October 2013 Archives

The Roots of Political Gridlock

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                                                   (Part 2 of a 3 part series)

     Americans, contrary to what some scholars and many political pundits have consistently suggested, have been and remain profoundly influenced by ideology. The insistence that American politics is best explained by non-ideological considerations has inspired a long and well-documented literature in America which resonates to the present. Even today, some American intellectuals are afflicted by this peculiar aversion to the world of ideas; their aversion prompts them to deny that the political views of ordinary citizens are shaped by ideas. They  reject the basic insight derived from phenomenological philosophy - i.e. that people participate in a shared perception of social reality that is often based upon a mutually-shared worldview.


     Daniel Boorstin was not unique among American historians who have denied that the political perceptions of Americans are shaped by a political philosophy,  "The genius of American democracy comes not from any special virtue of the American people but from the unprecedented opportunities of this continent and from a peculiar and unrepeatable combination of historical circumstances. These circumstances have given our institutions their character and their virtues. The very same facts which explain these virtues, explain also our inability to make a 'philosophy' of them. They explain our lack of interest in political theory, and why we are doomed to failure in any attempt to sum up our way of life in slogans and dogmas..."

     Boorstin insisted that the antipathy to political theory which Americans express is based upon a sound conviction that "an explicit political theory is superfluous because we already possess a satisfactory equivalent...the belief that values in America are in some way or other automatically defined: given by certain facts of geography or history peculiar to us."

    Unfortunately this kind of argument -which endorses the myth of "American exceptionalism" -is profoundly ahistorical and anti-intellectual. Essentially, it denies that humans are sentient beings who understand social reality based upon the sets of ideas which constitute their worldview. From where did the ideas of the Founders come? If American values are always implicit in American institutions, were the implicit values just randomly chosen from some kind of intellectual smorgasbord, or was the creation of these institutions the result of some overarching design--i.e. a political theory? Did the choice of institutions create the values which Boorstin praises as "a perfect and complete political theory," or did the chosen values create the institutions?

     An important part of the explanation for this tendency to dismiss or minimize the role of a political philosophy in informing our understanding of U.S. politics, personally and collectively, is the pervasive and often unconscious acceptance of a legacy of ideas derived from John Locke's liberalism. In fact, the origin of the very pragmatism or common sense for which Americans so often laud themselves may be traced back to the epistemological concepts that emerged after the Protestant Reformation. These ideas were systematically explicated in the philosophies of Thomas Hobbes and John Locke.

    Subsequently, this penchant for "common sense" reasoning was transmitted to the New World where it was popularized by Puritan divines such as Jonathan Edwards and became part of what has been described as the New England Mind. To quote  Harvard Historian Louis Hartz in his justly  famous book, The Liberal Tradition in America,  "Pragmatism, interestingly enough America's greatest contribution to philosophic tradition...feeds itself on the Lockean settlement. It is only when you take your ethics for granted that all problems emerge as problems of technique." By the 18th century,  as Carl Becker once noted, "Most Americans had absorbed Locke's works as a kind of political gospel; and the Declaration, in its form, in its phraseology follows certain sentences in Locke's second treatise on government."

     Jefferson, Madison and John Adams, among many others, were intimately familiar with the most minute details of Locke's political philosophy. Jefferson, in fact, was so impressed by Locke's arguments that he read Locke's treatise on civil government three times and used Locke's compact theory of government to justify the American Revolution, just as Locke's treatise had, almost a century before, been interpreted to justify the "Glorious Revolution" of 1680 and the ouster of the Catholic Stuart kings.  

    Francis Fukuyama, a zealous defender of the U.S. political status-quo, acknowledges in his tome, The End of History, that "The American founding was thoroughly if not wholly imbued with the ideas of John Locke. Thomas Jefferson's 'self-evident' truths about the right of men to Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness were not essentially different from Locke's natural rights to life and property."

     As he further  observes, "The principles underlying American democracy, codified in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, were based on the writings of Jefferson, Madison, Hamilton, and the other American Founding Fathers who in turn derived many of their ideas from the English liberal tradition of Thomas Hobbes and John Locke. If we are to uncover the self-understanding of the world's oldest liberal democracy--a self-understanding that has been adopted by many democratic societies outside North America--we need to go back to the political writings of Hobbes and Locke."

