Archive for the ‘social benefits’ Category

UNDERSTANDING CONTRAST BETWEEN AYN RAND AND JOHN DEWEY ON INDIVIDUALISM; WHY IT IS IMPORTANT TO OUR FUTURE.

Wednesday, February 6th, 2013

Long admired by some conservatives and libertarians, the rise of the Tea Party in 2008 has brought Ayn Rand’s intellectual and cultural philosophy into prominence in current political discussions1. Her ideas have certainly influenced the seeming disdain for the mass of workers in our society, as expressed in Mitt Romney’s comments defining the “47%” who are considered by some as “moochers,” not contributing their share to society. Rand’s followers envision a society where a handful of heroic businessmen are responsible for all the economic good while the rest of us are just along for the ride2.

Rand’s influence is an ethical philosophy based on rational self-interest and not on religion but on an economy of “free” markets without rules or regulations. Her unrestrained faith in “free’’ capitalism is totally incompatible with any aspect of altruism. She considers any formal religion as evidence of psychological weakness and as “evil”. In her cultural vision, the “I” of the individual ego is the supreme being3. The social and political extensions of this philosophy hold that the “the best of us” are autonomous individuals who have no need for other human beings except in what they can do for us. It includes the idea that no social goal justifies “forcing any individual to be a resource for others” An example would be any form of taxation which is seen as a theft from the “producers” in society and taxation for the “public good” is wrong. 4

One ignores these ideas or refuses to take them seriously at the risk of not understanding what intellectual, cultural and ethical forces are influencing and inspiring a number of significant Republican policy makers, public officials and their supporters. These include Alan Greenspan who was an acolyte in Rand’s close group before he became Chairman of the Federal Reserve for more than a decade, and a fierce advocate of the free-market ideology. One of the most prominent is Rep. Paul Ryan [R-WI] the author of Romney’s draconian budget proposal of 2011 as well as candidate for Vice-President of the US in 2012. Others include Rep. Ron Paul [R-TX], one of the main proponents of current libertarianism and his son Senator Rand Paul [R-KY] and Senator Ron Johnson [R-WI]. Other Rand fans include Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, former SEC chairman Christopher Cox and former South Carolina governor Mark Sanford1,3.

One antidote to the pervasiveness of Ayn Rand’s philosophy is John Dewey’s concept of individualism. He proposes that our human genetic and cultural endowment includes the ability to cooperate and have altruistic impulses in addition to selfish ones. Dewey stresses that these two characteristics are essential to living in a world of “community causes and consequences”. We thus must realize that we live in a world of human beings whose concerns are every bit as legitimate as our own5. Dewey presents a powerful conception of public virtue and positive liberty which is enhanced by social cooperation. For him this means that promoting and supporting individual freedom and opportunity requires not just private ambition [ego centric] but public collaboration and an open experimental attitude to keep up with changing social, cultural and environmental conditions. It seems quite clear that the Randian-influenced economic domestic policies of the last three decades–instead of promoting individual freedom and opportunity for the majority of us–have through deregulation, deunionization, and regressive tax policies, led to the most severe economic crisis in 70 years, together with soaring inequality, and decreased upward social mobility5. Rand argues that her brand of individualism is incompatible with ‘the public good”. Dewey argues that culture is the seedbed of individuality and that authentic individualism can only develop in a progressive democratic society that cultivates public virtue as well as private ambition. His view is that individuals, by effective self control and a humble observation of existing social realities, can create the conditions for the realization of individual initiative with the help of public education, equal economic opportunity and social development5.

In summary, the difference between these two philosophies is stark. Ayn Rand promotes a utopian fantasy that celebrates radical dissociation, an ethical virtue of selfishness and unrestrained capitalism. Dewey, on the other hand, promotes a democratic, public minded philosophy grounded in the world as it exists. The distinctions are clear. It is not choice between individualism and collectivism. IPPA believes it is choice between competing visions of a free society and how to balance individual self-interest and collective public good. Which of these roadmaps our country chooses to follow may determine the fate of the majority of our citizens for years to come.

