Cost Of Education? Get Ready For A Real Shocker.

Yesterday my teenage daughter was inducted into the National Honor Society. I’m extremely proud of her. I always have been but now it’s quantified.

After the initial induction, they had a parade of high school seniors. It was announced what college or university they would be attending, their intended major and how much they had received in scholarships. Considering the major focus of this high school is primarily arts, many of the students are going to be studying arts programs, such as theater and music.

This is where the shock comes in. A number of the students had scholarships in amounts of hundreds of thousands of dollars. Several had over $100,000 in scholarships. For theater arts programs. One had a scholarship of $700,000. That is not a typo. Seven hundred thousand dollars.

One student will be attending medical school. His scholarship? $193,000. So the theater students had scholarships far surpassing the medical school student.

In total, roughly 30 students had a grand total in scholarships of over $4 MILLION.

In no way am I dismissing the accomplishments of these students. They worked hard and earned their scholarships. The deserve the reward and recognition they will be receiving.

The point I am making is that this is now the cost of education. Over $4 million for 30 students. How did we get to this point in this country? How did education become this expensive?

Consider the students who may be bright and talented but were unable to gain a scholarship. How many of them are there in just this one high school? How much will the other hundreds of students be paying for years, decades, their entire lives to acquire an adult education? How many will not see any real benefit to that education yet still have that debt?

Consider the fact that a scholarship is not intended to cover all the costs of an education. It is only intended to defray some level of that expense. So even the students with scholarships in many cases will incur debt along the way.

How many students give up all hope of further education? Disheartened by the cost, the very idea of a lifetime of debt? How many have seen parents paying student loans for the length of the child’s life? Many people today retire with student loans they still must pay for years into retirement.

Did you know if you marry someone with federal student loan debt that if they die you are liable for the remainder of that debt? Did you know if you become disabled there is still no way to discharge that debt without paying it in full?

Adult education really should not be a for-profit endeavor. Yet it is. Corporations make profits from the lifetime of work we exert but that’s not enough. They have to make profits from the education we are required to have to do that work.

Even that is not enough for corporations. Corporate owned charter schools are making profits from children’s basic education while often doing that extremely poorly. Probably so they can charge more for remedial adult classes. Meanwhile, the pay for teachers remains stagnant or decreasing, benefits stripped away as time goes on.

This is why so many of us are pushing for socialized adult education. This is why countries that have socialized education are passing us by at light speed.

We pay the price in many ways besides the obvious. Our entire economy suffers because money spent paying student loans is not spent to support the economy. We pay in terms of stress and depression which diminishes productivity and creativity. We pay in terms of medications to alleviate the stress and depression. We pay if we fall behind on student loans (or heaven forbid we default on a federal student loan). This impacts our credit score, which can affect our ability to be hired for the best jobs. The stress may affect our relationships and our health. Paying the debt may take time away from our families, leading to more stress and depression. That stress and depression can cross generations as it affects the time and quality of our relationships with our children.

And it’s getting worse by the day.

So, let me hear more of you corporate puppets say, “Just get an education!” One more time.

The Programming of America: Pt II, Selling War

This is part II of my series on how Americans are programmed to think in certain ways without thinking, without questioning. If you missed part I regarding marketing in various forms (not always called marketing and advertising, sometimes called many other things), you can find part I here.

In part II of this series, I focus on war (military adventurism) and how it is sold like everything else in this country, though in a more complex form. We are sold warfare as a positive from early childhood until death. This is something I have written about previously, though often split between different subjects and articles.

Corporate (Military Industrial Complex) influence does not begin with the news media, as far as our life exposure is concerned. It begins in grade school. Think back to history classes and how past US wars were presented to you. Heroism throughout. Never the slightest question that each and every conflict we have been engaged in was justified and ethical. Never a hint that our soldiers and officials issuing orders have committed war crimes, which they absolutely have when you omit “patriotism” as a rationale. Protests against Vietnam barely gain mention and the protests which happened against WWII, Korea and Iraq are never mentioned in grade school. For all I know, they’re not even mentioned in college. Nor is it mentioned that the Nazi and Communist parties had wide support in the US prior to WWII. The Communist and Socialist parties had wide support in the US right up until McCarthyism.