       The historical record shows that Alexander Hamilton and John Jay also uncritically accepted Locke's argument that one of the primary duties of government was to protect private property; and they invoked Locke's argument to urge an end to the Articles of Confederation. British political theorist Harold Laski has argued that " The view taken by Madison was fully shared by such contemporaries as Jefferson, Marshall, and Alexander Hamilton. It was responsible for that interpretation of the Constitution which, under the masterful Chief Judgeship of Marshall, gave to the claims of property its special place in the American system. Their whole purpose was to prevent the invasion of those claims by the masses, and they were successful in that effort."

      Because the U.S. constitutional system, as devised by the Founding Fathers, is essentially an extension and an endorsement of Locke's politics, Locke's political philosophy has become the scripture from which almost all subsequent American political thought has been divined; it is the primary inspiration for what is commonly known as the American Creed.

    In England, Locke's ideas were subsequently refined and further elaborated by David Hume and Adam Smith, David Ricardo, Herbert Spencer and John Stuart Mill. His political doctrine, however, was also vigorously challenged by a number of English critics during the nineteenth and the twentieth century.  By contrast, here in the United States, Locke's ideas, to borrow a phrase from John Kenneth Galbraith, gained acceptance as the "conventional wisdom." Thus, during the intervening centuries, legions of American thinkers, politicians and pundits have embraced the liberalism of Locke's political philosophy, either as a matter of conscious preference or cultural inheritance.

    In point of fact, Locke's political philosophy has so successfully and thoroughly insinuated itself into American political thinking that it has created significant intellectual confusion. Today many Americans describe themselves as conservatives despite the fact that the core values that they profess owe their debt Locke rather than to Thomas Aquinas or Edmund Burke; their values are thus profoundly liberal. Ironically, those whom these self-described conservatives often derisively dismiss as liberals are those who generally share the same commitment to Locke's ideas and his political legacy as they, although they may differ about specific policy prescriptions and the proper role of government.

     This confusion is so pervasive that Herbert Hoover, Barry Goldwater, Ronald Reagan, and George W. Bush and his father, to cite recent examples, are invariably described as conservatives, although each of these individuals have expressed political ideas that have little in common with the tradition of conservatism as a political philosophy.
    More than two centuries after the founding of this republic, the constitutional system that is based upon Locke's ideas exhibits pronounced signs of advanced institutional atherosclerosis. Further, because the process required to amend the federal constitution is so arduous, meaningful institutional reform is virtually impossible. As a consequence, American liberal democracy together with the market economy - which is based upon those same liberal values and ideas - have become irrelevant for millions upon millions of American citizens who see little reason for optimism since they have effectively been frozen out of the political system.

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The Machinery of Political Gridlock

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                                                [Part 1 of a 3 part series]

          In so very many respects, from separation of powers and checks and balances to the gerrymandering of Congressional districts, state-sanctioned efforts to suppress voting by ordinary citizens, and the roles that unlimited sums of money and influence-peddling now play in American politics, the government of United States increasingly resembles that of banana republic, ill-equipped to meet the needs of its citizens in the twenty-first century. The U.S. Senate is a case in point.

       The concept of a Senate - whose members before the adoption of the Seventeenth Amendment in 1913 were appointed by the state legislatures -  was created by the framers of the Constitution as a device that would serve as a check to control the popularly-elected House of Representatives and to ensure that the interests of property owners would be protected. Article 1, § 3 of the U.S. Constitution guarantees each state two senators, irrespective of population. This peculiar and patently undemocratic provision was originally included in the Constitution as a compromise to protect the interests of property-owners in the original slave-holding colonies and to persuade them to accept the Constitution.

