Archive for the economics Category

Are the stimulus package and the Democratic government selling us short to a weak, failed, minorty party?

Posted in economics, just sayin', politics on January 27, 2009 by countryjim13

demvictory08When a large majority of American voters cast their ballots this past November, they overwhelming spoke out against both Republican foreign and domestic economic policy.  The argument can be made that the economic crisis pushed President Obama to overwhelming victory because of the Bush failures and McCain’s lack of knowledge and insight related to the current economic meltdown.  While Bush was hiding out in the White House and while McCain was telling us that the American economy was still going strong, Obama and democrats were preparing to actually solve the problem.  The American voters saw how Republican, conservative economic policy had helped drive our economy into this hole, and we overwhelming voted for a change in such philosophy and policy.  So why, now, is the bill that is supposed to help solve this problem being allowed to be watered down in order to appease Republican politicians?  Why are the President and Congressional Democrats more interested in amassing votes and doing what is “politically expedient” than in doing what will work to fix our economy?

Bush issued massive tax cuts, mostly to the wealthy of America, and it did nothing but hurt our economy in the end by leaving nothing in government coffers amidst massive war spending and corporate deregulation.  Now in spite of the fact that tax cuts, which are relatively ineffective at stimulating an economy and encouraging spending, make up a full 1/3 of the stimulus bill as it currently stands, Republicans are still not satisfied (most likely because those tax cuts are for normal Americans who are not rich).  So now we are seeing all over the news Republicans up in arms and threatening to vote against the package because they say it spends too much money and does not include enough tax cuts!

Did Republicans miss the fact that they lost the election?  Not just the presidential election mind you, but also elections in the House and the Senate.  YOU LOST!  THEY LOST!  The American people spoke in favor the Democratic solution and yet we are being subjected to a watering down of that solution because our supposedly liberal politicians insist on being bipartisan and appeasing what is now nothing more than a small, pesky, outdated minority party.  What is bipartisan is not what we need right now.  What we need is what will work and massive tax cuts have been proven over and over again to provide very little economic stimulus in such dire times as these.  At best such tax cuts do nothing more than slightly increase spending during times when the economy is already strong and the consumers confidence is already high.  At the very least, the Democratic government needs to put together a package that is mostly comprised of infrastructure spending, aid to the unemployed, and alternative energy investment in order to truly stimulate the economy from the bottom up, create millions of jobs, and create a transformed, new green economy that currently does not exist, but needs to exist. 

I think perhaps Democrats have no courage.  I don’t know how else to put it.  During the Bush Administration, weakdemsparticularly when he had Republican majorities in the House and Senate to back him up, the debate over compromise between the two parties was consistently framed in terms of Democrats, as the minority party and the party not in the White House, being willing to give in to Republican philosophy and policy demands.  Somehow, in spite of the fact that the tables have technically turned and Democrats now hold large majorities throughout the government, the nature of this debate has not shifted.  Democrats are still acting like they are a minority party who must bow to the will of the Republicans in order get anything accomplished.  This is not the case.  Democrats do not need Republican votes and playing politics by watering down this legislation to virtual ineffectiveness in order to be bipartisan and share any potential blame is playing games with our country’s future.  Compromise is not synonymous with Democrats giving in, it does not mean Democrats creating a stimulus bill that looks like it was written by Republicans.  It is time for Republicans to compromise, to give in.  That is what the American people demanded when we fired the Republican Party and swept Democrats to huge victories and majorities in the last two elections.  Democrats need to shut out the whining and complaining of the failed Republican Party, vote to pass the package without them, and move towards fixing what has been broken, mostly by Republican administrations, over the last few decades.

And so what does stimulate the economy the most?  Infrastructure spending has already been mentioned.  The graph below shows that the three types of spending that provide the most stimulus and create the most additional spending are increases in food stamps, the extention of unemployment benefits, and infrastructure spending.  Let’s look at these briefly, how they stimulate the economy, and how these three areas have been watered down in the current package in order to make room for massive tax cuts that will do little to stimulate our dying economic system.

dollarofstimulusputsbackwhenspentonsourcemoodys-economycom-congressional-testimony3

We can see from the graph above that for every $1 spent on food stamps and additional $1.73 in spending is generated, an additional $1.64 in spending is generated for every $1 in extended unemployment benefits, and for every $1 spent on infrastructure an additional $1.59 in spending is generated.  On the other hand for every dollar in tax cuts you have anywhere from only $.30 to around $1 in additional spending generated. 

