REINVENTING GOVERNMENT






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REINVENTING GOVERNMENT — A HODGEPODGE OF RECYCLED RHETORIC

REVIEW & COMMENTARY

BY CHARLES H. SULKA

VER/DATE: REV 5.0.41 EN (12/22/2013 16:15)

This essay examines the concepts and opinions expressed by Harvard University professor Elaine C. Kamarck in her book, “A FUTURE BEYOND THE END OF GOVERNMENT.” Kamarck’s ideas are summarized in Stephen Barr’s book review in the Washington Post (March 14, 2007, Page D4). The Post review provides an excellent introduction to these philosophical musings, and is reprinted here in full. Commentary follows. Study notes and topics for discussion are also included.

Outdated policies risk wasting money and failing people, Elaine C. Kamarck says.

Fifty years from now, the federal government will be smaller and many of the huge federal buildings in Washington will be empty of bureaucrats, perhaps replaced by parks and movie theaters. Elaine C. Kamarck, a veteran of the Clinton administration, offers this vision in a new book, “The End of Government . . . As We Know It: Making Public Policy Work.” Kamarck doesn’t believe a smaller bureaucracy means that government is dead. But, she says, “the postbureaucratic state” will require policy makers to embrace new ways of thinking for the 21st century.

“If we are conscious about what is happening to government, we can make it happen better,” writes Kamarck, who lectures on public policy at Harvard. “If we are not, we can proceed to waste a great deal of money and fail a great many people.”

Kamarck’s book argues that the White House and the Congress will need to find a new way of governing in an era that will be shaped by global terrorism, emerging economic competition from China and India and an aging U.S. population.

Kamarck served in the Clinton administration from 1993 to 1997 as a senior policy adviser and helped oversee the “reinventing government” project launched by Vice President Al Gore. After leaving the administration, she joined Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government.

Today’s government is a “hodgepodge” that includes old-fashioned bureaucracies, public-private partnerships and outsourcing initiatives, Kamarck writes. But the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks reordered many federal priorities and, along with Hurricane Katrina, underscored why policy makers need to rethink their approaches to government, she says.

Going forward, policy makers need to better match their goals to appropriate implementation strategies, Kamarck says. The models include:

* Reinvented government, where agencies operate without some of the traditional trappings of bureaucracy and use performance measures to track programs and services. This approach seems suited for routine functions, such as determining eligibility for benefits, or a high level of security, such as airport passenger and baggage screening.

* Government by network, where agencies provide funding to universities, laboratories, nonprofit and for-profit organizations to do the work that the government wants done. This approach serves policies that require innovation, such as developing weapons for the Cold War or collecting intelligence on terrorism.

* Government by market, where the government uses state power to create a market that fulfills a public purpose. This approach involves few, if any, federal employees and little or no public money and typically involves a policy aimed at changing the way millions of citizens behave, such as creating an incentive for people to stop driving gas-guzzling cars.

The problem is figuring out how to hold agencies, outside partners and contractors accountable for their actions, Kamarck writes. A scandal in one part of a network can doom the entire network, she warns, just as creating markets provides opportunities to game the new systems.

Although many agencies have set goals and try to measure their progress, Kamarck writes, “performance measures do not guarantee good performance.” s an example, she points out that the Federal Emergency Management Agency got “relatively decent marks” from the Office of Management and Budget in the year before FEMA faltered in New Orleans.

A smaller government operating in an increasingly complex world means that federal agencies will need better paid and better educated leadership, she writes.

“If the government is to remain an effective force, people need to be able to make nearly as much money in the public sector as in the private sector. Each of the new forms of government requires a sophisticated package of skills and a broad education — the kinds of skills and backgrounds often found among leaders of industry,” Kamarck writes.

“Western democracies are fooling themselves if they think they can manage into the next century without addressing the wage gap at the top between the public and private sectors,” she writes.

— Review by Stephen Barr in The Washington Post Newspaper


COMMENTARY
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By Charles Sulka

Reinventing government has been a popular theme in American politics for some time now. The concept is generally well received, even if the specifics are vague, for in a pluralistic democracy it seems that everyone has something to gripe about. Blaming government for our problems is, well, an American tradition. Many of these complaints are valid; some people, on the other hand, just like to complain.

This tired old catch-phrase from the Reagan era has been resurrected as the subject of a book by a Harvard University professor, Elaine C. Kamarck. The book is a recitation of standard fare, bereft of any ground-breaking ideas. If anything, the book is noteworthy for the implausibility of its underlying premise, that being that we are entering the age of what the author calls the “postbureaucratic state” in which we will see a government greatly reduced in size and organized along new and different lines.

While the rumors of the demise of government as we know it are probably somewhat exaggerated, it is an intriguing idea — and one that is worth examining, even if such a future is improbable. In reality we are more likely to see the continued growth of both size and scope of government in America. A worst-case scenario might show us facing a bleak future of economic collapse, moral decay, relentless attacks from terrorists (possibly with weapons of mass destruction,) environmental catastrophe, and international enmity bordering on perpetual war. In such a dystopian view of the future it is hard to overlook the implausibility of the author’s basic premise — that government as we know it will disappear. To the contrary, it looks as if mankind’s very survival will depend upon effective government. If the government we have today is ineffective, it is hard to imagine that a smaller government would be any more effective at solving the nation’s problems.

Today’s government is a “hodgepodge” that includes old-fashioned bureaucracies, public-private partnerships and outsourcing initiatives, Kamarck writes. Despite all the talk about reinventing government, it is highly likely that tomorrow’s government, too, will be a hodgepodge that includes old-fashioned bureaucracies, public-private partnerships, and outsourcing initiatives, simply because there is no “one size fits all” approach that works in addressing social problems. Different approaches work better in different situations. Some don’t work at all, as we shall see. Even if we disagree with the underlying premise of a postbureaucratic state the book is a reminder of the need to continually reexamine the effectiveness of public programs, while searching for new and better ways of dealing with the issues.

Again, the premise that government is destined to shrink is questionable. I would think that the concept of the “withering away of the state” as postulated by Marxist philosophers is nowadays without currency. This idea runs counter to all the historical evidence as well as current trends. Americans expect and demand more and better government services, not less government.

Instead, we are likely to see the expansion of government, particularly in the growth of the national security state. While the government of tomorrow will likely be bigger — and certainly more intrusive — than today’s government, it might be much less visible, much less accessible, and much less accountable to the people it serves. And it might take on a different structure. We could see the emergence of a decentralized national government brought about by post 9/11 pragmatism. Perhaps decentralizing the national government is an idea whose time has come? (More on this later.)

We will probably not see a downsizing of government any time soon. In all probability we will see the expansion of government, as massive public works may be the only way to counteract the imbalances and injustices of the so-called free market. Government could become the employer of last resort as the economy continues to reel from the effects of globalization, financial manipulation, and economic exploitation. If it turns out that there is indeed an invisible hand directing our economic destiny, I suspect it might first address itself to government economists and glib philosophers, slapping them up side the head — sort of a reality check for economists. If by blind-siding them this invisible hand knocks some sense into the heads of economists and intellectuals, then it will be a blessing indeed.


Kamarck outlines the various approaches that have been suggested in recent years. Going forward, policy makers need to better match their goals to appropriate implementation strategies, she says. The models include:

* Reinvented government, where agencies operate without some of the traditional trappings of bureaucracy and use performance measures to track programs and services.

* Government by network, where agencies provide funding to universities, laboratories, nonprofit and for-profit organizations.

* Government by market, where the government uses state power to create a market that fulfills a public purpose.

Let’s take a quick look at these concepts, none of them new.

First, what is here labeled “reinventing government” is a process we see at work every day. Policy makers, managers, government worker bees, and of course pundits and the constituents themselves all play a role in this process in an ever-changing, ever-evolving public sector. In the public sector, change — especially change which incorporates new technologies — often comes slowly, but is usually for the better. No one would argue that this process should not continue. We should always be thinking about ways we can do the job better, of using streamlined processes and new technology.

It is hard to guess exactly which traditional trappings Kamarck thinks agencies can do without. Desks? Phones? Computers? Suffice it to say the trappings of government bureaucracies have evolved over time to ensure professionalism, fairness, and accountability in addition to effectiveness. It is reasonable to assume that anywhere that a government agency addresses a problem or an issue, the bureaucratic process will endure much the same as we know it today.

One of the ways we examine the effectiveness of public programs is performance measurement. There can be no question that there is a new focus on performance measures in government agencies. It seems that along with computers comes a fixation on metrics and data analysis. It is so simple to quantify data with computers, but it is not always so easy to see the meaning in the numbers. Numbers alone often do not tell the whole story. Numbers often do not tell us whether the job is being done better, or that the real issues are fully understood by the policy makers.

For example, the local public welfare agency can’t tell you how many people are hungry, or homeless, or unemployed and in need of a job, or are in desperate need of medical care. But they can tell you what percentage of applicants for aid were turned away, as if that alone were the measure of their success (we wouldn’t use the word “effectiveness” here.) Using restrictive policies and procedures to avoid doing the job that is needed . . . is this progress? Is this reinventing government?

Kamarck goes on to say that a smaller government operating in an increasingly complex world means that federal agencies will need better paid and better educated leadership.

Do we really need to be concerned with the supposed disparity in income between the public sector and the private sector, as Kamarck maintains? Are we going to need better educated, better paid government workers? There is little evidence that wisdom is automatically conferred with a degree from a prestigious university, or that leadership skills can be measured in dollars. The business world is rife with examples of over paid executives earning astronomical salaries for what can euphamistically be referred to only as second-rate performance. When it comes to executive salaries in America, you don’t necessarily get what you pay for. According to a study by Harvard University researchers, the idea that executive salaries are based on or even contribute much to performance is completely false. In reality there is no correlation between the obscene salaries top management earns and performance, evaluated by any measure. The companies with the biggest financial losses, largest loss of market share, most serious accusations of waste, fraud, and abuse, critical legal and ethical issues resulting in the company falling into disfavor with the public, and biggest investor losses triggered by poor earnings and stock devaluation . . . were typically among those paying the highest executive salaries.

