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Social Policy Analysis, SPSS
Thursday, 22/10/2015
Social Security and Fertility of the Young Adult Population
Topic: Social Security
I. Social Security programs:

The following social security programs have supporting trust funds to provide the mandated payments: Old-Age and Survivors, and Disability Insurance (OASDI).  The other programs are considered Pay as you go as are many European retirement  programs.  For this reason and also the extensive range of recipient coverage, the issue of solvency for the trust funds is often debated.
II. Origin of Old Age and Survivors Insurance

During the depression, the savings of many elderly were lost as banks closed.  Two movements were sparked by their impoverishment, the Robert Townsend and Huey Long’s “Chicken in every pot!”  In response, the Roosevelt administration worked on a support program that was intended to pass a Conservative Congress and Supreme Court while also heading off the demands of Long and Townsend.  A major goal was the removal of older workers from the labor force so that younger workers could find work.  The Administration  packaged old age pensions with unemployment compensation to establish self-financed (Trust Fund) programs for obvious financial needs and it was passed in August,1935. [Paul Kennedy, Freedom from Fear, p. ]

III. The Current Actuarial Situation of the OASI Trust Fund

Once all earners were paying taxes to the Trust Fund, its funding was secure with a large number of tax payers relative to elderly recipients.  According to the chief actuary of the Social Security Administration:

“ Currently, fund assets are exhausted without reform, benefits will necessarily be lowered with no effect. The Social Security Board of Trustees projects program cost to rise by 2035 so that taxes will be enough to pay for only 75 percent of scheduled benefits. This increase in cost results from population aging, not because we are living longer, but because birth rates dropped from three to two children  per woman. Importantly, this shortfall is basically stable after 2035; adjustments to taxes or benefits that offset the effects of the lower birth rate may restore solvency for the Social Security program on a sustainable basis for the foreseeable future.”[Stephen C. Goss, Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 70 # 3, 2010]

The chart first makes a distinction that includes infant mortality, a statistic that was reduced in later years.  Therefore the fertility trends from 1935 on are the significant indicators of parental willingness to bear children.  The fertility rate for the fifties and sixties were more than sufficient to provide new workers that could support the previous generation.  Subsequently, there was a sharp decline which is the basis for the actuarial conclusion that tax revenues would be insufficient to support the claimants for benefits by the year 2037. The following graph summarizes these data: Period    Average TFR      Adjusted TFR 
1875–1925 3.67 2.85 
1926–1965 2.84 2.69 
1966–1990 1.99 1.95 
1991–2003 2.01 1.99
SOURCE: Social Security Administration, Office of the Chief Actuary.
NOTE: TFR = total fertility rate.
Table 1.Annual average total U.S. fertility rates with and without adjustment for survival to age 10, various periods, 1875–2003 7.There do not appear to be individual studies to confirm that such programs influence the birth decision.Some observers have suggested that the degree to which public programs provide day care, family leave, etc. assist and assure would be parents that they will be able to adequately raise and take care of children while others question whether such program influence birth decision.  In France, nearly all children ages 3 to 5 attend free pre-primary school. Free after-school care is also widely available. Children under 3 can be placed in nurseries or in the homes of licensed baby sitters. Teams of doctors and nurses visit regularly to inspect centers and check on the health of the children, and parents pay according to income. There are also subsidized day-care centers.  Certainly the programs of other low fertility countries are likely to be adequate.  Either way one could argue that the importance of the next generation for sustaining a SS/retirement system outweighs the employment or other taxes that currently fund the benefits.
There have been other proposals to improve the distribution of benefits: 1. capping benefits for high earners; 2. Counting other source of income; 3. Increase “homemaker” credits for parents who interrupt careers to care for their children; 4. Included more earnings years in benefit calculations; 5. Adjust COLA lower; 6. Tax 401k/health insurance benefits; and  7. Adjust eligibility ages.  Given the importance of  fertility and the child-rearing efforts that go with it, I chose to focus on that issue and the feasibility of providing social security credits for stay-at-home parenting and other such activities that conflict with work and cause one to lose income.  While the association has not been proven statistically, 
There was one interesting effort to evaluate the effects of tax rate increases in PAYG systems.  It found that it depresses fertility levels by reducing decisions to marry[Ehrlich & Kim].   Any attempt to meet fund shortfalls by taxing the earners has this negative effect in trust fund systems as well for the obvious reason that it reduces family resources often at the time when the decision to marry and/or have children so that result would be predictable.  I found no research that assessed the effects of enhanced payments at retirement.  Moreover, I am unfamiliar with any policy change that does this.
Explanation of the CIA world fertility table
The most obvious pattern in these country-by-country data is the high fertility rate of underdeveloped countries in both Africa and elsewhere.  Therefore, I am focusing on more developed countries in Europe.  There we find some variance in fertility from France, the US,  Iceland, ranging from just above 2.08 and two per woman down to Belgium, Russia, Germany, Italy, etc. at 1.42 per woman.  These differences cannot be related easily to development level although an influx from high fertility societies could skew the numbers.  However, I will now try to relate such differences to culture and government policy as a possible means to bolster social security and other forms of retirement payments.  Much of the attention on fertility in Europe has centered on France as one of the highest rates of a developed country.  .  
In Boldrin and Jones’ framework parents procreate because the children will care about their parents’utility, and thus provide their parents with financial support .  In the Barro and Becker model  parents have children because they perceive their children’s lives as a continuation of their own. This value is not influenced by future financial benefits.  In the Boldrin and Jones’ framework parents procreate because the children care about their old parents’ utility, and thus provide them with support.   They also note the contributions of the older generation in raising children and help out when able.  They concluded that  a social security system financed with a tax on labor income may lead to an increase in fertility when the cost of raising children consists mostly of time. This does not address time that does not allow for work or career. 
Generally, however, large scale national level studies of relationships find little or even a negative relationship to pension sizes.  
However when we can examine the financial circumstances of today’s millennials we can find specific financial issues that delay marriage and family; viz. student loan  debt.  A recent ASA sponsored survey released a report of findings as follows: 
29% indicated that they have put off marriage as a result of their student loans;
43% said that student debt has delayed their decision to start a family. [ ASA American Student Assistance]
While this study was not a “true sample” when it is combined with what is known about the strains of repaying student loan debt.  It should be considered likely to impact fertility in subsequent generations–especially when we add in proprietary schools.  Any decline in fertility will create financial issues involving the OAS trust fund by shortening the solvency period below 2037 AD.
The future needs to be compared to present day issues in which those-male or female- who become primary care-givers and reduce hours, move to less demanding employment or drop out of the labor force will be obliged by their lower earnings to accept survivor’s benefits at half the amount of the full time worker you are linked to.  If they are single mothers and/or ineligible for spousal or survivor benefits they are likely to have nothing.  Their part-time work is also unlikely to offer health care or pensions.
Proposed reforms to properly credit those who lose income and social security due to child rearing responsibilities. This is a subjective evaluation that the SSA is not designed to do.  Birth dates and age are objective and do not have to be evaluated.  Wage tax receipts have been received.  Then benefits are awarded.   Moreover how do we consider the contributions of next generation dependent s who were raised during this period.  However, even with no change in benefits, we should appreciate the importance of child rearing for the future of the SS trust fund on the part of the next generation of workers.
Gender inequity is very evident in one’s social security entitlement.  Having been able to work for their entire career, men receive much higher payments.  Women who have had to take care of aging relatives or children either have significant time out of the workforce or restricted to low paying part-time employment.  The average female retiree on Social Security gets a monthly benefit $300 smaller than the average male retiree. Because retirement benefits are tied to average lifetime earnings, and women have tended to earn less than men, the average monthly Social Security retirement benefit is $1,023 for women, $1,323 for men. The difference -- $300 - is about what the average American household spends on groceries per month.  Women accounted for 56 percent of Social Security beneficiaries in 2010.

