Friday, February 26, 2010
What's Wrong Here
Reading about and personally experiencing the current problem of unemployment in the US has made me realize that on the sixth day God did not create Adam and Eve the first two human beings, but Adam and Eve the first two human resources. It is a global issue that people are valued only if they can be exploited.
Workers in the US are the most productive in the world according to many sources, mostly due to working longer hours. As a reward for our efforts, many of us are now unemployed or under employed after working for 20-30 years. Many of us are too young to qualify for Medicare or Social Security, or as the song goes, “Too old to work and too young to die.” While official employment statistics put the unemployment rate at 10% it is actually closer to 20%. At the same time there are many needs that are not being met because private industry has no interest in rebuilding New Orleans, fixing a badly crumbling infrastructure of levees and bridges, adequately staffing the nation’s schools or rationally and adequately feeding and sheltering the nation’s people. The spread of “American Culture” around the world through Mc Donald’s and war has disrupted the lives of people in many other countries. These people are forced to emigrate legally and illegally to escape violence and poverty.
In any solution for the above issue that involves planning or government intervention the rabid cry of Socialism is heard loud and wide. When government interference takes the form of subsidies to industry including weapons manufacturers, deregulation, or allowing an American company to send jobs offshore or build factories in other countries, putting the burden of increased poverty on the government, no cry is heard. When companies in India and Africa take water from the ground while the people have to pay outrageous sums or when the World Bank imposes penalties on a country that are guaranteed to keep them impoverished forever everyone feels really bad and some movie stars adopt a child or two, but nothing is done to stop it.
For the problems abroad the solutions are:
• Stop supporting dictatorships, interfering in elections and the business of sovereign countries.
• Stop military aid to all countries in a civil war.
• In a court of law, try corporations who give aid and comfort as well as facilities to governments engaged in the murder of labor and human rights workers.
• Educate the American people on the real history of their country so they can be aware enough to object to these practices.
For the problems in the US, I propose the following:
Public education should be federally funded. Teachers should be trained to find and enhance a child’s’ innate abilities and interests from an early age, communicating them to each subsequent teacher. The goal of education should be a well rounded, happy person who can be productive in an area that serves the needs of society while also being fulfilling to the individual.
The car, while fun, has been one of the most destructive inventions ever made. Its destructive not only to the environment but to the social fabric to have everyone riding around I their own little bubble or more often than not, huge boat. Instead of bailing out GM and letting them decide what they would produce the government should have tied the bailout to lighter rail and mass transit. GM bought up and dismantled mass transit in many American cities, was given a very small fine when found guilty and circumvented environmental laws by producing SUV’s on truck bodies. The government should have seen this bailout as an opportunity for progress. More jobs would have been provided because transit workers would be needed and railroad workers would be needed to rework or rebuild abandoned rails all across the country.
Federal Prison Industries (Unicor) employed 18,972 “inmate workers” according to their 2009 annual report. They make everything from clothing and textiles to office furniture to electronics. They make many statements about improving peoples’ lives and teaching them skills while they are in prison. I believe that poverty is the main cause of crime and that most of the people in US prisons are poor people there for drug related, non-violent crimes. If they and their parents had decent paying productive jobs on the outside, they probably wouldn’t be in jail. Given the trend of runaway shops and jobs over the past 40 years they are not likely to get a decent job when they get out. While I think working is a good idea for everyone, work release to a decent paying job outside the prison walls along with education and counseling is what should be done.
We have a free source of energy that everyone has access to: the Sun. Many new solar panels have been developed including roof tiles that look just like normal roofing but have solar panels incorporated in them and super thin solar film. This industry should be eligible for research and capital equipment grants so they can produce as soon as possible a reasonably priced product. This industry would employ engineers, workers to assemble and install.
Businesses who locate out of the country should be taxed at a high rate.
Factory farming does not work, is inefficient and causes environmental and medical problems for the people of this country. The water crisis in the artificially fertile state of California and the outbreak of e-coli in corn fed beef are just two examples of this.
Food should be grown locally and organically. Experienced farmers could be hired to set up and run cooperative farms in every county. Workers of various abilities could be trained and hired to work while continuing their education in related fields. This would not only solve part of the unemployment problem but also stop pesticides from leaching into the water supply and cut down on the amount of plastic packaging and pollution from diesel fuel from the trucks that bring your lettuce from California. This will also help in efforts to stop a chemical company responsible for the manufacture of Agent Orange from creating pesticide laden, dead, seeds.
