Ending Corruption by Limiting Not-for-Profit Pay to the Median Income

Not-for-profit corporations have long been used as a vehicle to evade taxes rather than to primarily serve as a charity or a public service. From TV evangelists and hospital directors building lavishly furnished buildings to the wealthy establishing non-profits to hire their children, and the IRS politicizing tax-exempt applications of the Tea Party, not-for-profit status has been frequently misused and under scrutiny.

Limit Non-Profit Salaries to the Median Income

kerry-daily-callerRecent news reports say that Secretary of State John Kerry funneled over $9 million to a non-profit which pays his daughter $140,000 per year for 30 hours work per week. Family wealth has long been protected by establishing non-profit foundations and then hiring family members to run them. Originally, non-profits were largely voluntary organizations run by priests, nuns, and other voluntary social servants who lived a subsistence life, many taking personal vows of poverty. Using a non-profit as a funnel for self-enrichment does violence to the spirit for which non-profit status was created.

One way to limit some of the corruption is to limit the amount individuals can personally get paid from a not-for-profit corporation. Continue reading →


Why Removing Party from Ballots would Improve Government

On April 25, 2012, I proposed a new election system to ensure that political candidates were qualified and that special interests did not control the outcome of elections–two of the major problems that result from the process in which votes are cast many places today.  While that system would be superior, it would require major changes that many governments are not ready to make. However, there is one simple measure that would take very little effort to change, that would improve the quality of our governments significantly: remove party affiliation from ballots.

2016-Presidential-Ballot-Access_clip_image001Eliminate the Problems of Faction and Uninformed Votes

Ballots that simply list the names of people without political party would prevent people from learning the political party of the candidate at the polling booth. They would need to know something about the candidate before entering the polling booth or their vote would effectively be random. This means that uninformed votes would cancel each other out and that informed votes would determine the election outcome.

Many ballots include party affiliations under the rationale that if a voter doesn’t really know the candidates, they can vote for whoever a political party nominates. This is the party’s argument that the voter can still cast a meaningful vote (for the party’s interests) without being an informed citizen. While this may aid the individual cause of uninformed voters, it does not serve the cause of good governance, but exacerbates the problem of faction. The U.S. founders sought to prevent the highjacking of government by factions, and political parties are the very definition of a political faction. Continue reading →


The “Ten Commandments” for Groups

In the preface to the 1960 edition of Moral Man and Immoral Society (1932), Reinhold Niebuhr wrote:

The central thesis was, and is, that the Liberal Movement, both religious and secular, seemed to be unconscious of the basic difference between the morality of individuals, and the collectives, whether races, classes, or nations.

Now, in 2016, when ISIS attempts to justify genocide and impose Sharia law on other groups, there is increased political party intolerance and self-interest in US political discourse, and the LGBT community attempting to impose its bathroom morality on all other people, it is clearer than ever that people still seem to behave better as individuals than in groups, and that the liberal West has failed to make progress in addressing the problems unethical and uncivil behavior of groups.

The 1960 version of Reinhold Niebuhr's Moral Man and Immoral Society

The 1960 version of Reinhold Niebuhr’s Moral Man and Immoral Society

One reason for this failure is that long ago standards for personal behavior and interpersonal behavior developed. These standards evolved over centuries and were encapsulated in the Ten Commandments in the Bible, however they did not originate there. The Code of Hammurabi that preceded the Bible by perhaps one thousand years contains most of these standards for individuals. It is important to understand that these standards are not arbitrary, nor were they generated by consensus. They evolved in order to allow human societies to function, and like Darwin’s theses regarding human adaptation, civilizations began to flourish when individuals practiced these commandments.

However, from Ancient times through the Middle Ages, people largely lived in groups and were separated from other groups. Tribal elders or town mayors largely dictated the politics, economy, and morality of their community, and such groups tended to have a great deal of autonomy, even if they were part of some larger empire. If an individual didn’t like the standards of their birth group, they were shunned, expelled, or killed. However, while these groups enforced a code of behavior that reflected their own particular history, geographical setting, and leadership, they all followed the spirit of the Ten Commandments. Continue reading →


The Best Policy Ideas of 2016 Presidential Candidates

The 2016 Presidential Election has raised a number of good policy ideas for the improvement of the United States society and government. Unfortunately, there is no single candidate that endorses all of the best ideas, and, even more unfortunately, every candidate that has good ideas seems to have more bad ones. Part of the reason for this is the development of a system that encourages candidates to be loyal to political parties and large campaign contributors rather than to middle-class citizens and the nation as a whole.

