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From the Cold War to a Dark Age
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11/1/2015 3:16:07 PM
Posted: 11 months ago
We live in dark times. It was once the case that America led the world in technological innovation, mostly due to military industrial spending in the Cold War. Now, consumer market innovation is the driving force behind the Asian Tiger's economic strength. Sure, we have Apple and Microsoft, but in name only. Their products are manufactured abroad.
It was once the case that America led the world in education, health care, infrastructure, human capital investment and the like. In the 50s and 60s, when veterans returned from the wars and went to college, to build a better life for themselves and their families on the GI bill, America paved the way for a period of economic growth during the cold war unlike any seen in any other in human history.
Then, the Soviet Union fell. History ended. We won... or so we thought.
Capitalism's reality is that it only sustains itself over the long run if enough wealth is redistributed from the top, to those at the bottom. Capital has to be fluid, and government the agent of that fluidity. I am not an anti-capitalist, although the "free market purists" in the Republican party are.
The world we've created now is one in which students go to college, spend more than ten times the amount of money that they should, graduate with a tremendous amount of debt, only to face a job market which does not offer salaries that are high enough to pay off the loans. The GI bill is still around, but few serve in the military. Those who do risk chemical exposure, mental health problems, and incredibly high suicide rates. There are Pell Grants, and the like, but the reality is that college is out of reach for almost all Americans.
There are some who believe that college is an outdated model, such that college itself should be abandoned in favor of some other form of higher education like EdEx. That's a very myopic, ignorant assessment. The problem with higher education has a lot more to do with how tuition money is collected, and what it is wasted on by college administrations (like college administrations). The problem is not college itself.
My generation is the most highly educated in human history. More Millennials went to college than any other before it, but almost all of us who made that choice are strapped with debt that will make them indentured servants for the rest of their lives, unless something changes.
What Germany understands, for example, that the United States does not, is that if you fail to invest in human capital in the short run, you will squander potential in the long run. Germany gets the necessity of long term demographic investment in health care, education, and infrastructure that the United States has mostly abandoned since the Reagan administration. (Really, the only "infrastructure" that has become more prolific (not properly or adequately maintained, however) is for-profit prisons to lock up non-violent Drug Offenders. This is the real Reagan legacy, but I digress.)
And now, we watch the wealthiest of the wealthy aggregate capital. It does not trickle down. Reaganomics was a lie. The reason that the United States was so successful in the past was not because of Reagan, or what Reagan did, but because of the social investments made by Liberal Democrats while Reagan was giving his address against the same in 1964, championing Barry Goldwater's election.
The so-called 'purists' in the GOP like Paul Ryan would embrace policies that ensure that like investments, which were the actual cause of the Reagan-era growth, never happen again. This he does in the name of "saving our kids from the debt of governmental overreach." No politician has ever said anything more incompetent.
What "fiscal conservatism" means is that in twenty years, people who might have gone to college and learned a skill, like engineering, or something that required some level of secondary or post secondary school, who would have with those skills made money both for the corporation that he worked for, and for himself, both of which would have generated more than ten-fold the tax revenue of what it costed to educate him, will not go to college.
What "fiscal conservatism" means is that preventable health problems, in the short term, will not be prevented, will develop and worsen, and will visit havoc on a family without the money to pay for preventative care.... so they won't. The tax payers, and those of us with private insurance will pay their bills. That's the Republican health care model. It means that we the people will bear the costs of the Republican party's myopia.
I'm a long-term kind of guy. I'm always willing to make the sacrifice in the short term for the long term gain. But Republicans, now... they don't get it. They don't understand that what they're doing is destroying the economic foundation of this country, and ruining our potential for future growth by squandering the resources available to us.
College should be paid for by tax dollars, and people and corporations who benefit from our colleges should be the ones who pay for it in their tax dollars. Health care should be paid for by tax dollars, and the people and corporations who benefit from not incurring the outlandish costs of Republican waste should pay for preventative care in the short term, so that they are not crushed under the weight in the long term.
At the same time, these problems are too complex to be understood by your average voter. They don't get what impact present investment in human capital will have in the long run, or what the absence of such investment will do to our country in the long run. The damage that the Republican party is doing now will visit horror on this country for decades to come, in the same way that the Reagan administration has visited horror on us for the more than three decades that have followed it.
I wish the GOP would wake up. We ended the Cold War at the hight of our own hubris, and that same hubris is leading us into a new dark age.