The 2016 Republican Platform

  1. Rid the country of all immigrants.
  2. Bomb Iran.
  3. Void all limits on gun ownership.
  4. Ban all abortions and health services for women.
  5. Limit voting to those they deem fit to vote.
  6. Dismantle all government agencies except Defense.
  7. Convert all education to market based.
  8. Convert necessary government services to private free market businesses.
  9. Discontinue all taxes on corporations and the wealthy.
  10. End United Nations membership.
  11. Establish Christian observances in government and public places.

Ridiculous, right? But the fact is, every one of these pathologically negative plans is espoused by one, or more likely, numerous prominent Republican figures, no matter how unbelievable they seem to be.

Numerous Republicans are adamant about completely closing our borders to all immigration, and more than a few want to round up all undocumented immigrants and deport them. This is amazingly stupid in a nation composed of some 97% immigrants, to say nothing of the fact that what they propose would drain well over a hundred billion dollars from the public purse and cripple the industries that depend on these immigrants.

Every one of these is espoused
by prominent Republican figures.

Republicans who want to bomb Iran as soon as possible include Scott Walker, former UN representative John Bolt, Rick Santorum, and many others. They apparently believe that diplomacy, such as the recent agreement on nuclear power, can never work. Most Republicans believe that a president who doesn’t start a war is a weak president.

Virtually all Republicans oppose any and all restrictions on gun ownership. They are all afraid of the NRA. None of them can face the fact that our hundreds of millions of guns cause the accidental and purposeful deaths of tens of thousands of citizens every year, while more civilized nations count their losses in single digits.

Republicans have somehow forgotten why we have legal abortion. Virtually all Republican candidates have acted or would act against the health needs of women, whom they have repeatedly characterized as inferior to men. Unwanted pregnancies do occur, of course (it has something to do with men), and under certain circumstances, termination is the only reasonable course of action, and safe procedures are obviously better. This has always been true. Prior to Roe vs. Wade, unsafe terminations too easily caused death or disfigurement. Republicans are adamant about forcing birth not because of the supposed sacredness of a fertilized egg, which may be among the 50% that abort naturally anyway, but because they believe pregnancies are the result of sexual license. This they believe is a characteristic only of African-Americans, and anything that punishes blacks for their presumed natural inferiority must be pursued. They are not “pro life”. They are for forced birth; after a birth they have no further interest in the child, and are quite complacent about their abusive negligence.

Republicans have somehow forgotten
why we have legal abortion.

The Republican campaign against “voting fraud” in red states has repeatedly been proven to be an attempt to keep blacks and other minorities from voting, and is undertaken entirely because they are more likely to vote for Democrats. There is no real voter fraud in the US. Several large studies have found single-digit fraud out of millions of votes. One fraudulent vote was a Republican operative who voted in two states. There were no other fraudsters in that study.

In spite of the evidence of numerous government agencies that function efficiently and precisely the way they are supposed to, Republicans believe that free-market private enterprise is superior to government agencies in all cases. That’s why various presidential hopefuls such as Rand Paul and Chris Christi intend to dismantle Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, and every other program designed to help people who need them. In many cases they propose to replace these effective and efficient programs with private for-profit programs that cannot fail to cost more because of the necessity for profit, and will be unaffordable by many millions who are underpaid for full time work.

Such people believe that dismantling government will bring enough savings that most taxes could be abolished, bringing about the nirvana of “best, least government”. They have already minimized taxes on corporations and the rich, and want to reduce them more, which leaves the poor and middle class to bear most of the tax burden. Meantime, with inadequate tax revenue, the national infrastructure that is already dangerously decayed after decades of deferred maintenance would fall apart completely. Replacing infrastructure such as a bridge is vastly more expensive than timely upkeep.

John Bolt, the most intolerant warmonger in many decades, saw his duty as our representative to the UN to get the US to withdraw, and to cause the UN to collapse. These days he is joined by a number of Republican presidential hopefuls with similar ideas, including Rand Paul and four Republican reps from the Old South. John Birchers have been pushing this idiotic agenda for fifty years.

Someone among the men who support these things
will be the Republican nominee.

Virtually every Republican professes a devout Christian faith, and many believe we are a Christian nation. Those people have apparently never read American history, and are unacquainted with the Constitution. They do not seem to understand that one out of four Americans (and rising) are not Christian, nor do they care. Almost all Republicans want to compel Christian prayers and other observances in schools, government places, and elsewhere, and somehow fail to understand that this is not only repugnant and disrespectful to more than 80,000,000 Americans (the entire population of Germany), but violates the most bedrock laws of the nation.

