RSSCategory: Political Science

New Harvard Business School Study: U.S. Federal Government Is Increasingly Good at Being Bad

September 15, 2017 | By | Reply More
New Harvard Business School Study: U.S. Federal Government Is Increasingly Good at Being Bad

Here’s how a new Harvard Business School study sums up our Federal Government:

America’s political system was long the envy of the world. It advanced the public interest and gave rise to a grand history of policy innovations that fostered both economic and social progress. Today, however, our political system has become the major barrier to solving nearly every important challenge our nation needs to address. . . In areas such as public education, health and wellness, personal safety, water and sanitation, environmental quality, and tolerance and inclusion, among others, U.S. progress has stalled or gone in reverse. In these areas, where America was often a pioneer and leader, the U.S. has fallen well down the list compared to other advanced countries.

The study concluded that the political system is not actually failing. It is working, but its function is different than the one taught in high school textbooks:

Most people think of politics as its own unique public institution governed by impartial laws dating back to the founders. Not so. Politics is, in fact, an industry—most of whose key players are private, gain-seeking organizations. The industry competes, just like other industries, to grow and accumulate resources and
influence for itself. The key players work to advance their self-interests, not necessarily the public interest. It’s important to recognize that much of what constitutes today’s political system has no basis in the Constitution.
As our system evolved, the parties—and a larger political industrial complex that surrounds them—established and optimized a set of rules and practices that enhanced their power and diminished our democracy.

The title to the study is: “WHY COMPETITION IN THE POLITICS INDUSTRY IS FAILING AMERICA Here is the full study.

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Blue Lies Take Center Stage in the Era of Trump

March 29, 2017 | By | 3 Replies More
Blue Lies Take Center Stage in the Era of Trump

Donald Trump tells numerous easily disprovable lies: an average of 3 false or misleading claims per day for the first 100 days of his presidency. But his followers don’t seem to care. I’m not surprised that this technique of telling numerous bald lies works. I’ve long thought of these utterances as “tribal truths,” and I’ve seen it all my life, especially in the areas of politics and religion. Today I learned another term for this phenomenon: “Blue Lies.”

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The United States is not much of a democracy

December 25, 2016 | By | Reply More

The United States is no much of a Democracy, and it wouldn’t have mattered much going forward had Hillary Clinton become the next president:

[T]here’s the brazen falsehood of the widespread belief that the U.S. is a “great democracy” in the first place, to be subverted by Russia (or anyone else). Over the past three-plus decades, leading academic researchers Martin Gilens (Princeton) and Benjamin Page (Northwestern), both establishment, liberal political scientists, have concluded, the U.S. political system has functioned as “an oligarchy,” ruled by the few wealthy elites and their corporations. Examining data from more than 1,800 different policy initiatives in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, Gilens and Page found that wealthy and well-connected elites consistently steer the direction of the country, regardless and against the will of the U.S. majority and irrespective of which major party holds the White House and/or Congress. “The central point that emerges from our research is that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy,” Gilens and Page write, “while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence.” As Gilens explained to the liberal online journal Talking Points Memo two years ago, “ordinary citizens have virtually no influence over what their government does in the United States.” Such is the harsh reality of “really existing capitalist democracy” in the U.S., what Noam Chomsky has called “RECD”—“pronounced ‘wrecked’ by accident.”

The Inauthentic Opposition

The late Princeton political theorist Sheldon Wolin considered U.S.-style RECD a form of “corporate-managed fake-democracy” and “inverted totalitarianism.” He called it “democracy incorporated.” It’s a “democracy” in which the only two officially viable and corporate-captive political organizations, the Democratic and Republican parties, both stand well to the right of majority progressive-populist public opinion. The right-wing leadership of these two corporate and militarist parties skews the game against those in their party who would campaign and perhaps govern in accord with that public opinion.

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Alan Grayson’s new Declaration of Independence

July 4, 2015 | By | Reply More

I received this new Declaration of Independence in a mass emailing from Alan Grayson:

We need a new declaration of independence. FDR took a stab at this, with his “Four Freedoms.” Freedom of speech. Freedom of worship. Freedom from want. Freedom from fear. That’s a good start.

But now, eight decades later, we need to declare our independence from other forms of oppression.