If this is the case, why does the current stimulus bill look the way it does?  Right now infrastructure spending souplineaccounts for only $90 billion out of $825 billion, only 10% of the bill.  Only $43 billion is slotted for extending unemployment benefits and only $20 billion is set aside for increased spending on food stamps.  All in all, the three most effective economic stimulators account for only a measly 18.5% of the current stimulus package while tax cuts account for a full third, 33.33% of the package! (1)  Are we supposed to expect this package to truly stimulate our economy and create jobs? 

Briefly, we must also ask if the size of the stimulus package in general is really enough to jolt our economy back to life.  This question is all the more important in the face of Republican pressure to further slash the bill’s spending provisions in favor of more tax cuts.  Our annual Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for 2007 was roughtly $14 trillion. (2)  That is $14,000 trillion.  To give you an idea of how much money that really is, if you make $50,000 per year it will take you 16.5 million years to earn $14 tillion.  With a stimulus package of $825 billion (only 66% of which is actually spending) the stimulus package amounts to only 5.8% of our total annual GDP.  Can we really expect that such small change, relatively speaking, is actually going to stimulate the economy?  Perhaps it will, but in light of the massive amounts of money generated on average by our economy each year, I think the question is an important one that should be addressed with all seriousness by those in our government who are working to solve this problem rather than simply using it as an excuse to provide the wealthy with more tax relief.

If we are trying to “get the most bang for our buck” it seems clear that tax cuts are not the direction in which our government needs to be looking.  This does not necessarily mean that there should not be any tax cuts included in the package, but this information does force us to question whether the current package already leans too far in the direction of tax cuts and sells America short when it comes to truly effective means of spending and economic stimulation.  If this is the case, then we must ask whether or not our government is doing the right thing by heeding the cries of a party that has done nothing but fail us both politically and economically for most of the last decade and beyond.

Today, Republican politicians are urging each other to vote against the stimulus package if it is not watered down further, if Obama and Congressional Democrats do not weaken the package even more by ejecting spending and adding even more tax cuts that will benefit the wealthy more than those who truly need the help.  I call on Democrats to take Republicans at their word.  Let them vote against the package.  Who cares!  Their votes are NOT needed to pass the bill.  I would go even further and encourage our Democratic leadership to change the package to include fewer tax cuts and more infrastructure spending, more spending to help those who have lost their jobs, more spending to create a green, clean economy for the future.  Let Republicans take a backseat, let them push themselves further into fringes of American political philosophy and policy where they belong.  Then, finally, the rest of us can get busy doing the important work that needs to be done to fix this nation’s economy.

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Bailouts, Bridge-Loans and Blue Collar Workers

Posted in economics, politics with tags , , , , on December 12, 2008 by mightyfag

Let’s face it, folks. We are in the Second Great Depression – or at least at the start of it. The last Great Depression was fueled by highly irresponsible lending, irresponsible playing with the stock market and large central banks calling in loans and then draining massive amounts of capital out of the system. This Great Bush Depression was fueled by almost identical forces, only this time our economy is more dependent upon credit than last time, and the potential is for massive collapse of our entire economic system.

The neo-conservatives who have been dismantling our economy since the era of Reganomics, deregulating financial systems, destroying any government agencies that were put in place during the last Great Depression to prevent economic collapse, and systematically vilifying and disempowering unionized labor have come to the end of a 30 year reign where trickle-down economics have proven once again to be less about economics and more about being “trickled on”. When their “free market” system ran amok and they ended up losing billions of dollars, what did they do? They attempted to nationalize the debt of failed irresponsible corporations, but privatize the profits thereof. (Can we say national-socialism, a.k.a. corporatism, a.k.a. FASCISM!?!)

Bailouts for Buddies

The biggest bailout (i.e. chunk of federal tax-payer money thrown at an industry with no accountability on how it is spent) went to the investment banks and debt insurance companies – the largest being AIG. The Federal Government gave AIG (a bank that insures other banks’ loans and lines of credit) $85 BILLION dollars for a 79.9% equity stake in the form of warrants called equity participation notes. The two year loan carries an interest rate of the London interbank offered rate +8.5%. (source) Effectively, if AIG does well, the taxpayers will regain what was given to AIG and more. Seeing how the housing market is continuing to collapse and foreclosures are still growing around the nation, AIG will have to payout on the loans they promised to back – many of which were highly unethical subprime mortgages with variable interest rates that homeowners are finding themselves unable to keep up with as their home values plummet and the economy worstens. Instead of forcing banks to restructure mortgage loans for consumers, or offering direct support for homeowners (helping Main Street as well as Wall Street – as President Elect Obama likes to say) these Neo-Cons who are in bed with these large bankers and investment corporations padded their buddies’ accounts and managed to further monopolize the banking industry by letting other large banks (like Leighman Brothers) collapse or be bought up by pennies on the dollar (Washington Mutual being bought by Chase – one of the original architects of the first Great Depression).

