Category Archives: Paul Buchheit

Five New Year’s Resolutions for Cognitively-Deprived Conservatives

by Paul Buchheit, published December 28, 2015 at Common Dreams

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“Understand that capitalism has no incentive to work for poor people,” Buchheit writes. (Photo: Jeremy hunsinger/flickr/cc)

Many conservatives shy away from the facts, but a willingness to consider them would be a good way to start 2016.

1. Accept that Poverty Causes Marital Problems, Not the Other Way Around

In his condescending way, libertarian Charles Murray wrote: “There remains a core of civic virtue and involvement in working-class America…Married, educated people who work hard and conscientiously raise their kids shouldn’t hesitate to voice their disapproval of those who defy these norms.” Senator Marco Rubio agrees, calling marriage the “greatest tool” for lifting families out of poverty.

Marriage, to such people, spreads magic anti-poverty dust over newly-wedded couples.

Here are the facts: Upper-class and lower-class divorce rates rose and fell in similar fashion until the late 1980s, around the time inequality began to rip apart the fabric of American society, and to break down low-income family life. Evidence keeps piling up. Studies show that children whose families receive housing vouchers end up with higher marriage rates. On the other hand, two-thirds of single mothers who heed conservative advice and get married end up divorced. And despite what Murray’s followers might think, race isn’t a factor. A Pennsylvania study concluded that “over time, it has become evident that poor economic circumstances would produce comparable effects on whites just as they did for blacks.” Pew Research Center found little difference between white and black fathers, and the Center for Disease Control found that black fathers are in many ways more involved with their kids than fathers in other racial groups.

2. Learn that Democratic Socialism Does Not Mean Government Control

Social democracy is 100 percent American. Our nation instituted a public education system, a long-successful retirement program, and a national park system. Gar Alperovitz describes the modern form of socialism, which is “about decentralizing power, changing the flow of power to localities rather than to the center.” The Evergreen Cooperative in Cleveland, the public Bank of North Dakota, the Tennessee Valley Authority, and the Chattanooga Internet service are all examples of the distributed popular control of essential services. The approach works.

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Nine Numbers That Cry Out: “Bring On Bernie!”

by Paul Buchheit, published December 21, 2015 at Common Dreams

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Bernie Sanders,’ writes Buchheit, ‘is the only candidate to show genuine empathy with the middle and lower classes, and to demand changes in the tradition of Wall Street greed that has ripped our nation apart.’ (Photo: Getty)

No one individual can solve all our problems, especially with a contrarian and confrontational Congress. But greed, poverty, and inequality are some of the main targets of the Sanders campaign, and the matter of terrorism is likely to be addressed in a much more sensible way.

Here are some of the numbers that should shock us into rejecting every other candidate:

1. Terrorism: You’re about as Likely to be Killed by a Toddler as a Terrorist

The candidates and the news outlets have driven us into a frenzy of fear, even though the number of Americans killed by toddlers is about the same per year as the number of violent jihadist attacks in the U.S. since 9/11. There are more terrorist attacks if the actions of white supremacists and non-Muslim extremists are included. But there are also more toddler killings that go unreported.

Sanders understands that “the disastrous invasion of Iraq…has unraveled the region completely and led to the rise of al-Qaeda and to ISIS.” And that the United States should be “trying to use diplomacy before war.”

2. Big Business: $296,000 is Spent on Stock Buybacks for Every Job Created

Buybacks are employed to boost stock prices for investors and management. Corporations that have benefited from our public research money, infrastructure, security, and patent law for a half-century are giving up on the American people, failing to create the jobs necessary to sustain a middle class.

3. Big Business: A 4-Cent Antibiotic Tablet Surges to $3.70 in One Year

We’ve heard about Shkreli’s $13.50 to $750.00 drug price increase, and about Gilead Science’s $10 to $1,000 increase, but on a more day-to-day level, we find even generic drug makers taking advantage of consumers, imposing, for example, an 8,000% increase on a common antibiotic and a 4,000% increase on asthma pills.

