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A Parliamentary Government With Proportional Voting for the United States
Kimball Corson
01/10/2013, Pago Pago, American Samoa

A Parliamentary Government With Proportional Voting for the United States

The founding fathers looked upon the adventure posited by their newly drafted Constitution as a sort of grand experiment. It had no real precedent. No earlier guide. They were not sure it would work. They all but joked about it. Surely the adventure would fare better than the misbegotten Articles of Confederation.

It was a system clearly designed for a slow-paced, agrarian population well dispersed across the countryside. It spread governmental power and had checks and balances galore. It was a government that was designed to do little unless most everyone agreed. A fight against a Hitler would do, once enough of us came to a mind to do that. It was an experiment, but it was a cautious one that too much assumed life in America would stay the same. It didn't, after a while.

The industrial revolution came and discombobulated things. New farm equipment and technology markedly kept increasing farm output to the point where a large rural population for farming was no longer needed. At the same time the industrial revolution facilitated and accelerated urban life. Therein was the dual rub; it was our government's undoing, if you will.

Washington and Jefferson both worried that our constitutional system of government would likely not work if the American population became urbanized around great cities that were also money centers. It appears they were correct. The Constitution does not even clearly provide for a national, central bank or anything like the Fed. That need was not expected to arise, although it soon did, and was the subject of much debate among even the framers.

As our population shifted from a more rural and farm setting to a synergistic and fast paced urban one, our needs in regard to government changed. Much more governmental action and intervention was required. The executive branch and our presidents became much more powerful and indeed with little help were able to address smaller matters where most realized the full machinery of government was simply to unwieldy. That plugged some of the gap, but only some.

Checks and balances across the three branches remained the stumbling block for substantial action which depended much more on consenses or at least carefully aligned majorities, no minority subversion and a sympathetic Court. Over time, as the issues became more complicated and our population increasingly less informed -- and now affirmatively misinformed by some political interests -- consensus, aligned majorities or the Court can not be depended upon and increasingly our constitutional system of government simply fails. It grinds to a halt. It does not act.

In the growing face of dissension and disagreement, the system and the Constitution we hold far too dear no longer serve us. The grand experiment of the founding fathers is collapsing. We now have ineffective "government by gridlock." We are unable to address national problems of the economy, the unemployed, graft, corruption and even enforcement of our laws. We face government by prison lock down. It won't work and isn't working. We too much blame the politicians, when it is more the fault of the structure of our government.

For discussion, here is what I propose instead. It is basically a unicameral parliamentary system with proportional voting that is more directly accountable to the people. The details follow:

100 parliament members would be elected nationwide for two year terms. Terms would be staggered by thirds. Proportional representation with the entire nation electing the single unicameral body (cannot be gerrymandered.) We would use a open party list proportional representation system where a party had to get five percent of the vote to have its members counted and with voters indicating their order of preference within a party list. Nevertheless, the number of candidates elected from the list being determined by the number of votes the list receives.

[e.g., Finland (open list), Latvia (open list), Sweden (open list), Israel (where the whole country is one closed list constituency), Brazil (open list), the Netherlands (open list). For elections to the European Parliament, most member states use open lists systems. The party list system is most common worldwide for proportional voting and for democracies. The bias is toward open lists.]

Members would receive a comfortable salary, but could receive zero money from any outside sources under pain of expulsion from Parliament. Each candidate for office would received a fixed sum from the government for his or her election or reelection campaign which could not be supplemented at all. Incumbents would receive 25 percent less in campaign funds. Other (including personal) financial campaign assistance being received would preclude a member or candidate from Parliament for a period of four years. No third party paid for ads would be allowed.

Parliament would be supreme and have full sovereignty, with no limits on its powers or authority, as in Canada. Parliament may make or unmake any laws as it deems proper, and no other political or private institution may undermine Parliament's ability to do so.

A president would be elected by a majority of Parliament from its members and serve at Parliament's pleasure. The President would appoint his cabinet secretaries who would serve at his pleasure and the pleasure of Parliament with a 65 percent vote by Parliament required to remove a cabinet secretary. Each could remove for any reason whatsoever.

