September 15, 2013

We're Far Better than the Syrians and Zimbabwans, so Shut up and Wave the Flag!

As the new academic year begins, one has to think about the benefits of education and whether a country is better off with educated citizens. Of course, getting a job is important and a formal education makes is easier to get better paying jobs. Most countries realize that a basic education--to read and write--is necessary so they've instituted mandatory and free public education. 

But, it's getting harder, due to the rising tuition, to get into a higher education, either a 2 or 4 year college. Recently, student debt became larger than mortgage debt! In other words, graduates begin their professional life in a deep hole and now owe more that more established homeowners, who presumably have a job (or had one when they got their mortgage) and perhaps are more financially better off than a young, unemployed graduate.

We may be heading back to the old days when the children of the elite could go to college, and, perhaps, a few other token students from the lower classes. Since the 1970s, real wages have remained stagnant over all. The consumers' buying power increased however since those days, because most of the goods have become cheaper. Food, clothing, appliances, cars, etc, are now cheaper. A sense of prosperity also fueled by personal debt, plus a constant barrage of a mythic narrative about the American dream made many people content if not happy. Yet, reality eventually sinks in.

Rising Inequality

Aristotle argued that extremes aren't good for a good society, or for a society to be good for the majority of the people. Extremes of power of wealth work in the interest who have wealth, and who in turn acquire political power, at the very least to protect (and enhance, 'cause you can never have enough) their interests. The elites try to control (and they go a great job) the narrative--the story about who we are, what the country is, our greatness, the land of opportunity, freedom, etc. It seems that a system that allows some people to rise demands (and gets) that they adopt the narrative. After all, once you climb a few rungs of the ladder it may be natural to belief that anyone can make it. Those who don't have personal faults. Look at individuals like Gates, Jobs, Jordan who made it. It must be true what they say about the American dream.

Yes, we have been more mobile, successful, free in comparison to other countries over the last two centuries. But, we had slavery, oppression of women & minorities, limited free speech, authoritarian government, the Great Depression and the Gilded Age whose attributes we're began to emulate in the last 20-30 years. This is not good. We're going back to extremes.

There's been lots of reports over those years about the rising inequality. [Here's a collection from NPR/WNYC] Let me give you some food for thought. Sasha Abramsky's book, "The American Way of Poverty" is one source. This is from WNYC's interview [link]
 "Poverty in America is made up of both the long-term chronically poor and the new working poor—the tens of millions seriously affected by the economic downturn and cutbacks in social welfare programs. Sasha Abramsky argues that for the majority of Americans, financial insecurity has become the new norm. He looks at economic inequality and poverty, and suggests ways for devising a fairer and more equitable social contract. In The American Way of Poverty, he looks at topics from housing policy to wage protections to affordable higher education, and calls political changes and a new, more effective War on Poverty."

Paul Krugman [blog, The Conscience of a Liberal] wrote a recent article about "Rich Man's Recovery" showing that since 2009, 95% of the economic gains have been captured by the top 1%. It's even worse, as 60% of the same gains have gone to even a smaller number of Americans, the 1/10th of 1%! Those are the ones with incomes over $1.9 million a year! I'm sure that the same people have been racking it in for many years before this period.

The Roosevelt Institute (yes, it's about FDR's progressiveness) shows a study that last year, the top 1% took home the largest share of income since 1928. But, the rich pay a bigger share of the taxes, we often hear! Well, this is indeed outrageous! The system that allows them to have so much more money while the middle class and the poor can't pay more is unconscionable! 

Romney pays 12.9% in income taxes while I'm paying 30% of my meager income, while I feel this pain a lot more.  How ridiculous is to say that a billionaire who pays 5% in taxes, writes a check of $50 million, while a teacher with a $50K/yr, pays only $15K?!! I know, how dare those laggards, the teachers, complain about tax policies? The super rich pay more in taxes that all the teachers in America. It's a scandal. Tsk.

Pro-capitalist publications, like the Economist and the Wall Street Journal, aside from their editorials, have published numerous articles about the widening of the gap in the US, that we're falling behind class-conscious and glass-ceiling old Europe. 