For this, we have to look at the tangled ties between textbook publishers, politicians and the deep pockets of weapons manufacturers who donate to the politicians. Then the politicians set the standards by which textbooks are chosen. This is stage one of selling war to the American public, beginning with childhood.

Then the next stage comes as teenagers. Partly through movies and TV which glorify warfare without showing images of the reality involved. Military recruiters at schools and patriotic displays at sports events. Commercials showing someone in a uniform, then transitioning to that person in civilian life, uninjured, no PTSD from horrors they have witnessed or directly taken part in. They are all smiling, clean, drug-free, no therapy.

Who pays for all those displays and commercials? You do. Who pays for those textbooks? You do. Who acts as consultants to Whollyweird for the movies and TV shows? The military. Who pays for them to act in that role? You do. If a movie tries to show the military in an unflattering light, the military will bring pressure against the studio. That pressure can include coercion by coordinating with local authorities for licensing purposes. The military has “consulted” on tens of thousands of movies and shows over decades. Who pays for their “consultations”? You do. Who pays to prosecute and incarcerate peaceful antiwar protesters? You do.

Only after considering all the above do we reach the point where we can consider corporate “news” media and their paid portrayal of our military endeavors. Try and name a US military conflict which the media has ever opposed. I’ll wait. I’m 57 years old and have never seen the media object to a US military action. Look at the reactions we have seen when it was even suggested decreasing military presence in Middle Eastern countries or any peace efforts with Russia and North Korea.

No, you will never see anything more of the devastation wrought by US warfare beyond a few ruined buildings, blamed on “terrorists”. You will not see children splattered on walls and streets by our bombs. You will not see victims with limbs torn off and open head injuries showing exposed brain tissue. You’re more likely to see video of our missiles and aircraft launching, preferably in low light so it highlights the afterburner effect to make it visually appealing or exciting. You will hear rave reviews about drone warfare which makes warfare bloodless and without physical risk for our soldiers. You will not hear that drone pilots get PTSD too. You will not hear that children in the countries being bombed by drone warfare are terrified of blue skies because that’s when the drones are most likely to strike.

Cue the advertisements for Boeing, Raytheon and Northrup-Grumman. Paid sponsors of your favorite corporate news outlet. Who pays for the ads you see from them? You do. That is your tax dollars at work. Who pays for the drones? You do.

Up next, interviews with high ranking military officials and veterans speaking of how we need more bombs, more guns, more drones, more troops to kill more terrorists (children, mothers, grandparents living in their own countries, sitting in their own living rooms). It’s their own fault for living there. Their existence on top of “our” oil fields makes them enemies. Saying we need to invade another country and another. Never once do you hear a diplomat saying we need peaceful negotiations to end a conflict.

When the media and politicians talk about manufacturing weapons, they consistently do so couched in terms of “creating jobs”. What they fail to mention is that building bridges also creates jobs while not intentionally killing people. Universal healthcare would creates tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, possibly millions of jobs while improving and extending lives. Yet that we cannot afford. They fail to mention that to keep producing weapons means we must keep waging wars for as long as possible. When one war ends (if ever), another one must be started and another and another. We keep paying for each and every one of those conflicts with money ripped from our social support programs and educational system. We pay with creating more enemies and with trade losses. They fail to mention that producing weapons is only part of the cost. Then we have to pay for shipping those weapons, providing security for those weapons, targeting systems with training and salaries to operate them, and launching those weapons with training and salaries.. They fail to mention that weapons manufacturing frequently does extensive environmental damage long before the damage from using those weapons. Domestic environmental damage which we pay for in dollars, ill health and deaths. Yay, jobs..

