Do Presidential Debates Illustrate Gaps in Knowledge and Education?

I love watching the Presidential debates. As a child I remember being irritated by old people arguing about things I didn’t understand, and being unable to turn the channel to a different show. In those days, we were lucky to have 5 channels, the three national networks, PBS, and the local broadcast channel. The debates were carried on all national networks and often the local broadcast station. I’m not making this up. Today, I couldn’t watch the Bloomberg Debate despite having 99 channels. The Bloomberg Debate was aired on channel 203, on the expanded enhanced hi-def super-deluxe premium fiber digital cable box. What-the-What, people??!! Debates should be aired on a station viewable by all people. All people. Not just the channels who support the debate with money. Presidential debates should not be pay-per-view, or aired on stations whose air time has been bought by ESPN, General Motors, or AIG.

As I watch the debates, the thoughts of how wrong – in absolute terms – several of the GOP candidates are related to their grasp of history, economics, foreign policy, and domestic policy. And I wonder if these shortcomings point towards a deficit in their educations, and more over, a deficit in the U.S. educational system, in general.

People argue against college education and the expense of that investment. Yes, investment. The same people will over-buy a house, spend more than they should on a car, run up their credit card, yet when it comes to education, an investment that will more than pay for itself over the course of one’s lifetime, they whine and complain.

What other investment can a person make and earn 10x’s on that investment? If one spends $50,000 on an education and earns a college degree, that person will earn $1,000,000 or more over the course of their life had they simply worked with their high school diploma. I’m being conservative, obviously. That pay-off is more like a 20x’s increase on the educational investment.

It’s your problem if you get a $20,000 job as a social worker with $50,000 of debt. You should have done your homework and researched salary before you jumped into a field a low salary and a heavy debt load.

Where I am going with this?

Listening to the candidates is not a good way to educate yourself about history, economics, geography, finance, foreign policy, or domestic policy. The only knowledge one can gain, really, is figuring out differences in candidates, not figuring out which candidate is better, i.e. more intelligent, more knowledgeable, than another. In fact, with a few candidates in mind, I often question whether some of them might be in some stage of Senile Dementia.

So, I‘ve picked a few candidates with the goal of questioning their knowledge about some of the above topics.


Michelle Bachmann

I try to minimize the amount of bias in my blog, as I my overall goal is really about education and educating people. When a person criticizes another the danger is undermining the message. But, look, sometimes when something is wrong there is no pretty or nice way to say it – you simply say, “that is as wrong as saying grass is pink, and Keanu Reeves is a great actor.” Almost every word from Bachmann’s mouth is tinged with wrong, but during the Western Debate, she was plainly wrong. On one point she stated that the Iranian President, Mahmoud Amadinejad was a crazy lunatic and threatens the world. I’m not going to argue his sanity. We really do not know what he thinks, honestly. But I do know this – Amadinejad does not control Iran, nor does he control the military, and he may, in fact, have no knowledge of any attempt against the Saudi ambassador. How can I say this?

To answer that question, I first must explain the difference in which countries are governed. In the United State, our President is both the Head of Government and the Head of State. The President fills the role of both heading the Executive branch, and also acting as the face or spirit or public representative of our country. Not all countries are constructed this way. In South Korea, for example, Kim Hwang-sik is the Head of Government and Lee Myung-bak is the Head of State. In Russia, Vladimir Putin is the Prime Minister (the Head of Government) and Mikael Medvedev is the President (Head of State). Another way of thinking about this relationship is that the Head of Government is typically in charge of domestic management and affairs of the country. The Head of State is usually in charge of foreign policy and engaging with other countries. The Head of State (the President) is typically the “official leader” of the country.

In Iran, the “official leader” of the country is Ali Khameni. It is he how has the final say in how the country is governed. In Iran, Khameni can (and has) overrule the Prime Minister (Amadinejad), and it is he who controls the military. Not Amadinejad.

If one only listened to M. Bachmann’s hyperbole, one might be convinced that Amadinejad is the one who controls Iran. And, you would be misled.

ronpaulRon Paul

Poor Ron; if only he would get off the harassment of the Central Bank and stop pushing a return to the Gold Standard, his platform might have wings. His advocating of abolishing the Central Banking System, a return to the Gold Standard, and now his call for the elimination of several Departments and Cabinets within the United States government is simply Senile Dementia at work. He has moments of clarity, which devolve into a miasma of crazy-talk.

