Unbalanced Economy | School Reform | Health Care Reform | Prison Reform |Rigged System | Manipulation
Unbalanced Economy – There is an increasing disparity between rich and poor in the US, and we are losing the middle class.
Problem: The US middle class was uniquely nurtured by things such as the Homestead Act (housing) and the GI bill (college). But now blue collar manufacturing jobs are going offshore and unions are losing power, so that many people can only get low paying jobs or need to pay for an expensive college education for higher paying jobs. At the same time, everyone is faced with high living costs, which the richer can afford but drive the middle class to the poor house – such as high housing and healthcare costs, plus taxes being shifted more to the middle class.
School Reform – The US advantage in education through high school has long since disappeared, we are average compared to other countries. Our advantage in college education has recently been slipping. This jeopardizes the future of our country’s knowledge-based economy.
Problem: With a few inspiring exceptions, there is no competition, as in business, to keep schools accountable. Teachers are hard to fire, with bad ones making more money, discouraging young teachers, causing them to leave in droves. Teachers unions, by their nature, promote teachers, not students. The focus on standardized tests has improved rote abilities but limited the ability to teach the tools of creativity needed in today’s economy. The focus of our universities on research is good for post graduate students, but undergraduates are short changed.
Health Care Reform - We historically stumbled into an inefficient system where insurance and drug companies make huge profits by either denying care or over-treating.
Problem: The lack of insurance the politicians are talking about isn’t the main problem - it's a symptom. The main problem is the high costs. This is caused by the need for insurance for everyday care, rather than just catastrophic care. The high administrative costs of insurance are just part of the problem. Costs are too high, and quality is uneven, because treatment decisions are made by insurance companies, not patients and doctors. The government (meaning us taxpayers) is paying for this through tax subsidies, and it is an inequitable system - not all employers provide it, and it is expensive for individual policies. We can't afford all the expensive new treatments today, and it will only get worse. Many employers are already cutting back on coverage.
Prison Reform - We punish ourselves instead of criminals by taxing ourselves to keep minor offenders in prison for long terms, and increasing the chances they will commit new crimes on release.
Problem: Determinate sentencing (fixed sentences) enacted in California in 1977 and Three Strikes enacted in 1994 have caused criminals to spend much more time in prison, exploding the Calif. Prison population from 24,000 in 1980 to 170,000 in 2007. This has not changed the crime rate, which independently continued to increase until 1992, when it began to decline (long after determinate sentencing and before 3 strikes). Legislators also continued to create new crimes and more stringent penalties, further swelling the prison ranks. Legislators of both parties get elected by playing the fear card, which is especially effective in the area of crime.
Built in Bias – Our government is deadlocked because of increased partisanship caused by gerrymandering, the need for vast sums to get elected and the resulting need to please campaign contributors, and specialized, pandering “news” sources which polarize the people.
Problem: Gerrymandering has led to the extreme partisanship we have today. Gerrymandering literally means the votes of the minority in any district don’t count. The high cost of TV time makes candidates go begging to special interests for money, and forces sound bite ads to limit the time (and thus cost) required. With the specialization of the media, news shows have become entertainment to draw in partisan viewers, and they pander to those viewers prejudices to keep their ratings among those viewers.
Book Reviews |
“income inequality has been increasing since the 1970s, whereas it had been declining during the mid 20th century.” Inequality.
If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre education performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war. .
"A Nation at Risk"
Health costs increase yearly under the government-subsidized; company provided insurance system we have. Yet procedures not covered by insurance, such as Lasik eye surgery, have seen dramatic increases in quality and decreases in cost. ABC News - The Competitive Advantage.
The U.S. has the world's highest incarceration rate, 737 per 100,000. Russia is second with 611. Many Western industrial nations are around 100. The Pew Center says 1 in 100 Americans are in prison, a rate of 1000 per 100,000.
“The extremism of California’s politicians . . . is mostly the result of gerrymandering.” The Economist, “Last Action Hero.”
The 2004 campaign between Bush and Kerry cost over