The Sorry State of Education in America

I was somewhat busy yesterday, along with many other Tar Heels, dodging our second attack of tornadoes in less than a month. As a result, I had little time to think and write a commentary suitable for publication. But, as I continue to be troubled by the state of our public education system in the US, I decided to re-submit to the editors an article written back in 2005 that addresses my concerns about the horrible state of public education in the US.

Even though this piece was written six years ago, it could have been written today.

A great disservice is being done our youngsters today and until the parents of our kids decide enough is enough -- and demand an overhaul of the American public education system -- that disservice will continue and we will continue to produce graduates who simply do not measure up to the graduates of education systems around the world. It places America at a distinct disadvantage in, well, everything. It is, in fact, a matter of national security, let alone national survival.

Here now is the commentary I wrote six years ago. I hope it will stir parents to evaluate the quality of their child’s education in the existing public education system of America and pledge to take action on the behalf of their children’s future -- and the future of America.

Please – read on.

The American Public School System Is A Failure And Should Be Trashed!
By: J. D. Longstreet
***********************

The Public Schools system of the US has crashed and burned! No longer are our children the best educated in the world. Now our scholars rank among the LESS well educated even among a few of the third world countries. This is a shame we have brought upon ourselves by inviting the Federal Government and the Unions into our schools.

One-room schoolhouses turned out scholars of unequaled accomplishment when compared to today’s graduates. A high school education, just 50 years ago, is the equivalent of a college degree today. Our Public School teachers are barely qualified to teach. But, they have a Union to see that they are paid well, whether the can teach or not! Oh, you thought teachers unions were for the welfare of the students??? Surely you jest!

Our local school boards have gorged themselves from the federal trough at the expense of local control of the curriculum and the rules and regulations.

Pupils are not challenged by the courses they study and fall short of goals set by the federal government. So, the schools are now “teaching the tests.” Indoctrinate the students in the questions and answers on the test in hopes of attaining the sought after number of students passing the tests. A well-rounded education is lost to the efforts to make a good showing on the tests.

Students are forced to remain in school even though they have no interest in what is being taught and are a distraction to that handful of youngsters who really do want to learn.

Self-esteem is the number one course of study. Our students are dumb as fence posts but, by golly, they think highly of themselves! They can’t read their diplomas but they sure do feel good about it!

So what do we do about it?

Take back our schools for a start. Refuse federal money and all the strings that go with it. If we have to teach school, again, in one-room school buildings, then so be it.

Test the teachers. If they have no business in a classroom, see to it that they are removed.

Make school voluntary. If a student does not want to be there, then don’t make them. This will allow those students who do wish an education to get one without the continuous interruptions by the bored kids who’d rather be someplace else.
Having a small percentage of illiterate Americans is preferable to an entire population of semi-illiterates!

Discipline? Yes. Expulsion. Period. Expel troublemakers for a few days, a few weeks, or a full school year, or even forever, depending on the infraction. Make school a serious business again. We owe an environment, suitable for learning, to those students who are there for the purpose of learning and making a better life for themselves, their families, and for our society.

We can take our schools back. We have to want to do so and we have to be ready to make the sacrifices necessary to insure our children a good education, not the pitiful excuse for an education they are getting now.

One of a parent’s primary obligations, as a parent, is to see that their children have a shot at the brass ring in life. The first, and most fundamental, step in that process is a solid education.

Government vouchers were killed by the teachers unions because they rightly understood that the public school system would crumble, and collapse, as parents pulled their children out of those near useless institutions and placed them in private schools where they, the parents, had some say, and some control, over the quality of education their kids were getting.

In my opinion, the public school system is near collapse -- right now. I don’t think a collapse of the US public education system would be a bad thing, actually. When an institution is so badly damaged, that it no longer serves it’s primary purpose, it should be trashed and a new institution begun in its place. We desperately need to create an institution to educate our kids.

Parents, we owe our kids that! We owe them a chance to make the best of their talents. We owe them a shot at a good, solid, education. Get them out of the public schools and into a private, or parochial, school where there are qualified teachers who still have an incentive to teach our kids, the will to teach our kids, and the desire to teach our kids.

The public school system in America is a failure. It should be put out of its misery.

Posted by J. D. Longstreet at April 29, 2011 3:38 AM
Comments
Comment #322494


Another one sided attack on the education system as if schools are the only factor in poor performance by our kids.

There are several factors, one of which is our education system.

IMO, parents are as much as or more responsible for the poor performance of their kids than the schools are.

Our children are getting fatter to, is that the fault of the education system?

The right is constantly declaring that the schools are run by liberals. Why is that so if liberals only make up 20% of the population? Is there something about liberals that makes them want to be educators and administrators and something about conservatives that makes them not want to teach?

Then there is the constant attack, by the right, on science.

Wait another six years and you can write another “IMO, the public education system is near collapse — right now” piece.

Posted by: jlw at April 29, 2011 10:21 AM
Comment #322499

“72% Say Taxpayers Not Getting Their Money’s Worth from Public Schools”

http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/general_politics/april_2011/72_say_taxpayers_not_getting_their_money_s_worth_from_public_schools

Posted by: 1776 at April 29, 2011 1:47 PM
Comment #322500

“The right is constantly declaring that the schools are run by liberals. Why is that so if liberals only make up 20% of the population? Is there something about liberals that makes them want to be educators and administrators and something about conservatives that makes them not want to teach?”

The public schools are represented by teachers who belong to the NEA teacher’s union. The question would better be phrased, “what percent of NEA teachers support democrats?” As for colleges; they have been run by liberals for years. The universities are the bastions of liberal thought.

Let me ask this question; the blacks only make up 17% of America, but the out of wedlock birth rate is 70-80% compared to 28% among whites. Why is that?

Posted by: 1776 at April 29, 2011 2:06 PM
Comment #322505

Test the teachers. If they have no business in a classroom, see to it that they are removed.

Not a problem, really. They do it themselves.

