This blog post explores point #2 mentioned in ‘A new beginning.’ If you haven’t read that post, it is recommended reading before reading this post.
Good policy is one that is made in the best interests of every citizen in the country. That is the gold standard one would aim for. In practice, it ‘s hard to make policy that is in everyone’s best interest. Any policy is quite likely to inconvenience some and perhaps even affect some adversely.
A well-run democracy would be one where decisions made, and laws passed take into account the vast majority of the populace. If we look back at the history of American democracy, it was more or less doing this, despite how bad it might seem, given mistakes such as allowing slavery and not having universal suffrage. These were addressed in time due to great leaders, elected or not, and due to movements forming around such leaders that led to a change in practices and enactment of necessary laws.
So what changed?
Corporate lobbying picked up in the 70s and has since had tremendous growth. Up until the 70s corporate lobbying was largely done individually by a corporation, but that changed with the Business Roundtable. By the 80s corporate lobbying was very well established.
Lobbying in itself isn’t bad. But too much of anything is harmful. We now have a system that is mostly driven by corporate interests and very little by public interest groups and labor groups.
The dismantling of America
There is a lot of talk about how American is the land of the free and how we have the best. Is this true?
The pioneering spirit of America was tamed in many ways. Here are a few:
- Taxes on your income: Income tax was passed by Congress with the 16th amendment to the constitution in 1909 and ratified it in 1913. Prior to that Lincoln (by approval of congress) imposed a 3% tax on income in 1861 on income greater than $800, to help pursue the Civil War. Congress repealed this in 1871.
Clearly what was done in 1861 was need based — to deal with an emergency. The motive for the 16th amendment was an effort to increase revenue while reducing the burden on the poor, as tariffs which were the primary source of income for states and federal government affected the poor.
It is ironical that more than 7 million Americans get pushed below the poverty line due to income taxes. Why do we have this situation? Because we don’t have inflation-adjusted income taxes, resulting in onerous taxation as the years go by.
- Reduction of medical choice: America used to be well known for homeopathic medicines, colleges, and doctors. Homeopathy had gained recognition in the US because of its success in treating the many disease epidemics rampant at the time — including scarlet fever, typhoid, cholera and yellow fever.
The American Medical Association and the Drug companies couldn’t have this, as this created a system that was not very remunerative. You see natural substances can’t be patented and the drug companies couldn’t have this. The AMA felt it was under threat with the popularity of homeopathy and used double-blind studies to discredit homeopathy. Double blind studies wouldn’t make sense for homeopathy — due to its holistic approach to matching a remedy to a patient. Dr. Bill Gray’s book “Homeopathy Science or Myth” provides a good account of how homeopathy was decimated in the 1920s.
A homeopathic remedy costs about $10 – $30 and lasts a long time. Compare this to the 100s of dollars for an artificially made drug (which does nothing to cure, but merely palliates or suppresses a symptom). This is profit at play. Profit is dictating policy, either through direct or indirect means.
And we now have a health crisis in this country and crazy health insurance premiums. Is this the land of the free? India, a young democracy (but the largest) has more freedom when it comes to health than the United States.
- School choice: With the advent of public schools and school districts, the country has created inequality of the worst kind. Anyone should be able to go to any school, and with such a system, you have the fluidity of access to good schools and a way to prevent appropriation of a school by a community. The district based system has created poverty on an ongoing basis by restricting access to good schools for the economically poor or lower middle class.
This further limits the choice of where people can live and the consequent urban problems such as long commutes for parents.
- A socialist agenda: The Affordable Care Act (a.k.a Obamacare) is being touted by many as socialist. But it goes back to the institution of Income tax and the subsequent introduction of Social Security taxes and Medicare taxes.
These are well-meaning measures (except income tax), but could have been handled differently. For one, a self-managed system of investing, including investment in metals and real-estate could have created more security for individuals than a state-managed fund (which has no accountability or transparency).
401K plans were an opportunity to allow for something like that, but Wall Street lobbies have ensured that 401k plans can invest only in the stock market. This is an example of the greater good sacrificed for the interests of a few.
- Globalization: Globalization is great if you are a corporation or a business owner that can source materials and finished products from another country that has a lower currency value than the US dollar.
The interests of the ordinary people have been fully forgotten. Where is the factory worker going to get his pay, with factories disappearing? This was a question that was never asked and never answered. The result is we have ghost towns around the country and a lot of broken lives and misery.
And we need Obamacare? If one can’t pay his bill because his factory closed or laid off, what is one going to do with Obamacare and how is one going to pay the premiums?
Trump is getting so much attention because he clearly sees what Globalization has done to the economy. The 1% vs. 99% is a result of ill-formed policies such as Globalization.
Trade is good, but not the trade of finished products at the expense of locally finished products. All finished products are a competition to local production. Raw material import and finished good exports have to balance more or less.
The welfare of natural persons is as important as the well-being of artificial persons (corporations), and that begins with ensuring that people can be employed and live with dignity.
Decision making and policy should take the good of the vast majority into account. If policy making were done in such manner, we wouldn’t have the poverty levels we have now. It is morally reprehensible to tax people that make as little as $12,000 a year.
There should be no taxes for anyone making under $60,000, and it should be inflation linked so that we don’t have the situation recur in another 10 years.
Don’t let the government take care of you. Let it serve you with good policies that help you do your thing. Special interests, be it lobbying by teacher’s union or big pharma, are the enemy of the public good.