Affording My Brave New World

An even longer one. Sorry.


Even if you found yesterday’s post persuasive, a UBI seems politically impossible and cost prohibitive.

Politically, shifting from a paternalistic and judgmental “welfare” system to one awarding benefits based upon membership in the polity would not only require a significant culture change, but would be vigorously opposed by the large number of companies and individuals whose interests are served by America’s current patchwork of programs, subsidies and policies.

Then there’s the issue of cost.

Although Americans’ deeply-ingrained belief that people are poor because they made bad choices or didn’t work hard enough continues to be a barrier to a more generous and equitable social safety net, the most significant impediment to passage of a Universal Basic Income is the argument that has consistently been made to thwart universal healthcare– that America, rich as the country is, simply cannot afford such a Brave New World. This argument flies in the face of evidence from counties with far more robust safety nets: In 2012, the U.S. spent an estimated 19.4% of GDP on social expenditures, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. Denmark spent 30.5%, Sweden 28.2% and Germany 26.3%. All of these countries have a lower central government debt to GDP ratio than the United States.

While specific economic recommendations aren’t possible in the absence of concrete, “fleshed out” policy proposals, it’s possible to identify ways in which universal programs might be financed, and how they might affect economic growth. The short answer is that both the UBI and some version of Medicare-for-All could be funded by a combination of higher taxes, savings through cost containment, economies of scale, reduction of welfare bureaucracy, the elimination or reform of existing subsidies, and meaningful reductions in America’s bloated defense budget.

Debates over taxes rarely if ever consider the extent to which individual taxpayers actually save money when government relieves them of the expense of a service. Even now, requiring citizens to make out-of-pocket payments for such things as scavenger services (in lieu of municipal garbage collection), or private police and fire protection or schooling, would vastly exceed the amounts individual households pay in taxes for those services. Low-income citizens, of course, would be unable to afford them.

The American public is positively allergic to taxes, even when a majority financially benefits from them. If low-and-middle income American families did not have to pay out-of-pocket for health insurance, and could count on a stipend of $1000/month, most would personally be much better off, even if they experienced increases in their tax rates. They would likely see other savings as well: for example, if the U.S. had national health care, auto and homeowners’ insurance rates could be expected to decline, because insurance companies wouldn’t have to include the costs of medical care in the event of an accident or injury in their actuarial calculations. Research also predicts the country would see a decline in crime, child and spousal abuse and similar behaviors that have been found to increase under the stresses associated with poverty. (The extent of such reductions and the cost savings attributable to them is speculative, but a substantial level of abatement seems likely.)

Most tax increases, obviously, would be levied against those capable of paying them. Americans used to believe in progressive taxation, and not simply to raise revenue. Taxes on the very wealthy were originally conceived as correctives, like tobacco taxes, that should be judged by their social impact as well as their ability to generate revenue. High tax rates on the rich were intended to reduce the vast accumulations of money that serve to give a handful of people a level of power deemed incompatible with democracy.

A recent report from the Guardian calculated the results of (relatively modest) increases in taxes on the very rich.

Right now they pay about 30% of their income in taxes. Increasing their overall average tax rate by about 10 percentage points would generate roughly $3tn in revenue over the next 10 years, while still leaving the 1% with an average post-tax annual income of more than $1.4m. (That new tax rate, by the way, would be about the same as the overall rate the richest 1% paid back in the 1940s and 1950s.)

As indicated, in addition to reducing inequality, progressive taxation does raise money, and there is widespread agreement that the very rich aren’t paying their share. At the 2019 Davos World Economic Forum, Dutch historian Rutger Bregman caused a mini-sensation by telling the uber-wealthy assembled there than the “real issue” in the battle for equality is tax avoidance and the failure of rich people to pay what they should. Momentum is clearly building for more progressive tax rates than the United States currently imposes.

