Easier Than Governing

Modern society is complex, vast, complicated. Governing modern society is hard. Getting it right requires a lot of hard work doing the managing, measuring, forecasting, planning, consulting, regulating, making & enforcing rules and all that boring hippie crap. Getting the details right is difficult. All of it means attending endless meetings. The skills needed take decades to master. And it all requires dedication and commitment.

Instead Of Doing The Actual Work

US Republicans and UK Tories have found a way around doing the actual, difficult work: Just don’t do it! Problem solved!

“Conservatives” espouse “The magic of the market.” Instead of governing, why not simply “unleash” the “market” to do everything.

Kill off the rules and regulations. Fire the enforcers. Skip the planning. Cancel the meetings. Demonize the “experts.” Turn it all over to “the magic of the market.”

Above all else, nurture the “market.” Allow any entity calling itself a “corporation” to engage in any scheme that can be imagined.

So Many Good Things

Protect people from disease? The market will do that.
Protect people from fraud? The market will do that.
Make sure the food is safe? The market will do that.
Maintain and improve the standard of living? The market will do that.
Provide shelter? The market will do that.

The Invisible Hand Will Do The Work

After you have dismantled the entire governing process (“the Deep State”) you can just sit back and party while everything is taken care of by an invisible hand engaging in creative destruction. The Lord will work in mysterious ways. Disruption is the key.

It’s magic!

Cash Bonus

This approach comes with a huge bonus. “The Market” rewards those who “unleash” it.

And Here We Are

And here we are. Infrastructure falling apart. Health care systems in shambles. Education systems not educating. Etc. Etc. Etc. Everywhere you look everything in society is falling apart.

Don’t forget the big one: The planet’s climate is disintegrating and could very well wipe out society itself.

The Magic of the Market at work!

What Happened To Us?

Beginning in the 1970s a well-funded PR campaign convinced people to accept policies handing society’s seed corn and governance to the wealthy. It was called “neoliberalism.” People were told government is bad. They were told business & the wealthy were better at managing society. This campaign has been ongoing since.

Reagan & Thatcher were swept into power. The implemented “shock doctrine” tactics to transform their economies away from benefitting the public toward benefitting the wealthiest. Public assets were privatized – turned over to the wealthy. Investment in infrastructure, education, research & social betterment (society’s seed corn) was cut, and continued to be cut. Government protections of the public and the environment (“regulations”) were removed.

Taxes on the wealthy and their corporations were also dramatically cut, eventually resulting in massive inequality and division.

The political influence of massive wealth dramatically increased. Now governments are only able to operate if wealthy interests allow it.

And here we are.

UK “Conservatives” Killing the NHS for Private Profit

This is a follow-up to yesterday’s post, Living With The NHS.

I live in the UK now. The “conservative” UK government is engaged in a pay-for-play operation to destroy then privatize the National Health Service (NHS) so big companies can make the kind of profits they make in the United States. (Expert tip for beginners: “Pay-for-play” is the definition of “conservative” policies, Every. Single. Time.)

The government is currently run by the Conservative Party, called “Tories”. They have been playing the standard “conservative” game for almost 15 years: cut taxes for the rich & their corporations, then complain about “deficits” and cut the things government does to make people’s lives better. Eventually things collapse, and public assets can be privatized so the wealthy get the return instead of the pubic. Here the cutting game is called “austerity” – cutting the budget of everything, every year. Things are so bad now in the UK that every single thing is breaking down.

The NHS in particular is in crisis. There are HUGE waiting lists for everything, even in emergency rooms. Facilities are not maintained – not even painted. There are 8,858 vacancies for doctors. The doctors and other workers in the system are not paid much, many are giving up and leaving. The conservatives running the government are doing what they can to keep the NHS from hiring new healthcare workers, including banning health care worker immigrants from bringing their families to the UK.

They previously had promised to address the shortage by increasing the number of places at medical schools from 7,500 to 15,000 and to target more new doctors to areas that need them the most.