The supreme and lower court could not review acts of parliament in regard to their validity and the supreme court is only to assure the applicable law was properly applied by the lower courts.

State governments would become administrative units run and controlled by parliament. Those units would serve at Parliament's pleasure, be under the cabinet secretary of the interior and also serve at that secretary's pleasure, but the state administrative units would have no separate constitutions and powers, nor be a part of any federalist system and would only be a part of the national system of government.

Laws would be uniform in their application or not as Parliament decides (hunting rifles ok in Wyoming, but not New York city) All law would be made by Parliament. None would be made by the states. Cities, as authorized by Parliament, could make local ordinances subject to approval by Parliament.

The virtues of this form of parliamentary government are
1) It is more directly accountable to the people.
2) It would be less corrupt as parliamentary systems are anyway.*
3) It would be much simpler.
4) It would avoid grid lock, with the chief justice to break any tie vote.
5) Single Parliamentary systems have generally provided higher quality representation for the public interest, in competition with private interests.
6) Most of the world's democracies have parliamentary forms of government.
7) Most of the world capitalistic economies have parliamentary forms of government.
8) No country has the messy, complicated and ineffective system we do.
9) It is faster and easier to pass and revoke legislation.
10) It has attractive features for nations such as ours that are ethnically, racially, or ideologically divided.
11) It is less prone to authoritarian collapse, coups and control by the rich.

*Parliamentary systems generally are associated with less corruption according to the World Bank.

Thoughts anyone or is this all too unthinkable for you.

America’s Health Care System is a Huge Failure
Kimball Corson
01/09/2013, Pago Pago, American Samoa

America's Health Care System is a Huge Failure

The other advanced countries of the world with national health care systems do much better than we do. We are the only advanced nation without a national health care system. Our works worse than any in terms of it costs and its results.

Americans Pay More and Get Worse Health Care than Other Advanced Nations

The Per Capita Costs of Health Care in the Advanced Nations

The average annual cost of health care per capita is about $3,000 in most of the modern world, but almost $5,800 in the US. Next, we have Switzerland, Iceland and France at just $3,000 coming in at second place, but still with the US almost double that. Finally, the other advanced nations have annual costs per capita of from $2,200 to $2,900, with most of the Scandinavian countries in that group, with costs less than half the US.

Now where do you suppose all that extra money paid in the US goes? Who pockets it? Shouldn't you know?

So Called Benefits or Results

So what do we get for all this extra health care cost? The answer is much less health care and much worse health.

Americans live shorter lives and experience more injuries and illnesses than people in other high-income countries. A growing body of research is calling attention to this problem. The U.S. health disadvantage cannot be attributed solely to the adverse health status of racial or ethnic minorities or poor people, since recent studies suggest that even highly advantaged Americans
may be in worse health than their counterparts in other countries.

The Inferior Health Status of Americans

Health care outcomes in the United States have been compared
with those of 16 comparable high-income or "peer" countries: Australia, Austria, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. Historical trends dating back several decades were examined, but with a focus on the more extensive data available from the late 1990's to 2008. Over this time period, a strikingly consistent and pervasive pattern of higher mortality and inferior health in the United States is found in the US,
beginning at birth:

• For many years, Americans have had a shorter life expectancy than people in almost all of the peer countries. For example, as of 2007, U.S. males lived 3.7 fewer years than Swiss males and U.S. females lived 5.2 fewer years than Japanese females.
• For the past three decades, this difference in life expectancy has
been growing, especially among women.
• The health disadvantage is pervasive--it affects all age groups up
to age 75 and is observed for multiple diseases, biological and
behavioral risk factors, and injuries.