Which brings us back to the value of education which has a way to open people's minds just by exposing them to possibilities, knowledge, and hopefully how to evaluate, reason, and enhance the ability to ask questions and to amend. A better affluent, secure, less stressful life also enhances citizenship. You're more likely to be engaged, interested, voting, mobilizing citizen if you have the resources and the time to do so.

But, maybe that's what the elites don't want. Instead they invest heavily in the narrative of "feel good and proud American" while cutting the social safety net. This while higher education is getting more expensive. Oh, and you know what else follows the same track? Politics! 

But, don't you worry, the rich have lots of spare change to finance multi-billion dollar campaigns. We just sit back and relax and enjoy the show. They love tired and passive viewers for the show they've designed for us. Popcorn anyone? You poor with your refrigerators, microwaves, and flat-screen tvs... what more do you want? Have you noticed how deplorable the conditions are in Syria and Zimbabwe? Shut up then.

August 30, 2013

Is there a moral obligation to do what is right? I imagine that most of us, one hopes all of us, would concur with the fact that if a wrong is done and if it is within ones power to right it then one must do so. This, very simply, is what Peter Singer, one of the world’s most influential philosophers has always argued for. He actually says that an application of the above principle would be sufficient to eliminate world poverty since the well off would give as much as it takes in order to bring up the level of welfare of the less advantaged to a level that is common to all. This very same principle can be applied, must be applied whenever the world is faced with a political situation where those that are in power maintain their hold on their populace only through fear, tyranny and intimidation. Yes, we do have a moral obligation to help alleviate the miserable living conditions whenever we can. It is not a choice but an obligation.

At times one has no choice but to sound redundant and even banal in an effort to make sure that one’s message is clear. With that in mind allow me to remind the readers of two popular sayings: (1) There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch and (2) deontological ethics. Based on the above what is implied is that if a loved one      commits a crime then that person should be responsible for the consequences of his/her act and that we should not hesitate in turning over that loved one, as much as it might hurt, to the authorities.

So what does any of the above has to do with the current Syrian situation? Allow me to submit that if one agrees with the above then the implications for those that have committed the violations in the case of unleashing chemical weapons in Syria are clear and severe. The first thing that this makes clear is that the personal association with the accused is not a valid excuse to shrink from ones moral obligation. In the same way that I would gladly hand over my brother to the authorities if he committed a crime then I should not let the issue of nationality or race cloud my judgment. If my government is found responsible for a set of crimes then as much as it might pain me I should actually encourage the international community when it decides to hold my government accountable. Obviously the above also rests on the idea that is justice is to be done then the guilty party will have to pay a price. The idea that “my country right or wrong” is dangerous, irrational and out of date. No one should ever want to protect a state when it violates international norms and agreements that it has signed only on the basis of patriotism. That would be tantamount to saying that my father is always right even when he commits egregious crimes.

The issue that we are facing in Syria is very simple. Chemical weapons have been used against innocent civilians and in violation of the Geneva Convention and the Treaty banning the use of such weapons. The first order of business under these circumstances is to agree that we all have a moral obligation to do whatever is in our power to hold the violators responsible for their crimes. Once that is done and it should be an easy and non contestable proposition then we have to agree on who is responsible for these illegal acts. Let me stress again, that no one wants to “punish” the innocent but once the preponderance of evidence, custody over the chemicals, means of delivery, finger prints of the delivery devices, report from the UN inspectors, intel intercepts…points rather conclusively to one party or the other then we must take action irrespective of the pain to our loved ones, our sense of patriotism, our racial identity, our religious affiliation or anything else that we can thing off. Nothing, absolutely nothing should protect the guilty.

July 03, 2013

Here's to You, America: A Couple Anthems to Mark the 4th of July

It may be that the meaning of the 4th of July varies, but it's got to be more than bbqs, or the lifeguards' sad moment that the summer's winding down.

