicans have operated at the edge of the law. This has resulted in 120 indictments, 89 convictions, and 34 prison sentences for Republicans, compared to 3 indictments, 1 conviction, and 1 prison sentence for Democrats over the same period. And that’s pre-Trump.

But aren’t the Dems just as corrupted by corporate bribery as the Repubs? The way I see it is that the Dems have no choice but to accept Corporate Personhood bucks if they want to mount an electoral defense against multi-billionaire fossil fuel science deniers and the like. That’s unfortunate, but unavoidable, and Dems in this trap have to be extremely careful.

Perhaps the biggest challenge is to correct the ongoing lies that Trump voters believe no matter what evidence there is to the contrary. The absurd Republican belief is that making the billionaires richer will help everyone. The opposite has been proven numerous times to be the case. Pure greed is the only thing the Republican belief serves. It makes the rest of us worse off.

Some problems and how to fix them.

Poverty: It seems so obvious. Set a minimum wage that allows people to simply live, without working two jobs. Currently that seems to be about $15 per hour. Every place where $15 has been tried has thrived.

Shorten the work week. We no longer work a 72-hour week, yet the 40-hour week didn’t bankrupt us. A 20-to-30 hour week is overdue. The transition will need to be carefully managed, but the result will be that more people will have work and fewer will be unemployed, which helps the country.

Get rid of desperate poverty with a guaranteed minimum income that prevents suffering from the worst effects of extreme poverty, but won’t be enough that it would be desirable.

Establish tax-supported national health care. This will save tens of thousands of lives yearly, and will vastly improve the national health, which in turn will boost economic health. Since cost control would be a part of national health care, excessive costs from fees, technology, and medicines would be reduced. We would no longer waste one of every three dollars on insurance administration, which contributes absolutely nothing to health care. The cost savings would be some $200B annually. That’s a savings of $645 per person per year just for instituting universal health care.

There are many other things Dems should support, policies that create greater common wealth. For example, encouragement of worker ownership of businesses. Policies that help domestic businesses be more competitive against overseas businesses that exploit workers with very low pay. For example assistance in financing a new business and modernizing older ones, and improvements in transportation and marketing. Tax breaks that help real people, not just corporate billionaires.

Perhaps the biggest challenge facing Dems is reaching Trumpsters, who have fallen for blatant lies, and live in a fantasy world where Trump will make them all rich. Dems must learn how to reach these people and show them how government actually works, and what will help them personally. That’s a tough challenge, because many such people are very resistant to such realization, and would rather remain in their fantasy world. They hate Obama and Democrats because they hate Obama and Democrats.

No, Democrats haven’t gone off the rails. The Democratic platform should be what it has always been: serve the people, all the people, not just the rich. Enact laws based on factual evidence, not quasi-religious faith that doesn’t hold up under inspection.

A Few Republican Opinions

Idaho Rep Raul Labrador: Nobody dies because they don’t have access to health care.

Health Sec Tom Price: It’s reasonable that the elderly pay five times what the young pay.

Mo Brooks, AL: people who “lead good lives” should pay less for health insurance.

John Shimkus, IL: Men shouldn’t have to pay for prenatal care because they don’t deliver children.

Tila Hubrecht: Pregnancy by rape is God’s silver lining.

People protesting Trump are actually protesting God.

Mick Mulvaney of the White House says diabetics don’t deserve health insurance because they gave themselves diabetes.

GOP lawmaker: Poor women have abortions because “there is a free trip involved”.

Sen. Cotton: Black people are trying to be poor to get Social Security benefit.

WH Budget Director Rick Mulvaney attacked those who receive government benefits for the poor by claiming they are thieves for receiving this money.

Paul Ryan calls working moms with two jobs “takers”.

Rep Tim Walburg: God will take care of climate change, if it exists.

A Christian conservative: Jesus wouldn’t want me to care about global warming.

Pat Robertson: Non-religious children should be beaten until they respect Christian beliefs.

Rep. Robert Fisher: Rape isn’t an absolute bad because the rapist enjoys it a lot.

James Dobson says transgender people using public bathrooms should be shot.

Rep. Lawrence Lockman: If a woman has a right to an abortion why shouldn’t a man be free to use his superior strength to force himself on a woman?

Paul Ryan: If we feed the poor, we will never get rid of them.