Posted by murphbil at 1:15 PM EDT
Sunday, 13/10/2013
Government Welfare Programs and Social Integration
Topic: Social security reform
1. Social/Economic Integration
Underclass, Lower Class, Poor, Underpriveleged

Economic vs. Sociological Perspectives

Employment vs.  Cultural Values vs.  Government Policy
2. Economists build; Sociologists rehabilitate
a. Milton Friedman recalled traveling to an Asian country in the 1960s and visiting a worksite where a new canal was being built. He was shocked to see that, instead of modern tractors and earth movers, the workers had shovels. He asked why there were so few machines. The government bureaucrat explained: “You don’t understand. This is a jobs program.” To which Milton replied: “Oh, I thought you were trying to build a canal. If it’s jobs you want, then you should give these workers spoons, not shovels.”
3. Depression -New Deal
a. WPA -Works Progress Administration
i. 8.5 million -infrastructure, arts, social service
b. CCC -Civilian Conservation Corps
i. 3 million -soil conservation, forestry, parks
ii. 10 % or 250,000 were Black and segregated
c. NYA -National Youth Administration
i. 300 thousand -local construction, repair
d. ADC -Aid to Dependent Children
i. Restricted to widows; no divorced or unwed
4. New Deal Program Outcomes
a. Program Participants proceeded to populate military and civilian economy after 1939
b. Experience was a point of pride to participants
c. Programs required 10 % Black participation in segregated units
d. Private sector discrimination limited opportunity
e. Most lived in the South before WW II
5. Anti-Poverty/Workforce Training
a. Anti-poverty program Community Action Agencies
b. Self-help programs plus employment training
c. Revised as Job Partnership Training Programs in 80's
d. Training linked to skilled manufacturing trades
e. During this period manufacturing plants closed and production moved offshore
6. Culture of Poverty/Shadow Values
a. Present time orientation/future goals and education
b. Deficient work ethic/drift
c. Violence and addiction
d. Deficient family commitment/sexual exploitation
e. helplessness, dependency, marginal, powerless
7. Underclass/Unemployed
a. Fact of underemployment and inability to support family
b. Evident failure to succeed in employment/family
c. Shadow values to “compensate” for failure
i. Sexual exploitation
ii. Unwilling to submit to authority
iii. Physical violence to defend honor
8. Charles Murray -Coming Apart
a. Culture of Poverty has increased among all groups
i. Higher percentage of female heads of household
ii. Lower percentage of permanently employed males
iii. Value preferences not economic circumstance
b. Entitlement/welfare programs encourage the culture
c. Provide alternative income sources requiring no work
i. Welfare Assistance from AFDC to TANF require certification by professional caseworkers
ii. SSI and OASDI programs require initial certification of disability by social security
iii. No conditions for continued assistance (till death)
9. Causal Linkages in the Underclass Debate
10. The Urban Underclass

11. Social Security -OASDI/SSI
a. Social Security Disability -OASDI
b. Supplemental Security Insurance -SSI
c. 1980 -2.3 % of working-age population increased to 4.7% in 2011
i. 2.6 million beneficiaries in 84 to 6.2 million in 04
d. 44 % of increases due to benefit increases and changes in qualifications for mental illness and pain
i. Disability Insurance qualifies for Medicare
ii. Supplemental Security Insurance for Medicaid
12. Sorting out the Positions
a. Culture of Poverty -increased single mother families
i. In 2000, 11% of children with never married single parent
ii. In 2010 41% of births to unmarried women
b. Employment opportunity -Decreased employment opportunities for males without diplomas
i. 5 million decline in manufacturing 1982 -2002
ii. 22 % decrease(1996 dollars) in the adjusted minimum wage
c. Entitlement programs as alternative income sources
i. 30 % increase in disability awards since 2008
13. References
a. Mark Duggan, Scott A. Imberman, “Why Are the Disability Rolls Skyrocketing?”
b. Eliot Liebow, Tally’s Corner
c. Oscar Lewis, Five Families and Children of Sanchez
d. Charles Murray, Coming Apart
e. Christopher Jencks and Paul Peterson(eds.), The Urban Underclass
f. William Julius Wilson, “Public Policy Research and The Truly Disadvantaged”
g. Nick Taylor, American Made: The Enduring Legacy of the WPA
h. Neil M. Maher, Nature’s New Deal: The Civilian Conservation Corps.
i. CBS 60 Minutes/Steve Kroft, “Disability USA”,

Posted by murphbil at 11:22 PM EDT
Updated: Sunday, 13/10/2013 11:31 PM EDT
Monday, 25/10/2010
Manufacturing and the Economic Crisis
Now Playing: It's the factory; not the house
    Our current economic crisis may have been precipitated by the end of the housing bubble but its fundamental cause is the off-shoring of one manufacturing industry after another.  This has been developing since 1979 but has accelerated in the last 10 years.  During the last decade many of these jobs were replaced by construction and finance positions but this demand was fueled by the financial manipulations of Wall Street.  Even if home buyers could afford new houses, many of those who had purchased their old one may have required “creative” financing to complete the purchase.  In addition, artificial increases to real estate values increased local government/public education tax revenues and second mortgages fueled consumer spending.  Commercial real estate development also contributed.
      Meanwhile, the shutdown and offshore migration of American industry continued unabated.  High and low tech plants closed in both urban and rural areas.  Whereas Carnegie, Rockefeller, and Ford made their fortunes creating large productive industries, many of today’s million/billionaires found financial riches in taking over industries with well-paid American workforces, shutting down the American factories, replacing them with offshore production, and pocketing the difference in wages and benefits.  Financial manipulations with no substantive economic basis created many fortunes as well.  While the abandoned industrial plants are very obvious in urban areas, deindustrialization has been particularly destructive in rural areas because factories were often a significant economic base for these communities.
    We cannot go back to the economy as it existed just before the 2008 economic collapse.  It had been sustained primarily by credit.  Rather, we must find some way to rebuild manufacturing to the extent necessary to gainfully employ all Americans.  We may be unable to manufacture ipads and cell phones at competitive prices but there are many industries that could be rebuilt by using the same policies used in Asia to take them from us.  At lower technical levels, there is no reason why Pennsylvania hardwood shipped to Asia cannot be used in restoring furniture manufacturing here.  The energy tax credits for wind and solar power could be restricted to products that have mostly American content.  Whenever we identify a threatened industry or company, we can provide whatever assistance needed to maintain it in its current location.  If a manufacturing plant has survived the 30-year onslaught from foreign imports, it must have resources that would render it competitive in our markets.  When we preserve consumer goods production, we also support suppliers of the manufacturing equipment that it requires.  By throughly studying the manufacturing economy, we can surely recreate enough employment that will not only restore jobs but also check our economic decline.
    Long term we may work with South Korea, Japan, and Singapore because they have significant technological and engineering assets without a large population base that must be employed in industrial production.  If they can be encouraged to preserve American markets by moving some portion of industrial production here, then employment will also be enhanced.  

Posted by murphbil at 7:25 AM EDT
Saturday, 28/06/2008
Preserving Honor: Nixon-1970 and Bush-2007

Right Wing Rhetoric and Kenneth Burke
William F. Murphy, Ph. D.

Sociology has long been interested in ideologies as a causal agent in social change.  If we include religious beliefs we go back to Max Weber as our classic model.  Yet the academic focus on ideology as a set of beliefs about an ideal society and evaluation of the existing social order could not adequately explain ideology as a motivator for social change.  One need only look at the policy debates today to see why.  We use the term “policy wonk” to describe those who engage in such debates.  Wonkishness and German academia was a deadly combination.  What was lacking in this approach was an awareness of the drama that defined the political struggles toward realizing the ideologically defined goals.  This is the contribution that KB makes to the sociology of ideology.  Rather than an ideal society, it is a goal in which the appropriate actors create a scene that reflects their ideal characteristics.  Instead of a class/group/stratum of people advantaged by the existing social order, we have a group of actors with malevolent motives and characteristics who oppose transition to the new ideal order.  We find yourself today in a battle of dramas in which characters who are good or bad struggle politically to determine the outcome of minor inns and or significant battles whether it be the war on Christmas healthcare or to end that war in Iraq.  In these struggles the heroes represent the right values and the opponents have characteristics of resentment and hatred that lead them to oppose these values.
    Burke discussed the imagery of identity and transformation in a poetic and literary context.  The writer might identify an undesirable trait in oneself and endow some "outward enemy" with that trait.  Then in overcoming the enemy, the writer has transformed the identity of the protagonist.  The character attributes of the nation and its people are personified, the figure of speech in which an object is represented as having human attributes and addressed as if it were human.  While personification could apply to any role, organization, or stratum of society, the terms is best applied in those instances in which personal attributes of the nation or people are highlighted by the contention that its character is at stake.  In this argument, the nation, like any individual, has a reputation to maintain and defend.  

