At one point in the United States, there were two political parties that each served as a balancing force to the other. There was a time when both parties were much further to the left of the political spectrum than they presently are. There have been many times when the two parties were starkly different from one another. That time is no more. Sure, there are some topical issues that they debate to keep the public interested, but those issues are usually related in some way to different biblical viewpoints. For example, we protest (and rightly so) the Supreme Court in the ongoing debate over gay marriage, but miss the provision in H.R. 933 that gives bio-tech companies like Monsanto immunity from prosecution for the sale or distribution of any illegal genetically modified food sources.
The rider to H.R. 933 (section 735), was snuck into the bill and the International Business Times reported on their website the following:
Many members of Congress were apparently unaware that the “Monsanto Protection Act” even existed within the bill they were voting on. HR 933 was a spending bill aimed at averting a government shutdown and ensuring that the federal government would continue to be able to pay its bills. But the Center for Food Safety maintains that many Democrats in Congress were not even aware that the provision was in the legislation:
“In this hidden backroom deal, Sen. [Barbara] Mikulski turned her back on consumer, environmental and farmer protection in favor of corporate welfare for biotech companies such as Monsanto,” Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of the Center for Food Safety, said in a statement. “This abuse of power is not the kind of leadership the public has come to expect from Sen. Mikulski or the Democrat Majority in the Senate.”
It is well known that members of congress often do not read the bills that they vote upon….but why? Is it a sort of “plausible deniability”? What are these people elected for?
The start reality that we are facing is that there is now little difference between our political parties. Both serve the interests of the corporate elite and most of them are, in fact, part of that elite. They are wealthy and they serve their own needs. They are smooth-talking, power hungry, and more than anything else, they are greedy.
Our political parties, corporate pawns, are ruling over a country that is entering a free fall. The catering to the banks and corporate giants at the expense of the citizens is the cause of this fall. We witnessing the crumbling of the infrastructure of our country. We are seeing corporate dominance of our food and water supplies, our money, our media, and not to mention the terrible state of public education. They have the people fighting over gay marriage, abortion, and other biblical issues, while they assume control and ultimate power over all of the facets of society. They control the food. They control the money. They control the media. They control public education. Essentially, they control everything and the real kicker is that WE ELECT THEM!
The elite rule society primarily through the presence of fear. We are a fear mongering nation. We sell “national security” to a sleeping public that is more concerned about the latest adventures of the Kardashians than U.S. foreign policy in the middle east or Korea. They create this idea that the U.S. is threatened by these countries and then, as we have seen with the Patriot Act and the development of the Department of Homeland Security, quietly take away the freedoms that Americans once held.
Divide and conquer is alive and working well for the governing plutocracy. Until we start holding them accountable for the jobs that they are being paid to do, this will free fall will continue. We need to ask ourselves what we hold sacred. Do your elected officials share your view?
Would Ronald Reagan even win a primary with today’s movement conservatives? My guess is that he wouldn’t stand a chance. This is an interesting article from Consortiumnews by Ivan Eland discussing Reagan’s “conservativism”….
Ronald Reagan’s Hollow Conservatism
In the early 1990s, Republicans turned Ronald Reagan into an icon; they hailed him for “winning the Cold War;” they used his name to put conservatism beyond challenge. But this deification was hollow, a reality that today’s thoughtful conservatives, like the Independent Institute’s Ivan Eland, recognize.
By Ivan Eland
As usual, at the recent Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), speaker after speaker idolized the stylized image of Ronald Reagan. Unfortunately, humans believe images, which often diverge from reality; that’s why advertising on TV works. The same is true in politics.
And since politics depends heavily on selling yourself, accusations from the Left were misplaced that Reagan, as a mere actor, was not qualified to be president. Since William McKinley, the president’s main role is that of cheerleader-in-chief (it is another illusion that the charismatic Teddy Roosevelt pioneered the president’s use of the “bully pulpit”) — using the media to go over the heads of members of Congress to sell his policies to the American public.
President Ronald Reagan.
Thus, given this relatively recent primary presidential role and that Reagan had been an actor, Reagan was possibly the most qualified man ever to hold the modern presidency. He was an expert at creating an image — that of a conservative — and getting everyone to believe it.
