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.

Kill Your TV

To the Editor:
   As much as the Republican Party likes to be in control of government, it can’t be said that  they ever govern well.  The Bush Administration will be noted in history as having been massively incompetent.  Its eight years of dismal governmental diligence resulted in 911, the Enron fiasco, two long and expensive wars, the financial collapse of 2007, and a massive federal deficit
    Ronald Reagan came across as everyone’s, feel-good-about-America uncle, but his eight years were marked by indictments of Cabinet officials, the Silverado Savings and Loan scandal, defense budget boondoggles, and an unprecedented, non-wartime, federal deficit.  His military forays were invasions of Grenada and Panama, but when the going got rough in Beirut, he immediately bailed out.
    And before Bush and Reagan, there was Richard NIxon.  Enough said about Republican governance.
    What the Republican Party does do extremely well, probably from its long association with business, is market itself.  And advertising does work on the American public.  Companies spend millions on market research, focus groups, and carefully crafted ads to keep their products on constant display in people’s minds.  With the Supreme Court’s Citizen United decision promoting unlimited campaign spending, we can be certain that in the next five months we will be inundated with a virtual monsoon of political advertising, most of which will be either inflammatory, misleading, or downright prevarication. The best political decision Americans can make right now is to simply unplug the television, find a good book or two, read up on media consolidation (that’s where the money is going), and talk to friends and neighbors.  It’s time to return to reality.