True or False

December 31, 2015


  1. Economic growth is necessary to enable improved opportunity, reduced poverty, and lessened inequality.True! It is almost impossible to accomplish these without economic growth. We do need more economic growth.
  2. Economic growth alone is sufficient to accomplish all the above. False! Necessary, but not sufficient. We have had periods of maximum US growth across the last 30  years, and we only lost ground on these goals. Some form of redistribution is necessary, plus other government actions.
  3. Cutting taxes is the best way to stimulate better economic growth. False! Consider  from The Atlantic: “In 1990, President George H. W. Bush raised taxes, and GDP growth increased over the next five years. In 1993, President Bill Clinton raised the top marginal tax rate, and GDP growth increased over the next five years. In 2001 and 2003, President Bush cut taxes, and we faced a disappointing expansion followed by a Great Recession.”
  4. Republican candidates’ tax proposals offer excellent solutions to solve our economic problems. False! Consider from The Economist, a Conservative publication: “The Republicans have spent much of Barack Obama’s presidency denouncing debt and deficits. Yet their proposals to introduce unaffordable tax cuts for the rich would send both ballooning. So long as such schemes are a prerequisite for winning the Republican nomination, a party that prides itself on economic management will lack a credible policy…The plans would also greatly exacerbate inequality, which has increased in the 15 years since George W. Bush cut taxes for high earners.” 
  5. The US tax system is broken. True! But it’s not because taxes are too high. There were periods of greater economic growth and greater equality and opportunity when taxes were much higher. While Republican proposals will only make things worse, we do need a massive simplication of over complex tax codes. Consider this example from the New York Times this week. Our tax codes are vulnerable to the ultra rich, their lawyers and lobbyists, none of which is available to the middle class.
  6. Muslims are a threat to our country and we have no choice but to treat them as a dangerous class. False! Only a tiny sliver of radical extremist Muslims are dangerous. The vast majority are just as trustworthy and contributory as any American. They represent a great world religion which brings much to us. There is danger in tiny slivers of extremist Christians as well.
  7. As Americans, it is our job to lead without others if they delay, in solving human rights abuses around the world. False! We are no longer the unilateral superpower of the world. It is time for us to share leadership, even if negotiation means delay in action. In most cases, what is gained by agreement of major world powers far outweighs the costs of delay. Plus, we can’t afford it and we never seem to resolve the problem, leaving a worse mess in many cases.
  8. Our focus on ISIS, Al Qaeda, the Taliban and the various terrorists of the world should be concentrated on how to militarily destroy them. False! At this time we are forced to support military action in Syria, but our wars have only proven that deeper animosities are created, lasting generations. We must devote energy and resources to helping to create opportunity for the underprivileged, wherever they are in the world.
  9. Immigration is not a threat to our country– in terms of lost jobs, lower wages, and costs to the economy. True! From David Bier: “In a study by the Niskanen Center, I show that faster labor force growth is associated with greater income growth. From 1948 to 1980, the labor force expanded rapidly, increasing 76 percent, and real median income skyrocketed for wage and salary workers, rising over 80 percent for both men and women. From 1981 to 2013, real median income growth slowed to a meager 8 percent for men and 55 percent for women. Was greater labor competition to blame? No. In fact, the labor force grew at half the earlier rate, increasing just 43 percent. Relative to the size of the workforce, many fewer workers were competing for jobs during this period.”
  10. Inequality is not the problem. There is vast opportunity in our land, with examples every year of great success stories of people who started with nothing. Focusing on inequality will destroy motivation, which is the essence of the American system. False! From GeorgeCarlin of Scientific American: “By overemphasizing individual mobility, we ignore important social determinants of success like family inheritance, social connections, and structural discrimination. The three papers in Perspectives on Psychological Science indicate not only that economic inequality is much worse than we think, but also that social mobility is less than you’d imagine. Our unique brand of optimism prevents us from making any real changes.” See this infographic video on YouTube.

These are my choices as I end 2015! Thanks for reading my blog this year! I’ll keep trying–best wishes for a great 2016!



The Impending Clash


December 21, 2015

There are two major opposing global forces which are developing strength, increasing the probability of an impending clash.  The forces are strong in our homeland, but they are not unique to us. These forces are gathering strength in Europe, Asia, and elsewhere.

On the one side is unrestrained capitalism, which is behaving largely just as we should expect, according to its nature. On the other side is justice–economic, social, and environmental. At the moment, capitalism is by far the stronger force, but justice is advancing. 20 years ago the forces of justice were not so apparent, but then, capitalism was not as strong then. It is increasingly clear that unfettered capitalism is widening the chasm between it and justice, but as it does so, the strengthening of capitalism around the world has given birth to a steadily growing demand for more justice.

