March 2011 Archives

Gingrich Withdraws From GOP Race

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Newt Gingrich

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(Washington, D.C., Vatican News Service. For immediate release). Newt Gingrich is scheduled to deliver an important policy address at Georgetown University today. In large part, the address has been prompted by Gingrich's recent conversion to Roman Catholicism, the faith of his third wife, Callistra Gingrich, who has publicly stated that she wants him to be a good Catholic. During that address, Gingrich will announce that he is withdrawing as a candidate for the GOP presidential nomination.

              In a remarkable and candid interview prior to today's address, Gingrich explained the reasons why he will no longer be a candidate. "I was drawn to the Catholic Church because it is the faith of my wife. But, in the past few decades, I have also grown to appreciate the importance and influence that the Church exerts in the modern world. In order to be received into the Church," he continued, "I had to study Catholic theology and its catechism, but I had not had a chance to delve deeply into Catholic social doctrine and philosophy. I have now begun to do that as part of my Lenten preparation for Easter."  

             Gingrich says those studies, to date, have fundamentally altered his own world view. "By the time I completed my PhD at Tulane in Modern European History, I was thoroughly imbued with the ideas of the Enlightenment and the Protestant Reformation - the kind of individualism that was emphasized in the works of thinkers like Martin Luther, John Locke, Voltaire and Montesquieu. These thinkers, by and large, defined freedom and rights broadly, as the absence of restraint, and as a necessary check upon the exercise of power by government. They viewed government as something alien and dangerous, and almost always in conflict with the interests of individuals."

              Because of his affinity for their politics, Gingrich says that he had, heretofore, always  identified with the ideals of Republican Party and viewed himself as a conservative: "I now understand, after my initial study of Catholic political philosophy, that the political ideas that I endorsed in the past were not, in fact, conservative - in the Catholic or European sense of that  term - but rather were based upon antiquated 18th century liberal notions. I was thus a right-wing, classical liberal parading as a conservative."

              "The Catholic conservative tradition," Gingrich emphasized, "is very different. It traces its lineage from Aristotle, through Thomas Aquinas, to Catholic philosophers today. It is thus fundamentally at odds with the kind of anti-social individualism that dominates current U.S. political discourse. It is also very radical." Gingrich illustrated this difference by citing Aquinas, who stated that, "It is lawful for a man to hold private property" but that "Man should not consider his outward possessions as his own, but as common to all, so as to share them without hesitation when others are in need."

              In a wide-ranging interview, Gingrich invoked the Spanish philosopher Miguel de Unamuno to the effect that "man does not live alone; he is not an isolated individual, but a member of society...Reason, that which we call reason, reflex and reflective knowledge, the distinguishing mark of man, is a social product." Gingrich also confessed that he has now begun to read the works of the French Catholic philosophers, Gabriel Marcel and Jacques Maritain. He endorsed, without qualification, Maritain's statement that "[T]he primary reason for which men, united in political society, need the State, is the order of justice....As a result, the primary duty of the modern state is the enforcement of social justice."

             Gingrich observed that his reading of papal encyclicals, too, has helped to enrich and deepen his understanding of politics. He quoted approvingly from Pope John XXIII's Pacem et Terris, in which the pope insisted that "Individual groups and intermediate groups are obliged to make their specific contributions to the common welfare. One of the chief consequences of this, is that they must bring their own interests into harmony with the needs of the community, and must dispose of their goods and their services as civil authorities have prescribed, in accord with the norms of justice, in due form and within the limits of their competence."

              Lastly, Gingrich praised and recommended Pope Leo XIII's encyclical, Rerum Novarum, from which he read an excerpt: "Let the working man and the employer make free agreements, and in particular let them agree freely as to the wages; nevertheless, there underlies a dictate of natural justice more imperious and ancient than any bargain between man and man, namely, that wages ought not to be insufficient to support a frugal and well-behaved wage-earner.If through necessity or fear of a worse evil the workman accept harder conditions because an employer or contractor will afford him no better, he is made the victim of force and injustice." That quotation prompted Gingrich to rebuke GOP Governors Kasich, Pawlenty and Walker for the anti-labor legislation that they recently signed into law in their respective states. "They are plain wrong. It is important for American Catholics to carefully examine their consciences and to reflect upon Pope Leo's teaching."