The 2016 Republican Platform I have outlined seems so irrational is to be unbelievable, a surefire plan for national disaster. Yet there are prominent Republicans who support every plank, and someone among them will eventually be the Republican nominee.

The Fragility of the Most Valuable

The worthwhile things in life are fragile, easily damaged by violence or carelessness. Human life itself is all too easily brought to a sudden end.

American society worships violence, and routinely tramples fragile worthwhile things like so many optimistic daffodils that have popped up on a heavily traveled footpath. Brutal sports offer the thrill and excitement of games with an uncertain outcome. Men in particular get caught up in the violence, especially when there is alcohol. Post-game riots have killed some, and cost millions.

American society worships violence,
and things that have no real value.

Moments of peace in our land are much harder to come by, and many people’s frenetic, high stress lives make tranquility nearly impossible.

With guns floating around by the hundreds of millions, it is very easy even for a convicted violent felon to get as many as he wants, even illegal guns like machine guns and sawed-off shotguns. The inevitable outcome of gun use is virtually always negative, varying only in degree.

If someone is killed, whole generations are affected in many ways. But so-called gun rights people don’t see it that way. For them, the safety of our entire culture depends on all 321 million of us having guns, which carry the inherent threat of violence and death. They have no explanation for the better life to be had in countries that are not awash in weapons. Nature is irrelevant to them. Life is guns and violence, and the natural companion of guns is intolerance.

Gun rights people believe
the safety of our entire culture depends
on all 321 million of us having guns.

Picture now two identical houses. One looks pretty much like it did when it was new several decades ago, but the other shows the evidence of care, of landscaping, trees, bushes, and other plants, that are carefully nurtured and cared for. Few people would choose the identical naked house over the one surrounded by flowers, bushes, and trees.

We have built a nation where the majority are disconnected from the living world. We have only to walk around in the city to see the neglect and mistreatment of living things that, carefully nurtured, would make everyone’s life better. Instead, we see plants that are purposely trampled, trees with branches ripped off, or otherwise purposely damaged or destroyed, even run over by cars. We see trash purposely dumped in places where we all live, places where trees have been purposely destroyed, parks where people have left their refuse without a thought, semi-literate graffiti on all sorts of surfaces, street corners where all manner of trash has been dumped…

The majority are disconnected from the living world.

Every bit of this negligence or purposeful destruction—not even counting the graffiti—reduces what we can spend on making the city a more decent and livable place. It’s as if we didn’t want a pleasant life.

People who have grown up disconnected from the living world around them think that food comes in a box, or plastic. From the supermarket, or Mickey-D. Alice Watters’ campaign to change this often astounds the public school students who taste her real foods, fresh out of the school garden. If you think tomatoes are those neon-pink supermarket things turned sort-of-red by ethylene gas, your first bite of a real, vine ripened, naturally grown tomato can be, literally, world-changing. Why eat the crap we do if food like this is possible?

I have a few homilies about real food: real food has one ingredient; real food does not come in a package of any kind; never buy food from someone who gets an annual bonus; real food does not list ingredients; food value is inversely related to processing, packaging, and advertising; it is best to buy food from someone with dirt under his fingernails. People would benefit from thinking about this stuff more than they do.

We launch wars one after the other,
mostly in pursuit of oil.

Our American culture worships things that lack genuine value. Republicans think a president who doesn’t launch at least one war is weak. We launch wars one after the other, mostly in pursuit of oil and the money it generates for people who don’t need it. It’s always possible to get additional billions for “defense”—which is actually warmongering—while education goes hungry. Any why? Because war = profit.

We worship football, boxing. Car racing, in which the most popular event is a crash, especially a fatal one. In ownership of multiple guns, and various unofficial militia groups that play gun games on weekends. It’s a rare computer game that does not involve killing, and Hollywood entertainment seems to consist exclusively of car crashes, explosions, guns, fistfights, and so on. This is life?

We worship money. Our entire corporate history has been one of extracting every last penny of profit possible, regardless of the many negative consequences. Corporations spend billions on advertising to convince us that we must buy something or other. Either something we can’t afford or something like beer, which has lots of competitors.

Is there any wonder that
corporations want to turn our education system
into corporate education?

But none of those things we worship has any genuine natural value. We worship them only because they are promoted by the corporate world, which is done solely in pursuit of money. College offers the opportunity to expand the mind, and learn about the natural world and human progress. Presidents of large universities may be paid as much as a million dollars. But the football coach is paid seven million. 