There is also growing anger directed at the generosity of various tax credits and deductions, aka “loopholes,” that allow immensely profitable corporations to reduce their tax liabilities (or escape them completely). The use of offshore tax havens and other creative methods of eluding payment devised by sophisticated tax lawyers employed by the uber-wealthy is an ongoing scandal.

Real-world experiments like Governor Sam Brownback’s tax cuts in Kansas confirm that, contrary to the ideological arguments against imposing higher taxes on wealthy “makers,” high marginal rates don’t depress economic growth and cutting taxes doesn’t trigger an increase in either job creation or economic growth. In 1947, the top tax rate was 86.45% on income over $200,000; in 2015, it was 39.60% on income over $466,950. During that time span, researchers have found very little correlation between economic growth and higher or lower marginal rates. In 2012, the Congressional Research Service published a research study that rebutted the presumed inverse correlation between tax rates and economic growth.

Climate change is affecting America’s weather, increasing the urgency of efforts to reduce carbon emissions and increase the development and use of clean energy sources. Yet the United States spends twenty billion dollars a year subsidizing fossil fuels, including 2.5 billion per year specifically earmarked for searching out new fossil fuel resources, at a time in human history when the development of those resources is contraindicated. According to Oil Change International, permanent tax breaks to the US fossil fuel industry are seven times larger than those for renewable energy. At current prices, the production of nearly half of all U.S. oil would not be economically viable but for federal and state subsidies.

During the 2015-2016 election cycle oil, gas, and coal companies spent $354 million in campaign contributions and lobbying, and received $29.4 billion in federal subsidies in total over those same years – an 8,200% return on investment. The OCI report concluded that: “Removing these highly inefficient [fossil fuel] subsidies – which waste billions of dollars propping up an industry incompatible with safe climate limits – should be the first priority of fiscally responsible climate, energy, and tax reform policies.” Not incidentally, eliminating these subsidies would free up funds for other uses, including the social safety net.

Then there are farm subsidies– another 20 Billion dollars annually. Arguments for and against terminating these subsidies are more complicated than for fossil fuel subsidies, but the case for means-testing them is strong.  In 2017, the USDA released a report showing that approximately half the money went to farmers with household incomes over $150,000. As Tamar Haspel wrote in the Washington Post, “That means billions of dollars, every year, go to households with income nearly three times higher than the median U.S. household income, which was $55,775 that year.”

Farm subsidies were created during the Depression in order to keep family farms afloat and ensure a stable national food supply. Since 2008, however, the top 10 farm subsidy recipients have each received an average of $18.2 million – that’s $1.8 million annually, $150,000 per month, or $35,000 a week. These farmers received more than 30 times the average yearly income of U.S. families. Millionaires are benefitting from a program originally established to protect family farms during times of economic distress.

Most citizens understand why government should not be providing billions of dollars to support companies that make climate change worse, or adding to the bottom lines of already-profitable corporate farms. Efforts to cut the military budget encounter genuine anxieties about endangering national security, as well as more parochial concerns from lawmakers representing districts with economies heavily dependent upon military bases or contractors. Those concerns may explain why U.S. military spending in 2017 was over 30% higher in real terms than it was in 2000.

The United States will spend $716 billion in 2019, and annually spends more than twice what Russia, China, Iran and North Korea spend collectively.

Critics of the military budget make three basic arguments: the budget is much bigger than threats to U.S. security require; very little of the money appropriated supports efforts to fight terrorist groups that pose the real threat in today’s world; and the countries that might threaten America  militarily are historically few and weak. (Russia, for example, has an energy-dependent economy roughly the size of Italy’s. According to America’s intelligence community, its efforts to destabilize the U.S. are made through social media, assaults by “bots,” and hacks into vulnerable data repositories, not military action.)

The massive amounts that America spends on its military are used to support bases and troops that are ill-suited to the conduct of modern-day defense. (Even the Pentagon has estimated that base capacity exceeds need by 20%) The existence of this enormous military capacity also creates an incentive to substitute military intervention for the exercise of diplomacy and soft power (as the Japanese proverb warns, when the tool you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.)