              Gingrich concluded the interview by stating that he has now embraced the Catholic Church's commitment to social justice in its entirety, which includes support for life-affirming activities such as opposition to capital punishment, to helping the poor, supporting labor rights and a higher minimum wage, extending unemployment benefits, reigning in corporate corruption and greed, and opposing violence - such as that caused by unrestricted access to guns - and unjust wars. He noted wistfully that, as such, he is no longer a viable candidate for the GOP presidential nomination:"Many of the Catholic teachings I have now come to accept are significantly more progressive and require a more courageous stand in support of the public good than almost all elected politicians in the United States - with the possible exception of Congressmen Dennis Kucinich - would ever dare to endorse. I no longer feel that I have a home in the Republican Party or that I will ever have a chance to hold elective office again. But some things are, frankly, more important. I now intend, as penance for my past transgressions, to devote my life to doing good works and to leading by example." 

                  (Would that it were true...but it's April Fools' Day)
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What Do The Republicans Really Want?

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Newt Gingrich

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    Over the past few days, Tea-Party activists and other right-wing Republicans in Iowa held a series of pre-caucus meetings in which potential candidates for the Republican presidential nomination were given an opportunity to present their bona fides before true believers.  

      On Saturday, Representative Michele Bachmann gave a speech at the Iowa state capitol and lambasted judges whom she called "black-robed masters'' who allowed gay marriage in states like Iowa and Massachusetts. "I am so tired of the establishment telling us that they know best,'' the Minnesota Republican complained, "We know best.''Representative Bachmann concluded her remarks by urging the audience to join with her in a campaign "to take America back."

     At a separate function at a Des Moines hotel on Saturday, other right-wing activists gathered for a Conservative Principles Conference that was organized by Rep. Stephen King (Rep., 5th Dist,, Iowa). Members of the audience were reported to have carried copies of the Constitution in their shirt pockets, and attached "Fair Tax''stickers to their shirts. In addressing the audience. Newt Gingrich tried to strike a resonant chord: "Some people may say we should stay away from values, stay away from social issues,'' but  "I'm here to tell you, if we don't start with values, the rest of it doesn't matter.'' Gingrich was unapologetic about what he to thought should be the Republican agenda. If Republicans were able to retake, the White House, he argued, "We have an opportunity - for perhaps the first time in seventy years - to put in place a right-of-center government." :  

        Rep. Bachmann's comments about "knowing best" and "taking back America" echo similar comments previously made by Gingrich. Both have chosen to speak in a racist, anti-intellectual code that reinforces a right-wing Republican narrative which avers that liberals, intellectuals, elitists and the minorities to whom they pander have stolen America and placed it in the hands of a black, Kenyan-born president who is determined to remake American into a socialist tyranny. Gingrich, in particular,  explicitly called for a return to a status quo ante the New Deal.

          The prevailing wisdom of the era for which Bachmann and Gingrich express nostalgia  was one that was dominated by the doctrines of classical liberalism and Social Darwinism. As such, it accepted as a given a worldview in which every person was held to be on his own. In the words of William Graham Sumner, "Man is born under the necessity of sustaining the existence he has received by an onerous struggle against nature, both to win what is essential to his life and to ward off what is prejudicial to it....For any real satisfaction, labor is necessary to fit the products of nature for human use. In this struggle every individual is under the pressure of the necessities for food, clothing, shelter, fuel....The relation, therefore, between each man's needs and each man's energy, or 'individualism,' is the first fact of human life."

         Is this, in fact, the vision of the America for which Bachmann, Gingrich and the Republicans yearn? Do they really expect the electorate to endorse a return to a society dominated by the decisions of a few wealthy white men and their corporations in which the majority of the population knew their place, and where the economic divide between the few who were wealthy and the many who were struggling was as great at that which exists today, but without any safety-net at all - one in  which those who us do not succeed by dint of our own efforts are left behind as "road kill"?  
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Is Life A Zero Sum Game?

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Horatio Alger, Jr.

                           Horatio Alger, Jr.

A few days ago "Anonymous" posted the comment below on my website:

You seem to forget that what made America great was the individualism and willingness to take risks for great rewards. The malaise in our country comes from the loss of those things as we lose more of our freedom and chance that we will be rewarded for risk-taking. There are too many who are willing take from those who do produce the wealth in our country. When those who depend on the politicians for sustenance outnumber the wealth-producers we are doomed.

My reply:

Dear Anonymous,
    My critique is not with individualism per se but with the kind of anti-social individualism that I would argue is John Locke's legacy to this country. Far too often we celebrate that legacy - that has been institutionalized in the unresponsive eighteenth century machinery of our government and which is constantly reinforced by the popular culture.