     James Madison defended the idea of a Senate and disguised his personal investment as a slave owner in that "peculiar institution" by  addressing his appeal for a new constitution to the broader interests of commerce. As he explained in The Federalist No. 62:"....great injury results from unstable government. The want of confidence in the public councils damps every useful undertaking, the success and profit of which may depend on a continuance of existing arrangements.... What farmer or manufacturer will lay himself out for the encouragement given to any particular cultivation or establishment, when he can have no assurance that his preparatory labors and advances will not render him a victim to an inconstant  government?....No government, any more than an individual, will long be respected without possessing a certain portion of order and stability."

      Today, the Senate, despite the adoption of the Seventeenth Amendment, is a deeply dysfunctional entity that primarily serves the moneyed interests and their army of lobbyists who benefit from the existing gridlock.

    Over the course of past 220 years since the Connecticut Compromise was negotiated at the Constitutional Convention, the composition of the Senate has become increasingly less representative. At present voters in rural America and in the less urbanized areas of the country exercise disproportionate political influence over this country's policies and priorities. For example, the rural and almost uniformly white state of Wyoming, with some 530,000 citizens, has the same number of U.S. Senators as the ethnically and economically diverse state of California which, as of 2012, had a population of about 38,000,000 citizens.

        The Senate's arcane and anti-majoritarian rules have further exacerbated the dyfunctionality of that body. The ability of a small minority of Senators to impose its will and to prevent colleagues from voting on proposed legislation is illustrated by the case of former Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown. In 2010, in his first vote as a newly-elected Senator, Brown voted to sustain a filibuster that prevented the Senate from even taking a vote on one of President Obama's nominees to the National Labor Relations Board, Craig Becker. Becker, a former lawyer for the AFL-CIO, had been chosen to fill one of the two open seats which, as a matter of policy, only a member of Democratic Party may hold. Becker's nomination was opposed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National "Right To Work Committee"  which claimed that he was too pro-labor.

    More recently, Tea Party supporters, Senators Rand Paul and Ted Cruz respectively, were each able to tie the Senate up knots as they held the floor to demonstrate their opposition to the killing of suspected terrorists abroad and the Affordable Health Care Act.

    Sadly, the House of Representatives, because of gerrymandering by GOP controlled state legislatures, has become even more dysfunctional.  A report for Al Jazeera-America on October 13, 2013 by Sanford Levinson observed that the primary cause of U.S. government may be traced to the "basic structural features of the American political system established by the U.S. Constitution in 1787. In fact, the current impasse is exactly how a system of representation based on partisan gerrymandering functions."

    Levinson further noted that "Partisan gerrymandering is not an ingenious aspect of the American system, meriting pride. It undermines democracy. It creates a situation in which political officials choose their electorates; only the naive can really believe it is the other way around. Partisan gerrymandering makes the distribution of voters more consequential than their raw number. It explains why Republicans were able to win a 34-seat majority in the U.S. House of Representatives in 2012 despite trailing Democrats by approximately 1.4 million votes overall. Similarly, President Barack Obama carried Pennsylvania with 52 percent of the vote, and Democratic Sen. Bob Casey Jr. won more than 53 percent, but due to partisan gerrymandering, Republicans won 13 of the 18 congressional seats."

      In Federalist Number 52, the author - either Hamilton or Madison - expressed the Founders' skepticism to a popularly-elected legislative body and their intention to hold it in check. Hence, the House of Representatives " ... will possess a part only of that supreme legislative authority which is vested completely in the British Parliament; and which, with a few exceptions, was exercised by the colonial assemblies and the Irish legislature. It is a received and well-founded maxim, that where no other circumstances affect the case, the greater the power is, the shorter ought to be its duration; and, conversely, the smaller the power, the more safely may its duration be protracted. In the second place, it has, on another occasion, been shown that the federal legislature will not only be restrained by its dependence on its people, as other legislative bodies are, but that it will be, moreover, watched and controlled by the several collateral legislatures, which other legislative bodies are not. And in the third place, no comparison can be made between the means that will be possessed by the more permanent branches of the federal government for seducing, if they should be disposed to seduce, the House of Representatives from their duty to the people, and the means of influence over the popular branch possessed by the other branches of the government above cited. With less power, therefore, to abuse, the federal representatives can be less tempted on one side, and will be doubly watched on the other."