  1. http://www.jenniferburns.org/blog/111-ayn-rands-long-journey-to-the-heart-of-american-politics
  2. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/21/opinion/krugman-disdain-for-workers.html?
  3. http://www.alternet.org/story/153454/how ayn rand seduced generations of young men and helped make the u.s. into a selfish and greedy nation
  4. http://www.alternet.org/story/150971/3 fatal flaws in ayn rand’s perverse moral philosophy
  5. http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/12429-the antidote to ayn rand

WARNING—DANGER AHEAD FOR WOMEN

Sunday, November 4th, 2012

According to Nicholas Kristof in the NY Times, Mitt Romney, if elected, promises to support the following actions and policies1:
1. Cut off funding for Planned Parenthood, which provides women with breast and cervical cancer screening as well as advice about contraception.
2. Eliminate Title X family planning funding, which would curb many women’s access to contraception.
3. Bar family planning money from going to organizations that only provide information about abortion.
4. Cut off funding for the United Nations Population Fund, which addresses a number of women’s health issues abroad.
5. Together with his running-mate, Congressional representative Paul Ryan, Romney has endorsed a “personhood” initiative which would treat a fertilized egg as a legal person. This would make an abortion for any reason a criminal act and prohibit the use of certain contraceptives.
6. If elected, Romney has pledged to appoint judges to the US Supreme Court who would likely reverse Roe vs. Wade, thereby making all abortions illegal again.
These positions of Romney’s would severely limit many women’s access to necessary health care and reproductive choice and do point to a clear choice in the election of Nov. 6th.
IPPA strongly opposes these severe restrictions and has from its inception supported the concept that abortion should be legal, safe and rare2. IPPA has also acknowledged the complex ethical issues surrounding abortion3. However, we have strongly urged access to informed sex-education as important to women and men to prevent unwanted pregnancies4. Most recently we have reported on a study which points to the reduction of abortions in a large group of women who had access to education about and free contraception5. IPPA strongly disagrees with these draconian restrictions favored by Romney that would limit essential health care and criminalize choice for many women.

1. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/04/opinion/sunday/kristof-how-romney-would-treat-women.html?ref=opinion
2. http://ippa.us/core-principles/respect-for-human-life/
3. http://ippa.us/2010/02/22/an-urgent-need-for-school-based-comprhensive-based-sex-education/
4. http://ippa.us/2012/10/08/providing-content-to-our-core-moral-beliefs-abortion-provision/
5. http://ippa.us/2012/10/17/free-birth-control-leads-to-fewer-abortions/

THE UNITED STATES NEEDS MORE ECONOMIC STIMULUS, NOT MORE AUSTERITY

Wednesday, October 31st, 2012

Government policy makers who force austerity on our country have not learned the economic lessons of history. Much of our sustained economic misery following the great recession of 2008 is not the result of uncontrolled or unexplained forces. Instead it is better explained as self inflicted pain directly resulting from failure both to appreciate lessons learned from past crises and to understand the well documented positive role of government stimulus in helping to restore a strong economy.1

As Paul Krugman points out, a properly stimulated economy allows people to pay down their debts and provides a more firm financial footing to facilitate increased consumer spending. Joseph Stiglitz stresses that government investments in projects like road construction have a high economic return to society. The current Congressional obsession with the deficit and emphasis on budget cutting is guaranteed to sustain self-inflicted austerity.2 Failure to sufficiently stimulate the public sector has resulted in spending cuts across the country that have put thousands of teachers and other public sector workers out of jobs. Much austerity and pain could have been avoided had Congress passed President Obama’s stimulus jobs act of 2011.3

Where did this ill advised emphasis on austerity come from? Partly it can be explained by the influence of the newly elected Tea Party members in the House of Representatives. Another factor is the no new taxes ideology of the “shrink the government” movement led by Grover Norquist. The most ironic influence, perhaps, is seeing “socialist” Europe as a model for undertaking austerity at the time of beginning recovery from recession. As early as 2010 Rep. Kenny Marchant, Texas Republican, said “Europe is already setting an example for the US” and Karl Rove, Republican strategist and former advisor to President George W. Bush,quoted the leader of the European Central Bank as saying “The idea that austerity measures could trigger stagnation is incorrect”. In 2011, Rep. Joe Wilson, South Carolina Republican said “The president should learn a lesson from the ‘German miracle’”. Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, top Republican on the Senate Budget committee said “we need a budget with a bold vision—like those unveiled in Britain and in [the US in the state of] New Jersey”.4

