The Submerged State

Every once in a while, I read something that sparks an epiphany–usually, it’s the sort of “aha” moment that is followed by “well…DUH. I should have seen that before now.”

I’ve just begun reading a book by Suzanne Mettler titled The Submerged State, and I’ve had just such a moment.

Mettler’s book focuses upon the nature of government social welfare programs in the United States, and the fact that most of them are “submerged”–accomplished through tax credits and other incentives to the private sector, making them effectively invisible to most Americans. As she says, the policies of the submerged state obscure the role of government and exaggerate that of the market, leaving citizens unaware of how power really operates.

Mettler defines the submerged state as the “conglomeration of federal policies that function by providing incentives, subsidies, or payments to private organizations or households to encourage or reimburse them for conducting activities deemed to serve a public purpose.”

Mettler published the book during the waning days of the Obama administration, and she attributes much of the resistance to Obama’s agenda–and the accusations that he was trying to enlarge the role of government– to the widespread lack of understanding of what government already does, how it does it, and who it benefits.

The recipients of the bulk of government’s social benefits (aka “welfare programs”), as she points out, are disproportionately higher income Americans. Take the home mortgage exemption, for one example. Not only do higher-income taxpayers benefit more than those with smaller mortgages and lower incomes, but a significant number of low-income Americans don’t have enough deductions to itemize, and thus must forego the deduction entirely.

Much of my earlier academic research focused on so-called “privatization,” which in the U.S. means “contracting out”–the practice of government delivering services through a for-profit or non-profit surrogate. There are plenty of documented problems with the wholesale adoption of this practice (sometimes it makes sense, but all too often it is more costly and less accountable than doing the government’s business through public employees), but one problem that is rarely noted comes from the inevitable lack of transparency. People receiving government services frequently don’t realize that it is the government that is providing those services.

I’m just at the first chapter of Mettler’s book, so I don’t yet know whether she includes another consequence–one that is particularly corrosive to civic unity. When people don’t recognize that they are receiving benefits from government programs, because those programs are “submerged,” they are prone to look unfavorably at the more public programs that benefit other people.

I’m sure I’m not the only person to notice that the widespread animus toward “welfare” (aka programs to assist the poor) is rarely invoked in discussions about Social Security and Medicare. (And no, those programs are not “insurance” as that term is commonly understood.)The same phenomenon is at work in accusations that the poor don’t pay taxes; to many Americans, “taxes” means income taxes–not the sales taxes, gasoline taxes, property taxes and payroll taxes that everyone must pay and that constitute a significant portion of overall tax collections.

When a burden or benefit is universal, it elicits a different response.

A significant amount of resentment is generated when people think that other people are getting benefits that they don’t get, and that were paid for by “their” tax dollars. If they were aware of the extent to which they themselves are the beneficiaries of taxpayer largesse, it might ameliorate some of that resentment.

I’m looking forward to reading the rest of this book–and wondering why in the world I didn’t see the nefarious consequences of “submerged” programs before this.

 

35 thoughts on “The Submerged State

  1. I’m looking forward to you reading the rest of the book as well and sharing it with us.

    Besides writing, I have a full-time job because holding truth to power isn’t something our media wants to do…they tell me…we’re a business, first and foremost.

    I had a lady last week tell me that she was the family’s “black sheep” because she was the only republican in a long line of democrats. And no, I will not capitalize either one.

    This was a lady who bragged about her republicanism while she sought disability in her 40’s.

    She is literally paid to stay home and not contribute but rejects the concept of welfare. At the same time, a friend also applauded her for allegiance to Trump despite his decals supporting a local democrat for sheriff. His explanation was if the democrat didn’t win, he’d be without a job.

    He used to be a very good friend.

    Think about the logic…the common sense.

    As many intelligent commenters post on here every day, why do seemingly smart people vote and work against their own self-interests?

    I’ll let OMG, ML, and William answer this question. Their comments yesterday were superb!

  2. From Monotonous Languor yesterday:
    Monotonous Languor July 30, 2018, 9:15 am
    Per Thom Hartmann > There are three general theories to explain Trump’s behavior toward Russia.

    There’s a FOURTH THEORY (see below)

    1.) The Manchurian Candidate: He’s being blackmailed or has been a Russian asset for years.

    2.) The Wannabe Dictator: He believes that countries should be run like companies—essentially autocracies.

    3.) The Deadbeat: He’s not only not rich, but he’s badly in debt, and Russian billionaires are among his main creditors. This also would explain why Trump has been so unwilling to release his tax returns, even after he won the election.