Is there any wonder that corporations are so interested in turning our public education system into corporate education? It’s for profit, what else? But when funding is diverted into profit, there is less for learning, and the quality of education can only go down.

We have built a huge useless edifice entirely out of money and violence, when the most valuable and important things in the world are nature, quiet, and peace, in which love can grow.

Blind Jury Trials Could Rescue American Justice

Here is the most significant proposal you will see in your life for how to greatly improve justice in our gravely flawed jury trial system: require blind jury trials.

By eliminating in-person trials entirely we could not fail to markedly improve the administration of justice, because every part of our judicial system is subject to error from prejudgements and misunderstanding, from the moment of an arrest to a finding of guilty or not guilty.

Elimination of in-person trials entirely
could not fail to markedly improve justice.

I direct your attention to Adam Benforado’s significant new book, Unfair: The New Science of Criminal Injustice. He reviews what we know about our system of criminal justice, and presents the scientific evidence that shows how it fails, often miserably. He proposes a number of changes that would bring criminal justice into the 21st century, often using technology that is already in common use.

Prof. Benforado makes numerous suggestions, which I summarize below, but the most surprising of his proposals is also the one that shows the greatest promise: eliminating live trials entirely. There are no inherent reasons we must have an adversarial system of trials seen live in the courtroom. On the contrary, there are compelling reasons the jury should not be in the same room as other actors in a court case.

There are no inherent reasons
we must have trials
seen live in the courtroom.

This is a rather shockingly unexpected proposal, but, given what science has proven about human frailties and the numerous flaws brought about by our system of justice, trials that do not take place face-to-face in the courtroom would completely eliminate numerous demonstrated sources of error and injustice, all of which are discussed at length in Prof. Benforado’s book.

Technology makes it easy for every part of an impartial jury trial to take place at a distance, thus entirely eliminating almost all of the prejudices and errors that are part of the normal human makeup, and that have frequently caused grave injustice to be done.

There are compelling reasons
the jury should not be in the same room
as other actors in a court case.

Jury impressions of the defendant and witnesses are notoriously inaccurate and irrelevant, and are manipulated by both prosecution and defense lawyers. Witness reports are very often wrong, tragically wrong, both in identifying individuals and in recounting what happened. In-court identification of the defendant by a victim or witness is always irrelevant, because the defendant is always identified as the criminal perpetrator, thus reinforcing a presumption of guilt not based on evidence. Misidentification, from police lineups, photos, videos, and in court, has sent many innocent people to penitentiaries for long periods. Jurors are no less prone to err.

Several hundred prisoners have been exonerated by DNA evidence and the Innocence Project after serving several decades unjustly imprisoned.

In summary, there are more and better reasons for the jury not to see the people involved in the case than to see them. In this way they will be prevented from making inaccurate judgements based on unconscious prejudices and false impressions, and forced to make dispassionate decisions based entirely on the facts of the case.

If the jury is removed from the presence
of the other actors in a trial,
many of the errors that falsely color jury decisions
are eliminated.

We are all guilty of prejudicial judgements, which are basically shorthand ways of categorizing our world. But they become toxic in legal proceedings. We can easily render a guilty verdict for a completely innocent defendant based on his “rough” appearance, “shifty” looks, “nervousness”, and “coarse” voice. We could let a serial killer go because we simply can’t believe that such an angelic and humble man could do such awful things.

If the jury is removed from the presence of the other actors in a trial, many of the errors of judgement and perception that falsely color jury decisions are eliminated. Jurors must be prevented from making snap decisions based on race, age, or gender, et cetera by shielding everything about the defendant and others at the trial from them. This does not mean that jurors would not see articles of evidence such as artifacts, diagrams, photos, and charts, pertinent video (with identifying features blocked), and so on.

Prof. Benforado suggests numerous other changes, such as: eliminating the right of lawyers to remove jurors before trial, called voir dire, which has turned into a contest to stack the deck; sending all case reports to both prosecution and defense automatically; improved forensic analysis, such as eliminating site and artifact contamination with tighter control; more real-time data such as immediate blood typing, fingerprint database analysis, and prompt DNA analysis; technology such as the Panoscan, a camera that takes a high-definition 360º photo of the crime scene that can be referred to at any time in the future; improved trauma kits for police; independent witness panels instead of “expert” witnesses paid for by prosecution or defense; “smart” devices that would guide immediate crime investigations and analyses; persons of interest in the case compelled to report on their activities in great detail, and more.