4. Inequality: Unregulated Capitalism Allows ONE Person or Family to Own Nearly 1/1000 of Our ENTIRE National Wealth

A combination of financial chicanery and tax avoidance has flushed our national wealth toward the few people who know how to work the system, or who were in position to benefit from the “winner-take-all” attitude that has prevailed since Reagan. Thus individuals or families including Bill Gates and the Koch brothers and the Walton siblings each own approximately one-thousandth of our nation’s $86 trillion total wealth.

Continue reading Nine Numbers That Cry Out: “Bring On Bernie!”

A Holiday Note to Congress: Half of Your Country is In or Near Poverty

by Paul Buchheit, published December 14, 2015 at Common Dreams

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The Capitol Dome and the Capitol Christmas Tree are illuminated in Washington D.C. on Dec. 11, 2014. (Photo: J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

Recent reports have documented the growing rates of impoverishment in the U.S., and new information surfacing in the past 12 months shows that the trend is continuing, and probably worsening.

Congress should be filled with guilt — and shame — for failing to deal with the enormous wealth disparities that are turning our country into the equivalent of a 3rd-world nation.

Half of Americans Make Less than a Living Wage

According to the Social Security Administration, over half of Americans make less than $30,000 per year.

That’s less than an appropriate average living wage of $16.87 per hour, as calculated by Alliance for a Just Society (AJS), and it’s not enough — even with two full-time workers — to attain an “adequate but modest living standard” for a family of four, which at the median is over $60,000, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

AJS also found that there are 7 job seekers for every job opening that pays enough ($15/hr) for a single adult to make ends meet.

Half of Americans Have No Savings

A study by Go Banking Rates reveals that nearly 50 percent of Americans have no savings. Over 70 percent of us have less than $1,000. Pew Research supports this finding with survey results that show nearly half of American households spending more than they earn. The lack of savings is particularly evident with young adults, who went from a five-percent savings rate before the recession to a negative savings rate today.

Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman summarize: “Since the bottom half of the distribution always owns close to zero wealth on net, the bottom 90% wealth share is the same as the share of wealth owned by top 50-90% families.”

Nearly Two-Thirds of Americans Can’t Afford to Fix Their Cars

The Wall Street Journal reported on a Bankrate study, which found 62 percent of Americans without the available funds for a $500 brake job. A Federal Reserve survey found that nearly half of respondents could not cover a $400 emergency expense.

Continue reading A Holiday Note to Congress: Half of Your Country is In or Near Poverty

Candidates for the 2015 “Hypocrite of the Year”

by Paul Buchheit, published December 7, 2015 at Common Dreams

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Certainly, it’s hard to know where to begin. (Image: file)

There are so many candidates. But the people included here stand out in their various areas of nefarious behavior: warmaking, tax avoidance, consumer gouging, environmental destruction, and criminal arrogance.

1. Charles Koch: Fighting For Prison Reform (So He’ll Never Have To Go To Jail) 

The “scariest man in America” appeared suddenly sympathetic to the plight of the disadvantaged, advocating for criminal justice reform. But the bill supported by the Koch-funded Heritage Foundation would make it more difficult to charge executives guilty of financial fraud, environmental damage, and other high-level crimes. It’s all based on the argument that the guilty party doesn’t know he’s committing a crime.

Heritage defends “morally blameless people who unwittingly commit acts that turn out to be crimes and are prosecuted for those offenses.” Perhaps, in this comical viewpoint, years of oil pollution and years of mortgage lending fraud shouldn’t be held against the CEOs who claim they didn’t know what their employees were doing.

2. Warren Buffett: Demanding To Be Taxed at a Higher Rate (As Long As He Doesn’t Have To Pay) 

Everyone seems to like grandfatherly Warren Buffett, who famously complained that “My friends and I have been coddled long enough by a billionaire-friendly Congress.” But his company, Berkshire Hathaway, hasn’t paid any taxes in years, instead building a $62 billion liability in deferred taxes while using “hypothetical amounts” to dress up its reporting to the SEC. Meanwhile, the company’s stock has been growing for 50 years at an annual rate of well over 20 percent.

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Evidence That Poor People Aren’t Lazy

by Paul Buchheit, published November 30, 2015 at Common Dreams

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(Photo: Shannon Stapleton / Reuters)

Many wealthy white conservative males believe they deserve their good fortunes, and that the poor are taking handouts. But on average little of the money of the wealthiest Americans is spent on productive job-creating ventures. Potential young entrepreneurs, in contrast, are too often mired in debt and deprived of opportunities to prosper.