    Contrary to the conventional wisdom, most wealthy Americans today inherited their wealth - or at least a substantial part of it. Thus, because inheritance gave them a "leg up" over everyone else, they are not "risk-takers." Aside from that troublesome fact, don't you find it obscene that, according to Forbes magazine, as of 2010, the combined wealth of the 400 wealthiest Americans was $1.37 trillion, up from $1.27 trillion in 2009. These four hundred have a combined wealth greater than 50% of the rest of the American population? The kind  of economic inequality that exits in U.S. today breeds slavery, not freedom.

        We need to get beyond the myth of Horatio Alger and realize that pervasive poverty and unemployment engender despair, despair engenders resentment, resentment ignites rebellion. All of the gated communities of the wealthy in America cannot - absent serious structural economic reform that includes a commitment to ameliorate the suffering of our fellow citizens and a serious investment in public goods - and will not protect them from the whirlwind that they will reap.

    Each of us needs to ask ourselves some fairly basic questions. Isn't the pursuit of self-interest by individuals, each of whom is in competition with all others, self-defeating? Doesn't unfettered competition often have deleterious effects upon the public interest? Isn't it an economic fact of life that, in a market economy, individual actors--whether human beings, corporations or governmental units--seek to maximize their advantages and to minimize their risks in a capitalist economy?

    Isn't it also true that, when each actor "hunkers down" during an economic crisis, the self-replicating behavior--as reflected in job losses, withdrawal of investment and the collapse of consumer demand--ripples through the economy to the detriment of all but the few most fortunate? Doesn't that behavior then exacerbate the very problems that individual actors seek to inoculate themselves against, the public consequences of their behavior be damned?

        Thomas Hill Green and Miguel DeUnamuno, among others, remind us that "the self is social self." Selves do not live in social isolation; each of us is part of something bigger - a community. As members of a community, we owe one another fair treatment and help when in need. The social equation is not, as you suggest taking from one another but, rather, doing for one another. As the poet, John Donne reminds us, "No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as a manor of thy friends or of thine own were; any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind. And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee. "

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What If Japan Were The U.S.?

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          The Japanese have been rightly credited for the equanimity that they have displayed in the face of the current calamities that have befallen their country. They have shown  stoicism, collective courage, and, within Japan's communitarian culture, few acts of lawlessness, such  as looting or public disorder and other acts of lawlessness have been reported. In addition, reporters on the scene have observed that the Japanese patiently queued-up in long lines, accepted rationing and generously shared whatever little they possess with others in greater need.

           One can only imagine how citizens in this country would react if confronted with similar domestic adversity. How would ordinary Americans cope with the widespread collapse of our aging infrastructure and the loss of public services? Would they react hysterically and seek to blame the government and anybody else but  themselves for this country's collective refusal to invest in upgraded infrastructure and preparedness through increased spending and taxes? Recent history may provide some guidance.

           Especially in times of discord or economic uncertainty, the individualistic ethos of American culture becomes more pronounced and perhaps more strident. Thus, for example, during the so-called "town hall meetings" in August of 2009, the debate over healthcare reform became increasingly rancorous as a number of older Americans--many of whom already enjoyed healthcare coverage at taxpayer-funded expense through Medicare--complained because they were fearful that something would be taken from them and given to others--i.e. their uninsured neighbors.

         The debate over healthcare reform brought to the fore two contrasting understandings of American individualism, which were presented in stark relief by Anne Deveare Smith in a remarkable op-ed column which appeared in the New York Times on September 9, 2009.An anonymous nurse from the Western part of the United States explained that she and others like her did not want to become members of a hive: "When you come to the West, you have a different mentality. There's an independence and an individuality that you don't get any place else, because when you're in a city, you're kind of part of a hive....Here, people are really, really proud and they cherish their independence. And they cherish the fact that we are all individuals. And that's what we're afraid of, is that we're going to lose our individuality and we're just going to be part of the hive. If you're just part of the hive, what are you going to do? You're going to cull out the weak links. You're going to cull out the lady that's on crutches and got diabetes."

