Aristotle was right

Ed Raymond

The Supreme Court is the Only Political Party in a Time Machine in Reverse Gear    

In his Book 1 of Politics more than 2,300 years ago, Greek philosopher Aristotle claimed--correctly—that man is political by nature. And to achieve “common good,” citizens had to participate in a political community to achieve community safety.

The citizen must also actively engage in politics, whether as a soldier or ordinary citizen, if a society is going to serve everyone in it. He emphasized that any matters for the good of rulers are wrong, that only matters for the common good are right. In order to have security and justice, individuals cannot live in isolation from one another because of race, class, or economic inequality. All of the people must live their lives as citizens deeply embedded in social relationships with everyone in the community, state, and country.  

The decisions made by our present rulers, our only functioning political party in Washington at this time, the United States Supreme Court, are wrong, and are blowing Aristotle’s advice all to hell. Perhaps the best example of the “common good” expressed by Aristotle is the action of the United States Congress when it approved the GI Bill for men and women who served in the military during World War II and the Korean conflict, and particularly for those who landed on Normandy and Okinawa beaches. The GI Bill was pushed by Democratic President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in strong messages in July, October, and November of 1943 to Republicans and Democrats in Congress until he signed the bill about a year later in June, 1944. His most important message: “It gives servicemen and women the opportunity of resuming their education or technical training after discharge, or of taking a refresher or retrainer course, not only without tuition charge up to $500 a school year, but with the right to receive a monthly living allowance while pursuing their studies.”  

The 1944 GI Bill Created a Middle-Class Which Was the Envy of the World    

Edward Humes in his groundbreaking book Over Here: How the GI Bill Transformed the American Dream reveals what FDR’s GI Bill did for eight million veterans. Here are the results: 14 Nobel Prize winners, three Supreme Court justices, three presidents, 12 senators, 24 Pulitzer Prize winners, 238,000 teachers, 91,000 scientists, 67,000 doctors, 450,000 engineers, 17,000 journalists, 22,000 dentists, and millions of lawyers, nurses, artists, writers, pilots, and entrepreneurs.  

I was the youngest of five children in a small-farm family near Little Falls, and we all took advantage of the GI Bill in the 1940s and 1950s. My oldest brother served as an Army NCO in General MacArthur’s Tokyo headquarters after the surrender. He later had a career with the Railway Postal Service because of the law. My other brother was taxiing a B-29 down a runway on a California base when the Japanese surrendered. He used the GI Bill to graduate from the University of Minnesota and was one of the first non-lawyers to join J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI. He resigned after five years, supervised security at a Lockheed plant in California, and later sold airplanes around the world. One of my sisters became a registered nurse and worked in VA hospitals in California. My other sister ended up on Capitol Hill for 30 years, serving as a secretary for six representatives from both parties.

I put eight years in the Marines from 1950 to 1958, with three years on active duty. I used the GI Bill to get a Master’s degree in English Literature and school administration while having a wife and three children. Our first house was purchased with a low-interest GI Loan. I was a bartender at the Frederick Martin Hotel in Moorhead (with 11 other vets!) to supplement the GI Bill. That experience earned me another diploma because I had to pass the California Wine Institute’s course in order to make drinks for lovers, haters, and an assortment of other Homo saps and sapiens. The experience was worth a degree in psychology.  

Using 1952 dollars, the GI Bill cost taxpayers $7 billion. But the increased economic output traced over the next 40 years was put at $35.6 billion, and the extra taxes collected from those higher-wage-earners because of the law, was $12.8 billion. In other words, FDR’s law got a $48.4 billion return on a $7 billion investment.  

So, Why are We at the Bottom of Oxfam’s Survey on Workers 70 Years Later?    

There are 38 developed nations that are members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OCED). Oxfam is a worldwide organization that studies disasters, poverty, migration, and economic inequality. Founded at Oxford University in 1942 under the title of Oxford Committee of Famine Relief, it is now based in Nairobi, Kenya. Oxfam surveys are known for their accuracy and depth of study.  

In their latest survey, Oxfam measured 56 variables in national laws and then lumped them into three broad categories. Our politicians in the last half century have touted that the United States “is exceptional” in many areas. That’s basically BS. The latest survey proves we are truly exceptionally bad compared to where we were after our middle-class was developed by the GI Bill from 1945 t0 1980.   The first category examined national minimum wage standards, unemployment insurance, paid sick leave, childcare support, heath care availability, work scheduling rights, and the eligibility of gig workers for the above. We ranked 36th in this category.  

