America’s Frugality and Innovation

What don’t we dump money into? Public schools, health care, ourselves… 白費, it’s all bureaucracy. Well, except the money we profligately waste on luxuries for ourselves (yes, I’m going to speak with caustic shamelessness) when there are still people struggling in the United States: unwelcomed refugees, poor immigrants, centuries-long victims of the system.

There are two ways that people hide shame:

  1. Work their heads off in kiasu pursuits through medical, legal and engineering professions.
  2. Scream (though I could use more colourful words) and complain whenever any truth leaks out, insisting that it’s not true and focusing on how much more money they should get.

America is fat. No, I don’t mean the people, but sure, you’re entitled to think that, too. But we who tout ourselves as a country of efficiency (which must never be the chief end) show ourselves instead to be enslaved to a bloated system that takes away our money and returns little. A credit indeed to the greatness of America. Will we continue to be deceived? There is a difference between investing a reasonable amount of money for the right returns and blindly pouring millions of dollars into a system that does little for what we gave it.

I began writing about public education in America some time ago, before Lent, but eventually I gave up writing solely about education. Why? Public education reform cannot happen thoroughly until the infrastructure supporting its ills can be removed, and that is government overhaul. Interest groups have too much lobbying power, politicians are too complacent with their jobs, both parties are corrupt… anything I would propose would be opposed vigorously from the table of the public school teachers’ unions, which have failed their purpose.

What will it take to throw off a senseless yoke? The votes in Congress are secured by the money. The candidates who agree with ignorant positions or allow themselves to be puppeteered by the money, these are the ones we sweep into office year after year, this aided by gerrymandering and power grab equilibrium. A most idiotic impasse.

So the ghettoes stagnate in their dilapidated state, and the health system funnels in money from the poor and wastes the insurance money from those who have it. Nobody will question the structure of the public school system and be taken seriously. Nobody will demand a closer look at the swollen bureaucracies and not be labelled ignorant, heartless or elitist. Nobody will refuse to feed the destruction and not be swept away.

There is hope for the people, but is there hope for the system? Maybe our system must collapse and we must fall into the hands of cruel tyrants before we will change. I just hope that Americans will not forever be so seduced by mammon as are the rich in mainland China who profit themselves off the backs of the poor and exploited.

Well, America has been for years in the grip of affluenza. Once we as a people get wiser for the purpose of saving money for better uses, e.g. something that is not for ourselves, perhaps we will open our eyes to what other waste is endemic to the interests that rule our bank accounts. Instead we have churchgoers who don’t tithe and elected officials who don’t watch where they’re putting the money. God save our taxes, medical bills and legal fees.

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8 responses to “America’s Frugality and Innovation

  1. “…pouring millions of dollars into a system that does little for what we gave it”
    Oh, how blind you are to how this country really works. Everything from the roads along which commerce takes place, the internet, and the space program from which most of our modern technology comes, to simple things like the SEC, the courts in which corporations sue each other, or the regulations keeping you from drinking arsenic-filled water and on and on were funded by taxes. Take that away, and our country is Bangladesh.

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  2. I’m not saying that our taxes are useless. We definitely need them. What I am saying is that the money we pay isn’t always used well, and a lot of it goes to waste. What actually goes to services and necessary compensation to the workers involved is right and proper. I don’t advocate drastically lowering taxes to that level.

    Obviously the government has to be involved in some basic functions and generating the revenues necessary to support them. Likewise the health care system does have to get its money for what it does. But, for example, it typically should not take $13,000 per year to pay for a student’s public education.

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  3. …and most of the energy in the food humans eat goes to waste, and so does most of the energy from the gasoline powering our cars. Even the most efficient of human mechanical inventions, the bicycle, wastes more than it uses. The more complex the system, the more goes to waste, and we live in a complex society, and I would suggest are better off for that.
    It’s better to tweak and improve the system than tear it down.

    And remember that $13,000 pays a lot of people, and while some of them may be superfluous to the actual education process, that money pays their salary and buys their food and pays their rent, which is money [that] they put back in the system and give to someone else. Efficiency in the US is at a world-history high. If, however, you believe that money is not being spent correctly, I encourage you to involve yourself in student, city, state, or national government.

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  4. What I still don’t understand is how we can spend so much of our GDP on health compared to all the other OECD countries and nevertheless be below average in life expectancy, obesity and cancer notwithstanding. Unfortunately, this information can’t tell us whether the problem lies mainly with the FDA or with the pharmaceutical companies or with processing. It’s hard to tell, but nobody wants to take responsibility. Everyone wants to avoid the blame.

    How do Singapore, Japan and South Korea publicly expend such smaller percentages of their GDP in education and still land near the top in some performance measures? Now of course they have their problems too, huge social problems that we’re seeing in Japan resulting from the educational system, and Singapore’s problems are known to anyone who’s watched I Not Stupid, but most people of my parents’ generation who immigrated from Hong Kong consider Americans to be behind.

    It’s better to tweak and improve the system than tear it down.
    This is true. I don’t think we should pull the system down just yet, but if it’s broken, let’s fix it. If, however, the system holds back bottom-up change, maybe it’s time to overhaul it not to make it amazing but to allow people to improve it by small, local changes.

    […] while some of them may be superfluous to the actual education process, that money pays their salary and buys their food and pays their rent which is money they put back in the system and give to someone else.
    Forgive me if I’m being dense, but wouldn’t that apply to any use of money? Couldn’t we support people being productive both in their actual work and in their spending?

    I could suggest other ways of saving money, but most Americans probably wouldn’t like it.

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  5. Because the pharmaceutical companies and HMOs are basically stealing from us. National health care would solve that and that’s a surprising position for a self-described conservative so I don’t know that you would go for it. Pharm companies can charge Americans whatever they want, so to make up for the government-negotiated contracts that only give them a sliver of profit in other countries, they gouge us – because they can and so the shareholders are CEOs make money off of us. There are no alternatives and no consumer unions banding together to force down prices. Same with HMOs . But I’m sure you’ve seen SiCKO, so I don’t need to tell you…

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  6. So we agree someone somewhere down the line is reaping disproportionate profits. I hear, though, that some people come from Canada to get American health care because they believe it’s better.

    On the other hand, I don’t think some government backing of health care would send all of our highly qualified physicians to Mexico. What would be the relative effect of doing it on the national level versus doing it on a more localized level, though?

    There are no alternatives and no consumer unions banding together to force down prices.
    Consumer unions might be nice…

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  7. “Consumer unions might be nice.”

    Heh, something I’ve thought about before. Written about, in fact. I’m not alone, then.

    (Although the next step would be, how should someone get one started?)

    I think in the end, we have to remember it is us citizens who produce, consume and build the world’s products, infrastructure and factories. The function of government is to merely organise our labour. But why do we need people in legislatures in faraway capitals to organise ourselves? In a city-state especially, with the internet especially, it becomes possible for people to create public services without the need of the State.

    Tax burden is a strain of this, naturally. Which is why I support scaling them back and rather pressuring ourselves to replace the services that previously depended on taxes. More and more, I find myself agreeing with school voucher paradigms, etc.

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