An argument can also be made that we are supporting a military establishment that is prepared to fight the last war, not the next one.

As one military expert has written, “counterterrorism is poorly served by manpower-intensive occupational wars, which rarely produce stability, let alone democracy.” He argues the U.S. could safely cut the military budget by 25%; even if he is wrong about the size of the savings that could be realized, knowledgable observers suggest that modernizing military operations, restraining America’s all-too-frequent interventions into the affairs of other countries, and focusing on actual threats would translate into very significant savings.

The elimination of fossil fuel subsidies, and the reduction of farm subsidies and military expenditures would allow lawmakers to achieve substantial savings while pursuing important policy goals. The government ought not be abetting climate change or further enriching wealthy Americans, and it is past time to reconfigure national defense to meet the challenges of the 21st Century.

Andy Stern lists a number of ways a UBI might be funded, including “cashing out” all or most of the existing 126 welfare programs that currently cost taxpayers $1 trillion a year. The UBI would make many if not most of these programs unnecessary.

Stein also lists a number of targeted tax proposals, including a Value Added Tax (VAT), that have been suggested by economists supportive of a UBI. As he points out, these and other proposals constitute a “menu” of possibilities. (Another example: If the UBI allows workers to cover basic essentials, taxpayers would be relieved of the need to supplement the wages of McDonalds and Walmart workers,  saving government some ten billion dollars annually.) If and when America has a Congress that is serious about reforming both our democratic decision-making structures and our social infrastructure, that menu provides a number of options from which to choose.

America’s problem is a lack of political will to confront the special interest groups that currently feed at the government trough, not a lack of realistic funding mechanisms.


  1. The only line I have a problem with is the mention of a VAT. This is essentially a sales tax and we all know that the sales tax is the single most regressive tax in our budgetary arsenal. Let’s just tax ALL income at a fair rate, without exemptions, and see how that works.

  2. A logical explanation of our situation. A logical program to make a reasonable society. A plan which can’t occur when we elect people like the Missouri legislator who proposed every citizen be required to buy an AR-15. This blog should replace the sermon/homily/message in every church, mosque and synagogue next SundayFriday/Saturday instead of the nonsensical myths which are now uttered. Replace “sacred writings” with facts. Wasn’t that the point of the Enlightenment?

  3. Well thought out, Sheila!

    A concise explanation of how to pay for it by a POTUS and several elected officials is all that is needed at first.

    Let the detractors…the GOP and DNC…make their case for not wanting UBI. Then we run opposition to those opposing what makes this country a moral one to live in.

    As Bernie says frequently, it’s a grassroots movement. No need to apologize for cutting the defense budget or no need to rationalize the cost of a UBI, present the idea to the people and let them decide. Our defense budget is grotesque and the need for it even more rejectable.

    As with yesterday’s discussion, there are two sides to this discussion: income and expenses. It’s the same discussion as relieving millions of college students from their massive student loans, which stifle economic progress. Not only have we eradicated the American Dream, but we’ve straddled our youth with extraordinary debt.

    The speed at which both political parties pass defense budgets and tax cuts to the wealthy and bailouts for entire industries tells you who runs our country. It’s time to vote out the captive political class of the Oligarchy and elect a group of politicians willing to work for the people.

    This will take time and will need to be communicated by a press not owned by the Oligarchy. It’s doable. Look at Greta Thunberg and the global sensation she has done with climate change activism. Even our childish POTUS has attacked her along with many other old white men. We expect it but trudge on and weed out those elected morons who work for Big Energy.

    This means turning off MSNBC, CNN, and Fox News because of the protests by the Oligarchy will be carried out on these propaganda sites. They’ll attack anything that benefits “We the people” and upsets the status quo.

  4. “What to do” to start making taxes fairer is not too much rocket science. There are a notable list of tax breaks/loopholes that virtually only affect the wealthy, a short list: “stepped up” loophole, the limit on estate taxes, “carried interest”, “real estate 101” loophole (used extensively by The Duck), FICA limit, etc. It is the will to do these things that does not exist.