    4.) The Narcissist: He requires full-body warm oil massage which, at least figuratively, he’s getting from bromancing with Vladimir Putin who will send a Russian Antonov An-225 Mriya jumbo jet to rescue him and his entourage and whisk them away to some palatial Tsarist mansion in St. Petersburg upon his conviction and impeachment and after removal of the tar and feathers. Upon arrival, Jarvanka will change planes to fly to their new home in Jerusalem.

  3. For many years I have been unhappy about the tax credts/deductions given to higher income citizens, yet don’t have the time to uncover why they are given so many breaks. I typically chalk it up to those with money have power and those with power must give something in return to those who donate to their campaigns. There is absolutely no good reason for mortgage deductions to be given to only some taxpayers. Remember the second home tax break? I think that was ended a few years ago.

  4. “When people don’t recognize that they are receiving benefits from government programs, because those programs are “submerged,” they are prone to look unfavorably at the more public programs that benefit other people.”

    Like Sheila, not considering benefits from government programs we are unaware of and cannot consider (or maybe not put 2 + 2 together) to recognize those small tax increases and loss of exemptions as government’s way of recouping loss of income due to their tax giveaways to big business. (Hope I worded that so it can be understood) My first awareness of questionable tax giveaway came under the Mayor Hudnut administration. Allison’s in Speedway was threatening to “pick up their marbles and not play with us anymore”; this resulted in a TEN YEAR tax abatement to placate them and keep them here for our benefit. How did the city make up that ten year loss of tax income? As always; working people paid for the loss not knowing they were paying to keep Allison’s in business here. The Carrier situation was and is an “in your face” example this state will be paying for to cover that $6 MILLION tax benefit to keep jobs here when it was known they would actually be gone within a few months. Trump and Pence didn’t even bother trying to “submerge” that deal and had no authority to set it up.

    Under Goldsmith; with the help of his highest out-of-state campaign contributor Warren Tyler who was vice president of a bank in Columbus, Ohio, and who was “hired” by the City of Indianapolis after the inauguration, brought about so much privatization/outsourcing to Ohio businesses I wondered if we had been annexed into the state of Ohio. The two $3 million per year consultant contracts with Oscar Robertson/Smoot in Cincinnati, Ohio, provided no actual benefit to Indianapolis residents whose taxes were paying for that “service”. The much needed renovation of the Lockfield Gardens area along Indiana Avenue is another example of Goldsmith/Tyler “benefits” to this city. They sold fifteen pieces of property to a developer from Hamilton, Ohio, for $82,000 then offered tax incentives to the developers to develop the area. What is it worth today and was the cost to residents worth that improvement? Is that renovation the “submerged” benefit to local residents? The property had been given to the City during the Hudnut administration by Beurt Ser Vass, long time president of the City-County Council and owner of the Indianapolis Water Company. His wife, Cory, owned the company who published the Saturday Evening Post, Parents magazine and the Weekly Reader which was distributed to public schools. These are issues where the renovation of this City must be the “submerged” benefit which we have been paying for with steadily increased and additional taxes.

    As with all gentrification in all cities; those who were removed from homes and businesses may have received payment for property they did NOT want to leave but those who rented the properties for years received no assistance to relocate. This is still going on – 222 South Downey Avenue in Irvington is the next gentrification “benefit” – submerged to benefit the out-of-state developer who now owns the property where low-income, seniors and disabled have lived for a number of years. Again; I hope I have worded this so it can be understood. Because I can’t help but wonder if the end of that book will uncover “the nefarious consequences of “submerged” programs…” Gentrification benefits those who can afford to buy up properties, like the banks during the Oklahoma “dust bowl” era, benefited by taking over properties and evicting people with little or no ability to relocate. What are the benefits we are not recognizing from such government programs?

  5. Todd, it sounds like your friends/former friends subscribe to the theory of “I’ve got mine – screw everyone else”.

    I have also known people who are on some type of welfare/social safety net who believe that they are above those” others” who are taking advantage of the aystem and don’t deserve any help.