So, as we proudly wave those American flags made in China, we should affirm our blind devotion to the Constitution, the Founding Fathers, USA #1 slogan, and the American dream.  OK, but, in addition a good order of skepticism is necessary.

The founders weren't perfect nor did they know everything. The US Constitution has 27 Amendments in efforts to improve it. The Declaration of Independence is an interesting document, whose couple beginning paragraphs are lofty, brilliant, and lay down the principles of a good polity--constitutional, democracy, republic, human rights for all, and individual liberty/choice. The rest of it is a laundry list of the crown's abuses against British citizens.

Since the early 1770s, [July 4th is the signing of the Declaration; the war of independence had already started], there's been a struggle for a better society of free people, for responsible and responsive government. Establishing a new country perhaps was the easiest task. Shaping it proved to be much harder. The process is going on. Hopefully we'll continue on a progressive path. 

Even in my life time, there have been tremendous changes. What I thought was appropriate it was considered radical 30 years ago. Today it's mainstream. Progressives have better imagination I reckon. It's worth-while for all of us to be alert and engaged in the political process--that's how things get done. 

Enjoy the 4th, the summer, indeed the whole life. And, isn't this the whole point? To make life better for as many people as possible so they can have access to opportunity to fulfill the own potential?

Here's to you America: (my favorite anthem)

June 25, 2013

Of Course We Need to Know What Our Government Is Doing In Our Name and On Our Behalf

It's fascinating that many liberally-minded people I know aren't bothered by our government's snooping and are more upset at Snowden for revealing the "state's secrets."  I fully understand that in order for us to enjoy our lives and freedoms we have to be safe, but at which point Big Brother-like government actions are not appropriate?

What did Edward Snowden reveal? Something that should not be secret anyway! We should know what and how our government invades our privacy. Do they follow proper constitutional procedure? When somebody collects information about me, I have to know about it, how they do it, and how they'll use this information. As consumers (never mind as citizens), we have to know. And, if we don't think it's appropriate, then we should be able to change that. This is what an advanced, liberal-social-democratic country should be.

Amendment IV

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Therefore, our government has to, "by oath or affirmation," obtain permission, and thus create a record that can be reviewed for abuses or even whether the act was necessary. We now know the snooping into many people's private affairs in the past was improper, wasteful, and not what an accountable government should be doing to its free citizens.

Not all leakers of government secrets are the same. When the government breaks the law, or lies to its people, or is corrupt, or wasteful, etc, the public's interest is at stake. We need to know! The Pentagon Papers, Watergate, Abu Graib, torture and rendition program, and so many other cases--revealed by conscientious people--served our country. 

This is not a banana republic where Big Brother knows best. Are we mature adults who care to know?

May 22, 2013

The Syrian Dictatorship, Like All Other Dictatorships, Is On A Path To Perdition

The popular adage “What is good for the Goose is good for the Gander” is meant to be a populist easy way to restate the Golden Rule which was best expressed by Mathew 7:12 as "In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets” is also seen as the foundation of ethical reciprocity. An excellent illustration of this norm is practiced by the young in their first few years of schooling during birthday celebrations: one person cuts the cake while the other chooses which portion to take. If only grownups can keep these lessons alive as they grow up. Maybe some of us try to practice what we preach and attempt to be fair and consistent. Not the Syrian Government and not Bashar Assad though. How can they be just when their total existence from the inception of the regime is based on force, tyranny and illegitimacy? Their constant fear of truth must be the only logical explanation why they pretended to have elections. They forgot though that election proper rests on the intrinsic right to free speech and free expression. Elections are supposed to be a contest between various individuals who have different priorities about how to improve the level of welfare of the public at large. These candidates will explain to their constituents the various plans that they have and then the voters will weigh these programs and determine which they think is best for them. Elections in Syria have been a sham, every single one of them and the reason must be that those who were ruling forcefully and illegitimately did not trust those that they governed.