Cue ads for oil companies who profit from our seizure of resources in the countries where we murder innocent civilians.

Next up, a report on how we cannot afford universal healthcare but we need to give more money to the VA for their limited socialized medical system which spends tens of billions per year on drugs and medical equipment. Wecan consider those VA costs to be subsidies for the oil companies, military contractors and drug companies who bribe politicians and advertise on corporate media to sell you on the next war. Who pays for the VA, even if you receive no care from them? You do. Who pays for the advertising? You do.

Cue ads from drug companies and medical insurance corporations. Maybe with big flags in the background telling you to support the troops. Yay, ‘Murca.

Up next, a report on the homeless epidemic. Many of whom are veterans. An epidemic, stated as though it’s a disease. As though the homeless are a disease, rather than victims of a diseased system which rapes them violently, bleeds them dry and leaves them to die by the roadside like bags of garbage thrown away by our government.

We have the VFW, the VA, insurance companies that specialize in veterans, magazines targeting veterans, Memorial Day, Labor Day… Have you ever noticed we do not have a single day or nationally recognized organization dedicated to the propagation of peace?

From childhood to death Americans are sold sterilized images of warfare. Shoved into developing minds in between basic math and English, as though mass slaughter is a mere fact of life. As long as it happens in other countries, not our own. Deaths at the hands of our war machine are sold as entertainment. The next war is sold as “humanitarian intervention” yet we are never shown the results when the bombs have stopped. Disease, famine, poisoned water, decimated economies, destroyed lives. Effects which take generations to “recover” from, as if recovery is possible. No reviews of success or failure, just advertising for the next war, the next “threat” which is never actually a threat, the next country we must save from themselves, the next investment opportunity.

Never question the advertising, the programming of your children or of yourself. Cheer for the veterans, pray for the widows, widowers and children of veterans but never ask why the war was fought. If you ask questions or object, you will be branded a traitor, un-American, unpatriotic, a pariah. Maybe a Russian troll.

Asking questions means you are brainwashed, not questioning means you think for yourself. Just believe, have faith, wave your flag and hold your hand over your.. eyes and ears. Keep telling yourself, “We’re the Good Guys©” until you convince yourself. Then keep watching the marketing machine, keep cheering as you act as free advertising for the death machine.

The Programming of America: Pt I, Marketing

This is my first installment of a series regarding how marketing pervades our lives in ways most do not realize and what the negative effects are. Be sure to subscribe to know when a new installment drops.

I continuously see Americans claiming to think for themselves while their words, opinions, attitudes and behaviors tell a far different story. This is no surprise. We live in a society that is ruled far more by marketing (advertising) than most Americans ever grasp. That’s because they fail to understand the very nature of marketing at it’s very core.

If you study marketing, what you find is that the core structure of marketing lies in a distorted study of psychology with the express intent of manipulation. In other words, it’s brainwashing on a massive scale.

If you look at a syllabus or course description of college marketing programs, you find references such as “customer engagement”, “consumer behavior and analysis”, “expanding value” (in other words, exaggerating claims) and so forth. You may have already heard such things as “creating a market”, “identifying a need”. What these things come down to means convincing people they need something they did not need last week.

Yet even that does not go far enough to explain how people are manipulated. One must understand that corporate news and political campaigns are forms of marketing. I’ve said before and say again, follow the money. Look at who is paying for advertising on a network. Look at who is donating money to campaigns.

Marketing is most frequently based on emotion. The emotion used most frequently is fear. Fear of social isolation. Is your breath fresh enough? Is your shirt white enough? Is your cologne as good as the next guy? Does your bra lift enough? (Look at old bra commercials, claiming to lift and separate and compare to push-up bras today.) Fear of pain. New insoles? How much pain medication can your liver withstand? Fear of illness. Fear of depression. In other words, using emotions to make you fear your own emotions.