Louisiana Republican Rep. Clay Higgins said that Muslims should be hunted down and killed.

Published in: on 2017/06/08 at 1:45 pm  Comments (5)  
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Measuring Quality of Life

GDP (Gross Domestic Product) is convenient for economists and politicians, but it misleads us into thinking an increase in GDP makes us better off. More guns, worse natural disasters, and private prisons add to GDP, but show us that not every contribution to GDP improves our lives.

Measures of the improvement in the quality of our lives is vastly more important. Unfortunately, GDP is easier to measure, so that’s what we look at. As any laid-off or underpaid worker can tell you, the quality of life for everyone but the richest few has been stagnant or declining for decades in spite of rocketing GDP. The desperation of these workers is why Donald Trump’s lies about how he was going to make everything better convinced them.

Every demagogue knows he must tell his followers that they have an enemy who is to blame for all their miseries. Hitler blamed the Jews, and Trump blamed Democrats, especially Hillary Clinton. Those elite, pointy-headed, out-of-touch ivory tower intellectuals who never worked a day in their lives and don’t know what the real world is like. Liars. Criminals.

We don’t have a good, simple measure of the quality of life yet, but we do know that it does not lie in the realm of “stuff”. We already have too much stuff, and the addition of an 80-inch TV will not improve our quality of life.

Actually, it’s relatively easy in modern nations to have high quality of life. Why do we not have it? We do not have high quality of life because the very rich and corporate powers have given far too much wealth to themselves and to Congress. Members of Congress are all given fabulous amounts of money in the expectation that it will earn access for lobbyists to convince Congress to vote in ways that favor these interests. It works. Congress again and again votes for bills that make the rich richer and the rest of us less well off. We cannot, for example, use leverage to obtain better prices for medicines because Big Pharma paid Congress to pass a bill that says we can’t. So we are forced to subsidize a multi-million dollar bonus for a Big Pharma CEO when we buy our grossly overpriced meds.

Wealth is finite. If it goes to the very wealthy it cannot go elsewhere. The wealthy do not use it to build factories and provide jobs. They merely invest it for themselves, taking it out of circulation, where it would improve the quality of our lives.

Health care is one of the most important elements of quality of life.

Congress, almost entirely because of the Republican position, has never given serious study to one of the most important ways to improve the quality of life: national health care. We are literally the only modern nation without national health care, and it shows. Our health as a nation is much worse than virtually any other modern nation, in spite of the fact that we pay literally double what others pay. This doesn’t bother the wealthy because they can easily buy top quality medical care. The poor who can’t get treatment just die.

A large part of this tragedy is because a quarter of our health care bill goes to private insurers, who provide absolutely no health care at all. Another big chunk goes down the drain because we can’t readily control the price of what we pay for medical care or medications. Countries with national care have neither of these major problems. We still have this antiquated system largely because Republicans have a pathological aversion to anything they think is “socialism”, which they apparently equate with Stalinist communism. They stick to this story because they are beholden to moneyed interests that get them re-elected.

Are we entitled to health care? Yes, we are.

Consider the case of one of the most important medical advances in recent centuries, penicillin. Penicillin and its later offspring has cured diseases that in the past claimed millions of lives. Penicillin greatly improved our quality of life. It also earned truckloads of money for those who manufactured it, but that money did not improve our quality of life.

I maintain that we are all entitled to penicillin if we need it, and it would be amoral to withhold this lifesaver from anyone, even if they are penniless. The same holds true even for expensive medical treatment. Half a million families every year are bankrupted after selling everything they own to pay for an expensive medical treatment. This creates a net negative effect for the whole country, because each of these families is thrust into worse quality of life. The children may have to give up college plans, so the effect lasts more than a generation. This national disaster happens only in the US, the only country without national health care.

Inexplicably, Republicans waste endless hours trying to preserve unearned wealth yet make health care affordable. They cannot understand that the biggest insurance pool is the most efficient, that the private health care insurance industry is completely useless, and that the cost of medical procedures and medicines can easily be managed by national boards. We are the only modern nation in the world that hasn’t figured this out.

Health care is not rocket science, it’s simple arithmetic.