All dictators are afraid of the truth and that is why they set up these elaborate police systems in order to spread fear among their citizens. Well the Syrian dictatorship is one of the worst. It has lasted for over forty years by setting up what many have called the most cruel Stasi machine outside of the then GDR, East Germany. Actually the Syrian police whose role is to oppress, exploit and scare decent citizens was set up with the help of East Germany. Where is East Germany now? It has bitten the dust and as history teaches us all dictatorships will eventually bite the dust including the Syrian rulers.  

The Syrian uprising has been going on for over two years that have resulted in an abnormally high level of destruction, thanks to the selfish Syrian dictatorship that is willing to pay any price to continue its rule of terror. The losses, the real losses are not limited to the destruction of city quarters and infrastructure but have resulted in over 80,000 deaths so far. Even that grotesque price becomes small when compared to the price that the future generation will have to bare.  This war is robbing the youth of their future and nothing, absolutely nothing, can be crueler than that.

This monstrous regime is not satisfied to mete out its terror, which has also resulted in about a 1.5 million Syrians seeking refuge in neighbouring countries and at least an equal number of refugees within the country, but has the temerity to use an illegal militia from a neighbouring country in order to launch well coordinated attacks with heavy weapons on a city that had been overrun over a year ago by the opposition. This regime seeks the aid of a well equipped and well trained illegal militia while it is lambasting the opposition for its use of foreign fighters. The double standards do not stop here either. This same Syrian administration has been complaining to whoever would listen about light arms smuggling that has been coming into Syria to help arm the FSA and its supporters level the field against the Assad killing machine but yet this same administration has been smuggling, yes smuggling, sophisticated weapons to arm militant groups in Lebanon. It does not dawn on this administration apparently that if they have the rights to destabilize others then maybe the Syrian people have the right to obtain some arms to protect themselves from the common massacres committed against them by the Syrian forces.

The irony does not stop here either. This same Syrian government was proud to encourage and facilitate the crossing of Jihadists from all across the Moslem world into Iraq but now that some of these jihadists want to cross the border in the opposite direction this activity has become abominable.

As for those that believe the constant refrain that this Syrian reign of terror is justified because it is what is keeping Al Qaeda and other extremists from taking over Syria I have fertile land for sale in the Syrian dessert not to mention bridges in NYC:-) The Syrian people are asking for a chance to write a new constitution which guarantees their individual right to free expression, multiparty systems and open and free elections. They are entitled to elect whoever they choose. If they so happen to elect an extreme Islamist then so be it. The essence of democracy is to accept the will of the people. If they find out that their choice did not deliver what was promised then they will vote them out of office in the next round, they will not be forced to accept a leadership that passes from father to son. The common Syrian has the right to be heard and she will.    

Dictatorships are always on a path to self destruction. There is a limit to how much the public will take. Eventually enough courageous people will ask for their freedom and will shout from rooftops that the emperor has no cloths and that no one can enslave them because they are born free. The truth shall set them free. The Syrian dictatorship is not any different; it has been on its road to perdition for over four decades. That is inevitable.

April 17, 2013

Shame to the US Senate for Failing to Pass Sensible Gun Control Legislation. Let's hope They Stop the Gay Apocalypse, at Least!

 Ah, Freedom! Which one makes more sense?
In case you didn't figure it out, it's a wedding picture!
Which is more important item for freedom in the US? A gun or a vehicle? It's the latter for it allows freedom of mobility, access to jobs and opportunities, etc. Yet, we have to be tested as operators, we have to obey lots of laws and regulations, need to register, inspect, and insure our vehicle. But, do you want a gun, sure go ahead. Wait, are you crazy? Are you a criminal? No? OK, then, we'll trust your word, here's a semi-automatic weapon that fires 30 big caliber rounds in few seconds. Enjoy hunting or whatever you intend to do with this and the rest of the arsenal you're amassing. 

How Some Prostitutes Give a Bad Name to the Profession

Today the US Senate showed how our elected officials can go against the wishes of a big majority of the American people. Reasonable gun control, including background checks amendments didn't pass. Cornyn's (R-Dumbf@ckistan) amendment was the highest vote-getter, 57. This amendment would weaken gun control by requiring states with stricter laws to accept the licenses from states where anyone could get a gun.  Oh, wanna bet that these clowns take the opposite position when it comes to same-sex marriage?  Yeah, gays/lesbians are a bigger threat to society and their marriage would be like ..Hitler invading Poland if the Fed forced the states to recognize such marriages.