As we shall see, the privatization of government functions, the rise of so-called public-private partnerships, and ‘incentivizing’ government agencies (paying huge bonuses to top-level managers) has resulted in exactly this sort of extravagance in public service. In this sense, at least, it could be said that as a nation America is well on the way to making government operate more like a business (more on this topic later.)

Public employees in America are not under paid — certainly not in the executive ranks. (And, incidentally, national studies show that most Americans feel that university professors are grossly over paid.) Salaries in some fields such as social work and health care are abysmal and need to be raised. In general, though, government workers earn above-average salaries, with guaranteed annual increases (for all but the menial workers) and benefits and job security second to none. This at a time when the contraction of the economy has all but wiped out the middle class and an ever-increasing desperately poor bottom strata is barely able to get by, with no hope of relief. America’s public employees are intelligent and hard working, scrupulously honest, and dedicated to doing the best job they can . . . often despite a lack of effective management. Too often, high-paid political appointees from the ranks of businessmen ever anxious to toe the party line in exchange for a plum job in a field that they often know almost nothing about do their best to undermine the mission of our public employees.

To say that America’s public employees should be paid obscene salaries like those of large private companies — companies that can show a profit only by exploiting offshore sweatshop labor — shows that someone has a very poor understanding of what is really going on in today’s economy. Or, that someone is hoping to be appointed to a high-paying government job in the next administration.

Kamarck’s second category, government by network, sounds much like what we have in place today. Both state and federal governments rely heavily on outside resources, particularly in scientific research, and could not do their job without them. In recent years we have seen a growing awareness of the benefits of government agencies working in cooperation in addressing social problems. Virtually all state and federal agencies exchange information contained in the personal files of clients, and this process is certain to become more prevalent, and more intrusive. The electronic network will continue to grow until all privacy disappears, at least for those availing themselves of the services of government programs.

With the administration’s emphasis on privatization, more and more private businesses (and especially multi-national corporations in the information business) are now part of this expanding network of public and private groups that have access to our most sensitive personal information. With a click of their computer’s mouse welfare workers can see exactly how food stamp recipients have spent their benefit payments, which are nowadays paid through electronic systems resembling credit card accounts. Credit reporting companies, insurance companies, and health care services are only a few of the growing number of private firms that share information with government agencies. Of course this ‘networking’ will proliferate, as it greatly reduces fraud and abuse, streamlines procedures, and increases efficiency.


In the third big idea, ‘government by market’, where the government uses state power to create a market that fulfills a public purpose, the author treads on dangerous ground. This approach is often futile, of limited practical application, and is frequently dishonest. ‘Market solutions’ is a concept that has produced few meaningful results and has been widely abused. Rather than identifying problems and taking appropriate measures to solve them, politicians instead pander to special interests by dreaming up creative ‘solutions’ that rarely solve the underlying problems. It usually leads to what Kamarck calls ‘gaming the system’ — clever ruses favored by politicians of dubious character as ways of allowing businesses to evade social responsibility and accountability, or worse, outright fraud.

If this is a call for more ‘public-private partnerships’ (what I call ‘private bureaucracies for profit’) then I think we need to step back and take a close look at how this concept is working in the real world. What I have seen with HUD housing programs administered by for-profit non-profit organizations (what I refer to as ‘private bureaucracies for profit’) is a certain level of conflict of interest and nepotism, and no reduction in paperwork. The bureaucratic process is basically unchanged — the same bureaucrats design the same forms to serve the same purposes as before. They just pay outside consultants to help the applicant fill out the forms. But where the program is well thought out, the job does get done. It is worth asking whether a public body could do the same job, or do it as well, particularly where specialized knowledge (i.e. of finance, or construction, or of the housing market) is required. Bureaucracies also are subject to conflicting political forces and the law of self-preservation. A real-life example is telling: I once heard the director of the local Housing Authority say that they did not want to oversee HUD’s proposed home ownership program for low-income persons because they did not yet have all of their own low-income housing units occupied. Further erosion of their customer base was seen as a threat to their bureaucratic existence.

This is an example of why there will always be a need for different approaches to social problems. A new government program (home ownership option for low-income persons in this case) often requires a new agency to administer it. Existing agencies may not be suited to the task, or may resist change in the way they do business. But whether a private bureaucracy can do the job better than a government agency is debatable. Fraud and abuse on the part of program managers are likely to increase as more programs are privatized and government services contracted out.

The so-called ‘public-private partnership’ is often nothing more than a ruse whereby government activities enrich the moneyed class (corporate investors and managers) at the expense of the workers. Remember, the central goal of conservatism is to keep the workers from ever getting ahead. A second axiom of conservative economics is to make money from other people’s labors. After all, if everyone were working for a livable wage, and were self-employed or working for employee-owned businesses, were employed by small businesses, or were employed directly by government, there would be few opportunities for corporate bureaucracy for profit. This is the reason for the push to privatize everything. Private ventures are far less accountable, and their employees easier to exploit. In other words, government services contracted out are profitable, and exacerbate the disparity of income and skewed distribution of wealth in America — all goals of the moneyed class.

One good example of the wrong-headedness of applying market solutions to social problems is ‘workfare’. Kamarck can take personal credit for this breakthrough, which came about largely due to her work on welfare reform in the Clinton administration. The Clinton administration’s welfare reforms have resulted in the poor and the disabled being forced to work for starvation wages (in the form of ‘workfare’) without benefits, in dangerous jobs in the vile slaughterhouses of Missouri’s factory farms, just to give one example. What is tantamount to slave labor contributes to the undeserved profits of these corporate farms. Most investors in these agricultural conglomerates have never set foot on a farm nor done an honest day’s work in their lives. The only time we see them on a farm is when they are in front of a television camera, pandering to the farm lobby. Is this ‘market solution’ to economic injustice improving anyone’s lives? Well, it could be argued that it is bettering the lot of the rich — the owners of America’s agribusiness conglomerates. But is it solving the underlying problem, that of an economic system that is inherently unjust . . . where human beings are exploited, abused, and virtually enslaved?

A good example of how ‘market solutions’ can derail responsible public policy is the market in ‘energy credits’, a nonsensical idea that enjoys widespread support in Congress. Today companies that conserve energy and protect the environment can receive cash payments from companies that find it preferable not to do so; instead of reducing their damage to the environment, they pay ‘greenmail’. At a time when the earth is literally facing environmental catastrophe from global warming, the Administration is working overtime thinking up new and better ‘market solutions’ — non-solutions to problems which the previous administration didn’t solve either, but which can yield big profits for multi-national corporations, over and over again.

This does not necessarily mean the concept is unsound. The concept has been used with some success in recycling, for example. But for this concept to work effectively, the government would have to take a stand in opposition to the well-heeled supermarket chains who do not want anything to do with messy and bothersome recycling programs, or else charge high recovery fees to encourage the growth of recycling centers. Where realistic deposits are charged for all glass and metal containers, recycling businesses have sprung up — in California they have vending machines that take your aluminum cans and give back money in exchange. One could imagine an America without bottles and cans littering the highways and streams and filling the landfills to overflowing. But for this ‘market solution’ to actually work, realistic recovery fees have to be charged for glass, metal, and plastic containers. Such programs are opposed by the manufacturing firms that produce bottles and cans because recycling is troublesome, labor intensive, and more expensive than using new materials. But if the government would act responsibly to enact wide-ranging regulations on packaging, nearly everything could be recycled in America, greatly reducing trash.

There are many situations where it might seem that market solutions would be the best (simplest, most efficient, most cost-effective, fairest, least intrusive) way to deal with issues, but which will never achieve any real success due to political realities. Most of our serious problems defy market solution, requiring instead resolute policies and responsible regulation. Market solutions that are real solutions are generally opposed by big business. This will be the case as long as we allow money to play a central role in our political system.

As long as big business profits from tobacco sales, how likely is it that government will take action against this most deadly evil? As long as state and local governments profit from legalized gambling, and in some instances finance their education programs largely from gambling proceeds, how likely is government to pass the laws needed to reign in on our national gambling problem? As long as government is subservient to the giant oil firms, how likely is it that measures will be taken to encourage buyers to choose more fuel-efficient cars? If anything, Kamarck’s suggestion is noteworthy for its naivete.

None of these ideas are new. They are used with differing degrees of success in addressing a wide range of social needs. It is important to recognize that there are indeed a number of different ways of dealing with troublesome social problems. And it is obvious that different approaches work better in different situations and in addressing different issues. Government programs will likely remain a ‘hodge-podge’ for the foreseeable future, as is appropriate.

STUDY NOTES AND TOPICS FOR DISCUSSION
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This essay introduces several new ideas and takes a critical look at several others, all in keeping with the theme of ‘reinventing government’.


REALITY CHECK: AMERICA IN DECLINE

There was a time when America ranked first in everything. America was seen as the epitome of free enterprise and democracy by all the peoples of the world. Sad to say, this is no longer true.

A number of recent articles have enumerated the ways in which America has slipped behind. America is now dead last among developed nations of the world by just about any measure (except for the amount of money we waste on military adventurism — America is number one in military spending.) America’s health care system is a disgrace — America spends vastly more on health care than any other country in the world and gets the least value for its money. By objective (scientific) standards, American health care ranks 26th out of 28 industrialized nations. America is bankrupt; America is the world’s largest debtor nation. Financially, we have the greatest disparity of wealth of nearly all of the industrialized nations. In terms of education, America’s high-school graduates are almost illiterate (quite a few actually are functionally illiterate); in math and science, America’s students are at the very bottom of the chart.

