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Jan-12-2008 17:04printcomments

Op Ed: Wasting Wars Imposed
Huge Delays, Heavy Defaults
On US Education System

Reagan Era Attack On Middle Class Multiplies Damage to System.

The share of money income going to the top 20 percent of all
households increased between 1979 and 1996 at the expense
of all other households.
Source: Department of Commerce.

(BEND, Ore.) - In a democracy that is far truer than when a dictator or other despot dominates not only the day-to-day record, but also the decisions and their consequences, historians insist that journalists write their special story in full detail, as soon as and as fast as it happens. This, as we live the events and suffer the consequences of our choices in “leadership” alongside our fellow Americans.

Democracy is definitely a “do-it-yourself” big deal, if it is to work at all, much less as it could --and should!!

At least in theory --about all that’s left to us (“we the people”) now—is to make the decisions via our vaunted governance-plan: “...OF the People, BY the People, FOR the People”.

Pogo saw deep into that most revealing characteristic of democracy all too well. His insight states compactly, without compunction: “We have met the enemy --and he is us!”

Any lingering look back as we propel ourselves rapidly into the 21st Century will reveal verifying depth of detail and our deserved consequences writ large --if painfully-- in Pogo’s short sentence --and the easily observed, now very obvious hard-hitting results.

What we have allowed to happen is inevitably our own mutual responsibility, as American citizens and members of “the People”.

There is no question that the wasting wars of today have broken the uninterrupted sequence of our democratic growth and development during the past century.

These costly struggles must be taken into brutal consideration of how our educational system has first been shaped, considerably distorted and even perverted by them. Even though prior events have been consequential, the truly catastrophic have come much more recently as our neglect has allowed.

Begin with the Reagan years, which historians now are finding increasingly more difficult to designate as an “Administration”. To do so demands some credibility for actions now seen to be made in some desperation, with little thought for the common good; or far too often, by crafty distortion; crony capitalism; open and obvious contrivance; corrupting special-interest influences; and even by common slogan, rhetoric slavishly repeated so often as to affect our judgment on matters of mutual commonweal.

Despite all attempts in defense, close observers of the Reagan Era must now concede that those years are clearly unavoidably responsible for the first strong impetus and continuing malign political motivation to kill off, disembowel, and destroy completely trade and other unionized-worker establishments in this nation: the true heart and soul of our acclaimed “middle class” seeking “The American Dream”.

First and surely foremost of consequences is the destructive policy of “starving the beast” --cutting down, and out if possible, tax support for the very substance providing life and opportunity for all our citizens: education.

That policy --activated wherever possible at the level described by longtime neocon Grover Norquist as “Drag government into the bathtub and strangle it to death!”-- is the root cause of the catastrophe we have allowed to be visited upon what had been a productive and efficient educational system.

With intent or not, with partial or full understanding of consequences even then completely clear, that pivotal action did more to disavow our democracy and move us into readiness for a truly fascistic future than any political action in American history.

Given the known, demanding, foundations for democracy, our educational system, from early grades through graduate school, was the obvious and inevitable major target; although many other supporting economic and social programs were also “in the sights” of those setting up this most serious of politically-motivated attacks ever encountered in our nation’s history.

Once such program targeted to lose support along with the educational system was the “welfare system”, carried over by continuing necessity from New Deal days. The welfare system was in large part operated in close connection with the schools, providing necessary child support, family sustenance and, often, actual rescue from starvation. It was a heavy demand-user for tax monies and therefore most vulnerable next to education.

The cynical Reagan approach --well-proven in many examples-- is perhaps most easily recognized in the well-worn stories about “Welfare mothers picking up food packages in their Cadillacs”, which rapidly became part of the urban myths created in devastating detail by the major perpetrators of this open attack on the whole system of governance.

Fundamental to the entire ongoing attack plan was the “supply-side” economic “system” built, believe it or not, from a curve rapidly lined out on a paper lunch napkin.

Its entire principle was the possibility that “less is really more” when it comes to marginal tax-rates: by slashing the rate, actual returns were --theoretically, at least-- supposed “to increase so rapidly the volume-growth would more than offset the lowered rate-of-return.”

Then it was coupled with a similar “can’t-lose connection” to the assumption that, given more dollars “freed from the tax-man”, the well-rewarded investors involved would “trickle down” the rescued capital “to provide expansion via new enterprises and added working tools, equipment and services”--thus guaranteeing further growth and inevitable prosperity for all.

That was the theory. Trickle-down economics.

But, it turned out, according to many economists, “the napkin must have been upside down” as one authoritative economist put it, “obscuring the absolute impossibility of getting something for nothing.”

History has been made. The public record now shows that such “supply-side” free-lunch applied stupidity has had one inevitable result: tax collected has been much less than it would have been, with the damaging consequences of stultifying what would otherwise have been possible for wise and probing action by Congress.

But that merely mirrored the original “starve the beast” theory, and thus went far too far towards acceptance by far too many otherwise cogitating citizens, misled by massive GOP “noise machine” activities down through all those years.

Coupled with large-volume tax slashes lavishly laid on for the rich and superrich, and the inescapable --sometimes irresponsible -- huge sums slavishly set up for the military and all those corporate cronies closely connected with “national security” and “the war on terrorism” -- the results have been calamitous and unavoidable.

Currently they have become so devastating that the majority of Americans now look aghast at what should be, normally, an enterprise and endeavor to be viewed with pride --service “in the military” as service to the nation.