We hereby declare our independence from bigotry, in all its evil forms. We declare our independence from racism, sexism, homophobia, language discrimination and chauvinism. Everyone has equal rights, no matter where you’re from, what you look like, what language you speak, and whom you love. Everyone deserves respect.

We hereby declare our independence from narrow-minded, extremist or violent religious fundamentalism. We live in a land where church and state are separate. Religious belief, no matter how sincere, is no license to dictate to others whether to terminate a pregnancy, whether to use contraception, or whom to marry. Earlier this year, I placed my hand on the Bible and swore to uphold the Constitution; I didn’t place my hand on the Constitution and swear to uphold the Bible.

We hereby declare our independence from the greedy. Malefactors of great wealth have no right to buy and sell elected officials thorough the legalized bribery of “independent expenditures.” They have no right to despoil our land and our water, the air we breathe and the food we eat. They have no right to manipulate or gut our laws in order to increase their lucre. They have no right to jack up the price of what we buy, or determine what we see on TV or on our computer screens.

We hereby declare our independence from “1984”-style surveillance. Neither the Government nor a private company has any reason to monitor the activities of innocent people, without their express, informed and freely given consent. Who I’m with, what I say, what I buy, what I read; that’s none of anyone else’s business. Privacy – the fundamental right to be left alone – is an essential part of what it means to be a human being.

We hereby declare our independence from exploitation. Bad bosses are today’s King George. They want to work employees as hard as they can, and pay them as little as possible in return. They call the difference profit. If workers are organized, they can fight back. But if not, then they need legal protection from exploitation. If you have a job, you should have a living wage, and time-and-a-half for overtime. If you have a job, you should have health coverage. If you have a job, you should have paid sick leave. If you have a job, you should have a pension. As John Mellencamp would say, “Ain’t that America?”

We hereby declare our independence from misinformation. Fox News is a lie factory. Special interests used to lie to us about the dangers of smoking; now they lie to us about the dangers of pollution and climate disruption. They claim a right to “free speech,” but we have a right to honest speech. We have to be part of what a Reagan aide once dismissed as the “reality-based community.”

We hereby declare our independence from hubris. No, we can’t bring peace through war. No, we can’t force our way of life or our way of thinking on seven billion other people. No, we aren’t going to end the 1200-year-old civil war between the Sunnis and the Shia. No, we aren’t going to go and kill everyone everywhere in the world who harbors some harsh views of us. And no, they won’t greet our soldiers with flowers, bake apple pies for them, and salute the American flag with a hand on their hearts. They want to be them, not us. We can care for victims, protect ourselves and help our friends without sticking our nose into every else’s business.

We hereby declare our independence from a rigged system of fake trade. We buy their stuff, creating tens of millions of jobs in other countries. But they don’t buy an equal amount of our stuff. Instead, they buy our assets — $11,000,000,000,000.00 of our assets. They not only rob us of our jobs, but they drive us deeper and deeper into debt. When did Uncle Sam become Uncle Sap? If we don’t declare independence, the endgame is national bankruptcy.

And me? I hereby declare my independence from the corrupt system of campaign finance. I will not carve up the law into little pieces, and sell it to the highest bidder. I will not make “friends” with lobbyists and special interests and the minions of multinational corporations, and then “help” those “friends.” I will not forsake my real job – doing something good for the 700,000 people who chose me to be their Congressman – in favor of begging millionaires and billionaires for a few crumbs from their tables.

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Karl Marx was correct about these ill-affects of capitalism

November 12, 2014 | By | Reply More

Rolling Stone points out that, despite some huge problems with his proposed solutions, Marx was correct about these ill-effects of capitalism.