This once-great nation, America, formerly a beacon of light in to the world, is nowadays shrouded in fog. A country that was once the envy of all is now a pariah among nations, its leaders roundly derided as dangerous fools, its economy in shambles, and its prospects for the future in doubt. America’s trading partners now do business in apprehension of the inevitable day of reckoning. The U.S. dollar, not long ago the world’s gold standard in currency, has lost its luster, much like the British pound after the fall of the British Empire. America’s creditors lend us money only because they dare not cut off our line of credit, because, like Wall Street, America is “too big to fail.” When the American economy collapses, it will drag the entire western world’s economy down with it.

Knowing this, the ruthless barons of the world of finance have redoubled their efforts to amass all of the world’s wealth before the collapse. They dream of a New World Order where capital is free and men are enslaved. Blinded by greed and arrogance, they are confident that they can manipulate the powers-that-be to cover up their crimes and safeguard their booty, now matter how bad things get. After all, America is a society that pays lip service to God but in truth worships money . . . and in this sense, at least, Americans are some of the most religious people in the world. Sadly, everyone can see that things have gone beyond the point of recovery, that collapse is inevitable, and that retribution will be meted out by the angry mobs. The modern-day robber barons can expect little sympathy from God or man.

Many Americans, particularly the wealthy, do not see the writing on the wall. But the rest of the world is not so blind. To many peoples of the world, it looks like America is about to get its just rewards, payback for a history of exploitation and abuse. The ravages of corporate capitalism are not lost on the poor and the downtrodden of the earth, the victims of American exploitation. There will be few mourners at America’s funeral.

America has lost its moral compass. America has become an amoral country, scorned by the rest of the world for its arrogance, hated for its violence and repression, indebted to all, mired in corruption and on the verge of financial collapse. America is viewed by the rest of the world as an example of bad management and corrupt politics. The enemies of freedom and democracy anxiously await this nation’s demise, in the belief that America’s collapse will prove what they have been saying all along — that democracy does not work.

For too many Americans, democracy is not working. The belief that one can improve one’s lot in life through honest work and thrift . . . is a fiction. The hope that one’s children will not have to suffer the same hardships as their parents . . . is delusional. The dream of better times ahead is just that — a dream. For too many there is no way out; the American dream has become a nightmare.

While Washington insiders delude themselves with grandiose ideas of American exceptionalism and dreams of military dominance, in reality the world is unraveling all around them. Their power, their hubris, and their dreams are all inexorably tied to a sinking ship — a failed political system and an economy that is almost beyond recovery. Or, at least, recovery without struggle; there will be conflict and there will be struggle . . . and in this struggle, the American people will, indeed, reinvent the American government. There really is no alternative.

ECONOMIC COLLAPSE — THE CONSEQUENCES OF VOODOO ECONOMICS AND DEREGULATION

Since the rise of the neoconservative movement and neo-liberal economics, America is now dead last by almost any measure. The world’s richest nation has been bankrupted by Reaganomics — “Voodoo Economics” in the immortal words of Vice President Bush. The economy has been ravaged; America is now the world’s largest debtor nation. America is dead last in health care among the developed nations of the world. America is last in education, with our children’s proficiency in mathematics ranking behind every nation on earth except Nigeria (and if the FBI’s estimates are accurate and Americans really do lose $4 billion a year to Nigerian financial scams and internet fraud, then it is hard to argue with the proposition that even Nigerians are way ahead of America in both arithmetic and common sense.) The fall of the American empire should surprise no one, for a nation that collectively embraces voodoo economics is ripe for plunder by financial scammers, both at home and abroad.

America’s economy — and, indeed, the free world’s interdependent financial system — has suffered irreparable damage from neo-liberal economics and deregulation mania. The newly deregulated financial sector has literally stolen the wealth of the nation from the people, laughing all the way to the bank. Millions of honest, hard working Americans have lost their life savings and their homes to Wall Street swindlers. Millions of Americans have lost their jobs to offshore sweat shops. The nation has watched, helplessly, as the nation’s business leaders and the American government — starting with the Reagan administration and continuing to this day — colluded with the communists to transfer not only this nation’s capitol but critical technology to the avowed enemies of freedom and democracy. Americans watched in dismay as their government, abandoning even a pretext of moral probity, has granted concessions to totalitarian states that to this day imprison citizens for advocating democracy.

Manipulation of the economy by investment bankers, stock-brokers, and fund managers and exploitation by financial speculators has brought not just America but the entire world to the brink of disaster. Through clever manipulation of the economic system, a vast army of voracious parasites (financial managers, bankers, lawyers, accountants and other functionaries, and of course the politicians they control) have managed to steal virtually all of the world’s wealth and shut down all productive economic activity. The least productive and least deserving of all people have acquired most of the world’s wealth — and along with wealth goes power. This leaves the honest working men and women destitute, indebted, and powerless, facing a bleak future.

The main causes of the nation’s economic problems: (1) dereliction of duty on the part of Congress to safeguard the nation’s economy from the abuses of private bankers through a central national bank — to ‘regulate the economy’ as stipulated in the Constitution; (2) mismanagement of the economy by the Administration (the Executive branch of government) in a sell-out to the communists and; (3) the inability of government as a whole to reign on multi-national corporations (because of blind adherence to the doctrine of ‘Free Trade’) and (4) outright larceny on the part of the nation’s financial managers. Without responsible regulation of the economy, the system grinds to a halt.

A parasitic ‘financial sector’ has arisen — a destructive force which literally sucks the life-blood out of the economy. How significant a role does the financial sector play in today’s economy? The figures are shocking: the financial sector accounts for 29% of all ‘profits’ in the American economy today (41% at its peak in 2001). These ‘profits’ accrue not from productive activity, but from speculation and counter-productive activity — there is no way speculation, investor fraud, pilfering from employee pension funds, or foreclosing on the homes of unemployed Americans can be regarded as productive economic activity. The American economy supports a vast number of non-productive individuals, a parasitic financial sector which has grown from 2% of GDP in 1870 to 9% of GDP today.) (1) Supporting these parasites in the style to which they have become accustomed and allowing this group to manipulate the nation’s finances in their never-ending quest for more (of everything) has had a devastating effect on the economy.

Wage stagnation combined with inflation continually lowers the standard of living of working Americans by reducing the purchasing power of their ever-diminishing wages. Manipulation of the financial system strips retirees of their savings, forcing them to retire in poverty even after a lifetime of hard work. Speculation ties up all of the working capitol of the nation, limiting the opportunities for new business development and growth. As the productive economy tanks, the stock market soars to all-time highs, a reflection of the continual upward manipulation of the valuation of assets, to the advantage of certain players, while the actual wealth of the nation steadily declines as factories, roads, bridges and public buildings deteriorate and services are curtailed.

Meanwhile America’s manufacturers export jobs, technology, and capital to the avowed enemies of this nation and all that America stands for . . . colluding with communist governments and totalitarian regimes in what can only be described as a total sell-out on the part of America’s government at the behest of the ruling class. Trade imbalances and skyrocketing debt weaken the nation and diminishes its prospects. It has become painfully clear to most Americans that this nation’s greatest threat now comes from the enemy within — the financial sector (Wall Street and the money-lenders), the free traders (multi-national corporations and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce), and the federal government. Nearly three-quarters of Americans believe that the greatest threat this nation faces is the American government.

If there is one thing that virtually all Americans agree on (all but the super-rich, the wealthiest one percent, anyway) it is that change is long overdue. The Great Communicator (Ronald Reagan) once said that “Government is not the solution; government is the problem.” Americans have seen these words come true in a self-fulfilling prophecy. The neo-cons have succeeded in derailing the government, and neo-liberal economics has given us a non-functioning economy. The rich, delighted to see the nation’s economy in a slump, are buying up all of the nation’s assets on the cheap . . . and paying for it with worthless currency and junk bonds . . . and, of course, credit — imaginary money with which they purchase real assets. This is all done with the acquiescence of a complacent American government. For the moneyed class, everything is going according to plan. But this economic feeding frenzy cannot continue indefinitely. In the end, this parasite kills its host.

The end of this insanity is near. This ‘New World Order’ is a far cry from the glib promises of the free traders. Americans have had enough: the politics of the neo-cons and ‘voodoo economics’ must go. Americans are calling for a return to responsible governance, in the interests of the people, not a corporate state totally subservient to special interests.

A CALL FOR REFORM: A SCRIPTURAL BASIS FOR ECONOMIC AND POLITICAL REFORM

 
It is clear that the ‘social contract’ has broken down. Many feel that there is no hope of a solution to our problems within the political system. It’s time we as a nation admitted that we have lost our way, and turn to a higher power for wisdom and guidance. There is no shame in admitting that we need guidance from above, for those who believe in God. America’s current problems are bigger than we can solve on our own — democracy has been subverted and government has been suborned by clever and determined, evil people. And for those who do not believe in God, there should be no argument if the logic is sound. Let Scripture and Reason be our guide then. In Scripture, social justice is a central theme; man serves God through his relationship to his fellow man. Through the prophets of old — followed by centuries of teachings by the Christian church — God has given His children guidelines for the establishment of a just society, with economic justice and opportunity for all being paramount. The rugged individualism, selfishness, and greed prevalent in America today is at odds with Biblical teachings. God teaches us to “love thy neighbor as thyself”. He teaches that we are, indeed, our brothers’ keeper (not his slave master.) He teaches us to structure human society as a ‘commonwealth’ where all share equitably in the abundance produced by a vibrant economy.