Fifty Percent of New Teachers Quit Profession within Five Years

If you’ve spent one day in a classroom, you’ll know why. I was a sub, contemplated being one, and took one of the three tests necessary to get into a credential program.

I walked away. The ones who choose to stay are heroes, considering all the crap they endure.

Posted by: Spinny Liberal at April 29, 2011 4:41 PM
Comment #322509


One of my biology teachers was a Christian who introduced the topic of Intelligent Design, one was a conservative Republican and two were liberals.

My ethics professor was an evangelical Christian.

Of four history professors, one was a liberal, one an Odenists, one was a conservative and one a libertarian.

The custodians had the biggest click of conservatives. A majority of them were Republican farmers.

Why is it that conservatives don’t see color. Everything is black and white to them.

I would be among those 72%, but I am at least intelligent enough to know that all or our failures in education are not the fault of the public education system. Do children who’s parents are very active in their children’s academic success do better than children who’s parents don’t do that?

Are schools responsible for the dropout rates? Are all of our children capable of performing at the same high level in school? Do they have to in this new American service economy where many of them are going to be servants?

When I was young, a high school dropout could do well for him or herself by working hard in a blue collar job. Corporate America teamed up with communists to eliminate many of those jobs in America.

We have major societal problems, education is one of them.

Posted by: jlw at April 29, 2011 5:20 PM
Comment #322510


SL, my brief period in the teaching profession mirrors yours. “If you’ve spent one day in a classroom, you’ll know why.”

Posted by: jlw at April 29, 2011 5:36 PM
Comment #322511

Yup jlw. 2 years was more than enough for me. This is why I can not stand the attack on teachers. I just want to put them in a classroom for that one day. They’ll be screaming for hazard pay.

Posted by: Spinny Liberal at April 29, 2011 5:40 PM
Comment #322512

jlw and SL;

I spent some time years ago teaching HS age kids, and I even principled for a year, but never again. The problems arose when the Democrats and liberals, with the aid of the ALCU abolished the edge of the educators. When corporal punishment was abolished and schools received federal money based on per student per day, the schools became war zones.

Posted by: 1776 at April 29, 2011 5:55 PM
Comment #322513

Jlw said:

“I would be among those 72%, but I am at least intelligent enough to know that all or our failures in education are not the fault of the public education system. Do children who’s parents are very active in their children’s academic success do better than children who’s parents don’t do that?

Are schools responsible for the dropout rates? Are all of our children capable of performing at the same high level in school? Do they have to in this new American service economy where many of them are going to be servants?”

This was also included in the above link:

“Most Democrats (63%) agree with the majority of Republicans (78%) and voters not affiliated with either party (77%) that taxpayers are not getting their money’s worth from the current investment.

Still, Democrats feel much more strongly than GOP voters and unaffiliateds that more money spent on funding for schools and education programs will improve student performance.

Male voters are more skeptical about the level of school funding and the need for more funding that female voters are. But women feel nearly as strongly as men that taxpayers are not getting a good return on their current $9,000 per student investment.

Interestingly, when not given specific dollar figures, 62% of American Adults said in a recent separate survey that public school education is a good investment for taxpayers. But nearly as many (61%) said public school education has become worse over the past 10 years.”

We find that the belief that we are not getting our investment’s worth is almost evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats. The problems with the public education system are not simple. It is the result of many problems. For instance, speaking of dropout rates; which schools are more affected by dropouts? And then you have the failure of parents to get involved with their kid’s education; which schools suffer from this? These are easy questions to answer; it is the inner city schools that face these problems more than rural schools. This brings us to another part of the equation; the welfare state, brought about by liberal politicians, has created a massive single family household. As I stated earlier, minority Blacks have a 70-80% out of wedlock birthrate. This is a real problem; out of wedlock means 70-80% of black families are single parent and much less likely to show an interest in their children. The left’s takeover of these families has even arrested the duty of parents to feed their children, by requesting the schools provide meals. It sounds noble, but as with welfare, it takes away a parent’s responsibility. With an average of $9000 being spent per student per year, and seeing the results of the school system drop, it’s easy to see why people are upset.

Posted by: 1776 at April 29, 2011 6:54 PM
Comment #322516

The public school systems, in general, are not failing. Suburban school systems are doing just fine. It is the inner city school systems that are failing. The decline of the urban systems mirrors the change in the socio-economic student population of those systems. The exodus of the middle class from the cities had a profound effect on urban systems, leaving them with a poor, minority populated system. There is really little question as to the cause of the decline in urban systems. Blaming teachers, their unions, liberals, etc. for this problem is nonsensical. Solutions, however, are more elusive.

Posted by: Rich at April 29, 2011 7:34 PM
Comment #322517

There are good teachers and bad teachers. I think the good teachers are probably not being paid enough, but the bad teachers would be overpaid even at minimum wage.

My kids are grown and have children of their own in school. I don’t mind paying for their education, but I detest paying for them not to be educated.

Several years ago I lived in Atlanta and remember a high school that had the students sell candy for a fundraising project. I bought a box of 24 25cent candy bars for 24 dollars. I later found out that the school spent the money on new furnishings and a new coffee pot for the teacher’s lounge. I haven’t participated in any fund raising projects since.

Posted by: tdobson at April 29, 2011 7:52 PM
Comment #322518

jlw

You are coming close to being conservative - “IMO, parents are as much as or more responsible for the poor performance of their kids than the schools are.”

Could it be that individuals are responsible for outcomes?

Posted by: C&J at April 29, 2011 7:55 PM
Comment #322521

Well, the US is ranked somewhere near 15th in education I believe. Yet, the Chinese and many others choose US schools for the education. As in so many areas, it’s hard to find/know the truth. Yesterday, Glenn Beck pointed out some schools teaching information that was totally un-patriotic, un-American.

Certainly, discipline and attentiveness is required in the classroom. I’ve oft suggested that high schools should operate in lock step with the college system. That is, they should function as college preparatory schools with strong communications/guidance from the state college folks.