  5. Let’s begin by reading the prologue to Jane Mayer’s “Dark Money”. The oligarchy that Todd complains about, and to which I totally agree, was PLANNED. Then, read Lewis Powell’s infamous memorandum to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce (1971) that outlines how this takeover by the wealthy and the corporations should be accomplished. That’s your background.

    All these other “plans” are mere details compared to the outright evil and sedition agreed upon by those oligarchs and plutocrats. The GOP, and to a lesser extent, the Democrats, are compromised by these power mongers and economical rapists. Milton Friedman’s idiotic economic theories and the Koch brothers’ “seminars” for the rich WORKED. The moronic Citizens United v. FEC decision by the Republican dominated SCOTUS was the “in your face” beginning of the end game for democracy, and the beginning of the beginning of outright fascism.

    But the flaccid electorate didn’t pay attention. THAT is what these uber-wealthy bastards depended on. They KNEW the American voter was ignorant of what was happening as long as they could afford their beer and their cable TV. Listening to a Trump supporter attempting to speak gives it away.

    The oligarchs are winning. What is especially upsetting to true patriots is how cheaply our politicians fall for bribery by so-called lobbyists. Bribery by any other name is still graft. So, if the voters don’t educate themselves and responsible media does the same, we will fail as a democratic republic and the rich will be served by the poor; there won’t be any middle class. But this poses another question: If the poor can’t afford to buy anything, what will the rich be selling and how will they continue to get richer? That is their pathetic goal, after all. What good is wealth and power if there’s nothing to buy and nothing to control?

  6. There are too many humans in the world. Many of them live in a level of comfort unimaginable for anyone a few decades ago. Many are challenged just to survive. Human knowledge understands that the species has become unsustainable which means can survive only temporarily under these conditions. That knowledge is not universally distributed among human species individuals.

    We don’t have to do anything and the facts of life will resolve our challenge. The question is are we collectively intelligent and knowledgeable enough to find solutions that we can manage to do that will make for a softer landing than extinction?

    I don’t know. I don’t think any of us do at the moment.

    In the US we have had the existentially good fortune of having intellectual heroes rise to the top when we were in arguably as critical but less dire situations.

    But, in the US we have also had the existentially ill fortune of having criminals rise to the top right now.

    We were considered the leader of the free world but not since we started electing criminals to office.

    Until we have repaired the fabric of US society we are observers rather than players in the global search for solution to the survival of the species.

    Speculation on socio-economic adjustments in what brought us here seem futile to me. Our problems loom higher than any aim we can take in these times, from this place.

    The free world benefitted from having a beneficent super power to lead and now the world will suffer from our inability to maintain that gift.

  7. This all sounds great! Will it happen? I highly doubt it. You would have to get rid of every single lobbyist in Washington, LOL, and does anyone see that as a reality? There’s more of a reality that they would cut corporate taxes even further and of course, gut social programs to make up the difference.

    If, if religions wanted to truly work for the greater good of all men and women, they would not be involved the political realm. All they’ve done is tie it up in knots.
    There is way too much derisive corruption and subversive activities going on to prevent the very wonderful thing that as being extolled by Sheila today. Lobbyists, PACs, and propaganda rule politics, which, goes hand-in-hand with subversion and corruption.

    Life-altering medications could be practically free for everyone right now, it would not be perfect, but it would be a start. It could be done with a simple vote authorizing the changes. But why hasn’t it been done? There are discount cards out there that will give you your medication for free or at a very minimal cost if you have employer health insurance. When you’ve transferred to social security and Medicare, those discount programs no longer apply. So in most cases you cannot get your medication at all. Now, in fairness, the pharmaceutical companies do have programs available in their patient assistance departments. If you fill out the forms and prove By documentation your income, they will mail you your medication free of cost. But you have to reach certain parameters which are sometimes questionable.