More specifically, when compared with the average for peer countries, the United States fares worse in nine major health domains:

1. Adverse birth outcomes: For decades, the United States has experienced the highest infant mortality rate of high-income countries and also ranks poorly on other birth outcomes, such as low birth weight. American children are less likely to live to age 5 than children in other high-income countries.
2. Injuries and homicides: Deaths from motor vehicle crashes, non-transportation-related injuries, and violence occur at much higher rates in the United States than in other countries and are a leading cause of death in children, adolescents, and young adults. Since the 1950's, U.S. adolescents and young adults have died at higher rates from traffic accidents and homicide than their counterparts in other countries.
3. Adolescent pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections: Since
the 1990's, among high-income countries, U.S. adolescents have
had the highest rate of pregnancies and are more likely to acquire
sexually transmitted infections.
4. HIV and AIDS: The United States has the second highest prevalence of HIV infection among the 17 peer countries and the highest incidence of AIDS.
5. Drug-related mortality: Americans lose more years of life to alcohol and other drugs than people in peer countries, even when deaths from drunk driving are excluded.
6. Obesity and diabetes: For decades, the United States has had the highest obesity rate among high-income countries. High prevalence rates for obesity are seen in U.S. children and in every age group thereafter. From age 20 onward, U.S. adults have among the highest prevalence rates of diabetes (and high plasma glucose levels) among peer countries.
7. Heart disease: The U.S. death rate from ischemic heart disease is the second highest among the 17 peer countries. Americans reach age 50 with a less favorable cardiovascular risk profile than their peers in Europe, and adults over age 50 are more likely to develop and die from cardiovascular disease than are older adults in other high-income countries.
8. Chronic lung disease: Lung disease is more prevalent and associated with higher mortality in the United States than in the United Kingdom and other European countries.
9. Disability: Older U.S. adults report a higher prevalence of arthritis and activity limitations than their counterparts in the United Kingdom, other European countries, and Japan.

Since 1980, the United States has had the first or second lowest probability of surviving to age 50 among the 17 peer countries. Americans who do reach age 50 generally arrive at this age in poorer health than their counterparts in other high-income countries, and as older adults they face greater morbidity and mortality from chronic diseases that arise from risk factors (e.g., smoking, obesity, diabetes) that are often established earlier in life.

Finally, the US's large population of recent immigrants is generally in better health than native-born Americans. They give our averages a boost.

Do you still like the American health care system and think it is the best. If so, you need to learn and adjust.

Bell, Buddhists and Our Notions of Reality (Part XI)
Kimball Corson
01/09/2013, Pago Pago, American Samoa

Bell, Buddhists and Our Notions of Reality (Part XI)

Before trying to get a hopefully improved sense of string theory, having somewhat rather dumped on it before, perhaps unfairly, I want to stop and say a word about gravity, That is where we are really ignorant. Spectacularly so.

In physics, the graviton is a hypothetical elementary particle that mediates the force of gravitation in the framework of quantum field theory. However, no one even knows if such a particle exists. I doubt it and suspected the quantum physicists have gotten too used to particles explaining a lot. Of course, I don't know, but if I were a betting man . . .

The real problem with gravity is physicists think it is not a force that is emanating from our three dimensions. They think that the universe is really eleven dimensioned and that gravity is a key force in another set of dimensions. In our world it is a weakish sort of leaked force that too simply has spilled into our perception. We don't know much about it except it somehow relates to mass and its pull is inversely related to the square of the distance between the two objects pulling on each other.

Einstein also told us it warps and bends space in ways that make it appear that two objects are attracted toward each other. But is gravity really all about how objects cause space to be bent so that like two baseballs on a taut sheet they are "pulled" toward each other? Is it the behavior of space around objects that we should be focusing on instead of matter? We don't really know.

More interestingly, astronomers also know that something in the universe is exerting a strong gravitational force on things that we can see. They don't know what it is and they can't see it. When they measure the effects of this gravitational force, they estimate that the "something they don't know and can't see" adds up to about 23 percent of the "matter" in the universe, judging by how the matter we can see behaves. Even more baffling, something else that doesn't quite behave like normal matter -- which they unsurprisingly call "dark energy"-- makes up the rest of what is needed to account for the gravitational force we observe on things we can see -- a whopping 72 percent.