This indeed may be the rhetoric but the actual intent is to preserve the faith and trust of loyal consituents given a policy that may well ruin lives and fail to achieve demonstrable benefit to the nation.  It is well known that the fate of South Vietnam was the ignominious fall of Saigon after the US refused to intervene again.  What is often ignored is that the Communists did not end up in Hawaii as predicted and the only countries invaded by the victorious North were Communist China and Pol Pot's Cambodia. Nevertheless, the rhetoric has retained credibility for many over time so that similar rhetorical symbolism can be invoked under totally different circumstances 37 years later.

In the political rhetoric of Nixon the most striking metonym was that of the United States as a "pitiful, helpless, giant".  This transformation in the national identity of the United States would occur if he failed to respond to North Vietnam's use of Cambodian territory.  Domestic opponents were linked to the Communist world by the term, "forces of totalitarianism and anarchy."   Thus a validation of a national identity as strong and resolute is maintained by linking opposition to the enemy and acting against it. In the Rhetoric of Motives, he analyzes the implications of identification and identity transformation in rhetoric [p.12].  The rhetorical identification by negation was defined in the Rhetoric of Religion with respect to proscribed actions.  In other words in stating, "you are not", one means "Thou shalt not" [p.20].
With the myriad of media sources, today’s political discourse more closely corresponds more closely to Burke’s image of the barnyard of rhetorical discourse.  The stream of events produces an apparent complicated array of proposals and policies that seemingly defy order and logical consistency.  Yet there are consistent patterns which can best be analyzed through dramatism, which is ideally suited to the “barnyard.”  The pentad of scene, actor, act, agency, and motive can be used to construct scripts that are accepted by an audience and repeated in new variations on the same theme.   The rhetoric of Iraq and the New Right in many ways follows the same scripts used during the Vietnam war.  Consider, for example, two speeches: 1) the 1970s speech by Nixon announcing the invasion of Cambodia and the 2007 speech by Bush announcing the surge.  One need only compare the G. W. Bush in 2005 with Nixon in 1970.  Bush asserted:
“Our nation is being tested in a way that we have not been since the start of the cold war. . .If we do not defeat these enemies now, we will leave our children to face a Middle East overrun by terrorist states and radical dictators armed with nuclear weapons. We are in a war that will set the course for this new century, and determine the destiny of millions across the world.
And Nixon in 1970:                                
But if the enemy response to our most conciliatory offers for peaceful negotiation continues to be to increase its attacks and humiliate and defeat us, we shall react accordingly. . . .  My fellow Americans, we live in an age of anarchy, both abroad and at home. We see mindless attacks on all the great institutions which have been created by free civilizations in the last 500 years.”    
If, when the chips are dawn, the world's most powerful nation, the United States of America, acts like a pitiful, helpless giant, the forces of totalitarianism and anarchy will threaten free nations and free institutions throughout the world.

Indeed, North Vietnam and Communist countries have been replaced by the axis of evil/al Quaida, the silent majority by Americans who support the troops, Nixon by Bush, and the anti-war hippies by liberal  However, the rhetorical characterization of the actors and their motives resonate and provide meaning to some “conservative” audience.  Starting with Burke’s pentad, I included Joseph Gusfield’s study of how opponents are characterized in social movements (Prohibition), Jurgen Habermas on technocratic language, and Holsti on enemies.         
What is evident in political discourse is the continuing development and evolution of political scripts.  These scripts characterize actors, acts, and scenes in such a way that they are credible to some political audience.  Once accepted the same logic is applied to new derivations of the same script.  At the same time we can describe situations in which alternative scripts gain credence and become more credible to others in the audience.  If one watches cable news, one can identify the following script:

The right wing view:
Scene: Imminent terrorist threat to America and Americans
Actors: Leaders who perceive the threat and act forcefully against terrorists
    Brave soldiers who sacrifice in order to stop terrorists
    [2005] Terrorist enemies who seek to bring down the US and kill Americans
    [1970] International Communism seeking world domination
[2005 and 1970]Weak unpatriotic liberals who disrespect soldiers and are more concerned with the rights of terrorists than the threats they pose.
The liberal view:                        
Scene: Hostile sectors of Islamic World support Al Quaida elements to commit terrorist acts.

Actors: Leaders who negotiate with Muslim world to develop common cause against Jihadists.      

Bush/2005 v. Nixon/1970
{The Nation]
Bush:  “Our nation is being tested in a way that we have not been since the start of the cold war. . .If we do not defeat these enemies now, we will leave our children to face a Middle East overrun by terrorist states and radical dictators armed with nuclear weapons. We are in a war that will set the course for this new century, and determine the destiny of millions across the world.”
Nixon:  ”But if the enemy response to our most conciliatory offers for peaceful negotiation continues to be to increase its attacks and humiliate and defeat us, we shall react accordingly.

[The leader]
Bush: “Yet America has confronted evil before, and we have defeated it - sometimes at the cost of thousands of good men in a single battle. When Franklin Roosevelt vowed to defeat two enemies across two oceans, he could not have foreseen D-Day and Iwo Jima - but he would not have been surprised at the outcome. When Harry Truman promised American support for free peoples resisting Soviet aggression, he could not have foreseen the rise of the Berlin Wall - but he would not have been surprised to see it brought down. Throughout our history, America has seen liberty challenged. And every time, we have seen liberty triumph with sacrifice and determination.

Nixon: If, when the chips are dawn, the world's most powerful nation, the United States of America, acts like a pitiful, helpless giant, the forces of totalitarianism and anarchy will threaten free nations and free institutions throughout the world.”
“. . .Whether I may be a one-term President is insignificant compared to whether by our failure to act in this crisis the United States proves itself to be unworthy to lead the forces of freedom in this critical period in world history. I would rather be a one-term President and do what I believe is right than to be a two-term President at the cost of seeing America become a second-rate power and to see this Nation accept the first defeat in its proud 190-year history.”

[The fighting men]
Bush: “I met a proud mom named Rose Ellen Dowdell. She was there to watch her son Patrick accept his commission in the finest Army the world has ever known. A few weeks earlier, Rose Ellen had watched her other son, James, graduate from the Fire Academy in New York City. On both these days, her thoughts turned to someone who was not there to share the moment: her husband, Kevin Dowdell. Kevin was one of the 343 firefighters who rushed to the burning towers of the World Trade Center on September the 11th - and never came home. His sons lost their father that day, but not the passion for service he instilled in them. Here is what Rose Ellen says about her boys, "As a mother, I cross my fingers and pray all the time for their safety. But as worried as I am, I'm also proud. And I know their dad would be too."

Nixon: “I ask for your support for our brave men fighting tonight halfway around the world-not for territory-not for glory-but so that their younger brothers and their sons and your sons can have a chance to grow up in a world of peace and freedom and justice.”

    Not only individuals but also collectivities such as the “A merican people,” “silent majority,” and the “axis of evil” are actors in political rhetoric.  Burke’s pentad allows us to identify the components of a script and then compare the characterizations of scene, actor, act, agency or means, and purpose or motive.      Burke's concept of the entelechy defines a meaningful relationship between actor, scene, act, and agency such that characterizations of scene, actor, and act resonate as scripts so as to have meaning for the audience.  Contemporary media driven "scripts" focus on the actor and then characterize the scene and acts/policies to fit that of the actor.  Right wing characterizations center on macho, heroic, physically dynamic, patriotic, and religious actors.  Their policies and actions are characterized so as to reinforce the actor.  Similarly the scene is interpreted in like manner.  Therefore any analysis has to look at the mechanisms by which scene and act are characterized so as to logically follow from the motives or the actor.  