Political campaigns use many of the same tactics and people with the same training in marketing techniques. That’s a large part of what campaign managers do. Identify “needs” of voters. Identify or manipulate fears to exploit.

The most interesting part of this is that it takes very little effort to convince people to be afraid and immense effort to convince them their fears are unfounded. The vast majority of people are programmed to react emotionally, rather than think critically.

Know who else makes extensive use of the exact same psychological techniques? The “intelligence” agencies. The CIA, NSA and FBI are well known to use propaganda in other countries and to have used propaganda in the US itself. For some reason, Americans think that any such manipulations inside this country are things of the past. Citizens also think they are not prone to being controlled by these techniques, even as they tune in to corporate media and watch people like James Clapper being used as a source of information on major networks. Even as “intelligence” agency veterans run for public office.

There are no Jedi mind tricks at play here. People are actually easy to understand, easy to manipulate. Most people want some authority figure telling them what to do, what to think. More “likes” means something is valid. Bigger is better. More viewers means higher quality. Join the crowd, march in line, buy the most popular items, watch the latest blockbuster on opening weekend, vote for the popular candidate but keep telling yourself how you’re different from all the rest.

Even here on what is supposedly independent media I see articles from major media sources with the highest views, likes and comments. Nothing about those articles are any different from what is published on the core websites of those corporate sources. So, why are readers even bothering to be on independent media sites if all they are going to do is follow corporate media?

Does it make any sense? Or have they just programmed themselves by their own choice?

Nationalize SOME Industries

There can be little debate that we have specific focal problems that hold us back as a society. Income inequality, access and cost of medical care including medications and warfare being chief among them.

If Americans truly want peace, security and prosperity, the honest truth is that specific industries should be nationalized. Take away the profit motive for warmongers and apathetic capitalists who allow or even cause death and destruction of lives for their own greed.

Military weapons and aircraft. One industry that should be nationalized is military weapons manufacturing. We all know that MIC contractors are the biggest promoters of warfare. They spend huge sums of money paid by taxpayers to promote the next conflict and the next and the next. If the military weapons and aircraft industries were nationalized, completely operated by government agencies and worked by government employees, we would not be paying for advertising. We would not be paying for corporate profits. With that manufacturing accounting being subject to FOIA requests, the cost of military supplies would plummet. CONgressional representatives would be far more likely to question and criticize cost and time of development of new weapons systems. In addition, the media just might start asking critical questions about our conflicts.

The oil industry. We all know that many, if not most of our military conflicts for decades have been for the benefit of the oil industry. Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya, the current regime change attempt against Venezuela and much of the heightened tensions with Russia. The industry uses unsafe practices which result in environmental damages while taxpayers are left to pick up the cleanup bill. We are told that America has achieved “energy independence”. Meanwhile, oil is one of our top three exports and one of our top three imports. Why are we shipping oil out, only to replace it with oil shipped in? The answer is the petrodollar system but I am being rhetorical here. The oil industry seizes land from citizens with barely a finger lifted by elected officials paid by the oil industry. What many people don’t realize is that thousands of oil workers are injured each year. In some cases, permanently disabled. From that point on, those workers are the responsibility of the taxpayer to provide for through Medicaid and Social Security. In addition, it was demonstrated that the government subsidizes the oil industry by tens of billions of dollar a year, partly by paying for surveying new oil sources. The industry never has to repay one penny of that money, they just take the profits and run. Have you seen how much the oil industry advertises? The propaganda they promote? You pay for that. You also pay for their lobbyists and lawyers to the tune of billions a year. So, if we have to pay for surveys, security, cleanup and the care of their injured while surrendering rights to our own property and environment, nationalizing the industry just makes sense. If we are net exporters of oil, then we have no need of wars in other countries for oil. Do we? Make the oil industry directly profitable to the country and assume responsibility and accountability so we have more control over it.