The infuriating thing about the bank bailouts is that they continue to go on with little to no oversight, no prerequisites, and essentially put the burden of financial liability on the backs of taxpayers, but don’t really put any profits in our pockets in the end – or rather, promises us profits at the end of a very bad gamble that’s highly in favor of the house. You can see a graph of what financial institutions received federal bailout money on the New York Times site here. These companies do not create any tangible products. They don’t keep their business in this country – often financing foreign countries’ debts or backing them in the case of debt insurer. And they received carte blanche bailouts from the goverment.

Bridge-Loans for Auto Manufacturers

In light of the economic depression, the big three auto manufacturers in the U.S. came to Washington in order to seek economic assistance to survive. In contrast to the above mentioned financial executives and their begging for money, these executives and their companies have been receiving extraordinary criticism, negative press and mocking from the media in general. This time around, the auto manufacturers wanted a loan to bridge the bad financial times. These loans were a fraction of the $700 billion that congress has given the green light to give to financial institutions without oversight, but suddenly, they are being held to a different standard. Congress is insisting that they make fundamental changes to the way they do business. They are being forced to retool their plants, dedicate their efforts to making fuel efficient and low-emission vehicles, or to give up executive wages, etc. The image of the “big three” executives coming to Washington on private jets was the culmination of their apparent lack of financial prudence; flushing money down the toilet while asking for more. (No one mentioned that the investment bank executives probably took private jets to Washington as well.)

Now, don’t get me wrong. I think American car manufacturers are way behind in the times, they are out of touch with what consumers want, and they are VERY hesitant to innovate or change. At the same time, they are one of the largest employers in the country and their work force is unionized, guaranteeing living wages and a pension for the dedication of their workers – one of the oldest parts of the “American Dream.”

Most recently, these loans were approved by the House of Representatives, but they failed in the Senate (source) mainly due to Republicans from the South who are hellbent on two things. 1) Destroying organized labor – something Republicans have been trying to do ever since it came about and 2) Destroying competition for the foreign automobile plants that have been built in their home states that run with non-unionized labor (source) and were subsidized with tax incentives at a per-capita burden higher than the current proposed auto bridge-loans for U.S. Manufacturers. Basically they are covering their more expensive investments to bring business to their states at the expense of the greater U.S. economic well-being.

Another force being vilified in this fray is unionized labor. The Republican talking-point distribution network of radio talk shows and televised opinion shows have already begun to spout the propaganda that the reason the U.S. auto manufacturers are failing is due to the United Auto Workers and their high demands in terms of wages and benefits. (source) Senate Republicans are demanding that the U.A.W. make concessions and cut back on their wages and benefits to fall in line with foreign auto manufacturers. Union workers are not the cause of these companies having problems. U.A.W. workers have a two-tier pay structure (something normally unheard of in unions) where longer-time employees receive (as of 2006) $32.32 per hour for straight-time labor, where newer employees would receive $27.81 per hour of straight-time labor. These are good paying jobs – not extraordinarily over-paid positions. Additionally, the labor costs per vehicle come out to approximately 8.5% the price of a vehicle. (source) This is not a bank-breaking operation, and U.A.W. workers are already making concessions (like reducing health coverage as part of their contract, etc.) as they don’t want the auto manufacturers to go out of business either.

When I hear every-day Americans blaming the unions for bad business or in other ways vilifying unions, I always remind them that they aught not complain about someone having a better wage than they do, when they too could unionize and fight for a fair wage for the work they do. And let us not forget that the unions were what helped build up the Middle Class in the 50’s, one of the most prosperous times in our nation’s history. The more that organized labor gets beat down or disempowered the more of a decay of the middle class this country experiences, and the separation between the richest and the poorest grows wider and wider.

Additionally, there’s one thing these Republicans never mention: foreign auto manufacturers are intimately tied to their own governments and are seen as a nationalized or partially nationalized industry, and their workers have benefits given to them (like nationlized health care) that American workers are not, thus driving up the costs of labor in the “Free American Market”. Make no mistake about it, where Hyundai goes, South Korea goes, likewise, Toyota and Honda are intimately intertwined with the Japanese government and receive subsidies, tax breaks and more to assist in their success – these are things the U.S. car manufacturers don’t get. And the huge burden of health care, should it be nationlized like ever other social democracy in the modern world, would be a big economic boon to business in the states.

What to do?