In my view best candidate would be one who supported all of the following policies:

• Bernie Sanders’ revival of the Glass-Stegall Act,
• Hillary Clinton’s call to overturn the Citizen’s United Supreme Court decision,
• Rand Paul’s Foreign Policy that is against U.S. imposed regime changes,
• Donald Trump’s middle-class tax policy,
• and Carly Fiorina’s reforms of government bureaucracy.

sandersclinton-trump-fiorina-paul Continue reading →


Is Race or Student Motivation the Highest Correlate to Student Failure?

In many policy discussions about the “achievement gap” between whites and minorities in  public schools, racism and insufficient public funding of schools are frequently given as the primary reason for the gap. But is blaming race or schools getting to the heart of the achievement gaps that exist today? Or, are social factors related to the motivation and preparation of students more important than either of these policy-driven reasons?

Most Public Schools are not Consciously Racist

While some individuals employed by public schools may be racist, and some subconscious racial practices may still exist, racist laws related to segregation and civil rights are largely a thing of the past. Further, the increased diversity and intermarriage in urban American melting pots has tempered old racial stereotypes. Especially government laws and inner-city school policies have consciously strived to eliminate racism from schools over the last 50 years, and often extra programs are funded to help failing students catch up to others.

Yet, newspapers continue to report that inner city public schools experience greater delinquency and lower performance among racial minorities. And, for at least the last thirty years, legislators have tried to address the achievement gap by earmarking extra funding for public schools in inner cities. However, performance disparities have not improved; if anything the “achievement gap” is widening. Are minorities failing because of their race, or are other reasons like socialization of children more important?

Government Statistical Practices Promote Racial Stereotypes

Social scientists can study whether race, or racism, is the strongest correlate to student failure or whether there are other factors. Because of the tragic history of slavery in the United States, statistics are often promoted racially. When schools are asked to report to governments on student achievement, they are asked to report them by race. So charts based on statistics from departments of education get generated like this:

achievement gap by race rather than motivation

It is a common public practice to compare people by race

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The Nobel Peace Prize Should not be Seen as an Endorsement of the Arab Spring

Oppression is Bad, but Anarchy is Worse

“Were people given a choice between a functioning dictatorship and a failing or failed state, the dictatorship would often be seen as the lesser evil.”[1]

The Nobel Peace Prize for 2015 was given to the Tunisian Quartet who brought about a successful transformation of the society to a less oppressive regime in Tunisia. Yet the other places to which the Arab Spring spread have either become more dictatorial or have turned into failed states causing hundreds of thousands of refugees are flee, because it is not impossible to survive where the anarchy exists. Thus, we must not take the Nobel Committee’s praise for the Quartet in Tunisia as an endorsement of the Arab Spring in general.

The uprising in Tunisia was spontaneous, with a domestic citizen so frustrated with his ability to live there that he publicly immolated himself. The masses in Tunisia could identify with his suffering and undertook a revolution, followed by a transformation of the Tunisian government led by the Tunisian Quartet, a coalition of civil society groups that came together in the summer of 2013 when Tunisia was at a crossroads between democracy and violence. Today, while there have been several violent incidents aimed at political leaders and tourists (tourism is the backbone of the economy) perpetrated by Islamists, the Tunisian state is relatively stable. The Tunisian transformation required a great deal of courage and compromise among established leaders in the country, and observers are cautiously pleased with the outcome. Continue reading →


A Government Shielded from the People

A government shielded from the people

A government shielded from the people

The United States was established to be “a government of the people” and, in Abraham Lincoln’s day, that was still largely true. However, today individual citizens have very little influence over legislation or government expenditures in the United States. Political power has shifted to the political parties and the government bureaucrats. This shift of power occurred gradually with the passage of laws, constitutional amendments, and legislative processes over the last 200 years.

These laws and processes eliminated checks and balances on power and enabled the largest political party contributors, through their elected representatives, to control legislation and the appointments of bureaucratic leadership. Individual citizens, local citizens groups, and unbiased independent policy analysts have very little influence over state and federal governance.

The 2015 legislative session in Minnesota can illustrate some of these problems. After the session, I published a synopsis in a “Spotlight Letter” in the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

Of 80 bills passed by the legislature, 54 were unanimously passed or passed with fewer than 5 “No” votes between the two houses after they emerged from committee. Of the 26 bills with dissension, 10 bills were omnibus bills that contained all the spending measures, good and bad, Democrat and Republican, with so many provisions that all legislators could justify their votes either way based on highlighting selected provisions. This left a total of 16 rather innocuous bills that citizens can evaluate the performance of legislators on, pretty much removing them from public scrutiny.