The revolting proof of this particular bad taste in the larger pudding is the current necessity for very large enlistment bonuses --perhaps in prepayment for the demonstrated criminal neglect of veterans’ medical and psychological care if and when they return, damaged, from these devastating, hugely costly wasting wars.

Current public opinion is also moving rapidly to the full understanding of our ongoing economic predicament, and the very large changes in political outcomes --and probably similar large changes in the very system itself—that are becoming more inevitable every day.

This is the first of two on reasons why education is so shamefully under funded.
In the second Op Ed of this series we will consider the very considerable consequences of educational under-funding caused by these surrounding circumstances demanding vigilance and vigorous action from responsible citizens.

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Bartlett February 2, 2008 9:39 am (Pacific time)

By the way, the book Henry mentioned--Mindful Economics--is by an Oregon author! Joel Magnuson teaches economics in Portland.

Henry Ruark January 14, 2008 6:33 pm (Pacific time)

No -- Phew ! Fits far better as word meant to disperse bad smell. Will leave it to others to distinguish from whence it cometh, with the WHY already highly obvious for those still following this thread. For others frustrated by forced domination, in depth and some depravity, suggest you seek further contact with Editors as to why constant violation of Comment intention here is still allowed. We wasting huge amounts of precious and expensive white space on pretentious neocon nonsense now nationally proclaimed as last, lingering s..t-lines from disastrous regime about to disappear soon, leaving historically disastrous damages yet to be realized and assessed by the rest of us.

Jefferson January 14, 2008 3:43 pm (Pacific time)


Henry Ruark January 14, 2008 10:51 am (Pacific time)

Neal et al: Appreciate your additional notes on this spectacularly and intensely-felt theme, now beginning to "trickle down" (!) to those who should feel the liquid and taste the crumbs even more after yours. Re world economic and cultural events shaping what we do and MUST DO, the steps you advocate are beginning shufffles, and we must go far beyond them by redesigning and installing that new shape, purpose and process in those we allow to continue. That's what SUMMIT in Boston, reported here exclusively, was and is all about. The good work there is already hitting hard and home with many more corporate execs, and both national and international developments may be confidently expected during 2008. moresoon on that, too.

Neal Feldman January 14, 2008 9:28 am (Pacific time)

"Trickle down economics" in reality meant (and means) one of two things, if not both. First is "Piss on the poor" and the second is the concept that the majority will only get the unwanted crumbs that fall from the plates of the affluent. Can anyone prosper from just crumbs and being urinated upon? Nope. But that is the entire point of so-called 'supply side economics'... to calcify the stratification of society into permanent have and have-not classes. The undeniable (by any sane person dealing honestly with the facts of the real world) is that this country's citizens were far more generally prosperous during the 50s and 60s when the marginal rates were around 90%, roughly three times the 35% they are today. That was when the middle class grew. Today the middle class has almost disappeared. What we have today is 10% or less who live lives of opulent extravagance while almost everyone else struggles along up to their eyeballs in debt. It seems to me the rich learned nothing from Marie Antoinette's fate and the French Revolution (and other revolutions as well). Piss on, and piss off, the poor enough and they come to realize that they vastly outnumber the rich and the rich can be ended by a guillotine (or other methods) just as easily as anyone else. On that day there will again be a massive uncontrolled redistribution of wealth. My personal preference would be to avoid that by reversing the aspects leading to it. Return to the days when companies offering pensions to their employees were not seen as targets to be picked clean by corporate raiders. Return to the marginal rates of 90% so we can cut the rates paid by the middle class to allow it again to prosper. Reverse the gluttonous trillion dollar tax cuts for the rich enacted by Shrub and the GoPher Congress etc. To answer Sandy as to what do I own I own everything in my home. I will even fully own my home in about 19 yrs (as much as one can own property that is not held by alloidal title but in the more common 'in fee simple' status to these days). But for everything else I own I owe no debt for it. I also try to build up savings (even though rules for disability services limit how much one is allowed to save... a pretty stupid plan if you ask me but I don't male the rules). Ah well...

Henry Ruark January 14, 2008 9:18 am (Pacific time)

To all: Documentation here so extensive, mostly from file started 20 years ago, I hesitate to offer access in current "culling files" situation here. BUT this latest one is so comprehensive it demands listing: "Redeeming the Dismal Science: Mindful Economics",at PAINE/?P=506. For solid bgrnd, see this book review AND the book, on which moretocome later...

Vic January 13, 2008 7:09 pm (Pacific time)

Well put, Henry and Sandy!

Sandy Taylor January 13, 2008 6:41 pm (Pacific time)

Thanks Henry for speaking out. I can't believe that there's anybody left alive that thinks we benefited from Reagan's "feed the rich" programs. The rich never have to worry about the basics of life anyhow, so their only beef is how much they pay in taxes. Not how few nurses there are, or how few kids can afford lunch. One day they're all going to wake up and have some problems of their own, and I hope they know how to cook from scratch. No one is above being poor, and if you think so, then you're probably one of the elite who has been sheltered from the hardships of life by your parents and other unrealistic mentors. Cut up those credit cards and see how far you get. What DO you OWN? Give back the car...the house...the clothes on your very back that you still owe on. Then where will you go? It would be a good lesson for everyone who thinks that poor people are only poor because they choose to be. Right.

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