And Then This

That was then. In today’s news, Government U-turn on plans to double number of medical students in England,

But a leaked letter written jointly by health minister Andrew Stephenson and the minister for skills, apprenticeships and higher education, Robert Halfon, to the independent regulator the Office for Students, says they will fund only 350 additional places for trainee doctors in 2025-26. This is less than a quarter of the annual number widely anticipated and there is no guarantee that even that level of resource will be repeated.

350 places, not 7,500. No guarantee on even the 350. So with this crisis at the NHS and this huge shortage of doctors the conservatives are cutting back the number of doctors to be trained.

And there it is.

Living With The NHS

This was a stream of consciousness rant I sent to someone…

Last year I moved to England. The “Tories” (Conservative party) have been cutting the NHS’ budget for more than a decade as part of a strategy to privatize the UK healthcare system. The NHS is now almost completely collapsing. (They’ve been cutting the budgets of everything as part of a strategy to privatize everything. Now everything is collapsing.)

I have stories to tell about how terrible the collapse of the NHS is. You can’t get appointments to see a doctor for weeks and weeks now, and waiting times at the A&E (emergency room) can be up to 20 hours. Or more. The NHS is collapsed. Yesterday I fantasized about flying back to California and rejoining Medicare and Kaiser just so I can get my knees and hips looked at.

It’s not all bad. The NHS is, actually, wonderful except for being defunded. A couple of months ago I had a “strangulated hernia” which can be a life-or-death situation. I knew something was bad and I was fortunate to be able to see a GP the day I called because of a cancellation. Otherwise it would have been hours in the A&E. So the GP sent me to the big hospital, bypassing the A&E straight to surgical evaluation. But that took many hours, they admitted me to the hospital but there were no beds so I spent the night in a chair. They couldn’t get me into surgery for 3 more days but I was able to be home. The surgery was excellent. I’m completely recovered now. Everyone I talked to was caring and nice.

So if you do get a Medicare-for-All system in the US you must find a way to ensure that “conservatives” never, ever get back in government because their mission is to privatize everything and then get paid off by the corporations after they leave “public service.” “Smaller government” etc. Conservatism is not an ideology, it is just corruption. It is pay-for-play to destroy government for gain.


Not Just NHS Collapsing

Along those lines local (city) councils are collapsing, going or near bankrupt, across the UK. Their funding has been cut about 40% now. The privatized rail system is not doing well – owners siphoning the value out. The water systems are dumping raw sewage into rivers. I can go on about these things.

The “Tories” implemented austerity when they got in 14 years ago. You know the formula – cut taxes for the rich & their corporations, cut funding for everything. They are trying to force privatization of the NHS and force local governments to sell and privatize everything. They are succeeding.

Thatcher succeeded in shock-doctrine privatization of so much and now the rail systems are owned by foreign conglomerates. They charge through the roof, invest little, don’t pay their employees enough, resulting in constant strikes, etc. The Tories just killed of a big part of the in-progress high-speed rail line and immediately started selling off the land that had been purchased in order to prevent it from ever being built.

The water systems were privatized and stopped infrastructure maintenance. They borrowed, and all income and capital is distributed upwards. Now the systems have broken down and raw sewage is dumped into rivers.

Everything privatized is or already has been looted and is broken down. EVERYTHING that has been defunded is in collapse.

In the UK the governing party can call elections or wait out the 5 years limit. A system of perverse incentives. The Tories are waiting it out, and saying they are going to do tax cuts combined with bashing immigrants as an election strategy. Also I’m seeing huge amounts of money being poured into less visible information outlets as election time approaches. Right now Labour appears to be way ahead but just like Centrist Democrats they seem determined to blow it. They have fallen for the idea that the public is far more conservative than they really are.

Ignore ALL The Words

Ignore all the words. That’s just stuff said to hide what’s happening.