Gravity is a serious and powerful force. The problem is the amount of matter we can observe simply isn't enough to generate the kind of gravitational forces on the matter in the universe we can see. There is a huge discrepancy. Where is all this gravitational muscle coming from. Is it caused by matter accelerating in space? Or space reacting to all this accelerating matter? Is space causing it along the lines of Einstein's thinking?

For example, one alternative to dark matter suggested in 2011 by Dragan Hajdukovic at (CERN) proposed that empty space is filled with particles of matter and antimatter which are gravitational opposites. With different gravitational charges, the matter and antimatter particles would form gravitation dipoles in space. If these dipoles formed near a galaxy - an object with a massive gravitational field - the gravitational dipoles would become polarized and strengthen the galaxy's gravitational field. This would explain the gravitational effects of dark matter without requiring any new or exotic forms of matter.

Frankly, I think we are simply badly confused because we live in too small a part of the universe and because we don't really know nearly enough about gravity. A good and complete theory of gravity and how it operates should make all this dark stuff go away, I suspect.

Odds 'n' Ends and Tid Bits
Kimball Corson
01/08/2013, Pago Pago, American Samoa

Art should comfort the disturbed.
Art should disturb those comfortable
Art should roil those who need it.
Of course, some art just sits there and is.
_________

International Comparative Data on Medical and Higher Education Costs -- Supports my arguments on the Scandinavian countries.

Avg annual cost of health care per capita is about $3,000 in most of the modern world, but almost $5,800 in the US. Then we have Switzerland, Iceland and France just cracking $3,000 as the 2nd highest, with, of course, the US almost double that and then with everyone else coming in between $2,200 and $2,900, including the Scandinavians.

Then, here is higher education costs around the world.

http://www.businessinsider.com/tuition-costs-by-country-college-higher-education-2012-6?op=1

But N.B., top private US universities run about $52,000 per year for just tuition unless help is marshaled (Harvard, Chicago, Yale, Princeton, Stanford, etc.)
________

The GDP per person in Norway is over $90,000/ annum and only about $55,000 in the US. Why?
________

So How Are We Doing? (from a friend)

US ranked 31 of 74 in mathematics education,
US ranked 23 of 74 in science education,
US ranked 17 of 74 in reading
US ranked 49 of 224 in life expectancy
US ranked 3 of 178 in ease of doing business
US ranked 11 of 227 in GDP per capita
US ranked 13 of 111 in quality of life
US ranked 17 of 167 in degree of democracy
US ranked 61 of 163 in protecting the environment
US ranked 61 of 163 in freedom of the press
US ranked 85 of 149 in protecting global peace

I guess we are not so clever
as to want to be like us forever and ever.
We just think so.

Obama's Foreign Policy Break with the Bush Neocons
Kimball Corson
01/08/2013, Pago Pago, American Samoa

Obama's Foreign Policy Break with the Bush Neocons

That is what the debate is all about over Republican Check Hagel's appointment to Secretary of Defense by President Obama. Republicans are up in arms. They still won't concede the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were big mistakes. They still believe there were weapons of mass destruction. No matter how incorrect and simply wrong they have been, they seem to lose no credibility, at least among each other, but hopefully among the rest of us. Being factually correct doesn't matter. Being ideologically correct does. My take is that is a learning disability.

The controversy centers on Hagel's outspoken criticism of the war in Iraq, and Republican fears that the appointment would represent a clean break for Obama from the policies of the Bush years. And that is bad? Remember Bush Jr. on the aircraft carrier photographed under the "Mission Accomplished" sign? Have these Republicans no memories or abilities to assess, even after the fact?

Hagel rose to national prominence for his blunt criticism of Bush's policy in Iraq and his "realist" -- even skeptical -- outlook on the use of U.S. military force as a tool of basic foreign policy, a position now further vindicated by the mistaken Afghanistan War as well. Don't these Republicans ever learn? They are the problem with education in America.