The proposal of blind jury trials
is so promising that
we cannot afford to let it slip away.

There is no question in my mind that every one of Benforado’s suggestions would improve the administration of justice. But completely removing the jury from the presence of the other actors in the case has the potential to radically improve the administration of justice. It deserves immediate extensive study and experimental assessment for eventual wide use.

There would be appreciable startup costs for such a system, but after that the court operating costs would be sharply reduced, beginning with far fewer jurors being called because few would be removed before trial. Prevention of even rare false convictions would save huge sums of money, and unworthy appeals would be reduced in the face of compelling evidence of guilt. Recording of the entire process to make it available for potential appeals would remove the necessity for voluminous paper records of every moment of the trial.

The proposal of blind jury trials is so promising that we cannot afford to let it slip away without immediate extensive study. The stakes are too high, both in justice and in economic costs.

Nempathy

Nempathy is as good a coined word as any to describe the plague that is destroying our world—the lack of tolerance, the lack of empathy. The lack of love for our beautiful and only planet and all its many, varied inhabitants. We see it at its worst in the middle east, where over millennia various branches of Islam have seen fit to routinely murder the practitioners of other branches, and various militant groups today just murder anyone they can, a practice that shows no signs of abating.

Muslims are world class practitioners of revenge. They have been murdering each other for more than 1,200 years over the death of Mohammed’s grandson alone. But all sorts of things result in someone being murdered, which then becomes yet another excuse for revenge.

But the violence done to people’s lives is not limited to instances of murder. In the US, all sorts of ordinary people suffer at the hands of people who lack all empathy for others they perceive as “different” in some way, who think these others’ lives should be limited and controlled—by them. So we have red state governments passing law after law based on hate and intolerance—“nempathy”. Those “different” people do not deserve a normal life; they must be afflicted with difficulties we will invent and make into law.

Red state governments
pass law after law
based on hate and intolerance.

Business people are told it’s their right to withhold their services from gay customers, for example, because gay people violate their religious beliefs. But it’s not true and it’s not OK. It’s no different from withholding services to people of another race, a different religion, the poor, immigrants, and so on, all those things that have been fought over and found to be in violation of our fundamental principles and laws. Blatant discrimination and intolerance violates Jesus’ teachings, the Constitution, and every fiber of decent behavior. Hell, business is still just business. Medical people often treat people who give them no reason to like them; you don’t have to agree with a person’s politics to be decent. But in Republican strongholds legislators make laws to punish people who are not just exactly like they are. They even go so far as to attempt making “liberal” an illegal activity.

It is most disturbing that so many red-staters cannot seem to even imagine anyone even slightly different from themselves without falling into a fit of righteous rage fueled by intolerance. On an airplane recently, a Muslim woman was denied an unopened can of Coke because it supposedly could be turned into a weapon, whereas a man across the isle was given an unopened can of beer. That was egregious enough, but this yahoo also had vile and hateful words for her. It’s difficult to imagine improving societal conditions when so many loud and hateful people live such constricted and intolerant lives in a state of high dudgeon.

These people believe their own prejudices
were established as “normal” by God.
They have no idea how arrogant that is.

Many of these people are enraged because they presume that their particular prejudices were established as “normal” by God, and there can be no other way. They imagine they are the ones firmly in control, and they alone will determine the limits of all our lives. They have no idea how arrogant and hateful this sounds to the rest of us.

In many such cases of pointless rage, the objects of rage are often people who have no choice about who they are. Changing one’s skin color is less than practical. One does not choose to be gay. Having Mexican roots won’t change, and even changing from being poor is not really a choice. Nobody would choose to be who they are just so they could be hated. But these unchangeable things are used as excuses for discriminatory laws and hateful acts.

Christianity is a large religion, but Christians are a minority in the world, and in the US, European-Americans will very soon be a minority. In California we already are. White Christians seem to think they are still the controlling majority, the chosen people. Not so. We are just another of the brands of people who make up our great country.

The world will be improved
when we can tolerate all others
regardless of their
superficial characteristics.

In some respects, humankind is improving on its record of violence. Europe, at least, no longer participates in the endless wars that shifted borders and changed rulers century after century, but which nobody ever really won. Torture and cruelty are no longer the worldwide norm, even though both still exist.

