Educate yourself, vote your interests

In the 2020 Presidential election there will be name-calling and innuendo concerning various political and economic systems. Economic systems will be portrayed as mutually exclusive, with one inherently good, and one bad. One will be associated with democracy and the other associated with tyranny. This will be extremely misleading, and result in many voters misinterpreting their own interests.

Let us review the political and economic concepts.

Political and economic systems are always mixed. To determine which system works better, one must ask, “better for whom?” And most importantly, “what system would produce the greatest good for the greatest number of our citizens with the greatest amount of justice and fairness?” There are no perfect answers.

Consider political systems as being on a continuum between complete democracy and totalitarian dictatorship. In this you will find all the real-world types of government. Our Constitution is not fully democratic (senatorial representation, and the Electoral College). In addition, districts are often gerrymandered to benefit the ruling party, while lobbying and donations interfere with popular demands. There is also corporate control of the media and the ability of the wealthy to fund political campaigns. Ask, “should we make reforms? Or are we satisfied with the system?”

Think of economic systems as being on a separate continuum between pure capitalism and pure socialism. Neither actually exists in the real world. Pure capitalism involves multitudes of small businesses competing to sell their products in a marketplace of perfect consumer knowledge and competition. Product prices will be their lowest and there will always be plenty available, because shortages cause prices to increase, and more producers will enter the market. Regulation is unnecessary. In pure socialism the public owns all business and controls all production and makes all decisions regarding the economy, and it will work to produce economic equality for all citizens.

Neither economic system exists without becoming in some way mixed with the other, and both can be tangled up with the political system within which it operates. Either may become corrupt. In a capitalist system, several problems can occur.

Capitalism works on the profit motive.

1. Without true competition due to patents, or bigger businesses driving the smaller out of business, then oligopoly (just a few businesses in the marketplace), or monopoly will occur, and prices can be controlled by the producers to an extent.

2. Business is motivated to increase profits, at the expense of their employees.

3. Profits trump the environmental and societal damage they cause (pollution, climate change, poverty).

4. Business may use its economic power to corrupt the political system and purchase favors.

5. Businesses may pay their workers too little, demand may collapse, or over-investment because of excessive wealth may lead to speculation. The lack of market for the available goods will cause recession.

6. Business may buy up other businesses, closing them and selling off the pieces, in order to extract profit.

As we attempt to fix these problems, capitalism mixes with socialism, due to regulation, anti-trust, or direct public ownership of utilities and other monopolies. Some businesses have in the past been deemed best run as public enterprises, like schools, parks, public roads, colleges, flood insurance, flood control, water companies, Social Security, etc. In addition, when recession occurs, government is often expected to cover workers who are unemployed and losses of banks and businesses to keep them from failing — this is a form of socialism.

State-owned socialist systems are corrupted by human and bureaucratic failings in making the correct economic decisions under an undemocratic political system with no true marketplace, resulting in low productivity, innovation, and lower living standards, as in the former Soviet Union. On the other hand, with more public accountability and democracy, a mixed capitalist/socialist system (remember, no pure systems exist); with more regulation, greater equality, and higher public ownership have less crime, pollution, poverty and drug use than our own mixed system today.

As we enter the election season, we all need to be clear-eyed. This election will be about the scope of individual freedom. Do we want to maintain equal justice under law? Do we want more or less regulation of business? Is the time ripe for anti-trust action? Should health care be a basic right, or should it be rationed in the marketplace. Should child care or college be fully publicly paid? Should we expand Social Security, or cut it? 

Don’t be influenced by name-calling and innuendo, and vote for your interests, and those of your community, and your country.

— Robert Dodson, Centerpoint

Vote for an end to Trump lunacy

I read a somewhat slanted opinion letter in the Tribune and was dismayed that the writer compared universal health care to a tool used to control a country’s citizens. 

Yes, Germany did have universal health care but this wasn’t an idea that originated with Hitler. It was instituted about 100 years before Hitler became chancellor of Germany. The sentence I found most offensive was the one comparing the present-day Democratic Party to the Nazis because we support the idea of health care for all. As a Democrat I find that the majority of our citizens support Obamacare and do not want it abolished.

As for the comparison of Trump to Hitler being vile, I have to disagree. They share many of the same personality traits. The constant lying, bragging, bullying and disregard for any Constitution is apparent in both men. Why Trump supporters are so blind to what is happening to our norms and values under Trump is beyond me. The Republican Party could easily be compared to the Nazis simply because they follow every crazy idea that Trump comes up with. The Tariff Wars are killing the American consumer with every penny of tariffs being added to the cost of goods that we purchase. If Trump’s purpose was to punish other countries for their trade policies he is once again out of touch with reality. The consumer is who is baring the weight of this stupid policy. Now he is trying to off set the loss to American farmers with money but the small family farm is fading from the American scene because of the policies of Trump.

Since we are discussing the many shortcomings of Trump as a human being, I must point out the latest failing which included the hiding of the ship named USS John S. McCain. How much more proof do you Trump supporters need to acknowledge that Trump isn’t a normal, sane person? He appears to be trying to get us into war with Iraq. Trump won’t be satisfied until Americans are dying for some made-up failure to abide by a treaty that he has withdrawn from. 

Wake up, America, and vote in 2020 for whoever the Democrats select (my choice is Biden/Warren) because we cannot withstand another four years of the lunacy that is presently living in the people’s White House.

— Shirley A. Thomas, Brazil

Freight rail now safer than ever

The May 23 story, “U.S. withdraws train crew proposal that came after explosions” misleadingly characterizes the rulemaking history of that proposal and fails to acknowledge the railroad’s outstanding safety record. The story claims that the Obama Administration concluded that two-person crews were worth the cost and that the withdrawal represents a rollback of Obama Administration rules.

In fact, the Obama Administration never reached any conclusion regarding the crew size proposal and never issued a rule. In fact, the data in the rulemaking record shows that one-person crews are at least as safe as two-person crews.

The freight rail industry is safer than it has ever been. More than 99.999 percent of all hazardous materials moved by rail reach destination without an incident. The train accident rate has decreased 10 percent over the last 10 years.

The industry’s outstanding safety record is a reflection of the railroads’ investment in its infrastructure, amounting to $25 billion annually. The industry has also aggressively sought tougher tank car standards and the phase-out of older tank cars.

The industry’s top priority is the safety of the communities in which they operate. Railroads continue to invest in the nation’s rail network and support smart regulations that enhance the safety of the industry.

— Michael J. Rush, Association of American Railroads

Washington, D.C.

Turn-arrow lights are badly needed

In this writer’s humble opinion, left-turn-arrow traffic lights are needed at the busy intersection of 25th and Poplar streets.

With a large-enrollment middle school and three banks there, the current traffic lights are not efficient for traffic-flow to ensure the safety of the many school students walking through this intersection in the mornings and afternoons.

Undoubtedly, there have been vehicular traffic collisions there due directly to the absence of turn arrows. The cost to install such traffic lights would be well worth it in the long haul.

— William Greenwell, Terre Haute

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