Where I stand on this issue is that I think the bridge loans should be approved for the auto industry, but with caps on executive pay and with a requirement for worker positions and wages to be protected and maintained. Additionally I support the requirement for them to invest a certain percentage of the money into fuel efficiency and alternatives. But in doing so, I think we should nationalize the auto companies and use them as a way of revitalizing our economy. Reinvent the car, build plants across the nation wherever the unemployment figures are worst, and drive up demand for these newly engineered vehicles. By nationalizing the industry, we can better support organized labor, steer progress in automobile ingenuinty and also make real and effective change in vehicle emissions, carbon dioxide emissions and tie the industry into effective environmental reform as well. If you’re going to nationalize the liability, then nationlize the profit as well.

Lost in the Shuffle : Native Americans and the Availability of Education

Posted in economics, just sayin', society and culture on December 10, 2008 by barbelith923

American history is filled with accomplishments, wars fought and triumphed, adversity overcome, an end to racial indifference, and rights put in place towards self expression without fear of reprise. Yet there is also the record of failures and injustices as well. It is true that our forefathers made mistakes in the name of progress. And in some cases, the word mistake is far too mild for such terrible deeds.  One example would be the attempts by the American government to destroy entire cultures through so-called education.  In as little as 100 years ago, Native American children were abducted from their families and forced into re-education schools to become, what the American government considered to be, civilized individuals. Sadly, rather than providing an education, children weren’t allowed to speak their native languages, practice their customs, or live life as they had been taught by their parents and elders. In many instances, these institutions dealt the final blow to some already struggling cultures. It could be argued that formalized education was originally one of the worst curses enforced upon America’s indigenous population.

These days however, an education may be one of the few things geared towards the survival of American natives. It could be said that a college degree may be the key towards not just the well being of the individual, but also to the community as well. In the last fifty years, many things have changed for the betterment of Native Americans. Yet it is not nearly enough. Still mired in poverty, resources are relatively few. And one of these missing resources is access to formalized and decent education. Out of almost all recognized minorities, Native Americans find themselves on the bottom rung of the ladder where access to education is concerned. In this small article, I will attempt to show the reasons why this is so. The subjects to be touched upon will be general issues that many minority students face, such as poverty, the availability of educational resources, and the ultimate goal of attaining a degree. We will then examine how they apply to Native American students. In addition, through the gathering of this information, I have been surprised to find one more additional issue which doesn’t seem to be mentioned in many reports on minority students. And that is the issue of culture as it applies to societal norms, and the general behavior of students and faculty on school campuses. From what I’ve observed, the issue of culture is a very large problem when it comes to Native students and learning institutions. We will examine these problems and hopefully be able to shed some light on the road towards possible solutions.

Purging The Culture Away

When discussing Native Americans and education, we must take a brief look at the history concerning these subjects. It does shed some light upon current issues. In the conquest of America, the Natives were considered a problem by those attempting to colonize the continent. Before 1870, the Natives were initially forced to reside on reservations. Yet new ideas began to surface with the concept of assimilating the Natives rather than segregating them. This led to the legal abduction of Native children, forcing them into schools with the distinct purpose of re-educating them. The goal was to make them civilized or “white”. The only other option was to become trained as a domestic servant. Yet, to hang onto their own unique cultures was strictly forbidden. We can see this in the methods used to transform these children. They were punished severely for speaking in their indigenous tongues. The same thing applied when practicing their tribal customs as well. Their hair was forcibly shorn and they were forced to wear westernized clothing. The goal itself was the loss of cultural identity while creating new and acceptable one, at least according to what white society considered to be acceptable. And as terrible as this may sound, it may be even more shocking to understand that this practice continued until the 1960’s. With the understanding of all of this, we can deduce that a bias probably exists due to the fact that these crimes against Native culture occurred up until only a few generations ago. Yet as negative as learning institutions may be viewed by members of the Native population, we cannot deny the importance of an education in America today.

Along with formalized education comes the promise of the idealized American dream. The idea is that anyone in America can make it to the top and fulfill the goal of attaining an upper class lifestyle through hard work and dedication. The puritan work ethic is still alive and well. Unfortunately, current statistics say otherwise. In fact, with the contemporary stratification of the lower classes, we may actually be watching history repeat itself in that the drastic income inequalities of this day and age have not been felt since the 19th century. However, a solution was devised in the past which changed a great deal of the situation. The answer was education. Not only were large amounts of money invested in education but ladders were created so that bright young students from all walks of life could receive a purposeful and useful education to better themselves. Stratification began to occur again however among the educated as they married and produced children who were born into an elevated status. Today, only 1 in 30 of lower class children will be selected for elite universities. What we can conclude, in this brief examination of the past, is that college graduates have received better opportunities and improved access to decent paying jobs. In addition, education may be the answer to income equalities. Yet what is the situation of stratified children today?