Kenneth Burke and Sociology

In order to understand current political rhetorics there are additional concepts that should be added to a dramatistic analysis of the characterizations utilized in speeches, books, and media accounts.  They include the following:

1. Altercasting(Goffman):  the characterization of domestic opponents and foreign adversaries that are defined in such a way as to logically establish one’s own identity.
2. Technocratic legitimacy(Habermas):  the depersonalized characterization of acts such that personal motives and characteristics are absent.  Policy wonks are most likely to use these scripts.  Cable news would deem impersonal policy evaluations to be a sure way to kill their ratings.  Their audience would find such stories to be lacking in the emotional sustenance that confirms their preferred self image.
3. Identity validation: the act demonstrates the character of the actor.

Social movements:  The process of mobilizing large populations on behalf of a cause requires a dramatic view of the scene and relevant actors so that the actions of the audience will appear as an appropriate response.  Gusfield and Edelman have shown how the rhetoric and ideology have formed an awareness of group characteristics so that large numbers are mobilized to act on behalf of a cause.    
    Reading Kenneth Burke leaves one with a sense of having discovered a new means for the analysis of social action.  However, for any sociologist steeped in the positivist tradition, it is very difficult to delineate concepts and definitions which can be used in empirical studies.  My previous interest was to extract conceptual categories from the Grammar of Motives and the Rhetoric of Motives to facilitate the analysis of political rhetoric and/or politically related news stories.  The categories could also be applied to any type of cultural product that is amenable to content analysis.
    In the Grammar of Motives Burke outlines the five aspects of a drama, Scene, Actor, Act, Agency, and Purpose(motive).  He then discusses various logical requirements for consistency between scene, agent, and act which he refers to as ratios.  The cases which he analyzes are largely from philosophy or literature.  Marxism and behaviorism are included.  Perspectives based on idealism are associated with agency and purpose because they posit mental characteristics (motives) as the grounds for action.  Materialism and positivism are associated with scenic characterizations because of the emphasis on impersonal causes.
    To explain the rhetorical consistency between scene, agent, and act, he develops such concepts as motivational constitution, metonymy, identity transformation, mystification, and hortatory negation.  Motivational constitution refers to the rhetorical situating of motives in the scene of the act.  Metonymy refers to the reduction of motives to the agent.  In the Rhetoric of Motives, he analyzes the implications of identification and identity transformation in rhetoric.  Mystification--following Marx and Bentham--referred to the referring of motives to ultimate principles rather than partisan or class interests.  The rhetorical identification by negation was defined in the Rhetoric of Religion [p.20] with respect to proscribed actions.  In other words in stating, "you are not", one means "Thou shalt not".
    A number of sociologists have drawn upon Burke.  C. Wright Mills in the article, "Situated Acts and a Vocabulary of Motives" referred to Burke's analysis of motives as public statements about agents.  Symbolic interactionists were drawn to the dramatic pentad (scene, agent, act, agency, and purpose) as a general frame of reference.  This approach inspired Joseph Gusfield and Peter Hall.  Hall linked Burke's perspective to that of Murray Edelman concerning political language and symbolism.
    In addition Burke's insights have parallels in attribution theory and mass media research.  The social psychological concern with whether persons attribute acts to situational constraints or personal motives of the individual correspond closely to Burke's scene-agent ratio.  The greatest contribution from mass media research lies in the analysis of how "enemies" are described.  
    Despite the extensive influence that Burke has had, one finds few references to specific ideas other than the pentad, the concept of motive, and his definition of "secular prayer."  My own reaction to his work was a strong impression that he had redefined how we should view social reality.  However, I also found it very difficult to delineate specific ideas as potential hypotheses for further research.  From  the extent and nature of their references to Burke, I believe many other sociologists had a similar reaction.  
    Burke's critical insight concerns the rhetorical process by which definitions of the scene are made consistent with characterization of the actor and the act.  He labels this the scene/agent/act ratio.  In this context, the pentad can be reduced to a triad of scene, agent, and act.  The last two aspects, agency and purpose(or motive)meld into scene and agent respectively.  From this perspective we can observe and analyze a variety of cultural phenomena such as the following:  TV sit-coms scripts, televised or printed news stories, political speeches and ads, the professional ideologies in education and social work, and even sociological theories.  
    One can identify sociological, anthropological, and social psychological theories with useful concepts and theories that are equivalent to the dramatistic pentad.  The objects of analysis are properly defined as cultural, as any objectification of social interaction.  They could be typical explanations or interpretations of activities or individual acts, fictional stories in print or on television, political rhetoric or political news stories, legal statements which interpret criminal acts or charges of defendant violations of one's rights, or even theories or philosophies which deal with human behavior.  Any of these cultural phenomena would involve specification of the characteristics of individual actors and definitions of the scenes in which they act.  Burke's concept of the ratio argues that characteristics of actors and their actions must be consistent with definitions of the scene.  
    These cultural data are organized in a dramatic structure which can be analyzed using Burke's frame of reference and the concept of ratio.  As Burke states: "From the motivational point of view, there is implicit in the quality of a scene the quality of the action that is to take place within it.  This would be another way of saying that the act will be consistent with the scene"[Burke, Grammar of Motives, p. 7]  Similarly scenes and agents can reflect a synecdochic relation in which one is reduced to statements about the other.  He goes on to interpret historical labels on such periods as the Elizabethan period and the romantic era as defining the scene by properties which are associated with agents.  
    These ratios manifest his acute sensitivity to the subtleties of language in characterizing individuals or the scenic environment in which they act.  However, I do not feel the term, ratio, conveys the sense of logical structure which his analysis provides.  I would prefer the term for the rhetorical syllogism, enthymeme.  In the dramatic context, the script contains premises concerning the scene and agent which lead logically to the definition or characterization of the act.  If we are to analyze the script and determine its structure, we must be able to delineate these premises and show their relationship to the characterization of the act.  
    It is my belief that if we utilize Burke's dramatistic methodology to analyze rhetoric, media, ideology, etc., we will find standard scripts which change over time but nonetheless show commonalities in the characterization of scenes and agents.  Ben Stein in the View from Sunset Strip, identified such scripts across a number of superficially different sit-coms as well as detective/crime shows.  If we compare 40's war movies with the current fare, we would notice that the enemy has shifted from the foreign agent (Nazis, commies, or Japs) to an internal cabal centered in the CIA or Pentagon which is willing to sacrifice lone American heroes to its own ends i.e. Rambo, Day of the Condor, etc.     From the metaphor of the script, it is clear that there is more than one type of actor.  Usually there is a source of opposition such as an opponent, a recalcitrant deviant, or an enemy which are part of the script.  Burke did touched briefly on the functions of opponents so we have to rely on Edelman and Holsti for further analysis.  Edelman referred to enemy characterizations as "condensation symbols" which focus diverse anxieties and emotions on a common perception of an enemy.  These symbols then are used to mobilize political support for some sort of action.  In my dissertation, I analyzed Nixon's Vietnam related speeches and media coverage.  I argued that period signaled the shift to "cynical" reporting wherein Presidential motives as stated by Nixon were assumed to be false and the actual motives were attributed to partisan political interests.  
    Other examples can be shown in deviant behavior and the analysis of ideology.  Labeling theory examines societal processes involved in identifying offenders as possessing deviant motives and characteristics.  Even the highly depersonalized and often obtuse writings about education reform have an underlying dramatic structure which can be analyzed from this perspective.  A characterization of the student as "ready to learn" is logically linked to a definition of the present educational setting as somehow frustrating that inclination.
    If we are content with identifying phenomena which can be described using dramatistic terms or the dramatic metaphor, we have contributed little to sociological theory.  The central contribution of Burke was to demonstrate how the characterization of the scene is linked to that of the agent and how both characterizations are used to derive the act.  In the words of Sorokin, we are evaluating how cultural objects are integrated in logico-meaningful fashion.  The "ratios" or my use of the term enthymeme can be used to identify specific scripts which are in play and how they are appropriated by various individuals, organizations, or social groups to interpret events and situations.  
    Having suggested that dramatism can be the source of both theoretical as well as metaphorical concepts, I would now examine Kenneth Burke's writings in order to develop hypothetical constructs analogous to scripts which may become familiar throughout a society and enhance the credibility of any event which whose interpretation may be consistent with them.  I shall proceed first with the development of a scheme for the various ways in which actors and/or their actions may be characterized in rhetoric.  These modes may be bound together by a particular script or dramatic pattern.  How the various actors are "cast" in order to develop the "setting" indicates what policy will appear to be the appropriate response.
    Burke's observations can be elaborated by those of Harold Kelley, Murray Edelman, Stanford Lyman, Peter Hall, Guy Swanson, and Ole Holsti.  These theorists represent a variety of theoretical perspectives besides dramatic criticism such as, political ideology, symbolic interactionism, communications research, and attribution theory.  Since these sources are concerned with problems different from my own, the original concepts are also very different from my current use of them.  I shall, nevertheless, draw upon the following conceptual approaches to the definition of social actors:

(1) Constructs based on the attribution of causes and intentions to explain behavior, as developed by Fritz Heider and later attribution theorists;
(2) Perspectives on the social process of providing public labels for individuals and "accounts" (motives for behavior, as suggested by C. Wright Mills, Nelson Foote, Marvin Scott, Stanford Lyman, Peter Hall, John Hewitt, and Kenneth Burke;
(3) Guy Swanson's conceptual distinction between transcendence and immanence (immanence referring to the perception that the intentions and purposes of the social order as a whole are present in the authority structure, with transcendence referring to the perception that the purposes of the society as a whole are separate from those of the authority structure);
(4) Murray Edelman's observations concerning alien definitions of actors, administrative rituals, and political quiescence as well as mobilization against personified enemies.

These theoretical approaches are related to Burke's concept of motivational constitution, mystification, metonymy, identification and transformation, polar opposite definition, and technocratic rhetoric.  Operationalizing these concepts requires that they be restated in a format compatible with scientific convention for the framing of hypotheses.  In particular the mode by which one discrete cultural entity is defined must be linked to a comparable definition for another entity.  For example, the characterization of a specific agent must be linked to that of a specific act.  This process is much like the scene/agent/act ratios of Burke.

    Therefore in "operationalizing Burke" I would consult related theories and use them to assist in developing a set of enthymemic patterns that are useful in analyzing the dramatic structure of cultural data.  In the following section, I shall show how the above sources have contributed to the categories developed for classifying the actors in the rhetoric.  These same sources have also suggested certain hypotheses about how the classes for the characterization of actors are interrelated to form patterns in the definition of a political situation.

B.  The Motivational Constitution and Mystification

     Burke's analysis of scenes and agents was based on the concept of the motivational constitution.  It refers to characterizations of "transcendent" actors and their motives.  These actors may be either sacred founders and past leaders of the collectivity, the collectivity as an actor, or those members who have made heroic sacrifices for the collectivity.  The prior definition of such actors as part of the legitimacy symbolism of a regime provides the present occupants of legitimate authority positions with a source of motives to which they may attribute their political acts.  Similarly, purposes derived from Weber and Durkheim are deemed to underlie our current efforts in sociology.
    The "motivational constitution", is analogous in its rhetorical function to that of the legal constitution in jurisprudence:

A legal constitution is an act or body of acts done by agents (such as rulers, magistrates, or other representative persons), and designed to serve as a motivational ground (scene) of subsequent actions . . .

    In political rhetoric it refers to the characterizations of "transcendent" actors and their motives.  These actors may be either sacred founders and past leaders or people who have made heroic sacrifices for the good of all.  Examples of the former are the founding Fathers and recently deceased Presidents.  The latter characterizations refer to soldiers such as POW's who have made extraordinary sacrifice on behalf of the country and are thus appropriate as role models for all citizens.  Once characterized these agents serve as the basis of subsequent acts and therefore constitute the scene for these acts.  Political examples include the rhetoric and characterizations developed for the Vietnam and Persian Gulf war.  In another example, Roosevelt, Truman, and Kennedy served the Democratic Party well as the personified source of political principles for its political positions.  Soldiers in wartime and the Democrat constituencies of labor and farmers were presented as role models to be emulated by the audience.
    At some point in time, an actor may be explicitly and vividly characterized and this character is then assumed thereafter.  Edelman refers to this rhetorical tendency as metonymy.  Once a particular term such as "silent majority" or founding fathers has been established as having a certain character with appropriate motives and attributes, then the term can be used subsequently without modifiers, its meaning being understood by the audience.  This approach differs somewhat from that of the motivational constitution.  The question is whether the subsequent characterizations are applied directly or placed in the scene as a transcendent source of purpose.  
    With reference to the actors and purposes which function as a motivational constitution, we may find dramatic characterizations of a past President, of the founding fathers as a general collective actor, fallen or injured soldiers, or the civil rights martyrs.  Such characterizations may be given to develop dramatically a particular argument, or there may be no felt need to emphasize the characteristics and motives of the actor, and he may simply provide the name.  For instance, the bravery, suffering, and patriotism of the soldiers may be assumed in the term, "our fighting men".  This leads to the question of how such characterizations are linked to subsequent acts in that they serve as a personified scene in which those acts occur.

C. Constitutional Attribution:  Referencing the Motivational Constitution as a Source of Motives
    The purpose of developing and referring to a motivational constitution in a speech is to use that constitution as a source of motives for some policy.  The establishment of this link is critical for legitimacy, although positive constituent response is also necessary.  There are two levels in the categories:  the first refers to the characterization of the actors used as legitimacy symbols, and the second refers to the characterization of the policy or act of the leader as fulfilling the purposes established by that actor.
    Constitutional attribution is not unlike the Marxian term mystification, which refers to the abstractions or ruling ideas used to cloak the material interests of the ruling class.  Burke's discussion of mystification--based on the work of Marx and Bentham--refers to an emphasis on noble motives as the basis of an action.  Conversely the "un-masking" of such rhetoric involves a stress on personal advantage as the motive.  Therefore the interest of an opponent is to link his rival's actions to his personal interests, while linking his own to higher purposes.  This un-masking will be defined personal attribution based on the link to personal or partisan advantage. In a "debate" situation of competing rhetoricians, one rival might anticipate the accusation of personal advantage and refute it through disclaimers relating the action to personal "disadvantage."   This interplay will be discussed below.
    Occupants of authoritative positions must relate the motives for all their decisions to requirements of their position as set down in that statement of purposes of the order, its constitution.  They are not likely to suggest personal or factional interests as the basis of a decision, but rather attempt to defend themselves against such an accusation by opponents.  