    Allow everyone to use the discount cards regardless of your insurance.
    All it would take is a simple vote to change the rules.. Instant relief for everyone, and people could afford their life saving medications. You can bet your bottom dollar, that will not happen.

    This whole Play that we seem to be part of, is a tragedy moving in slow motion before our eyes. It’s speeding up more and more in the recent years, but it’s a tragedy none the less.

    Most people have lost the will to fight it, they see what’s on the horizon, they are afraid. Somehow politicians feel that we work for them instead of the other way around, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon either.

    Will someone pull the brake lever on the locomotive before the train crashes over the bridgeless precipice?

    It’s obvious that the Evangelical groups will not be part of the solution. Because as religions, they could have been a moral compass BUT they’ve sold their soul to the devil, LOL, so to speak. So now they have become part of the problem. Who has a solution? Is there one?

    As long as lobbyists and corporate treasurers are available to negate citizens wishes, there will never be a change. Instead of fighting the good fight and working for the greater good, politicians and their Evangelical cohorts would rather be sitting in the viewing car on that train heading for the precipice.

  8. John,

    “Will someone pull the brake lever on the locomotive before the train crashes over the bridgeless precipice.?

    The “locomotive” is traveling along the same tracks as did the French in 1935 when they elected Leon Blum as their, Popular Front [a party of “incompatibles,” Prime Minister which amounted to nothing more than a prelude for the Fascist to come to power.

  9. canadian health care,6% tax for under $ 100k wages per year,8% over $100k. the dominos fall throughout the total cocts,when subs,im talking with the small owners here, they have been cheated and kicked for so long they dont even have a voice,unless you have a mega size farm,and the banks dont see you as a threat,good to go, and thats where the subs go,to the corps like ADM,CONAGRA,and large land owners who side with corp laws and framework,now there is no possible way for a new small operation to startup with needed funds.banks will not,finance a farm/ranch.the fact,programs like certified angus is only a profit to producers who net with the likes of JBS and corp owned packers who have been screwingnthe family farm for decades..every ounce of beef is overpriced,and the small producer is getting about $100 a head after two years of full time feed and care.its a total loss sytem,devised by the packers, and supported by our goverment…the rich have been so well vetted in congress that they feel we are totally a economic slave to their needs.and they like that,they could care less if we live or die.attrition,you bet,get the sick ones to die off faster,we save more in taxes,keep outlets like fox news alive,and we have a steady flow of so called do rights that wont question reality…reality,every form of American employment,through consumer purchasing,and needs to run a buisness is overpriced,to a point,where the wages are just a few percentage points of profit,and every item to run this country,sucks more money out of every working persons pocket. now try changing it… if we lose in november,its because we lost our desire to be a nation of the people.. see guardian today,,fox news most viewed cable news media…romper room wins..

  10. IMHO, I would take the course of a Federal $15.00 Minimum Wage (including servers in restaurants) plus Medicare 4 All, and “free tuition” at colleges and trade schools. This type of Progressive Movement would go far beyond FDR’s or LBJ’s policies.

    What we do know from numerous whistle blowers and investigations the Mega-Corporations, Multi-Millionaires and Billionaires have a plethora of tax avoidance schemes. The 1% want all the goodies that go along with a First World Country – They do not want to pay for it.

    The 1% fight back everyday and especially during an election year. The 1% have few actual votes. The 1% have the ability to influence elections far beyond their numbers with their money. Citizens United v. FEC has been a giant present that keeps on giving.

    It will take a Democratic Candidate for President that is a Progressive that is willing to fight back against the Oligarchs of the 1%, rather than taking their money from them and expecting any kind of reform from a Corporate Candidate. Moving the deck chairs around on the Titanic will not accomplish anything, changing course is a must to avoid the iceberg.

    There are only two Progressives running for President: Sanders and Warren.

