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(06 Nov) 170901 Richard Wolff - Capitalism vs Socialism

The great radical historian Howard Zinn once told me, half in jest, that one of the greatest disasters to befall socialism was when the Soviet Union put it in the official name of the country: The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. I asked him to explain and he said, The USSR, which had little to do with socialism, it was an authoritarian state, wanted to capitalize on the almost universal good name that socialism had. And the capitalist countries played along by smearing socialism and conflating it with the USSR. If you expressed interest in socialism the response would be: "Why don't you move to a gulag in Siberia? Today, because of growing wealth and income inequality and the Bernie Sanders campaign, he got more than 13 million votes, there is a resurgence of interest in socialism. Many young people are fed up with predatory capitalism and are looking for alternatives. Worker-owned and operated coops are springing up. These initiatives can proliferate and grow. And as Howard Zinn always said, authentic socialism must be small "d" democratic.

Richard Wolff is Professor of Economics Emeritus at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst and currently a visiting professor at the New School in New York. The New York Times calls him "America's most prominent Marxist economist." He is the author of numerous books including Democracy at Work and Occupy the Economy with David Barsamian.

(13 Nov) 170902 Jonathan Kozol - Humanising Public Education

The Austrian-born economist Friedrich von Hayek may be intellectual godfather of neoliberalism: present-day right-wing economics. His book, The Road to Serfdom, is considered to be the bible of anti-government, free market ideas and the privatization of just about everything. From war to prisons, a core goal of neoliberalism is: Let the private sector do it. And there are few bigger targets than public education. The 50 million students who attend public schools are viewed as products and commodities. Under the banner of "choice," the regime in Washington, according to Diane Ravitch, noted NYU professor, wants "to shrink the Department of Education, with the ultimate goal of getting rid of it entirely." The neoliberals want cuts in the education budget for public schools and more taxpayer money to go to charter schools and to vouchers for private and religious schools.

For decades, as a public school teacher and author, Jonathan Kozol has documented inequities in the U.S. education system. He won the National Book Award for Death At An Early Age. His other books include Amazing Grace, Illiterate America and The Shame of the Nation.

(20 Nov) 170903 Cynthia Kaufman - Capitalism: Getting Past It

The present phase of capitalism is a great success story for the uber rich. Torrents of wealth flow overwhelmingly to a sliver of the population. Millennials in large numbers are seriously questioning the existing economic order. They are even willing to, hold your breath, consider a socialist alternative. The Bernie Sanders campaign made a huge impact on many young people and sparked interest in socialism. When millennials hear the term capitalism they think about Wall Street bailouts, corporate greed, off shore accounts, and a tax code riddled with loopholes for the well connected. For far too many the vaunted invisible hand feels like a death grip. Now is the time to think outside the box. As George Monbiot writes in The Guardian, "It's not enough to oppose a broken system. A coherent alternative has to be proposed."

Cynthia Kaufman is director of the Institute of Community and Civic Engagement at De Anza College in San Francisco, where she also teaches philosophy. She is the author of Getting Past Capitalism.

(27 Nov) 170904 Stephen Bezruchka - Making America Healthy Again

The U.S. pays more for health care than any other country yet has shamefully poor results. People are paying through the nose for their hospital stays, surgeries and prescription drugs. An MRI in the U.S. costs five times what it costs in Australia. Instead of quality affordable health care Americans are building absurdly expensive F-35s, submarines and aircraft carriers. And there is a cool trillion dollars for nuclear weapons. U.S. spending priorities are upside down. Every other industrialized country has universal health care. Since the 1970s surveys have shown most people in the U.S. want a single-payer, universal health care program. But Washington says: That's off the table. So even though the public wants it, our so-called representatives, except for Bernie Sanders and a few others, are not considering it. Maybe we should look to Slovenia for inspiration.

Stephen Bezruchka is Senior Lecturer in the Department of Global Health at the University of Washington. He worked for many years as an emergency physician in Seattle. His particular areas of research are population health and societal hierarchy. He has spent over 10 years in Nepal working in various health programs, and teaching in remote regions. He is author of numerous articles and essays. He is a contributor to Sickness and Wealth, a book on the effects of global corporatization on health.

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