     As a result of constitutional  impediments and gerrymandering, a significant number of current GOP Congressmen who have been elected to the House of Representatives in recent decades would have been suitable candidates for commitment to the asylum in centuries past. In an opinion piece in The New York Times ("The Crackpot Caucus," August 23, 2012), Timothy Egan described the comments of Representative John Shimkus of Illinois, chairman of a subcommittee that oversees issues related to climate change, toward the issue of climate change. Egan reports that at a 2009 hearing Shimkus sought to assuage the concerns of citizens who worried about environmental catastrophes with a biblical reassurance: "The earth will end only when God declares it to be over," Shimkus stated, and then quoted passages from the book of Genesis.

    Egan also reminded us that GOP Congressman Joe L. Barton of Texas, who has defended the interests of oil companies on Capital Hill for decades, is a member of that same committee. In 2010, Congressman Barton apologized to the heads of BP after the Obama administration demanded that the company agree to immediately compensate victims whose livelihoods had been destroyed because of oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. At one point, Egan reports that Congressman Barton questioned whether producing energy from wind turbines would contravene God's own energy plan remarking that "wind is God's way of balancing heat" and that energy from turbines "would slow the winds down" and thus could make the earth even warmer. "You can't regulate God!" Barton also declared, in a rebuke to the former House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, during a debate on global warming.

    A third GOP Congressman, Jack Kingston of Georgia, a 20-year veteran of the House, serves as a member of the subcommittee that oversees labor, health and education issues. During an appearance on HBO's "Real Time with Bill Maher" in January of 2011, Representative Kingston stated clearly that he does not believe in the process of evolution. "I believe I came from God, not from a monkey so the answer is no," he said, laughing, when asked if he subscribes to the theory. Later in the segment he added, "I don't believe that a creature crawled out of the sea and became a human being one day."

    In September of 2012, Kingston's colleague, Georgia Republican Congressman Paul Broun, opined that modern science is an instrument of the devil. During a speech before the Liberty Baptist Church Sportsman's Banquet, the two-term congressman stated: "All that stuff I was taught about evolution and embryology and the Big Bang Theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of Hell. And it's lies to try to keep me and all the folks who were taught that from understanding that they need a savior."

    Broun further explained that much of modern science has been fabricated to hide the true age of our Earth. "You see, there are a lot of scientific data that I've found out as a scientist that actually show that this is really a young Earth," he told the audience. "I don't believe that the Earth's but about 9,000 years old. I believe it was created in six days as we know them. That's what the Bible says." Perversely, Broun, a physician who somehow obtained an M.D. from the Medical College of Georgia and received a B.S. in chemistry from the University of Georgia at Athens, currently serves on the House Committee on Science and Technology as the chairman of one of its subcommittees on investigations.

    Equally bizarre, in the summer of 2012, then GOP Representative Todd Akin, who was the GOP's nominee to  represent Missouri in the U.S. Senate, suggested that the female body had natural defense mechanisms against pregnancy in the event of "legitimate rape:" "If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down," he said.

    Finally, lest anyone forget, during her unsuccessful GOP presidential primary campaign,  Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann ominously warned that the HPV vaccinations could cause retardation if administered to pre-adolescent girls as the Centers for Disease Control  recommended. She quoted an unnamed woman "who told me that her little daughter took that vaccine, that injection, and she suffered from mental retardation thereafter," Bachmann opined. "There is no second chance for these little girls if there is any dangerous consequences to their bodies."

    The culmination of these assorted lunacies occurred in a vote that the House of Representatives took in December of 2012. Members of the House, following previous approval by the Senate, voted to expunge the word "lunatic" from the United States Code because its stigmatizes  people who suffer from mental health disabilities. The Associated Press reported that the lone "no" vote was cast by GOP Representative Louie Gohmert of Texas who issued a statement that "not only should we not eliminate the word 'lunatic' from federal law when the most pressing issue of the day is saving our country from bankruptcy, we should use the word to describe the people who want to continue with business as usual in Washington."

    The good Congressman did not explain whether his use of the word "bankruptcy" referred to this country's fiscal condition or to the current state of civic discourse, as exemplified by his GOP colleagues and their supporters. Nevertheless, Gohmert's comments - and his very presence in that chamber - are conclusive evidence the legislative machinery of the United States is now utterly paralyzed and unwilling to address the needs of ordinary citizens.  