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The Decline of the “Middle Class” and the Rise of Industrial Feudalism

A new report by the US Census Bureau shows that the middle class has shrunk since the recession and the income gap has widened under the current recovery efforts. Read more at http://issuehawk.com/igor/2013/11/18/class-war-more-high-paying-jobs-but-income-gap-even-wider-since-recession.html#KGZdjfDTgyp14TG5.99

A new report by the US Census Bureau shows that the middle class has shrunk since the recession and the income gap has widened under the current recovery efforts. Image source

Quotation marks are put around “middle class” because it is a concept variously defined by politicians who mean very different things. When a Democrat refers to “middle class,” it tends to refer to wage or income level. If you listen carefully to President Obama’s rhetoric about protecting the “middle class,” he is referring to raising minimum wages and increasing the jobs provided to people by government. If you listen to the rhetoric of Wall Street brokers, like Mitt Romney who ran for President on the Republican ticket, you hear that large corporations, with lots of capital are required to provide jobs for a vibrant middle class, and reducing taxes on Wall street will make that happen.

Neither of these approaches will create a genuine middle class, and both are leading to a modern form of serfdom. This is one reason the Tea Party opposes both Wall Street and big government. A genuine middle class refers to the people who can live on their own without the help of government or large businesses. It is this type of middle class, self-sufficient people, not people who earn between $25,000 and $100,000 per year, that are the backbone of a democracy. This is why you can find subsistence farmers in rural America, who might earn less than $25,000 per year, supporting the Tea Party movement to get back to founding principles, and why both establishment Democrats and Republicans are threatened by this movement.

It is a self-sufficient people, not people who earn between $25,000 and $100,000 per year, that is the backbone of a democracy.

The idea that a middle class is defined by earnings provided by someone else is a major sociological myth of our time for, if that “someone else,” be they government or corporate elite, are in charge of the lives of the people, they will eventually maximize their own wealth at the expense of those in their charge. This is the nature of both monopolies and governments (which have a monopoly on force).
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Political Parties Don’t Make Immigration Decisions: No One is Minding the Store

Neither Party Wants Immigration Reform that is Good for the Nation
Many people did not like President Obama’s executive order on immigration, but in his speech he stated that if Congress did not like his solution they could pass their own bill and present it to him. The failure of the U.S. Congress to pass an immigration bill reflects a larger problem in the U.S. political system, and that is our current two party system. Political parties, almost by definition, do not serve the nation. Rather, they serve the interests of their financial contributors, who do not contribute for the nation but contribute to get something from the government for themselves. With our current two-party system, no one is minding the store. The U.S. Government can be compared to a Wal-Mart store in which people pay bribes to a security guard get in, but they can walk out with what they want from the shelves without stopping at a cash register. Our elected representatives are those security guards.

The parties have become the factions that so worried the U.S. Founders, particularly James Madison:

By a faction I understand a number of citizens, whether amounting to a majority or a minority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adverse to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community.—James Madison, Federalist 10

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Ending the Gridlock and Dysfunction Caused by Political Parties

Many people take political parties for granted and assume they are an important part of the democratic process. However, political parties inherently subvert and hijack government and are anti-democratic at their core. Today we hear lots of people from both the left and right saying “Washington is broken,” but we hear them blaming the president, congress, or the courts. This blame is misplaced, not getting to the core of the problem, which is the fact that today these people largely represent political parties, not citizens. Gridlock is caused by partisan bickering that the Founders sought to avoid. But, over the last 200 years political parties have gradually hijacked the federal government.

This sample ballot shows party affiliation for federal and state candidates, but no party for county positions.

This sample ballot shows party affiliation for federal and state candidates, but no party for county positions.

Political Parties are Divisive Factions
Political parties are factions, groups of people that combine themselves for some common purpose. By combining their power, they can have more influence over lawmakers than individual citizens. However, this influence focuses legislators on the wants of these interest groups rather than the general citizen or the needs of the nation as a whole. Founding Father James Madison saw factions as the primary means by the American government could be subverted and destroyed. In the opening lines of Federalist 10 he wrote:

Among the numerous advantages promised by a well-constructed Union, none deserves to be more accurately developed than its tendency to break and control the violence of faction. The friend of popular governments never finds himself so much alarmed for their character and fate, as when he contemplates their propensity to this dangerous vice.

Continue reading →