They'll have to come up with a new smiley-face slogan; the delicious irony of "Truth, Justice, and the American Way" would be way too laughable. How about "Work Makes You Free" -- or was that one already taken?

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The big picture has made me stop finding these ideas or some version of them absurd. Here's an additional problem brought up by Carl Bernstein: we only have one year to get the investigations and hearings done. If we lose the House and or Senate the new chairs will turn the tables on us in the committees.

I have a slight difference of opinion on President Biden. I know he says he can work with and negotiate with the Republicans, but actions speak louder than words. Everything he did from jump says otherwise. He really took a left turn. I think he is listening to his grandchildren and Jill. He realizes human rights and the climate crisis have to be forced action and not a negotiation. He'll talk budgets, but we are moving on without the right. He knows they are a mixed bag of dangerous, ignorant and crazy.

We really are in another political dimension.

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Trade, Taxation and Immigration

Free trade between the US and other countries hasn’t worked too well. Many economist claimed it would help everyone. However, as Thom has pointed out we lost manufacturing jobs and now we have to rely on other counties for many parts and supplies. Mexico seems as poor as it was before.

President Biden should say something to the effect that our trade policy will no longer rely on past trade agreements. Trade policy will be nation to nation and subject to change. Our intention is to unwind foreign supply chains of products that are critical to the US and do this in a practical way.

What about free trade, free markets or free enterprise within the US? We hear that government shouldn’t pick winners or losers. However, tax policy favors investors over workers and it favors money given to a person over money from work.

This isn’t free markets, this is the government penalizing workers. This also distorts the economy in many ways and makes the economy less efficient. People may be less likely to start a business when considering the tax advantages of investing in the stock market.

In the long run, capital gains, dividends and most other types of income should be taxed the same as work income including being taxed for Social Security and Medicare. This would also financially help these retirement programs and possibly allow FICA tax rates to be lowered.

For the estate tax, the exemption amount is 11.7 million, for a couple 23.4 million. The exemption amount is set to be adjusted with inflation. A person can give up to $15,000 to any number of people as a gift tax-free. On the other hand, giving a tip at a restaurant is work related and is taxable. These exemption amounts are much too high and should be greatly reduced. Maybe the whole estate tax should be overhauled.

The election deciding issue will likely be immigration. Employers who hire undocumented workers should be fined with fines increasing rising over a number of years. Immigrants who don’t comply with deportation orders or asylum seekers who evade court hearings could be denied a chance to ever have citizenship and should be deported if found.

All should be required to become documented in some way such as temporary visitors, temporary workers, longer term workers, green card holders and citizens. People who are ordered to be deported could also be documented by checking in with immigration services and then in exchange be allowed to stay 6 months or so to be able to make arrangements to live in their country of origin.

We should also work with the countries of origin to place their returning citizens in areas in which there are no threats of persecution and work with these countries to have more opportunities for their citizens.

We should recognize our country as a whole doesn’t want large numbers of immigrants at this time. We need to get control of the border, move toward fairer taxation, bring back jobs and supply chains - build back better and keep the authoritarian coups away.

Thank you, Doug

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You never cease amazing your audiences with your encyclopedic knowledge, articulate discussion, and wise counsel. I have no idea how any one person could have managed to acquire so much extensive knowledge, expertise, and the sort of accurate analyses of crucial information in one lifetime that you have. But I am a bit mystified about why you appear not to be aware of the inherent dangers of joining school and state at the hip and have not seemed to give the issue of education the time and attention it deserves.

How has it been so easy for the right-wing to radicalize “average Americans through social media and an ever-growing network of hard-right podcasts” or to take over “school boards and local boards of elections”? Is a big part of the problem that when authority is both arbitrary and illegitimate, those who are more self-serving, devious, and ambitious find it much too easy to overwhelm and overpower those whose motives are to serve and protect? Are Americans “servile and dumb” as Holt said, because of the conditioning, programming, and obedience training that is the most salient inherent feature of compulsory attendance?

You have spoken often about the desire of those on the right to destroy public education (you are referring to public schools, I’m sure) and about the need to teach civics in schools. However, it is pointless to try to save what has already been lost without figuring out what led to the loss, and it is futile to hope that good teaching will rectify a situation which bad schooling has created utilizing counterproductive strategies.

When you speak about authoritarianism coming to us “brick-by-brick” you should acknowledge that in school, it is coming truckload-by-truckload, while education is a shadow of itself there.

Here is the first short chapter of the first draft of my third book.

Education without thinking is no education

In becoming educated, one thing is more important and more basic than anything else. That crucial single thing is simply the opportunity and the ability to think clearly, continuously, and in a way which allows a student (or any person) to formulate ideas and questions in their mind and to work through an analytical process without undue interruption to arrive at answers, solutions, or more specific questions to ask and answer. That is education in a nutshell. It matters not if the student has the best teacher or the best curriculum if that student has not yet developed an adequate thinking process or if something prevents that process from being carried out. Thinking is key to learning. Thinking for oneself is key to living free.

