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Review of Don Peck’s “Can the Middle Class be Saved?”

August 29th, 2011 // 2:00 pm @

 

richor poor 300x199 Review of Don Peck’s “Can the Middle Class be Saved?”This article in The Atlantic by Don Peck is a must-read for those who are interested in the future of American freedom and prosperity. Highlights from the article include:

  • The United States is “now composed of two distinct groups: the rich and the rest. And for the purposes of investment decisions, the second group” doesn’t matter.
  • The new name for this state of society, coined by three analysts at Citigroup, is “plutonomy.”
  •  “A 2010 Pew study showed that the typical middle-class family had lost 23 percent of its wealth since the recession began, versus just 12 percent in the upper class.”
  • The lifestyles of non-professional college graduates now more closely resemble those of high-school dropouts than of the professional class.
  • The meritocracy is increasingly only a meritocracy of the upper classes.
  • “Among the more pernicious aspects of the meritocracy is the equation of merit with test-taking success.”
  • “For the most part, these same forces have been a boon, so far, to Americans who have a good education and exceptional creative talents or analytic skills.”
  • Most Americans don’t want the middle class to disappear or continue to shrink, and such a development would certainly bring a drastic change to the people-based freedom that has characterized the historical successes of the United States.
  • These trends, and the growing divide between the rich and the rest, are increasing the longer the economy remains sluggish.

Peck gives a number of suggestions for improving this situation, including:

  • Increasing the funding for effective job training and education.
  • “Removing bureaucratic obstacles to innovation is as important as pushing more public funds toward it.”
  • Changing our public policy to accelerate innovation.
  • Significantly improving our schools.
  • Creating clear paths of training and skilled work for those who don’t go to college.
  • Altering current immigration policy to allow more “creative, highly skilled immigrants” to come to the U.S. more easily.

Whether or not you agree with Peck’s recommendations, one reality is clear: The success of these things ultimately depends on incentivizing entrepreneurship, innovation, creativity and economic growth.

By spurring significant economic growth, we will directly and indirectly address most of our national economic problems.

On the other hand, if government policies continue to thwart major innovation and growth, little can be done.

Peck makes a case for higher taxes, but hardly mentions that Washington has a serious spending problem.

Democrats typically argue for tax hikes, while Republicans now mostly champion spending cuts.

Most Independents, in contrast, would likely support both—as long as the tax hikes on the professional class were used not to increase or maintain federal spending but rather to directly help put America’s financial house back in order.

Whatever your view on this debate, it is a discussion desperately needed right now.

Too much of the rhetoric on this topic is just that—two sides deeply entrenched and firmly committed to one view only.

We need fresh ideas and inspiring leadership to move beyond this gridlock.

With all this said, Peck’s article is mandatory reading. Every American should think about its main points.

Most will find things to disagree with, perhaps, but the dialogue is needed.

If the middle class is to survive and thrive, it must increase its role of deeply considering, thinking about and making its views felt on important economic and other national issues.

Freedom only works when involved citizens of all socio-economic levels actively participate in such important national discussions.

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odemille 133x195 custom Review of Don Peck’s “Can the Middle Class be Saved?”Oliver DeMille is the co-founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of Thomas Jefferson Education.

He is the co-author of New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestseller LeaderShift, and author of A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the 21st Century, and The Coming Aristocracy: Education & the Future of Freedom.

Oliver is dedicated to promoting freedom through leadership education. He and his wife Rachel are raising their eight children in Cedar City, Utah.

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The 5 P’s

August 26th, 2011 // 6:00 pm @

The Criteria

Election2012 The 5 PsPollster Frank Luntz says that to be real contenders for the U.S. Presidency, candidates

must have what he calls “the three P’s”:

1-A credible Plan to lead the nation

2-The Political prowess to be elected in the general election

3-The fight to stand for the values of the Party base

Add to this a fourth and fifth P, and you have good criteria for measuring the candidates:

4-The reality that the swing voters in the 2012 election will most likely be, as George Will put it,  “independents in Northern cities” and Florida (most of whom are Professionals)

5-Comes across Positive to the voters

For example, President Obama has 2 and 3, but is weak on 1 and 4. Still, this puts him ahead of almost everyone else.

