Social Contract

“All the advantages I gave up when I left Finland and moved to America – universal public health care, universal affordable day care, real maternity benefits, high quality free education, taxpayer funded residences for the elderly, even the separate taxation of spouses – were no gifts from the government to make me a servile dependent on the state’s largess. Rather the Nordic system is intentionally designed to take into account the specific challenges of modern life and give citizens as much logistical and financial independence as possible. This is actually the opposite of a community-centered system, or socialism, or whatever you want to call it.” the Nordic Theory of Everything, In Search of a Better Life: Anu Partanen


Racial discord plays a critical role in determining beliefs about the poor. Since racial minorities are highly overrepresented among the poorest Americans, any income-based redistribution measures will redistribute disproportionately to these minorities. Opponents of redistribution in the United States have regularly used race-based rhetoric to resist left-wing policies. Across countries, racial fragmentation is a powerful predictor of redistribution. Within the United States, race is the single most important predictor of support for welfare. America’s troubled race relations are clearly a major reason for the absence of an American welfare state. Why Doesn't the United States Have A European Style Welfare State: Edward Glaeser and Bruce Sacerdote (pdf download.)


Communities of any size, from the local to the national level, can start initiatives that dramatically enhance their own economic well-being. Perhaps the most dramatic example in the past century was the revival of the nations of Western Europe after World War II, taking them from destitution to the highest living standards in the world through the principles of social democracy - combining self-interest with civic values. Working though their trade unions, cooperatives, and multiparty systems, the citizens of Western Europe responded to the rebound fo their economies by raising their expectations. During the decade after 1945, these countries embraced their citizens' demands for universal health care, decent pensions, cheap and accessible public transit, tuition-free university education, at least one month of annual paid vacation, free child care, paid family sick leave, and maternity leave - to name only a few of the amenities fostered by this collaboration between local and national.

Sixty seven years after 1945, however, the United States - the victor in World War II and long touted as the richest nation in the world - offers none of these civilized services for all of its people. Not one. We do not have a multiparty system in which smaller parties with pioneering agendas can be part of governing coalitions. Instead, we have a winner-take-all two-party dictatorship, its voting blocs broken into gerrymandered districts largely dominated by one party or the other. We have the weakest, most obstructionist labor laws among industrialized nations, which have led to the lowest percentage of labor union members in the Western world. A much smaller segmeent of our economy is devoted to consumer cooperatives. In short, the institutional flaws of our government have allowed powerful corporate interests to drive the American standard of living downward for the past thirty-nine years." Ralph Nader: the Seventeen Solutions


American politics and policy is badly tilted against working families. We have limited liability for corporations, but increasingly we have full liability for American families. This must change, and the change should begin with health care, the epicenter of economic insecurity for millions of hardworking Americans. Health reform doesn’t have to be complicated, just effective. Let every employer and worker have a choice: Buy insurance through the private sector, or buy it through Medicare. Americans should also have access to an all-purpose catastrophic insurance policy to protect themselves and their families against huge drops in income or budget-breaking expenses. These and other innovative reforms outlined in The Great Risk Shift are designed to catch people when they plummet from the ladder of economic advancement. But they’re not just about security, but also about opportunity. By providing workers and their families with the financial security they need to look with hope and optimism toward the future, they will help millions of now-anxious Americans reach for and achieve the American Dream. From The Great Risk Shift (web page): Jacob S. Hacker

It is not by happenstance that America today looks more like a Third World country than an advanced industrial state in international comparisons of social health such as longevity, infant mortality, income distribution, social mobility, labor protection, average number of vacation days, and many other metrics. Our tax policies have ensured that the rich got richer and the rest of us got stuck with the bill. Congressional obedience to corporatized medicine ensured that Americans pay an average of 50 percent more for their health care that citizens in Western Europe. Union busting, leveraged buyouts, and the offshoring of jobs guaranteed lower wages and fewer labor protections. The Party is Over, Mike Lofgren

I have some bad news for you: You have the worst quality of life in the developed world – by a wide margin. Lance Freeman

The economic history of the last thirty-five years is the story of class war in the United States: how the 1 percent have erased or weakened key public benefits won by the 99 percent.  Occupy the Economy, Challenging Capitalism: Richard Wolff pg 131

Government Spends More on Corporate Welfare Subsidies than Social Welfare Programs

It’s time we saw support for child care and paid leave as central to both economic growth and family well-being. (10/24/2016)

Bernie Sanders Wants to Take Back "Family Values" From the GOP (6/13/2015)



GOP Budget Slashes Tax Rates for the 1 Percent, Safety Net for Everyone Else (3/17/2015)

America's Family Leave Disgrace (1/22/2015)

Congress Cuts $8.7 Billion in Food Stamps, But Finds $22 Billion to Fight ISIS (10/1/2014)

Wall Street's Secret Pension Swindle (4/27/2014)

Republican Lifeguard (3/17/2014)

Take Action: Defend Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid (10/26/2013)

Profiting from the Poor: Outsourcing Social Services Puts Most Vulnerable at Risk (10/8/2013)

How America’s 401(k) Revolution Rewarded the Rich and Turned the Rest of Us Into Big Losers (9/23/2013)

House Agriculture Committee Farm Bill Would Cut Nearly 2 Million People off SNAP (5/16/2013)

The Politics of Race (12/18/2012)

Republicans, are not only racists, but, being the party of oligarchs, for decades have been aggressively cutting the social safety net. They have consistently opposed the New Deal.