So, what are the results of this imposed austerity in Europe and N.J.? In Europe the overall economy is predicted to shrink this year and have negligible growth next year. Germany expects less than 1% growth this year and Britain’s economy is already contracting. In NJ, since Gov Christie took office in 2010 the state’s unemployment rate rose from 35th to 48th in the nation and it ranked 47th in economic growth this year.  Even the anemic predicted 2% growth rate in the US was cited by the International Monetary Fund, as the only “bright spot” in the West’s economic outlook. So much for the idea that austerity could trigger stagnation. 4 What is more alarming for the US is that, if Gov Romney becomes president and is known to support the Paul Ryan austere and draconian budget for 2013, 5 we could go the way of Europe and NJ.

IPPA strongly believes that further self-inflicted austerity at this time is ill-advised, based on current events and economic history. As well, austerity as being practiced in the US is morally unjustified, because by negatively influencing our economic growth,  the most vulnerable members of our society endure the greatest effect.

1.http://www.alternet.org/economy/krugman-and-stiglitz-crazy-austerity-policies-inflict-untold-damage-economy

2.http://ippa.us/2012/07/24/urgent-need-for-more-federal-stimulus-to-help-states-and-local-governments-replenish-public-sector-job-losses/  3.http://ippa.us/2012/06/28/increasing-loss-of-jobs-in-the-public-sector-is-dragging-down-the-u-s-economy-2/#more-468

4.http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/25/opinion/kristof-romneys-economic-plan.html?_r=0

5.http://ippa.us/2012/05/17/unfair-and-draconian-house-rebublican-budget/

FREE BIRTH CONTROL LEADS TO FEWER ABORTIONS

Wednesday, October 17th, 2012

Providing birth control methods at no cost significantly reduced unplanned pregnancies and abortion rates, in a study of more than 9000 women reported by investigators at Washington University Hospital in St. Louis. It was published on line in the Oct. 4, 2012 issue of the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.1 The effect among teenagers [ages 15-19] reduced pregnancies to 6.3 births per 1000, compared to the 2010 rate among teenagers of 34 births per 1000. The abortion rates of all the women in the study were 7.5 per 1000. This was much lower than the 13.4-17 per 1000 rate in the greater St. Louis area and also than the national rate of almost 20 abortions per 1000 women2.

The lead author, Dr. Jeff Piepert is quoted as saying; “the impact of providing no-cost birth control was far greater than we expected in terms of unintended pregnancies. We think improving access to birth control, particularly IUD’s and implants, coupled with education on the most effective methods has the potential to significantly decrease the number of unintended pregnancies and abortions in this country1”.

The women in the study were counseled on the different methods approved and available for pregnancy prevention. These included the shorter acting ones, such as the birth control pill, along with longer acting methods such as IUD [intrauterine devices] and implantable ones. All of these options were free to the study participants, in contrast to many options currently available in health insurance plans. So the women in the study, after counseling, overwhelmingly chose the more effective methods, the IUD or implants which have a 1% failure rate. This is in contrast to the shorter acting methods which have a reported failure rate of 8-10 %. The more effective options are unaffordable for many women because they have higher upfront costs that are not covered.

IPPA emphasizes that this study convincingly demonstrates how important is the new provision in the Affordable Health Care Act [Obamacare,(AHC)]that all FDA approved contraceptive methods will be available for no cost to women enrolled in workplace insurance plans. It can be effective in reducing unwanted pregnancies and abortions all across the country. IPPA stresses that those of us who are really serious in wanting a much lower abortion rate in this country, should strongly support the AHC. It will provide free and accessible, safe and approved pregnancy prevention methods for many women of reproductive age.

