After my heart attack I simply stayed away from any sort of entry into my blog, save the last. I’m not sure why I shied away. Maybe it was a feeling that my words weren’t being heard. Maybe it was a feeling my words weren’t worth being heard. I don’t really know.
In the last month I have tried to access the site that has hosted this blog for the last 4 years but I could not enter new posts. Therefore I have moved the blog to this site. Perhaps a change of scenery will inspire me to write more and more often. I still feel I have something worthwhile to say. In the face of constant bleating from the right over this, that and everything maybe it is more important than ever that progressive voices speak up and and try to be heard. To that end I will do a bit of promotion for the blog and see if I can attract a few more readers. It is, I think, appropriate, seeing that the blog has moved, to let people know about the move. Lots of folks don’t even know it exists. So there is an “If a tree falls in the forest” thing going on that for the sake of progressive dialog should be overcome, if possible.
I have archived all the posts from the other blog site. They appear under posts from August 20, 2010 if you care to access them. I surprise myself sometimes when I go back and read them again. How did I come up with that stuff? I am thankful for the gifts I have been given and I feel I must continue to work to share them with those who could use them.
Yes, it has been awhile since I graced these pages with my turgid prose. Part of the reason was not having anything earth shattering to say for some time and a large portion of the reason was my nearly big one heart attack of November 2009. Five stents in two arteries later, plus a new diet and not enough exercise to satisfy my doctors I am still not back to normal normal but am close enough to feel like I have a satisfactory life once again. Like most of us who suffer from heart disease I neglected to take seriously the warning signs until I was nearly dead. Thankfully my local hospital has an excellent cardiac unit and some top rated cardiologists. I received the best care and consider myself an exceedingly lucky man.
Almost dying gives one an unusually acute sense of their own mortality. You notice all of the silly and detrimental things you have done by habit all your life and reassess your uncanny ability to undermine your good health. This ability extends out into our society in many ways. For example it is nearly impossible to dine in any restaurant without having to order food which comes nowhere close to meeting the terms of one’s heart healthy diet. This is especially true for fast food. If I ate one of KFC’s new double down chicken sandwiches without the bun I would be consuming over two days worth of saturated fats. One can of Progresso soup has nearly an entire days worth of sodium. My rant about American food, its production and distribution is for another blog entry but suffice it to say that as Americans we have been given what we crave for a price that is often under the cost of production. Humans crave three tastes, salt, fat and sugar. These items exist in rare quantities in nature but largely because of government subsidies and sophisticated food processing they are made readily available to us in large quantities, easily accessible and inexpensive.
Every day I see people eagerly wolfing down foods that cannot be healthy for their hearts. No wonder heart attack and stroke are major killers of Americans. But the huge corporate food, or as I prefer to call it, edible food like substance, industry just gets us more and more hooked on the worst kinds of stuff. All to make a buck.
Lots of talk is swirling around health care reform. Everyone seems to have an opinion and those with the means to promote theirs are now actively seeking to persuade and influence the public, many of whom do not fully understand just how our health care system works. People with a vested interest in maintaining insurance industry profits deride the single payer option as government control over health care. They say the government will come between you and your doctor in the sensitive area of determining what care is needed. They say there will be rationing and waiting lines. This is clearly the pot calling the kettle black. We already have non-medical personnel in the form of insurance actuaries determining what procedures can be done and we already have rationed care from insurance companies in the form of rejections due to preexisting conditions and from managed care conglomerates choosing which doctors we can see. We already have long waiting lines for specialized care in America. What single payer does not have is almost 30% administrative costs.
Single payer, simply told, is merely a different way to finance health care. If you were to finance a car and were told you had two choices, one in which 25% of your payment went to administrative costs and one in which 3 % went to those same costs which would you choose. I believe any sane person would choose the plan where more of his payment went to actually paying off the principle and interest. As long as the powerful interests of the insurance industry, big Pharma and managed care companies can hoodwink us into continuing to justify people making profit from financing and providing health care then we will get a broken system. Does the fire department make a profit? Do we not pay for fire protection, hoping we will never use it, but feeling good when our neighbor does, regardless of their economic status? What is the difference between fire protection and health care? Simply put, we have come to see fire protection as a right of all citizens. We have yet to see health care in the same light, largely because it has traditionally been a privileged commodity, subject to the profit driven market, which the wealthy can afford and the poor cannot.