Medical payment systems. Yes, Medicare For All. Medicare For All does not propose making all medical care being provided by the government. That is propaganda pushed by insurance companies. I’ve written long explanations of the money the insurance industry makes, spends and distributes which has nothing to do with medical services. Advertising, executive pay and bonuses, promotional crap, commissions for insurance agents, lawyers to deny coverage, lobbyists, campaign “donations”, stockholder dividends. You pay for all of it!!! Yet your deductible and premiums keep climbing. Chances are good that your insurance never pays one cent to your medical care, so every penny you give them goes to profits. If we nationalized the healthcare payment system, the cost of medical care could be reduced as much as half. Yet everyone would be covered and have higher quality of care. No bankruptcies due to medical costs directly.

Drug manufacturing. Many new drugs are developed by universities funded through grants, paid for by taxpayers. Corporations bid for the patent and claim all profits from that point and for many years. They never have to repay the development costs which the taxpayer funded. Look at many other countries that are developing new treatments that surpass our own. Drug prices on common medications for blood pressure and diabetes, let alone cancer, have risen to the point that many chronically ill people cannot afford their medications and then suffer catastrophic health events including death, stroke, heart attack and kidney failure as a result. Or they have to make a choice between medications and food or shelter. Insulin has increased by 700+% in recent years. Once again, look how many drug ads you see. Look at corporate executive pay. Look at stock dividends. Look at chain pharmacy profit margins. Look at how many drugs have been approved which were later pulled from the market because they were unsafe to begin with. Look at how many lawyers drug companies retain and pay. Look at campaign donations and lobbying. You pay for that before and above the cost of your medications. It is no longer enough to even suggest regulating drug prices. The entire drug industry should be nationalized. If we spent our money to have universities developing new medications, that money would go toward improving education. Cutting lobbyists out of the equation would allow the FDA to do what it was intended to do. Our medications would be safer and more affordable.

Adult education funding. We’ve been having the conversation for years now about student loan debt and cost of advanced education. Student loan debt does a massive amount of damage, not only at the personal level but at the economic level to the whole country. As a nation, we spend billions of dollars per month on adult education. It is spent on student loans over decades and tuition costs over years. In many cases, the degree obtained never benefits the student. Tens of thousands of people declare bankruptcy every year thanks to student loan debt. That lowers their employment and earning potential for the best jobs. It is another system that benefits the rich and punishes the poor. If you are married and your spouse dies with a federal student loan debt, youare liable for the balance of that loan. Did you know that? If you default on a federal student loan, the IRS gets involved. They can seize your tax refund, part of your pay for years, your bank account, your car and your home. You will not be eligible for government employment at any level and may be barred from many other jobs. Federal student loans cannot be discharged for poverty, bankruptcy, chronic or critical illness, disability or homelessness. Your credit rating will be decimated for life. Did you know that? Many people do not. Millions of Americans never attend or finish college because of the cost or fear of debt. This is making the US fall behind other countries on advanced education, while we already trail much of the world in basic education. The money being spent on education and student loans is subtracted from the general economy. So that is billions every single month which is not spent in local economies to create and maintain jobs. Hundreds of thousands of people cannot buy homes because of student loan debt and it limits their options for renting as well. Colleges and universities over some years have been basically selling off parts of their facilities and educational programs to corporations. In exchange, the corporations get to dictate curriculum for various programs. Which means students are less educated than indoctrinated. While I would not yet advocate nationalization of adult education itself, it is far beyond time for us to nationalize funding for adult education. This would benefit the economy, our educational ranking internationally, the students and allow institutions to be freed from corporate shackles.

Many people still fear the term Socialism. Yet, as you can see, capitalism is far more destructive to our economy and our society than Socialism could even aspire to be. The speech against Socialism is propagated by capitalist media and politicians under the dictate of corporate entities.

Many people are pushing for complete Marxist Socialism. That’s not something I personally advocate. If we nationalized (socialized) the industries listed above, that would be a major move in the right direction which would allow true capitalism to flourish, as opposed to the corporatism we have in place now. It would lead to more secure lives, better health, better education and a more peaceful diplomatic nation.