Yet during the last years of his presidency, 1986 to 1988, most conservatives were furious at Reagan for having sold out the movement. Reagan’s image, however, benefited from the presidency of Bill Clinton, ironically a man who was in some respects more conservative than the Gipper. During the Clinton presidency, certain Republican operatives dusted off an idolized Reagan image and began using it to attack Clinton.
Reagan is always associated with his rhetorical advocacy of small government. However, during his presidency, average annual government spending increased as a percentage of GDP, whereas under Clinton it was reduced. (In fact, Clinton was the only president since Harry Truman to reduce per capita federal spending.)
Moreover, Reagan came in second among post-Truman presidents in average annual increases in the number of federal civilian employees in the executive branch as a portion of the population, exceeded only by the John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson period.
Reagan is most famous as a tax cutter; yet Reagan is last among post-World War II Republicans in reducing average annual taxes as a percentage of GDP. Although he did reduce taxes as a portion of GDP slightly, his spending increases as a percentage of GDP rendered his net tax cuts largely fraudulent.
Thus, he ran big federal deficits, thus tripling the national debt and turning the U.S. from being the largest creditor into being the largest debtor nation. He was number one in post-Truman presidents in increasing average annual debt as a proportion of GDP.
When these uncomfortable facts are noted, Reaganophiles usually then fall back to the position that he had to adopt such ruinous fiscal policies to build up military spending in order to bankrupt the Soviet Union and win the Cold War. The problem with this line of reasoning — and the corollary that especially Reagan’s spending on the Star Wars missile defense program made the Soviet Union insolvent — don’t square with the facts.
Even senior members of the Reagan administration’s national security team — for example, Jeane Kirkpatrick, Frank Carlucci, Cap Weinberger, and Jack Matlock — later admitted that Reagan had no master plan to bring down the USSR. Reagan’s close ally, German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, also concurred that the Gipper had no goal to topple the Soviet Union.
Nations as powerful as the USSR rarely succumb to foreign pressure, but instead usually change mainly from domestic causes; the Soviet Union was no exception. The Soviet economy had been in big trouble since the late 1970s and got far worse when oil prices plummeted during the 1980s — that is, when Saudi Arabia decided to teach its cheating fellow OPEC cartel members a lesson by driving petroleum prices into the cellar.
Although not in OPEC, oil was about the only thing the Soviet Union sold for hard currency that anyone wanted to buy. Thus, Soviet leaders were willing to elevate a reformer, Mikhail Gorbachev, who attempted to free up the Soviet political and economic system while keeping the communist party in charge. Sovietologists had always predicted that the entire system would collapse if any reforms were made at all.
Gorbachev ignored such predictions at his own peril and also decided to unload the sizeable expenses of maintaining Eastern European loyalty by armed force. As James Mann, who wrote a book on the end of the Cold War, stated, “Reagan didn’t win the Cold War; Gorbachev abandoned it.”
Why is the Harding-Coolidge period now a better model than the Reagan presidency for today’s conservatives to follow? After a disastrous and horrific World War I, Warren Harding restored the country to “normalcy” — a peaceful policy of military restraint overseas that led to prosperity at home.
Harding shrunk the massive government created to fight World War I to a size below what it was before the war started — the only time in American history that this was accomplished. After Harding died in office, Calvin Coolidge continued Harding’s policies, cutting the federal government in half and maintaining the restrained foreign policy.
The Harding/Coolidge period is probably the only time in American history that the Republican Party, when holding the presidency, actually stood for small government.
Currently, with the American public, especially young people, weary after a decade of two costly military quagmires, the situation is similar to that of popular outrage at the carnage of World War I. Like that prior period, the nation needs to rejuvenate economically by retrenching overseas and returning resources to the private sector.
The Reagan-like model of incurring huge debt by muscle flexing overseas needs to be replaced by a modern-day version of Harding/Coolidge military and fiscal restraint.
Ivan Eland is Director of the Center on Peace & Liberty at The Independent Institute. Dr. Eland has spent 15 years working for Congress on national security issues, including stints as an investigator for the House Foreign Affairs Committee and Principal Defense Analyst at the Congressional Budget Office. His books include Partitioning for Peace: An Exit Strategy for Iraq The Empire Has No Clothes: U.S. Foreign Policy Exposed, and Putting “Defense” Back into U.S. Defense Policy.