But most of the conflicts we have arise from intolerance, from bad attitude, from religious fundamentalism. From nempathy, and a failure to understand that the best people aren’t necessarily like oneself, and you yourself look “different” to some people. The world will be radically improved when we can all tolerate everyone else as worthy of respect regardless of our superficial characteristics.

Punishing the Greeks Some More

Oh, yay! After some six years of doing everything the EU demanded—which resulted in the most severe depression Greece has faced in many decades—Germany and the EU came to an agreement. Or we should say Angela Merkel and the German putz-force accomplished a coup, forcing the Greeks to accept yet another futile and unworkable economic plan that will create yet more unemployment and poverty. The Greek parliament was then forced to approve the plan within hours.

The Greeks responded to that news by setting things on fire. One might think they were skeptical about the ability of universal poverty to solve any economic problem at all. They are right. Here’s why.

The EU forced Greece to accept
yet another doomed economic plan.

Paying off debt depends on having the money to do it. Austerity always contracts the economy. That means that the Greek people have less money, which means lower incomes, higher unemployment (which is about as high as the US at the height of the Depression), decay of national infrastructure, and more. Such guaranteed poverty also guarantees the Greeks will default on any loan given to bail them out because, obviously, they have even less money. This is exactly what has happened several times, a fact that seems to have escaped the notice of the EU. Germany, the de facto sovereign of the EU, then promises another loan in return for further austerity, which further contracts the economy. Et cetera. More than one economist, and even the IMF, has said that it is essential that a large part of Greek debt be simply written off, since it cannot possibly be repaid, particularly under these circumstances.

Alexis Tsipras and the Syriza party came to power because the Greeks were utterly fed up with Germany—which never paid back the many millions the Greeks were forced to loan to the Third Reich—because it was clear to them that forced poverty and unemployment is not exactly the path to universal munificence. Now the government was forced to accept yet another bad plan, and the people could see through it even if the government could not successfully repel the assault.

The Greeks responded by setting things on fire.

The plain and simple fact is that austerity is paid for by the people, mostly in suffering. They have less money to support themselves, let alone pay off outrageous loans. Less personal income means less tax revenue, which means less ability to repay loans, the inherent downward spiral under austerity that doesn’t work any better in Greece than it has in Kansas, Wisconsin, and Maine.

Oh my, what could possibly be done? The answer seems so simple, but it has eluded all the neoliberals over the past half century: do everything possible to bring affluence to the people, which would mean more tax revenue and a better rate of loan payoff. In other words, the exact opposite of what the EU has repeatedly forced on Greece. The exact opposite.

Now, this alone will not cure all of Greece’s problems, because they have a long history of inept and corrupt government compounded by international abuse, not to mention a series of policies for the public that are too generous to be affordable in the long run. This is where Angela Merkel and the banker-monarchs should be directing their attention.

What should be done?
Everything possible to bring
affluence to the Greek people.

Greece could begin to clean up the disaster by being sure that every earner and every business pays taxes. As in the US, too many very rich businesses pay no tax at all, and wealthy individuals are expert at underpaying, or simply not paying, since the weak government can’t afford to pursue them. Next they could adjust retirement and work policies so they are more in line with the European norm. And they could launch a frontal attack on the endemic political corruption that has cost them so much.

The one thing guaranteed to fail is what has already failed repeatedly. Yet another round of austerity is the equivalent of beatings that will continue until morale improves.

The 21st Century Political Crash

The grand crash between liberalism and conservatism today is not about what it used to be, about balance, about avoiding extremes. Many of the Republican platform planks from fifty years ago would fit neatly in any Democratic platform today. Now it is entirely about who gets the money. For Republicans that means the rich. All others are judged lazy “takers”.

Conservative capitalists hold all the cards, having purchased the deck. Not only have the very rich taken virtually all of the financial profit of the past half century for themselves, they have literally purchased governmental favor by spending enormous sums on lobbying, buying pet legislators with re-election money, and cultivating political influence by various unsavory means such as the ALEC organization and various varieties of pay-for-access to legislators.

It’s all about who gets the money.
Do we have a democracy—
or a plutocracy?

There is nothing even remotely like this power in the liberal camp, particularly for the poor, who are largely voiceless and invisible in the halls of government.

Most of us non-rich aren’t even interested in hoarding wealth. We are interested in justice and equality. This puts us at a distinct disadvantage because wealth buys what it wants, which is not justice and equality. In fact, it precludes justice and equality. This gross imbalance has resulted in laws, regulations, and favors that fulfill the wish list of the very rich, guaranteeing them ever-increasing wealth, which is paid for by the rest of us.