I’m A Top Economics Contributor for Medium!!

Only two people know the back story to this. My girlfriend and my daughter. I’ll tell it here.

On New Year’s Eve, daughter and I stayed home. It was raining here and she didn’t want to go anywhere. We had our own little party. Sparkling juice, pigs in blankets and popcorn. After MN, I checked my email. Had one from earlier in the evening from Medium. Looked at the title. Hmm? I opened it. It was notifying me that I had been named one of their top economic contributors for the year!

Now, that is how to start a New year!

Okay, here come the disclaimers. First of all, I don’t know what criteria they use to determine this. Neither am I going to read up on it because I don’t want to ruin it for myself if I don’t like it. The tag is now on my page for an entire year and knowing will not change that. I’m going to be happy with it and move on. It does help me with my single NY Resolution which is to expand my reach with my writing this year and try to make a living wage from my writing alone. Maybe add some related activities at some point if I can brand myself more effectively. Being able to devote all my work time to writing would make me a more effective writer.

Economics is not my major focus. I understand economics better than the average American, yes. However, I see economics as integral to the workings of society. That is my major focus. Society, equality across the spectrum is my personal focus.

I am not an economist. I have had education and experience which have led to my understanding of economics, both formal and informal.

When I was 19, I had a job as an assistant restaurant manager. That gave me my first real exposure to economics. I took it further than many by looking at what was happening like major events in my city to plan ahead for business flow. Even concerts or fairs. By that, I predicted peak business times which nobody expected, so I staffed and stocked in anticipation. I stepped down from manager to continue cooking but coordinated with managers for the same purpose the rest of my time in restaurants.

In the 80’s I took my first college classes for business management and administration. That introduced me to how the stock market worked. Just happened I was in Germany at the time and my teacher was a retired Brigadier General who had settled as an expat in Germany. I learned as much or more from conversations after class than I did in class. He was basically a Social Democrat. While in Germany, I observed their system compared to ours.

Since then, I have had formal and informal education and experience in psychology and marketing, which means an understanding of human motivation. Sociology and social systems. Had a Socialist as a Sociology professor in college who was awesome. Can’t count the books I’ve read or how many hours I’ve spent listening to Dr Richard Wolff and Chris Hedges.

Back to the point. It really came as a pleasant shock when I got that email. Yet the one goal I have in writing about economic subjects is putting economic matters in plain language that anyone can understand. That will continue to be my goal because when I listen to discussions about economics, I find it most obvious that people are confused. Economists and WAR Street “experts” use terminology that is intended to confuse the public. Meanwhile, stock investors have been proven to be as accurate as a random program or cat playing with a toy picking stocks.

For people to have a legitimate discussion, they have to understand the way economic programs and systems work and how it affects them personally. It is when people do not understand terms and concepts that they can be manipulated by corporate interests and elected officials who are owned by those corporate interests.

I continue to learn. Even now I come up against terms and concepts which I do not understand or have a low understanding of. What I do not do is act like I understand things which I do not. What I do is look further into those issues until I do have an adequate grasp of what their implications are. If it turns out that concept is affecting many lives, I pass that information along in the simplest terms I can. I know some subjects can be complex but I try and break them down to make them easily grasped.

Am I afraid of being wrong? One thing about economics is that it encompasses a lot of different views and theories. Nobody likes to be wrong but to date anyone who has claimed In was incorrect focused on some trivia which changed nothing on the subject or (most likely) was trying to argue in favor of the failed status quo. I’m always open to rational debate but will never stand down easily when confronted by pure greed. In the event I am literally wrong about something, I will concede. Just know I always do my research before publishing a single word.

I hope my writing helps. I do hope that if my writing helps people understand any subject better that they will share the particular article or at least a credited quote/excerpt to promote further understanding.

Thank you, my readers, who are responsible for placing my writing as a top contributor. I hope to do even better this year and every future year.