  6. It’s far more insidious than we realize, and the tendrils snake into every element of our society. One example is dairy. Has anybody noticed how many ultra-rich right wing pizza barons there are in the country? Or how we are in a trade war with Canada over milk? Why is that? Because 73% of dairy income is subsidized. No, they don’t all get huge checks. But they get free or incredibly cheap grazing on public lands. They get protection barring any more than the equivalent of 3% of total US production as imports. The government buys surplus cheese, grossly reducing the price of their crucial ingredient. Irrigation is subsidized, loans are guaranteed, and farmers sell for less than the cost to produce, with the difference made up by taxpayers. And that is just one example is an industry that exists in the involuntary largesse of the US taxpayer.

  7. All of this stems from the basic, primitive instinct of humans to hoard. The “I’ve got mine, and too bad about you” attitudes of Republicans can be traced back to over 150,000 years to cave dwellers who learned to prepare for hard times. It is tribalism writ large. Republicanism goes back to millennia long past.

    No wonder Todd, OMG, William and ML are so fascinated by this subject.

  8. Thank you for this blog, Ms Kennedy. I learn something new all the time by keeping up with your writings, and I appreciate what you do.

  9. Just to be clear, the Republicans recently lowered the corporate tax rate from 35% to 21%, but the actual “effective tax rate” for US corporations was 24%. We’ll have to wait to see what the “effective tax rate” is now. This should tell us that corporate welfare is a huge chunk of our annual budget. If you want to talk about the submerged state, start there.

  10. David,

    I say “good” that dairy is subsidized by the government. Good because all parents can afford milk for their children.

    Some of these submerged state subsidies were brought about by unfair influence, but others were necessary and remain so. What seems to me to be the real beef is the “hidden” aspect of too many of these economic manipulations. All in all, they do make a case for some amount of socialism in our society. The fact that both political parties engage in this kind of socialism reveals the true beliefs of rabid capitalists.

  11. Until the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, the overall tax burden from all sources was still moderately progressive.

    https://itep.org/wp-content/uploads/taxday2017.pdf

    As far as federal income tax is concerned, the top bracket was always above 70% in the decades of the 50s, 60s, 70s, making the total tax burden much more progressive than it was just prior to the passage of the TCJA.

    Because the TCJA slashes corporate, estate, gift taxes, and disproportionately benefits top brackets of the federal income tax , the overall tax burden will slip into regression in the years ahead, while hugely increasing deficits and the national debt.

    Sad. So sad!

  12. Shelia,
    The qualifying phrase stuck out to me in your opening paragraph: ” . . . reimburse them for conducting activities deemed to serve a public purpose.” I am a clergyperson in Southern Indiana. Does the author include the tax breaks religious organizations receive? For example, the fact houses of worship do not pay a “business” tax? A Wisconsin federal district court ruled in October 2017 that the housing exclusion for minister-provided housing is unconstitutional, a ruling that could ultimately strike down the allowance nationwide, resulting in nearly $1 billion in new taxes for ministers across the country. An appeal to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals was filed by Chicago-area pastors in early February 2018. An anti-religion foundation is behind this lawsuit. The housing allowance helps a great deal to many of my sisters and brothers in ministry where the typical salary is very low. Yet, as religious institutions continue to decline in active members and numbers of congregations, they are, it seems to me, loosing more and more influence and appreciation. One can only imagine how subjective it is to determine federal policy on who serves the public and thereby received a tax benefit. For those who are not religious, the headlines will often focus on the TV evangelists who abuse their privileged positions in many ways. But the vast majority of clergy, I know are serving the poor and the mentally challenged every week. Just come and follow me around and you will meet the working poor who can not earn enough to pay for basic needs or feed children and families who can not pay for all of the food they need or the meds they need. Does the housing allowance help. Yes. Is it a form of welfare? I suppose it is.

  13. Here is an interesting article:

    The Koch network said on Monday it would not support congressman Kevin Cramer in his attempt to unseat the Democrat Heidi Heitkamp, in North Dakota, a state that voted heavily for Trump in 2016.

    Trump turns against ‘total joke’ Koch brothers after North Dakota snub.

    A day after the Koch brothers said they would not back the Republican in a key Senate race, Donald Trump duly took aim at the conservative billionaires, calling them a “total joke” with a “highly overrated” political network.

    “For those who stand in the way, we don’t pull any punches, regardless of party,” Tim Phillips, who leads the Kochs’ political arm, told donors on the final day of a three-day Rocky mountains retreat.

    “We’re going to be much stricter if they say they’re for the principles we espouse and then they aren’t,” Koch said. “We’re going to more directly deal with that and hold people responsible for their commitments.”