If we were to use the regulatory power of government to address the underlying problem (the shortcomings of the so-called free market system) then a number of problems which result from economic inequality and lack of economic opportunity would disappear or be greatly reduced: housing issues, health care issues, crime, poverty, hunger, etc. If we embraced the concept of a living wage we would not need the massive food stamp program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, nor would we need HUD and government housing assistance programs. In all likelihood we would not need the hundreds of new prisons being built to house the nation’s growing ranks of criminals, many of whom turn to crime only as a last resort, when they are denied opportunity to participate in the economic life of the nation. Instead of a number of huge government programs we should instead address the underlying problem — the shortcomings of the so-called free market system as a mechanism for distribution of wealth in a distorted, inherently unjust, and shrinking economy. This would indeed be reinventing government: to address crucially important social issues and solve them through the adoption of critical policy changes based on fundamentally sound principles.

A military thinker would say that we cannot hope to win a war until we have come to recognize the enemy. Before we can ever solve the problem of equitable distribution of wealth, before we can reap the social benefits from maximizing opportunities for all, we have to recognize the underlying problem. In other words, we must learn to recognize the enemy. This is especially challenging — for, to quote the comic character Pogo, “we have met the enemy, and he is us.” The real enemy here is us. We are to blame . . . for our apathy, for demanding so little from our elected representatives (and for our willingness to settle for even less), for tolerating shameful special interest and self interest legislation from Congress at the instigation of the White House, for our intellectual laziness in not looking deeper into the issues, for not seeing beyond the lies and obfuscation of career politicians, for our not searching rigorously for answers. We have no one to blame but ourselves.

There are a number of issues which need to be addressed. Like the threat of nuclear annihilation, environmental catastrophe, diminishing resources, and economic collapse, each and all of these issues poses serious threats to human society and even life on earth.

OVERPOPULATION AND THE LIMITS TO GROWTH

There are limits to growth, and mankind has reached the limits. Put quite simply, we have exceeded the carrying capacity of the planet. While religious fanatics (and Monsanto’s GMO advocates) might argue that we can feed the teeming masses through advances in food science, such claims are specious; already the disastrous effects of ‘playing God’ with genetically reprogrammed plants and animals are being seen everywhere. Sad to say, America is the guilty party here: The Commerce Department and the State Department actively promote Monsanto’s ‘seeds of death’ (genetically modified organisms) in third-world countries, where grave consequences, both agricultural and social, result from use of GMO seeds and the reliance on petrochemicals. The damage to the environment from herbicides and pesticides, as well as monocrop agriculture, are incalculable. If man is to survive, he has to learn to live in balance with nature, for man is part of nature and cannot live apart from nature. What is needed is a sound, rational approach to the problem of overpopulation.

Overpopulation is a crucially important issue, which must be addressed even if we are able to stave off the more immediate threat from imminent ecological catastrophe. In the long run we need to reduce the world’s population by a large measure, and put policies and programs in place to maintain that level. It is not simply that millions of people will starve; the pressures brought to bear from overpopulation are and will forever be the cause of much resentment, struggle, bloodshed and human suffering.

Population control will be a contentious issue. Perhaps more than any other issue, measures taken to stop the unchecked growth of the human population will result in widespread discontent and violent opposition. For a variety of reasons — religious teachings, tradition, ignorance, to name only three — there will be groups that adamantly refuse to comply with laws limiting the number of children a family may have. As an example of the sort of resistance that responsible measures will encounter, one need look no further than the issue of birth control. Today state and federal health care programs are hampered by the determined efforts of (some) health care practitioners who insist on the right to ‘vote their conscience’ and refuse to participate in programs that promote contraception. Logic tells us that readily available contraception should greatly reduce the number of abortions . . . but opponents of contraception (who generally are also opposed to abortion) seem to be immune to logic.

It’s simple — either we limit population growth and learn to live in balance with nature . . . or we all die a miserable death after unimaginable suffering. Is this the legacy we want to leave our children? Those of a religious persuasion should consider that destruction of the earth through unchecked population growth demonstrates poor stewardship of God’s creation. Surely this must offend God as much as the abomination of women killing their offspring.

What we will see is increasing competition for the dwindling resources of a dying planet. This competition for increasingly scarce resources will lead inevitably to war. Sadly, war is an effective way of reducing the human population.

While it is possible to order human society in such a way that man can live in balance with nature, it will take a new way of thinking, for Americans, at least (much of the world is way ahead of this country in this regard.) American’s attitudes — and especially American politics — will have to undergo radical change before we as a nation learn to live in balance with nature and embrace sustainable economics.

SUSTAINABLE ECONOMICS VERSUS THE CONSUMPTION-BASED ECONOMY

Economic growth is essential to the functioning of a consumer economy. Yet we must always remember that there are limits to growth. There is an inherent conflict between sustainable economics and a consumption-based economy. As we learn to live in accordance with scriptural principles — live simpler less acquisitive lifestyles, shun conspicuous consumption, recycle to conserve both resources and energy, end economic exploitation, discourage non-productive economic activities, and demand social and environmental responsibility from business and government — the economic system will break down. Our consumption-based economy, mired in debt as it is, requires continual growth in consumption and spending, if only to pay the interest on the mounting debt. By taking measures to avoid ecological catastrophe for the planet, for example, we could be setting the stage for an economic meltdown.

Due to automation, globalization, and reduced consumption, the problems will only get worse. As we conserve, the economy will shrink; a consumption based economy requires constant growth or it falters. The old economic models just won’t work anymore.

If the human race is to survive, we need to embrace sustainable economics. As the largest market economy on earth, America will play a central role (for better or for worse) in the coming conflict. If we are to meet the challenge, the American government will have to reject ‘voodoo economics’, and embrace instead sound economic principles. It is hard to imagine the government — at least the American government as we know it today — moving in the right direction. For this reason, it would appear that ‘reinventing government’ really will be necessary.

AN OVERPRODUCTIVE ECONOMY

What some have called the ‘second industrial revolution’ has created widespread economic growth, but at a high social cost. Everywhere in the world today, we see economic systems distorted by massive unemployment, with no end in sight. The fact is, there simply aren’t enough jobs to go around. In the industrialized world today we have could be called an “overproductive” economy, which is defined as an economy wherein the needs of the many are met by the labors of the few. The first problem today is finding meaningful work for everyman. The second problem is providing equitable pay for men’s labor in the face of the forces at work to keep the workers in ‘wage slavery’, bound in their service to the non-productive investor class.

Conceptually, the formula for a free-market economy is elegantly simple: the collective activities of everyone providing goods and services for one another does exactly that — provides all the goods and services that society requires. When the economic system fails to provide meaningful, productive work for everyone, society as a whole suffers the loss, for all of society is enriched by the contribution of everyone else, and all of society bears the cost of supporting those denied an opportunity to participate in the economic life of the nation. When the so-called free market economy matures, the idea of employment in exchange for wages breaks down as the basis for the distribution of wealth. For what is left for men to do when everything is done by machines?

While Scripture tells us that it is sinful and shameful to profit from others’ loss and suffering, capitalism enables the investor class to reap handsome profits from the loss and suffering of everyone else. Automation displaces workers, leading to increased profits for the factory owners — productivity gains which inure only to the rich, and never to the workers.

This could be the single most pressing issue we will face, as a society. Depending upon the choices we make, possible outcomes include a never-ending depression and widespread human suffering, or the government mandated make-work of a totalitarian society. The alternative that many future-thinkers are betting on is a gradual transition to a so-called service economy where everyone basically performs services for others. People utilizing services is analogous to people consuming goods. But so far, this idea has not lived up to expectations. Statistics show that new service sector jobs are among the lowest paying jobs, and this is actually contributing to the growing disparity in distribution of wealth in America. New service sector job creation is far outstripped by the loss of higher-paying manufacturing jobs to outsourcing.

The world today, led by the industrialized nations, is in the midst of sweeping change. It will take radical thinking to design an economic system that will work for all people (and not just a few) in the new global economy.

THE FREE MARKET MYTH

Perhaps the biggest mistake we make is in our willingness to buy into a popular and pernicious myth — a myth perpetuated by those who wish to keep the populace in the dark about the deliberate manipulation of the economy by a predacious elite. Americans doggedly cling to a fable which distorts their perception of reality, making it difficult to grasp the true nature of the economic problems we face. Americans are true believers in an imaginary construct, blindly adhering to belief in a mythical concept created by economists as a convenient way of concealing the truth, that being that the economy is poorly understood and that the dismal science is more black art than science. The fable that deludes us is the myth of the so-called free market.

In reality there is no free market. The free market — like Santa Clause, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy — is only imaginary. All markets are regulated, manipulated, dominated, rigged or controlled. The hypothetical free market would be a level playing field, open to all, which encouraged competition. While our political leaders pay lip service to competition, in reality their loyalty is to big business (which abhors competition), for big business is the source of the money that is their political lifeline. In a classic example of government doublespeak, the administration defines the free market as a market FREE OF REGULATION: a market free of regulation, free of controls, free of oversight, free of accountability, and most importantly, free of the checks and balances — the influence of the so-called ‘invisible hand’ that classical economic theories say keep the market in balance. The administration’s idea of the free market is one where businesses large and small are free to lie, cheat, and steal with impunity — a deregulated market in a world where national governments are reduced to powerlessness through irrevocable trade treaties.

The myth of a free market so distorts our view of reality that we are willing to regard economic paroxysms that seriously impact the economic life of the nation as natural events — unforeseeable, poorly understood, unstoppable, the inexorable ‘business cycle’ — when in reality the economic insecurity, the loss, pain, and suffering of so many, are resultant of the well-orchestrated schemes of those charged with the responsibility of managing the nation’s economy.

That the myth of the free market is a clever ruse to keep the people in the dark while allowing the financial manipulators to plunder the economic system has been indisputably proven by the events witnessed in the financial crisis of 2008. Greed, speculation, and the mismanagement of a deregulated banking system has resulted in the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. A world-wide economic meltdown bringing unprecedented human suffering is the forecast. In an effort to stem the tide of bank failures, foreclosures, and business closings, the U.S. government has enacted sweeping emergency measures and spent well over a trillion dollars (so far) on idiotic economic stimulus programs and shameful bail-outs. (Other nations have followed suit.) ‘Trickle-down economics’, as espoused by the neo-cons and an alarming number of economics (alarming because it is all utter nonsense) has destroyed what once was the world’s greatest economy in such a short time.