Anyway, we will see what happens.

A Catholic Big Hat Speaks
Kimball Corson
01/08/2013, Pago Pago, American Samoa

A Catholic Big Hat Speaks

Bishop Bernard Fellay said Jews are the "enemies of the church" during a recent radio talk, but denies any anti-Semitic connotation to the rhetoric [help me with an explanation: we love our enemies?]. Here, he is pictured in 2009 during an ordination mass of the Society of St Pius X, which was declared "illegitimate" by the Catholic church. A cult within a Cult.

Fellay, discussing negotiations with the Vatican in 2012 concerning the Society's future, said the following during the address: "Who, during that time, was the most opposed that the Church would recognize the Society? The enemies of the Church. The Jews, the Masons, the Modernists."

Note his Catholic Big Hat is not a large or as white as the Pope's Big Hat. What would happen to their authority and bearing if Jesus made them wear baseball caps on sideways, speaking of modernists.

The Reasons for Our Declining College Standards
Kimball Corson
01/07/2013, Pago Pago, American Samoa

The Reasons for Our Declining College Standards

Students are inadequately prepared, in both grade and high school. They are too distracted in large part by their visual culture and their own company. They are unaculturated to deliberate careful thought and reading, almost requiring audio and visual stimuli to process information. This is a key reason. They lack the skill base to do serious higher level academic work. The worst of them, who still wish to attend some college, often go to a community college. If you have ever looked through a community college's semester course offerings, the overwhelming majority of courses are in English and math and are remedial. High school redone. Ironically, when finished, such students often wind up knowing their high school materials better than many four year students. Four year institutions tend to just mistakenly assume such work is not much necessary for their new students. This is our main Achilles heel.

Many college students do not expect or want to work hard. They simply want "the college experience" and of course, a degree at the end of four years. Girls, beer and parties have a high priority in creating their expected "college memories." Student faculty interaction is often abysmal to non-existent. I know a student who attended a large university and never in four years had a substantive conversation with a professor or teacher. Few such students have S.T.E.M. majors. They more seek to party, just get by and get their degree. They dominate the numbers.

Faculty get bad student ratings from students when too much work is required of them or the work is too hard. They complain. Administrations, eager to get and retain tuition fees, pay attention to those students. Then all play a cosmetics, cover-up game. Few people know that the SAT was adjusted in the 90's to give an almost 100 point boost to test recipients because the scores fell so far below the national goals. Grades have been similarly inflated. Less is made appear more. Appearances are to be maintained. All is made to look good, so long as the money flows are maintained and not compromised.

Worse, parents complain when their children are worked too hard. Universities hear from them. Again, the goal of administrators is to acquire tuition fees, expand enrollments and retain and hire new faculty. They are running a business. Parents must be satisfied as well or younger siblings and the children of friends may not matriculate.

The sad fact is many attend college who are not qualified intellectually or scholastically. This is really the first point, revisited from a broader perspective. It is clear that aside from the students at top colleges and universities, serious S.T.E.M. students and the top students in other institutions, most college students -- the overwhelming majority -- are not intellectually or scholastically qualified to do serious academic work. That is the sorry truth. All deny it, but it is clearly true. It is a truth we cannot face. The malaise of our high schools has been admitted into our colleges. We are in denial. The seriously bright students find their way regardless, however, and do so where others can't.

As a consequence of theses degradations, most who are qualified to judge them, realize that a four year college degree with average grades from a tier II, III or IV college these days is about the equivalent of a high school degree before WW II. Interestingly, that is just about how the labor market evaluates a typical college degree these days. College grads are often store clerks. Of course, those out of the top institutions and the top of other college classes and serious S.T.E.M. students stand on a different footing. They are capable of serious work and, sooner or later, even if later on the job, they usually get to it. They are the group which is slated to run things and lead us forward.