Is the "End Time" near?

    Eschatologists and other religious lunatics in the United States are among the most fervent and unyielding supporters of the Tea Party.  These fanatics - who are inimical to the health of our civic culture and to democratic discourse - incessantly point to signs that show the approaching Rapture, in which the righteous will be assumed corporally into heaven while all of the rest of us - the  "left behind" - are consigned to the fires of gehena.

    Among the signs of the end time, they insist, are increases in knowledge; the creation of a worldwide, cashless,electronic banking system that "carries the mark of the beast;" increases in violence and sexual immorality; a rise in "spiritualism - ala Harry Potter; earthquakes; mass animal deaths; false prophets such as the pope with his church as the antichrist; the ecumenical and world peace movements, etc.

     Because the focus of these religious fanatics is on the next life, their core beliefs are profoundly anti-intellectual and require them to reject reason and fact-based evidence. Sound familiar?  Hence, they are hostile to the government's safety net, secularism, and just about every public initiative that has been proposed since the beginning of Progressive era in the last part of the nineteenth century.  

    Although their numbers are small , this vocal and growing group of troglodytes and "true believers" - precisely because their fanaticism and missionary zeal - have become willing and unquestioning dupes in the army of nay-sayers that has been mustered by the likes of Rupert Murdoch, Karl Rove, the Koch brothers, Dick Armey and North Carolina's Art Pope, all of whom have more in common with the Anti-Christ than do either President Obama or Pope Francis.

          The intersection of religious lunacy and the fervor of the right-wing moguls - who, with their private, unaccountable wealth, are determined to dismantle any democratic, accountable government that responds to the needs of its citizens - has fueled the anti-government hysteria that has become the signature of the Tea-Party. But the Tea Party's chorus that sings the funeral dirge for the federal government could not have precipitated the current gridlock and paralysis were it not for acquiescence, tacit acceptance and indifference of an increasing number of barely literate, poorly educated Americans.   

        An article in today's New York Times illustrates the magnitude of the problem.  Richard Pérez-Peña ( "U.S. Adults Fare Poorly in a Study of Skills") reports that American adults lag well behind their counterparts in most other developed countries in the mathematical and technical skills needed for a modern workplace, according to a study released last Thursday. The study confirmed a well-documented pattern that showed a number of other countries surging past the United States in students' test scores and young people's college graduation rates which corresponds to a skills gap, extending far beyond school.

    The study was based on new tests developed by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a coalition of mostly developed nations, and was administered in 2011 and 2012 to thousands of people, ages 16 to 65, by 23 countries. It documented that, in the United States, young adults in particular fare poorly compared with their international competitors of the same ages - in mathematics, technology, and in literacy. Sadly, middle-aged Americans  - who, on paper, are among the best-educated people of their generation anywhere in the world - were barely better than middle of the pack in skills.

    Richard Pérez-Peña reported that "In all three fields, Japan ranked first and Finland second in average scores, with the Netherlands, Sweden and Norway near the top. Spain, Italy and France were at or near the bottom in literacy and numeracy, and were not included in the technology assessment. The United States ranked near the middle in literacy and near the bottom in skill with numbers and technology. In number skills, just 9 percent of Americans scored in the top two of five proficiency levels, compared with a 23-country average of 12 percent, and 19 percent in Finland, Japan and Sweden."

    Prior to the Great Recession, and the emergence of the Tea Party with its relentless assault upon public services,  the United States spent more money as a proportion of the U.S. Gross Domestic Product -7 .5 percent - on education than did countries in the European Union, but the educational outcomes were significantly worse. The 2003 results from the OECD's Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) documented the comparatively poor performance in mathematical proficiency, on average, of fifteen year olds in the United States. Out of 30 OECD countries which participated in PISA 2003, the average performance for the United States was statistically higher only than that of five countries (Portugal, Italy, Greece, Mexico and Turkey) and statistically lower than that of twenty countries.