Death in the Sea, Life in the Fishtank

Most of the great fisheries of the world face disaster these days. Huge Asian trawlers drag the bottom, destroying everything. The fish they can’t use they throw back, dead, along with sea mammals such as dolphins. Sea creatures large and small frequently die when they are caught up in lost nets and lines. The harvest of fish all over the globe is declining from overfishing and environmental decline.

The increasing acidification of the seas gives shellfish thin and weak shells. Same with crabs and lobsters. Coral thousands of years old is dying and turning white as the water warms. Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is dead. Bigger fish have dangerous levels of mercury and lead in their flesh. Fish in the Pacific are showing up with cancerous tumors, a consequence of the radioactivity still leaking from Japan’s Fukushima reactors destroyed by earthquake. Fish for sushi increasingly have tapeworms and other undesirable creatures growing in their flesh.

The picture is not good, and greater consumption of fish has been recommended in the recent past in place of our unhealthy overconsumption of beef.

But fish farming using up to date technology offers the US a golden opportunity to provide first-class food locally raised in tanks.

Fish farming earned a bad reputation from filthy Asian methods, in which the fish lived in disgustingly dirty river water, and were fed all sorts of things, including human feces. These farms are packed one next to another, with very little water current and no attempt at cleaning the water.

But Norway has shown us how to raise excellent, healthy, and very tasty fish. Whole Foods has sold Norwegian farm-grown salmon, which is excellent, for several years. There is no reason the same techniques should not be used by American seafood farmers. Fish farming is an ideal industry for worker ownership because initial costs are relatively low, and can be sited in many places. But the industry needs help getting established.

Fish farming could be established in areas of the country, like the South, that have had persistent conditions of poverty and unemployment. The government could assist these efforts at relatively low cost. Minor, in fact, compared to most government investments. Petroleum, for example, has had unnecessary subsidy costing billions for many decades. The infrastructure for fish farming is far less expensive than most city buildings, more along the line of metal farm outbuildings.

That’s not the only thing needed, of course. Besides the solid infrastructure for farming of fish and other seafood, an industry to provide food for these fish is needed, as well as systems of transportation to market. Live fish could be sent to local markets in far greater quantity than at present.

Saltwater fish could be raised in interior areas, with some changes, mostly the provision of sea water. (I assume that sea water has ingredients that are necessary and not found in ordinary salt.) Since these modern methods purify the water, only small quantities of sea water would need to be regularly replaced. The middle of the country could have healthy and nutritious fresh saltwater fish without the high cost of long-distance shipping.

Likewise, freshwater fish could be raised in seacoast areas as well, areas that typically have ocean fish, but much less freshwater fish. When both are more evenly distributed, transportation costs will fall, and superior saltwater and freshwater fish could be supplied to everyone at a reasonable price.

With a bit of American ingenuity, I’m sure there are a number of other industries that could be similarly established as worker-owned entities that provide their products to local markets with low transportations costs. The floor is now open for nominations.

Repubs Must Now Decide Who Is To Die

In the modern countries that have national health care—which means every one of them except ours—the unfortunate souls who are diagnosed with a serious condition such as cancer are more likely than anyone in the rest of the world to survive. That is because they will receive the very best, most up to date treatment there is.

Whether you or I survive just depends. Mostly it depends on our income. If we make as much as, say, members of Congress, who make a lot of money, and whose health care is also subsidized, our chance of survival is as good as the best.

At the bottom of the income scale no one survives cancer, because they earn so little they can’t afford health care at all. That’s not quite true right now, because the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, somewhat corrects for this inequality.

But it has been a primary Republican goal to kill Obamacare from the first day it became effective. Now, with control of the executive and both houses of Congress, Republicans are free to finally get their wish. But that also presents them with a decision they must make:

Who should be the ones who die because they are denied health care? They must decide who shall die.

Now, obviously, the chronically unemployed fit the category, because as it is well known, the only acceptable reason for being unemployed is laziness. Every Republican knows that. At the other end of the scale, people who earn adequate income should have the best health care, because as every Republican knows, income is a fitting measure of virtue.

But here’s the rub: where is the line of demarcation separating the virtuous from the lazy? The point above which most survive, and below which all die. What is the level of income necessary that we can be assured that such persons deserve a full-out effort to battle their cancer, and below which we should not bother because they are not worth it and can’t afford it?

This is the dilemma Republicans must resolve, because they are certain that a full-out effort to save a person from cancer should depend entirely on their personal income, which is a measure completely equivalent to their virtue, and therefore their value to society.