Giving vast sums of money to banks to make loans to a nation of unemployed men and women is inane. All that happens is the bankers steal more money from the public coffers, build bigger houses, and buy fancy yachts with their newfound wealth. It is impossible to ‘kick-start’ the economy from the top. To stimulate the economy, the money must be injected at the bottom of the economy in the form of massive public works and employment programs. The workers will then spend their wages on goods and services (there is rarely any left over for them to invest in stocks and bonds) and this greases the wheels of the economic system. This could be called ‘ripple up’ economics. History proves that it works. This is the real-world answer to the nonsensical economic theories of the neo-cons. FDR’s New Deal proved that economic stimulus programs work when done right; the recent (and ongoing) economic problems prove that trickle-down economics does not work. Popular economic theories are nonsense; the nation needs to embrace sound, time-proven economic principles if we are to get the nation’s economy back on track.

What we are seeing today is a crisis of free-market economic theory. The U.S. government’s bail-out of the financial sector amounts to throwing trillions of dollars of good money after bad. Every conceivable approach to dealing with the nation’s (and now the world’s) economic collapse had been considered, or so we are told. It is important to note that the one approach which was NOT tried — was not even seriously considered — was a ‘free market’ solution to the recent financial crisis. One or two iconoclast economists, crying out like a voice in the wilderness, have called for a true free market approach to the problem, pointing out that in a free market the government would let insolvent and poorly managed businesses (even banks) fall by the wayside. After all, nowadays accounts are protected by federal deposit insurance, so when banks fail depositors stand to lose nothing of what little savings they have left (the nation’s saving rate is close to zero.) Moreover, banks have only a limited role in the modern financial system, serving primarily as remarketers of global financial services and consumer credit. The truth is, nowadays banks’ service is so bad and the fees so outrageous that a growing number of Americans choose not to use banks at all, instead cashing their checks at WalMart and making all purchases with ‘plastic’. Increasingly, people have sought out alternatives to traditional banks. Taking the reality of the new economic order into account, free-market economic theory holds that the government should let the banks fail; we would probably be better off without them anyway. (Many feel that the nation would be better off without the so-called ‘financial sector’ in general . . . .) If there is a role for banks in the new economy, new and better managed banks will emerge to serve the needs of the people.

Instead of adhering to free market principles, the U.S. government has given away hundreds of billions of dollars of taxpayers’ money, while demanding nothing in return, even going so far as to deny the citizens an accounting of where the money has gone. The end result is to further enrich the criminals who destroyed the financial system in the first place. The complicity of government in the financial crisis and the ineffectual attempts to deal with it could even lead to collapse of the government, sweeping reform in Washington, and the creation of a new financial system based on a different economic model. (Or should, anyway.)

The myth of the free market is a pernicious myth that serves the moneyed class well in its exploitation of America’s working men and women. Under this arrangement, financial managers (and the politicians who are beholden to them) live lives of luxury at the expense of working men and women who are constantly being exploited and cheated — cheated out of their retirement benefits, cheated out of their savings, cheated out of their homes . . . not to mention being cheated out of just wages and a fair share of the nation;s economic growth. The government, quite naturally not wanting to be held accountable for the nation’s economic woes while at the same time wanting to conceal it’s own complicity, promotes the free-market myth through never-ending propaganda. Widespread belief in this mythical construct absolves our elected representatives of any responsibility for the nation’s economic problems and allows a veritable horde of white-collar criminals to evade accountability for their misdeeds.

My favorite quote is an admission by economist William F. Samuelson, who admitted in his column in the Washington Post Newspaper that “we really don’t understand how the economy works.” This fact never stopped him from expounding upon the supremacy of the free market. My second-favorite quote is from his son, Robert J. Samuelson, who observed in HIS Washington Post newspaper column that “productivity gains tend to benefit the rich to a greater degree than the poor, but nobody knows why”. This is simply not true. For while productivity gains certainly do benefit the rich more than the poor, everybody knows why — everyone except economists, apparently. As any six-year old could tell him, if you lay off all the factory workers and replace them with robots, the unemployed factory workers will have less money and the factory owners will make more profits. (Both Samuelsons are Harvard economists.)

By definition, the free market is based on competition. Instead of a free market and free enterprise, economic monopolism is the name of the game, with vertical integration and consolidations leaving almost no real competition. One example alone is telling: over the past few years Nabisco has acquired, then shut down, over five hundred competitors!

In America today the only competition we see is for the low-paying jobs at Wal-Mart where tens of thousands of desperate men and women line up for job interviews when a new store opens. But is there any real competition in health care? No, there are instead never-ending consolidations which eliminate competition and increase the cost of health care. Is there competition in the cable industry? How many choices of cable providers do Americans have? (One.) In media ownership? Multi-national media conglomerates own, and control, virtually all major newspapers, magazines, and broadcast media. One company owns over 5,000 radio stations, and plays the same insipid fare over all the stations simultaneously. Is there competition in agriculture? Christopher Cook’s “DIET FOR A DEAD PLANET” explains how the multi-national corporations that dominate agribusiness — from the corporate farms to the supermarket shelves — control the food chain, forcing the consumer to pay ever higher prices for food while farmers and agricultural workers receive ever diminishing returns on their labors. By dominating the market, the agribusiness conglomerates are able to reap huge profits, enriching middlemen and speculators who contribute nothing to the production or distribution of the food we eat. These are just a few examples.

Economic monopolism resultant of mergers, acquisitions, and leveraged buy-outs leads to a market that is dominated. Junk bonds and the machinations of Milken, Boesky, Levine, et. al. lead to a market that is manipulated. FCC policies that permit massive consolidations in the broadcast industry and print media lead to a market that is controlled. And deregulation results in a rigged game. Newcomers are not welcome; the good old boys divvy up the pot. Competition is effectively stifled. This is anything but a free market.

In reality the market is totally dominated by big business. The market is dominated, if not controlled. Some markets are regulated (for better or worse). In too many instances markets are rigged. We hear of endless examples of markets being manipulated. But if there is one thing that modern day markets are not, that is free. Sweeping political reform is needed if we are to make free enterprise work based on the concept of a free market.

As Harvard economist emeritus John Kenneth Galbraith points out in “THE NEW INDUSTRIAL STATE”, consolidation of wealth in the hands of the few — be it the government, as seen in state capitalism (communism), or the privileged class, as seen in corporate capitalism — always leads to a lack of economic opportunity, denying the individual a chance to realize his full potential. (2) All that the individual has to contribute to the intellectual and economic wellbeing of society is lost. Conservative politics embraces neo-liberal economics — speculation, avarice, greed, exploitation, profit-taking, capital flight — all of which undermines the economic vitality of the nation. This is exactly the situation America is facing today.

The simple truth is, every facet of Reaganomics is false, and everything the Republicans have told you is are lies. Greed is not good; trees do not cause pollution; and ketchup is not a vegetable.

The administration’s economic policies are based on falsehood and fable. Some in Washington may realize the truth. But it is time to face reality, and discard outworn economic theories that take advantage of people’s blind faith in the so-called free market. Don’t think for a minute that politicians aren’t aware of who are the winners and who are the losers under the government’s policies of the past several decades. Maybe the Washington Post’s economic gurus don’t know how the economy works, or why the rich are getting richer while the poor are getting poorer . . . but the puppeteers pulling our political leaders’ strings know exactly what they are doing. The man on the street knows he is getting the shaft.

CLASS WARFARE: LIMITING ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY, A FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPLE OF CONSERVATISM

The history of the human race is a history of class struggle, wherein a privileged ruling class oppresses their fellow men through the institutions of government (and, sadly, oft times religion.). Claiming higher moral authority, relying on specious arguments, resorting to the use of force, even genocide . . . all of these tactics have been employed by oppressors to exploit their fellow man throughout history. This class struggle continues to this day.

The neoconservative movement is nothing less than cleverly disguised class warfare: the depredation of the ruling elites — an army of financial manipulators and con artists shamelessly exploiting the honest working men and women of this nation. Where the historical Democrats (now extinct) launched a War on Poverty, the Republicans have declared War on the Middle Class, and have, in a rout, effectively wiped out the middle class in America.

America has traditionally been a land of opportunity, fertile ground for new business development. As we approach the limits to growth and the end to an ever-expanding economy, however, the moneyed class has become even more entrenched in its hostility to new business development. Efforts to promote and develop new businesses are bitterly opposed by conservatives; indeed, limiting new business opportunities is an underlying premise of conservatism. Programs and policies which support and encourage new business development are seen as a very real threat. An upwardly-mobile middle class is seen as a threat to the privileged class, for there is only so much room at the top. Nothing could be more threatening to the moneyed class than programs which encourage new business development and competition, for competition undermines all the unfair advantage they have gained through consolidations. This is the reason for conservatives’ traditional animosity to the many successful programs of the Small Business Administration. Any claim that they are just concerned about saving money is fatuous, for the SBA’s government-insured loan program is the only government program that actually pays for itself. Conservatives should find great relief in recent statistics that show the gap between the upper-income strata and the rest of America is at an all-time high. No group is as insecure, as pathological, or as protective of its entitlements as the wealthy.

Not surprisingly, recent studies have shown that the rich actually see the perquisites of wealth as entitlements. The rich sincerely believe that they deserve to live like kings while everyone else suffers because they are, well, better than the rest of us — more deserving (in their own eyes, at least.) (3)

Thus the privileged class will naturally, and always, resist progress and the overall improvement of the human condition. This is why they are referred to as ‘conservatives’. They most definitely do not want change; social justice and economic progress is seen as the greatest threat to their privileged existence.