This is an excellent and very informative interview with Henry A. Giroux called The Violence of Neoliberlism and the Attack on Higher Education. Of particular interest is the ideology of neoliberalism as Giroux defines it: “As an ideology, it construes profit-making as the essence of democracy, consuming as the only operable form of citizenship, and an irrational belief in the market to solve all problems and serve as a model for structuring all social relations.”
So how much will the almighty dollar be worth once we have consumed all of the earth’s natural resources and left developing countries in ruins while ours crumbles from the inside?
The Violence of Neoliberalism and the Attack on Higher Education
Posted on Mar 27, 2013
By C.J. Polychroniou, Truthout
This interview first appeared at Truthout.
In his speech titled “Youth and the Politics of Disposability in Dark Times,” Dr. Henry A. Giroux argued that with the rise of market fundamentalism and the ensuing economic and financial meltdown, youth are facing a crisis unlike that of any other generation. Young people, especially low income and poor minority youth, are no longer seen as a social investment but are increasingly interpreted as a social problem and burden.
Chronis Polychroniou: How do you define neoliberalism?
Henry Giroux: Neoliberalism, or what can be called the latest stage of predatory capitalism, is part of a broader project of restoring class power and consolidating the rapid concentration of capital. It is a political, economic and political project that constitutes an ideology, mode of governance, policy and form of public pedagogy.
As an ideology, it construes profit-making as the essence of democracy, consuming as the only operable form of citizenship, and an irrational belief in the market to solve all problems and serve as a model for structuring all social relations.
As a mode of governance, it produces identities, subjects, and ways of life free of government regulations, driven by a survival of the fittest ethic, grounded in the idea of the free, possessive individual, and committed to the right of ruling groups and institutions to accrue wealth removed from matters of ethics and social costs.
As a policy and political project, neoliberalism is wedded to the privatization of public services, selling off of state functions, deregulation of finance and labor, elimination of the welfare state and unions, liberalization of trade in goods and capital investment, and the marketization and commodification of society.
As a form of public pedagogy and cultural politics, neoliberalism casts all dimensions of life in terms of market rationality. One consequence is that neoliberalism legitimates a culture of cruelty and harsh competitiveness and wages a war against public values and those public spheres that contest the rule and ideology of capital. It saps the democratic foundation of solidarity, degrades collaboration, and tears up all forms of social obligation.
Polychroniou: You claim neoliberalism is the most dangerous ideology of our times. In what ways?
Giroux: Neoliberalism creates a political landscape that destroys the social state, social protections, and democracy itself. As a theater of cruelty, it produces massive inequality in wealth and income, puts political power in the hands of ruling financial elites, destroys all vestiges of the social contract, and increasingly views those marginalized by race, class, disability and age as redundant and disposable. It facilitates the dismantling of democracy and the rise of the punishing state by criminalizing social problems and ruling through a crime-control complex. It also removes economics and markets from the discourse of social obligations and social costs.
The results are all around us, ranging from ecological devastation and widespread economic impoverishment to the increasing incarceration of large segments of the population marginalized by race and class. The language of possessive individualism now replaces the notion of the public good and all forms of solidarity not aligned with market values. Under neoliberalism the social is pathologized. As public considerations and issues collapse into the morally vacant pit of private visions and narrow self-interests, the bridges between private and public life are dismantled, making it almost impossible to determine how private troubles are connected to broader public issues. Long-term investments are now replaced by short-term profits while compassion and concern for others are viewed as a weakness.
Neoliberalism drains the pubic treasury while feeding the profits of the rich and the voracious military-industrial complex. In the end, it abolishes institutions meant to eliminate human suffering, protect the environment, ensure the right of unions, and provide social provisions. It has no vision of the good society or the public good and it has no mechanisms for addressing society’s major economic, political, and social problems.
Polychroniou: What is, for you, the role and the mission of the university?