    After running attack ads against Heitkamp, the Kochs launched a digital ad campaign thanking the Democrat for voting to roll back Obama-era banking regulations. At around the same time, they launched an ad blitz against 10 Republican House members, including Pennsylvania Senate nominee Lou Barletta, for supporting the spending bill.
    https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/jul/31/donald-trump-koch-brothers-total-joke-north-dakota-heitkamp
    =================================================================

    Remarkable brazen words on the Koch Bros. part, concerning exactly how they plan to influence the out come of our elections. The Koch Bros have nothing to fear from our “Fourth Estate”. The McMega-Media will not bat an eye concerning American Oligarchs, pumping millions of dollars into the electoral process – after all it is “legal” and more importantly, those Koch Bros., ads are a source of profit.

    The corporate McMega-Media like CNN and MSDNC, and other corporate media outlets provide hours and hours of infotainment concerning Russian interference in our election process by Putin and Russian Oligarchs, but nothing on the corruption that exists as a result of Lobbyists, PACs, and Super PACs that try to buy a result. The McMega-Media has no reason to object to campaign ads since profit is the sole over riding goal.

    People may disagree with Koch Bros. agenda, but they are not the one bad apple, the whole system is rotten.

  14. Well, the media IS batting its eyes at the corruption fostered by such right-wing extremism sponsored by the Koch brothers and their equally loony Libertarians. In “Dark Money”, Jane Mayer illustrates, at great length, how sinister these cockeyed ideologues really are. They’re as dangerous as Trump.

  15. Monotonous,

    I watched as the media struggled to explain the Koch brothers backing away from the Heitkamp race.

    They can’t figure out that their political philosophy it is much more radical than conventional Conservatism in that it seeks to assert private property rights as the highest value, insulate them from the reach of government, and take back what was long public (schools, prisons, western lands and much more). The philosophy sees government as theft and redistribution of the wealth of the capitalist class. It seeks to go well beyond “limiting” government to rolling back its programs. When theses efforts are thwarted it seeks to at least sow chaos and division within the political arena paralyzing government.

    It relies intentionally on stealth because the majority would never support the premise of the political philosophy and it is not in their economic interest to do so. It also focuses on “changing the rules” because it can never gain permanent democratic support as reflected in political parties and politicians who rely on voters’ support to gain and maintain power.

    (“Democracy in Chains” Nancy MacLean) My thanks again to William for the referral to this book. It made something clear to me that heretofore was a puzzle.

    Heitkamp supported and supports their “changing the rules”; her opponent has been less consistent.

  16. If any one of us had the unenviable job of designing a country like the founders did 250 years ago there would have to be a couple of factors at the forefront of our thinking. One is social stability. If citizens are bound together believing that their lives are improved by living in our country they will be not be incentivized to do what the founders had done which is to revolt against the government they had rejected.

    The other key factor is what the Age of Enlightenment thinkers of that day had figured out. The only way to defeat Lord Acton’s recognition of how power corrupts is to have the people in government who represent the people being governed serve at their consent.

    Simple no?

    It worked very well until those who are corrupt found the power of advertising on steroids because each of us is now never out of reach of the screens that control our minds through entertainment.

    Up until that fateful time those in governement had been careful to promote social stability by trying to make the means of paying for the services that they provided as gentle as possible by spreading taxes around and packaging them so as to make them not more painful than other bill paying is.

    But entertainers were paid well to do the opposite of the founders, that is to promote social instability because those paying them wanted to rearrange the work of government. They wanted a system whereby wealth is rewarded with power in order to get more wealth which entitled more power.

    This leads to Thugs One and Two, Putin and Trump.

    In 2016 things went their way. Their Advertising Department had invested in the use of one of our forms of entertainment, social media, to get power. Then their Crime Dept struck it rich and stole the business plan of the competition in the Thug Twins way to achieve world domination and a plan emerged to combine those resources with a structural weakness here called the Electoral College and make major headway on their nefarious goals. The rest is history. The founders dreams of a functional country were defeated by forces of power that they had always been at war with.

    Can we squeeze out a buzzer beater shot before the hostile take over is complete? Like all buzzer beaters it’s low odds vs no odds so we have to take the shot as did the Thug Twins in 2016.

    Nov 6, 2018 will be a day that will either live in infamy or history. Our call.

  17. Vernon,

    “They’re [Koch brothers] as dangerous as Trump.”

    Trump/Bannon HIJACKED what the Koch Brothers created with their money, most specifically, THE TEA PARTY dba THE REPUBLICAN PARTY. This is all similar to what happened in Nazi Germany in the 30’s, when the capitalist backing Hitler lost control and, shortly thereafter, “all hell broke loose.”