     Equally a cause for concern, as of 2006, was the fact that the average adolescent in European Union countries completed 17.5 years of education, versus his counterpart in the United States who, on average, completed only 16.5 years of education. In nine European countries, more young people entered university education than in the U.S. and, as of 2006, the United States slipped from first to seventh in the number adults aged 24-35 who had received a bachelor's degree, as opposed to Canada (53 percent), Japan (52 percent), Sweden (42 percent), Belgium (41 percent) and Ireland (40 percent).

    The totality of the evidence suggests that American education, at almost every level, is experiencing a profound crisis and has failed to create a literate, educated citizenry. An earlier  National Adult Literacy Survey in 2003 confirmed that over forty million Americans age 16 and older had significant literacy deficiencies. In addition, more than 20 percent of Americans read at or below a fifth grade level - which was far below the level needed to earn a living wage. The data with respect to scientific literacy was equally disquieting.  It showed that Americans in general do not understand what molecules are, less than one third could identify DNA as a key to heredity, and one in five adults still thinks that the Sun revolves around the Earth.

    These disturbing trends are replicated the area of citizenship education. If America's secondary schools and its colleges and universities are charged with the responsibility to create an educated citizenry, they have failed miserably in that mission. In a 2005 report by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 14,000 freshman and seniors at fifty colleges and universities were administered 60 multiple-choice questions which were intended to measure their knowledge of American history and government, world affairs, and the market economy.

    The first of its major findings was that "America's colleges and universities fail to increase knowledge about America's history and institutions. There was a trivial difference between college seniors and their freshman counterparts regarding knowledge of America's heritage. Seniors scored just 1.5 percent higher on average than freshman, and, at many schools, seniors know less than freshman about America's history, government, foreign affairs, and economy. Overall, college seniors failed the civic literacy exam, with an average score of 53.2 percent, or F, on a traditional grading scale.

     Thomas Jefferson observed that " ignorance is the enemy of democracy." George Washington wrote that "A primary object should be the education of our youth in the science of government. In a republic, what species of knowledge can be equally important? And what duty more pressing than communicating it to those who are to be the future guardians of the liberties of the country?"  

     The founding fathers, despite their rhetoric, were hardly democrats. As slave-owners and members of the landed gentry, they shared, in the words of John Adams, a commitment to "government by the rich, the well-born and the able." Nevertheless, one suspects that the founders would be appalled by the ascendancy of the Tea Party and its coterie of poorly-educated demagogues who profess to draw their inspiration from them, and who claim to venerate this country's foundational documents as sacred texts.  

  The present confluence of ignorance, hysteria and political paralysis suggests that Yeats was prescient and that the end-time - at least for this country as a functioning democracy - may be near at hand:  

    Turning and turning in the widening gyre
    The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
    Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
    Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
    The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
    The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
    The best lack all conviction, while the worst
    Are full of passionate intensity.

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The Politics of Apartheid?

  James Patterson in today's New York Times ("Millions of Poor Are Left Uncovered by Health Law") reports that, despite the efforts of the Obama administration to extend health coverage to millions of Americans, two-thirds of the poor blacks, single mothers, and more than half of the low-wage workers who presently do not have health care insurance, or access to primary care, will not be included. The Times reports that these are the very kinds of people that the program was intended to help, according to its analysis of census data.


    Patterson observes that, because these people live in states largely controlled by Republicans that have declined to participate in a vast expansion of Medicaid, they are among the eight million Americans who are impoverished, uninsured and ineligible for help. Under the Affordable Health Care Act, the federal government has agreed to pay for the expansion through 2016 and no less than 90 percent of costs in later years.

    Americans who have been excluded for coverage under Medicaid, and are presently without insurance, stand in stark contrast to those individuals who with slightly higher incomes will qualify for federal subsidies on the new health exchanges that became operational this week, and those who are poor enough to qualify for Medicaid in its current form, which has income ceilings as low as $11 a day in some states.