Giroux: Higher education must be understood as a democratic public sphere – a space in which education enables students to develop a keen sense of prophetic justice, claim their moral and political agency, utilize critical analytical skills, and cultivate an ethical sensibility through which they learn to respect the rights of others. Higher education has a responsibility not only to search for the truth regardless of where it may lead, but also to educate students to make authority and power politically and morally accountable while at the same time sustaining a democratic, formative public culture. Higher education may be one of the few public spheres left where knowledge, values and learning offer a glimpse of the promise of education for nurturing public values, critical hope and a substantive democracy. Democracy places civic demands upon its citizens, and such demands point to the necessity of an education that is broad-based, critical, and supportive of meaningful civic values, participation in self-governance, and democratic leadership. Only through such a formative and critical educational culture can students learn how to become individual and social agents, rather than merely disengaged spectators, able both to think otherwise and to act upon civic commitments that demand a reordering of basic power arrangements fundamental to promoting the common good and producing a meaningful democracy.
Polychroniou: For years now, you have been saying that higher education is under attack by market fundamentalism – and you are, of course, absolutely right. Why are governments all over the world keen on turning public universities into training facilities for corporations?
Giroux: In the United States and in many other countries, many of the problems in higher education can be linked to low funding, the domination of universities by market mechanisms, the rise of for-profit colleges, the intrusion of the national security state, and the lack of faculty self-governance, all of which not only contradicts the culture and democratic value of higher education but also makes a mockery of the very meaning and mission of the university as a democratic public sphere. Decreased financial support for higher education stands in sharp contrast to increased support for tax benefits for the rich, big banks, military budgets, and mega corporations.
Rather than enlarge the moral imagination and critical capacities of students, too many universities are now wedded to producing would-be hedge fund managers, depoliticized students, and creating modes of education that promote a “technically trained docility.” Strapped for money and increasingly defined in the language of corporate culture, many universities are now driven principally by vocational, military and economic considerations while increasingly removing academic knowledge production from democratic values and projects. The ideal of the university as a place to think, to engage in thoughtful consideration, promote dialogue and learn how to hold power accountable is viewed as a threat to neoliberal modes of governance. At the same time, higher education is viewed by the apostles of market fundamentalism as a space for producing profits, educating a docile labor force, and a powerful institution for indoctrinating students into accepting the obedience demanded by the corporate order.
Henry A. Giroux currently holds the Global TV Network Chair Professorship at McMaster University in the English and Cultural Studies Department. His most recent books include: Twilight of the Social: Resurgent Publics in the Age of Disposability (Paradigm Publishers, 2012); Education and the Crisis of Public Values (Peter Lang, 2011); Youth in a Suspect Society (Palgrave, 2009); Politics After Hope: Obama and the Crisis of Youth, Race, and Democracy (Paradigm, 2010); Hearts of Darkness: Torturing Children in the War on Terror (Paradigm, 2010); The Mouse that Roared: Disney and the End of Innocence (co-authored with Grace Pollock, Rowman and Littlefield, 2010); Zombie Politics and Culture in the Age of Casino Capitalism (Peter Lang, 2011), and Henry Giroux on Critical Pedagogy (Continuum, 2011). Giroux is also a member of Truthout’s Board of Directors and a founder of our Public Intellectual Project. His web site is www.henryagiroux.com.
An interesting and disturbing article I found on Alternet.org today….
Five Ugly Extremes of Inequality in America– The Contrasts Will Drop Your Chin to the Floor
The first step is to learn the facts, and then to get angry and to ask ourselves, as progressives and caring human beings, what we can do about the relentless transfer of wealth to a small group of well-positioned Americans.
1. $2.13 per hour vs. $3,000,000.00 per hour
Each of the Koch brothers saw his investments grow by $6 billion  in one  year, which is three million dollars per hour based on a 40-hour ‘work’ week. They used some of the money to try to kill renewable energy standards around the country.
Their income portrays them, in a society measured by economic status, as a million times more valuable than the restaurant server  who cheers up our lunch hours while hoping to make enough in tips to pay the bills.
A comparison of top and bottom salaries within large corporations is much less severe, but a lot more common. For CEOs and minimum-wage workers, the difference  is $5,000.00 per hour vs. $7.25 per hour.