Those who want to make the world a better place will always find themselves opposed by conservatives — those who want to keep things just as they are. Thus real progress can only come out of conflict with the ruling class. Real progress can only come from sweeping political change, else revolution.

A LIVABLE WAGE AND FULL EMPLOYMENT: TWO PILLARS OF SOCIAL JUSTICE

Full employment and a living wage are central to a Scriptural economic program. An honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work should be the cornerstone of a legislative program to restore fairness to the employee-employer relationship. A living wage is, after all, the most fundamental of human rights.

If everyone were paid a living wage, and everyone had a job, and the free enterprise system were allowed to flourish — if we were to base the new social contract on Scriptural guidelines, in other words — there would be little need for many of the government assistance programs that we see in America today, such as food stamps, unemployment benefits, and housing assistance. Government assistance programs are attempts to right the wrongs of a fundamentally flawed economic system after-the-fact, a wrong-headed approach. Far simpler would it be to address the underlying cause of the problem through good governance and responsible regulation of the economy. A living wage must be the first order of business for those who would right the wrongs of Reaganomics.

Full employment is absolutely necessary, even if it means the government becoming the employer of last resort. Massive public works creates jobs, which leads to increased spending, reviving the private sector of the economy while increasing tax revenues and reducing the welfare burden. As we have seen, spending on public works is the only way to kick-start the economy. To be effective, stimulus spending must be injected into the economy at the bottom of the economy in the form of wages paid directly to workers (think of FDR’s New Deal and the WPA.) But of late the concept of economic stimulus has been distorted by the ideas of those who embrace discredited neo-liberal economic theories. Vast sums of (taxpayers’) money were given to bankers, in the hope that the banks would in turn make loans to consumers . . . which would lead to consumer spending, stimulating the economy while simultaneously resulting in profits for the struggling banking industry. This is idiotic. You cannot borrow your way out of debt. How are the unemployed or those working for minimum wage and barely able to feed their families going to qualify for credit? How could borrowers repay the loans out of their subsistence wages? The result (which should have surprised no one) is the bankers took the money and gave it to themselves in the form of salaries and bonuses, or used it for financial speculation (thereby raising the cost of living for everyone.) This lunacy has resulted in a massive transfer of the nation’s wealth into the hands of the rich, and has done absolutely nothing for the poor, nor has it done much to stimulate the economy. Taxpayers are stuck with a the bill, and have got nothing in return but an increase in the national debt, a staggering debt burden which we will bequeath to our children (and grandchildren . . . .) Such misguided stimulus programs are of no benefit to the country whatsoever.

There are a number of things that we can do differently. Trust-busting would be first, of course — break up the conglomerates and cartels that have the economy in a strangle-hold. To limit further abuses by the moneyed class and undue influence in politics, it might be a good idea to restrict the size of the businesses that can bid for public works projects in the hope that such restrictions would foster small business development and growth. Small businesses are far more efficient than bloated corporations with layer upon layer of over paid management and their lackeys, such as lawyers, accounts, lobbyists, and corrupt politicians (on or off the payroll). Another step in the right direction might be to give preferential treatment to employee-owned firms. Restrictions against foreign-owned firms and ‘multi-national’ corporations would protect the American market from exploitation by monopoly capitalists, foreigners, and multi-state players. And it goes without saying that America should not do business with communists or state-owned firms (not if we advocate free-market economics, anyway.) It is shameful that virtually all of America’s manufacturers now rely on joint-ventures with state-owned businesses in communist China and southeast Asia.

As we shall see, any such measures will be bitterly opposed by conservatives. For they have made a pact with the devil, and their continued positions of wealth and privilege depend upon the maintenance of the status quo.

RESPONSIBLE TAX POLICY — DISINCENTIVES TO SPECULATION & ECONOMIC PARASITISM

Responsible tax policy is central to sound national economic policy. Everyone can now see the damage done by the continual tax breaks for the rich which has been a cornerstone of neo-conservative politics: soaring deficits, decaying infrastructure, the shut-down of critical government services. But even more important than the question of tax rates and brackets is the need to differentiate between honest (earned) income and money earned from speculation. Financial speculation is economic parasitism, enriching those who contribute nothing to society at the expense of everyone else. Speculation and economic monopolism are the greatest of social evils, impoverishing whole nations.

Unfortunately for America, nowadays financial speculation and economic parasitism are regarded as (or at least presented as) sound economic policy and honest business practices instead of the selfish, anti-social, and criminal activities that they really are. The lie, “greed is good”, was taken as Gospel by the neo-cons. Sadly, these ‘true believers’ have infected much of the nation — apparently all of America’s business leaders — with such malignant thought. Productive work is scorned while non-productive endeavor (and the wealth it all too often brings with it) are glorified.

If we are to get America’s economy back on track and restore a sense of fairness and integrity to America, we need to reverse the shameful trend of tax breaks for the rich which has been the cornerstone of conservative politics for decades. The damage to the nation from the tax policies of the neo-cons is incalculable. Generations of Americans will struggle to dig themselves out from under the debt load bestowed upon the nation by government out of control.

The solution is simple: a punitively high tax rate on speculation. Before the misguided economic policies that have plagued the nation of late, the high tax rates were levied on capitol gains, gambling income, and various forms of speculation kept the economy in balance. Sound banking regulations borne of earlier economic crises left the economy relatively safe from financial manipulation. High tax rates for the rich — at least for honest earned income — are probably not necessary, or should be necessary for only a limited time. But the government’s recent lowering of the tax rate on income from speculation (capital gains) is truly evil. To be blunt, scriptural economics would be the exact opposite of the economic policies, especially tax policies, of the U.S. government since Reagan and Bush.

An analysis of economic disparity in America reveals that (and I paraphrase):

* America is close to having the most unequal distribution of wealth of the major nations of the world (excepting only Russia, Ukraine, and Lebanon.)

* Economic gain and wealth accumulation in America has been rigged for the rich, rewarding financial speculation while holding honest wages flat.

The richest one fifth of Americans owns 93% of non-home wealth. For Americans with incomes over $10 million, nearly half of their income comes from capital gains and dividends, on most of which they pay only a 15% tax — a rate LOWER than most AMericans pay for honest (earned) income.

From 2002 to 2007, two-thirds (67%) of all income went to the richest 1%. Then, in the first year after the recession, a startling 93% of all new income went to the richest 1%.

Massive wealth holdings have accumulated for the richest Americans not only because of the growth of their income, but also because of their manipulation of the tax code. Wealth accumulated from speculation (capital gains) is taxed at only 15%, half of the tax rate paid by honest working men and women. Other ploys include carried interest deductions, performance-related pay, stock options, and deferred compensation.

The imaginary ‘work’ of financial gain — speculation — gets taxed at a much lower rate than real work. Through the years, as the rich have fattened up on stocks and other financial assets, the stock market has grown three times faster than the GDP . . . yet American workers have not benefited from their own productivity. Their wages have flatlined while the fruits of their labor have gone to investors.

* The rising stock market is a *BAD* thing, not (as the mainstream media would have us believe) a sign of economic productivity or the health of the economy . . . and certainly not good for the working men and women of America.

Like the rise in home prices, the rise in the stock market benefits only the rich. In other words, rising stock prices make paper fortunes (which are converted to real assets) for the rich, while making stocks too expensive for the working man to acquire. When speculators drive the price of real estate through the roof, the American worker can’t afford to buy a home. (So he rents . . . which puts more of his hard-earned wages into the pockets of the wealthy investor class.)

* Low tax rates leave government under-funded; deficit-spending benefits the rich.

When tax revenues are inadequate to cover budgetary expenditure, government borrows from the rich to pay its bills (in bygone days government also borrowed from the poor, as when workers bought Savings Bonds to pay for the war effort.) This indebtedness earns interest for the lenders; the fact that fiscal shortages can be a money-maker for the wealthy acts as a real disincentive (to the rich) to raise tax rates, because they see vast profits in revenue shortfalls. Interest now accounts for a staggering $220 billion, or 6% of the federal budget. (4)

Government spending is necessary to stimulate the economy and create jobs as well as provide public services; thus inadequate tax revenues and the resultant deficit spending are very appealing to the wealthy.

One proposal for tax reform that is actually sound, economically, might be to enact a financial transaction tax much like a sales tax. This flat fee would be required of all financial transactions. In this way the never-ending paper exchanges which contribute nothing to the economy but provide opportunities for manipulation and financial speculation, enriching the financial managers and brokers behind the trades, would at least be taxed. All sales and purchases of securities, all loans, all financial transactions of any type should be taxed. Since the numbers are huge, even a low tax rate would yield significant revenue. Furthermore, a transaction tax would discourage speculation such as program trading and ‘gambling’ on stocks and bonds, ‘flipping’ properties and other forms of non-productive economic activity. This would help stabilize today’s dangerously unbalanced economy and America’s teetering financial market. Combined with a return to traditional levels of taxation on capital gains, this would encourage long-term investment and discourage speculation, restoring order and stability to an economic system ravaged by speculative fervor.

Another proposed change to U.S. tax policy that would vastly improve the outlook for the future would be to eliminate the upper income limit on Social Security Tax withholding (presently set at $113,500.) Present tax policy puts the burden for funding the nation’s social security safety net on the backs of the poor — an onerous burden. This is fundamentally unfair. Social Security withholding should be based on all of a person’s income.

In accordance with Keynesian economic doctrine, spending is the stimulus that if done right creates jobs and gets the economy back on track. Giving stimulus money to corporations and banks to loan to the unemployed masses is NOT doing it right; massive public works that puts a paycheck in the hands of the working man is doing it right. To spend without incurring further debt, (and we all hate debt) revenues have to be raised from taxes. Taxing the rich — who have been taking advantage of unfair tax breaks for decades now to amass their fortunes — is the only way to raise money to stimulate the economy. You can’t raise revenues by taxing the poor; everyone knows you can’t get blood from a turnip, as they say. Besides, if the government were to confiscate half of all the wealth amassed by the rich, the top 1% would still have half of everything. This is more than their fair share. Divided among the members of this small subgroup, this would still leave the upper strata very well off — a lot better off than they deserve to be.