  11. Sheila, You mentioned that spending in the US on social programs is 19% of the GDP. If you look at combined public and PRIVATE spending on social welfare programs, the US is closer to 30% of GDP. Private spending counts things like investments in 401Ks as well as charitable contributions. We pay almost more than any other country in the world, but it is such a mish-mash and patchwork, that too many people fall through the cracks.

  12. For a better understanding of the train ride, we’re now on, I suggest reading “The Collapse of the Third Republic: An Inquiry into the Fall of France in 1940” by William L. Shirer.

  13. The Supreme Court finally decided an income tax was constitutional after all and it started its operation in 1913, advertised as a progressive tax in which the more you made the more you paid, but that was before tax counsel for vested interests got their hands on loopholes and made a mockery of the idea of a progressive tax. (e.g., I paid more taxes than Boeing last year and I did not, as Boeing did, have an eleven billion dollar profit.

    With Chapter 11 which authorizes a bankruptcy court to void labor agreements, among other things, the bankruptcy code, like the IRC, is in great need of reform, and I have been whining about reform for these two codes for years, but to no avail. Could campaign contributions have anything to do with how these codes are fashioned? Nah, perish the thought!

    Verizon joined Boeing with a huge profit last year but with no tax liability along with several other major corporations who paid nothing in taxes as well as yet others who paid minimum amounts into the pot. If our IRC were truly progressive, many billions of dollars would be available to us to do UBIs, infrastructure, healthcare, tuition forgiveness etc., and if a wealth tax as Warren suggests and which renowned economists such as Piketty and Stiglitz favor were added to such reforms, the billions would morph into trillions, which would enable us to catch up with China and Japan with their bullet trains and other infrastructure improvements that efficiently move goods and people while our urban areas are clogged and odorous with 20th century modes of transport.

    Unleashed from debtor’s prison, so to speak, college graduates and dropouts could marry, have babies, buy houses, and in general significantly increase aggregate demand, the nearly sole arbiter of economic growth, and with the millions of new jobs created by this hump in demand the stage is set for the return of union representation and an end to a ridiculous minimum wage which recently celebrated (?) its 10th birthday since it was raised. No wonder the S & P and Dow are at historic highs what with their theft of wages that should have been paid to workers in the corporations they supposedly measure.

    I could go on and on, as my fellow contributors know, but I’ll end this rambling narrative as follows: I agree 100 percent with Sheila’s version of the crying need for us to have a fairer distribution of the wealth and income our economy produces, an economy in which all of us as stakeholders should participate and not one owned lock, stock and barrel by mere financiers of various projects that make up our economy – and I use the word “our” advisedly – it doesn’t belong to any other stakeholder irrespective of WSJ propaganda. Happy New Year to all!

  14. Jack,
    I’d happily read your comments but your lack of punctuation drives me over the edge.

  15. Marv,
    Thanks brother, that’s a bit of History I hadn’t researched as of yet. Now you’re going to make me purchase another book, LOL!

    It really is surprising, knowledge is in such short supply. I try to be as knowledgeable, possible given my limited abilities. I appreciate being able, with your help, to peel the blinders back a bit and gain a little more peripheral “Reality” LOL, one can never have too much knowledge and or historical reference. it just exposes The continuous cycle of ignorance and stupidity that humans are involved in throughout history. As a so-called Apex Species, we don’t have instinctual intelligence, we have learned intelligence, and being mortal, pain and grief does not travel well over generations. If you have garbage in, all you’re going to get is garbage out. Mankind’s naivety, deceivability, lack of instinct, a self aggrandized godlike superiority complex. You will always have a faction of humanity that will take advantage. And you will have other factions that don’t have a clue, and other factions that don’t care one way or the other because they are worried about day-to-day living. Avoiding pain and craving satisfaction is mankind’s speacial crack. Some is never enough and too much is better, to the detriment of his survival. Apex? Surely not. As it depends on mankind, there will never be a Star Trek epiphany. Chimps and Apes would probably be a better species to deal with rather than mankind.