I do agree the federal gov’t should have nothing to do with the school system. IMO, the gov’t should be at arms length in about everything except defense. The old adage that the states were ‘laboratories’ of democracy or this and that is a daid issue. The federal gov’t is all about harmonizing, making sure all US schools mirrow each other in all aspects. Next year it will be all schools around the world. Close enough to be ‘communism’ for me.

Also, believe that the boredom and detachment from learning could be overcome by putting retired volunteer professionals in the classroom a few hours a week. Seeems the 80M retiring boomers, expected to live to be centarians, could handle that easily. I think few high school kids have an understanding of the potential or uses for a subject, be it math science, english lit, etc. Isn’t it something like half the college grads change fields after a few years?

Otherwise, we have the Corpocracy we deserve.

Posted by: Roy Ellis at April 29, 2011 8:22 PM
Comment #322522

Beck also related a story of a Vietnamese family who came to the US during/after the war. On getting ‘settled in’ the mother physically took the tv set and tossed it out of the house. Her 4/5 children all became doctors and highly successful people.

Otherwise - -

Posted by: Roy Ellis at April 29, 2011 8:59 PM
Comment #322524

An interesting article discussing the factors related to OCED rankings of international student performance. It discusses some key findings of successful systems and factors related to US scores. http://voices.washingtonpost.com/answer-sheet/guest-bloggers/what-international-test-scores.html

Posted by: Rich at April 29, 2011 9:11 PM
Comment #322526

“The public school systems, in general, are not failing. Suburban school systems are doing just fine. It is the inner city school systems that are failing. The decline of the urban systems mirrors the change in the socio-economic student population of those systems. The exodus of the middle class from the cities had a profound effect on urban systems, leaving them with a poor, minority populated system. There is really little question as to the cause of the decline in urban systems. Blaming teachers, their unions, liberals, etc. for this problem is nonsensical. Solutions, however, are more elusive.
Posted by: Rich at April 29, 2011 07:34 PM”

I believe this is what I said in the previous post. The “exodus” of middle class from the cities is happening for the same reason there is an exodus of the wealthy and retirees from high tax states. The reason is bad politicians, bad policies, and high taxes. I know you hate blaming liberals, but these are the ones who are in charge in these states and cities. So what do we do? Forced busing again or perhaps pump more dollars into failing systems. The unions and liberal politicians are most to blame.

Yes C&J, the key is always personal responsibility; something that has been lost in the equation.

Roy Ellis, you are correct that the Feds should have nothing to do with the school system, but when federal tax dollars are on the line, government interfering raises its ugly head. Politicians promise money, but it comes at the cost of freedom.

“Also, believe that the boredom and detachment from learning could be overcome by putting retired volunteer professionals in the classroom a few hours a week. Seeems the 80M retiring boomers, expected to live to be centarians, could handle that easily. I think few high school kids have an understanding of the potential or uses for a subject, be it math science, english lit, etc.”

This would be a great idea, but the NEA and unions would object. We have a perfect example of how the Obama administration has colluded with unions to block employment in SC, simply because it is a “right to work” state. If unions are so great and everyone wants to belong to one, why are they blocking Boeing? The unions should have nothing to fear.

http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2011/04/20/2238449/nlrb-tries-to-block-boeings-plant.html

Posted by: 1776 at April 29, 2011 10:14 PM
Comment #322531

“You are coming close to being conservative - “IMO, parents are as much as or more responsible for the poor performance of their kids than the schools are.””

It seems to me that to be truly conservative, C&J, jlw would have to start with blaming the liberals for taking God out of the schools, and get an anti-unions remark in there and a lack of corporal punishment blurb before ending with an Obama and socialism being the real reason kids can’t think today. ;)

Posted by: j2t2 at April 30, 2011 1:18 AM
Comment #322534


C&J, I lack the ability to truly be conservative because I know that I am not better than others, I have made some bad choices, and I am not perfect. In addition, I have never had an interest in capitalizing on the losses of others.

That obviously disqualifies me as a conservative.

That doesn’t mean that I am incapable of recognizing that parents, and divorce rates play a role in the poor performance of our children.

Capitalism plays a role as well.

Posted by: jlw at April 30, 2011 2:45 AM
Comment #322539

I think the problem is mainly cultural. Essentially, we’re trying to pretend we’re that society from the fifties where you could live a middle class life and support a family on a high school Diploma or less, when the truth is, good-paying jobs nowadays require college education, and families require two incomes.

Pretending to live in those times, we treat education as something for folks who have their nose in the air, for Nerds and other folks who don’t have a life, who’re just pathetic weaklings. The poor especially have cultures that treat it like an affront to equality to be a serious student, and that’s true across racial lines.

Does the author of this entry above, this commentary, understand that the policy he decries at the beginning is a policy set in motion by people on his side of the political divide, that this was a major Bush policy, that testing, and having schools compete to have the best results on those tests were policies from his people?

And really, just how bad were our schools before all this? Were we really sucking air that badly, outside of the inner cities?

Let me go further.

Why are vouchers not socialism, while Public Schools are? Either way, taxpayers fund education. The difference is who provides that education.

The Real problem for many on the Right, is that if the system is public, then it must treat all races, religions, and ideologies from a neutral perspective. The teachers and administrators don’t get free rein to indoctrinate the students. The Right dislikes that.

The problem is, we are essentially subsidizing that with Taxpayer dollars provided by those who may very well be indoctrinated against. So, one thing or another has to happen: The Federal Government has to either take a side against some of its own people, or it has to force the same neutrality on those schools who accept those vouchers as it does on Public Schools.

And the vouchers themselves represent a threat to the balance of the competitive forces that are supposed to be what make private schools excellent. I mean, essentially, you’re flooding the market with students. Where before, they would have to keep up standards to ensure that their reputation could draw folks in, after these vouchers, those schools will essentially be living high off the hog without having to look for folks.

They’ll become more mouths at the Federal Teat.

Republicans say they’re getting government out of business’s hair, but lookee here, look what they’re doing. Rather than create self-sufficient systems that taxpayers can more directly keep accountable, they create systems where the taxpayers are still on the hook for the money, but now the money goes to lining the pockets of whatever convenient industry Republicans decide to line.