Expect the investor class to fight tooth-and-nail to resist restoring appropriate tax rates and sound tax policies.

PERPETUAL WAR TO STIMULATE THE ECONOMY & USE UP EXCESS PRODUCTIVITY

For decades, America has been mired in pointless wars which have literally bankrupted the nation and turned much of the world into our bitter enemies . . . this in addition to the abhorrent secret wars where we opposed and undermined democratic movements across the globe and supported military juntas, dictators, and right-wing death squads responsible for unspeakable crimes against humanity. The situation is so bad today that not even our friends and allies support us. The outcome of this military adventurism is questionable, from a military standpoint at least, for we have not ‘won’ any of these wars (including the so-called ‘war on drugs’.) We have destroyed countless lives, squandered the wealth of the nation, and sacrificed untold thousands of idealistic young Americans . . . for naught.

In his classic study of totalitarianism, “1984”, George Orwell posits that the solution to the problem of an overproductive economy is perpetual war. The concept of perpetual war must be regarded as a distinct possibility — whether intended by our political leaders or not. We have learned that the death and destruction wrought by war produces vast profits for the moneyed class and the defense contractors (what former president Eisenhower labeled the “military-industrial complex”). Moreover, the destruction wrought by war creates vast employment opportunities for reconstruction. War also plays an important role in social control — it keeps angry young men with little hope of meaningful employment and a bleak future off the streets and safe from the influence of those who would incite them to revolution. American exceptionalism and military adventurism, the threat from terrorism (both real and imagined), increasing strident religious fanaticism, the rise of Zionism, the ruinous consequences of overpopulation, environmental degradation, untrammeled growth, tribalism in Africa, and the collapse of the western world’s economic system are all factors that could lead to a perpetual state of war in mankind’s future.

It is painfully clear that the justification for these never-ending military adventures has been lies and falsehood, duplicitous foreign policy, and corporate greed. The rich reap huge profits from these foreign wars. The working class pays the bills. The rich don’t sacrifice their children on the battlefields of distant lands. The real winners of America’s recent wars has been the moneyed class. And who have been the losers? Virtually everyone else.

Can it be said that America’s strident militarism and endless wars has made us (or the world) any safer? We have blanketed the earth with fire and brimstone, saturated the forests of Indonesia and the mountain slopes of the Andes with powerful poisons, used biological weapons across Asia, and left a legacy of environmental destruction and human suffering unimaginable in scope. In doing so, we incur God’s wrath, for through the prophets He has said, “I will destroy those who destroy the earth.” Man is entrusted with stewardship of God’s creation, but America has led the world in desecrating His handiwork. America’s sins against God’s creation are surpassed only by this nation’s crimes against humanity.

War is highly lucrative for war profiteers and the investor class; it also provides innumerable jobs for the working class. Thus it is difficult to speak out in opposition to militarization and the war industry. In short, war is good for business. There many who dream of perpetual war; indeed, many in America’s moneyed class are banking on it.

OUR CHILDREN’S HERITAGE . . . A LEGACY OF DEBT

There isn’t space here to examine this issue in depth, but many have noted the similarities between the American economy since Reagan and a confidence game, a type of fraud known as a “Ponzi scheme”. The privileged class has profited handsomely from the administration’s “borrow and spend” doctrine which has bankrupted the nation, turning the world’s richest nation into the world’s largest debtor nation in only a few years. Massive government spending, pandering to big business and special interest groups, financed by borrowing against the future, has left our children and grandchildren a legacy of debt. This ‘borrow and spend’ doctrine is perhaps the most dishonest — and certainly one of the most damaging — examples of political chicanery. America’s political parties share the blame, for this form of pandering is popular with politicians of every stripe because it enables them to deliver more to voters today by charging the bill to future generations who are unable to object. Nothing could be more unfair to America’s children than to be burdened with massive debt because of the excesses and abuses of this generation’s government. We are literally enslaving future generations to pay for the profiteering of a generation of white-collar criminals and corrupt politicians.

The formula is simple: raise taxes on the rich, build a strong productive economy, and pay down the national debt, freeing the nation from debt peonage. We owe our children nothing less than responsible regulation of the economy and a debt-free future.

DECENTRALIZING THE NATIONAL GOVERNMENT

“America has the best government that money can buy.” — John D. Rockefeller (5)

After watching the shameful — and embarrassing — spectacle of Congressional gridlock and government meltdown resultant of asinine ideological squabbling, the vast majority of Americans have come to regard their government as deserving of nothing but scorn. Polls show that Americans have the lowest opinion of their government in history. Lawyers and used-car salesmen are held in higher esteem than Congress. In one recent poll, Americans rated Congress lower than witches, zombies, hemorrhoids, and dog poop. (6) Let’s face it, it’s pretty hard to get any lower than lawyers and dog poop (metaphorically speaking.)
 
The reality is Americans are fed up with what they see as a corrupt and inept government that is subservient to big business and that does not have the peoples’ best interests at heart. In light of this and the peoples’ other concerns — the current state of the American economy, a total lack of leadership from the nation’s capitol, the likelihood of impending social chaos, the moral degeneration especially in America’s cities, and the threat of Islamic Jihad (of which we have only recently gotten the first taste), reinventing government might not be such a bad idea after all.

One concept that is worth examining is the idea of decentralizing the national government. A decentralized national government might represent the best way to restore the people’s faith in the federal government. It is an approach that might actually work; continuing business as usual clearly will not.

A decentralized national government makes sense from the standpoint of national security. By linking a number of regional government centers with video teleconferencing and secure communications, and by enacting policies that increase local self-reliance, we could improve security by eliminating any single point of failure. Decentralizing the national government would serve as a safeguard against natural disaster while denying terrorists an attractive target, Washington, symbolic of the hated Western world. There would never be occasion for all of Congress to meet together in one place. This would make it all but impossible to disrupt the functioning of government in America by even the most determined and well-organized terrorist groups.

Not only would a decentralized national government be a more secure government, it would be a more democratic government, better serving the needs of all Americans. For years the government has been dominated by east coast intellectual elites, from Wall Street bankers to the Council on Foreign Relations. Many Americans, especially those from the Southern and Western states, complain that they are to a large degree excluded from participation in the decision-making process and inner workings of government. Too many Americans feel that the distant capital of Washington D.C. serves the interests of the beltway bandits and east coast intellectuals more than it serves them. A decentralized national government would address this disparity and provide a more balanced representation of the American people.

A decentralized national government would be a better government (how could it be worse?) A decentralized national government would be a more democratic government. Decentralizing government would improve the functioning of our democratic system by allowing our elected representatives to work closer to home, closer to their families, and closer to their constituents. Coupled with election reform embodying true democratic principles (i.e. opening up the political system to all through a publicly funded electoral process that guarantees equal exposure to all candidates, with campaigning limited to the internet) regional government centers would enable our elected representatives to concentrate on their jobs instead of the next election, while being more accessible to their constituents. It should reduce the power and influence of big business and its ranks of lobbyists, for it will be more difficult for businesses to deploy their lobbyists at a number of diverse regional government centers. Equally important, limiting political campaigns to a publicly-funded internet-based system would reduce the need for our elected officials to pander to special interests. The result would be better government, in the national interest, in the interest of the American people.

Is decentralized government possible? It is. It is possible that our political leaders might take the practical step of decentralizing the national government, initially for contingent operations in an emergency. The transition to full-time decentralized government will probably take longer. If it does not happen sooner, it is certain to happen after terrorists strike Washington. Ideas along these lines are gaining currency with strategic thinkers.

And finally, we have as the underlying theme of Kamarck’s book the tired old cliche . . . .

MAKING GOVERNMENT OPERATE MORE LIKE A BUSINESS

“…somebody has to take governments’ place, and business seems to me to be a logical entity to do it.” – David Rockefeller (Newsweek International, February 1, 1999.)

“There is absolutely nothing to be said for government by a plutocracy, government by wealthy businessmen adept at making money . . . but with ideals which in their essence are merely those of so many glorified pawnbrokers . . . .”

  — Theodore Roosevelt (paraphrased)


“Making government operate more like a business” is another tired old cliche, straight from the propaganda mills of the Reagan White House. The simple truth is, government functions differently than business — they have different roles, different goals, and different ways of operating. The most fundamental difference lies in accountability. Government is accountable to the people of this nation (in theory anyway). Businesses are not. Businesses are accountable to no one except their investors. No one would pretend that big business in America has the slightest concern for the nation, a nation they have betrayed in a total sell-out to the communists in China, or for their customers, who they cheat at every opportunity, and least of all for the workers, who they flat-out despise. We have seen of late how bad business can be in the never-ending ethics scandals, corporate fraud, and financial mismanagement which have recently brought down some of the nation’s largest businesses and wiped out the savings of millions of honest hard-working men and women. We most definitely do not need to make government operate more like a business. Instead, we need to make government operate more like a government.

But what about the proposition, widely repeated by business executives, that a president with business experience will do a better job of managing the economy? History shows us that nothing could be further from the truth.

A study by a leading presidential historian shows that in fact just the opposite is true:

     Since Herbert Hoover’s 1928 election, the American people have voted out of office after a single term only three elected presidents: Hoover, Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush — all of whom were successful businessmen before they were president. And the only successful business-trained president who was reelected, George W. Bush, oversaw an economic collapse at the end of his second term.

     As measured in constant 2005 dollars . . . the four presidents with successful business careers had the four worst records in terms of gross domestic product performance. The only president since Hoover with business experience under whom the economy did well was the one who was unsuccessful in business: Harry Truman, whose haberdashery shop went bankrupt after two years.