Based on the evidence, the very people demeaned by the rich as ‘lazy’ are generally the hardest workers.

Most Safety Net Recipients Are Working

Almost 63 percent of America’s work-eligible poor are working, and 73 percent of public support recipients are members of working families. As noted by Paul Krugman, “only 26 percent of jobless Americans are receiving any kind of unemployment benefit, the lowest level in many decades.”

For Those Who Aren’t Working, Living-Wage Opportunities Aren’t Available

Congress has continually thwarted job creation proposals, contributing to a stunning increase in the long-term unemployment rate, from 17.5 percent to 43.7 percent after the recession, and then down to a still-middle-class-crushing 27 percent today.

The Middle Class Produces the Entrepreneurs

Experience has shown that productive new ideas, and the job creation that comes with them, are generated by young middle class people. But as debt and job loss has plagued this part of America over the past 30 years, the number of new startups has dropped dramatically.

Immigrants Bring Even More Entrepreneurship

According to the Wall Street Journal, immigrants make up 13 percent of the population, but 28 percent of the small business owners. Plus, they boost local economies by starting businesses in developing neighborhoods.

Continue reading Evidence That Poor People Aren’t Lazy

Signs of a Dying Society

by Paul Buchheit, published November 23, 2015 at Common Dreams

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FBI statistics confirm a dramatic decline in violent crimes since 1991, yet the number of prisoners has doubled over approximately the same period. It’s but one sign of a deeply troubling decline. (Photo: PRCJ/file)

While Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning and John Kiriakou are vilified for revealing vital information about spying and bombing and torture, a man who conspired with Goldman Sachs to make billions of dollars on the planned failure of subprime mortgages was honored by New York University for his “Outstanding Contributions to Society.”

This is one example of the distorted thinking leading to the demise of a once-vibrant American society. There are other signs of decay:

1. A House Bill Would View Corporate Crimes as ‘Honest Mistakes’

Wealthy conservatives are pushing a bill that would excuse corporate leaders from financial fraud, environmental pollution, and other crimes that America’s greatest criminals deem simply reckless or negligent. The Heritage Foundation attempts to rationalize, saying “someone who simply has an accident by being slightly careless can hardly be said to have acted with a ‘guilty mind.'”

One must wonder, then, what extremes of evil, in the minds of conservatives, led to criminal charges against people apparently aware of their actions: the Ohio woman who took coins from a fountain to buy food; the California man who broke into a church kitchen to find something to eat; and the 90-year-old Florida activist who boldly tried to feed the homeless.

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Socialism as a Cure for Exceptionalism

by Paul Buchheit, published November 16, 2015 at Common Dreams

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The political revolution envisioned by Bernie Sanders could restore the social-mindedness the U.S. has largely lost. (Image: Flickr user Michael Vadon)

The form of ‘socialism’ embraced here is more accurately a social democracy, “a compromise between the market and the state.” Our American exceptionalism derives in part from neoliberal and neoconservative demands that we be unconstrained by domestic or foreign governments.

Environment: Drones Dropping Seeds Rather Than Bombs

China has planted 66 billion trees since 1978 in an effort to stem desertification. Their ‘shelterbelt’ program, which has shown mixed results, has its origins in a project implemented right here in the U.S., in the Dust Bowl years of the 1930s, when the FDR Administration planted a thousand-mile line of trees to fight erosion on the Great Plains. The plan worked. In recent years, millions of federal dollars have been committed to restore and manage longleaf pine forests.

The planting of trees is a simple, effective, earth-saving, job-creating idea, especially if military resources were to be diverted to the endeavor. A company called BioCarbon Engineering hopes to plant billions of trees by using drones to disburse seedlings.

Capitalism equates to profit-making, and profit-making abounds in the fossil fuel industry. But cooperative energy solutions await us in solar and wind, which are expected to provide 100 percent of our energy needs within a few decades, if the will of the people prevails over market forces.