         In that same column, Bill Robinson, a doctor in Bozeman, Montana, acknowledged that this country's emphasis upon individualism was rooted in myopia and cynicism: "American culture simply has never been based on caring about what happened to your neighbors. It's been based on individual freedom and the spirit of, if I work hard I'll get what I need and I don't have to worry about the fellow that maybe can't work hard. It's a pretty cynical view of America. But I honestly think that drives an awful lot of the debate--the notion that I've done my job, I've worked hard, I've gotten what I'm supposed to get. I have what I need and if other people don't, then that's sort of their problem. And unfortunately the big picture--that our nation can't thrive with such a disparity between the rich and the poor, the access people and the disenfranchised--that hasn't seemed to really strike a chord with Americans."

         As early as the 1820s, the French observer, Alexis de Tocqueville, detected a potentially disquieting link between the pervasive individualism which infused the new American democracy, which Tocqueville celebrated, and the large number of voluntary associations which he discovered Americans so willingly participated in. This collectively-shared adherence to individualism "disposes each member of the community to sever himself from the mass of his fellows and draw apart with his family and friends, so that after he has thus formed a circle of his own, he willingly leaves society at large to look after itself." Tocqueville further warned that "Selfishness blights the germ of all virtue; individualism, at first, only saps the virtues of public life...Selfishness is a vice as old as the world... individualism is of democratic origin, and it threatens to spread in the same ration as the equality of condition."

           Almost two centuries later, citizens of the United States have begun to experience extraordinary stress and uncertainty. As this culture has made the painful transitions during the past two hundred and thirty-five years from agrarian to industrial and now to post-industrial, and from rural to urban to suburban and exurban, many current observers have detected increasing evidence of social disintegration, violence, fragmentation and loneliness. Harvard Political Scientist Robert Putnam, in his book Bowling Alone, has observed that ordinary Americans shared a sense of civic malaise at the end of the twentieth century. The empirical evidence, as shown by the quantitative data, is quite startling. "Fully 77 percent said the nation was worse off because of 'less involvement in community activities.' In 1992, three quarters of the U.S. workforce said that 'the breakdown of community' and 'selfishness' were 'serious' or 'extremely serious' problems in America."

        Other commentators, such as Philip Salter [The Pursuit Of Loneliness}] have emphasized that the increasing complexity and social isolation of American contemporary life have created a dystopia of choice which became pronounced during the last half of the twentieth century: "Americans are forced into making more 'choices' per day, with 'fewer' givens, more ambiguous criteria, less environmental stability, and less social structural support than any people in history." The late Christopher Lasch, in his book The Culture of Narcissism, lamented that the etiology of these social pathologies is to be found in the American ethos which he described as a "culture of competitive individualism, which in its decadence has carried the logic of individualism to the extreme of a war of all against all, [and] the pursuit of happiness to the dead end of a narcissistic pre-occupation with the self."

        The demands for fiscal austerity made by the current Republican leadership  -  to which President Obama and many Democrats have cravenly acquiesced - can only exacerbate the sense of isolation and insecurity that American collectively experience and further impair our ability to collectively respond to crises, whether natural or man-made. Giving the wealthy a free pass after they have plundered the American economy has removed from the table much of the revenue that is needed to improve this country's crumbling infrastructure, which already lags far behind that of Japan.

          The Japanese people have shown that they understand that their individual needs are inextricably tied to the collective needs of the society in which they live. It is a lesson that we need to learn before it is too late .


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Is Michele Bachmann All There?

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        The New York Times reported last week that Congresswoman Michele Bachmann of Minnesota introduced a bill last week to roll back efficiency standards for light bulbs, which include a phasing out of incandescent light bulbs in favor of more energy efficient bulbs. She stated that the government has no right  to dictate the kinds of light-bulbs people chose to use.even if the bulbs consume too much energy. By logical extension, one must assume that Bachmman is also opposed to government regulation of the food and drug industries since government has no business protecting consumers from contaminated food or ingesting adulterated drugs.

        In a somewhat similar vein,The Boston Globe reported yesterday that Michele Bachmann, while on a potential presidential campaign visit to New Hampshire over the weekend, on two separate occasions before Republican legislators and Tea-Party supporters, congratulated the state for being the place she said, "where the shot heard 'round the world" started the Revolutionary War. She did not give credit to Emerson and she apparently confused the capital of New Hampshire - Concord - with the towns of Lexington and Concord in Massachusetts. It was in those towns, on April 19, 1775, that the first skirmishes against the British were fought.

      Nevertheless, Congresswoman Bachmann should be complimented: she was with fifty miles of the right place in an adjacent state. Besides, she has little time for accuracy when she has an entire Constitution to defend against the onslaughts of pointy-headed intellectual-liberal-leftist-socialist-secularist-Jesus-hating-inerrant bible-doubting -atheist-America-hating-fact-checking-latte-drinking- evolution-supporting-global-warming believers who still read daily newspapers.