3. Personification of a Collective Actor: Validation or Transformation of Identity

    Burke discussed the imagery of identity and transformation in a poetic and literary context.  The writer might identify an undesirable trait in oneself and endow some "outward enemy" with that trait.  Then in overcoming the enemy, the writer has transformed the identity of the protagonist.  In the political rhetoric of Nixon the most striking metonym was that of the United States as a "pitiful, helpless, giant".  This transformation in the national identity of the United States would occur if he failed to respond to North Vietnam's use of Cambodian territory.  Domestic opponents were linked to the Communist world by the term, "forces of totalitarianism and anarchy."   Thus a validation of a national identity as strong and resolute is maintained by linking opposition to the enemy and acting against it.  
    Personification refers to rhetoric which emphasizes the character attributes of the nation and its people, the figure of speech in which an object is represented as having human attributes and addressed as if it were human.  While personification could apply to any role, organization, or stratum of society, the terms is best applied in those instances in which personal attributes of the nation or people are highlighted by the contention that its character is at stake.  In this argument, the nation, like any individual, has a reputation to maintain and defend.  Personification involves defining this reputation or identity along with what it could become in the negative sense.  In other words, the explicit characterization of this positive identity and its potential negative transformation involves an emphasis on personal attributes that qualify for the application of the personification category.
    Another instance in which personification of collective actors in terms of positive and negative attributes occurs is in the opposite characterizations of domestic supporters and opponents.  Linking supporters to the positive national identity enables them to share these attributes, while opponents are linked to the negative transformation.  Thus, the motives of each group are personified in polar opposite terms.
    For example, the leader might say that the people are patriotic and willing to sacrifice their personal interests so that the nation might prove to the world that it can meet the "challenge."  They will demonstrate these virtues, of course, by supporting his policy.  On the other hand, opponents refuse to support the policies and must, therefore, be unpatriotic and selfish.  This rhetoric seeks to gain political support by invoking the would-be supporter's desire to identify himself as courageous, moral, or whatever, and avoid being identified as cowardly, immoral, etc.
    Guy Swanson's distinction between transcendence and immanence is analogous to these definitions of the motivational constitution.  It is important to note that he was not interested in rhetoric so much as how states were identified in medieval Europe.  Transcendence referred to a state definition in which God established purposes (motives) which were to be followed by the governmental institutions.  Immanence referred to a definition in which the institutions themselves were presumed to follow divine will and purposes.

5. Technocratic Depersonalization and Causal Situational Attribution

    In an analysis of materialist philosophies, Burke refers to the reduction of scene to impersonal causes.  In like manner, action is reduced to motion in response to external causes.  Personal motives are replaced by scenic stimuli.  However, even in this depersonalized form there remain agents in the form of "experts".  However, these agents are skilled at interpreting the external conditions and acting according to those causes.  Unlike the "founding fathers" of a motivational constitution, the experts are not sources of national purpose but rather definers of situational requirements.  This is a form of legitimation that has been discussed by Jurgen Habermas in an essay, "The Scientization of Politics and Public Opinion."  To paraphrase, technocratic legitimation involves the suppression of discourse about group interests and purposes and the allocation of resources by rational decision-based criteria which are both scientific and objective.  I read this as suggesting that administrative acts are now related to impersonal situational conditions rather than the personal motives of political leaders and interest groups.  The experts become the arbiters of resource allocation and of demands for sacrifice for collective needs.  Situational requirements are impersonal and causal rather than personal and intentional, and their validity rests with the credentials and expertise of those who interpret them.
    Experts are usually drawn from the professions and have appropriate credentials.  Economists, military officials, physicians, and diplomats are examples of professions in which specialized knowledge relevant to policy-making is presumed.  In the case of military experts, they may specify in depersonalized form a military situation and an appropriate policy to handle the situation, without personally labeling the allies and the enemy.  During this period, for example, the Pentagon developed a number of terms for policies and military situations which depersonalized the participating actors:  "stalemate", "domino theory", "protective reaction", "ARVIN", and "pacification" were common terms, contrasting with the personified view of the conflict as being between those who represented the hopes for peace in the world and the enemy who sought to humiliate us.  The use of depersonalized terminology may be intended to narrow the audience to those familiar with the specialized terminology and also to define the situation such that political identities are not involved.  By the latter, I mean that, should the rhetoric omit references to the national identity or the identity of any other actors, then those committed to any of these identities will not be encouraged or aroused to emulate or defend them.
    Within this context I would include both the characterization of some actor as an expert and the characterization of the policy which is advocated by such experts.  

6. Attribution to Personal or Partisan Political Interests

    This category applies to those instances in which the motives for the policy or act are attributed to the personal interests of the actor or to some sectarian interest; i.e., some subgroup to which the actor also belongs.  In politics the customary assertion would be that a policy is designed to enhance the electability of its proponent or to further the election chances of his party, the sectarian sub-group.  In political rhetoric about oneself this mode of characterization usually occurs by way of disclaimer.  One denies personal or partisan interests as motives for a policy by suggesting that these interests would be best served by some other policy.  Nixon characterized withdrawal from Vietnam as the easy way out and the one that would best serve his political interests.  Then he asserts that his choice is indeed based on national ideals and interests, not personal or partisan ones.  On the other hand, Nixon's interpretation of opposition actions and the media's presentation of the actions of both are likely to stress personal and partisan interests as motives.

7. Dimensions of Altercasting:  Empathic vs. Alien

    The remaining rhetorical types involve the characterization of opponents.  Burke did not develop his ideas on opposition.  As noted above, he linked the identification of opponents to the negation of one's own identity.  By rhetorically stating "you are not", one means "Thou shalt not".  A thorough reading of recent researchers provides a much more detailed set of conceptual categories.  These can be presented in the format of polar opposite types.  First, there are two dimensions for the altercasting of an opponent:  the empathic vs. alien modes of characterization, and the foolish-passionate vs. rational-responsible modes.  The notion of altercasting comes from symbolic interactionist observations on how actors attempt to present a conception of the role the other is expected to fulfill in an ongoing negotiation of identities.  Because the term is used here in connection with the characterization of an opponent, the interaction is between a leader and his audience about the nature of the opponent.  In this situation, the leader seeks to cast the opponent in a role that justifies his policy and contributes to the identification of one's own side.
    I shall present two dimensions of altercasting, beginning with the empathic mode of characterizing opposition actors, who can be viewed as possessing human attributes and goals in common with oneself, or as holding alien, malevolent motives at variance with basic human sentiments.

a. Empathic personification of an opposition actor
    When there is a conflict situation between two collectivities, rhetoricians may vary the degree of perceived enmity by their characterization of the opposition.  If the latter is described as malevolent and lacking any human qualities in common with one's own side, then the characterization would be alien;  if, however, it is presented as sharing common human qualities and motives with one's own side, the characterization is empathic--implying a potential for common understanding between the two actors despite their opposition.  Some reason will be given for the opposition which implies the correctness and legitimacy of one's own position or policy, the most common explanations referring to the lack of understanding by the opposition of "our" position, bad influences on the opposition which they do not know about, and the lack of certain qualities such as maturity.  With these assertions about the opponent, one can still maintain the eventual resolution of conflict while retaining a belief in the legitimacy of one's own position.
b. Alien personification of an opposition actor
    As the term alien implies, this type refers to a definition of the opposition emphasizing the "respects in which he does not share our human traits and potentialities for empathy, for compassion, and for social attachments.  . . . These typifications most efficiently symbolize resolute malevolence because by definition they cannot become part of the social bond, the symbols of community that induce other political adversaries to resolve their conflicts. . . ."  The characterization of the alien enemy, therefore, centers on its intentions and goals to do harm to the nation and its fighting men.  The will to injure is not presented as secondary consequence of the pursuit of other goals, but rather as his central goal. The images evoked center on themes of satanic malevolence, subhuman savagery, and deviant or criminal subversion.  Nixon's rhetoric includes characterizations of both North Vietnam and the anti-war movement that are relatively empathic (both sides want peace or are deeply troubled Americans)  and others that are more alien (seeking to defeat and humiliate us and representing forces of anarchy).  His view varies according to whether he seeks to justify a policy of negotiation or one of military action.

c. Dimensions of altercasting:  irresponsibly passionate vs. rationally directed
    From the dramatistic perspective, the alien enemy is equivalent to the malevolent villain who seeks the hero's ruin.  In addition, sophisticated drama may include a character possessed by some ruling passion, who unwittingly helps the villain achieve his goal of doing in the hero.  Merelman points out how ideologies personify political forces as heroes, villains, and fools.