Systemic Problem

 The US political system was an experiment in government at a time when they weren't any liberal democracies. So the founders improvised, compromised, got a few things right, and some things very wrong.

One of the problems was to disperse power into three branches, but even within the legislative branch they created 2 chambers. These plus the president must pass identical bills before we have law. Unlike in other advanced democracies, our executive (the prez) doesn't control the legislature. So every president who runs on an agenda on the national level must get Congress to agree; and the members of Congress are elected from localities. Furthermore, Senate rules give a small minority the ability to kill legislation through the filibuster. 

I think it's time to use the so-called "nuclear option" and declare this rule unconstitutional so we can get things done more efficiently. The constitution provides for super majorities in the Senate for various decisions, like impeaching the president. Regular legislation should get the chance for an up or down vote. It was OK when only 3% of the bills were filibustered in the past. The minority could reject a few really objectionable bills. But, when nothing moves because of this obstruction tactic in the last decade, then there's something seriously wrong with this system.

The best way to fix some of our problems would be a couple constitutional amendments, but this is not very likely. The other way would be citizen engagement and mobilization. Let's see why a people's majority is so arrogantly ignored by some elected representatives. 

Change often comes because the people demand it. Let's prove that we do have a representative democracy, a system that works for the benefit of the people. Otherwise let's call it what it is and stay home. It's not enough to have myths, and slogans. We have to talk the talk and walk the walk!

March 08, 2013

The illegitimate Will Fall

Once upon a time there used to be a pleasant village whose people led a simple but yet productive lifestyles. One day a high ranking member of the army decided that this laid back life style was not good for the villagers and so he coordinated a takeover of the government of the village.

That was over forty years ago. About twelve years ago the officer who consolidated power in his own hands , surrounded himself with co religionists and ruled as a dictator who can never be crossed died. He was very clever though, and so he made sure that a son of his, an eye doctor, would take over from him when he dies.
The dictator who would not allow any opposition or dissenters died but made sure that his successor will be his totally inexperienced eye doctor son. The Ophthalmologist continued the rule of fear started by his father but yet made many promises along the way that he would encourage social equality. Unfortunately he did not put into practice any of the informed reforms that he had promised. Actually, as opportunities presented themselves the son God became ever more convinced that his subjects are not smart enough to rule themselves. He even preached that his one party rule is efficient and that his entourage is not capable of making any wrong calls. The party was infallible and all who would oppose it are traitors and imperialist pigs.

Life under the son-God became more difficult than what it was under his father and he thought that the people in his state are enamoured of him. One day though, a number of kids were playing an innocent ball game when they decided that it was about time that they show the authoritarian authorities that they have had enough and that they will not take it any longer.

Such acts of defiance were deemed to be extremely dangerous by the absolute son God king. He ordered his subordinates to make a lesson of everyone who dared question his authority. All the kids were to be arrested, beaten and then set free.

But the unforeseen took place. Thousands upon thousands from across the country joined the young and decided that the popular saying “Live free or die” was an idea whose time has come. They organized demonstrations and adopted acts of civil defiance in the hope that such peaceful moves will demonstrate that illegitimacy must go.

But as bad luck would have it, the son God decided that he will teach all those that dared demand what was theirs in the first place,a lesson. He ordered his henchman to go out and spread fear among these youthful souls through beatings, arrests, mistreatments and the random acts of violence. When these tactics did not prove to be sufficient to dampen the spirits of the freedom fighters the son-God ordered his tanks, fighter jets, attack helicopters and cluster bombs to be used indiscriminately. They were. The result has been close to 100,000 deaths, a million wounded and the leveling of one city quarter after another over its civilian inhabitants. None of this would frighten the courageous youth anymore. They had vowed that they will not stop short of victory.

