Moving Further from the Common Good

If we have a pool we want to fill with water, does it make more sense to turn on a faucet and fill it up, or to hire pilots to seed the clouds and try to make it rain?

If we have a pool we want to fill with water, does it make more sense to turn on a faucet and fill it up, or to hire pilots to seed the clouds and try to make it rain? Cloud-seeding, like our current approach to dealing with unemployment, would be discredited "trickle down" theory with a vengeance! --"Let's End Unemployment Once and for All" by Paul deLespinasse

In the past thirty years we have been persuaded by a Grand Fable that the central freedom of democratic capitalism is the freedom of the rich to broker their money to get richer, because that makes everyone richer.

There are some satellite myths: only the private sector creates jobs and wealth; deficits are always bad and a burden on our children; poor people have to "take responsibility" for their own health, welfare and retirement; people are poor because they are lazy, selfish, stupid, or greedy; the rich must be free of taxes so they can create more jobs and then we can tax the "little people" who do the work; private schools provide better education than public schools; private capital is necessary to underwrite the innovations in science, technology and manufacturing necessary to meet the present challenges of food, energy, and natural resources. Any questioning of these myths is met with accusations of "socialism" or "nanny state."

So we have a health insurance industry that doesn't provide any health care, diagnosis, surgery, nursing, or therapy and doesn't do R & D. They only sit in the middle and broker the cash between you and your health care providers, while skimming off about a third of that cash in profits.

So taxpayers underwrite building nuclear power plants because private entrepreneurs won't risk their fortunes on such hazardous ventures.

So big oil and coal mining companies generate huge profits for their shareholders while the costs - of both success and failure - are paid by taxpayers and consumers, and the risks to life and livelihood are borne by countless humans and wild creatures.

So we hear calls for raising the age to collect Social Security to 70 in order to save money on the deficit, even though a major consequence will be that fewer jobs are freed up for young people entering the job market.

So we are constantly pushed to "Go Green" by paying bills online. It may save some trees; even more it will save money for profits - not so much from paper and postage as from jobs - jobs of people with mortgages and children and aging parents.

So large private contractors profit from wars supported by the taxes of "little people" and the lives of youth who can't find jobs.

So now, although there are presently five unemployed workers for every job opening, Congress will not pass an unemployment benefits bill that would increase the debt-to-GDP ratio from 65.3% to 65.4% by the end of 2011.

Congressional Republicans seem to have hitched their wagons to unemployment in order to protect the tax cuts and profits of the rich, to preserve their ability to profit from Earth's resources and from weapons and wars of empire, and to keep the unemployed out of a job and broke until they vote for more Republicans. Likely outcomes: more unemployment, further declines in government revenues, more public costs for emergency health care, crime, domestic violence, and prisons, and more homelessness and hunger.

Predatory capitalism also has major goals for education: access to public money (local or national taxes) to make public schools into a new market for corporate development, and to get local school boards and teachers' unions out of all decision-processes for schools.

But it's not just the rich:. A dissatisfied letter-to-the-editor writer recently complained "[Politicians] care about power, greed, personal agendas and getting their way, regardless of their impact on people" and then went on to suggest that each person ask "Am I better off than I was in 2008? Have my taxes gone up? Is my income down? Do I still have a job? Do I feel safer? Have I lost some of my freedoms? "

To me, those questions are exactly about power, greed, personal agendas and getting one's way - not least because they are all expressed in terms of "I" and "my".

Where is the concern for the impact on others? Are our neighbors better off? Our community? The people of Afghanistan? Is everyone paying more taxes, or just those without tax loopholes or offshore tax havens? Has everyone's income increased? Or kept pace with the cost of living? Are there jobs in our communities? Are we all safer - including people who work in coal mines, or on the coasts of the Gulf of Mexico? Have we restricted some freedoms without due process of law?

Seeding the clouds of the rich to make it rain and fill all pools hasn't worked yet, but we seem to be further than ever from any consensus that we must maintain a public water supply from fair taxes, and use it for the common good: to invest in jobs, medical care, education, renewable energy and public infrastructure.

Worse, though consensus is emerging that the war in Afghanistan is not working, no one seems willing to stop that off-budget drain on our tax revenues and divert the flow back into our communities and nation.

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