...In Marxism, the forces of the market are personified in the actions of capitalists (villains).  Marxism then personifies its heroes as a righteous working class preparing to do battle . . .  Marxism's fools are those workers who are seduced away from Communism by the blandishments of the capitalists; those socialists who think it will be possible to avoid a final confrontation with the villains; and those who have had moral and religious scruples foisted on them by the capitalists.
In my analysis, the "fool" would refer to the emotionally irrational actor who was also empathic in that he shared the good intentions of the speaker.  Because of excessive passion or a lack of common sense, however, he unwittingly aids the enemy by opposing the President.  This characterization of an opponent helps to explain why people with good intentions might oppose Presidential policy.
    On the other hand, enemies may be distinguished by two kinds:  those driven by vile and savage instincts--the deviant enemy--and those rationally directed in the disciplined pursuit of evil principles.  In other words, the altercasting of opponents allows for a four-fold classification as follows:

            irresponsible-passionate        rational-directed

empathic        fool                    would-be partner

Alien            deviant                    villain

Foreign enemies are likely to be presented as rational and directed, with their characterizations varying only between empathic and alien, whereas the irresponsible-passionate classification seems appropriate for domestic opponents.
    At the same time, the alien-irresponsible mode of characterization may be used to link opponent motives and attributes to those of the foreign enemy.  The opponent is characterized in terms of uncontrolled and undisciplined passion or even animal instinct.  His actions, such as violent demonstrations, are attributed to these qualities.  But the opponent may also be said to have many of the good traits and the common goals of the nation and the people; it is due only to ignorance and political thinking dominated by some emotion (blind hatred of war, softness, etc.)that he participates in actions whose consequences unintentionally aid the enemy in achieving his goals.

8. Conclusion

    If we accept the notion that people have a repertoire of dramatic "scripts" by which to interpret events, then it becomes a legitimate scientific enterprise to delineate their logical structure.  Kelley and Jones concluded from their experiments that people are more likely to attribute the causes for the actions of an opponent to that person's personal motives and the causes for their own actions to the requirements of their situation.  Ole Hosti's study of enemies in international conflicts noted that the alien characterization of an enemy is linked to decisions to take military action.  While these findings "ring true" in common sense, they do indicate that there are logical constraints in the scripts that are used to interpret events and the scenes, agents, and acts involved with these events.
    Burke had little concern for the various disciplines in the arts and social sciences.  He followed his own sense of what was significant for the dramatistic pentad.  If we are to apply his insights in sociology then we must provide the definition of what we wish to analyze and the hypotheses concerning meaningful linkages between characterizations of actors, acts and motives combined with the definition of the scene.

Posted by murphbil at 2:14 PM EDT
Reduce oil consumption now

Unfortunately too many proposals to deal with the oil crisis are either too long range to have immediate impact or totally faudulent.  First of all the price of gas is a problem we can adjust to by moving to more fuel efficient cars and changing our driving habits.  The real issue is the price of diesel because it forces up the cost of virtually everything we buy.  Since the price of diesel is much higher than regular gas, the shortage is does not simply reflect a shortfall in crude oil.   We must immediate increase the refining capacity for diesel fuel and move homeowners who heat with fuel oil to gas where possible.  If government programs are to have any immediate impact they should provide incentives to promote those two goals.  If everyone who lives on a gas line were to convert from oil to gas that should have a significant effect on the availability of diesel fuel.  If the switch to smaller more fuel effecient cars increases that should ease pressure on gas prices.  One means might be to expand urban HOV lanes and limit access to cars exceeding 20 mpg city except for car pools.  If that were to phase in over that next 2 years, we would all have to opportunity to purchase a vehicle meeting that standard.  In reality conservation and using less is the only option.  Offshore drilling ignores one basic fact:  we do not produce oil, God does and he has not seen fit to give us any more.  There is no evidence that these forbidden sites have any significant amount of oil.  In any event the bottlenect is the Korean production of offshore drilling platforms.  Why not subsidize the American manufacture of these platforms.

We have many more options for increasing natural gas production including Pennsylavania and Alaska where we put the gas back into the ground because of the lack of a pipeline.  Using gas whereever possible will decrease demand for oil.  

Finally, in addition to downsizing our automobiles, we need to downsize our homes or at least the demand for heat and air conditioning.  New suburban developments have created significant demand for electricity and the administration promotes putting new power plants and then taking land to transmit that power.  We simply state that you cannot develop an area unless you also provide for the generation of electricity as part of the development.   Also anyone living near a power plant or refinery should receive a periodic payment to offset the loss of housing value that this plant has caused.  This is basic fairness.  Those with the wealth to demand more energy should compensate those who experience the costs.  They can have their size if they invest in ground source heat pumps so that their oversize houses and shopping malls minimize the demand for electricity.  Instead we allow them to build, tie up the generation of more electricity, and wait for rolling blackouts to reduce consumption.

The one feature of the above proposals is that they would have significant impact on oil and electricity demand.  Production is not excluded whenever a payoff is likely but conservation is likely to be the best answer now.  Meanwhile we can work on alternative energy but that is likely to be long term. 

Posted by murphbil at 11:47 AM EDT
Sunday, 14/10/2007
Development in the Dominican Republic
Mood:  bright

After 2 brief Church sponsored visits to the Nagua region of the Dominican Republic, I come away concerned and hopeful that the economy there can develop to provide self-sufficiency to the people there.  Presently immigration to the US seems to be the most secure means to a secure income.  The predominant crop in this area is rice for local consumption.  However, there is considerable promise for cacao and chocolate production.  The higher elevation regions of the country already produce a very rich coffee(as well as cigars).  What is needed is an effective branding strategy such as Juan Valdez for Columbian coffee.  Shipping cost to the US should be lower.  Chocolate and coffee have similar markets if only consumers were aware of the D. R. as a source.  Processing in the D. R. would increase the added value to the pro.  The principal problem may be the absense of reliable electricity.  However, that has not been a problem in India because the companies provide their own generating capacity.   

Posted by murphbil at 4:15 PM EDT
Monday, 13/08/2007
re: The Clinton impeachment
Mood:  d'oh
he Clinton Lewinsky affair was certainly sordid and might normally have justified resignation at least.  However, far more disturbing institutionally and constitutionally was the corruption of the judicial process by political forces involved in the Kenneth Starr investigation.  The founding fathers were well aware of human foibles and the political “wars” that involved them. They had their share of human weaknesses and the political exploitation of them.  They designed a system intended to maintain governmental order despite these personal failings.  The Kenneth Starr investigation was supervised by highly biased political judges appointed by Rehnquist, himself a political judge.  They permitted Starr to engage in a number of abuses of prosecutorial discretion.  The rationale for the investigation was a real estate deal that occurred long before the Clinton presidency and also its alleged linkage to the suicide of Vincent Foster.  When nothing criminal turned up in those activities, he was permitted to prosecute other Clinton associate with the intent to use the threat of imprisonment to testify to alleged “crimes” on the part of the Clintons.  Webster Hubbell, for instance, had billed the Rose law firm for personal expenses.  Thus the embezzler was prosecuted in order to compel testimony against one of his victims, Mrs. Clinton.  The whole tedious process was ably journalled in Connason’s book on the Hunting of the President.  Susan MacDougal was imprisoned rather that invent testimony implicating them in the S & L default of her husband, etc.  None of these activities had anything to do with Monica Lewinsky but the law was clearly manipulated and therefore corrupted in a devious and unconstitutional manner to permit the investigation of Monica Lewinsky.  Ultimately, the impeachment process strengthened the political factions that promoted it and contributed to the democratic loss at the next election.  One wonders if a special prosecutor had been allowed to do the same number on Bush’s financial dealing with the oil industry and his baseball team the results would have come up as void as the Whitewater investigation.  In any even, they won; they got the power to control tax policy to the benefit of the interest of wealth, energy policy to the benefit of the oil industry, and security policy to the benefit of large government contractors linked to the Vice President and others.  The democrats should have made Clinton resign for the good of the party and progressive interests.  Then as President with a clean slate the 2000 results may have been different.  In the end that was what the Clinton/Lewinsky affair was all about.