Our Central and Key Problem
Kimball Corson
01/07/2013, Pago Pago, American Samoa

Our Central and Key Problem

It is this: most of the problems facing our nation are economic problems or at best problems with strong economic aspects. Yet congressmen and the president are abysmal economists and, worse, don't politically like the answers they get from good, sound economists. (And, Oh yes, such economists are readily identifiable and could be easily assembled.)

This is a horrid and persistent catch 22 that threatens to sink our ship.

The Income Defense Industry Hard at Work
Kimball Corson
01/07/2013, Pago Pago, American Samoa

The Income Defense Industry Hard at Work

Trying to condition our thinking (note the declaratory, imperative mood):

"There will be no more increases in tax revenues as part of any debt or deficit-reduction deal, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) declared in several interviews on Sunday.

"[T]he tax issue is finished, over, completed," said the Kentucky Republican, during an appearance on ABC's "This Week." "That's behind us. . . ."

Oh?

The Difference Between Cuba's Economy and those of the Scandinavians
Kimball Corson
01/07/2013, Pago Pago, American Samoa

The Difference Between Cuba's Economy and those of the Scandinavians

A friend asked, so here goes:

Cuba doesn't use the capitalistic model for production on the front end (except in the underground economy). It uses the soviet style central planning mode for the production of goods and services, much like North Korea. Distribution of income (except for the underground economy in Cuba) is basically a fully socialistic model, with small handouts from government going to almost everyone.

The Scandinavian countries use capitalism, with no underground economy, to produce virtually all goods and services and then on the income distribution side also let capitalism likewise determine who gets what in the first instance EXCEPT then very high marginal and average, very progressive income taxes are levied on the the upper income and rich to generate a social dividend in revenue which is then used not for hand outs, but to provide health care for all, higher education for all qualified, new and well repaired infrastructure, care for the incompetent and very poor, excellent and cheap public transportation and other social advantages.

The system works very well. Of the ten most prosperous countries in the world in a recent survey, most were Scandinavian, but Canada, Australia and New Zealand fared well, too. The US did not make the cut although we are the richest country.

The friend then suggested, "Many Americans would view a move toward an economy similar to that of the Scandinavian countries as a move toward Communism." I respond: hardly. Not even close. Communism is where all means of producing goods and services are owned by everyone equally and collectively (e.g., coops) and everyone is provided for according to their needs. The word is grossly misused by Americans. Socialism -- another hugely misused word by Americans -- is where all means of production are owned by the state and everyone earns income in accordance with their skills and talents in working for the state. Cuba doesn't qualify to be communistic because of the private economy which is partially allowed. It is also not really socialistic for the same reason although the non-private sector is. It is very slightly communistic in seeing to it everyone get something from the state, if they need it.

The Scandinavia countries are not really closer to being either communistic or socialistic any more than America is. Our health care system has the rich or insured paying for the emergency care of the poor (an inept system of cross-subsidization or what Americans would call "socialism") and we have free public schooling through high school (More "socialism") We have collective public financing of infrastructure ("socialism," again). We just do a relatively bad job at too much. We are the only advanced nation that does not have national health care and, on average, we pay more for medical care and treatment and get less of it than people living in those other advanced nations. Greed runs amuck in the US.

The big difference between the Scandinavians and the Cubans (and us to a degree) -- beyond those described here -- is how widespread, quality, effective higher education and training, as well as resulting competence, is among the population. The Scandinavians broke the cycle of poverty long, long ago which still holds most Cubans captive.

A Discourse on Two Mindsets
Kimball Corson
01/07/2013, Pago Pago, American Samoa

A Discourse on Two Mindsets

Many Americans tend to be of the affirmative view that government is too noxious, impairs freedom too much and is too wasteful; that it should be much smaller; that taxes are anathema of sorts which just feed wasteful government; and that the income an individual has earned is properly subject to the view that "It is truly mine-- Really all mine -- and Nobody except me has a right to any of it." This perspective is asocial, isolatively individual and ill adapted to collective living. It is a view often rooted in fear of want and the further view that no one cares. It is self reinforcing and withdrawn. It is very much American, however.