1. Capitalism’s Chaotic Nature

2. Imaginary Appetites

3. The Globalization of Capitalism

4. Monopoly

5. The Reserve Army of Industrial Labor

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What Karl Marx got right

February 19, 2014 | By | Reply More

To this point, Karl Marx offered a system of government that has not worked well anywhere that it has been tried, at least so far. I took a college course on Marx many years ago, and I was impressed with many of his criticisms of capitalism. Some of those criticisms of capitalism are becoming apparent to most of us, as set forth in this article by Sean McElwee of Rolling Stone. Here are the headings:

1. The Great Recession (Capitalism’s Chaotic Nature)
2. The iPhone 5S (Imaginary Appetites)
3. The IMF (The Globalization of Capitalism)
4. Walmart (Monopoly)
5. Low Wages, Big Profits (The Reserve Army of Industrial Labor)

McElwee’s conclusion:

Marx was wrong about many things. Most of his writing focuses on a critique of capitalism rather than a proposal of what to replace it with – which left it open to misinterpretation by madmen like Stalin in the 20th century. But his work still shapes our world in a positive way as well. When he argued for a progressive income tax in the Communist Manifesto, no country had one. Now, there is scarcely a country without a progressive income tax, and it’s one small way that the U.S. tries to fight income inequality.

Here’s a related article by Jesse Myerson of Salon: “Why you’re wrong about communism: 7 huge misconceptions about it (and capitalism).” Here are the misconceptions:

1. Only communist economies rely on state violence.
2. Capitalist economies are based on free exchange.
3. Communism killed 110 million* people for resisting dispossession.
4. Capitalist governments don’t commit human rights atrocities.
5. 21st Century American communism would resemble 20th century Soviet and Chinese horrors.
6. Communism fosters uniformity.
7. Capitalism fosters individuality.

Myerson’s conclusion regarding misconception 7:

As a matter of fact, most of the greatest art under capitalism has always come from people who are oppressed and alienated (see: the blues, jazz, rock & roll, and hip-hop). Then, thanks to capitalism, it is homogenized, marketed, and milked for all its value by the “entrepreneurs” sitting at the top of the heap, stroking their satiated flanks in admiration of themselves for getting everyone beneath them to believe that we are free.

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What happens when everything is a commodity

February 12, 2014 | By | Reply More

Chris Hedges discusses America’s warmongering, the war that the military is waging on journalism, the rise of hyper-masculinity, the fact that most problems are now seen as invitations to apply violence, and the fact that most things have become valuable only insofar as they are commodities. Hedges is not a defeatist, though. He states, “You can’t talk about hope if you don’t resist. Once we give up, we’re finished. . . . We have a moral duty to fight against forces of evil even if it seems certain that those forces will triumph.”

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Media reluctance to expose and criticize Barack Obama’s many constitutional violations

September 2, 2012 | By | Reply More

Obama Administration’s is waging a war on the Constitution, but you’ll barely hear anything about it in the mass media. At Truthout, John Cusack of Truthout recently interviewed law professor Jonathan Turley. It’s an extended interview that raises many serious points. They explore at depth the moral quandary many voters SHOULD feel, but won’t, when enter the voting booth. In a related matter, they suggest that many Obama supporters are followers of a personality cult. And repeatedly, the mass media is going Obama license to do more of the same, despite the lies, despite the trashing of the U.S. Constitution. Here are two excerpts from the long interview:

CUSACK: I hate to speak too much to motivation, but why do you think MSNBC and other so-called centrist or left outlets won’t bring up any of these things? These issues were broadcast and reported on nightly when John Ashcroft and Alberto Gonzalez and Bush were in office.
TURLEY: Well, there is no question that some at MSNBC have backed away from these issues, although occasionally you’ll see people talk about –

CUSACK: I think that’s being kind, don’t you? More like “abandoned.”

TURLEY: Yeah. The civil liberties perspective is rarely given more than a passing reference while national security concerns are explored in depth. Fox is viewed as protective of Bush while MSNBC is viewed as protective of Obama. But both presidents are guilty of the same violations. There are relatively few journalists willing to pursue these questions aggressively and objectively, particularly on television. And so the result is that the public is hearing a script written by the government that downplays these principles. They don’t hear the word “torture.”

They hear “enhanced interrogation.” They don’t hear much about the treaties. They don’t hear about the international condemnation of the United States. Most Americans are unaware of how far we have moved away from Nuremberg and core principles of international law.

[More . . . ]

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Coming GOP Meltdown

March 1, 2012 | By | 8 Replies More
Coming GOP Meltdown

I considered writing something about the recent primaries in Michigan and Arizona, in advance of Super Tuesday, but things have become so mind-numbingly bizarre I’m not sure I’d have anything relevant to say, at least not about this particular election cycle.  As a personal observation, I’d like to say that any of the Republican candidates […]

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