Apr 17, 2015

April 17, 2015: Taking Umbrage, A Question of Ours, Fool’s Errand

The following is an exchange set off by a posting on "Facebook" by my counsin Marah Kucaj-Oseland, in which someone she has befriended on the social website took umbrage with my reaction. The exchange was as follows:

Marah Kucaj-Oseland shared Marie Osmond's photo.
It's just that time of year!


Joseph Camfield: Perhaps, but it means "Ours". It is money we are investing in ourselves.

Mark: A very small percentage of the money spent by the government could be considered an investment. Investment implies return. What is the return on that investment? Your outlook basically gives them a license to steal. Wouldn't you rather keep most of your money and invest it yourself?

Joseph Camfield:  Mark that is complete nonsense. Tax money goes to educating the young, building the roads, bridges and infrastructure, providing for the national defense and yes as charged by the constitution providing for the 'general welfare'. These are investments in ourselves. Take the Howard Jarvis experiment as a case in point. California had the best school system in the world until the idiot real-estate broker turned tax guru pushed through his tax limitation proposal. Today California ranks among the 10 worst school systems in the United States. What happened to California has happened to America where for the last 40 years the only serious increases in investments have been in military hardware and prisons. The rest of the public domain has either been left to wither on the vine or has been open to exploitation by corporate interests. We had a much higher tax rate 50 years ago, the rich were getting richer, the middle class was growing and the poor were being lifted out of poverty. There is nothing demonstrable in the historical record that giving massive tax breaks to those who are already well to do increases either wealth or employment for those who are creating, through their labor, the real wealth of this country.

Mark:  Spending is not investment.  Of coarse spending is necessary, but spending is spending, not investment. If spending was investment our government would be the richest entity on earth, when in fact it is the most in debt entity on earth; your type of thinking created that debt. Open you eyes and think for yourself, quit listening to liberal politicians that tell you different. Question what they say. Spending per pupil does not equal better education. Ever since the federal government got involved in our schools, their performance has declined. Schools no longer teach how to think, they teach what to think, which is called indoctrination. You use California as a case in point, so I will too. California's massive welfare program has attracted those that wish to suck off of it, and drove away those that fund it, and now California has one of the worst financial positions in the country, along with New York and Illinios; all massive "blue" states. That is not a coincidence. Willful ignorance of the meaning of words and human nature by million of people is how we got in this mess.

Joseph Camfield: Mark, your first lesson in economics was sufficient for your confusion. Everyone from Adam Smith to Karl Marx (with the exception of that idiot Milton Friedman) agrees that labor creates wealth. From this it is reasonably deduced that wealth is created not by the individual acting alone (I can invest in everything better than the society acting through government can) but by individuals acting in concert with the greater society. Wealth, if follows, is socially produced measured in social medium, i.e., money. Now there are certain things that I or you cannot invest in but must be invested for us. Roads and bridges immediately come to mind, as does education, police and fire protection etc., The Friedmanesque mantra that we are using 'someone else's money' when we tax and invest in ourselves is popular poppycock persuasive only to the improperly initiated and the unwashed.

We are the greatest debtor nation on earth it is true. We are so in large measure not because we have spent, but because as I stated before, following the Jarvis model we have refused to tax ourselves. We once had a much more progressive income tax, and were the largest creditor nation in the world. We also were at the vanguard of technological innovation and, importantly, industrial production. We had the best schools in the world, and a rising and vibrant middle class. The last half century has seen a hollowing out of the American industrial base, the exodus of both jobs and capital out of the country and the savaging of the safety net not because we have taxed ourselves but because we have made a fetish of cutting taxes, deregulating industries, and allowing the importation of foreign goods and the exportation of labor and capital, all in the name of 'free markets'.

Secondly the Federal government has long been involved in education and, even today, does not constitute the lions share of resources on education. That is left mostly to the states. To accuse the Federal government of lowering education is laughable. The problem with schools is first the growing option of privatization given a huge boost by the 'voucher' movement, and the underfunding of the public domain that results. Second is the insane mandates, mostly by the states, that require that the schools teach to mundane standardized tests. Third, the schools have always been about teaching certain facts common to our collective experience call it what you will. I would remind you that the greatest threat to 'free' thought is not the federal government but the Texas State Board of Education which determines the content of textbooks, because it uses the same textbooks throughout the state and therefore constitutes a huge market. Texas, you will recall, just edited its history books in order to misrepresent among other things the causes of the civil war, the McCarthy era, and the civil rights struggle. In any case, back in the 'good old days' there was precious little in our books and still is about the great railroad strike of 1877, the anti-abolition riots of 1837, the race riots of 1917-1919, 1943, 1964-68; nor the Pullman Strike or any of the great struggles in the labor movement. History has always been sanitized. You were, as I was, no doubt taught in our history class that we freed the Philippines from Spain and established a beneficial protectorate until that country could raise itself up and become like us. The facts are otherwise, I discovered reading Mark Twain's "The Damned Human Race". In fact the Philippines had freed themselves before Admiral Dewey steamed into Manila Harbor and snatched their newly won freedom from them. Additionally more than a million people died on the islands in the ensuing struggle by the United States to subdue the Islands. I use this as a case in point that, as Voltaire once observed, "history is the lie commonly agreed upon.", and I point this out to demonstrate that we hardly needed 'federal interference' to reduce our civics lessons to the level of our common misunderstandings. The local board of education proved quite sufficient for that purpose.

Finally, it is the so-called 'red' states, principally in America's Southeast and plains that draw most per-capita from the public trough. The 'blue' states have larger populations and, accordingly, larger budgets.

I don't gather information from the speeches of politicians, liberal or otherwise, nor have my views been formed by the likes of Faux News or MSNBC. I read, books mostly, ones that have no pictures, and have been taught through rigorous History and Political Science classes to tell the difference between authoritative sources and popular nonsense. If you would, I would suggest you begin by reading the works of Kevin Phillips "The Politics of Rich and Poor", "Arrogant Capital" among others. Phillips was no wild eyed leftist but the author of Richard Nixon's 'southern strategy' in the1968 campaign, and later worked in the Nixon Justice Department. A died in the wool Republican, until recently, Phillips as early as 1988 began publishing the economic returns on the Jarvis inspired 'Reagan Reaction", and the effect it was having on the middle class in this country. In these works you will find, quite clearly delineated, the effect of the changes in the tax code, the movement from taxing wealth to taxing work, and the results of shifting the base of the economy from industrial production to finance has had on the decline not only of the contemporary United States but also the historical precedents in Argentina, Holland, Spain, and Great Britain. Those who refuse to learn history are damned to repeat it and we are doing our level best to repeat the examples of the aforementioned nations. The conclusion is inescapable that the implementation of breathtakingly myopic public policies since Great Actor became President has squandered the national trust to the point where for the first time since U.S. Grant was President the United States is no longer the world's largest economy. For this we can thank our conservative friends and the Democratic Leadership Council and the other Dems that went along and are currently going along with them.

No doubt I have not heard the last of these responses but I fear that I have been, by degrees, drawn to play the fool. For it is a fool’s errand indeed to try to inject some degree of enlightenment into the dark recesses of willful ignorance.

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