Posted by murphbil at 5:59 PM EDT
Thursday, 26/07/2007
Corelle Effect
Topic: Personal Living
When purchasing and using dishware, we have 3 sets of dishes:  2 fine china and 1 set of corelle.  Of course China is expensive and fragile.  Stoneware and ironstone are low cost options but also may break.  Corelle dishware, however, can be dropped, heated, scratched and will never show any damage or wear.  By all objective measures it is superior to any other type of dishware.  Unfortunately it has one major drawback; it is cheap and convenient.  Therefore it fails in the area of social display.  It cannot be used in formal setting because it does not convey social status.  There are any number of products that demonstrate the corelle effect: mid-sized, fuel efficient sedans with reliable repair records, vinyl floor covering, hard synthetic counter tops,  etc.  They all are more effect by objective measures but fail on the criterion of public display. 

Posted by murphbil at 8:31 AM EDT
Sunday, 18/02/2007
Gold-plated health insurance plans?
Mood:  incredulous
Topic: Health care finances
In the previous radio address, Bush referred to those with traditional plans as having “gold-plated” coverage.  Is this the sort of rhetoric needed to address the problem?  These proposals might receive more serious attention had they not reflected the now routine conservative practice of proposing reforms that favor the wealthier sectors of our population while cloaking that intent in euphemistic rhetoric about individual choice to avoid “unnecessary procedures.”  The general problem with such proposals is that they ignore two fundamental facts:
1. The average family does not have the disposable income needed to pay for insurance and 2. Health insurance like other forms of insurance is actuarially based on costs to some population.  Bush seeks to eliminate the tax deductions to employers which encouraged them to cover all employees.  Removing that incentive will lead to dropping lower level employees or requiring them to pay for much of their care.  Executives have the disposable income for a health savings account, their low and middle income employees do not.  We can provide comparable deductions to the self insured without dismantling employer coverage.  However, individual plans lack the negotiating force of a large company with thousands of employees.  Insurers typically pay 40% less for procedures and other services than do private payers.  Medicare and medicaid now pay even less.  Where would individuals have the clout needed to minimize prices?
    Ten percent of health care consumers account for 70% of total expenditures. [Berk, Mark and Monheit, Alan; “The Concentration of Health Care Expenditures, Revisited,” Health Affairs 20(2), pp. 9-18.]  Like other forms of insurance, health insurance must balance the risk of claims against the receipt of premiums.  Profitability depends on raising premiums and reduction payments.  Insurers have a strong interest in not covering anyone likely to require expensive health care.  Insuring those who are relatively healthy is the most effective means to that end.  Demographically, avoiding older patients and those with no pre-existing conditions has been the most effective strategy.  Among employers Toyota has a competitive advantage in the lower health care costs of its employees compared to the Big Three of Detroit.  This is not due so much to differences in coverage as it is to the simple fact that its recently built factories employ a much younger workforce.  Canada is a popular location for automobile manufacturing for the simple reason that its public health care system relieves employers of that cost.  
    Conservative proposals for Medicare favor private insurance plans that draw healthy seniors out of the traditional medicare reimbursement programs.  Then they compare the results of both programs in order to demonstrate the presumed superiority of private programs under insurers that take 20% of the top in order to provide health care.  Any scientific study has to be based on the effects on equivalent populations.  The adverse selection that allocates the sickest individuals to the government-subsidized panel is anything but objective science.
    The other objectionable notion is that of unnecessary procedures and costs.  This seems to imply that an MRI’s or mammogram is strictly voluntary and should not be covered is absurd.  Any diagnostic has a high probability of a negative result but the risks are such that one has to follow through.  For instance, mammograms result in a very high percentage of false positives which lead to sonograms and biopsies which are also likely to be negative.  The absence of cancer does not prove that the procedures were unnecessary.  Indeed every medical advance will lead ultimately to higher costs because not only are new technologies more costly but also our survival will result in costly medical treatments at a later age.
    The irony of these conservative proposals is that they deny one of the most effective methods for controlling health care costs, drug formularies.  Perhaps they believe that drug companies that advertise heavily to exaggerate needs should be rewarded for their enterprise.  Nevertheless, one would pay AstraZeneca $403 for a 90 day supply of nexium as compared with $63 for the generic equivalent omeprazole exemplifies unnecessary costs.  Public plans are expected to pay such unnecessary costs rather than require the patient pay the difference.  
    Despite the constant criticism of government-funded programs, there is much to appreciate in medicare and in the form of “socialized” medicine provided to American veterans.  Medicare has made routine the correction of the debilitating hazards of aging such as cataracts and crippled knees and hips.  Expensive indeed but liberating to their recipients and ultimately cheaper that disability.  The quality of VA services has been greatly improved and includes a prescription formulary.  Fortunately the political clout of veterans groups protect these programs for any threat of privatization.  
    You are correct in pointing out that the democratic response has been lame.  They seem to lack confidence in their convictions and refuse to confront conservative rhetoric directly.  Employer paid health care developed during the era of American economic dominance when industry and services could guarantee employee benefits and pass the costs onto consumers.  With globalization, foreign labor competes effectively against American manufacturers because of both low wages and no health care costs.  Some other support mechanism is called for.  I would recommend a value-added tax that required both foreign and domestic goods and services to bear the cost of health care.  Then we could move from job to job with coverage and employers would not base location and hiring on the avoidance of employee health coverage.

Posted by murphbil at 12:52 PM EST
Updated: Sunday, 18/02/2007 12:54 PM EST
Tuesday, 04/07/2006
Re: Actuarial principle in pensions and health insurance
Topic: Social or individuals
    Anyone who has lived since the 70's has to be aware that there is a fundamental shift in America since that period.  We are gradually eliminating the shared elements of our economy that provided security and requiring everyone to manage these needs as individuals.  These include pensions, paid health care, and the proposed privatization of social security.  These are to be replaced by 401k, health savings, and individual private accounts respectively.  These trends are promoted by an ideology of individual responsibility and weath–that everyone should be responsible for themselves and that their wealth or lack thereof is due to their own actions.  In this view, one should be encouraged to accrue investment savings and wealth on their own and use what is necessary for the stated purpose and bequeath the remainder to their heirs.  The prior view was that everyone has potential needs for support in old age and/or health care.  Moneys should be set aside for members of productive society to meet those needs even if they may not live long enough or become sick enough to draw on those funds.  Their heirs will have to make a living or draw from other sources of inheritance.  
    The critical factor missing from this debate can be termed the actuarial process.  That process applies in life insurance which determines how many policy holders will die early in the term vs. those who will live beyond that term until the company has made more money in premiums tha n paid out to the less fortunate.  Of course if you belong to the group with long life you have “wasted” your premiums.  Annuities also are calculated actuarially.  A large sum of money is converted to monthly payments for life.  If you die young, your investment is essentially supports benefits paid to those who live a long period of time.  In the same way, health insurance relies on premiums paid for those who are healthy and receive no services in order to pay for those who become sick and need care.  Hence the young are more likely to forego insurance while companies avoid elderly employees who will raise insurance premiums to cover their greater health care needs.
    Actuarial interpretations are quickly accepted for private plans but our social policy debate ignores the implications.  The clear difference between pensions and 401k plans is that a pension will provide more income for those who live because it saves on payments to those who do not.  Similarly paid health care provides better coverage than a medical savings account because of premiums paid by those who need no care.  Furthermore, funds that are passed on to heirs are a diversion from the purpose they were estalished, old age support or health care.  Pensions take advantage of large investments by professional managers whose returns cannot be matched by individual investors.  Health insurers negotiate lower rates for services which are not available to individual patients.

    At the same time, social welfare programs went to an extreme in supporting those who were more than able to support themselves.  An interesting anecdote involves a policy to permit teenage mothers to collect welfare by leaving home and living independently.  In the early 90's this was reversed to require any support to be paid within their parent(s) home.  The policy was justified by stating that this would allow them to escape abusive families but in most cases it simply allowed them to gain freedom from parental control and may even have encouraged pregnancy.

Posted by murphbil at 2:03 PM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, 04/07/2006 2:06 PM EDT

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