The Liberal Party has carefully studied where the American community finds itself completing the first decade of the 21st Century. What we see is the need for enormous change in the systems upon which we’ve built our society. This doesn’t mean small simple steps; we see this change as major in so many areas, not the least of which is the present form of our national, state and regional governments.
We begin here examining three major systems and what must be done to alter them so that they work for the community and not the people running them.
INTRODUCTION: America voted for a young, inexperienced state legislator/community organizer/constitutional law teacher who had spent 90 working days in the U.S. Senate. He called for change and America answered “yes”. Have we yet realized how much change is necessary?
EDUCATION: We’ve tried and failed to make public education work for 25 years. Now let’s teach teachers to teach our kids
HEALTHCARE: First we have to make healthcare insurance available and affordable. Then, we can reform healthcare delivery
JOBS IN AMERICA: Unless we commit ourselves to an industrial policy that means manufacturing and production, we are not only out of jobs and work, we are out of business
What’s wrong? Why does it seem that America doesn’t work anymore?
A national government argues for a year about the reform of health insurance coverage (terming it ‘healthcare’) and then grinds to a halt with no action.
An “historic” President with a clear mandate for change and a gift for words appears stalled not by the obstructive Republican opposition but by his own political party despite working with a super majority of votes.
An educational system that has spent the last 15 years trying just about anything to improve results still can’t graduate half its students from high school or retain its newer teachers.
An essentially unregulated financial system finds itself teetering on the edge of total failure with a real Depression looming. It’s brought back from the brink of collapse with its customers footing the bill – and then resumes business as usual no matter how risky the business. The system shows no concern for the staggering national unemployment rate and the number of home foreclosures all across America. A national anger mounts as the people’s President seems to protect the “players” even as he publically bashes them.
Unemployment reaches record levels as we are told the recession is over. The Stock Market seems to be prospering but no one else can find a job. There is a quiet but ominous awareness that jobs no longer exist for the millions who need and want them because we no longer produce or manufacture much of anything.
There are more home foreclosures than home sales.
No matter where we look all we see are major systems with severe problems, obvious indicators of a downward slide.
It’s one thing for New York Times columnist and Nobel Prize economist, Paul Krugman – an unapologetic liberal in every sense of the word – to write in February 2010, that America is already sinking into second rate status with little hope in sight for slowing the decline..
It’s another for the President of the United States to publically warn Congress of the same thing if they do not act. And as of this writing, they are not acting. In fact, we are seeing the beginning of an exodus of Congressmen from Washington as the status of ‘incumbent’ becomes increasingly perilous.
Among the special qualities that are so surely American is a kind of national will and toughness; a resiliency that provides the know-how to solve problems. The world’s peoples still see America as the dreamland of opportunity. No walls are built to keep “illegals” out of China or Japan or European countries because few see their future in those places.
But what’s happening to the American dream for Americans? Are we fooling ourselves into thinking that the America of today is the same as it was 50 and 60 years ago? Those were the years of our greatest ascent; the years when liberal thinking, policies and principles helped to build.the golden age of America.
Today’s angry Tea Party protestors (yesterday’s Moral Majority) hate today and long for some vague place in the past. It seems they are going to take that anger out on those already serving in Congress Perhaps many of the rest of us might be ignoring some truths.
The fabric of any nation is built upon a foundation of systems which when strong and successful enough to become institutionalized, work to respond to and serve its people. Just as organic, chemical, electrical and mechanical systems eventually break down with use, so do the socio-economic systems which serve populations. Time, use and changing needs take a toll; that toll is breakdown.
There are some old “saws” which help us understand this essential idea. One is that if you don’t know and understand history, you are doomed to repeat it.
Another, from the philosopher/economist Thorsten Veblen, is that institutions break down when those who work in them believe that their own needs are more important than the needs of those they exist to serve. Look carefully at the professionals involved in institutions such as education, healthcare, finance – and you’ll see Veblen’s philosophy come to life.
The obvious challenge is to find solutions that work. The greater challenge is to consider that when “little fixes” don’t work, answers can only be found by developing a new institution with new systems.
And if we consider what’s happened to our political system and how the influence of money has all but broken an institution that has worked for hundreds of years – perhaps it’s time to consider fundamental changes there, too.
The policy suggestions that come next are based on systemic changes, rather than just another “fix”.