A clear, concise White House plan for America’s economic growth and a Positive approach to leadership could make him strong in 1, 5 and possibly even 4.

Expect his advisors to steer him in this direction in the months ahead.

The Contenders

According to recent polls:

  • Paul is strong on 1, weak on the rest
  • Romney is strong on 2 (and maybe 4), weak on the rest
  • Huntsman is strong on 2 (and maybe 4), weak on the rest
  • Bachman is strong on 3, weak on the rest
  • Perry is strong on 3 (and potentially 2 and/or 4), weak on the rest
  • Santorum is strong on 3, weak on the rest
  • Cain is strong on 3, weak on the rest
  • Palin is strong on 3, weak on the rest
  • J. Bush is strong on 2-3, weak on 1 (though this could be remedied), and very weak on 4
  • Giuliani is strong on 2 and 4, weak on 1 and 5, very weak on 3

There is, of course, a lot of time left before the election and things will likely change more than once.

For example, Romney could outline a strong national economic/jobs plan to counter the Obama jobs plan (if one is presented) and also work to become the voice of Positive in the election.

Perry would need to downplay the socially conservative issues (his Party base would vote for him anyway) and strongly emphasize his record on jobs (under his leadership Texas created over 1/3 of the new jobs in America during the recovery).

There is real potential for Perry to become stronger on 1, 2 and 4, Romney to become stronger on 1 and 4, or Huntsman or Bachman to gain strength on 1 and/or 4.

To win, Bachman would also have to become strong on 2 and Huntsman would have to become strong on 3.

Note that two potential candidates who haven’t joined the race yet are doing the best of all.

  • Christy is strong on 1-4, weak on 5
  • Ryan is strong on 1-3, might become strong on 4-5

Whether Christy or Ryan will run, and whether either would remain strong in the challenges of active campaigning, remains to be seen.

Ryan could probably become the voice of Positive and economic growth, while Christy would probably do best to push business-friendly economic policy and jobs as loud as possible.

Either could likely run on a strong economic platform with good results—the same is true of Perry, Romney, Huntsman and maybe Bachman.

What It All Comes Down To

If Luntz is correct (4 is really just a function of 2, and 5 doesn’t really matter to voters—despite what they say in the polls), the strongest positions right now belong to Obama, Christy, Ryan, Romney and Perry.

If it all comes down to 4, Christy or Ryan have a slight edge over Obama while Obama is ahead of Perry and Romney right now.

Still, there is a lot of campaigning yet to come, and some polls have both Romney and Perry ahead of Obama in head-to-head contests.

It is unclear exactly how this will all work out, but as we get closer to the election the savvy voter will do well to keep an eye on how each candidate measures up to these 5 criteria.

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odemille 133x195 custom The 5 PsOliver DeMille is the co-founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of Thomas Jefferson Education.

He is the co-author of New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestseller LeaderShift, and author of A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the 21st Century, and The Coming Aristocracy: Education & the Future of Freedom.

Oliver is dedicated to promoting freedom through leadership education. He and his wife Rachel are raising their eight children in Cedar City, Utah.

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19 Questions Answered in FreedomShift

August 13th, 2011 // 1:56 pm @

FSw border 202x300 19 Questions Answered in FreedomShift

  1. Following historical cycles and trends, we have recently experienced a significant recession and major unemployment. According to the patterns of history, what is the third major economic challenge which is just ahead? (Learn what it is so you can prepare for it before it comes.)
  2. Based on the lessons of past generations which faced major economic problems, what are the twelve things every family should do to deal with the economic challenges ahead?
  3. What are the three major choices which American citizens need to make to overcome our nation’s economic problems and restore economic growth and increased freedom?
  4. Where did Tocqueville say that the greatness of America lies? (The answer may surprise you.)
  5. What exactly is a FreedomShift and how is one accomplished?
  6. What is “the Law of the Vital Few?”
  7. How is this law drastically changing America today?
  8. What are the three top problems that are keeping America from fixing its problems right now?
  9. What are six predictions of the Anti-Federalists from the founding generation that have come true today and are causing major problems in Washington D.C.’s ability to lead the nation?
  10. Is our society being run by the cultures of our Elementary Schools, High Schools, Colleges & Corporations, Government Officials, or the Adults in our society?
  11. How can we move back to adult culture, especially in Washington?
  12. What are the three major groups in the Republican Party, the three major groups in the Democratic Party, and the other major groups running our nation politically?
    (We are much more complex than the historical two-party system that dominated during the Cold War, and only those who understand these splits in the parties will know what is really going on in the nation.)
  13. Who is the new group that is literally running the United States now? (Hint: it’s not the Tea Party, socialists, environmentalists, the religious right, liberals or even conservatives. The answer is surprising and deeply important.)
  14. What are the nine types of people who run both of the two major political parties?
  15. How will they impact the election of 2012?
  16. What should we expect in the upcoming election?
  17. What are the eight kinds of freedom, and which have we already lost in America?
  18. Which of the eight are we now losing?
  19. What does this loss mean directly for your family and the economy?