The social contract should guarantee some economic fairness, but the US, for many reasons, has been steadily losing it. Republicans, the party of the wealthy, can take credit for the deterioration: the results include a less healthy, less productive (because of chronic under employment), higher levels of income inequality, toxic politics, and a deteriorating economy that cannot support both the world's largest military and the well-being of the people.

The US budget funds the world's largest military, the highest rate of incarceration, a bloated security bureacracy, an empire that extends to hundreds of countries, but poor and declining services for its own people. When polled, people do not agree with these budget priorities, but the unfortunate fact is that US democracy is weak. Oligarchs control policy and their major objective is dodging taxes. Media does not report this because it is overwhelmingly corporate.

The most advanced countries strengthen their social contracts, but the US. Government, Corporations assisted by Republicans and their billionaire-funded,  tea-party supporters are increasingly shifting risk to the 99%. A favorite: ripping off pension funds. As savings rates are inadequate, pensions disappearing, 401ks not enough, It appears certain that there will be a retirement crisis. Many people approaching retirement have little savings.

Growing extreme income inequality has brought us growing poverty, social pathology, a middle class sinking into debt servitude, devastating financial volatility, and corrupt institutions.

Republicans, always ready to dodge taxes, have advocated policies of individual responsibility. You are on your own. R's oppose raising the minimum wage, favor cutting social security, fight healthcare reforms, and bust unions.  401k's, Medical Savings Accounts, and a push to privatize Social Security: all efforts to help corporations unload their social burdens. Result is there is much more insecurity for US families. Welfare programs are niggardly. There was little opposition because Republican policy has been hostile to unions that might have objected, and besides virtually all media is corporate, so the real story doesn't air.

The Supreme Court , in what amounts to a coup, ruled that corporations are people with all of the rights guaranteed by the Bill of Rights, whose only goal is profit, and they can participate in elections by spending as much money as they like without disclosure.  This underscores what we already know: Our government is controlled by corporations, not by people. By definition, governments controlled by corporations are fascist. The well-being of the people is not a priority. Our government is not broke, it is bought.

Against this background, Republicans  want everyone to be armed with advanced weapons. See Charles Derber's book: The Wilding of America.

Corporations, by law, seek maximum profit and, in to do that pay the lowest possible wages.  They migrate to countries that allow prison labor, child labor, subsistance wages, environmental laxness, dangerous working conditions. They have deindustrialized the US to export jobs to them. We have high unemployment.  Not only are American workers competing with third world subsistence wages, surplus US workers are driving wages down still more.

We have had many decades of privatized, for-profit health care that has proven outlandishly expensive, complicated. intrusive, ineffective, and neglects the needs of a large fraction of the population. Careful examination of other countries experience should prove that single-payer, public health is the simplest, most efficient, fairest, and most effective. Republicans think having a bake sale for catastrophic illness is fine. Pay up or die.

Corporations traditionally have provided health benefits, pensions, and other insurance to their employees. It never covered everyone, but for many people it worked. No more. Now, it turns out, corporations no longer willing or able to pay for such guarantees, and with the help of Republicans, they have shifted these responsibilities on to families. With falling wages, less job security, it is no wonder that many people have fallen behind. Raiding pension funds has become a major profit center for the privatizers.  Productivity and corporate profits soar, while the middle class is sinking into debt servitude. Student debt is at unprecedented high levels and, since it cannot be shed in bankruptcy, will continue to keep demand weak. Students can look forward to debt servitude in the face of an anemic job market.

In the US a job is necessary for subsistence, but for many reasons, a large fraction of people are not needed in the private sector. As machines become smarter, paid jobs will become scarcer. For example, self-driving vehicles could replace taxi-drivers and truck drivers. Low wage, off-shore workers can replace many formerly well paying jobs.  Even academic credentials no longer guarantee a job.

That is why we need to create a strong social safety net that supports everyone from cradle to grave. The government could be employer of last resort, because, as we all know, there is always plenty of work to do.  Scandinavian countries have been leaders in  providing  servicable  institutions. (See Denmark.)

We can afford it, particularly if we abandon our effort to build a world-dominating empire.

See this Elizabeth Warren video (about an hour, though well spent): http://www.brasschecktv.com/page/642.html

Lemony Snicket Explains Occupy Wall Street

How One GOP Plutocrat Helped Make 20,000 Kids Homeless (11/29/2012)

Paid Parental Leave Lacking In the US (2/22/2011)

See also:

Links

The Plot Against Pensions

Next New Deal

Inequality.org

National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare

The People's Pension

Social Justice First

Bibliography

Why Doesn't the United States Have A European Style Welfare State: Edward Glaeser and Bruce Sacerdote (pdf download.)

The Nordic Theory of Everything, In Search or a Better Life: Anu Partanen

Social Justice in the OECD: How do the Member States Compare (2011). Download the pdf.

Occupy the Economy, Challenging Capitalism: Richard Wolff

The Great Risk Shift: Jacob S. Hacker

Why the White Working Class Still Matters: Ruy Teixeira and Joel Rogers.

Retirement Heist: How Companies Plunder and Profit From the Nest Eggs of American Workers: Ellen Schultz

From Poor Law To Welfare State: Walter Trattner

The Wilding of America: Charles Derber

Our Kids, The American Dream in Crisis: Robert Putnam

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