A more progressive and contrary view argues the first view is myopic, dysfunctional and ignores too much, particularly the infrastructure the individual used to earn that income, the markets he similarly used, the educated workforce employed to that end, and too often government favors and benefits-- both morally proper and improper -- likewise used to acquire that income. The view likewise ignores the social compact among all of us in this country to live together, well, prosperously and peaceably, the virtue of a well educated, enlightened, well fed and healthy population, having a well maintained and modern infrastructure, having the incompetent poor properly cared for and of course the constitution which authorizes progressive income taxation. The rich in countries where this perspective dominates often view the high marginal and average income tax rates they bear as a small price to pay for all these benefits and the country they live in. This is more a Scandinavian viewpoint

The later view recognizes we live collectively, we are social beings, we should care for and about each other and we want a good life for all. The first view fails badly on all these points and is comparatively quite dysfunctional.

We are not able to well discuss these matters in America unfortunately without incivility raising its ugly head. Our political arena was just reduced to a public 'Fuck you" from the House Speaker who was re-elected to the position. Where are we to truly find our hope? That things must first become much worse before sensible dialogue can occur? I wonder. I find us a bit sorry. We are fallen, scared, grasping and isolated.

Goodbye to the 112th Congress: Hello to the 113th
Kimball Corson
01/04/2013, Pago Pago, American Samoa

Goodbye to the 112th Congress: Hello to the 113th

The 113th was sworn in today and the 112th largely left. The 112th was the spectacular "do nothing" Tea Party Congress we have all read about that bickered over everything. We can hope that the ideological excesses and obstructionism of the Tea Party class of 2012 are dissipated. Why? Here is one reason.

Many of the 2013 freshmen attended an orientation session at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government after the election. The director of the Institute of Politics, Trey Grayson has observed the staff noticed a distinct difference between these new congressmen and the previous class. The new class is strongly solution-oriented," said Grayson. "They heard loud and clear from the voters during the campaign that voters wanted solutions, not rhetoric."

Congress's challenge will be to deal with our problems more constructively and cooperatively than its Tea Party predecessors. That should not be too hard.

There is some rational reason for optimism rooted in the key differences between the 2010 and 2012 elections. The class elected in 2010 was elected by a narrow but intense slice of the electorate--the anti-Obama, recession-fueled rage of the 2010 midterm election landslide. The Tea Party ruled.

The class of 2012 was elected in a presidential year, with a broader and more representative segment of the electorate. The message this freshman class heard from voters was all about finding a way to work together in Washington--stop fighting and start fixing. And, at least so far, that demand seems to be reflected in the attitudes of this freshman class.

"We've got multiple entrepreneurs and folks from the private sector who are used to dealing with bottom line," concurred the Republican freshman class president Luke Messer of Indiana. "We've got 16 or so military veterans and a lot of folks from local and state government, where you have to work together to get things done. These people didn't come here to just bicker and fight and kick out a press release blaming someone else. They're here to get results."

Hey, we can hope can't we?

More on the Same
Kimball Corson
01/04/2013, Pago Pago, American Samoa

More on the Same

"As Christopher Brown, an economist at Arkansas State University, put it in a pioneering 2004 paper, "Income inequality can exert a significant drag on effective demand." Looking back on the two decades before 1986, Brown found that if the gap between rich and poor had not grown wider, consumption spending would have been almost 12 percent higher than it actually was. That was a big enough number to have produced a noticeable macroeconomic impact.

Stiglitz, in his book, argues that an inequality-driven shift away from consumption accounts for 'the entire shortfall in aggregate demand--and hence in the U.S. economy--today.'" From the National Journal

The Discussion America Is not Ready to Have, But Desperately Needs
Kimball Corson
01/04/2013, Pago Pago, American Samoa

The Discussion America Is not Ready to Have, But Desperately Needs

We have been awash in retarded and foolish economic discussions and perspectives for too long. Keynesianism doesn't work, less regulation is key, spending is out of control, the deficits are killing the recovery, cutting spending is imperative, we have to get the public debt down, higher taxes are anathema and on and on. Those are all bogus issues.