You would think that somewhere along the line Republicans would realize that bad health is bad for the country, that the only equitable health care is national health care that is available to all, that you can’t be paying billions of dollars to insurance executives who contribute absolutely nothing toward health and expect reasonable costs. But so far they haven’t. They just keep trying to kill the Affordable Care Act, again and again, but never have anything better to offer. That’s because all those old white guys just can’t get over the notion that anything national is—shudder—Socialism, and we will all end up in Siberia. Like France, I suppose.

Published in: on 2017/04/28 at 8:49 pm  Comments (2)  

The Self-Destructive Folly of Trump’s Hatreds

Trump campaigned on a policy of hate, and nearly every picture we see of him shows a contorted face of hatred. He hates virtually every human group that is not white, male, and rich.

He said that all Mexicans are rapists and criminals. All Muslims are terrorists. All blacks are lazy. Women should stay home and raise children. And so on. All the standard prejudices of our times, none of which is true.

The tragedy is that poorly educated whites, those already convinced that they are naturally superior, accepted what he said in spite of its obviously self-contradictory nature, as Trump lied and lied and lied. Even now, some 70% of what he says consists of lies. Lies and contradictions.

He made hatred acceptable. Shortly after his inauguration there were dozens of acts of violence against individual persons and groups he has as much as said it was OK to kill. And some did kill.

Hatred is not a good foundation on which to build a country. Germany can vouch for that.

But the lesson is lost on Republicans. If it weren’t, Trump and his billionaire toadies bent on destroying the promise of our country would have been tossed out by now. Instead, Congress passes one bill after another designed to punish people, always the poor, people of color, immigrants and refugees, Muslims, and women. The very people who should be protected the same way everyone else is. And Trump, in the absence of understanding what he is supposed to be doing, has signed endless executive orders designed only to hurt people.

Republicans are always against the poor because they believe poverty is always the result of “bad choices”. But here’s something: Five million manufacturing jobs have been lost since 2000. Lost to the changing nature of work, and shipped offshore to very poor countries with very low wages. Many of the US Americans who lost their jobs have not been able to find another, and are in great financial difficulty, with very little income. Now, Republicans, since these people worked faithfully and well for decades, who is it who made these “bad choices”? The unemployed workers who can find no work at any pay? More likely it’s the Republicans in Congress who have acted in favor of wealthy capitalists, while the fortunes of the faithful employees who came to work every day went down and down.

There are many things that Congress could have done to improve conditions for workers. The work week could have been shortened, which would have provided work for more people. The minimum wage could have been raised to the point where no one working full time would need three jobs. A minimum income law could have been passed, so the people who could find no work at least had food and shelter, and we wouldn’t find them living under the bridge in tents. National health care could have been established, health care like every modern nation has except ours. Ways could have been found to assist companies that make goods here. Laws could have been passed to prevent corporations from hiding their profit.

All these possibilities were ignored, and many laws were passed to boost the income of the very wealthy, so that the very wealthy could become yet more wealthy at the expense of the poor. Income that cannot even be spent, it is so great.

What we have ended up with is a bunch of very rich people dictating what the rest of us are supposed to feel and believe about our lack of equality. And they think only rich white males are worth bothering with. All the rest—the poor, the people of color, the Jews, the Muslims, the ill and infirm, the aged, the children, the women—they are expected to fend for themselves, because we all know they are lazy and will not work. That’s why minimum wage doesn’t matter, why we don’t need medical care, why only schools for the rich are important, why immigration must be ended, why Muslims and Mexicans must be deported, on and on.

The Republican agenda is to create the limits that support these beliefs, to keep the poor so poor that they cannot rise. The tragedy is that Trump convinced so many poor whites that they were superior, and should therefore vote for him. They did vote for him, and immediately launched acts of hatred against his approved villains. What they didn’t understand, though, was that Trump and the Republicans thought that they were no more worthy than the official list of villains. They soon began to feel the sting of his betrayal.

This is not the way to run a country in which equality is the benchmark by which we will be judged. Equality of opportunity, no matter who your parents are, what color or religion you are, no matter what you do for a living. Our foundational principles are falling away at an alarming rate. Obviously, Trump and the Republicans think this is what should happen.