    A very important read: “German Big Business & The Rise of Hitler” by Henry Ashby Turner (Oxford University Press, New York, 1985):

    “In none of the bourgeois parties[early 20’s] did big business hold a wholly commanding position, and in the often heated competition with other interest groups for favorable places on the parties list of candidates, big business suffered from a severe handicap. Unlike most of those groups—the trade unions, the organization of artisans, white-collar workers, retail merchants, government officials, and farmers—it lacked a mass constituency of its own. In bargaining for advantageous candidacies, the spokesman of BIG BUSINESS could not promise to the PARTIES the prime commodity of electoral politics: large blocs of reliable votes. To compensate for this deficiency BIG BUSINESS drew on another commodity needed by the parties, one it possessed in relative abundance: MONEY. From the standpoint of German big businessmen, elective politics in the Weimar Republic quickly became a matter of offsetting the numbers behind other interest groups with the financial resources of big business—A MATTER OF PITTING MONEY AGAINST VOTES.” pp. 22-23

    Can someone please explain to me how we differ FUNDAMENTALLY, at this point in time from Nazi Germany? And, additionally, explain to me how can we make any progress toward success in the November elections, without confronting the RACIST OLIGARCHY LED BY THE KOCH BROTHERS?

  18. John Neal,

    Read the early chapters of “Dark Money” by Jane Mayer. She leads the reader through the Koch brothers star chamber gathering on the day Obama was inaugurated. From there, the sinister visions you describe today have been in full throttle.

    These are our worst of times. We were a better country when we were fighting real wars instead of wars invented for the capitalists and the MIC they sponsor.

  19. im from the city,looking at programs that help the people, the ones who, dont have,and get constantly kicked to the curb. now in rural midwest,center of the country,the farm bill is a big deal. of course we see how trump started a problem,and his mouth and ego,has led to another bail out,when,if left alone,would make money. i call the farm bill,the same as any,social welfare program,no slant,it is..i was raised in inner city newark,n,,j. in the 1960s,and now envolved to,the really rural america.ive lived in los angeles,southern and northern calif,in a rural setting. kansas,massachussetts,virginia. in all of these areas, social programs are very present. the news media continues to fire people up,over a total misinformation of social programs,first,live needing one. with the fall out of the last games played by wall streets greed,do the people seriously understand,we are pawns in a game we now have NO control over. ignorance in both the well to do,and the voting public,has become our downfall. with congress again,looking to give the upper crust another 100 billion tax cut,its obviously,we have been supressed to ignore again,what we the people,payinto a system screwing us. i have called this economic slavery for decades. where the people,are like
    pawns,dish out the labor,dedication,bow nicely to the suits,sweat,and every aspect of raising a family,and still were asked to do more, while being shit on. no one is in the streets,no one reads any thing with relevent value. when i read about the welfare program for the upper tier of slave holders,(serioulsy,isnt this just as it sounds,were pacified into not even seeing it) when the rich like bettsy devos,complaines about schools,when shes only working to supress a system,with lies,and making a mess of a bad situation,only to complain about her boat being untied..but will take that 600 billion in education,and find further giveaways to her ilk,and supress the peoples needs. if these people use the working class as a cash cow for thier own greed,then obvioulsy,after all we have done for,them,is want more,maybe its time we untied all thier yachts..they are not,Americans.

  20. Vernon,

    Jane Mayer was too late. “The Koch Brothers star chamber gathering on the day Obama was inaugurated” was evident months before it happened. That was the time to warn as we did in the June 30th edition of The Nation Magazine.

    I will repeat the winning tactic again and again:

    “I skate to where the puck is gonna be, not where it has been.” ~ Wayne Gretzky, NHL great

  21. I am somewhat familiar with the submerged state and I think the worst example of a statutory Republican definition of capital gain versus ordinary income is to be found in the definition of “carried interest” as capital gain, a boon to already superrich equity and other such hedging fund operators. Both Hillary and Trump made campaign pledges to do away with carried interest, but its erasure is not to be found in the Trump-Ryan tax bill for the rich of last December, and unlike the wall, it seems to be one if many campaign pledges he has no intention of keeping.
    Tax philosophy is (at least theoretically) based upon social good. Thus building houses is good for the economy, so we exempt interest on mortgages. Yes, it helps those with means, but so do speedy depreciation and depletion regimes and pass-through treatment of income to individuals who own corporations not publicly traded etc.