Whether it’s the Ryan Plan, which would make insurance companies the main administrators of Medicare benefits, Dick Cheney’s privatization of formerly Armed forces executed functions, or this voucher idea, the real Republican policies seem less aimed towards getting government out of people’s lives, saving the taxpayer’s money, or anything else like that, and more aimed to lining business’s pockets with taxpayer dollars, making them less vulnerable (and less accountable) to market dynamics, and promoting the social and political agenda of the Republican Party at the Democratic Party’s expense.

That is why Republicans will not be resolving the deficit for decades, even with their harshest plan. That is why Republicans keep on seeing government grow rather than shrink. That is why corruption seems to increase, even as regulations seem to go away.

The simple truth is, the GOP as it is now is at core about using government to benefit the elite, and to serve the interests of its special interests.

I think it’s time that Americans stop being duped by promises that the GOP will somehow free them from mediocrity, optimize their potential. The GOP doesn’t care about the average person’s potential. It believes that if you make everything just some law of the jungle system, that the best will rise to the top. But the truth is, what really happens is that people rise to the top, based on their ability to exploit the system.

If the system is built on corporate welfare and the shaping of government welfare by special interests, it will be those who are most successful at subverting our elected officials who will win in business, and those most successful at profiting from such relationships, both in what policy is implemented, and what policy is not.

For my part, I didn’t depend solely on the educational system to learn. I learned beyond the classroom, seeking out information on my own. But what the classroom provided was a structured start for this.

We can only improve the education system so much at a government level. The other part has to be a change in culture, a realization that science, technology and engineering are the disciplines that will determine our destiny as a nation.

A realization that we are no longer the industrial nation we once were, where there was less of a penalty for a lack of formal education.

We are a nation that needs to grow up, that needs to stop glorifying the anti-intellectual, anti-science attitudes that today’s circumstances now punish.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at April 30, 2011 9:45 AM
Comment #322540

Ross, I feel yore pain but, we can’t go around advocating for anarchy. The mortgage industry is just one problem we are facing. The Corpocracy is advancing corruption far and wide. Heck, even that darling ‘IBM’ has been called on the carpet for corruption. Just consider events from yesterday’s Washington Post. Hedgefundmanager guilty of insider trading. Tore apart flash drives and tossed the pieces into different garbage trucks to evade, becoming the 34th convicted in the Southern District of NY since 2009.

In an effort to collect “potentially billions of dollars” AIG sues investment adviser over CDO’s costing AIG more than $350M. Suit stems from and SEC case involving ICP and founder who arranged for more than $1B in trades that “defrauded clients or broke rules”.

Consider these ‘globalized’ multinationals. What a cess pool to play in. Mexico comes to mind. A basket case of corruption and US companies are wheeling and dealing right along with the worst of them. The Chinese are hacking into computers, getting your banking info and wiring themselves money to some far flung outpost in North Western China. I saw an article recently where more melamine was found in some Chinese products.

Our problems are global and our best and only recourse is to remove the money influence from politics/gov’t and movetoamend.org and reclaimdemocracy.org are getting up a head of steam toward that goal. Abolish corporate personhood and implement real campaign finance reform and at that point our representatives will begin to focus on their constituents instead of the Corpocracy.

Otherwise - -

Posted by: Roy Ellis at April 30, 2011 10:57 AM
Comment #322541

jlw

You probably are better than others in some respects and not as good in others. Equality of results and abilities is a crazy concept and should not be revered.

I am better than most people I know at some pursuits and my goal is to be better. Only losers want to achieve “equality” with the middle. In fact, the term for such people is mediocre.

So if this leftist fallacy of equality is the only thing keeping you from conservatism, you should dump it and do the right thing.

How about this. Do you believe in education? After you are educated, are you better or the same? If you are better, that means that if you had not gone through the education you would not be as good. It follows that someone who was your equal before the education, but did not get it, is now not as good, at least in this respect.

Equality before the law is a great thing. Equality in other respects is pernicious.

As a conservative, I do not capitalize on the the losses of others; I give generously of my time and money to charity: I do my duty to my country and take care of myself and others as best I can. If you can do these things, you can join.

As a conservative, I also believe in the pursuit of excellence and improvement. We all make mistakes and none of us are perfect. Our obligation is to work to improve. And, yes, those that strive to become better citizens, better workers and better people are indeed better than those who do not. What does that idea offend liberals?

Posted by: C&J at April 30, 2011 11:11 AM
Comment #322551

I went through the public school system from 1995 to 2008 and I came out all right (I hope). I attended school in an affluent school district in a suburb of Boston. Massachusetts has the nation’s best schools, if it were an independent country, we’d rank among the top public school systems in the world (link).

The problem in other regions is multifaceted. First of all, a large portion of the populace has adopted an anti-elitist & anti-intellectual stance, which hinders our children’s learning. Much of the country has squabbles regarding the teaching any scientific concept that implies a universe older than 10,000 years. Secondly, many students suffer from the problems brought on by low expectations; too many are not pushed to excel as far as they could.


C&J

What does that idea offend liberals?

That idea doesn’t offend liberals. I don’t know of any leftist commenter on Watchblog who has ever advocated equality of results. Personal responsibility is at the heart of liberalism.

Conservatism, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to hold personal responsibility dearly. Conservatives advocate increasing religion’s role in the public sphere, taking away our ability to choose our own destiny by adopting our own creed or religious philosophy. Conservatives advocate using the government to subsidize their preferred lifestyles, mostly through subsidies to the fossil fuel extraction industries. Conservatives also seem to reject the ideal that everyone is equal before the law, preferring to privilege the moneyed classes.

Posted by: Warped Reality at April 30, 2011 3:08 PM
Comment #322554


C&J, there you go with your equality of the masses B.S. again. You know me well enough to know that I have never advocated that. I believe in a more equitable society, not a society where there is total equality. Those who take on responsibility deserve more, but no one is worth a thousand times or ten thousand times more.

