Saturday, September 11, 2021

Frustration with a Failing Democracy

 

It's often been said that you can tell the condition of a country by looking at its infrastructure. Well, if that's true, then we should be in a ICU on life support with a minister preparing to read us our last rites.  America currently has approximately 4 to 6 million miles of road which is in need of repair at a cost of some $2 trillion dollars or more according to the American Society of Civil Engineers. That includes 73,000 bridges that are deemed "structurally deficient", which means they're unsafe.

In addition, there are 600,000 bridges over 20 feet in length which are pretty sketchy too. They add that at the current rate of disrepair, we may have reached the stage where our roads will decline at a faster rate than we can repair them.

The decline in the quality of America's roads doesn't reflect the increasing congestion, which leads to more accidents or poor air quality due to car and truck emissions. Some believe additional tolls would cut down on the congestion and provide additional revenue.

However, studies by the Department of Transportation have shown that while they help, they come nowhere near covering the costs to actually fix the problem. Another example of government's "Band-Aid" approach.  What the United States needs to do is invest more in energy saving mass transit such as electric light rail, trams, and trolleys, as well as electric or biofuel public transit like other industrial countries have done.

While we're at it, the U.S. also has one of the least efficient national electrical grids in the world. Currently, our national power grid covers some 7 million miles and produces around $4 billion dollars of electricity. It's the largest power source of its kind on earth. Bigger than Russia's and bigger than China's, and yet it struggles to keep up with demand, not to mention its vulnerability to terrorist cyber-attacks.

Adding to the problem is that multi-billion dollar companies like Google, Facebook, Wal-Mart, and others are bypassing state and local utilities and going direct to producers, which deprives local municipalities badly need tax revenue.  Local governments stymie competition by giving energy producers a monopoly over electrical output. In some cases, local government is also the sole stockholder (this also applies to water too).

Municipalities also encouraged legislation to cap or limit the percentage that individuals who generate "excess" electricity through the use of alternative sources can sell back to local utilities or remove themselves from the local grid, making it all but impossible to "disconnect" from the grid.

Energy experts say that it would take an estimated $1 trillion dollars minimum just to bring our energy needs current, and make it both more efficient, and environmentally friendly. Rest assured that the public will pay for it one way or another. Meanwhile, rates keep going up with nearly 100% approval from public commissions and boards which are suppose to review rate requests and protect the public. But what do you expect when you have former energy executives on these boards?

However, what is needed to fix the problem, is practically unthinkable to most politicians and government bureaucrats---more taxes. Americans already feel they are grossly overtaxed as it is. On average, about 30% of the average American worker's wages goes to pay taxes. While that sounds like a lot, the average worker's tax rate, according to the 37 member OECD, is 34.6%, which puts the U.S. among the 30 lowest taxed country among industrial nations.

While individuals in other nations pay more in taxes, they typically also get more in return. Specially, better education for their children and themselves, Asian and European countries tend to be at the top of the list, especially in the areas of science and math, and yet we tax more per student than these same countries.

Speaking about kids, a 2020 report from UNICEF on child poverty placed the U.S. 34th among 35 countries along the worse with roughly 20% being "food insecure". Blacks and whites were about equal while Hispanics were slightly higher. Asian children had the lowest rates of child poverty. Single women with children was by far the worse off.

Another report, this one from the Congressional Research Services dated April 14, 2021, showed that the poverty rate among adults 80 and over was just around 13.6% (it was highest among single women). For those 65 to 69, it was 8.4%, and 7.4% for those age 70 up to 74. From 75 to 79, the poverty rate was 9.2%.

Worldwide, the highest poverty rate among seniors was in South Korea, with nearly half of those 66 and older living in poverty. Next was China with 39%, followed by the U.S. Where seniors fared the best was in Scandinavia, the Netherlands, France, Germany, the UK, and Japan.

We need to reinvest in this country, which means improving our infrastructure. It means becoming less dependent on fossil fuels. Corporate industries, not the public, should fund cleanups and restore the environment. We should stop penalizing research and innovation into alternative energy sources or renewable material. That same goes for people who use solar panels, water barrels, windmills, or plant local or community gardens.   

Education should be restructured to educate. Not to cater to the latest political cause, be it liberal or conservative. Every child must master the fundamentals---writing, reading, grammar, and math--at their grade level. They also should be taught to balance a checkbook and keep a household budget. No more placing the blame for a child's inability to learn on their race. If they fail, then they fail and should repeat the grade.

 Education should be honest. That means teaching the facts and both side s of social issues. They must  be taught critical thinking skills. They'll need it in the real world. Discipline is must. There can be no learning without it. Lastly, not everyone is college material (or will play professional sports). That's fine. Provide an alternative route such as the trades or entrepreneurism.

