In what we trust

This is something I’ve been thinking about for a while. It’s long. I hope it’s worth it to you. If you really like it- or hate it- tell 5 friends.

The recent financial market meltdown started me thinking about what makes civilized society possible. It’s not the form of government, even a dictator can make the trains run on time. It’s not the economic system, although, some do seem to work better than others. It’s not based on a religion, or a shared heritage or culture- it’s one thing, and one thing only: Trust.

Trust must be pretty important, since it’s right on our money: “In God we trust”- although in reality, God has nothing to do with it- unless God is an abbreviation for Government Organized Democratically and the Democratically part is a euphemism for equal participation (which we should know is a fallacy by now, although original intentions were good).

We use many factors to measure the success of countries and political subdivisions including:
Wealth, education, productivity, health, population and even “happiness factors”- but for people to live together synergistically and successfully, the most important index we should pay attention to is our collective trust factor.
For all the differences, for civilization to work, for an economy to function, for people to have hope, it all comes down to Trust.

Do we trust:

  • Each other: to be free from fear of crimes against us or our property.
  • Our institutions: to provide for the basic health and welfare for the greater good.
  • Our systems: for providing a framework for commerce and a level playing field.
  • Our government: to be fair and responsible.

Without trust, chaos gets a toe-hold. Chaos is the antithesis of civilization. It grows like a cancer- quickly, in an uncontrolled death spiral, and unless radical procedures are implemented quickly and deftly, there will be no recovery.

Watching the powers that be, at all levels- from global to local, we’ve seen reactive measures aimed at propping back up things that have already failed the trust test:

  • Banks have failed, because we trusted them to make good loans and invest wisely.
  • Insurance companies have failed because they decided to insure things that couldn’t possibly be insured like credit default swaps.
  • Wall Street has failed because we allowed it to become a casino instead of remaining a financial market.
  • The American automotive industry failed to build vehicles that would be desirable when gas prices hit $4 a gallon.
  • The oil companies failed to realize that consumers could only afford their car based lifestyle when gas prices remained stable- and that people would find ways to cut consumption to make ends meet when prices became speculative.
  • And, lastly, our Government is failing- because we’ve lost trust in our “representatives” to make good laws and regulations. It’s becomes obvious that we now have the best politicians money can buy.

When the cancer of the deregulated financial systems struck, our government didn’t do anything (other than outlaw naked short selling) to change the fundamental ways we conduct business. Their best answer has been to throw money at the problem, instead of trying to heal the system through radical surgery.

In less than 30 days, we will have a new president, who has promised change, yet he has surrounded himself with hardened politicians and political operatives who were all a part of the current problem. If we’re looking for a cure for this systemic failure, it’s not going to come from anyone who has “made it” inside the current system. They’ve already been infected by the cancer and are fighting their own battles for self preservation. Karl Marx wasn’t part of the establishment of his time, neither were Plato or Socrates. In fact, revolutionary ideas seldom come from the establishment- hence we must rise up and demand, through revolutionary rhetoric, systemic changes if we want to have civilization continue.

This country was founded by revolutionaries who got it pretty close to right with the US Constitution. Unfortunately, we’ve travelled a long way from those ideals and have become placated cogs in a machine that no longer seems to care about those who it was built to support.

At every turn, what should be basic rights, have been taken over by corporations that get to act like people- with sociopathic tendencies.

We’ve created a system where a company can play god with your health care decisions, yet, you can’t choose how to manage your own end of life scenario.

We’ve created a system where it costs billions to elect a man to a job that only pays $400,000 a year- and holds his finger on a nuclear arsenal, yet, others can make billions (literally, in one year) by playing games with financial instruments without being held personally liable.

We’ve created a system that says it’s ok to be paid millions while shuttering factories that have had tax dollars invested in them, to “guarantee jobs” for communities- only to see the rug pulled out from under those same communities.

It’s time to look at these cancers to our economic health and reassess the system. It’s time to put new rules in place, not to re-distribute wealth, but to restore both a level playing field and trust back into a system where the rules of common sense no longer seem to apply.

It’s time to start evaluating all of our policies based on will they instill or dilute trust into our systems.

If we want to restore health, the first thing we’ll have to do is bring sanity to our election process. It can’t take 2 years to run for an office that only sits for 4 years at a time. We have to shorten the election cycle, totally revise the way that campaigns are funded, and build a new system from the ground up- to include voting by mail.

Once we have leaders who represent us, we may be able to start looking at rebuilding trust in our institutions and systems.
If we cut out the middleman that adds 35% overhead to health care costs for those that are insured- we may make a good start toward universal coverage.

It’s become apparent that what happens on Wall Street is directly connected to what happens on Main Street. Reducing volatility by requiring all investments over $50K in any company to be held for at least a year. Any corporation that uses stock options for compensation, must require that at no time is stock issued if the company cuts employment. It’s time to also create pay ratios. At no time may any public company pay anyone more than 100x the lowest paid salary. If you want to make the big money, you have to own the company, or have a controlling interest owned by a majority of the employees.

It’s also time to stop corporate welfare by government in the name of economic development. No more tax breaks for relocation, investment or job creation. While the next administration is talking about huge investments in green energy as a savior, the real key is energy independence through less consumption. Considerably less consumption. The only tax break should be for employees able to walk to work or take public transit to work.

A massive refocus on walkable communities, with the best, efficient public transit systems would be one of the best things we could invest in now. Task Detroit with building electric trains, trolleys and buses. Build high-speed rail between metropolitan areas. Invest in a complete rewiring of our info backbone, moving to gigabit speeds into every home- allowing more people to telecommute when possible.

We also need to simplify our taxation system and make it easier for small businesses to start and operate. The process of starting and running a business should be as simple as getting a drivers license- complete with a basic training course, a test and a license with special authorizations for specific skills. Small business is the engine that really drives our economy and employees the most people- yet, their voices are drowned out by the behemoths that get all the attention. If you want to really see the economy flourish, give private employers tax credits for each person they employee based on their salary as a percentage of the owners salary. Make it worth the small business persons energy to employ and train workers of tomorrow, with extra credits available for taking interns and recent graduates.

To address areas of historic poverty and under-investment, we need to incentivize investment in new ways. I had proposed long ago to allow unlimited H1B visas for employees who live and work within these federally designated “HUBzones.” In addition, we need to look to re-balancing populations, giving preference to States that have been losing population to entice new blood back to old cities.

Our education system has had a funding problem for years before the current financial meltdown. To move both our education system forward, and to level the playing field for retail, it’s time to introduce an Internet sales tax that is collected federally and disbursed locally per student. By simplifying the collection and distribution, and eliminating local tax levy’s, we may have enough money to properly fund our future leaders education. It’s also time to provide laptops for every student in the country, complete with open source operating systems and open source software as well as open source coursework. We need to move away from textbook based education- and proprietary standards for the greater good and to teach the value of shared knowledge as a basic human right.

These are radical systemic changes for a revolutionary rebirth of the United States of America in a time where nothing less than revolutionary change will work.

If we want to regain our position as a world power, instead of a debtor nation of consumers, we have to learn the old adage “You have to give up power to get power.”

It’s time to provide power back to the people- through a system we can trust again. One that puts basic, individual human rights ahead of the government, ahead of the corporations and is built on a platform so that it’s not in God we trust, but in US we trust. That would be change we can believe in.

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