    I remember the legendary Wilbur Mills, an Arkansas congressman who was Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee for many years, arguably the most important and powerful position of any in Congress, since the chairman holds the nation’s purse strings. After JFK was elected, he was asked by reporters how as president it felt to be the most important public official in the country and he answered that he didn’t know; that he would have to check with Mr. Mills. I long for the day when a Democrat sits in that seat (2019?) so that we can end this Republican rush to make the rich even richer and the poor poorer before the tsunami hits in November. We have some serious redefinitions of social good to bring back to the tax table.

  22. Peggy: did you see the latest on how the IRS is going to handle capital gains tax? Currently, gains are taxed as the difference between the purchase price and selling price of the stock–i.e., the “gain”. They’re going to change this by adjusting the original purchase price upward to account for inflation, thus decreasing the “gain”. This will result in tens of billions of tax dollars lost every year, that the rest of us must make up.

  23. We’ve created an “honest-to-goodness” MONSTER. It looks like there will be little left to fight for by the time the November election comes around.

  24. The political – economic philosophy of the Koch Bros., Steroid Capitalism (no limits or controls) with the government as an enemy, found allies in NRA types, the evangelical movement – prosperity gospel.

    The Reactionary Right Wing Republican Establishment Party thought they could control their voters, by offering up the establishment candidates in 2016. Candidate Agent Orange, blew away the establishment. The toxic political and social atmosphere the Republican Establishment created was turned against them by Candidate Agent Orange.

    Koch Bros. have found out these groups they have carefully cultivated were hijacked by President Agent Orange. The Trumpeters have no allegiance to the Koch Bros. The Reactionary Right Wing Republican office holders have a tightrope to walk – take the Koch Bros. Money and risk being abandoned by the voting base, who are The Trumpeters.

    Hopefully, the Democrats will not go for the enemy of my enemy is my friend in getting taken into Koch Bros. Web in opposing President Agent Orange.

  25. Pete,

    “Just survival of the gifts of our founders.”

    I doubt that, if you’re talking about our Constitution and the Bill of Rights. There’s no regard for either. Both are being “torn apart.” The only thing that might be left will be WORDS which have LITTLE OR NO EFFECT.

  26. It is my understanding that the field of NGOs, 501C3s, 501C4s, and other agencies has had little oversight. These organizations are tax-exempt, however, that just means oftentimes less regulation by stockholders, and freedom to earn profits with not taxation. While I am not sure how to see just how many organizations there are, local and national, fitting into these categories; I did read that there was a new one organized here in IN for securing funds to cover the legal expenses of our current Attorney General, Curtis Hill, as he fights charges of sexual inappropriateness at a “bar party”.

    This could be an example of the “submerged state” in action. Few are benefiting, many paying (the taxpayers, us).

  27. Natacha,

    I have seen it. Consider it a usurpation of power. Congress should react, but probably won’t. Vote blue!

  28. No one seems to resent people for their SSI & Medicare benefits. (paraphrased) I would include Vetereran’s benefits into that category also. On the flip side, I think it is justified to resent big insurance companies benefiting immensely from these programs. The federal government supports a large number of elderly, catastrophic and war injured individuals. This uplifts the healthy pool for these companies. The demands that they make, and raising premiums to ensure more profit for themselves seems beyond fair.

  29. Unfortunately, so many people don’t even realize that visible programs like Medicare and Social Security are government programs. As Jefferson warned, a democracy which expects to be ignorant and free expects what never was and never will be.

  30. Thank you, Sheila, for this blog. I think that nearly everyday I have been to a lecture by a professor in political science & I learn something new.
    The comments by others, especially the long-winded, not so much. I have pretty much stopped reading all the comments except the short ones. Blah, blah, blah . . . .

  31. Marv, our Constitution is the same as always. What’s changed is the understanding many people have of what it says. Consequently many think that it allows drastic revision of the structure of our government. I have been told by many authoritarians that we are not a democracy. When I tell them we are in fact the world’s first liberal democracy as defined by the philosophers of the Age of Enlightenment they act like I’ve said it was designed by the devil himself.

    We were taught civics in high school. The concepts were common knowledge then but not now. Why?

    I think because of our pervasive entertainment media and the use of it by oligarchs for oligarchs. I guess entertainers present misinformation more credibly than social studies teachers impart knowledge. Whatever, the truth has been stolen and replaced by propaganda.

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