Civil Discourse Now

Where the far left and far right overlap for fun and enlightenment

Suggestions for "real" policy changes in the U.S. or "If I were King of the Forest".

   Here are some solutions to the problems of our economy and society today. Label me or pigeonhole me as you will (or already have).

   1) Re-re-distribute the wealth in this country. In 1981, the president-who-shall-remain-nameless (or you-know-who) set about crushing unions and giving greater consideration to CEOs than line-workers and, thus, gutted the middle class. Money was taken from those who earned it and palmed off to those who inherited it. The lower the socioeconomic class of the people who receive money, the more likely it is to remain here.

   2) Cut the defense budget significantly. By that I mean, cut most of the new weapons systems and a lot of the money for overseas exploits. We are not the cops of the World. We alienate others and cause more attacks than we protect ourselves via overseas presence on the scale at which it exists today. Take that money and invest it in infrastructure—bridges, highways, passenger and freight rail. We can move some of our military personnel over to these activities and train many people to engage in the work.

   3) Get religion out of education. If people want to raise their children in a particular religious way of thought, they may do so on their, or their church’s or synagogue’s or mosque’s or temple’s or whatever the structure is called, own dime. After all, religious institutions receive a big enough break via tax-free status. We need to teach about real science, history, math, foreign languages—latest polls say Japanese, Chinese, and Arabic—as well as English.

   4) Reduce the student-to-teacher ratios in our schools. One teacher has difficulty teaching 35 students. Education probably is the greatest elements of our infrastructure. More teachers will help.

   5) Give greater incentives to people to teach. I mean jack those salaries and perks for people who really are qualified (like my friend Jon Easter). We need more of them and fewer teachers hired primarily as coaches and secondarily as teachers.

   6) Legalize all drugs. By that I mean we fully should legalize drugs, not simply decriminalize drugs. When I first suggested this on TV in 1976 (when I received equal time on Channel 10 in Terre Haute—"And now Mark Small, Student Body President of DePauw, will give equal time to voice his opinion...) many thought the idea too far-out. Today? The War on Drugs was lost long ago. Legalize drugs and tax them. They would be sold in stores licensed and monitored by the State. Prices would be lower. There would be no gang crime. (Remember Prohibition? Gang wars over booze ended right after Prohibition ended. We would have far less gun violence.)

   7) Release from prisons those people incarcerated only for drug crimes. After all, if we now have legalized drugs, why incarcerate people for matters no longer illegal. If the person in question also is incarcerated because he or she shot somebody, that is a different matter. Drop the drug offense from the conviction, but keep the other offense(s) as is or are.

   8) Ban privatized penal facilities. CCA’s model contract requires a signatory governmental entity to provide enough inmates that the facility or facilities maintain 90% capacity. This is supposed to be "the land of the free." We have 25% of the World’s prison population but 5% of the overall population. We should not provide incentives to place people in prison.

   9) Adopt single-payor health care—i.e., national health care.

   These are a few of my proposals. I posted (or tried to post) part of this on Doug Masson’s blog earlier this morning but am not sure I was successful. If I was, cool; if not, here is a part of the platform I would advocate for "real" change.     

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Comment by Kurt Lorey on February 18, 2013 at 1:16pm

Paul, thanks for the timely comments.

It might be considered somewhat debatable whether an post-graduate education degree is more, or less, rigorous than one in biology, computer science, or anything else. Rigor often depends upon how much one puts into one's work and also how much one's advisers make one work. Truthfully, all too many post-high school degrees are worth the paper they are printed upon, in my opinion. All of them are barriers to entry.

Man, I sure HOPE there are some "amazing retirement benefits"! So far, I don't see them, though they are certainly better than none. I agree that administration how gotten out of hand. Still, they are just a reflection of what goes on in the private and other public sectors.

To your further points:

a. Way too many lawyers mean that many don't make any money at it at all. TAlk to Paul Ogden about the "glut" of people with JD degrees. IPS teachers don't make what your township friend makes. Hard to believe programmers don't make more.

b. Criticism of anybody comes usually as an aggregate complaint. Oh, this individual might be fine, but most of them stink like yesterday's garbage. Hardly fair and generally uninformed.

c. Not so much anymore. That flag is blowing in a different direction now.

d. Leaving bad school systems to "fester" is a voter problem. the local control mantra ruled until recently. Another change in the air there.

e. Neither do private schools. Sometimes much worse at sweeping problems under the proverbial rug.

f. Your age is showing. For better or worse, too many kids today come to school woefully underprepared, or worse under-socialized or problematic. There is an ED classroom across the hall. How those teachers put up with that is beyond my comprehension. As to your example of LD, I think that too many parents simply don't put in the effort to help their children prepare for school if they are developmentally behind their peers. Then, teachers have to try and motivate them to catch up, not an easy thing to do when all the kids hear about school is negative.

