America is dying: three steps to bring us back from the brink

Thom plus logo Other developed countries are doing all these things; we can, too

Since the Reagan Revolution, America has been slowly dying. Democrats must focus like a laser on three things to breathe new life into our country. They are Education, Healthcare, and a Green New Deal.

Education

Student debt pretty much didn't exist before the Reagan Revolution. When I went to college in the late 1960s I paid my own tuition and room-and-board working part time pumping gas at the local East Lansing Esso station, and washing dishes at Bob's Big Boy chain restaurant. My wife, Louise, put herself through college as a "waitress" (the word at the time) at north Lansing's Howard Johnson's restaurant. Neither of us borrowed a penny.

Reagan's education policies changed all that, and the twist Betsy DeVos added was to devastate our primary schools as well as making college more expensive. As a result, two generations of young people have gone into life saddled with debt, rendering it difficult to buy a home and raise a family and impossible to start a small business like Louise and I did in 1970.

If all of America's student debt were wiped out overnight, it would cost less than Donald Trump's 2017 tax cut for billionaires. It could be paid for, in fact, by reversing Trump's tax cut. And it would liberate tens of millions to get on with life and pursue the American Dream.

The most important of all the various parts of a nation's infrastructure is its intellectual infrastructure. From an educated and enlightened populace flow invention, innovation, and a functioning democracy.

Reagan's goal of turning education into a for-profit "industry" has gutted America's intellectual infrastructure: we no longer lead the world in innovation, novel patents and the creation of new businesses.

We must rebuild our intellectual infrastructure by launch an Eisenhower-style program to rebuild our public schools while making college so affordable a part-time job will pay for it.

Healthcare

American's pay about twice as much for healthcare as any other developed country in the world. Much of that money goes to executive salaries and dividend payments to stockholders in our for-profit insurance industry.

Dollar Bill McGuire, the former CEO of UnitedHealthcare, took over a billion dollars in compensation and stock from that company, and his successor made hundreds of millions. "Obscene" only begins to describe taking money from working class families and then denying them healthcare to boost CEO's income.

This is also, essentially, a massive tax on working class Americans, who pay thousands a year more for healthcare than the people of any other developed nation in the world.

And our lack of universal coverage means people stuck in dead-end jobs with health insurance benefits are afraid to move to better jobs or start their own entrepreneurial ventures. If you wanted to design a system to slowly strangle an economy from the ground up, this is it.

On top of that, tens of thousands of Americans die unnecessarily and/or prematurely every year because of how uneven both access and quality of healthcare are distributed across the country.

Every other developed country in the world has figured this out, but the health insurance industry leeches attached to our backs don't want to stop sucking our blood; thus, they'll fund ads, social media troll posts, and "protest groups" like the Tea Party to scream "socialism!"

It's time to marginalize and ignore them. Extending Medicare to every American regardless of age will save our economy just short of a trillion dollars a year, save lives, and spur an entrepreneurial boom.

The Green New Deal

Our planet is dying, and it's costing America lives, money and our children's future.

While AOC's Green New Deal is, at this moment, still conceptual, it's component parts are clear.

Rebuild America's physical infrastructure, from housing to transportation to energy systems, in ways that maximize "free" energy sources like wind, solar, and geothermal (among others).

Encourage a transition from fossil-fuel powered cars, trucks and home heating to electricity, while reinventing our national power grid to be green-source fueled, solid-state managed and highly localized to eliminate transmission-line and transformer power dissipation (which account for the loss/waste of over 20% of the power we generate now).

Promote innovation in all these areas both by direct government support and tax policy (and by educating our young people — see "education").

We've done this before; our government funded the development of the internet, the thousands of innovations that came out of JFK's space program, and medical discoveries and new classes of drugs.

We created the best-educated populace in world history in the 1950-1978 era. And we built the world's first intercontinental transportation and energy systems.

We can do it again, and better this time.

-Thom

Originally posted at thomhartmann.medium.com.

Comments

DrRichard 34 weeks 2 days ago
#1

With DeVos out, a strong proponent of net neutrality heading the FCC, maybe the end of private prisons and a president who understands climate change maybe we've passed the nadir. It will be an uphill fight but outling what has to be done is the first big step. Good discussion of some of the many things that must be done. At bottom I'd add (I am an educator, after all) decent teaching from elementary school on. As frightened conservatives in the '60s, a population with the facts and willing to use them can't be fooled. To paraphrase Robert Heinlein, you can't stop a thinking person from using his mind, you can only kill him.

deepspace's picture
deepspace 34 weeks 2 days ago
#2

"If it bleeds, it leads."