People would be outraged if their neighbor’s home was allowed to burn because they could not afford fire protection insurance. Until we see health care as one of our inalienable rights we will not be able to reform it to the degree that it will cease becoming a greater and greater economic burden. Ask why we are the only major nation in the world without a national health plan and we only need look as far as the continued greed of the insurance industry. If we continue to allow the profiteers to define the health care debate I am afraid we will never get the kind of health care reform we deserve.
Makes for a very sick nation.
The American Dream used to involve hard work as a function of reaping the benefits of a vibrant economy. Even in today’s tenuous economy if one sows their seed in good earth and tends to it lovingly one should expect a life giving harvest. It has always been posited that if one works hard and plays by the rules ( The quintessential American state of being) they would be assured of partaking in the fruits of the alleged “Greatest nation on earth”.
This axiom is assumed by many as the recipe for success in America. At least it is sold as such to the aspiring underclass. Work hard, abide by the rules and you too can climb the ladder high enough to perhaps grab some low hanging fruit, something to make life a little sweeter, regardless of your last name or the number of acronyms behind it.
There exists, though, a class of people for whom this time honored method of achieving the American Dream is not good enough. It is beneath them to actually work for anything, having been raised in an entitlement society. This is not the entitlement of the poor to wealth without work as is complained about by so many conservative pundits but rather the entitlement of birth. These people feel entitled to the fruits of the dream simply because they exist. What is really worth something to them is to manifest wealth without working at all. This is what they expect from life and this is their goal. They have been born into wealth and they have been taught from an early age, through example, that making lots of money without working is an honorable and admirable goal. Something for nothing is the only acceptable result of waking up each day for these seemingly ‘tortured’ souls.
These are the ones who look for insider trading deals on Wall Street, who look to use social networking to arrange sweetheart business deals and use the accident of their monied birth to exclude those who can’t get a good tee time from ever having the advantages they enjoy.
When we look at why the American Dream is fading away, before our very eyes, look not to those who still believe in hard work, but have no access to the good earth on which to sow their seed, to assign your blame. Look rather to those with rich, dark earth in abundance that they are all too eager to sell to the highest bidder, never having ever so much as run their hands through it, to understand its real value or appreciate the very fact that they are so lucky as to even imagine it running under their feet.
Making a living without working is a necessary, temporary social safety net for some people. Is there fraud? Certainly there is. But the greater fraud is the wealthy seeking to make a killing without lifting a finger. As long as our goal is to get rich without having to work some may gain momentary riches as individuals but as a whole society our seed will fall on the hard rocks and suffer.
The recent news that Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter has decided to switch parties has dominated the news for the last 24 hours. As the major news story of its time ( They will be on to something else tomorrow, maybe the swine flu once again) this news is, on the surface, a boon to those who would like to see a filibuster proof Senate (Providing there is an eventual decision in the Minnesota Senate race, which is not a foregone conclusion). However if one looks a little closer at the basis for Specter’s decision we find that it is primarily political in nature, as, sadly, most legislative decisions appear to be in this day.
Specter was to be faced with a strong, right wing, primary opponent in 2010 and was advised that he could not win. In his lust to remain in a position of power he determined that his best chance of winning reelection was to run as a Democrat. It’s really that simple. Having seen the writing on the wall he took the path of least resistance.
Those who think that this change will suddenly make Specter a screaming liberal are sadly mistaken. In fact, he has changed parties once before and has always been a moderate who seems to enjoy holding up a wet finger rather than make definitive stands of principle. Anyone who feels that the Democrats will have, with the inevitable seating of Franken in Minnesota, an automatic 60 vote cushion in the Senate will have a somewhat rude awakening. Specter’s disapproval of the Employee Free Choice Act is an indication of how loosely he will toe the party line.