Social and Economic Stratification

When making an examination of those who fall under the classification of stratified individuals, we can divide them into two groups; minorities and the poverty stricken. Let me make it clear however that a good portion of the stratified belong to both groups. And since this article revolves around the Native Americans, who are considered to be a minority, let us take a look at the situation minorities face in general when it comes to elite learning institutions. Even in our modern times, racial tension can still be felt in many of these schools. We can also claim that the transformation of white genteel schools into pre-eminent universities has been slow. To put it bluntly, the numbers don’t lie. Let’s take the University of Virginia for example, who only began to promote changes in the 70’s. Taking a look at just a few years ago, it may be a bit surprising to discover that out of a student population of 13,000 that there were only 1,594 black students. In general, the number of white graduates when compared to minority graduates are just as one-sided. For example, 83% of white students graduate high school, while only 55% of Native students do the same. The numbers are just as staggering when looking at college graduates. Where 23% of whites graduate college, only 6% of Native students achieve the same goal. One more time, we can see an obvious leaning in the numbers. Yet why does this situation exist? Does the problem exist within the student population? The numbers seem to paint a different picture. Instead, we can probably conclude that a problem exists with the colleges and universities instead. In fact, we could probably go so far as to say that when it comes to Native American students, these institutions outright fail. And since we have examined the stratified, focusing in the issue of minority, it is now time to examine the issue of poverty.

It quickly becomes clear that the privileged or children of wealth have better opportunities when it comes to access to quality education. Granted, good financial means could make the purchase of an education easier. However, when it comes to the selection of students, an obvious bias exists. As before, quite simply the numbers don’t lie. In recent times, 60% of students at elite universities came from wealthy or alumni parents, with children of alumni constituting 40%. Upon further examination we can find even more bias leaning towards advantages for the wealthy. It has been shown that the children of very high donors are helped at a substantial rate. Another example is what is called the “Z list”. This is a deferment list for students to catch up when they have fallen behind. Overwhelmingly, this list is dominated by children of the wealthy. Unfortunately, the situation doesn’t seem to be improving for children who come from poor families. As of today, they have only a 40% chance of becoming students at these same universities. Upon examining statistics, we can see that the situation may be getting worse. From 1980 and 1982, the number of poor children in universities and colleges dropped 1%. However, the number of wealthy children rose from 55% to 60%. As we can see, inequalities do exist from the poor to the wealthy, with the wealthy having more advantages, while the poor are left to feed on scraps from a very rich table. Now having examined stratification from both a means of race and wealth, let us now turn to Native Americans, of whom a great portion fall into both classifications.

Hitting One Bird with Two Stones

The majority of Native Americans have it pretty rough, especially when it comes to life on the reservation. It can be said that life on the reservations can be nothing short of squalor, with very few opportunities to construct a life outside of it. Generations of Natives have been trapped in this environment without the financial means of escaping it. In this, it would seem that the segregation of the Native Americans continues to exist. Most are mired in poverty and it could be argued that Native Americans on reservations are of the most stratified. For example, the Pine ridge reservation of South Dakota has been compared to the poorest of third world countries. There are some houses with no electricity, no running water, nor any sewer system. The unemployment rate is staggering measuring at 85%. And yet, this is the third largest reservation in America. In general, life on the reservation is of the poorest quality. A great deal of the populace do not even possess a high school education. Yet, as we have seen, education, could quite possible be the road to freedom, not just serving the individual, but also the community as well. Upon taking a look at the Red Lake reservation in Minnesota, we can see that this condition exists outside of South Dakota as well. 40% live below the poverty line. Crime runs rampant at Red Lake, mainly drug and violence related. As we can see, the brutal living conditions do not apply to just one reservation but many. In examining the condition of most Natives, and reviewing the bias of universities towards whites and the wealthy, there seems to be very few opportunities to get a decent education. However, out of most minorities in the United States, Native Americans rank the lowest as far as receiving an education goes. Knowing that other minorities also suffer from poverty as well and yet are able to achieve more, might there be another factor other than ones previously discussed? As we shall see, the answer may be cultural.