The son-God did not like any of this. Minions had dared question his authority He ordered his personal guard to go out in the village and to wire all the building in the village with explosives. When after almost 4 years of this mayhem it became clear that he could no longer deny the inevitability of his demise he ordered that every single building in the village is to be blown up over all its inhabitants. He had to go out in a blaze of glory. What a meaningless loss and what a fool he was.

March 06, 2013

Americans Have No Idea About the True Wealth Inequality in this Country!

In my Comparative Politics class, we're discussing political economy these days and it's been an eye-opener for most, because what people think of reality, well, it isn't!

First, let's say that the purpose of civil society is to provide benefits to its members. In order for the political system to work for the benefit of the people--the common people, the majority of whom are in the middle class--it is best to pick a regime that has this foundation principle. In modern societies, this is a liberal-social democracy.

Liberal, because it safeguards and promotes individual rights and freedom. Social, because it provides a social safety net--services people need. Democracy, because it allows for popular participation and a government of-by-for the people.

A system needs legitimacy to be stable and for longevity. The modern state--a creation of the 18th-19th centuries--provided benefits but also a new narrative, myths, practices, and activities that turned people into citizens. Citizens who had obligations to the state but also benefits. Notions of patriotism and nationalism were forged out of this new reality. This has helped cohesion, elevated pride in one's country, and motivation.

If the system and the government are to work for the people, then we have to ask what, does this mean?  Well, I'm sure there are many views on this, but let me suggest a few items: happiness (yes, individually defined), good health, leisure, education, long life, less stress, stability, peace, clean environment, decent shelter, affluence, access to opportunity, economic mobility, justice, etc, etc.  This is the mission statement of a modern, advanced country. Obviously, this was not the mission of older systems, like the Old Regime.

In order to achieve the mission statement, societies/governments/rulers engaged in redistribution of resources and wealth.  Usually it was from the bottom up. This was not good unless you were a member of the elite. These members made all sorts of arguments (including might makes right) in favor of keeping their privileges. And, their appetite was insatiable. Louis the 14th needed more gold for his lavish palaces. Our modern super wealthy and their shills, most of the Republicans, have drawn the line that no tax increases, no matter how modest, should be applied to the upper classes.

 When Reality Escapes the American People

The Occupy Wall Street with its signs, "We're the 99%", brought needed attention to the upper 1% of the economic elites. Yet, the real magnitude of the problem is still unknown to the American people. The power of the myth, the cultural and political forces have managed to create a strong illusion. 

This illusion includes a good dose of patriotism and nationalism, but in a perverted way. "We're # one!"  Others are risking life and limb to get here. Look at the great things we've achieved, and still do. The American dream is alive! You can make it, like Bill Gates, Michael Jordan, and so many others. With hard work and a bit of luck anyone (most?) will make it ..big!  

It's hard to argue against the tendency to compare ourselves to societies far worse than ours. Somehow comparisons to other societies that have better outcomes aren't being made. Yes, there are several societies that have a better distribution of the economic pie, where people live longer, are healthier, more educated, have more leisure, live is safer environments, and report greater levels of happiness. Their political economies are, however, adjusted differently than the US.

As I speak with many students, I hear that they expect to be rich someday. Likewise, many ordinary Americans think they'll be rich one day, or at least part of the upper middle class. But, statistically speaking, this won't happen. 

Unfortunately, the reality isn't very rosy. The Economist, the Wall Street Journal--to name a couple pro-capitalist publications--have pointed out that economic mobility in the US has fallen behind western Europe! 

In a democracy where public opinion is important, where decisions are made based on people's perceptions, it matters greatly whether the public really knows the facts. 

For decades, studies have been consistent as to this public perception about economic reality in the US. People are asked what a fair society would be like. Then they're asked what they think the US is like in wealth distribution. Their guess is terrifyingly wrong!

Watch this video and forward it to everyone you know. 

 Wealth Inequality in the US

Who could have guessed it, that the top 1% control 40% of the wealth. That the bottom 80% of Americans have only 7% of the wealth, while the other top 19% own 53% of the wealth. Mind bungling.