     The startling bottom line is that the nation’s GDP has grown more than 45 times faster under presidents with little or no business experience than it has under presidents with successful business careers. And on average, when there has been a successful businessman in the Oval Office (so, Truman is excluded), GDP growth has been negligible. (7)

Yet in certain circles, it is fashionable to say that we need to make government operate more like a business. How would we do this? Move government offshore? Lay off all government workers and outsource government operations to India or China? Don’t laugh — there are more than a few who would love nothing more than the opportunity to fire all government workers, from air traffic controllers to railroad workers, and replace them with coolies. In a show of utter contempt for the American people, the IRS has even outsourced its help desk function to India (8)

The VA (Veterans Administration) which provides health care services for America’s veterans is a perfect example of the fallacy of making government operate more like a business . . . paying executives and managers huge bonuses while cutting employees’ wages and benefits. In 2012, the VA paid over $97 MILLION in bonuses to top managers, many of whom were guilty of scandalous — and in many cases, even criminal — mismanagement. Consider three examples from Veterans Hospitals in which tens of thousands of dollars in bonuses were paid to managers: (a) over 700 patients in the Buffalo NY VA Hospital were infected with hepatitis by the re-use of hypodermic syringes (the management covered up the affair), (b) three mental patients died while under the care (such that is was) of VA hospital staffers at an Atlanta GA VA hospital, and (c) at the Pittsburgh PA VA hospital management tried to cover up an outbreak of Legionnaire’s disease, admitting to the problem only after five patients who contracted the disease had died, and twenty-one more fell ill. As the Harvard study has shown, the worst managers typically get the biggest salaries, or, in this case, undeserved bonuses. (9)

America’s skyrocketing health care costs include 39% cost of administration (by private bureaucracies for profit — insurance companies and HMOs), triple what Canadians pay for health care administration (by government employees). Forty million American workers get no health care at all and the rest are unhappy with the health care they get . . . yet every Canadian gets health care for life. Americans hate their health care system while Canadians love theirs. What do we use to measure performance here? Corporate profits? Health care administrator’s obscene salaries? Health care costs have risen to the point where America ranks dead last among the industrialized nations of the world in terms of health care cost as a percentage of GNP. By any measure Americans get the least for every health care dollar spent.

The high cost of health care, a real drain on the wealth of the nation, can be attributed to a large degree to the astronomical salaries paid to the monopoly capitalists who control the health care conglomerates (while the nurses who do the real work are paid substandard wages.) The two largest hospital chains pay their chief executives almost a billion dollars (that is correct, only two men’s annual salaries total nearly $1,000,000,000.00) for jobs that any average business school graduate could easily perform.

And look at the U.S. Postal Service. Since being privatized by the Reagan administration and turned into a so-called public-private partnership, service has not changed — service certainly has not improved, nor have postal rates gone down — yet the workers’ wages have been reduced to pay exorbitant (in some case $500,000) annual bonuses for management. This is reinventing government? It certainly is ‘making government operate more like a business’.

We have already seen that the American people are fed up with the lies of political operatives and propagandists who would lead us to believe that business can provide government functions and services as good as (or even better than, to hear them tell it) government. We have already seen the damage wrought from the proliferation of so-called public-private partnerships. We have seen the suffering caused by the neoconservatives’ crusade to privatize everything, enriching the wealthiest Americans at the expense of the rest of us. The neocons’ political strategy, ‘privatize the profits, socialize the risks’, while enriching a small group of Americans, has lead to the greatest disparity of income in history, not to mention the loss of accountability, poor services, exploitation of the workers, and higher costs to the taxpayers. This trend must be reversed.

We the people have witnessed American business’ total sell-out to totalitarian regimes, encouraged by the hypocrisy and lies of Congress as well as the White House. A growing number of Americans are questioning the cozy relationship between the Administration, Big Business, and the Communist Chinese, an unholy alliance that has bankrupted the American economy and devastated the middle class while enriching the upper class . . . while simultaneously financing the military expansion of the greatest potential threat freedom and democracy will ever face, communist China. There may have been a day when most Americans would have agreed with the glib statement, “What’s good for GM is good for America.” But not any more. The American people may be too trusting, too optimistic. But they are not fools. The American people see all too clearly who are the winners and who are the losers in the government’s failed policies.

The widespread examples of waste, fraud and abuse, poor performance, and the corruption of our law makers by business interests has turned the public against further experiments in outsourcing government functions. Americans have learned that it is a lie that private companies can perform government functions as well as, or even better than, career civil servants, and outsourcing always comes at a high cost, the real cost being down-played or even denied outright by the administration. Just add the cost of bloated corporate structure and obscene executive salaries to the social cost of unemployment and overworked and underpaid workers. It is clear that “private bureaucracy for profit” is not the panacea that politicians would have us believe.

Reinventing government is exactly what is needed. The American people are ready for change.

LOOKING FORWARD

What we as a nation need is not more anti-government political rhetoric. What we need is real leadership, by real leaders who are perceptive enough to recognize the root cause of social problems, who are not afraid to make some hard choices, and who have the best interests of the American people at heart.

While doubtful, Ms. Kamarck’s prediction that the federal government will shrink is not unimaginable. This could actually happen. Sweeping political reform and a new agenda could usher in revolutionary change. A livable wage coupled with programs to encourage entrepreneurism, responsible fiscal and tax policies, and fair trade (instead of free trade) will result in real economic progress. A reinvigorated American economy would eliminate the need for a number of federal bureaucracies while simultaneously solving the problems those programs address. A number of social problems would likely be alleviated at least somewhat, including reduced crime rates, accessible and affordable health care, and a universal retirement program that enabled all Americans to retire in dignity, not poverty. Adoption of this one fundamental principle — a livable wage — could be the beginning of a major overhaul of America’s political system and serve as the basis of true economic growth.

Real reform and a program based on a new social contract could actually result in the reduction of both size and scope of government in America. If this were to happen, then Ms. Kamarck’s view of a future where the huge federal buildings in Washington will be empty of bureaucrats — perhaps replaced by parks and movie theaters — could be prescient. But government will never disappear. If we’re going to talk about reinventing government, let’s get serious.

ELECTION REFORM

Our highest priority needs to be to sever the ties between money and power in America . . . .

(Coming in the next installment: the single most important issue we need to address as a nation — Election Reform.)

NOTES


(1) THE FINANCIAL SECTOR CONSUMED AMERICA’S ECONOMIC GROWTH

The short answer is that Wall Street, for the last thirty years or so, has been skimming prodigiously from the top. The graph above shows how the total economic cost of financial intermediation grew from under 2 percent in 1870 to nearly 6 percent before the stock market collapsed in 1929. It grew slowly throughout the postwar expansion, reaching 5 percent in 1980. Then, beginning during the deregulatory years of the Reagan administration, the money flowing to

The ‘Financial Sector’ . . .

29% of all profits
41% in 2001
8.4% of gross domestic product

URL: http://tcf.org/blog/detail/graph-how-the-financial-sector-consumed-americas-economic-growth

(2) THE NEW INDUSTRIAL STATE

    John Kenneth Galbraith

(3) STUDY FINDS WEALTH GIVES RISE TO A SENSE OF ENTITLEMENT AND NARCISSISTIC BEHAVIORS

http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/08/25/study-finds-wealth-gives-rise-to-a-sense-of-entitlement-and-narcissistic-behaviors/

(4) FIVE FACTS ABOUT AMERICA’S PATHOLOGICAL WEALTH DISTRIBUTION

TITL: FIVE FACTS ABOUT AMERICA’S PATHOLOGICAL WEALTH DISTRIBUTION

AUTH: PAUL BUCHEIT

PUBL: ICH (INFORMATION CLEARING HOUSE)

DATE: DECEMBER 06, 2012

URL: http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article33236.htm

(5) … Just joking.

    I would not be surprised to learn that Mr. Rockefeller, one
    of America’s folk heroes (a true robber baron), did indeed
    say this, as he was quite outspoken and made no attempt to
    conceal his contempt for Congress. However, I am not aware
    that he said this for attribution. Consider this quote
    apocryphal.


(6)

TITL: AMERICANS LIKE WITCHES, THE IRS, AND EVEN HEMORRHOIDS BETTER THAN CONGRESS

AUTH: POSTED BY TOM JENSEN

PUBL: Blog, National

DATE: OCTOBER 08, 2013

URL: http://www.publicpolicypolling.com/main/2013/10/congress-losing-out-to-zombies-wall-street-andhipsters.html

(7) Robert S. McElvaine, the author of “The Great Depression: America 1929-1941,” is a history professor at Millsaps College in Jackson, Miss. The citation is from a Washington Post newspaper account of his study.

TITL: CAN A BUSINESSMAN HELP THE ECONOMY? FOR PRESIDENTS THE ANSWER HAS BEEN NO.

AUTH: ROBERT S. MCELVAINE

PUBL: THE WASHINGTON POST NEWSPAPER

DATE: OCT 19, 2012

URL: http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/can-a-businessman-help-the-economy-for-presidents-the-answer-has-been-no/2012/10/19/3e96459e-17ab-11e2-9855-71f2b202721b_print.html

(8) incredible as it sounds, on 02/08/2012 it was reported that the IRS has contracted with a firm in India for its taxpayer HELP desk function.

     When this essay was written, the comment about the government outsourcing its functions to offshore businesses in China or India was intended as comic relief. The sad reality of what is happening is not funny at all.

Source: INFOWARRIOR Newsletter Vol 74:12 (02-10-2012)

Subject: IRS outsourcing taxpayer emails to India? (Affina.com –> Hinduji Global Solutions)

(9) Comedy Central THE DAILY SHOW with Jon Stewart, Thursday, September 05, 2013

Charles Sulka is a freelance investigative journalist, political activist, and Christian apologist.