These challenges can be dealt with positively, but only if we know what is coming in the decade ahead.

For the answers to these questions and more on how “regular” people like you and me have all the power to refresh our liberties, read FreedomShift: 3 Choice to Reclaim America’s Destiny, available in paperback, pdf and Kindle editions. (Audiobook version, read by the author, coming soon!)

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odemille 133x195 custom 19 Questions Answered in FreedomShiftOliver DeMille is a co-founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of Thomas Jefferson Education.

He is the co-author of the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestseller LeaderShift, and author of A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the 21st Century, and The Coming Aristocracy: Education & the Future of Freedom.

Oliver is dedicated to promoting freedom through leadership education. He and his wife Rachel are raising their eight children in Cedar City, Utah.

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The Party System’s Newest Flaw

August 6th, 2011 // 10:08 am @

Ungovernable

I recently watched a televised debate on whether America’s two-party system is making our nation ungovernable.

During the debate, New York Times columnist David Brooks said something fascinating.

He mentioned that political scientists keep track of how much cooperation there is between the two parties in Congress, and that while there have been periods of major party fighting such as the 1860s and 1960s, we are at an all-time low in partisan cooperation to get deals done.

Then he noted that the major difference in our current party system is that always before each party included a wide variety of viewpoints.

Within the same tent of the Democratic Party, for instance, many views and policies were suggested, debated and decided.

The same diversity existed within the Republican Party.

Today, however, this is not the case—at least not when it comes to policy proposals.

“The problem is that each party has become more rigid in my own lifetime of covering this,” he said. “When I came to Washington in the early 1980s, I could go to back ventures like Jack Kemp or Newt Gingrich on the Republican side. They had all these weird ideas they were trying to push on leadership. That doesn’t happen [anymore]—the leaders control everything now. The nature of the parties has changed.”

In their drive to win, the party leaders have organized around single, central themes and strongly demanded that congressmen stay within the accepted partisan bounds on nearly all topics.

Most of our elected officials are reasonable and dedicated, and if we put a group of them in a room without party labels and the goal of solving a given issue—say debt, deficits, immigration, or health care—they would almost certainly be able to propose sensible and plausible solutions in a relatively short time.

But attach a party label to each person in the room, especially with the historical baggage now attached to the parties, and the cost, timeline and likelihood of success would suddenly and permanently change.

This is a serious problem for modern America.

Racism of Red and Blue

Calling someone a Democrat or a Republican today is fraught with danger—they may well take offense.

 I once watched a man stand at a public meeting and make a suggestion on how to solve the problem before the group.

The officials at the front of the room asked him several questions, and he answered them with common sense and a clear understanding of the situation.

A few members of the audience stood to add their support and small suggestions to improve his idea.

The room was moving toward consensus, when another participant asked if the speaker was a Republican.

When he answered that he was a registered Democrat, the mood in the room changed.

A few argued with him (making the point that they were Republicans, which literally had nothing to do with the topic at hand).

This fueled anger among Democrats and within minutes the room was deeply divided.

The official running the meeting took the floor and pointed out to everyone that the man’s idea had been almost universally supported before his political affiliation was mentioned, and tried to get the group back to discussing the merits of the idea.

partypolitics 273x300 The Party System’s Newest FlawBut it was too late: the Republicans in the room now disliked his idea and the Democrats supported it.

Many had to change their minds to get to this point, but it seems that was easy once they knew which party he belonged to.

This kind of divisiveness is all too common.