Just look at what is being done. That is the only truth now.

More than 2 million Palestinians are being bombed without mercy. They are being starved and treated as less than human. Their homes, hospitals, schools, etc are being destroyed to keep them from being able to return. It’s happening right there in front of us.

The billionaires around the world are growing ever more wealthy, and are using that wealth to create an unbreakable system to keep things that way. Societal systems (democracy, information, rule of law etc) that enabled people to take care of each other are being destroyed. The rest of us are left to fend for ourselves.

The climate crisis is right in front of our noses, but the polluters control the levels of societal power. They will do what they can to keep themselves on top. They don’t care what happens to the rest of us or to the future.

Ignore all the words. All of them. We live in a propaganda bath designed to keep us from acting on what we see happening to us.

They Can’t Get Pilots Or Doctors

Being an airline pilot used to be a good job with good pay and good benefits. Pilots were respected. Young people would sign up for the Air Force to get pilot training hoping they would have great career opportunities later.

Then the airlines broke the unions. Some of them used bankruptcy laws. Some of them just broke the unions. HAHA Showed them who is the boss. Investors raked in the bucks that pilots used to be paid. So now being an airline pilot is a shit job with low pay and long abusive hours. Don’t even ask about the benefits.

And guess what? There is a shortage of pilots. the Air Force is has a pilot shortage and recruitment problems because young people know better than signing up for a shitty career.

And the investors who raked in the $$? THEY DON’T CARE. They’re gone, living it up on the money they “earned” in a system that encourages people to do what they did.

Now Let’s Do Doctors

Being an airline pilot a doctor used to be a good job with good pay and good benefits. Pilots Doctors were respected. Young people would strive to get into medical school.

Then medical corporations took over…

Housing

People used to be able to rent or buy a place to live. Then, during the Great Recession, “private equity” companies bought up as much housing as they could. Now they rent those homes out at ridiculous rates…

You get the picture.

Looting Is Our “System”

This is the result of very short-sighted thinking. There is no planning for the longer term or the public good here. This is about a few people making the most money they can as fast as they can and never mind the consequences.

Is this how a sensible democracy would operate. Of course not. The people doing the looting and raking in the $$ are able to do this because the public has been persuaded that this is the best way to do things. You wouldn’t want “big government” or “union bosses” doing “planning” deciding how to do things, would you?

So our society collapses before our eyes.

Corruption And Consequences

Silicon Valley Bank fails…

Corruption allowed the finance industry to operate outside of sensible government oversight, even as the world has experienced the consequences of this over and over again. So here in Silicon Valley and around the world, tech employees are waiting to find out if they’ll get their paychecks or get laid off next week. The world is wondering if contagion will spread that fear. Again. (Last time, because of corruption, not one banker type was held accountable. Not one.)

Also here in Silicon Valley it is raining harder than almost ever – except for a couple weeks ago. Flooding everywhere. I mean, torrential, incredible rain pouring down right now. This is because corruption has caused governments to allow the industry causing this to keep putting more and more carbon into the air even as we all know what the consequences will be.

The news lately has been about train derailments devastating localities. This happens because corruption allows wealthy rail-owners to keep governments from making them operate safely.

Inequality is now completely out-of-control. 60% of Americans now live paycheck-to-paycheck, not even able to raise $500 to cover an emergency like a car breakdown. The government doesn’t raise the minimum wage or otherwise address this because of obvious corruption. Million upon millions are spent convincing these people to blame government for this and vote for those backed by that money, and abolish democracy. “I am your retribution.”

The Supreme Court “rules” that this is all OK. Any amount of secret money is allowed to influence elections. People trying to fix this face millions of dollars spent smearing them in LOCAL elections. This Supreme Court we have is the way it is because of corrupt money spent to put them there.

Is there a common theme here?

The Democrats Were Supposed To Protect The Working Class

This blog chronicles the collapse of democracy, so here’s a post for that.