We have the technology to eliminate poverty and hunger but it would not be best for profit.

I don’t like the welfare system, but I dislike the conservative solution even less.

A dog eat dog, every man for himself, consumption crazy, materialistic society is a sick society with many societal diseases, like education, debt, etc. It is highly profitable though.

When conservatives talk education, they mean business administration, not the National Academy of Scientists. Science that produces profit is great, but science that might be harmful to a profitable venture is not, even if it may lead to other profitable ventures. Profit can and often does lead to progress, but it can also stymie progress for it’s own sake.

If I were to choose one word that separates many on the left from many conservatives it would be compromise. Unfortunately, in the name of corporate financing and incumbency, many liberals over the last few decades have done compromise just the way conservatives like it and conservatives as well as some liberals pretend that this has not happened.

Most of us know that the best compromise made in recent decades was when Clinton and the Republicans worked towards a balanced budget. It wasn’t the liberals that trashed that compromise. Republicans got control of the government and said fxxx you all on behalf of wealth.

I realize that I am ignorant in some areas, but no where near as much as conservatives. Some of the conservative arguments are ignorant as hell. Example, Obama is the most socialist, most anti-business president in history and that is apparently why corporations are going to give him a billion dollars for his reelection campaign. To say that is political, to believe it is ignorance. Most of that money will probably be coming from the financial sector, the energy sector, and the health care industry.

If Obama can get a long term deal with Iraq and possibly invade Syria, the Military Industrial Complex will toss in some cash to. No one wants to see our troops come home from around the world less than those guys.

That reminds me of another conservative saying from the depths of ignorance. Liberals are unpatriotic. How could anyone be less patriotic that these multinational corporations. America is just a cash cow to them. Our military is their cash cow as well. We don’t want our troops to be the policemen of the world, the corporations are the ones that want that. Spending a couple of billion is a pittance to them if it can buy a government.

America began it’s decline at the same time it was rising to prominence because we began to depend more and more on ever larger more powerful corporations. They gave us everything our little greedy hearts could desire and we surrendered our power to them. We trashed democracy for the good life and we are now paying the price.

More conservative ignorance, self regulation is a wonderful thing. Poor, lying home buyers caused the collapse of the housing market.

The only thing I fear and hate are these giant corporations. I would rip them to shreds. I would break Exxon into a dozen smaller competing companies, the same for the others, and defuse their power. If left unchecked, they will destroy capitalism.

We didn’t listen to Eisenhower, we laughed in Carters face and we are paying for it.

Posted by: jlw at April 30, 2011 4:28 PM
Comment #322556

jlw,

Well put.

Posted by: Warped Reality at April 30, 2011 4:49 PM
Comment #322566

Warped

Nobody has taken away your ability to choose your own creed, or none at all. My point has always been that choices have consequences.

We also have always advocated equality before the law. That is one reason we dislike some of what affirmative action has become, i.e. a law that favors some because of their group membership.

I think you have a right to make choices that will keep you poor, but I don’t want to be bothered by those things.

I am not sure who the “moneyed classes” are. Do you mean people like Oprah, or maybe George Soros?

Re subsidies for fossil fuels - I would like government to get out of the business of subsidizing any form of energy.

jlw

We have the technology to eliminate hunger, but we cannot get people to cooperate. Experience has taught us that food distribution networks w/o market mechanisms and profit motives lead to widespread starvation. There has not been a significant peacetime famine in a market driven democracy since the 1840s. All those starving people you see live under socialist regimes where food prices are controlled and governments run distribution networks.

The best thing we could do to eliminate world hunger is to get rid of the vestiges of socialism.

You are right that it is a political problem.

“A dog eat dog, every man for himself, consumption crazy, materialistic society is a sick society with many societal diseases, like education, debt, etc. It is highly profitable though”

It is NOT highly profitable and it is not anything like a conservative vision. Conservatives believe strongly in community, which is why we are more generous statistically than liberals. We understand that too much government interference crowds out community.

re multinational corporations - what makes you think they are conservative? GE seems to be an Obamaland. Soros is crazy left. Warren Buffet wants to raise taxes. Corporations make big bucks off big government. They adapt to the government.

You seem to distrust big business but trust big government. I trust neither, since I distrust any concentration of power.


Posted by: C&J at April 30, 2011 7:11 PM
Comment #322567

jlw,

Let me echo Warped’s congratulations on a very well written post.

Posted by: Rich at April 30, 2011 7:15 PM
Comment #322586


Warped and Rich, thanks, I seldom get complements.

C&J, What makes you think I think corporations are conservative. I think a corporation could care less if a politician is a liberal or a conservative as long as thy can buy him. Actually, I said corporations buy governments, but the reality is they buy politicians. If they could get smaller government that wouldn’t tax them or regulate them they would be more than willing to give up the other government perks.

It is not that the corporations are conservatives, but that conservatives are easier to buy, although that is becoming less apparent.

Choices have consequences, like the choice to let the market self-regulate.

Posted by: jlw at April 30, 2011 11:12 PM
Comment #322587

jlw

Government power enables the corporations. It is a symbiotic relationship. Government and business work together, sometimes for good, sometimes not.

You have to be careful to not concentrate power.

Why would you think “conservatives are easier to buy?” What in our history has convinced you of this? Our president learned his business in Chicago. Chicago is and has been controlled by Democrats for generations. If you know anything about how it worked there, you know that it is not completely honest. Think of all the machine politics you can find in history. How many of these are/were run by Democrats?

If you look at the history of monopoly and abuse of power, you find that government is always in on it. A monopoly cannot be long maintained w/o government support. Government has a monopoly on the legitimate use of coercion. Politicians like to protect their friends and business leaders like to be protected.

Theories are great. In theory a market system could be completely unregulated. In reality no. In theory government would act wisely and in the greater interest. In reality no.

Government leaders develop their own interests. Politicians do not act impartially. Even honest politicians act on what THEY believe is best, but since their experience and knowledge is limited, so is their judgment.

It is just not wise to concentrate power.

