This world of ours must avoid becoming a community of dread, fear and hate, and be, instead, a proud confederation of mutual trust and respect. – Dwight D. Eisenhower
BY VERN TURNER
Have you noticed that the razor blade shelf in most large stores has a cover or lid over the blades section? Some of them even have locks that require a store employee to attend if you want to buy cartridges for your shaving handle. I took it as unusual, but didn’t question why until I started seeing the commercials advertising mail-order razors and blades. Then, I read the reason why the markets are “protecting” their razor blade shelves.
When the razor companies jacked up the prices on these cartridges over the past few years – some cost nearly $4 per cartridge – they became a black market commodity. That’s right. People began stealing them and reselling them for half-price to those who didn’t want to pay full price.
These products used to cost just a few pennies each until somebody figured out that there are only so many ways you can shave a face with a new “invention.” I’m old enough to remember when single-edged “safety razors” were all you could buy and you got maybe two shaves per blade before it folded up your skin like window blind. The evolution of shaving went through double-edged – stainless steel – multiple blades per cartridge – to what we have today.
Today’s shaving cartridges look like the small view of a multi-tiered office building … and they cost almost as much. No wonder people steal them and sell them on the black market.
I use this example as an introduction to a lengthy report I just finished reading about the state of our 50 states. In previous essays, and in my published books, I pointed out the fallacies of Supply-Side Economics and its implementation by Republican legislators, governors and presidents. This report corroborated my thesis on this subject and those other commentaries on capitalism and the driving force of unregulated economics on our people and the people of the world.
Among the discoveries in this report was that of all the southern states, only Kentucky has one house of its Legislature controlled by Democrats. All of these states have a Republican governor. The trends begin with illustrating how that Kentucky governor turned a working health care system into a fiscal and performance disaster. Yes, hizzonor Gov. Blevin, a Tea Party member, cut the Medicare function out of the Affordable Care Act and allowed tens of thousands of Kentuckians to have to pay more for less. What a guy!
But … there’s more. Kansas, of course, has been the poster child for failed “conservative” government. I use the air quotes because governor Brownback’s idea of conservative government is to cut everything including taxes, social services, infrastructure, state employee benefits, retirements and wages and public school funds. The other cuts went to corporate taxes. They didn’t apply to the generally citizenry. I guess he realized that somebody had to pay the freight. The end result? Kansas has a multi-billion dollar budget shortfall while its schools and health care quality circle the drain and approach those of Louisiana.
Ah, Louisiana. The former governor, Bobby Jindal, another failed presidential candidate who never registered more than 1% interest during the early election primaries, showed the nation and the world how to screw up a perfectly wonderful place. He did what Brownback did in Kansas. The problems really got bad when the oil prices started falling. Did Jindal look for more revenue sources? Nope. He cut corporate tax rates more.
Now, the current governor, a Democrat, is left with this festering boil of an economy that threatens to close schools at all levels, including state universities. Many school districts in Louisiana are already about to cancel their athletics programs for lack of funds. Teachers’ salaries remain among the lowest in the nation.
Everybody is reading something more horrible about Michigan every day. Lead in the water, teacher strikes, corrupt government and an utterly disrespectful governor – a Republican, of course. Michigan is not unusual in that the people who elect Republicans there live in the Upper Peninsula or in other rural areas of Michigan while the population centers tend to be more diverse. This diversity includes people of color who tend not to vote. The shocking trends that I read from all the states, even those with Democratic leadership, share many disturbing issues for which there seem to be few solutions.
Declining funding in public education coincident with declining performance of students while teachers continue to be grossly under-paid and over-blamed for the failures of parents and politicians. Funding cuts for infrastructure: roads and bridges continue to crumble and become less safe as politicians dither about tax cuts for businesses and the top 1%. Health care continues to deteriorate while Republicans refuse to add Medicaid assistance via the Affordable Care Act, thus driving up costs for employers and individuals.