When taking a closer look, we find that one aspect may have been overlooked in the majority of studies pertaining to Native Americans and education. Upon examining the culture of Native Americans and their history, we find more answers. We have already discussed a possible bias towards “white” learning institutions due to the history with Natives and forced re-education. Another aspect of the cultural problem may be in the hands of instructors at most colleges and universities. Most of these instructors experienced college life in a sort of homogeneous environment rather than one based solely on one cultural perspective. A good portion of Natives only get the experience of one culture due to the inability of being able to escape from it. In essence, they instead become dependent upon this culture to sustain them. Since most instructors, come from a more unified cultural experience, they may not have the ability to understand both the importance and impact of this cultural experience as it applies to Natives. This would possibly create a divide between the instructor and the student, which may ultimately lead to feelings of alienation in a very foreign environment. However, it can also be argued that school counselors can help in this capacity and ultimately enhance the development of a Native student. It is essential that awareness of culture, and the traditions surrounding it, be understood. This awareness could bridge this gap. Yet awareness is not enough without this information being placed in the context of the school at large. Colleges and universities may become places where the Native student is made to feel welcome rather than alienated from. And yet, as much sense as these ideas may make, with the exception of very few instances, these policies are currently not in place. It can be argued that accomplishments in school are the responsibility of the student. Yet it would be foolish to state that none of the responsibility falls on the shoulder of the staff and faculty of the university as well. In some ways, these institutions cater to the student to help them excel. However, we must ask if these same institutions have the willingness to cater to the Native student. Unfortunately, I must conclude that the answer is no. Yet where is the proof for my claim?

Tribal Colleges

The answer can be found in Tribal colleges. In 1978, Congress passed the Tribally Community College Assistance Act. It was created to ensure that there were opportunities in place and the expansion of these opportunities for American Indian students. Because these institutions are tribally controlled, students can find the cultural experience that they may be missing in other institutions. Not only are their cultural needs met, there is an understanding of aspects of the stratified life that most Natives are forced to live. Things like family and home life are understood, financial problems are catered to, and with unemployment being so staggering a factor, when a student does have a job, these colleges attempt to work with the student to help them stay employed. Therefore, I think that it is fairly easy to claim that tribal colleges do meet the unique needs of their students. Some have actually made claims that the creation of tribal colleges may be the most significant development for Native Americans in history.  This is not to say that these institutions do not have problems of their own, which in themselves are almost reflections of problems with reservation life. These institutions are horribly underfunded and their facilities are very inadequate. In addition, they are also increasingly understaffed as well. Yet having knowledge of these problems, this lends more credence to my point of culture being a large factor. It is obvious that the funding, facilities, and staff are probably of better quality at larger and more recognized institutions. Yet as we have seen, the number of Native students is incredibly low at these elite schools. However, upon examining the problems with tribal schools, it is surprising to discover that most Native students are completely satisfied with the education they received from tribal colleges rather than the education they received from other institutions. It could be argued that it may possibly be the familiarity of poor conditions in school to poor conditions in life that may create a means of comfort. However, offer an individual a choice between five dollars or fifty. I think it’s fairly logical which one would be taken. One more time, the obvious solution is the understanding of Native culture and it being implemented into the larger context of the school itself. Therefore, we can conclude that if other learning institutions were to attempt to satisfy the cultural needs of the Native student, the attendance of these institutions would probably improve. And not only would attendance improve, I think it’s quite possible that they would excel.

In examining the issue of Native American students and the lack of education among these individuals, I hope that I have been able to convey a few reasons as to why it may be occurring. In taking a look at the larger scope of the stratified, we see that there is an obvious bias towards those that are both white and from wealthy backgrounds. And therefore, since Native Americans are burdened by stratification, we can see problems occurring when Natives attempt to receive a quality education. Yet there is another factor which may add to the reluctance of these same individuals to attend universities of quality education, even if it was available to all. In asking the question as to why Natives are satisfied with an education from a substandard yet tribally influenced school rather than that of a well received and quality school, one conclusion that we can reach is the importance of a culturally influenced experience in education. Yet this is not intended to deny the burden of being a member of a minority or being financially stratified. These are obvious and troubling factors as well. Yet I cannot stress enough that more attention needs to be placed on the cultural aspects as well as the financial and minority aspects as well. The cultural solution may be one of many. We have examined other aspects as well. But there may be more. I argue that only through research will we find these missing pieces of information.

Our indigenous cultures deserve more than the paltry sum of attention they have received. Realize that these people are the descendants of the First Americans. After all the atrocities committed to them, from attempted extermination to the death of cultures through re-education, wouldn’t it seem reasonable to meet them halfway? Wouldn’t it seem reasonable to recognize the possible special needs and circumstances that they now find themselves in? Wouldn’t it also seem reasonable to do whatever possible to allow these folks to improve their condition and lives as they see fit? As we have seen, one of the key ways to improve our lives is through the attainment of an adequate education. From what I can see, we have no other course of action but to do what we can to bring this to fruition. Granted we may not have had a hand in the crimes committed by our forefathers. Yet as their descendants, the responsibility falls on our shoulders to heal what may still be some open wounds. Remember that crimes were still being committed in what could have been just one previous page in history books. These words cannot be erased. Yet, the future has not been written yet. Hopefully, we can write a book worth reading.