For big government to work, you have to assume that most politicians are honest AND impartial, that they are super-intelligent, that they have access to all the required information and that they can judge well and in a timely manner. These things are never all present.

We Americans have developed a system that plays interests against interests, power against power and one that decentralizes decisions making. It produces a very imperfect market-based result. But the result is better than the alternatives.

Posted by: C&J at May 1, 2011 12:51 AM
Comment #322592

“Why would you think “conservatives are easier to buy?”

Well, speaking for myself, it is probably because conservatives have an unblemished record of knee-jerk support for the interests of big business and opposing any form of regulation in modern times. The “trust busting” efforts of Teddy Roosevelt to create a level playing field and competitive market place, were met with disdain by conservatives. The financial regulatory reforms of FDR were bitterly opposed by conservatives. The warnings of Eisenhower on the dangers of a growing military-industrial complex have been ignored by conservatives. The de-regulatory financial actions of the 80s and 90s which are causally related to the 2008 collapse were championed by conservatives. The financial regulatory reforms of today have been almost universally opposed by conservatives.

Posted by: Rich at May 1, 2011 8:39 AM
Comment #322595
Nobody has taken away your ability to choose your own creed, or none at all.

I’m referring to the social conservative movement, which wishes to establish a certain brand of Christianity as a virtual state religion through government fiat.

I am not sure who the “moneyed classes” are. Do you mean people like Oprah, or maybe George Soros?

Yes, I’m referring to them as well as a large number of wealthy people who don’t live by the same rules the rest of us do. They inherit money without paying taxes on it, they pay a lower marginal rate on capital gains than others pay on their wages. They don’t pay payroll taxes on income over $106000. They are able to have an advantage in our courts by hiring expensive attorneys. They consume the largest share of government services, yet conservatives constantly complain about the share of the tax burden that falls upon the wealthiest.

That is one reason we dislike some of what affirmative action has become, i.e. a law that favors some because of their group membership.
Affirmative Action is on its way out the door. It’s implementation was only necessary when the strings of power were controlled by generations that were raised in an era where racism was acceptable. Once the Baby Boomer generation is marginalized and senile, then we can talk about ending affirmative action.
If you look at the history of monopoly and abuse of power, you find that government is always in on it. A monopoly cannot be long maintained w/o government support. Government has a monopoly on the legitimate use of coercion. Politicians like to protect their friends and business leaders like to be protected.
I’m assuming that when you refer to “government” you are talking about the political process that takes place in DC as well as the its many localized varieties. It is not true that the government has a monopoly on force, and using the term “legitimate” is very subjective. If every government had a monopoly on force, we’d still be colony of Great Britain and Gbagbo would still be President of Côte d’Ivoire. In the gilded era, we experimented with small government and the result was not a reduction on the burdens on ordinary people. Instead, the wealthy formed their own quasi-government complete with private armies, the most notable of which was the Pinkerton Detective agency, which enforced the will of its clients. You see, it is impossible to have a true anarchy; someone will always seize control, which is what we see playing out in Somalia and other failed states.

An extreme example of this is the role Fascism played in Germany and Italy. In Germany, the Weimer Republic remained in control de jure until 1945. Neither Hitler nor anyone else ever suspended or removed the Constitution. The entire NAZI regime was a corporatist pseudo-government, created to benefit the interests of German corporations such as Krupp, Siemans AG, IG Farben and the Flick Family.

Posted by: Warped Reality at May 1, 2011 11:04 AM
Comment #322602


C&J, for any size government the one thing that the voters do not want to do is assume. Voters not only need to know what their politicians stand for, they need to know what they are voting for and why. Corruption can endure because many voters can’t or won’t meet those standards. One thing that would improve the voters abilities is a reduction in the legalese that is injected into the writing of legislation, much of which is unnecessary and purposely designed to confuse voters and hide things that they would not approve of.

Money is free speech and corporate personhood must be addressed as well. When BP blows up a couple of city blocks and kills people it goes to court as a corporation and pays a fine. When it is bribing Congress it is a person with free speech rights.

Since the politicians will not address these issues it is incumbent on the voters to force the politicians to do so.

Do you think conservatives would support addressing those issues?

Your other questions have been addressed quit well, better than I can do, by Rich and Warped.

Posted by: jlw at May 1, 2011 12:41 PM
Comment #322607

Rich

Your definition of conservative is based on a tautology. Essentially, you define anybody who supports big business as a conservative. This would mean that Obama supporter Jeff Immelt is a conservative. Meanwhile Theodore Roosevelt, who was warlike, individualistic and free market oriented in most ways, becomes a non-conservative to you (and Glen Beck, BTW) because he opposed JP Morgan. If you read the biography of JP Morgan, BTW, you will be surprised at his dislike for a really free market. My point is that the “BIG” in both government and business puts many of your villains and heroes in the same camp.

Also, wasn’t Eisenhower a conservative? And didn’t the military-industrial complex flower under ostensibly liberals like Kennedy and Johnson?

It is true that, as a conservative, I tend to believe in market solutions. But a market solution is NOT the same as supporting big business in all cases. In fact, in the sense of trust busting, Roosevelt was acting as a conservative against the concentration of power.

Warped

We may or may not like Soros, Oprah but they did not inherit their fantastic fortunes.

I am not rich, but I do make more than $106000 these days. This is SS. When I retire, I will NOT get back the amount I contributed, while a poorer guy will get back much more that he put in. FDR sold SS as an insurance system. It is not supposed to be a tax to redistribute income. The poor do much better than the rich on this already.

Other taxes, the poor pay very little. Almost half of all Americans pay no Federal taxes. We cannot cut their taxes any more.

re ending affirmative action - I thought it was on the way out twenty-five years ago. When my daughter was born in Latin America, I registered her as “Hispanic” as a joke, thinking it would be gone by the time she became an adult; it wasn’t.

Re coercion - government has a monopoly on the legitimate use of force. This is a definition of government. To the extent that another group acquires the ability to use force, it becomes government. Government can delegate the use of force, but it maintains the right.