There is a raging over-emphasis on wedge issues like abortion and LGBT rights disguised as religious freedom rights. The wedge issues, no matter how they are decided, add nothing to the well-being of the people, except for one thing: Most of the women seeking a legal abortion do so out of financial hardship, not a lifestyle choice. Moreover, those same people screaming about right-to-life have no problem cutting welfare benefits to those single and indigent women who have no means of support.
By the way, Planned Parenthood’s main function [93%] is women’s reproductive health including screenings for cancer. The Republican lie machine about equating this noble institution with abortion is misleading at best and insulting to the women who need the care at worst.
The time wasted in imposing somebody else’s morals to anyone else is backward, unfair and hypocritical.
While the states keep juggling priorities and shifting money around from one fund to the other, the taxes do not get raised. In Republican states, raising taxes and revenue via fees and “other” tax methods is anathema.
So, as the population grows [increasing states’ financial challenges], folks are told they’re on their own with the only jobs available. Those jobs offer a pitifully low minimum wage for the service economy jobs [all that are left]. The rising cost of housing and food assures that the citizens of this great country struggle mightily.
But wait! In offshore banks lay the answers to our financial problems. Our capitalist fathers have been allowed to stash tons [literally] of cash in Bermuda, The Cayman Islands, Switzerland and other exotic places to the tune of $30 trillion. This money languishes and pays no taxes to the home country that allowed the capitalists to exist at all and made sure they got paid handsomely.
Does anyone out there not breathing helium think that $30 trillion couldn’t help out with the growing destitution of each of our states? Since the corporate tax rate is about 35%, that means that each year we’re looking at nearly $300 billion in tax revenue we aren’t getting to rebuild our infrastructure, pay our teachers and fund universal health care.
Instead, we see people trying to make ends meet by selling stolen razor blades. We see them sifting through dumpsters to salvage aluminum cans for scrap redemption. We see our poor people ripping apart abandoned buildings for copper and steel and anything else they can sell to scrap dealers.
Simply put, the dramatic shift from a manufacturing-based economy to a service-based economy has taken huge amounts of cash out of circulation by the consumer classes. Those scrap dealers sell our scrap from our empty factories and abandoned apartment buildings to China so they can build new factories and apartment buildings.
After all, that’s where our corporate moguls sent our jobs, so there is a place for all that material.
As a brief reminder: Capitalism works best when the greedy are regulated and there is lots of capital moving throughout the system. When the capital is removed from the system such that the consumers [the engine that drives a capitalistic economy] can’t consume, the system breaks down and collapses.
With no political will to establish new job markets, no political will to tax those who can most afford it, and no political will to transform our war-making mindset into one of domestic resurgence, we are faced with a dilemma of our own lack of will to survive as a nation and a society.
Not only have we stopped trying to educate our children, we’ve stopped trying to mend our fences between political ideologies such that we can actually function again. The United States has simply tizzy-ed itself into a non-functioning morass of political hostility, stubborn refusal to compromise on anything and chest-thumping hubris that nobody really believes anymore. Do we really need to keep building aircraft carriers and submarines?
Yes, the dollar is still “strong” on the international scene, but that’s because everyone else’s currency is so poorly valued.
Finally, experts have determined that the Earth is really only capable of supporting around three billion humans for the long term. We are now closing in on a population of eight billion and the competition for resources is increasing at the same exponential rate. There will be a tipping point where the number of calories produced does not meet the number of calories required by the growing population of human mouths. Perhaps we’ve already reached that point. From the news of the world of 30 shooting wars and a constant state of war among tribes that have been at each other’s throats for 7,000 years, I’d say that we’ve passed the tipping point.
It may not be all that visible, but wait until the polar ice caps melt in another 50 years and all the coastal residences around the world are flooded.
I want the rowboat concession in Miami.
– Vern Turner lives in Marble Falls, TX and is a regular contributor to The Oklahoma Observer. His latest book, Racing to the Brink: The End Game for Race and Capitalism, is available through Amazon.com.