The War of Words: How Neo-Conservatives Change our Language

Posted in economics, politics with tags , , , , , , on December 4, 2008 by mightyfag

One consistent thing we’ve seen over the last 20+ years of neo-conservative rule in the United States is the powerful way in which politicians use or distort language in order to change history, steer political opinion, or defame their opponents. In the past 8 years of George W. Bush’s administration we’ve had new words bushdoyadded to our lexicon including:

  • terrorism
  • islamo-fascism
  • islamic fundamentalists
  • domestic surveilance
  • economic stimulus
  • enhanced interrogation

and many other saying, all used as ways of buffering the impact of certain words, or over-enhancing the impact of others. Other times, conservative talk show hosts or pundits would receive talking points directly from the White House to further its agenda of propaganda. (TV Analysts, Pentagon’s Hidden Hand – source: NY Times, Bush Shows No Reporse for Fake Newscasts – source: Inter Press Service, Secrets of Talk Radio – source: Milwaukee Magazine) What President Bush saught to do was change history, cover up that which had been recorded, and propagandize the news. For 8 years he succeeded, until the media finally took matters back into its own hands and started reporting the news instead of sensationalized propaganda.

And yet, the damage had been done. For years, conservative talk show hosts used the time-honored term “Liberal” as if it was profanity. They spat the word out as an accusation of someone’s disloyalty to America, and in doing so, liberalism – the majority opinion on politics in this country – was vilified, and thus the conservative take over was firmly on its way in this country. Liberals were so affected by this shift in semantics that they adopted the new term “Progressive” to better capture the nature of their stance on politics and social issues. Personally, I’ve always called myself a Progressive Populist, but most folks don’t truly understand what that means.

Other times, historically toxic terms like “fascist” and “communist” or “socialist” are thrown at political opponents to paint them in a negative light. Semantics have always been one of my areas of unhealthy interest, so I’ve decided to channel my own mania into a lesson on words to defuse these linguisic bombs that the right is so keen on tossing.

Fascism

The first and best example of Fascism can be seen in Mussolini’s dictatorship during WWII. Let’s take a look at how Mussolini defines Fascism. Essentially, Fascist ideology requires a combination of militarist expansion of a nation’s power and influence through authoritarian rule, a fusing of corporations with the state and an inherent disdain for and repression of democracy, universal sufferage or socialist values. Essentially, you don’t have civil liberties because the nation’s interests come first and foremost and everyone should work working to advance the power and influence of the nation.

For these reasons, the term “fascist” has been used in the pejorative to generally describe anyone who wants to take away someone else’s fun. But this is often misused. For example, democrats calling for gun control laws to keep assault rifles off of the streets are often called fascists. From the above description we can see that this is clearly not the case.

American Neo-Conservatism, (which is neither new, nor conservative) is in many ways the American version of Fascism. In the past 8 years in the Bush administration we’ve seen militarist expansion of American influence in the world, unilateral talks with threat of (and often use of) force against other countries, authoritarian rule with the elimination of habeus corpus, military tribunals instead of trials, the use of torture, voter suppression through the use of faulty voting machines, or through the stopping of vote counts to have a puppet Supreme Court elect the president instead, privatization of the military, no-bid contracts for military war profiteers, domestic spying and wiretapping without warrants, supression of free speech on television through spreading of propaganda, and the list goes on and on.

Socialism

According to the Encyclopedia Brittanica, Socialism is:

A social and economic doctrine that calls for public rather than private ownership or control of property and natural resources. According to the socialist view, individuals do not live or work in isolation but live in cooperation with one another. Furthermore, everything that people produce is in some sense a social product, and everyone who contributes to the production of a good is entitled to a share in it. Society as a whole, therefore, should own or at least control property for the benefit of all its members.

Socialism was theorized by several philosophers, most notably Engels and Marx as a natural outgrowth of the struggle between the working class and the wealthy elite. The later 1800’s and the 20th century saw the rapid growth of socialist nations, organizations and doctrines and often the fall of these structures as well.

The important thing to note here is that Socialism is primarily an economic doctrine. It nationalizes the ownership of industries to varying levels with the intent of sharing wealth throughout the society for the betterment of all.

Socialism has become a dirty word in the United States primarily after the McCarthyist era between the 1940’s and 1950’s. The accusation of “Communist” or “Socialist” was lobbed against anyone deemed the slightest bit liberal (including those who were true patriots, but just had a big mouth) and resulted in many people losing their jobs, careers being ruined and a general “big red scare” throughout society where everyone was suscipcious of others’ political beliefs or activities.

The irony of this whole era is that the United States has some Socialism built into its political system. America is essentially a Social Democracy (or Republic technically). But we’ll address that momentarily.