That's the unfortunate fact of ad-sponsored "news" manipulated by giant monopolies with the singleminded goal of making as much money as possible by attracting as many eyeballs as possible, truth be damned. A disjointed jumble of fast-paced sensationalism that barely scratches the surface of current events is what passes nowadays as "informing" the public -- consumers ever more addicted to the quick-and-easy hits of dopamine induced by a culture of violent entertainment, conveniently provided by those same media monopolies, completing their circle of lies by omission.

By design, citizens are endlessly distracted from fully realizing the foundational power structures of Big Money and Big Lies that corrupt society. If serious students of history and contemporary news are not heard in the full context of the bigger picture then we are left with the shoot-em-up fantasies that appeal to our darker nature and the plastic lives of feel-good sitcoms that appeal to our yearning for escapism. We are capable of so much more than that.

Hidden in the blizzard of shallow infotainment are the often thankless efforts of earnest truthtellers and scholars, such as Thom, who do the hard work of actual investigative journalism, providing the background and platforms to disseminate the sometimes unpleasant truths (for example, a power-hungry Republican Party slaved to the interests of the wealthy one percent) that move society forward, hopefully in a more positive direction.

In a typical 24-hour news cycle of blaring headlines and cheap thrills, there is little space left for in-depth analyses that strive to uncover the deeper truths behind the fascinating yet often tragic stories of our lives amidst the harsh yet wonderful realities on a pale blue dot lost in a strange and magnificent universe.

Information is neither positive nor negative; it just is. Conditioned human thought is what colors it, correctly or incorrectly.

Slydell's picture
Slydell 34 weeks 2 days ago
#3

Also, Biden MUSt increase the number of board members of the Board of Governors fotr the post office so that we can get rid of DeJoy! The Board NORMALLY consists of 9 members appointed by the President with advice and consent of the senate. The nine governors select the postmaster general who becomes a member of the board, and those 10 select the Deputy Postmaster General. Democrats control the senate. Let's get this done, now!

Hephaestus's picture
Hephaestus 34 weeks 2 days ago
#4

Sadly! We have our own home grown ISIS under our nose and we will not see!

Riverplunge's picture
Riverplunge 34 weeks 2 days ago
#5

Slydell has a great idea of increasing the Board of Governors for the Post Office to get rid of Dejoy. I hope someone repeats it on the airwaves.

Riverplunge's picture
Riverplunge 34 weeks 2 days ago
#6

Speaking of paying for things.

Have you noticed that you are getting more and more things to pay for

foisted on your backs? More paperwork as well as the corporations

sit back and let YOU do the paperwork.

They pay less, or no taxes so YOU pay their bills.

And then whine and cry if you ask for a handout.

Old Dave 34 weeks 1 day ago
#8

The skills required for world class education (quality learning and teaching) are the most important that a human can acquire, thus investing in our educational commons is the most important use of our tax dollars. Without role model education available to all Americans, we will be subject to the whims of the oligarchs who will trash our collective healthcare and the livability of our planet. As long as the 21st Century fascists are empowered to control our government, our elected and appointed officials will continue to ruin our general welfare. Therefore, our citizens must stop the mechanisms of bribery and coercion that oligarchs wield over our democracy. Then we can get about the business of doing exactly what Thom proposes.

cuz's picture
cuz 34 weeks 1 day ago
#9

Hopefully, President Biden did not paint himself into a corner with his mask mandate in Federal property. If that is to be the case there should not be an uncovered face seen for at least 100 days. That decision may be a bit of a faux pas and come back to haunt anyone who violates that mandate.

I also noted the right-wing was quick to point out speaking to the left, "for a group that is anti-gun and anti-wall they sure brought in a lot of guns and walls for the inauguration."

Probably best to tread on eggshells for a few days.

Legend 34 weeks 1 day ago
#10

Walls and guns were to protect the inauguration, only after an attempted coup by the Republican Party. A coup attemt that was organized and well financed by the Republican Party.

rostasi 34 weeks 1 day ago
#11

Also, I'll point out that the guns and walls and all of the other subject hammers the right uses
are trickery and completely (and deliberately) without nuance specially geared to the ignorant.

vetinla's picture
vetinla 33 weeks 6 days ago
#12

deepspace@ 2 said;"That's the unfortunate fact of ad-sponsored "news" manipulated by giant monopolies with the singleminded goal of making as much money as possible by attracting as many eyeballs as possible, truth be damned."

Bottom line truth, and it's killing this nation, and we can't control it.

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