Even online, many, perhaps most, American citizens who engage in political conversation limit themselves to groups where the other people agree with their views.

Few discussions on political topics are inclusive or open to learning from diverse perspectives.

Squabbles and Solutions

Fortunately, the solution to this starts at the ground level.

Each of us can listen to the views of people who disagree with us on politics.

I don’t know when the idea that discussing politics is impolite came into vogue, but it has only hurt our freedom and prosperity.

Right now, today, we can learn from other political views, not to debunk them immediately and angrily like most people do, but rather to really understand their point.

This is not the same as forgetting one’s beliefs—it is in fact the opposite process of strengthening one’s most important beliefs by increasing your understanding of the world.

A move to a European-style multiparty system is not the answer, since this would create a structure where the winner still runs the whole government but is usually a lot more extreme than moderate.

Ideally, America could adopt a non-partisan model like that suggested by many of the American framers.

The Constitution is actually designed for a nonparty system.

In the absence of a major shift to a nonpartisan model, the best reform to our system would be for more American citizens to ignore party spin and think independently—and openly listen to and learn from others who do the same, even if they disagree with your ideas.

We all have more to learn, and in fact significant political learning is more likely when we are listening to those whose views differ from the thoughts we’ve already had.

New ideas spark increased thinking, even when you disagree with the details.

Of course, people shouldn’t simply accept ideas they find problematic or wrong, but free citizens need to be good listeners and open-minded thinkers.

Such maturity is needed in any free society, and especially in one where ideological political parties dominate the discussion.

Our leaders, deeply mired in partisan squabbles, are unlikely to make this change, so it is up to regular Americans to take the lead in discussing and promoting needed solutions for many of our biggest challenges.

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odemille 133x195 custom The Party System’s Newest FlawOliver DeMille is a co-founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of Thomas Jefferson Education.

He is the co-author of the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestseller LeaderShift, and author of A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the 21st Century, and The Coming Aristocracy: Education & the Future of Freedom.

Oliver is dedicated to promoting freedom through leadership education. He and his wife Rachel are raising their eight children in Cedar City, Utah.

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World Stats

August 5th, 2011 // 9:57 am @

Sometimes a few statistics and quotes tell us a lot more than any commentary. Consider the following:

  • “Percentage by which a couple is likelier to divorce if one partner has a commute greater than 45 minutes: 40” (Harper’s, August 2011)
  • “Estimated percentage of the U.S. college class of 2011 who are moving back home after graduation: 85” (Harper’s, August 2011)
  • The average 2011 college graduate has $22,000 in student loan debt, even though jobs are especially scarce for this group. (The Huffington Post, July 2011)

    grand street texting 300x300 World Stats

    Image Source: AdvancePhotography.net

  • “On any given day, 1.6 million of us are blogging, 27 million are tweeting, and 1.5 billion are posting on Facebook. We’re emailing during meetings, texting during lectures, and talking on our cell phones as we tackle rush hour traffic.” (Spirituality & Health, July/August 2011)
  • Americans were asked in a poll who is the most trusted political journalist. The number one answer was, “Don’t Know,” and number two was, “None.” (Harper’s, August 2011)
  • More than half of Americans do not know the recession is over. (Harper’s, August 2011) Part of this is rooted in the way economists define growth and recession. It takes 2.5% growth in the economy just to keep up with the natural growth of the working population, and we haven’t seen 2.5% economic growth for some time. So even though we haven’t technically been in “recession” for over a year, we are still falling further and further behind.
  • “By 2010, [federal entitlement] payments to individuals were 66% of the federal budget, up from 28% in 1965. We now spend $2.1 trillion a year on these redistribution programs, and the 75 million baby boomers are only starting to retire.” (Wall Street Journal editorial, July 29, 2001; cited on Meet the Press, July 31, 2011.)
  • The real unemployment rate in July 2011 is over 20%, including those unemployed and underemployed. (The Huffington Post, July 2011)

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odemille 133x195 custom World StatsOliver DeMille is a co-founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of Thomas Jefferson Education.

He is the co-author of the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestseller LeaderShift, and author of A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the 21st Century, and The Coming Aristocracy: Education & the Future of Freedom.

Oliver is dedicated to promoting freedom through leadership education. He and his wife Rachel are raising their eight children in Cedar City, Utah.

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