The next category was worker protections, which included sick leave for spouses and children, union protections (Sweden has 90% of is workers in unions while we have only 6% in private unions), and affordable health care. In this category we are at the bottom at 38th. Estonia beat us out by placing 37thth. In the last category which is about collective bargaining abilities, benefits, and labor laws, we place 32nd, our highest rating because 10% of our public workers are unionized. In the short span of less than 40 years we slid down a greasy slope from #1 to #38. The greatest economic inequality in the developed world in the 2020s started in California in the 1970s when Ronald Reagan and the California Mafia started to defund education.    

1980-States/ Feds 80, Students 20         2020-States/ Feds 20, Students 80    

These are simple statistics to remember. When Reagan was elected president, state colleges and universities were funded at an 80% rate by the states and federal government and student tuition came up with 20%. When Biden was elected president in 2020, states/ feds paid only 20% of the college costs and students through student debt Ponzi schemes paid 80% 0f the costs. It was a real political scam because students were paying between 4% and 7% interest for many years even when banks were charging 1% for the money.   Ronald Reagan, the smiling predacious precursor of Trump and guys and dolls like DeSantis and Jordan and Taylor-Greene and Boebert, was a Class B Hollywood actor with a nasty streak. He called students protesting the Vietnam War “brats” and “cowardly fascists.” He added: “If it takes a bloodbath. Let’s get it over with. No more appeasement!”  

On May 4, 1970, four days after he made these statements, he got his wish. Members of the Ohio National Guard fired on student war protesters at Kent State, killing four and wounding nine.  

When Reagan was asked why he had gutted both K-12 and college educational funding, he responded: “College students are too liberal and American colleges and universities should not subsidize intellectual curiosity!” It is quite clear he had no idea of Aristotle’s position on the “common good.” His idea of “common good” involved making his rich friends richer and the poor poorer. Remember all those Chicago Black “welfare queens” driving new Cadillacs down Rush Street where all the expensive stores were?  

A Few Critical Facts About Student Debt in the Divided States of America    

Actually, the overwhelming issue in the world causing displacement, migration, famine, civil wars and millions of refugees trampling borders is economic inequality. Meanwhile, the Republicans are heavily engaged in the culture wars of book banning, religion, abortion, and the genders in the LBGTQIA+ community. The Democrats are heavily involved pushing employment records, slight increases in wages, low inflation rates, and urging the rich to pay their “fair share”—whatever that is.  

But the rich have only been interested in their personal good, not the country’s common good. They continue economic warfare over who owns the biggest yacht, the most mansions and bathrooms, and who has spent the most money marrying off their kids. That’s the latest “show-off” scam. The Atlantic magazine has an article entitled “Confessions of a Luxury Wedding Planner; Lies, Panic, and Ponies” that announced there were 13,000 weddings in the DSA last year that cost more than a cool million, many as much as two or three million. Glory be! The top wedding photographer used by the wealthy starts at a minimum of $50,000. A wedding planner was told: “Marry rich! It’s so fun!” The wedding planner’s axiom was: “When you have more money than God, what better way to spend it?”

For a few it’s $250,000 to see the Titanic, or $450,000 for a weightless ride on Virgin Galactic, or $60 million for a rocket ride to the International Space Station—and back. Activist Mary Francis Berry in a graduation speech has it right: “There can be no real satisfaction in a life devoted entirely to personal desires. If one is to be consumed by passion, I can think of no more worthy all-consuming passion than the struggle for human rights, greater opportunity, and a livable planet.”      

More than half of our college students leave school in debt. Here is the average student loan debt in the United States: ** $1.75 trillion in total student loan debt (including federal and private loans) ** $28,950 owed per borrower by average ** About 92% of all student debt are federal student loans, 8% in private loans ** 55% of students from public four-year institutions have student loans ** 57% students from private four-year institutions took on education debt ** 22.5 million students aged 22-34 owe $610 billion ** 20.8 million students aged 35-49 owe $9.04 billion ** 2.4 million “students” aged 62 or much older owe $98 billion ** At age 52, Betty Anonymous of New York enrolled in New York University’s law school and borrowed $29,000 in student loans. Today at age 91 she owes $329,309.69.    

Let’s remember at this point that about 60% of the workers in this country are living paycheck-to-paycheck. The student loan program is as messy as the accumulation of our national debt over 40 years because of grifters, tax dodgers, loophole diggers, yacht owners docked at personal islands, and hedge fund managers charging exorbitant rents for rat-infested, mold covered bedrooms in houses they refuse to fix.   Biden mumbles about the rich paying their “fair share,” never revealing what that share is. We need a Student GI Bill where all student debt is canceled, and the $1.75 trillion debt be covered by taxing the rich at a “reasonable level” until it is paid. Half of the developed countries in the OCED offer free college! Some even accept students from other countries! Besides, it would be a tremendous boost for the economy. More than 30 million students between the ages of 25 to 49 could finally afford to get married, buy cars, buy homes. and join the middle class instead of making bankers richer.