The system needs an overhaul. Are we, as citizens, up to the task? I think not. Band-Aids, Solutions du jour, rubber-stamp school boards, self-aggrandizing administrators, and bureaucrats and politicians who can't run government right, but think they know what's best for everything else. It's a pile-on.

Comment by Bill Thompson on February 18, 2013 at 10:22am

Paul - my opinion fwiw is that American factory workers haven't benefited from NAFTA; most people in the US do benefit from lower prices for manufactured goods. It's difficult to find things made domestically.

Kurt -

First, the reason teachers have masters degrees is that the teachers' unions and universities have, through legislative pressure, made it a requirement to have that credential, to keep the barrier-to-entry artificially high.  The degree of difficulty in the school of education is nothing compared to that in biology or computer science. My parents were taught very well by teachers with 2-year degrees. Beyond the 2-year degree the additional education is IMO of little value, because being a successful teacher has more to do with the person, not a masters degree. In Indiana all public school teachers have to get their MA within 5 years of starting work; the percentage of teachers who fail to achieve the MA because the coursework is too difficult, is close to zero.

Second, all health plans are being reduced. People who work in public education have some amazing retirement benefits, and the most egregious are the administrators. Only in public education can an employee buy additional years of service in a retirement plan. Indiana is $9 billion in the hole, in pension funding.

Third, I keep hearing about the hours, but I've read the IPS contract and other union contracts. Either teachers are the only union members who go beyond their contract, or teachers make the most noise about the hours. The contract requires a very specific workload. I suggest many teachers work overtime because they care about what they do. But a typical white collar worker in the US doesn't work 8x5 either.

Neither I nor 99% of the US denigrate teachers. A good teacher is a valuable resource. My thing is:

a. Teachers unions complain a lot about pay and hours though according to the US Dept of Labor, they make on average more than lawyers and computer programmers.
b. Teachers unions even complain about the public denigrating teachers. The public doesn't have it in for teachers as people, it's the price tag. In my township a teacher with 20 years experience makes $80k for the school year, plus benefits. That is a sh*t ton of money.
c. Bad teachers cannot be fired.
d. Bad school systems are left to fester decade after decade.
e. Public schools don't protect the students' safety.
f. Charter opponents always claim that public schools have to take everyone, including the LD. I went to an IPS grade school in a poor neighborhood, and real, disabling LD was rare. Now however parents receive SSI benefits totaling $10,000 a year if their child is LD, so I think a lot of the LD in IPS is BS.

So in part it's the price tag, in part it's the failure of administration. It's not a personal attack on the individual teacher.

Comment by Kurt Lorey on February 18, 2013 at 9:43am

Just some comments regarding educators.

First, compare apples to apples. Teachers have master's or doctorate degrees. Compare their renumeration to those groups with similar backgrounds, not the general population. Somehow, I feel that they wouldn't seem overpaid then.

In IPS, at least, insurance benefits have slipped badly in the last thirty years. At best, I'd say "Buick trending towards Oldsmobile". In fact, the current thing is to shed non-employees (as in family members). Have never seen the like.

Third, I agree that no teachers stay up all night grading papers. But, my wife grades papers every freaking night and on weekends too. Drive by her school on the weekends and there are more than a few teachers there living the "high life", completing bureaucratic-mandated paperwork, drawing up lesson plans, and trying to stay organized in a way I imagine you wouldn't be doing on your time off. Why? Because they aren't allowed any time to take care of any such thing during "working hours". Can you say the same about your job?

Depending upon the grade level, I think the classroom size varies from 22 to 28 students. Getting an aide from the administration? Like pulling a sore tooth from a tiger (even when mandated by law).

Want to actually learn first-hand, instead of from somebody else's "talking points" agenda? Spend some time volunteering in a school instead of complaining about them (since you don't seem to like complainers).

I have more to say about some of the other points here, but am out of time now.

Comment by Paul K. Ogden on February 17, 2013 at 9:20pm

I am a lot closer to what Mr. Thompson said, except for that slam against NAFTA which was in fact far and away Bill Clinton's best achievement as President.  NAFTA has been a tremendous boon to our economy.

I especially agree with his comments on education.