For example, In America we allow the legitimate right of self defense. This is NOT the case in most countries, BTW. But you do not have the right to pursue an attacker and kill him at a later time. The government will step in to stop you.

Re the Nazis - There was nothing like a free market in Germany. It concentrated power in the hands of the government, no matter what they called it.

Re the Gilded Age - we tend not to understand that period of history. If you look at standards of living before the Civil War and after, you find a fantastic rise during the Gilded Age. Visit some of your local history parks and look at the rising standards of living for ordinary people from 1800-1900. The difference is that in 1800 people lived in abject poverty in rural areas, out of sight. Chrissy has an interesting family history. Her ancestors walked from Madison Wi, which is as far as they could get on trains etc, to their farm near Lacrosse in 1858. With the kids and pulling all their possessions. When they arrived, the literally lived in a cave and a lean to for the first year, nearly starving. Yet their experience was common. AND their life was better than it had been in Norway.

jlw

You are missing the systemic problem. The problem is not dishonest or corrupt officials. Even Democrats are mostly honest. But in a big government they lack the detailed information needed to make decisions, the incentives to make them right and the means to promulgate them properly down to the local level. It is a problem of communication, information and execution. In theory it should work, but the bigger the organization, the more friction and confusion and the more administration is required to keep the system running.

Posted by: C&J at May 1, 2011 2:07 PM
Comment #322610
Almost half of all Americans pay no Federal taxes.

Incorrect, half of all Americans pay no income taxes. This statistic includes all Americans including children and other dependents, who don’t pay income taxes for obvious reasons.

These people still pay payroll taxes as well as a large variety of excise/sale taxes. Nonetheless, I don’t like the fact that so many people have no stake in our income taxes.

I am not rich, but I do make more than $106000 these days. This is SS. When I retire, I will NOT get back the amount I contributed, while a poorer guy will get back much more that he put in. FDR sold SS as an insurance system. It is not supposed to be a tax to redistribute income. The poor do much better than the rich on this already.
In 1935, the cap was $3000 and covered 90% of all wages. Today, the cap only covers 85% and needs to be raised. Nonetheless, the entire structure of SS is screwed up and in need of reform.
To the extent that another group acquires the ability to use force, it becomes government.
Very true. This is the risk of “small government” conservatism, which never leads to “small government”. Instead other interests groups take advantage of the vacuum and seize control. You can label the new people in control “government”, but their origins lie outside of the preexisting political system. This is exactly what happened in the Gilded Age as well as in Fascist Germany, Italy and Japan.

Your fallacy is the idea that conservatism supports free markets, which it doesn’t. Conservatism is simply about reducing the role of our political government and letting other interests (namely corporate and moneyed interests) assume the mechanisms of government.

Regarding Christine’s family, I don’t think changes in standard of living have much relevance when discussing political freedom. The average German’s standard of living probably increased when the Fascists took over, but that doesn’t legitimize their government.

Posted by: Warped Reality at May 1, 2011 2:58 PM
Comment #322619

Warped

The sample is half of all American households. Sorry if I used the language loosely. Many more than half of all Americans do not pay Federal taxes, but, as you point out, this statistic is meaningless.

re small government - the U.S. had a small government througout most of its history and compared to others of the time did very well.

Fascist Germany, Italy and Japan - did not have small governments. They were totalitarians, where government owned or controlled most things.

The governments in Wiemar, Italy or Japan were not hands-off before they were seized by totalitarians. BTW - when you add in these oppressive fascist places, be sure to add in their brothers in big government in the Soviet Union and Mao’s China. Totalitarians are pretty much the same in practice. Interestingly, the Baathist (Saddam’s people) indeed did admire both Hitler and Stalin, understanding that they could learn totalitarianism from both communists and their Nazi cousins.

So the “risk” of smaller government is chaos, which might evolve into a big government totalitarianism. The risk of big government is the same end. In both cases, the worst case scenario is big government totalitarianism of the communist/nazi variety.

The best case scenario is limited government with respect for the rule of law and market economies. That is what we should strive to achieve.

RE conservatism and free markets - conservatives do not always support them in practice. All politicians like to expand their power at the expense of liberty. But liberals believe in the positive good of expanded government. You have to make a choice between those who at least consider it a good thing to limit government, but may fail, and those who campaign on expanding it.

It is a constant struggle to maintain liberty against the usurpation of government. We Americans have been more successful than most, but eternal vigilance remains the price of liberty.

Re Chrissy’s family - America during the late 19th Century featured more freedom for most people than any other place on the globe at that time. It featured more liberty than present in America at earlier times, more economic opportunity for more people and higher standards of living for almost everybody. The “robber barons” did indeed exploit workers and resources, but after John D Rockefeller, oil was cheaper and more available. After Carnegie the same was true of steel. We could list others.

Social awareness and progressivism was a luxury created by the fantastic productivity increases encouraged by the capitalism of the century. The abject poverty of earlier ages and other places was out of sight.

They have a terrible disease in Brazil called Chagas. It is named after the man who discovered it, a Dr. Chagas, and made it possible to treat and avoid it. Chagas, the man who made progress possible, is associated with this disease. I think the same think happened with the gilded age.


Posted by: C&J at May 1, 2011 5:12 PM
Comment #322621


C&J, it is not the government nor the size of government.

It is We the People, when the people fail to do their part they can’t expect the government to do it’s part.

“If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, it expects what never was and never will be.” Thomas Jefferson.

Our Founding Fathers created a free press to keep the people informed. We have allowed the free press to be taken over by large corporations and the free press has become the pundit press. What is left of the free press is virtually ignored or never seen by the people.

Our Founding Fathers would give us a severe whipping and send us to bed without supper if they knew that we had allowed the creation of these corporations and surrendered our power to them.


Posted by: jlw at May 1, 2011 5:38 PM
Comment #322622

jlw, you have been quite on point in this thread. Kudos galore!

Posted by: Roy Ellis at May 1, 2011 5:59 PM
Comment #322623
The governments in Wiemar, Italy or Japan were not hands-off before they were seized by totalitarians.