What is the evidence? One the one side, corporate profits, unimaginable wealth of the 10%, 1% and .1%. Free and freer trade, globalization, products for the masses from the ends of the globe at bargain prices Americans could not have imagined, and technological advances which benefit even those of the lowest income.  All of this seems good. There are vast benefits to capitalism, and these serve to distract from the problems unrestrained capitalism brings. And, of course, many of us hold to the illusion that yet I too can be among that 1%–so best not to tinker with pure capitalism, lest changes inhibit my own opportunity for attainment of vast wealth.

On the other side, inequality has risen to peak levels, 15 % of Americans (45 million) still live in poverty, critical workers at the lower levels are being squeezed out of San Francisco by rising home prices and rents, the smog is thick over Beijing, privileged kids increasingly go to expensive private schools with assured spots at Ivy League Universities followed by guaranteed careers, while the masses are left with public education which is starved for funds, and many young men of color have trouble finding any job. While cheap goods from abroad abound, there is little help for those who lose their jobs to foreign competitors. Most of the world has a smart phone, but the financial benefits of the technological explosion are going to the capitalists who own and create.

And, it does appear that people across the globe who do not have the opportunity of developed nations, even those minorities who live in developed nations and cannot break the barriers to opportunity, are increasingly disillusioned with today’s form of capitalism. Many of these have developed a bitterness and hatred of the privileged who have pulled up their ladders. And some of them have taken up arms against us, both abroad and in our homeland.

What can we say to Liberals who are angry at capitalists? That capitalism is certainly the best economic system known to the world throughout history. That the basic tenets of capitalism are free markets, government primarily to protect private interests and (in some countries) to assure competition, but mostly to make a profit–without any limits on the amount of profit. There is no element of concern for the environment in pure capitalism, no concern for the wages of employees. Basically, we Liberals just need to acknowledge that nowhere in the spirit of pure capitalism is there expectation that the profit motive be subjected to parallel tests of economic, social, or environmental justice.

At the same time, we Liberals need to acknowledge that there are a number of capitalists who do undertake to include some elements of justice in their agenda. Across the last 20 years, we have even seen evidence of attention to certain elements of justice by the likes of Walmart, Coca-Cola, Nestle, and BASF. There are 1,498 companies which have qualified as “B Corp” companies, by demonstrating a broad commitment to justice in their activities.  We cannot know whether such commitments to justice by capitalists are driven by growing awareness that their consumers respond favorably and buy more from those who do, whether they find better motivated employees by doing good, or whether the owners have a heartfelt commitment. My opinion is that it doesn’t matter. All of it is good. The slowly growing number of these corporations gives strength to the developing justice force.

What can we say to Conservatives who are angry with Liberals for trying to restrain Capitalism by introducing minimum wage laws, mandatory health coverage, and equal pay for women, as well as trying to force conversion from fossil fuels to clean energy? We can say that we all continue to support capitalism as the best economic system. We only differ in feeling strongly that it is the role of government to assure that capitalism is fair and just in its impact on people and on the environment. It is ridiculous for Liberals to expect capitalism to monitor and control itself in the pursuit of justice.

Most conservatives might even agree that government must assure that capitalism is fair. But it seems the agreement ends there. The conflict rises immediately upon a specific case being introduced. Take minimum wages as an example. Liberals argue that it’s crucial to get valuable workers out of poverty, and with a little more money they will spend more, which helps capitalists too. Conservatives argue that businesses will close because they cannot afford to operate with higher wage requirements and therefore, there will be fewer jobs available–hurting workers and the economy. Who is right?

Take fossil fuel controls as another example. Liberals argue they’re destroying the temperature and the climate, risking our planet. Conservatives argue that this science is not so sure and that we need fossil fuels for a few more decades for the jobs they provide and for the cheap energy which fuels our economy. Who is right?

The movement of the forces of capitalism and justice portend an impending clash. But these do not represent radically different ideologies, with only one to survive.  Regrettably, we do talk about it that way in our divisive and extremist political rhetoric. But it is not a case of right or wrong, good or evil. Unrestrained capitalism can clearly harm society and the planet. But liberal values taken to an extreme, can damage motivation, opportunity, and weaken the economy so that life would be less satisfying and rewarding. There are examples in global history.

A compromise, a balancing, would be the better solution. But, this does not seem likely. Capitalism does not yield without a fight, and seems to have a very strong constituency, even among our blue collar workers.

One of my esteemed professors in London in 2012 said history has shown the only way inequality is remedied and social justice is achieved when confronted by unrestrained capitalism, is through revolution. He argued that revolution is necessary and is a good thing. It re-orders the priorities to better suit the common good.

But who wants to live through it, or for their children to suffer that? Can the impending collision be avoided…or, will there be blood? Must we suffer a catastrophic collision of these forces?