The post-WWII decades seemed like the end of this imbalance. Instead, as we learned from Thomas Piketty, we have returned to an earlier norm of gross inequality and power to the very rich. Our inequality, as measured by the Gini Index, is sandwiched among Bulgaria, Uruguay, Philippines, and Cameroon, far away from where we should be, and is worsening all the time.

As shown by Piketty’s Capitalism In the Twenty-first Century, stacking the deck has created inequality as bad as the Gilded Age, when plutocrats gave extravagant parties of disgusting excess for hundreds, featuring such things as bars of gold or diamonds for party favors, while the poor literally didn’t have enough to eat. In the long run, it’s a problematic game for the rich to be playing, as Marie Antoinette might advise.

Stacking the deck
has created an inequality
worse than that
of the Gilded Age.

During the post-WWII years strong labor unions that had helped bring war victory were able to demand good wages. This resulted in wealthier buyers for American products, thus benefiting capitalists as well. The economy was the healthiest it’s ever been. Since the Reagan era, conservatives have demonized labor and low-income people, and through a long campaign have basically killed the “damned unions” they hated in spite of the soaring economy they brought.

At this point conservatives are just beginning to understand once again that their wish list destroys the buyer base under which capitalism thrives. The subjugation and lost power of labor and the resulting worsening income of nearly everyone have led to an unhealthy quasi-democracy where gross inequality constantly increases in parallel with the power and hoarded wealth of the very rich.

The wages of the lowest earners are scandalously skimpy, especially for the richest nation in history. Not only has the minimum wage been eroded to half by inflation, but it was never close to an adequate living wage to begin with. Yet millions do depend on their low-wage job for their entire family income, because they have no other choice. The resulting corrosive poverty is bad for us all, because it costs the rest of us for welfare support, worsens social ills such as poor health, erodes the value of education, and weakens the nation. Recent striving for a $15 minimum wage is an improvement, but isn’t close to the Living Wage enjoyed by so many other countries.

Better prevention of capitalist
wealth extraction is crucial,
or democracy is doomed.

The other part of the unsolved problem is how to balance healthy capitalist initiative that actually does accomplish some good against the limitless greed that accompanies capitalism and worsens everything. It’s not an easy problem. Clearly, as inequality continues its malevolent rise, better prevention of unearned capitalist wealth extraction and rent seeking is crucial if we are to retain our claim to being a democracy. Inequality does nothing good for the nation.

Piketty warned that there were no complete solutions. He suggested that a very modest annual wealth tax may be a partial answer.

In my opinion, removing the numerous artificial loopholes so that all income is taxed will surely help. The very wealthy get most of their income from capital gains, which is taxed at just over half of the rate for ordinary income, whereas most of us are taxed at a higher rate. Much wealth rests in unreported offshore accounts, and there are numerous obscure financial quirks arranged by the rich to funnel more money to themselves. Every little bit harms, after all. It’s worth repeating that all this wealth is useless to its owners, except as bragging rights. They cannot possibly spend it, and their investments don’t really benefit the country.

Most outrageously, some of the richest corporations pay no US tax at all, and most don’t pay anywhere near their share, which means the rest of us must pick up the slack. Many use various schemes to pretend they don’t owe any, such as moving their nominal headquarters to a low-tax country, or hiding their billions with fancy bookkeeping. They should pay a duty, or be taxed, to sell their goods in a “foreign” country.

Hedge funds, fast trading, and stock market derivatives, all of whose social utility is zero, ought to be simply outlawed. The fact that you can manipulate other people’s money doesn’t make it moral, let alone of any value to society. Investment in offshore banks that don’t report their holdings to the US government should be outlawed, period. Banks should be reorganized in order to separate banking from investment, with government bailout of investment banks specifically forbidden.

Rich capitalists will fight all of these tooth and nail, and they own Congress.

Further possibilities could include mechanisms that reward the wealthy for using their money in socially beneficial ways. Individuals might receive a special tax favor for non-controlling investments in benefit corporations, non-polluting renewable energy, education for the poor, or so-called social funds whose goals are to improve society. Or simply pay for needed national infrastructure upkeep, which at present is in an advanced state of decay from decades of deferred maintenance. Incentives might be devised for money that is withdrawn from certain foreign banks and returned to domestic banks.

Whatever comes of it, we need a rearrangement of priorities so that the poor are not trapped in eternal hopelessness while the super rich build their personal Versailles from which to look down on the rest of us as they destroy the Earth beneath their feet.

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