2. A single top income could buy housing for every homeless person in the U.S.
On a winter day in 2012 over 633,000 people were homeless  in the United States. Based on an annual single room occupancy (SRO) cost  of $558 per month, any ONE of the ten richest Americans  would have enough with his 2012 income to pay for a room for every homeless person in the U.S. for the entire year . These ten rich men together made more than our entire housing budget .
3. The poorest 47% of Americans have no wealth
At the other extreme, the 400 wealthiest Americans  own as much wealth as 80 million families – 62% of America . The reason, once again, is the stock market. Since 1980 the American GDP has approximatelydoubled . Inflation-adjusted wages have gone down . But the stock market has increased by over ten times , and the richest quintile of Americans owns 93%  of it.
4. The U.S. is nearly the most wealth-unequal country in the entire world
Out of 141 countries, the U.S. has the 4th-highest degree of wealth inequality  in the world, trailing only Russia, Ukraine, and Lebanon.
Yet the financial industry keeps creating new wealth for its millionaires. According to the authors of theGlobal Wealth Report , the world’s wealth has doubled in ten years, from $113 trillion to $223 trillion, and is expected to reach $330 trillion by 2017.
5. A can of soup for a black or Hispanic woman, a mansion and yacht for the businessman
Minority families once had substantial equity in their homes, but after Wall Street caused the housing crash, median wealth  fell 66% for Hispanic households and 53% for black households. Now the average single black or Hispanic woman has about $100 in net worth .
What to do?
End the capital gains giveaway , which benefits the wealthy almost exclusively.
Institute a Financial Speculation Tax , both to raise needed funds from a currently untaxed subsidy on stock purchases, and to reduce the risk of the irresponsible trading that nearly brought down the economy.
Perhaps above all, we progressives have to choose one strategy and pursue it in a cohesive, unrelenting attack on greed. Only this will heal the ugly gash of inequality that has split our country in two.
It seems as though it takes a catastrophic event to hit a developed country for the people to see that the problem is widespread and doesn’t just impact “somebody else”. You could use this line of thinking with a number of events ranging from school shootings to natural disasters. Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy have brought forth many new questioners of climate change. It takes something to hit at home to really start seeing the bigger picture. The difference with climate change, however, is that there is no hiding from it. It impacts every living thing on the planet.
It should seem obvious that our planet needs to switch to using renewable sources of energy to not only keep our planet clean and functional, but also to save money. High costs are the obstacles thrown forward to the public by those opposing renewable energy. This line of thinking is fatally flawed and is truly an outright lie. Society can’t afford NOT to change to renewables for a multitude of reasons. From the sustainability of life to the economic savings that renewable energy sources provide, the decision to make the change away from fossil fuels needs to happen very soon. Paul Brown, writing at the Climate News Network, writes,
Burning fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas adds significantly to global warming and will in time exhaust finite reserves. It also wastes resources which the world urgently needs to conserve for other purposes, according to a study released exclusively to the Climate News Network.
Dr. Matthias Kroll conducted a study titled, “The Monetary Cost of the Non-Use of Renewable Energies”, where he discusses the monetary costs associated with our non-use of renewable energy sources. From his study Kroll writes,
It is often claimed that renewables are still too costly and not yet competitive with conventional energy sources. But what costs are incurred when renewable energies are not used? Every day during which potential renewable energy sources are not utilised but exhaustible fossil fuels burnt instead speeds up the depletion of these non-renewable fuels. Using burnt fossil fuels for non-energy related purposes (e.g. in the petro-chemical industry) in the future is obviously impossible. Thus, their burning – whenever they could have been replaced by renewables – is costly capital destruction. This study concludes that, estimated conservatively, the future usage loss resulting from our current oil, gas and coal consumption is between 3.2 and 3.4 trillion US Dollars per year.1
The burning of finite fossil fuels is the use of energy that is non-renewable and gone forever. The depletion of these energy sources is a sure thing. It will happen and when that time comes, all of those things that we have and use every day will no longer be made. All of your electronics, toys, many medicines, and numerous other non-energy applications will be gone. We have energy sources that are free and that can not only sustain us, but make our planet a much cleaner and much more beautiful one to live on. The time is now for our leaders to take this topic seriously as our children and subsequent generations’ futures are at stake.
This sums it up quite well…