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Basic Constitutional Government: What We Really Need

2018-01-10

The US is still by orders of magnitude the biggest military in the world: for example, we have eleven aircraft carriers in service, where China and Italy have two each and Russia has one.  However, that is the only thing that the US is best at when Don the Con finishes with his deconstruction of “make America Great.”  For starters, we don’t have the highest standard of living, and there are several countries where the average person makes more money, lives better, and dies older than in the US.  But why argue about relative standing?  Let’s talk about what government is for in the first place.

Shouldn’t the government be making efforts to raise everyone’s standard of living, not just defending our country against the rest of the world?

I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: the Preamble to the US Constitution sets out the purposes of government: to “form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty…”

  1. “form a more perfect Union”: originally this referred to the fact that this constitution was supposed to supersede the old constitution then in effect, and unite the former colonies more effectively.
  2. “establish Justice”: this refers to the system of law through which men could mediate disputes and malefactors could be dealt with; this manifests as the Department of Justice.
  3. “ensure domestic tranquility”: this refers to the National Guard in a general sense; preventing armed insurrection by disaffected locals (particularly over Whiskey Taxes) is probably a good thing.
  4. “provide for the common defense”: the Defense Department, Army, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard, and the Department of Veteran’s Affairs.
  5. “promote the general welfare”: this is the part of the Constitution that the Republicans want to suppress.
  6. “secure the blessings of Liberty”: clearly this means the protection of people’s ability to express themselves, the absence of censorship, and (through the Fourteenth Amendment) the equal protection of the law.

Promoting the general welfare can be interpreted in a very broad sense to mean that the extreme wealth inequality that is being produced by capitalism (both here and in China and Russia) is injurious to many people’s health and well-being and that the government needs to do something about it.  Reducing wealth inequality can be done very simply, by taxing those at the highest income level and giving support to those at the very lowest income level.  This concept is so repellent to Republicans that they willingly support a psychotic con man as their nominal leader in order to push through their ultimate desire not to help those less fortunate than them.

Right now, the total running of the government takes up a historically low 16 percent of the total economic output of the US; normally, in past years the government took 20 percent.  This refutes the conservatives’ claim that we are being forced to support a bloated government.  The economy can support significant growth of government in the right places.

What are the right places?  Well, our military seems to be adequately funded, taking up about twenty percent of the budget, and, as noted, being the most powerful in the world by orders of magnitude.  Social Security and Medicare take up almost half of the total budget and don’t need to grow.  But assistance for poor people, free school breakfast and lunch, stuff like that– not so much spending right now and could use enhancement.  Not much spending on rational regulation and enforcement to prevent abuse of the weak by the strong.  No spending on ensuring full employment, that is, seeing to it that everyone has a decent job with a living wage– no spending at all.  That’s not right.

We really, really, need to provide broad support to the most needy people to raise their standards of living so they can contribute more to our Social Security fund by being employed at jobs that pay a good wage.  We need to organize labor to improve worker’s satisfaction, we need to integrate robots with workers so as not to discard the workers when their jobs are enhanced by automation, we need to make sure that companies treat workers consistently and with respect and not just take their part-time temporary irregular with no benefits labor.

We can’t just assume that capitalism will raise everyone’s standard of living because it won’t.  Exploitation is the natural state of affairs with capitalists and is repugnant to human rights.  Government must step in to regulate the behavior of capitalists and reduce the spread of inequality; or else violence and rebellion will eventually destroy the system.

 

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