Where in the world are you getting this from?

The Wiemar Republic was renowned for its weakness. The Reichstag was unable to pass laws in order to confront the economic stresses of the Great Depression. This is why the German people consented to Hitler’s rise to power. Germans were tired of their weak ineffective government, so they leaned toward the other extreme of totalitarianism. The only way to prevent this from happening is to strike a balance between the two, which is what our country has done successfully for the last 2.25 centuries.

If you want to look at what Fascism looks like during peacetime, look at the laissez-faire policies Alberto de Stefani implemented in Italy in the 1920s:

When he came to power, Mussolini appointed free-trader Alberto De Stefani as finance minister (1922-25) to run Italian economic policy. De Stefani promoted deregulation policies that pleased big business, and businesspeople profited during the economic boom of the 1920s. Of course, because it dealt with a much poorer country than the United States, the Italian government could not get out of the economy altogether, but the Duce’s laissez-faire policies in the 1920s met with American approbation. The Duce became a hero for American business, which held up his government’s retreat from regulation as a model. This view changed during the 1930s with the Great Depression and the Fascist government’s implementation of an activist policy.
source


Basically, what I’m saying is that a government that is too weak is vulnerable to insurrections and usurpation by populist totalitarians. Alexander Kerensky’s Russian Republic, Wiemar Germany, 1920s Italy, the early Republic of China and others were all weak central governments that were replaced with totalitarian states.

The USA’s Articles of Confederation almost resulted in the same thing in the form of Shay’s rebellion and the Whiskey rebellion.

Of course I’m glossing over some details here, but I hope you get the gist of my argument.

Posted by: Warped Reality at May 1, 2011 6:08 PM
Comment #322625

jlw

You are arguing that government should be better. I agree. I am telling you that there are organizational limits to what government can accomplish. At some size, it just breaks down. It happens with any organization.

Re the free press - do you know about what is going on in government and business. If so, HOW? There is no shortage of information available. In fact, there may be too much for us to take in.

This blog is like a press. You can write what you want.

I understand that you dislike big business. I simply go farther than you do. I dislike any concentration of power. Government is not the savior.

You take the original ideas of the founders, but you seem to forget the fear they had of government tyranny. They set up elaborate mechanism to stop it.

The founding fathers did NOT create a free press. They protected the right of individuals and firms to have a free press. If you simply use the phrase “the founders created” as a short hand, I apologize for being pedantic. But if you somehow think that government created a free press, you are seriously mistaken and that mistake could inform a serious misunderstanding.

Warped

Big government does not need to be strong government and limited government does not need to be weak.

Wiemar authorities had ostensible responsibility for many aspects of the economy and had no trouble interfering.

If you are equating large government with strong government, we are discussing a different thing.

I am in favor of a small, strong and efficient government that exercises appropriate power.

Re Italy - evidently Mussolini experimented with a more free market approach. When he became a true fascist, he had to give that up and that is when he consolidated power.

You know that you cannot really argue from approval. Recall how American leftists loved communism. “We have seen the future and it works”. Unfortunately, lots of Americans have a soft place for totalitarians, because they don’t have those problems here.

So let me sum up what I have said for many years. I love government and thing that it is so precious that it should be used sparingly. I want an efficient but limited government. Our government is bigger, but it manages NOT to accomplish some of its core functions, such as maintaining infrastructure and maintaining border security. As it got bigger, it got WORSE at these core functions.

Put in human terms, I want government lean and agile. The man that gets bigger and fatter does not necessarily get stronger and better.

Posted by: C&J at May 1, 2011 7:11 PM
Comment #322627
So let me sum up what I have said for many years. I love government and thing that it is so precious that it should be used sparingly. I want an efficient but limited government. Our government is bigger, but it manages NOT to accomplish some of its core functions, such as maintaining infrastructure and maintaining border security. As it got bigger, it got WORSE at these core functions.

I can agree with this.

BTW, I just heard on al-Jazeera that Osama Bin Laden is dead and the US has the body.

If anyone is reading this, I’d turn on the TV and watch.
http://english.aljazeera.net/watch_now/

The President is supposed to give a speech about the matter in a few minutes.

Posted by: Warped Reality at May 1, 2011 11:03 PM
Comment #322675


C&J, when these giant corporations are broken into smaller entities, their personhoods revoked, their owners held personally accountable, denied the right to interfere in our political process, and given specific charters to do specific things; I will agree to smaller government if that also means a much smaller standing army as well.

Otherwise, you are just smoke and mirrors. The cart goes behind the horse, not in front of it.

One other thing, the market comes back to the good old days with us. No more hedge funds, derivatives, no more games. And the next time it drives us into a Great Depression or Great Recession, we hang the perpetrators.

Do we have an agreement?

Posted by: jlw at May 2, 2011 12:29 PM
Comment #322709

jlw

You cannot criminalize routine business decisions. All decisions are made in a climate of uncertainty. Business people take risks. I would like it to be that when they take risks and it works, they make money and when they take risks and lose, they lose money. But hanging people is what the Chinese do. Yet in China, food remains unsafe and investors get ripped off as a matter of routine. These draconian laws do not have the desired effect.

Re a smaller standing army - we need the size of army to deter our enemies and defend our country. I think it could be smaller than it is, but the size of the army is determined by the size of the threat, not by what we might want it to be.

Through most of our history, we had a very small army. In the 19th century, besides times of war, our army was smaller than Denmark’s or Holland’s. Considering the vast size of the U.S. and our wealth, that is amazing. But we had two things then we don’t have now. The oceans back then were a barrier that they are not today and the British Royal Navy patrolled the oceans and did the kind of international work we do today. We didn’t thank them at that time, the same way as others do not thank us now. Maybe we should get out of that business, but recall that the decline of British hegemony brought with it disastrous wars until we asserted order again.

So I am with you. I don’t like America to pay for all those free riders. But the withdrawal symptoms might be bad.

Posted by: C&J at May 2, 2011 11:31 PM
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