They should also be taught that while degrees in Women's Studies or "African/Black Studies", and philosophy sound good and noble, they aren't likely to get a job with them. Thus, they'll have a unemployable degree and staggering debt. So, pick a major where there's a demand, and then, maybe, minor in one of those other noble sounding programs.

Our children are increasingly coming under the control of the State, be it federal or local. They want to eliminate the parent.  I suspect that if they could take them straight from the crib, they would. Of course, their argument is that most parents aren't willing to take an active role in their children's upbringing, let alone their education, for one reason or another so "someone" has to.  

The most cited reason is that children are being raised by someone other than the parent (like a aunt/uncle or grandparent) or that one of the parents is absent and/or have a unstable home environment, which brings me to the next point. We must reexamine our social safety net and remove or modify those items which reward parental absenteeism.

Finally, we need to ensure that neither our children nor our seniors are "food insecure". There is no excuse for it in a country as resource rich as America. We throw away more food than some countries consume.

Along the same lines, we can do a heck of a lot better when it comes to medical care.  Did you know that we're the only industrial countries in the world without some form of national healthcare? "Obamacare" was a sophomoric try, but at least it was an effort. Personally, I think single payer coverage is a much more reasonable way to go, and potentially cheaper too.

Through a combination of corporate, public, and individual participation, a basic coverage could be given to all U.S. citizens. It could allow employers and the public an opportunity to buy additional insurance from the marketplace. We also need to regulate the healthcare industry as whole to curtail outrageous fees and prescription prices. This could be done by allowing the government to set caps on prescriptions as well, and allowing purchases from approved companies located outside of the U.S.. Even allow some procedures or services to be paid for in cash. 

There should also be a change of focus. The countries which rank higher than us in terms of healthcare also have a different focus. Here in the States, we concentrate on post treatment or reactive care, whereas these other countries focus on preventative care which keeps people healthier longer and lessens the severity of illnesses so that everyone benefits.   

While this may sound bleak (and it is), there is still a silver lining. We have the ability to fix these and other problems. We also have the resources. All that's missing is our resolve to do it.  The best place to start is at the bottom; that is, at the local level. That's where we can have the best impact. Most communities already have food banks or after school tutoring available, and speaking as a community organizer of over 40 years, I can assure you that they love volunteers.

If you can't do it in person, consider doing online volunteering. There's lots of programs available. Better yet, start one if you can't find one you'd  want to join. Attend board and commission meetings, be it school board, zoning, water, or energy. The majority are open to the public, and it's a great way to get your feet wet!  

With a little research for the rules and regulations in your area, you can also start petition campaigns. Attend community meetings which are typically held monthly by local politicians. Start a "letter to the editor" campaign. If you own as little as one share of stock, you can attend their shareholder board meetings, which usually allow up to 15 minutes to address the board (though you're actually speaking to other shareholders in attendance). That's plenty of time to expose what they're doing and ask for change.  

You could even run for office, but if you do just remember that both parties are owned by corporations, and they don't like reformers despite what they claim in their commercials. Therefore, if you're going to be a "boat rocker", count on doing it mainly by yourself, and hopefully, with family and friends support. Parties often promise money and other support to their candidates. Unless you're already a big name, don't hold your breath, especially if they think you're serious about change.  

Instead, you'd be better off lobbying sitting politicians (regardless of their party) on behalf of your neighborhood, community, or a focal issue. Be sure to brush up on what you can and can't do as a citizen lobbyist.  I've found this route to be the most rewarding.  Besides, they can be a little more cooperative when they know you aren't after their seats.

America is at war, but it's not against Al Qaeda, the Taliban, or even Russia or China. This war is one between a corporate and government partnership which is neo-fascist in character and led a group of very wealthy individuals and corporations against us; the ordinary citizen and voter. The object of the war is the creation of surveillance state with the possibility of occasionally acting like a police state.

This new system, which is called an Corporatocracy, will create its own image which we will be conditioned to identify with. Wars will be fought for "freedom" or some other emotionally charged word, while in truth it will be about corporate access to markets or control of assets and resources.  Our loyalty will be defined by products we choose rather than to our nation. We will be encouraged to focus on video games, reality shows, or work and to leave politics to our intellectual and social betters who know what's best for us.

They want a compliant workforce which is just smart enough to do their jobs and nothing more. They want control of every aspect of our lives. To get that, they must divide us every which way they can. They will control our children in order to forge new generations of worker drones who will rely on the State without question. That means rewriting history and the future. We're already seeing that with the removal of statues, censorship of books, and curriculum taught to our children.

Don't expect it to stop until we've forgotten the truth and bought into their manufactured reality. It can be stopped. I've given you some pointers above. The question then becomes, will we?

 

How 35 countries compare on child poverty (the U.S. isranked 34th)


CRS Senior Poverty Rates


 

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