Many governments in the 20th century sought to create utopian socialist nations through force. They used military force to overthrow existing monarchies, democracies, corrupt oligarchies, dictators, etc. and through revolution instituted communist governments. Communism will be discussed separately below, as it’s implementation reaches beyond that of Socialism, yet the two are often mixed up or described as one and the same.

Communism

Communism as described by wikipedia (yeah, I know – but it’s a good definition) is described:

As an ideology, Communism is usually considered to be a branch of socialism, a broad group of social and political philosophies, which draws on the various political and intellectual movements with origins in the work of theorists of the Industrial Revolution and the French Revolution. Communism attempts to offer an alternative to the problems believed to be inherent with capitalist economies and the legacy of imperialism and nationalism. Communism states that the only way to solve these problems is for the working class, or proletariat, to replace the wealthy bourgeoisie, which is currently the ruling class, in order to establish a peaceful, free society, without classes, or government.

Sounds lovely doesn’t it… except that it wasn’t. Lenin modified Marx’s original theories that theorized a natural uprising of the working class in response to oppresive conditions to establish a socialist economy with his idea that the downtrodden would never do this on their own and that a separate revolutionary force would have to come in to overthrow the bourgeoise using military force. Communist nations were established across the globe at gun point, executing the wealthy class or driving them out as political refugees, forcefully overtaking privately owned business and industries, nationalizing their ownership and establishing totalitarian or dictatorial governments to enforce the communist economy.

Because of the fusing of socialism with communism in the American lexicon of semantics, most Americans equate the two and think that any socialist policy will result in the slaughters and violence that were historically seen with communist revolutions.

It is interesting to note that Fascists considered themselves diametrically opposed to Communists, yet their tatics were remarkedly similar. Both were highly militaristic systems. Both were deeply authoritarian in their implementation. Both repressed individual liberties for the “greater good” as dictated by the government. The main difference between the two is that Fascist governments implemented rabid Corporatist economic policies, where Communist governments implemented far-reaching Socialist economic policies.

Social Democracy

Described as the “Third Way”, Social Democracies exist all over the planet right now and account for the most successful, prosperous and advanced nations in the world.

In general, contemporary social democrats support: (source: wikipedia.org)

  • A mixed economy consisting mainly of private enterprise, but with government owned or subsidized programs of education, healthcare, child care and related services for all citizens.
  • Government bodies that regulate private enterprise in the interests of workers, consumers and fair competition.
  • Advocacy of fair trade over free trade.
  • An extensive system of social security (although usually not to the extent advocated by democratic socialists or other socialist groups), with the stated goal of counteracting the effects of poverty and insuring the citizens against loss of income following illness, unemployment or retirement.
  • Moderate to high levels of taxation (through a value-added and/or progressive taxation system) to fund government expenditure.

This reflects the social/political systems of Europe, Canada and the United States, Australia, India and many other democracies. Essentially, it attempts to take the best of Socialism and the best of Capitalism and find a balance between them and support this economic system through a democractically elected government.

In the United States, we have a Social Democracy. We have an economy fueled by private enterprise, corporations, small businesses and capitalist investors that is USUALLY regulated by government oversight and laws to make sure the free market economy doesn’t go nuts and tank itself (as with the Great Depression, the Savings and Loan Crisis of the 80’s or the most recent George W. Bush Recession). Additionally, the government collects taxes to support programs intended to build up society’s overall value, to raise more effective workers and educated citizens that will advance the nation’s growth.

The next time you think we aren’t a socialist country as yourself if you’ve benefited from any of the following social programs:

  • Social Security
  • Free Primary and Secondary Education
  • Free Fire Departments
  • Free Police Departments
  • Subsidized Postal System
  • Free Public Roads
  • Free Airwaves for Television and Radio
  • Unemployment Benefits
  • Medicare
  • Disability
  • Veterans Affairs
  • G.I. Bill
  • Free Health Clinics
  • Labor Laws like a 40 hour work week and overtime laws
  • and the list goes on

These are programs that have helped support society as a whole, preventing the harsh conditions we saw as a result of the Industrial Revolution. Whether you like it or not, we are a social democracy and we’ve all benefitted from that fact in the United States.

So the next time you hear some neo-conservative pundit talking on Fox News about Obama being a socialist or Fascists trying to take away someone’s right to own a gun, look into the real meanings of these words and correct them in your mind. Don’t fall into the trap of sensationalized propaganda being dealt out as if it were news. Take back the English language and start insisiting that others use these terms properly as well.

After 8 years of corporatist, fascist government running an out-of-control laisez-faire economy leading to complete economic meltdown and a loss of global respect and status, I for one welcome our new socialist democratic president!