This is the personal blog of Rick Staggenborg, MD. The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect the official positions of Take Back America for the People, an educational 501.c3 nonprofit established by Dr Staggenborg.

Feel free to reproduce any blogs by Dr Staggenborg without prior permission, as long as they are unedited and posted or printed with attribution and a link to the website.

For other blogs, please contact the author for permission.

Friday, November 30, 2012


With massive unemployment touching off riots and international strikes in Europe, the failures of unregulated predatory capitalism have become obvious. Those who benefit from an economic system that is on the verge of collapse have no answers because they refuse to consider the possibility that the system that has worked so well for them can be fundamentally flawed.  Even those leaders in government who are earnestly looking for ways to create wider prosperity do not question the basic assumptions of a system that will inevitably self-destruct. The time for reforming the system is over. Given the realities of demographics, it must be completely restructured.

The world population recently reached 7 billion. The population of Africa alone is projected to double in 40 years. If we continue to assume that prosperity depends on endless economic growth based on consumption, it is clear that we will run out of many essential resources long before then. We are already seeing prices of staple foods soar as investors cash in on the food commodities market. Water is being privatized throughout the world, threatening access to this most basic of all resources necessary to sustain life. Is air next?

The world’s population is not increasing uniformly. While developing nations see an initial dramatic rise in birthrates as living standards rise, birthrates inevitably fall in developed nations. This drop in birthrate is the reason for the aging population in the US and other wealthy nations. That is the major factor leading to fears that Social Security and Medicare will become insolvent. Both programs depend on contributions from today’s workers to stay solvent. As fewer young people are made to pay for increasing numbers of retirees, the system will collapse without fundamental changes. Politicians in both parties in the US are unwilling to consider these because it would involve sacrifice on the part of the wealthy donor class that determines who gets campaign funding.

A just economy that takes into account shifting demographics as nations become developed will have to find new ways to assure that everyone who is capable of working has an opportunity to do so. In a democracy, we can choose to do this. We can also choose to ensure that everyone's basic needs are met. Given the many essential functions of a society, those that are less desirable should pay more than a living wage, and jobs that produce nothing of use should pay less. If all the parasite class of financiers care about is accumulating wealth, let them spend their days playing computerized games in the stock market and running up their scores in electronic bank accounts, but isolate them from the real economy.

The solution to the austerity "crisis" in the US is not to tear at the social safety net, but to invest in it. Funding Social Security indefinitely is a simple matter of making the rich pay into the fund on every dollar they make, just as those who work for a living do. Then the retirement age can be lowered to 55, rather than raised. This will free up jobs that younger people can take, assured that they too will have a retirement fund when it is their time to enjoy the fruits of a life's labor while they still have time to.

If wealth were fairly distributed, no one need work more than 20 hours per week to meet all the needs of society. The rest of the time could be devoted to self-fulfillment for those who choose to use it that way. Volunteering to help those who need it, studying and teaching, creating art, nourishing the spirit, spending time with family and friends; all these enrich society as well as the individual. Love and work are the only two things that give life real meaning. Those who choose to waste their lives on hedonistic pursuits or meaningless work can do so, but they are to be pitied.

We are witnessing the end result of a system based on the idea that some may prosper while others starve. The endless quest for wealth and power for some has led to the working class in America and Europe feeling the pain of economic injustice most of the world has long taken for granted. While citizens of wealthy nations believe they profit only by virtue of hard work, prosperity has actually depended in large part on control of the resources of other nations, oil being only the most obvious example. The idea that one can only profit from the loss of another is the essence of the zero-sum game. In a planet of finite resources, an ever-expanding number of players assures that in the end, no one wins.

The only way out of the trap we have laid for ourselves is to conceive an economy where all basic needs are met and each of us has a chance to succeed. Such an economy would be based on principles of sustainability, including conversion to renewable, nonpolluting sources of energy. To ensure sustainability, the means of voluntary birth control would be available to all. In such a world water, food, housing, health care education and even electrical energy would all be available as a birthright. Collectively we have the wealth. The problem is that the system is set up to allow it to accumulate in the hands of a few even as world population continues to grow at a dangerous rate.