The documentary “America Betrayed” documented that the problems with levees built by the Army Corp of Engineers does not stop with New Orleans and Katrina. Bridges and levees built to protect many cities across the country are in danger of collapsing. Given the current water crisis and what we now know about the problems with damming a river rebuilding in these areas might take the form of restoring then to their previous state in order for the land to be able to protect itself. In a country of this size this would be a massive public works project employing thousands of laborers as well as engineers and scientists.
Many beautiful and salvageable buildings in our inner cities are vacant while ticky tacky housing is built on farmland that could still be productive. Rehabbing takes more labor than putting up new housing but labor is in abundance now. Working with the farming community to stop rezoning of farmland for new construction would help to use all these resources in a more rational way.
Hire and train field agents to assist homeowners to refinance their mortgages at a fare rate. If a homeowner had paid 50% of the value of his or her home, forgive the balance owed.
There superfund sites in every state in the union. In addition to this there are many other polluted areas that need to be cleaned up and the pollution itself needs to stop. The EPA should hire enough field agents to be able to deal with these issues.
Social Life and Art
Since the 1950’s non-representational art has taken a front seat in our culture. Black painted tarpaulins titled “Thanatos”, white canvases titled, “Untitled”, and a slab of black countertop leaned up against a wall, also “Untitled.” (My suggestion for a title was “On Sale at Home Depot, Cheap) abound in contemporary art museums. Painters like Irving Norman, photographers like Milton Rogovin are not everyday names to most people. People are missing from contemporary art as if we are nothing. I recently saw an exhibit of WPA art in Washington and it was wonderful. Part of the devaluation of people is in raising art to a “higher” level. I believe that each of us has an artist in us but we are rarely given a chance for it to emerge. Art should surround us. It should be projected onto blank brick walls, performed in every public space on a regular basis. Instead of buying schlock institutions should display art made at home by their students, patients, workers. Art therapy should be a growing field. Although most Americans have not experienced the horrors of war as Judith Herman showed in her book “Trauma and Recovery,” many have been traumatized at a young age. In addition to this many of the new immigrants from the former Yugoslavia and the African continent have experienced horrors that my have to be suppressed as they get on with their lives. I think art can go along way in helping people overcome these experiences. The American Visionary Art Museum many times exhibits art by people who have been hurt in some way. A man who was mugged and beaten severely made art from matchsticks, a woman whose house burned down with some of her family in it painted on discarded doors; a woman whose childhood was marred by an abusive, alcoholic father makes tiny dresses out of scraps of fabric showing how resilient people are and how much is untapped within them.
I started this article by saying that American workers were the most productive in the world mostly because they work longer hours. It has been 100 years since workers fought for and won the right to an 8 hour day. “8 hours work, 8 hours rest, 8 hours for what we will,” was the cry of these workers. In 2010 people who still have jobs are working at least that much if not more. We are human beings. We are not here to serve industry nor to be chewed up and spit out when we re no longer necessary to them. We have a right to live and a need to work, but our work should be meaningful. We cannot be real participants in this democracy unless we have the time to read, speak and meet about our social problems. After 100 years of the 8 hour day we should have a 4 hour day with no reduction in pay.
How do we pay for this?
• Return the tax rate to pre-Reagan levels 70% for the top income levels.
• End the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and all interference in the internal politics of sovereign countries.
• Stop the research, production and purchase of drones and other weapons of mass destruction.
• Reinstate the Environmental Superfund contributions from polluting industries.
• Instate a Medical Superfund to fund Universal Health care. Industries such as coal, oil, pesticide manufactures should contribute since they cause a number of preventable illnesses. Also contributing should be the Pharmaceutical companies.
• Time phase the nationalization of the medical insurance companies. As long as the private insurance companies continue to operate tax them at a high rate.
• Stop all foreclosures. Cap credit card interest rates at 4% and allow people to restructure their debt.
These solutions may seem like pipe dreams and for the most part they are. Not because they are outrageous or unreasonable but because the power that stands in the way of solving the problems of poverty and ignorance is enormous. Every town, every state courts business. People say you need corporations to give you a job. These companies are not giving you job out of charity. They are making a profit from your labor. They are not necessary entities. People exist like all the other wonderful things on this planet. We need to learn to celebrate ourselves and use our talents, our abilities, our bodies and minds to make the world a better place, safe from the vampiric ravages of corporate entities.
Posted by Diana Balot Frank at 11:02 AM