Sunday, July 3, 2011

The Fourth

Well, this is a holiday weekend when we celebrate our independence from our friends on the other side of the pond.

But our independence has been more of a mixed blessing that you might think. Britain abolished slavery in 1833 without a civil war. Of course, they didn't have the cotton economy that we did.

Britain started its NHS -- National Health Insurance -- in 1948. We still don't have it and are at the mercy of the insurance companies and a major illness can leave you bankrupt. The insurance companies demonize NHS by talking about long waits but ask our friends in Great Britain or Canada if they would give it up.

But then are friends across the pond aren't always wiser than we are. They are doing the same austerity thing we are doing and cutting spending when economics 101 is that government should increase spending in times of recession. We are trying to do what Herbert Hoover did and we know how that worked out. In fact FDR was convinced to cut spending in 1937 and that hurt the economy until a federal jobs program called WWII and the subsequent GI bill turned us into a middle class country.

In a Washington Post article called What History teaches us about the welfare state, the author, Francois Furstenberg notes that in 1873 the collapse of Jay Cooke @ Co., the nation's premier investment bank started a financial crisis. It overextended itself by offering risky loans based on overvalued real estate. The government did nothing and for 65 straight months, the economy shrank. It also started an era of labor unrest, including the Homestead stroke of 1892, probably the most violent labor conflict in American history.

The author points out that vast disparities between the rich and poor, the spectacular concentration of wealth amassed by the richest Americans in the two previous generations and the inability of government policies to mitigate the crisis brought the nation to the edge of class warfare and social disintegration.

Of course, now we are in an another era when the gulf between the rich and poor is growing and the answer seems to be more tax cuts for the rich. One blogger on Huffington Post said recently that if you dropped into our country from outer space and listened to the cries for tax cuts for the rich and the cutting of spending on the poor, you would think the problem is that the poor have too much money and the rich don't have enough.

This isn't what I usually write about and you may disagree but I thought I'd add some food for thought as we watch the fireworks on the Fourth of July.



  1. And to think we are the ones that elect these people to office. The rich are not going to tax themselves. When will the American people get a clue that something needs to be done?


  2. All I can think about this fourth is my amazing soldier fighting in Afghanistan and praying for his safety, remembering our Freedom does not come without a price. It is not "free"

  3. Britain was actually close to supporting the South during the Civil War, we had a textile industry which relied on cotton.

    The NHS is a fine institution, but successive governments have attempted to dismantle it in favour of privatisation... most notably the Conservatives under Thatcher. It works, but costs a phenomenal amount of money, but the average Brit wouldn't be without it. We are also guaranteed free health care within the EU and other countries too, providing we carry a special card.

    It is accepted wisdom to spend during a recession, but the debt the present government is trying to claw back, was a result of bailing banks out, which imo, shouldn't have happened.

    Good Post, followed!

  4. Heather: There was a book written called "What's the Matter with Kansas'' about how people tend to vote against their own self interests. Polls show 59 per cent of the people want taxes increased on the rich but they don't vote for politicians who will do it.

    Spanked Army Wife: I am sure you are praying for the safe return of your amazing soldier.

    Arlequin: What of the great what ifs of American history is what would have happened if the British had sided with the South in the Civil War. Another big if is what would have happened if we were still part of the British empire when they abolished slavery. The question of bailing out the banks is a complex one but if they were going to be bailed out, there should have been a lot of rules put in place to stop them from wrecking the economy again.


  5. Interesting. I'm not American so I barely know anything outside of a kindergarten level understanding of your independence day.

    Thanks for enlightening me a little.

    Happy fourth of July!

  6. Lemons: If you want to know more, you can google the subject. And blog is very interesting for a teen in China. And your English is so good.


  7. Florida: THANK YOU. (: I'm actually from Singapore, so English is my first language, although it only started getting this good when I moved to China. (Ironic, yes?)

    As for your question on my blog, hmm, I do wonder how I came to be so precocious as well. I think part of it is my superior intelligence (....just kidding) and the other part is the fact that my mom died when I was 7, which made me learn a fair bit. Also, my dad's a shrink and he pays me to read psychology books for him, so I learn from that as well.

    But I think living in China and experiencing different cultures is the best way to get a head start on maturity. I also grew up in an "Asian" learn-by-rote education system but I've been in the American education system for the past two years, so I'm getting the best of both worlds, which probably does wonders for me academically.

    I have followed your blog, by the way. :D

  8. Arlequin is right we are quite lucky to have the NHS and our banks have a lot to answer for but our Government are too frightened to do any about them.

    Hope you enjoyed the day FD.


  9. FD, I hope your Independence Day was Great!

  10. Lemons: Sorry about you losing your mother at a young age and interesting that you have had experience with two educational systems. What is it like for a young girl living in China and do young people ever talk about Tiananmen Square?

    Ronnie: Yes, we aren't doing much about the banks here either when we need tighter regulations.

    Meow: Hope you had a nice 4th. I had a pool party by one of my tennis buddies postponed to this Sunday, but played tennis for three hours (three sets of doubles, one of singles) and watched the fireworks in the neighborhood and on TV so it was a good day.