  16. M. L.
    Excellent post, but I like my deck chairs arranged with an ocean view, LOL. But seriously, excellent points! I apologize in advance for any mistakes, I’m doing this from my phone, yikes.

  17. John,

    You have a unique ability in that you can recognize and understand both political games that need to be played in 2020.

    The first game is about winning the Presidency in 2020 and the second is neutralizing the personal effect of Donald Trump. As you know, in football there are two groups: the offense and the defense. Many of those on the offense have no ability to play on the defense.

    Similarly, the team that is concentrating on winning the presidency in 2020 has little or no ability to defeat Donald Trump, the fascist, head-on. That will soon be undeniable.

    Consequently, in order to avoid the tragedy that occurred in France during the ’30s and ’40s, another team has to be created from outside those who are active participants in partisan politics (involving compromise) and are concentrating on the presidential election in 2020.

    That’s a no-brainer.

    Winning the 2020 election needs a wide range coalition with different interests. However, to defeat Donald Trump, the fascist, it will take a new group that has only one interest: Neutralizing Donald Trump, as quickly as possible. There can be no compromising within the group, like that which naturally occurs in partisan politics.

  18. Another great post, Sheila. I like the ideas.

    I am with Peggy in that I worry about the inherent inequality of a VAT, but considering that all of the “social welfare” countries have a VAT, maybe there is a way to have a VAT and still have tax equaltity.

    I think Lester has the list of the “easier” (relative term) first targets. There are many on this blog and elsewhere in the “gornisht helfin” (literally nothing helps) AKA “there is no hope” group who assume the invincibility of the lobbyists. To them, I say I have been involved in party politics for over 50 years. I have met many that wouldn’t succumb to lobbyists — and sadly, some who did. Still, we can elect the right ones. I don’t see a Katie Porter being bought off. There are many other people out there that we could elect if we want to change our country, who they accept money from isn’t an indicator.

    One problem with the military budget is the shrewdness of the contractors and the reality of military towns. Southerners laughed when New England towns were devastated by the migration of the textile industry; then cried when it happened to them. Military towns also tend to be “one industry” towns that would be devastated by a base closure. Meanwhile the big contractors were shrewd enough to use sub-contractors in many, many different congressional districts, increasing their clout to keep the status quo. Still, this shouldn’t be an intractable problem, just a more difficult one.

    Dan – I don’t know the numbers you are citing on “private spending”, but I will note that (1) much “charity” involves donations to religious institutions, not all of which goes to what is usually meant by “social expenditures”; other good causes, like the Humane Society (just an example) don’t really address what we usually mean by “social expenditures”, even if they may make for a better society; and (2) 401Ks are the province of a limited number of people and are more important the more money you make. I don’t know how many MacDonald’s or Walmart workers are benefiting from 401Ks. I do know some very well paid workers with ample 401Ks.

  19. It will take far more than electing a few good people to make the changes that are needed.

    When the Democratic majority (of either or both houses of Congress) is a mere 1 vote, the opposition need only buy, frighten, or blackmail 1 or 2 of those good people to reverse that majority. And they will.

    When the majority is, say, 10, they need only buy, frighten, or blackmail 10 or 11. And they will.

    When people are as cowardly as the American population of good and bad public servants seem now to be, it is likely that no money need change hands to negate a Democratic majority; threats and blackmail would likely be enough. And the negation will happen. For the Republicans, negation of the opposition’s majority in Congress is indeed cheap…and oh so quick.

    What must be done then?

    We must find a way to eliminate those who would buy, threaten or blackmail our public servants.

    But if the buyers, threateners and blackmailers make it impossible to trust Congresspeople to remain good long enough to make sharp-toothed laws that would eliminate the buyers, threateners and blackmailers, what can be done?

    That is the point, isn’t it? Something like a Catch 22.

    Somehow, we must go beyond the election process and the established system to eliminate the buyers, threateners and blackmailers.

    Use your imagination.

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