Trickle Down

To the Editor:
Let’s call it Trickle Me Once, Trickle Me Twice.  The Trumpublican tax “reform” is a simple reaffirmation of Ronald Reagan’s supply-side, trickle down economic platform that has resulted in the wealth and income disparity we have today.  It is purely magical thinking to believe that the corporate world will share its tax windfall with the average working American whose own tax “relief”, unlike that for corporations, is set to expire.  Company bonuses are nice but, unlike pay raises, they are only temporary.  In other words, future deficits will fall squarely upon public rather than corporate income and Conservatives can amplify their disparagement of federal public well-being and safety net programs such as Medicare and Social Security.  The goal seems to be to continue the transformation of America into a Banana Republic ruled by a wealthy, oligarchical elite.  All “isms” have positive and negative aspects, but coupled with the deregulation of banking and the fossil fuel extraction industries, this is Capitalism at its worst.
Robert Porath

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Education

To the Editor:
    Up until Ronald Reagan was elected Governor, public education through college was free for any citizen of California.  One could call it socialist education, an entitlement program that benefited anyone wishing to become better educated.  As the “Question Authority” and Free Speech movements and the anti-Viet Nam war protests grew on college campuses, the Conservative sentiment became “education is not for the masses” and must be relegated to a select few, easily manageable and fully buying into the status quo and America’s self-image, and the push has been to render higher education increasingly more expensive and privatized.  What better way to ensure compliant behavior is there than to have everyone indebted to the financial industries?  There is a lot of braggadocio about the “freedoms” inherent in capitalism, but being constantly indentured, be it to a bank or, for that matter, to “must-have” telecommunication services, does not seem much like true freedom. The great irony is that the emphasis on the monetary value of education, in reality, only cheapens its true value, both to an individual and to society at large.  Call it socialism, if you must, but like healthcare and retirement planning, education should not be placed so heavily under the thumb of for-profit institutions.
– RP

Original Intent

To the Editor:
         Reduced to their basic elements, politics is concerned with the creation and distribution of power within a society, while economics delineates the creation and distribution of its wealth.  Democracy and capitalism are not automatically, or even necessarily, synonymous.  Socialist democracies exist, as do capitalist autocracies.  At the time of the writing of the U.S. Constitution, the idea of a democracy, of a government by the people of a nation rather than by an aristocratic elite, was an untried and unproven proposal.  If there was genius in the creation of this ground-breaking document, it was that, through argument and discussion and compromise, the Founding Fathers came upon an extensive system of checks and balances designed to prevent the abuse of power by any one sector of the many voices that make up the wide spectrum of interests that is “We the People”.  This balancing of powers is crucial to the survival of democracy.  No form of government will always be correct in its actions and America’s democracy is no exception, but it has had the capability and flexibility to correct  its mistakes along the way.
           Of equal importance to the maintenance of a democracy is a balance of wealth. This does not mean an equality of wealth, but rather a balanced distribution.  In human nature there will always be some who pursue wealth relentlessly while others may care little about its accumulation.  However, since the Presidency of Ronald Reagan, wealth has become increasingly concentrated in fewer and fewer hands to the point that today we have 400 billionaires with more wealth than that held by nearly the entire rest of the population.  While some may wish to say this outcome is simply a result of “Social Darwinism”, that this is a natural process in capitalism, it has actually come to fruition through the halls of government, through a legislated tax structure that favors disproportionately the interests of the wealthy over those of the common citizen.  The influence of money in politics acts as both the carrot and the stick in driving the legislative process.
           Further, the five conservative Justices on the Supreme Court have consistently ruled that the interests of corporations supercede those of the individual and, in the Citizens United decision, have legitimatized money as integral to the right of free speech first granted in the Magna Carta in 1215.  In today’s world of commercial advertising on radio and television, a world the Founders, even in their wildest dreams, could never have imagined, money in political campaigning has immense power.  In these rulings, five men have radically tipped the scales of government in favor of the influence of wealth in the political system.  In the coming presidential election it is projected that the combined campaigns alone may spend nearly a billion dollars and unprecedented amounts are pouring into Congressional races as well.  To what end are the super rich funneling millions into Republican campaigns if not for the continuation of a favorable tax code and a lasting bias in the Supreme Court.
           How the Conservative Justices find “original intent” in any of this requires a leap of logic that is hard enough to fathom without recalling that this was the same group that decided that an accurate accounting of the votes in Florida was inconvenient and unnecessary and installed George Bush as President over Al Gore in 2000 and realizing just how much power the Court  has assumed for itself over the years.  It is impossible to imagine the writers of the Constitution not being shocked at the shambles their checks and balances are in today and that their dream of democracy is being supplanted by a wealthy ruling class.
RP

Capitalism Is Not A System of Government

To the Editor:
    Given the nature of human nature, history shows that the so-called “freedom” of unregulated, free-market capitalism simply does not work.  Further, “capitalism” is merely an economic system that allows wealth to be made from wealth.  It is not a system of government and is not, by its nature, automatically conducive to democracy and, in fact, seems increasingly a corrupting influence on our representative democracy. The joke about the Golden Rule, that those with the gold make the rules, demonstrates just how far from being democratically governed we are today in America.
    Important also to note here is that we are not dealing with absolutes.  Neither capitalism nor democracy is, of its own, intrinsically good or bad.  What seems lacking is a morality of discipline and self-government with a watchful eye toward a common good.  Edith Hamilton’s claim that Athenian Greece invented the freedom of self-government, rose to glory, then fell by succumbing to the lure of unlimited freedom and power should stand as a warning to all Americans that conscience is still an integral part of any social contract.
RP

2012

To the Editor:
    While President Obama has yet to emerge as a strong leader against the plutocratic drift of the country, a drift fully embraced by the Republican Party, the 2012 elections still present a critical pivot point determining the public future of the nation.  Will we have a government (and Supreme Court) that supports the well-being of the majority of Americans or one that caters to the extravagance and thirst for power of a wealthy elite?  Recent Supreme Court rulings have effectively further forced elected officials into a virtual serfdom of dependence on deep-pocketed interests to fund their campaigns, resulting in a corporate takeover of government and the enactment of law.  Ideally, capitalism (or any economic system) is supposed to facilitate well-being for everyone, not just for a small wealthy class. Today, here and all around the world, people are awakening to the loss of that ideal under the rise of the power of global and corporate financial institutions that have only their profits in mind.  Wresting power from these behemoths is a Herculean task, but now is the time to begin the effort.
RP

Paper Tiger Redux. Chinese government has mastered capitalism.

To the Editor:

You have to hand it to the communist Chinese government for its capitalist acumen.  Not only are they utilizing their vast labor resources to manufacture and sell nearly everything the American consumer buys, they are investing that money in natural resources all around the world, including Iraq and Afghanistan, and also earning US Treasury interest on the billions we have borrowed, including the funding for our invasion and occupation of two nations now open to global corporate exploitation.  With the Federal Reserve again madly printing money to try to stimulate our anemic economy, it would seem we have indeed become the “Paper Tiger” Chairman Mao always said we were, however, the big question is:  is our military being used for the safety and well-being of America or for the profit of international corporate interests?

RP