Children enter school with varying skills and aptitudes. Some have the cognitive abilities which we ordinarily associate with children of school age; some possess more advanced skills and thinking capacities, and some have lagged others (or the “average”) to some extent in various ways. Accounting for those differences adequately requires intensive attention and a degree of intimacy which is only possible with highly trained professionals and one-on-one observation. This would require a massive budget.

So, we have encountered two major and chronic problems with the traditional school paradigm already within the first three paragraphs! In the typical classroom uninterrupted thinking is rare, if not impossible. And, when the budget only permits a ratio of one, two, or three dozen children (give or take) to one teacher, who is seldom qualified to diagnose learning disabilities or to even detect simple regular blocks to comprehension or obscure personal issues and mysteries which confound or confuse a student, that thinking process we have identified as essential is thrown off-track, sometimes permanently.

Asking Schools to do the Impossible

We can put all our heads together and work on possible solutions to the myriad problems that schooling presents. There are things we could do (and that have already been demonstrated in many places and times) to improve our institutions and opportunities for personal growth and amelioration. While perfection should not be an objective, there are measures that can be taken to relieve pressure and to help students. There are many wonderful, dedicated, self-sacrificing, and highly competent people in the field. No one will suggest that we throw up our hands in surrender.

Indeed, if miracles large or small happen, it is the teachers and a few other extraordinary people going the extra mile who deserve all the credit. If you have spent much time in a traditional school, you are surely aware that rules must be bent or broken, and ways must be found to circumvent the maze of bureaucratic constraints and red tape in many cases for children to get the attention and tolerance they need to thrive.

However, there is one thing which MUST be understood before we proceed. Write this down. Imprint it upon your strongest memory circuits. SCHOOL IS NOT THE PLACE FOR EDUCATION.

School has been wrongly conflated with education for far too long. Those individuals who have attended school and who simultaneously became educated invariably created their knowledge more outside of the school apparatus than within it and more through their own efforts and initiative than through that of others as a rule.

Education is a personal thing. Education is a consequence of personal interest, curiosity, diligence, focus, determination, and intellectual rigor. Education is ineffable and primarily a solitary journey or quest. But schools have other immediate and pressing concerns and priorities.

Even were we to shrink our hopes and expectations for mass public education down to mere basic literacy through mandated attendance in schools (or participation in some authorized substitute, such as home schooling), it turns out that great disappointment is inevitable.

In the third decade of the twenty-first century, a sizable proportion of adults remain semi-literate, or illiterate as shown in plenty of statistical data. Schools under a compulsory paradigm tend to degrade into anti-intellectual bastions of convention, propriety, and authority-seeking along with obedience training attitudes and behaviors. The foundation of education may be literacy, but literacy does not guarantee education by any stretch of the imagination.

Schools can and do serve many worthwhile purposes. Students are occasionally inspired to greatness and scholarly endeavors when the stars align and when their relationships with dedicated and charismatic teachers reinforce initiative, discipline, and ability. Nevertheless, for the most part, education is NOT EVER the primary business of school. The noise and confusion and the need for control and conformity are not conducive to the degree of contemplation and concentration necessary for education. Education begins at or prior to birth and has no identifiable end point.

Education is Serious Business – When Will We Start Treating it as Such?

If one asks any educator if education is serious business, they are sure to insist that it is ‘as serious as a heart attack’. Yet relying on laws to force children to attend schools, which have never demonstrated that they can deliver on the promise of authentic education for more than a small minority, and by merely putting our foot down selectively to assure compliance, and then blaming the child for any failure to become properly or adequately educated, we have accepted no duty and no responsibility to educate anyone.

In a country ruled by a dictator, the dictator can arbitrarily declare that there should be education and laws will be passed, schools will spring up and there will a system which is meant to educate the children or the public. (((Please note: Dictators are not afraid of education as they define it. They know that they can control the curriculum and the narratives in those countries, and they do. And if they were to look at what has passed for education in this country, they would feel comforted in knowing that independent thought is no longer an outstanding characteristic even here.)))

Trying to force people of any age to become educated is a veritable absurdity. If we can force school attendance with the illusion that it will assure mass education, why should we not require a diet of healthy food to avoid disease in our population, enforced exercise regimens for strength and physical endurance, church attendance or 12-step meetings to guarantee morality, spirituality, and sobriety, and the like? What other exceptions to democracy and respect for individual choice will we pass into law?

Taking education seriously would require us to know first how we define it and how we obtain it. In truth, there is no one-size-fits-all definition or formula that can be applied universally – especially if we wish to remain a democratic republic.

It is no less true also, that there are many diverse ways and avenues to obtain education, with no authoritative expert or wizard to lead every single child to an agreed upon destination. We will either have a free country, or we will have someone or some group of authorities who are our masters making the “right” choices for us because we cannot be trusted to make them for ourselves. As it turns out, the supposed education experts and gurus have been stuck in first gear for three centuries. They are still acting as if cognition is disembodied because that is what ancient philosopher Descartes preached!

If we are ever going to get serious about maintaining and preserving the greatness of the US with education, we will have to stop pretending that we can manufacture it in factories like so many refrigerators and Jeeps. We will have to give up on herding children into crowded classrooms and dazzling them with our own brilliance and entertainment skills.

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