Our economy is permanently depressed to a new lower normal level and unemployment stays high for two reasons:
1. We buy too much from abroad and produce too little here, and
2. Most income is going to the rich who don't spend it.

The first you will recognize as the trade deficit issue and the second as the distribution of income issue. The second issue is the greatest by far. With lower oil imports 1. is becoming a minor problem.

The emerged, but mostly silent consensus among top mainstream economists is that the distribution of income is destroying our economy. Think about the two issues.

Ours is an economy built on the purchase of consumer goods and services. As to 1., money spent on foreign goods is not money spent on domestic goods. American spending and therefore aggregate demand is thereby permanently lowered if we continuously buy from abroad what we could produce and buy here instead.

As to 2., the more income is concentrated in the hands of the rich, the less of it that is spent on goods and services. Why? Because the rich spend a much lower percentage of their income on good and services. One person can only use so much stuff. The middle class and poor spend almost all of their income on goods and services. Therefore the shift of income from the poor and middle class to the rich destroys spending and permanently lowers aggregate demand. This is the key reason our economy is in the pits.

Presently, the top 20 percent receive almost 66 percent of all national income. Regarding income growth in the last 30 years, the top 20 percent have seen their income rise by 89 percent; the top 1 percent have seen theirs go up 241 percent. Income has increased during that period for the bottom 20 percent only by 10 percent.

Most economists are too reluctant to speak out, unlike Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz, because they fear their corporate research grant money will be threatened. Stiglitz and a few others are too wealthy and prominent to be cowed by threats. But the emerged consensus is there.

The rich threaten and intimidate by and through their income defense industry (those who work in all walks of life to protect and preserve the incomes of the rich) because they are fearful. They know and don't like the answer to the income distribution problem for the economy: The answer is the Scandinavian solution.

The Scandinavian countries have very high marginal income tax rates (50 to 65 percent) and high average rates as well on their rich and then they treat that tax revenue as a social dividend and spend it on free health care for all, free higher education for those qualified, massively improve infrastructure, the very poor and disabled so that most are much better off and the society thrives. The rich in those countries have come to realize life in those countries is better.

The Scandinavians use a mixed economic system which uses capitalist means for production of goods and services on the front end, but for the distribution of income on the back end it uses a mix of capitalism and socialism to generate a good life for all. It works and it works well. Work disincentives have proved not to be a problem. The societies prosper. Indeed, of the world's top ten most prosperous countries, in a recent survey, most are Scandinavian.

But this terrifies the rich in America who hate taxes, hate government and are greedy in the extreme. That is why you hear all this nonsense about how taxing the rich more will destroy the American economy. It is the trickledown theory of economics although now they shy away from that language because many have figured out that what we have had is a trickle up theory of income. It is just the income defense industry at work on its propaganda.

We have been conditioned by the income defense industry to not even think about raising taxes. That is why we are not even close to ready to have the kinds of conversations that are long past due about a Scandinavian solution for America's economy. We are in an intellectual rut. We have been boxed in regarding our thinking. This is no accident. It is the result of economic propaganda and now we are in a nasty hole.

Almost no one will speak out directly about the problem as I have here.

Life is So Good . . .
Kimball Corson
01/02/2013, Pago Pago, American Samoa

Life is So Good . . .

I suck it up from both ends. I awake too early and jump to my projects and go to bed too late when I wear thin. Every now and again Mother Nature grounds me with a cold or the flu and sends me to bed. But mainly I get away with it.

Studies show that those who get at least seven hours of sleep with not less than two before midnight have one third as many colds and they are less severe. So it is a balancing act, weighing carefully how disabled I will be with whichever malady against the gains from the extra time spent living. Sleep is simply interim death. I learned that as a child when told to go to bed.

I have even taken to eating fruits (easy) and vegetables (hard) to aid my longevity, along with some exercise which is not at all hard given my life style.

It's really a complicated maximization process. Who would know life could be so fun, but complicated.

 

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