Comment by Bill Thompson on February 17, 2013 at 1:14pm

At least your points of view are not copied verbatim from one political party's platform. Mix-and-match. But your points have more to do with rewarding certain people at the expense of others, than with setting goals:

1) The goal is to foster a society and investment structure that produces greater equality, so that the working poor aren't living on the edge. Reagan broke one union, of government employees, that had violated the law and threatened to shut down air travel. In some respects unions go too far, in some respects business goes too far. Until the 1970's the law was that semitrailers on interstate runs had to return home with an empty trailer, so that's an example of unions going too far. NAFTA is business going too far. Neither side cares about creating a lasting and equitable society, it's all gimme gimme gimme.

2. The goal is to reduce "malinvestment" - I'm stuck on that word, I wonder if anyone else uses it. It means things society puts its money into, whether it be thru government or consumer purchases, that don't pay off over the long haul. The US has military bases in 150 countries and acts like it's Rome circa the time of Christ. The US spends double the percent of GDP on military, compared to France, so start with a 50% haircut.

3. The goal would be to keep religion and the state apart, but I assume from the other points this point has nothing to do with religion, it's all about anti-voucher. To that I say, the teachers unions and education business have had 40 years to fix IPS, and results are still horrendous. The malinvestment is for kids to spend 12,000 hours K-12 in IPS, at a cost of $125,000-$150,000, with such poor results. Most of what's taught has zero application to most kids adult lives.

4. Public schools don't have a 35:1 ratio. It's more like 25:1.

5. A goal in any society might be that people are rewarded based on the value of their work. Teachers already make far more than they should. The average public school teacher in Marion county grosses $40 an hour, plus Cadillac benefits, yet they never stop complaining. And no, they don't stay up all night grading papers.  Indiana public school teachers rank 4th in the US, in terms of teacher wages vs average wages of all workers.

6. The goal is to align resources spent on law enforcement and prisons, with the impact of the crime. The bank HSBC was recently convicted of money laundering on an astronomical scale, yet their management isn't in prison. Meanwhile, Jamaal got caught with 1 gram of crack, so he's doing 2-10 ? Better to start over and make everything legal like it was 100 years ago. And don't give me this popular slogan about pot, "legalize it and tax it", that's missing the point. It should be legal and free for anyone to grow and consume on their own. No taxes.

7) Same as 6, makes sense.

8) The goal is to avoid constructing functions in government that are self-serving, or self-feeding. Prisons and law enforcement are ever-growing beasts. This also includes civil forfeiture, red-light cameras, etc. I'd add that government functions shouldn't be outsourced, if that function can be used to screw people, or create the opportunity for graft - for example, the Indiana Economic Development Commission. Outsourcing the state's printer maintenance is OK though.

9) The goal is to make available, and if necessary, provide, quality healthcare for all. We don't absolutely need single payor to do that - it's one of multiple ways, and it happens to be the one that creates the most opportunity for loss of privacy and favoritism. Also happens to be the one Marx would have liked. Government-run healthcare in Canada got to be so controlled that for a while it was illegal for an individual to spend their own money, within Canada, for additional healthcare services. I don't even know what to call that except totalitarianism. I agree wholeheartedly that way too much money (malinvestment) is spend on paperwork and claims processing, no argument there.

To provide healthcare in the US, I'd start with everybody getting the same coverage as members of Congress, free of charge. I'd fund this by cutting other spending, starting with military and education. So I am agreeing with what I think your goal is, that being to provide quality healthcare for all.

The challenges in providing universal helath care are numerous:

a. Any given society can't afford healthcare for non-citizens. The best solution to this is for Mexicans to overthrow their wretched government. If you create a system that draws people in with the allure of freebies, you get Santa Barbara, which is swarming with lazy homeless losers.

b. Incentives can't be made strong enough. If someone has diabetes, weights 400 pounds, drinks a case of Coke a day, smokes, and has unprotected sex, it's a big drain on society to provide them medical. So what can be done with people who insist on not being healthy ? Cut them out of the system ? Throw them in jail ? Have them declared incompetent ?

c. Any health insurance system with a government presence will bring in the loons from the left who insist on extremes, like that late-term abortions where the mother and baby are healthy, must be paid for, and that not paying for such abortions is somehow evil, sexist, racist, xenophobic or whatever. So maybe society gives in and says, yup, we'll pay for those. Then a family from India comes along, the mother's having twins, a boy and a girl, and wants the girl aborted. So then what. We can't create a relatively equitable system that somebody doesn't come along and screw up with addons. This is why health insurance in NY state costs so much, they are mandated to cover every conceivable service.

d. A system run by the government will absolutely benefit government officials. Heck, Charles Rangel thought it was ok to use 4 public housing apartments for his own. The government is too corrupt to be trusted on any matter.

So I agree on the goal, not sure how to get there.

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