If we continue to value individual property rights over the survival of society as a whole, civilization will self-destruct. The only alternative to working together to build a just world society is to allow those in power to continue to amass the power and wealth that will enable them to reduce the population by any means they see fit when the rest of us become too great a burden.  War, pandemic disease complicated by lack of access to health care, man-made environmental catastrophes and starvation are all threats to humanity and are inevitable in the current system.

The struggle against austerity in developed nations is one in which the rest of the world has been engaged throughout modern history. Nowhere has it been more apparent than in Africa, where North America’s original enslaved people came from. They have struggled to survive in nations under colonial control, ruled by cruel overseers of an Empire that has grown to now encompass most of the world. We must stand with them or we will all become economic slaves in the New World Order. We are all Africans now.

Thursday, November 22, 2012


Members of Congress argue that the only way out of the debt they created is to impose austerity measures that target the social safety net provided by Medicare and Social Security. These are the primary protections against the depredations of a system that puts the interests of the rich over those of ordinary citizens. Their proposed solution to the problem of their own making is to protect the wealthy individuals who fund their campaigns and neglect the needs of the people who actually elected them. While this strategy is provoking riots and international strikes in Europe, many Americans accept this as a sensible solution. They fail to understand some basic facts.

The debt that the US has accumulated since the Reagan years is the result of a system of corporate welfare that has left the American and world economy in a shambles. Both parties have promoted globalization, shifting jobs to third world nations. They have given tax breaks to corporations and “job creators” who ship these jobs overseas, deregulated banks that taxpayers had to bail out and privatized essential government functions to profited corporations by degrading services and making them more expensive, all to maximum profits for the investor class.

The real reason for the debt “crisis” is that the US government has deeply indebted taxpayers to private banks, promoting private profits over investment in the social and economic infrastructure that made America great in the first place. In Iceland, they threw out those in Parliament responsible for transferring  private debt to taxpayers and prosecuted the banksters who took illegal advantage of their privileged position. Instead of passively assuming the debt their government tried to foist on them, they repudiated much of the debt that had been assumed in their name. We can do the same here, but only by first ending the ability of special interests to buy members of Congress of their choice by financing their elections.

A look at changing US demographics shows that unregulated capitalism will inevitably fail. Developed nations always see a drop in birthrate as women are empowered to have more control over their bodies and to participate in the economy. This means that over time, a smaller and younger work force has to generate the tax base necessary to fund essential government functions and to assure that retirees have the security afforded by Social Security and Medicare. This is the reason that we are in a real crisis with Medicare. Baby Boomers are retiring in record numbers at the same time that a generation of young Americans are facing the most dismal job prospects in American history. It is unconscionable that older Americans expect their grandchildren to provide for their retirements while denying them the opportunities that allowed them to prosper during their working lives.

It will take an entirely new economic model to move the country forward and assure that our children can enjoy the American dream. We must elect leaders who will challenge the system of corporate welfare that is bankrupting the nation. We can then have an honest debate about how and why making Medicare universally available will dramatically cut the costs of healthcare, eliminate 60% of bankruptcies and assure that no one need choose between food and necessary health care. They can also fix Social Security easily by removing the cap on the FICA tax so that the rich pay their fair share.

We also have to realize that no economy can be built on the idea of endless growth. The resources of the planet are finite. If we expect human civilization to survive the coming global climate catastrophe we are beginning to see in Sandy, Katrina and a unprecedented number of other major storms, we must create an environmentally sustainable economy by promoting local production of food and goods, converting to sustainable energy sources and reducing carbon emissions through tax incentives. This will require that those who have profited in this collapsing economy pay their fair share. The Bush tax cuts must be allowed to expire and corporate tax cuts need to be tied to job creation. We cannot afford to give highly profitable corporations like Exxon and General Electric to reap billions in tax rebates while average Americans lose their homes.

To make Congress accountable to We the People, we must make them pledge to support amending the constitution to ban corporate campaign expenditures, limit individual donations to influence elections and abolish corporate personhood. It is too late to make this a campaign issue in 2012 but not too early to begin making it an issue in 2014.

You can learn more about the Pledge to Amend campaign here.