        Two questions now require immediate answers. Is Ms. Bachmann now an exemplar of the kind of barely literate, utterly uninformed person whom a number of Americans believe is a qualified to serve in Congress and to run for the Presidency?  Have the voters of the 6th District in Minnesota taken leave of their senses?

        It was Erasmus who observed that, "In the and of the blind, the one-eyed man is king." Gender equality requires that we chastise Erasmus for having failed to remind us that stupidity is not sex-specific.  
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Is Anti-Intellectualism As American As Apple Pie?

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       The New York Times reported today that Republican Congressmen in a House sub- committee have voted to strip the EPA of its ability to regulate the emission of greenhouse gasses. It was also reported that Congresswoman Michele Bachmann introduced a bill last week to roll back efficiency standards for light bulbs, which includes a phasing out of incandescent light bulbs in favor of more energy efficient bulbs. In a similar vein, the legislation proposed by Congressmen Markey and Waxman last year to regulate carbon emissions was defeated in the Congress. In all three cases, the Republicans - along with some equally Neolithic Democrats  from the coal and oil states - deny that global warming is a serious threat to our environment or to human civilization.

          The opposition of mining and oil interests and manufacturers to any form of government regulation in the public interest, because it might impair their ability to maximize short-term profits, although deplorable, is perhaps understandable given the centrality of greed in our culture. But how does one explain the rejection of science and intellectual disciplines in general by so many Americans? 

          Part of the explanation for this phenomenon problem has to do with general levels of literacy. The totality of the evidence suggests that American education, at almost every level, is experiencing a profound crisis and that it has failed to create a literate, educated citizenry. For example, the National Adult Literacy Survey found that over forty million Americans age 16 and older have significant literacy deficiencies. In addition, more than 20 percent of Americans read at or below a fifth grade level which is far below the level needed to earn a living wage. The data with respect to scientific literacy is equally disquieting. Americans in general do not understand what molecules are, less than one third can identify DNA as a key to heredity, and one adult in five thinks that the Sun revolves around the Earth.

          Another important part of the explanation - which also helps us to understand why these low levels of literacy exist and are tolerated -  has to do with an ingrained skepticism about "book learning" and education in general that are a part of the legacy of the philosophy of John Locke. Locke's ideology is the bedrock upon which the American liberal democracy has been founded;  the pervasive acceptance of his epistemological concepts--his emphasis upon "common sense"--have contributed to the low esteem in which matters of knowledge and learning are held in American culture. 

         Locke, it will be recalled, denied the existence of innate ideas. Instead, his theory of knowledge was based upon a conviction that meaningful knowledge is acquired by the self through sensory, tactile experience. As he stated in An Essay On Human Understanding:

The senses at first let in particular ideas, and furnish this empty cabinet, and the mind by degrees growing familiar with some of them, they are lodged in the memory, and names got to them. Afterwards, the mind, proceeding further, abstracts them, and by degrees learns the use of general names. In this manner the mind comes to be furnished with ideas and language, the materials about which to exercise its discursive faculty. And the use of reason becomes daily more visible, as these materials that gave it employment increase.

            Locke's epistemology, which was derived from his nominalism, meant that he was unable to acknowledge that the educative function--the process of learning--is an inherently a social enterprise--i.e., one learns from others, from the experiences and wisdom of others, from history, through reasoning and the use of language, all of which are social functions. In contrast, Miguel DeUnamuno--a critic of Locke and his empirical school--emphasized the importance of Reason and reflection as inherently social processes: If man is a reasoning being, his ability to reason is incontrovertible evidence that he is also a social being because, as Unamuno noted in The Tragic Sense of Life, "man does not live alone; he is not an isolated individual, but a member of society" and "Reason, that which we call reason, reflex and reflective knowledge, the distinguishing mark of man, is a social product."       

            Locke's ideas about the importance of the individual, how one learns, and what one should learn have entwined themselves in the fabric of American culture and, by and large, have had profoundly leveling, and at times, anti- intellectual effects. They have been invoked by a number of disgruntled and irate advocates of "American values," who denigrate professional elites and oppose government control of education. In this respect, Thomas Franks's comments in his book, What's the Matter with Kansas? - which addresses the debate over education in his home state - are pertinent:

 Education at the K-12 level, meanwhile, is the main place where average Kansans routinely encounter government, and for the Cons that encounter is often frustrating and offensive. School is where big government makes its most insidious moves into their private lives, teaching their kids that homosexuality is OK or showing them their way around a condom. Cons find their beliefs under attack by another, tiny arrogant group of professionals--the National Education Association--that stands above democratic control, and they look for relief in vouchers, home schooling, or private religious schools.