1.http://esciencenews.com/articles/2012/10/04/abortion.rates.plummet.with.free.birth.control
2. http://finance.yahoo.com/news/study-free-birth-control-leads-fewer-abortions-210623724.html

PROVIDING CONTENT TO OUR “CORE MORAL BELIEFS” — Abortion Provision

Monday, October 8th, 2012

“Recognizing Conscience in Abortion Provision” is the title of a recent article in The NEW ENGLAND JOURNAL of MEDICINE, by Lisa Harris, M.D., Ph.D. ,  of the University of Michigan Hospitals, Department of Ob-Gyn, and Planned Parenthood of Mid- and South Michigan.1 The author shows that both sides of the abortion debate appeal to a  moral standard to justify the personal and legal positions to which they adhere. If we know what these standards are, we can decide if we want to oppose or support legal legislation that is based on such reasoning. The Republican Party’s 2012 position is, “Faithful to the ‘self-evident’ truths enshrined in the Declaration of Independence we assert the sanctity of human life and assert that the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life…”

IPPA encourages people to refer not only to moral standards or moral beliefs by referring to which they support their positions, but also to go on and to identify the contents of those beliefs. We have been disappointed that in the past many pundits and public figures have justified their positions by appealing to moral mandates and “ethics” without giving them any content. During the 2008 U.S. Presidential campaigns, Hillary Clinton said that “There is a moral imperative to ensure quality affordable health care is available to all Americans.  President Obama’s first economic advisor, Lawrence Summers, said the same thing. The columnist Thomas Friedman said, “We need to re-establish the core balance between our markets, ethics, and regulations.” And the economist and columnist Paul Krugman said that helping the needy through health benefits “is the morally right thing to do; it’s also a far more effective form of economic stimulus than cutting the capital gains tax.” But none of these figures went  on to say what the relevant moral principles are.

To refer at least to the basic parts of one’s beliefs is to strengthen a position; it does the same for an opponent when she does it. It allows the reader or listener to look at a person’s guiding principles, for consistency, relevant co-existing values cited or just implicit, and coherence of the guidelines with human experience.  Do the guidelines appeal to fundamentals daily shared by many humans, or do they require beliefs exclusive to one group of people? Are the guidelines workable in the sense that they do not put unreasonable demands on a person’s basic motives (two of which are, to preserve her own life and to avoid long term suffering)? (more…)

NO STIMULUS AND NO NEW JOBS FOR THE PUBLIC SECTOR: REPUBLICAN OBSTRUCTIONISM and HYPOCRISY

Thursday, September 13th, 2012

A year has past since President Obama proposed to Congress the American Jobs Act, which had the potential to create over a million jobs. The Republicans, who hold the majority in the House of Representatives refused to consider it and the minority Republicans in the Senate blocked a vote on it by threatening a filibuster. Now, after the blatant obstructionism, the Congressional Republican leadership as well as the Republican president and vice-presidential candidates are exploiting this alleged policy failure, for political gain, by pointing out the disappointing jobs numbers last week and claiming that this is the result of the failure of President Obama’s policies1. This seems to be both unfair and extremely hypocritical. In fact, the failure of Congress to pass the American Jobs Act is due directly to Republican obstructionism and is both irrational and certainly not in the country’s best interest. Since the beginning of the 2008 recession, both in the US and around the world, there is a myriad of evidence that temporary increases in stimulus spending boost employment while austerity induced spending cuts lead to more unemployment.

Both Moody’s Analytics and the Economic Policy Institute have predicted that if Congress had passed the American Jobs Act between 1.9 and 2.6 million new jobs would have been created. This would have lowered the national unemployment rate that’s now over 8% to perhaps 7.1%. The Macroeconomic Advisors agreed and along with Goldman Sachs, estimated that there would have been a boost of the GDP of 1.5%2. The bill, if passed, would have provided an economic boost nationwide through investments in infrastructure projects as well as tax credits for working Americans and employers which would have given a boost to consumer spending. As important, it would have supplemented State budgets all over the country thereby preventing further layoffs of teachers, firefighters, police officers and other public safety officials.