Chris Hedges, The Politicians Who Destroyed Our Democracy Want Us to Vote for Them to Save It, says it’s too late,

The bipartisan project of dismantling our democracy, which took place over the last few decades on behalf of corporations and the rich, has left only the outward shell of democracy. The courts, legislative bodies, the executive branch and the media, including public broadcasting, are captive to corporate power. There is no institution left that can be considered authentically democratic. The corporate coup d’état is over. They won. We lost.

[. . .]

Decayed societies, such as Weimar Germany or the former Yugoslavia, which I covered for The New York Times, always vomit up political deformities who express the hatred a betrayed public feel for a corrupt ruling class and bankrupt liberalism. The twilight of the Greek, Roman, Ottoman, Habsburg and Russian empires were no different.

[. . .]

America will descend into a Viktor Orbán-type of authoritarianism without profound political, social and economic reform.

I agree with every word of this exceptional piece except the idea that we could have walked out of the Democratic party. Things were too broken by that point and it wouldn’t have fixed anything. And the neoliberal Dems would have fought it and killed it just like they’re fighting now to kill the progressive wing. (Nader tried to “send a message” which helped Dems to lose in 2000, and the Dems of course still never got the message and just doubled down.)

My feeling is that when the (executives and Boards of) corporations banded together to pool their money to destroy democracy – sometime in the 70s – that was it. Dems not only didn’t fight back, they took the corporate side. Lots of us credit the Powell memo and it at least reflected the broader thinking that was happening then. They eroded whatever protections we had against big money running things, and there was no turning back.

For regular people they thought the Democratic party was their protector and when the Dems took the money and bought into the neoliberal (free markets etc) scam, those voters started slipping away. Then came the 2008 crash and Obama campaigning on getting rid of NAFTA, and then he didn’t and people’s lives only got worse for 8 more years, and now they’ll vote for a Trump even now before they’ll vote for Dems.

“NAFTA” is the popular code word for all of those neoliberal policies that destroyed the “American dream” and wiped out whole regions of the country and Dems squarely get the blame from working class voters.

I was just walking and listening to this about Pennsylvania. It is very much worth a listen to hear how dead the Democratic Party is with working-class people.

America’s Current Project Is Dismantling Democratic Government And Its Institutions

I’m not endorsing China’s government, but China has a rational planning system.

Politico writes about how China is surpassing the US in diplomatic relations and general influence around the world. ‘Frustrated and powerless’: In fight with China for global influence, diplomacy is America’s biggest weakness,

The Chinese communist system may be repressive and rigid, but it is more steady than the trajectory of the United States, with long-term plans that can run decades. U.S. diplomacy, on the other hand, has become too capricious, unreliable and exposed to partisan deadlock, officials and analysts say.

[…] When it comes to China, “there’s no rivalry, because the U.S. isn’t present in that rivalry here in Latin America,” the former envoy said. He noted that China is now the top trading partner for several Latin American countries. “There’s no real evidence that there’s a U.S. policy toward Latin America,” he said. “There’s pronouncements, there’s communiques, but a policy? None whatsoever.”

It’s simple. America’s “system” now prevents “us” from having and certainly from achieving any long-term goals – in diplomacy, policy and everything else

Since Reagan. America’s “conservative” project requires government to be discredited so the public will allow privatization. As a result current American ideology considers government to be bad, and government planning to be “interfering” with markets. Markets know best, etc. Business always does everything better than government. Etc.

THAT is America’s current project — dismantling government and its institutions, democratic decision-making, etc., and handing everything over to the “private” (corporate) sector — not diplomacy, policy, infrastructure or any other collective action. The wealthy who control corporations will make decisions for us. They will decide what is produced, how we live, etc.