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Can Reform Of Local Governments Save Public Jobs?

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     44 states and the District of Columbia project budget shortfalls that will total $125 billion for fiscal year 2012, according to Center of Budget and Policy Priorities. The Center further notes that, "it appears increasingly likely that due to declining federal assistance, fiscal year 2012 will be more difficult than 2010 or 2011" and 'Assuming  that economic activity declines by one dollar that states cut spending or raise taxes, and based on the rule of thumb that a one percentage point loss of GDP costs the economy 1 million jobs, state shortfalls could cost the economy 850,000 jobs next year." The fragile sate of public sector employment was underscored by U.S. Department of Labor survey that reported the loss of 30,000 public sector jobs in February on top of the previous 10,000 jobs that were lost in January, 2011..

       The continued  insistence upon self-destructive fiscal austerity policies by Republicans and their corporate sponsors, and their inability to grasp basic principles of macro-economic theory - such as the need  fiscal policy -i.e.,  "pump-priming"-  to offset a pronounced lack of demand in the private sector - or that full employment will increase tax revenues - ensure that the hemorrhaging of jobs and revenue at the state and local level will continue. In addition, the craven capitulation of the Obama administration Congressional Democrats  to the austerity demands of right-wing economic australopithecenes has exacerbated the plight of the states, local governments and their employees and ensured that the deleterious effects of this Great Recession will remain with us until the foreseeable future.

    The question then becomes, is there an alternative to the kinds of disastrous cost-cutting measures endorsed by Governors Christie, Daniels, Kasich and Walker that would destroy public unions and also remove the safety-net from millions of our most vulnerable citizens - the poor, the unemployed, the homeless, and those without medical insurance?  Is there a program that could actually create public sector jobs while simultaneously reducing the cost of state and local government payrolls that progressives could unite around?

      The United States Census Bureau reports that there are, at present, 87,576 units of local government. These units include city and town governments, counties, library districts, and special commissions. In addition,more than 15,000 of these units consist of educational districts.Each of these 87,575 local units, in turn, is headed by a chief administrator, a county executive, a mayor, or a superintendent of schools. They, in turn, are assisted by scores of highly paid  managers, assistant mangers, advisors, and others.

        What if these units of local government  were consolidated? What if local school districts were merged or combined into regional or statewide systems as is common in European democracies? What if the thousands upon thousands of cites and towns were required to metropolitanize? Would we be better or worse off?

      It is clear beyond peradventure that, as a result regional consolidation, there would be a number of immediate, positive benefits. First the revenue base for cities, towns and school districts would be significantly enhanced. Second, the positions of thousands of redundant, highly-paid supervisors, managers and local and county bureaucrats could be eliminated and the savings on their salaries redistributed to create additional jobs for police, firefighters, librarians, teachers, etc. Third,  consolidation of local governments would augment the political power of then newly consolidated districts at the state legislatures and make them less vulnerable to the power of lobbyists and other special interests. (As of 2007, 14,826 registered lobbyists spent $2.86 billion to shape policies and legislation favorable to the interests of their individual clients, according to Center for Responsive Politics). Lastly, as a consequence, consolidation would also make these reorganized regional governments and districts more accountable and transparent.

     Contrary  to the prevailing conventional wisdom, these 87,000 units of local government, given the low participation of voters, the lack of accountability and media coverage, and the pernicious influence special interests - particularly the real estate lobby and oil and gas cartel -  does little to promote democracy. Rather, the diffusion and distribution of political power within the political system of the United States--which reflects the fears which the Founders shared concerning concentrated power--has today resulted in something profoundly different than what they anticipated. It has created its own antithesis: rule by oligarchs and corporate plutocrats in which the rights of the some individuals are accorded a greater protection than the rights of others.
       It is long past the time to reform local government and, in the process,  protect and expand opportunities for citizens to be employed  in public service. It is not only good politics, but good economics. It will also serve as a counter-weight to the myopic and self-serving views of right-wing Republicans who want to thwart  the ability of government to regulate in the public interests and to reign-in the misdeeds of the powerful corporate interest whose political agenda is now uncritically supported by Republican office-holders throughout the country.
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