Letters to the Editor for February 16, 2017

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Education key to making America great again

Donald Trump has been elected on a promise to Make America Great Again. He defeated a host of more qualified candidates on the way to the inauguration.  How did this happen?  Mr. Trump tapped into a level of frustration and fear that neither the Democrat nor the Republican establishment understood.  The roots of that frustration lie in the rapidly changing economy.

So, when was the time when Trump believes that America was Great?  Presumably, that was when the United States clearly  dominated the world economy and politics.  In the 1950s and 60s the United States was the sole remaining industrial power in the world.  The war destroyed industrial capacity in Europe and Japan and America supplied the world.

As world industrial capacity recovered, challenges to American manufacturing monopoly emerged. Electronics mostly moved to Asia and Japan aggressively entered the U.S. auto market. Manufacturers found cheaper labor and created modern factories overseas that operated more efficiently.

Automation had an even more significant impact on the American labor force. Advances in computing technology allowed computers, large and small, to take over a vast array of labor-intensive jobs. For example, since 1960 manufacturing has steadily contributed between 10-15 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product while employment in manufacturing has declined from over 25 percent to about 10 percent of the labor force due to automation.

Think about your last trip to Walmart or the grocery store.  Inventory is now conducted using hand held scanners rather than humans with checklists. Checkout is with digital bar code scanners that knows the price of everything in the store.  If you are dealing with a person, it’s to chat or to bag your purchase.

Then there is the internet. We can purchase virtually anything we want from an online retailer. Retailers throughout the country are reducing their brick-and-mortar footprint, and the jobs that support them. UPS and FedEx have benefited, but a lot of retail jobs are simply gone. Additionally, many of today’s jobs will not exist in 10 years due to automation.

The solutions are not obvious. Manufacturers and retailers will continue to search for cheaper ways to market their product – mostly by increasing automation.  Re-negotiating and cancelling trade agreements may increase U.S. manufacturing employment marginally, but are unlikely to move the dial very far.

A more profitable direction would be to rethink and re-invest in our education systems as we did following WWII. Expansion of private and charter schools are unlikely to make much difference unless they are actually testing innovative education approaches that can feed back into the public schools. Additionally, those education alternatives reach very few students.

Many factors have contributed to American greatness – form of government, natural resources, geographic isolation.  America’s major contribution to the world has been innovation and creativity, as well as having a trained workforce to implement those innovations.  This has come out of the education system that, at one time, was the best in the world.  A key component of Making America Great Again will be to recommit to public education.

 

John Gladden — Franklin, N.C.

Medicaid expansion would help local economy

About 500,000 North Carolinians are prevented from having health insurance because our previous governor and N.C. legislature have declined to accept federal funds to expand Medicaid. My grandson unhappily is now an additional member of this uninsured group.  He is 20 and attending community college and trying to work part time to become independent and employable.  But he cannot afford to purchase health coverage. His mother is disabled so she has no health coverage that will transfer, his dad has never supported him in any manner (another issue I’d like to write about but will save for another time), and Grandpa is retired and on a fixed income so can’t help him out by paying his health premiums.  So, if he or any of those other 500,000 North Carolinians gets sick or has an accident and needs to be hospitalized, he has no insurance to pay for care. This affects the hospital and directly hurts the local economy.  But, someone will pay, and guess who?  One way or another, it will wind up being all of us who are taxpayers and do have health coverage ourselves.

Unpaid hospital bills are one of the leading causes of the increasing health insurance premiums that we pay.  If Gov. McCrory and the state legislature had welcomed the expansion of Medicaid instead of fighting it, all of those 500,000 state residents would now have health coverage and hospitals, in particular our rural hospitals, would be protected. We in the mountains need our rural hospitals to be protected to assure those of us living here that we will be able to get the quality of care we deserve.  In addition to protecting our rural hospitals, expanding Medicaid would have among its effects creating jobs in the area, encouraging rural investment, and obviously increasing tax revenues. According to the North Carolina Justice Center, in Macon County, we will lose $17.9 million in our county’s growth by 2020 as a result of so many residents not having health insurance. In addition, consider drug stores, banks, landlords, grocery stores, and other locations that are essential to a region’s economic health, all of whom are affected when so many residents can’t pay medical bills.

Fortunately for us, there is a way out of this dilemma.  We can request that our legislators get together and give an OK to the expansion of Medicaid in the state.  It is not too late, and Gov. Cooper seems willing to cooperate.  But it all starts with many of us contacting our local representatives and state senators and insisting that they support the expansion of Medicaid.  In Macon County, Jim Davis is our state senator, and you can call his office at 919-733-5875 or email him at jim.Davis@ncleg.net and let him know that you want him to support Medicaid expansion.  Our representative is Kevin Corbin who can be reached at 919-733-5859 or by email at kevin.Corbin@ncleg.net.  Both of these men and their staffs are polite and good listeners who are eager to hear the opinions of their constituents.  So, make a couple calls and let them know you support Medicaid expansion not just for humanitarian reasons, but for economic reasons as well.

 

Jerry Krajnak — Franklin, N.C.

Has man created God?

Many have questioned the realness of God’s existence. Darwinian theory has shaken the Christian faith and brought doubt that God created man, and instead replaced that man evolved by natural selection.  Some within science,  philosophy and higher education began to belittle a faith in God as antiquated, ignorant, or simple minded. God becomes reduced to the crutch that satisfies a human need, and if it is to be believed, it must be kept inside your personal being and its ideals are to have little effect on the outside world.

This view that God is dead or is man’s creation for human need was believed and voiced by the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, even though his father and grandfather were both Lutheran pastors. Both Darwin and Nietzsche had a strong influence on the thinking of such men as Karl Marx, Hitler, Stalin, and Mussolini. Their shared ideology of atheism and a hatred for religion gave way that there was nothing found to rule over man and man makes his own destiny. This brought about human supremacy (Nazism), and a unequal separation of class (Marxism); the weaker serve the strong.

Nietzsche was very open and honest and looked at life straight on, but he found no comfort in God nor those who believed in God. He hated God, there was no framework for living, no voice to be heard, a deep loneliness was all he found. The intensity of Nietzsche’s struggle is found in his parable called “The Madman,” which is the title he chose, and is somewhat ironic in that the last 11 years of his life were spent being insane.

There is a place for God, but many within modern living don’t want Him. He’s no longer relevant for living. We have replaced Him with a belief in nature or that some human effort will lead us and somehow we’ll evolve in finding answers to life’s meaning, as in Nietzsche’s declaring that superior men will triumph at God’s demise. The English journalist Malcolm Muggeridge said this, “If God is dead, somebody is going to have to take his place. It will either be the drive for power or the drive for pleasure; Hitler or Hugh Heffner.”

The voice of God is undeniable. Within the quiet depths of our hearts we sense a spiritual beckoning of some sort that seems wanting to be found and realized.   All humanity has a faith that’s in search of this voice that will guide the deepest hunger within the heart.  Humanity’s failures are known all to well, we only need to look honestly at ourselves and history. Nietzsche’s ideals are ever present today, and while this may seem popular, many blame others or God for the pain that’s mostly self imposed. Romans 1:30 (ICB) follows some of Nietzsche’s thinking, “They gossip and say evil things about each other. They hate God. They are rude and conceited and brag about themselves. They invent ways of doing evil.”…

Something for thought,

 

Deni Shepard — Franklin, N.C.

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