February 14, 2013

SOTU 2013: A Progressive View of Government

There were two distinct views on the role of government as their speeches demonstrated by president Obama and GOP Senator Rubio on Tuesday. It also demonstrated the conservatives' anachronistic view of liberalism. 

The notion of freedom that came out of the Enlightenment was to define it by the individual; free countries weren't necessarily free unless their citizens had individual freedoms which were guaranteed by a social contract. 

After the American Revolution, the question was, what kind of political system should we have here?

Those early leaders of the new country-to-be chose liberalism, representative government, popular consensus, and the radical idea that the new entity should be a commonwealth--that is, work for the benefit of the people.

Ever since, and in order to fulfill this goal, government is engaged in the redistribution of resources, enhancing access to opportunity and maintain fair play. At least this has been the principle.  

Of-For-By The People
 Now, let's think how this social contract principle was implemented in the early days. "Of the people"? Well, not so much. Common people weren't invited into government. "By the people"? Not so much either. Only white men with property were allowed to vote. "For the people"? OK, more or less, if you excluded the slaves, the very poor, and the absence of a social safety net.

Since those days, there has been an evolution in the role of government, culture, society, gender roles, racial relations, economic activities, all sorts of ideas and views, etc, etc. And, our country has been better off, because of it. Look at any country where most of its citizens are faring well and you'll see that's a liberal, social democracy with an activist state.

FDR's New Deal put in practice the evolved liberalism--an expanded notion of freedom--which went beyond the narrow definition of the absence of restraint. What prevents a person from enjoying freedom is the absence of access to opportunity, lack of meaningful choices and actions. An in the absence of an activist state, the marketplace alone or even charity and human fellowship weren't enough to give individuals of the middle and lower classes a pathway to freedom.

It's the activist state--which according to the main principle of the social contract should serve the people--that helped create a more even playing field and ensured the rule of law. We still have a long way to go, so the conservatives' and libertarians' view that the state should be limited makes no sense whatsoever, unless, of course, this is designed to further the gap between the classes and ensure our system becomes plutocratic, unjust, immobile, and unfree!

The SOTU, 2013

Federal budget reflects the values and priorities of government. Here are some of the president's points that I share:
  • Wages and benefits haven't risen in decades
  • We're in this together
  • Fairer tax burden; not fair for wealthy to pay less of a share than working class people
  • Debt: health care costs rising; tuition debt
  • Cuts in social services, job training, green economy are not good for us
  • Medicare reform; Affordable Health Care Act necessary to improve the health of the nation, including access to medical treatment
  • Social Contract should be maintained, and paid for; it's what a modern country does for its citizens.
  • We shouldn't cut medicare and education, ss, for the benefit of preserving tax breaks to the wealthy.
  • don't play with the credit and credibility of the USA
  • A strong economy is based on a strong middle class
  • Gov investing in green energy, innovation, scientific research
  • Climate change is upon us, not a coincidence; Science v. wishful thinking
  • Internet, infrastructure, efficient, less corrupt system, educated workforce, tolerance, etc.
  • investment in education, early access to learning, makes individuals more productive, more successful, less prone to crime, etc. Better for US
  • comprehensive immigration reform, now!
  • Women's rights, like paycheck fairness act, more protection from violence
  • minimum wage should rise
  • shared prosperity
  • end of war (started by previous prez)
  • gay and straight in the military should have equal benefits and treatment
  • right to vote, fundamental right; why do we place obstacles to voting? 
  • reduce gun violence; sensible gun control laws;
  • I made it on my own; don't need Washington's help
  • Free enterprise economy is the solution
  • More government is the problem; but not if it has to do with intrusion into our privacy,  abortion, and the .."moral fitness of America"
  • More government breeds more rules, laws, and taxes. Who needs that, right?
  • No Obama care; without explaining the particulars since most Americans are in favor of the new health care law if its provisions are explained.
  • Role of gov: security, night watchman, not much more
  •  blah, blah, blah
  • ....
  • have some of the same medicine that got you sick in the first place....