Schools: Yes, We Can Actually Learn from Other Countries

Finland’s schools were considered mediocre 30 years ago, but they’ve achieved a remarkable turnaround by essentially challenging their teachers before they’re entrusted with the welfare of the children. Most Finnish teachers are unionized, and they undergo rigorous masters-level training to ensure proficiency in the teaching profession, which is held in the same high esteem as law and medicine. In keeping with this respect for learning, government funding is applied equally to all schools, classes in the arts are available to all students, and tuition is free.

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Disposable Children

by Paul Buchheit, published November 9, 2015 at Common Dreams

'For every two homeless children in 2007 there are now three,' explains Buchheit. 'There are 16 million children living on $5 a day for food. Half of America's public school kids qualify for subsidized lunches.' (Photo: John Moore/Getty Images)
‘For every two homeless children in 2007 there are now three,’ explains Buchheit. ‘There are 16 million children living on $5 a day for food. Half of America’s public school kids qualify for subsidized lunches.’ (Photo: John Moore/Getty Images)

It may be the greatest hypocrisy of America’s conservative leaders, that they demand control over a woman’s body, but then show every sign of neglect after a child comes into the world. It reaches beyond neglect to disdain for the poor. In a perversely unequal nation in which the well-off blame impoverished people for their own struggles, the children of the poor become the innocent victims.

Children of all ages are deemed disposable:

The Littlest Children—Deprived of Their Most Important Year of School

Over half of America’s 4-year-olds are NOT attending pre-school, even though numerous studies have shown that pre-school helps all children to achieve more and earn more through adulthood, with the most disadvantaged benefiting the most. We’re near the bottom of the developed world in the percentage of 4-year-olds in early childhood education.

Homeless Children—For Every US Family That Made $10 Million Since 2008, There is a Homeless Child in America

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Abuses That Wouldn’t Exist in a Socialist America

by Paul Buchheit, published November , 2015 at Common Dreams

Bernie Sanders is More American Than Ayn Rand

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(Photo: Glenn Halog/cc/flickr)

We Americans have been deceived by the notion that individual desires preempt the needs of society; by the Ayn-Rand/Reagan/Thatcher aversion to government regulation; by the distorted image of ‘freedom’ as winner-take-all capitalism; by the assurance that the benefits of greed will spread downwards to everyone.

Our current capitalist-driven inequalities will only be rectified when people realize that a strong community makes successful individuals, not the other way around.

These are a few of the ways we would benefit with a social democracy:

1. The Super-Rich Wouldn’t Make Our Decisions for Us

Decisions about higher education should be made by all of us, with public tax dollars allocated in a democratic fashion. But our tax dollars have gone away. The Reagan-era “government is the problem” attitude led to dramatic tax cuts and a resulting decline in government funding for public universities. Instead of paying for all the societal benefits heaped upon them, billionaires keep getting richer — just 14 individuals making more than the entire federal education budget two years in a row.

As a result, as noted by Larry Wittner, “campus administrators, faced with declining income, are increasingly inclined to accept funding from wealthy individuals and corporations that are reshaping higher education to serve their interests.” The Koch brothers have spent millions funding universities and stipulating the kind of education that should be provided.

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Higher Education: Capitalism At Its Most Despicable

by Paul Buchheit, published October 26, 2015 at Common Dreams

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College graduation celebrations may look much the same on the surface, but a deeper look reveals an unparalleled crisis in higher education. (Photo: Nazareth College/flickr/cc)

Rating capitalist despicability is a daunting task with Big Pharma and High Finance in the running, but Higher Ed’s betrayal of a century-old trust with young Americans vaults it toward the top of the list.

Since 1862 public colleges had been expected to serve primarily as a means for the American people to achieve an inexpensive college education, and to benefit from academic research. The 1980 Bayh-Dole Act changed it all. It freed public universities from releasing new research discoveries to the public, allowing them instead to patent the results and make licensing deals with private companies. The University of California, anticipating big agri-business subsidies, took full advantage in 2013, siding with Monsanto in a lawsuit against a farmer who was accused of stealing the company’s seed. The farmer lost. And universities became more deeply entrenched in the capitalist world.

Continue reading Higher Education: Capitalism At Its Most Despicable