As ippa.us pointed out in the blog entry of 7-24-2012, the loss of public job growth in the last 3 years due to the lack of continued stimulus to the public sector of the economy is the single biggest factor in the slower than expected country-wide job growth and in preventing more vigorous economic recovery3.  IPPA strongly feels that there is an ethical imperative for the Republicans in Congress to stop this hypocritical obstructionist stance and pass the American Jobs Act immediately. Our country needs and deserves this added stimulus right now.

  1. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/10/opinion/krugman-obstruct-and-exploit.html
  2. http://thinkprogress.org/progress-report/an-unhappy-anniversary/
  3. http://ippa.us/2012/07/24/urgent-need-for-more-federal-stimulus-to-help-states-and-local-governments-replenish-public-sector-job-losses/

 

WHEN “BIG” GOVERNMENT IS EFFICIENT AND SOCIALLY BENEFICIAL

Thursday, August 30th, 2012

This is election time, and time for Republicans to advocate smaller government, and repeat President Reagan’s claim that “[In this present crisis], government is not the solution to our problem. Government is the problem.”1 This assertion deserves a prominent response. The country has recently emerged from Bush’s war of choice in Iraq, a good example of when the central government was the problem. But here are examples of the opposite, of the federal (hopefully efficient) centralized government’s ability to do great things for our country.2

FDIC and the Volcker Rule:  In 1933, under President Roosevelt, Congress passed the Banking Act of 1933. Although four sections of that Act, which became known as the Glass-Steagall Act,  have been much in the news since 2008, the part that has most protected the financial health of Americans endures without  fanfare. This is the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) law. This has protected the bank deposits of ordinary people for nearly eighty years. Before this time, a depositor’s only protection was unrealistically difficult research into a bank’s stability. The Glass-Steagall  portions limiting the relations between commercial banks and investment  organizations selling securities, was gradually whittled away starting in the 1960s, and finally repealed in 1998. Fortunately, the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act  (July 21, 2010) has taken over  some of the regulatory duties and instituted new ones. It establishes a Consumer Protection Agency, increases the transparency of derivatives, and mandates the implementation of the Volcker Rule. In the abstract, this Rule aims to outlaw activity in which there is a conflict of interest between a bank and its clients, including doing high risk trading.  It forbids depository banks from trading in securities by using their own (i.e. which might include their customer’s funds) capital.3 The Rule continues to have Republican enemies who hope to eliminate it. They were able to weaken the final form, such that banks can invest 3% of their own capital in equity or for hedging purposes. Mr. Voclker has proposed that investment companies like Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley wanted to get banking licenses during the economic crises so as to qualify for federal protection from failing.

MEDICARE:  The passage of Medicare in 1965 has increased the health and well-being of senior Americans. One of its major benefits has been simply to remove the fear of lacking the affordable care they would need. Before that time, some health care and its coverage was tied to employment, and was lost  when seniors became unemployed. Over half of seniors did not have health insurance, because it was too expensive.

The 1965 Medicare innovation was a bi-partisan one. Once again, there are several bi-partisan proposals out there. We need to consider them because: Congress has been unable to develop a long term solution to a reimbursement rate for doctors, which damages confidence in the program.  More doctors are considering dropping out of or limiting Medicare patients. The baby-boomers have already started enrolling in Medicare at the rate of 10,000 each day for the next 20 years. And many of the unemployed no longer pay into the program. The Medicare Trust Fund that pays hospital bills will be empty by 2022-2024, and if nothing is done, would be supported only by yearly payroll tax revenues.

Although one or both of these proposals may be “off-the-table” now as legislation, they are worth considering as examples of what compromise could look like. In a different area, the Simpson-Bowles plan for the federal debt reduction still has a following as a model of bi-partisanship. It had nothing to do with Medicare, but according to the Bipartisan Policy Center, it would have reduced the federal debt down from 73 percent of GDP now to 67 percent in 2022. Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin voted against Simpson-Bowles, because he wears two hats. He worked with Senator Wyden on a bipartisan approach to Medicare. However,  as David Brooks has said, he also thinks the Democrats will lose all political power and the Republicans do not need to cooperate with them on debt reduction.

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