How will this work out? Conservative ideology preaches that corporations will “act” in “their” long-term interest – even though corporations are not sentient, don’t “act,” and don’t have “interests.” In reality executives make these decisions for their own interests. The people who manage corporations are incentivized to maximize short-term gains at the expense of the long term, and then take off with the loot for themselves, not the “corporation.” So corporatism can’t, doesn’t and never will work. It’s a series of short-term managers making short-term decisions and then absconding with the loot.

China Plans, America No Longer Does

The Chinese have a system that plans and we no longer allow that. They map out goals, then come up with the plans for achieving those goals. So if they are going to build 24,000 miles of high-speed rail by 2020 they get the steel production, labor, equipment, etc in place first. They achieved that and by 2035 they will have 43,000 miles completed. At the same time they have been working on the Belt-and-Road initiative, building infrastructure around the world.

America’s “system” wont even build a few miles of high-speed rail. Never mind strategic diplomacy.

Budget Cuts = Eating The Seed Corn

Government budget cuts are not what they seem.

Understanding history could also be called ‘wisdom.’ Wisdom told stories about “eating the seed corn.” If you eat the seed corn you can’t plant your crops the following year and everyone eventually starves.

In the early 80s Reaganism/Thatcherism (neoliberalism) convinced the country to drastically cut taxes on the rich and “pay for” it by cutting spending. The US stopped spending on maintaining and modernizing infrastructure – especially transportation infrastructure, on education, on science … on so many things. So we lived off of prior investment for so long. But the infrastructure deteriorated and we certain never modernized it. (Just look at our rail and transportation systems, compared to the rest of the world.)

All that $$ was transferred to the already-wealthy top few who paid for the propaganda that convinced the rest to do this.

Privatization

Another piece of this scam was “saving money” through privatization. Using local trash collection as an example, cities would “save money” by getting rid of public trash collection and contracting with the “private sector” to do this more “efficiently.” What this meant was laying off the decently-paid public employees and hiring them back at minimum wage with no benefits. The infrastructure – trucks etc – to do this would receive little maintenance, collection schedules would be cut back, and people had to drag their trash to the curb instead of having it picked up at the house.

This didn’t actually save money, it shifted it. The newly minimum-wage workers would lose their houses which reduced property prices for e everyone and killed the tax base, they’d go on public assistance, schools would suffer and have higher costs, etc across the board. And poor people can’t spend much so all local businesses suffer, too.

Etc etc etc we can see it all around us now. But it is too late.

See also:

When Government ‘Saves Money’ And Gets ‘Smaller,’ We All Lose

You can “save money” by not changing the oil in your car. But have you ever seen a car that has never had its oil changed? After a while white smoke pours out the back because the rings are ruined. Other parts of the engine are also being ruined. Eventually the engine will seize up and quit and you have to either replace the engine or scrap the car. A simple and inexpensive procedure every few months would have prevented many thousands of dollars in expenses later.

After the Reagan tax cuts we “made government smaller” in several ways that are coming back to bite us now. One way we “saved money” by not “changing the oil” was by deferring maintenance of the country’s infrastructure – the water systems, levees, dams, roads, bridges, airports, ports, rails systems, electrical systems, and the rest of the things we all rely on to bring us safe water, get us to work, ship products and generally move our economy and live our lives.

Now the American Society of Civil Engineers’ (ASCE) most recent “Infrastructure Report Card” estimates we need to spend $3.6 trillion just to bring the infrastructure up to where it should be, never mind catching up to the rest of the word with high-speed rail and smart electrical grid systems. The bill is getting more expensive every year, and people are dying as bridges, roads and other important infrastructure components fail. Thousands died in New Orleans when the levees failed.

5 ways privatization is fleecing American taxpayers

If people with OK public-employee jobs are replaced by lower-paid workers the community is poorer in the aggregate. More people will need public “safety-net” services. There will be foreclosures. Tax revenue drops because of lower pay but also because poorer people can’t spend as much in stores. Sales taxes drop as stores face fewer customers able to get by.

Reagan Revolution Home to Roost: America Is Crumbling