    Patterson reports that people shopping for insurance on the health exchanges are already discovering this irony. He quotes an unemployed health care worker in Virginia who asked through tears, "How can somebody in poverty not be eligible for subsidies?" At age 55, this woman suffers from high blood pressure. Before she lost her job and her house, and she was forced had to move in with her brother in Virginia, she lived in Maryland, a state that is expanding Medicaid. "Would I go back there?" she asked. "It might involve me living in my car. I don't know. I might consider it."

    Patterson notes that the "26 states that have rejected the Medicaid expansion include approximately half of the country's population, but about 68 percent of poor, uninsured blacks and single mothers. About 60 percent of the country's uninsured working poor are in those states. Among those excluded are about 435,000 cashiers, 341,000 cooks and 253,000 nurses' aides."

    The article quotes Dr. H. Jack Geiger, a founder of the community health center model, "The irony is that these states that are rejecting Medicaid expansion - many of them Southern -are the very places where the concentration of poverty and lack of health insurance are the most acute. It is their populations that have the highest burden of illness and costs to the entire health care system."

      The Times concludes that "The disproportionate impact on poor blacks introduces the prickly issue of race into the already politically charged atmosphere around the health care law. Race was rarely, if ever, mentioned in the state-level debates about the Medicaid expansion. But the issue courses just below the surface, civil rights leaders say, pointing to the pattern of exclusion."
      A political system based Apartheid (from the Afrikaans, "the state of being apart") was first created in South Africa by the minority white Dutch descendants (Afrikaaners) through their National Party (NP) government, which was the governing party between1948 to1994. Under that system of enforced racial segregation, the rights of the majority of the population - Zulus, Bantus and other indigenous peoples - were severely circumscribed solely to maintain white supremacy and minority rule.

       The organized system of apartheid owed its intellectual inspiration to the writings of a former South African leader, statesman, and sometimes academic Jaan Christiaan Smuts who, for most of his political life, was a vocal supporter of segregation of the races: "The old practice mixed up black with white in the same institutions, and nothing else was possible after the native institutions and traditions had been carelessly or deliberately destroyed. But in the new plan there will be what is called in South Africa 'segregation'; two separate institutions for the two elements of the population living in their own separate areas. Separate institutions involve territorial segregation of the white and black. If they live mixed together it is not practicable to sort them out under separate institutions of their own. Institutional segregation carries with it territorial segregation."

    Not surprisingly, Smuts, not unlike Southern politicians such as Strom Thurmond here in the U.S., saw the indigenous people as immature human beings who needed the guidance of white population, who were better educated and better equipped to understand politics, economics and social development. As Smuts argued, "These children of nature have not the inner toughness and persistence of the European, not those social and moral incentives to progress which have built up European civilization in a comparatively short period."
    Smuts delusions and those of the National Party that imposed apartheid, as well as the state-sanctioned system of Jim Crow segregation that prevailed throughout the Southern states of this country for one hundred years from the end of the Civil War until the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, were little less than a convenient set of rationalizations.

     These rationalizations helped to obscure the real reason why political systems based upon economic and social inequality were created - a fear that, if the disadvantaged victims of segregation were empowered - rule by the well-born and the privileged would be dismantled and oligarchy would give way to democracy.

    This, too, is now the fear of so many Republican legislators in the Congress and in the state legislatures that the GOP presently control, and explains why their opposition to the Affordable Health Care Act and an extension of Medicaid are so intense.

    Their fear is that, if poor black citizens in hard-scrabble states such asTexas, Alabama, Mississippi and elsewhere are provided with access to affordable health care, and their health and that of their children are qualitatively improved as a consequence, they may grasp the possibility that government policies can improve their lives; and their participation in the political process will correspondingly increase.

    Similarly, among poor, disadvantaged whites, access to affordable health care may inspire them to eschew the politics of envy as they begin to understand that their fate is inextricably linked to that every other person who is similarly-situated, irrespective of race, sex or orientation.
    It is a basic proposition in the progressive democracies of Western Europe that role of government, in the words of T. H. Green, is understood to be that of a "positive instrument for the public good." Should ordinary citizens in the United States begin to comprehend the full implications of that proposition, the defenders of a status quo based upon inequality  - in which the interests of one group are continually and successfully pitted against another- as well as their divisive and mean-spirited policies- will become anathema.
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