Stuff We Know and Do Nothing About

Seven ways we could improve our world.

1. Equality solves many problems, many of them pleasant surprises. For example, diabetes and other diseases are less frequent. Yet we have record inequality and are doing virtually nothing specific about it. The reason for our record inequality is the ongoing trend of gifting the very rich with large amounts of money. We do this because of the false belief that it will make everyone better off. It’s not true, which ought to be obvious by now, but apparently is not.

Here are some more results of equality: Teen pregnancies are lower, obesity is reduced. Scholastic achievement is higher, crime is reduced. In short, equality has benefits well beyond the fact of financial improvement for the poor and middle class. Everyone benefits from equality.

2. Giving money to the rich does not help anyone else. In fact, it increases inequality and reduces the income of most others. There are many studies to support this assertion. Equality benefits everyone, and inequality makes everyone less well off.

The problem here is that it is one of the canons of the High Holy Republican Church that gifts to the rich will help us all, an item of faith on a par with the saintliness of Ronald Reagan, and they don’t care that it’s been proven false many times.

3. Ridding the country of ambient lead would reduce crime, boost IQs and scholastic achievement, improve national economic health, and diminish a list of social ills. Crusaders who understood what this meant have campaigned tirelessly to get something done, with some success. We need a much greater national effort.

Up until just recently, researchers in several fields knew how dangerous lead was. We now have conclusive information from neurology, criminology, demography, and environment that all fit together as a very convincing whole. The central fact is that lead is far more dangerous than we thought, especially to young children. Young children poisoned by the smallest amounts of lead will suffer loss of IQ. They will reach adulthood with far more behavioral problems, and are far more likely to commit crimes and be imprisoned.

An all-out national effort to rid ourselves of ambient lead would pay off our investment many thousands of times over, far more than any other single thing we might use government money for. Instead, we argue over how much we can reduce government spending.

4. Living Wage would greatly improve the national budget by markedly increasing tax revenue and allowing all employed families to rise out of poverty. Low income wages are utterly inadequate to support the smallest family with full time work, and the poorest need continual assistance just to survive.

Congress now and then talks about increasing our current minimum wage of $7.25 by a dollar or so. Half a dozen states did that, but not one comes even close to Living Wage. The fact is, nobody earning such poor wages can even afford rent anyplace in the country. Nor is there any chance for such people to work themselves out of poverty. In addition, the rest of the country must pay for the inevitable assistance needed to prevent a human catastrophe because of this low pay.

5. The 40-hour work week has been obsolete for a long time. We have come to think of the 40-hour week as sacrosanct, established by the deities, but it’s really only a political construct that’s been around since WWII. Meantime, the world has moved on. Technological advance has made it possible for us to put in far fewer hours a week to achieve the same amount of work, but no one will be able to do this until the government takes the lead and makes a shorter work week official. I suggest 32 hours, and 24 in ten years.

Changing the work week will be disruptive for a while, but the end result will be a much lower rate of unemployment. And of course workers will have more leisure time.

6. Climate change is not an issue, it is THE issue. In not much more time, nothing else will matter. It’s much worse than we think, and it’s far too late to stop it. Climate change was caused by human activity. The single most significant such activity is the ongoing dumping of millions of tons of carbon dioxide into the thin protective layer of atmosphere year after year, but there are many others.

Take just one of literally thousands of observations: the oceans are becoming more acidic, which happens when our burgeoning discharge of CO2 dissolves in water to become carbonic acid, seltzer water, essentially. Most fish do not do well in higher acidity. Shellfish have more difficulty forming shells, and fin fish skeletons. Acidity causes metabolic problems for them. It also causes unusual behavior. A number of fish populations important for people food are losing numbers rapidly because of this, which is exacerbated by overfishing.

Most people seem to think that recycling and maybe a hybrid car will solve everything. Simple things like that do a teeny percentage of what is needed. A complete redesign of lifestyle worldwide is needed to reduce pollution by a huge amount, particularly in the US, China, and India, the three biggest polluters. It must be a fundamental change, from the ground up, and so far we have shown no interest in the whole topic of catastrophic climate change, let alone in addressing it. Energy companies, in fact, want to make it worse. If the 2,100 mile Keystone Pipeline is built, it will result in an additional 13-million tons of CO2 in the atmosphere yearly.

Our stupidity is astonishing.

7. Our health care system is grossly inefficient, fails to cover millions of Americans, and wastes billions of dollars unnecessarily on profit and paperwork. Good national plans cost half what we spend, and cover everybody.

Congress persons, the rich, and those among us who are lucky enough to have satisfactory health care insurance often fail to see the problem. And the problem is most starkly seen with the 100 or so Americans who die every day from the lack of health care coverage. And no, several Republican politicians need to be informed that the millions of Americans who can’t afford health care cannot get it at the ER. The Emergency Room does not provide health care, it treats emergencies. We need national universal health care.


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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. While it’s possible to have a good economy with people working fewer than 40 hours a week, many people, especially the salaried so-called professionals are working much more, while others are only given enough work to stay under a threshold where they qualify for benefits.

    Work is another thing in which we need more equality.


    • Precisely said. I doubt we could solve it all at once, but I think we should have some up-to-date labor laws.


  2. If you take into account our four weeks annual leave, our long service leave after ten years , that’s every ten years. a worker is entitled to 3 months long service leave not on full pay but on full pay plus 17½% loading I doubt anybody n Australia works a 40 hour week anymore,

    We get a higher rate of pay for being on holidays (vacation). ridiculous but true


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