So don’t get your hopes up.
Lots of talk lately has focused on the relative merits or demerits of President Obama’s stimulus plan. People have gone back and forth saying it is too much or not enough, that it will destroy America or save us. In essence this conversation comes down to pitched battle between two of the primary modes of economic thought of the 20th century, Neo-Keynesian economics and Monetary economics as favored by Milton Friedman and the Chicago school.
To oversimplify, Keynesian economics is a demand side philosophy and Monetary economics is a supply side philosophy. Another overly simple explanation of these somewhat opposing schools of thought is that Keynesian economics offers that in times of economic hardship demand must be created by the infusion of cash into the populace by government, creating the ability to purchase, thus creating demand where there was once none, due to lack of available capital in the marketplace. Monetary policy as roughly defined by Friedman advocates that government stay out of the market and that it can be kept solvent by a steady and measured influx of capital from a source outside government.
Another simplistic way of understanding these theories is that Keynesian economics favors government intervention in the market and Monetary policy favors a totally free market. Although Friedman himself was primarily a libertarian his economics have been most recently advanced by conservative republicans such as Reagan and both Bushes. Keynesian economics has been used by most Democrats since Franklin Roosevelt.
The dramatic difference of opinion on the role of government in our economy between these two schools of thought is at the crux of all of the discussions about our current financial crisis. It is like a championship bout is being fought between those who feel government must regulate the market and be active in it when it falters and those who think the market will adjust very well all by itself thank you.
In its extreme Keynesian economics can lead to a socialist state with the government controlling business and in its extreme Friedmanesque economics can lead to a fascist state where business controls the government. Neither extreme is particularly attractive for a democratic republic such as America. Both of these economic systems were designed for the nationalist political systems of the 20th century not a modern global economy. This is why both have struggled in the last 40 years.
Hopefully from the ashes of this battle both of these 20th century modes of economic thought will be adjusted and modified to the degree that a new, 21st century appreciation of economics will emerge that has neither the roller coaster up and down markets that are the hallmark of Keynesianism nor the bankrupting, failed, trickle down, unregulated fiasco that has resulted from our latest venture into Chicago style economics.
It has been said one should trust but verify. Perhaps it is time for a new economics that will do the same, a regulated but otherwise free market for a 21st century global economy. Where are the Keynes and Friedman of this century?
This day, Monday January 19, 2009, as we celebrate the wisdom and work of Martin Luther King Jr., the world awaits the momentous occasion of the inauguration of America’s first black president, Barack Obama. We look forward to this event not simply because he is black but because the world stands on the precipice of great upheaval, economically, politically and socially. President elect Obama (thankfully this will be the last time I must refer to him that way) and his historic election represent in the minds of many Americans a break from the past, from the tired ideas of the 20th century, and hope for the future of not only America but the entire planet.
Perhaps the collective will of humankind is still being heard out there in the vastness of space, where the real decider still awaits our reunion with right thinking and action. Maybe, just maybe, we are finally getting it and are beginning to realize the challenges of the new century can be met with a true 21st century consciousness instead of the worn out world view of those who would still tell us that imperial style world domination is not only possible, but necessary.
Obama is clearly a man for whom history has carved out a place. Yet that place must also be populated with caring, loving human beings who will support him as he strives to carry us into a brighter future, who will give their every effort to seeing to it that all men and women of this fragile planet have every opportunity to live productive and successful lives. This must be done with the utmost respect for everyone, not just the wealthy and powerful, not just the intelligent or connected, but every single person existent.
If we cannot move this nation and the world strongly in this direction I fear the new century will be a short one. The challenges we face are grave and daunting. If we simply hand over the responsibility to this one man, however talented, we will never be able to hand over a better world to our progeny. Mankind is driven to improve, to evolve, yet there are obstacles at every turn. Today, as our new President calls us to give of ourselves back to our communities on this day of service let us redouble our personal efforts to make ourselves better, stronger and more compassionate people.
After all, there is no one else but us who can make a difference.