People who support abolition of the Central Bank and the Gold Standard forget the world was a crazy place while on the Gold Standard. I over-simplify, sure. The movement away from Gold was to establish more control over money supply, control inflation, and prevent global financial catastrophes. The rest of the world was moving towards central banking and were also buying up U.S. gold supplies. What better way to control a country than through controlling the substance upon which the value of the money is based. People also forget that the US government outlawed gold ownership while we were on the Gold Standard. People were forced to sell the gold assets to the government at set prices. Look, to control the value of anything, the supply of the quantity of that stuff must be controlled.

Examine diamonds. The price of diamonds is artificial. What?? Yep. Diamond cartels control the amount of diamonds available on the market. Believe it or not, warehouses exist that stockpile diamonds. This stockpile, diamonds out of circulation, help control the price of diamonds, keeping the price artificially high. If the true amount of supplies of diamonds were allowed on the market, the diamond market would collapse.

Gold is no more stable than anything else, really. It only has the value we attach to it.

To complicate matters, how would we conduct business with other countries? Put a bunch of gold on ship and sail the gold to China? I see to remember something about pirates, and gold, and attacking ships moving treasure – but I think that was a Disney movie…

To complicate matters even further, other countries value their currency against the U.S. dollar. Some countries abolished their own currency in favor of using the U.S. Dollar as their currency, if the US decides to re-value the dollar by re-instituting a Gold Standard, expect a global economic catastrophe, not simply problems at home.

Finally, all other developed countries, those members of the Organization of Economic Co-operation and Development, all have Central Banks that operate much like our own Central Bank and Federal Reserve. For a good reason – to control the value of the money supply, to control inflation, and to help tune the economy.

The U.S would be stepping backward in time, to the 18th & 19th century, by returning to the Gold Standard and abolishing the Federal Reserve, not looking into the future.


Newt Gingrich

Of all the candidate, I think I am most disappointed in Newt. Years ago, during the Clinton Administration, I thought of him as wise, smart, knowledgeable, learned, and good role model, well-spoke, with ideas that were well thought-out. He seemed to respect the opinions of others, even if he didn’t agree.

Today, his “apple pie” version of America I find disingenuous, revisionist, and insulting. He frequently speaks of the American ethic of “the hard-working individual,” how American was created with the sweat of hard-working Americans, based on individual faith, hard-work, and determination.

I wish I had a Time Machine so I could pipe his forgetful ass back to the 1830s and then have him watch the Chinese and Irish build the railroad out West. Then, like the Ghost of Christmas-Past, we would visit the Plantation South, where he could watch Southern Blacks and Irish toil in the cotton fields, under Christian-supported slavery.

Another stop on this reverie would include the early Ford plants in Dearborn, Michigan. Here we would see new, transplanted Muslims, fresh off the boat from the wilds of the Ottoman Empire, from countries we know as Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan. The Fords brought Middle Easterners to Michigan to work in their plants because of the lack of interest in local labor pools.

If I still had power left in my Time Machine for a few more excursions, we might visit steel and textile mills, circa the Great Union Movement from 1880-1930 or so. Personally, I feel that labor unions have served their purpose – protecting lives and improving working conditions for blue-collar workers. Today, they are an artifact of a bygone age, and an obstacle to real progress. Social media and social networks and social advocacy should be able to turn the tides against amoral corporations. OK – should, theoretically speaking.

Newt seems to have selective memory about history, reducing everything to the power of a person to achieve while showing seeming ignorance that people, businesses, and corporations have often achieved economic dominance by the literal blood, sweat, toil, and tears of history.

I want honesty in public speaking, and I want our leaders to speak frankly, openly, and honestly about current conditions and past conditions, and to help educate the voting populace.

I fear people soak up the public bloviating of political candidates, the rhetoric shrouded in truths, half-truths, and bald-faced lies, and with the flaws present in our current educational system fall victim to conflating public grandstanding hyperbole into facts and knowledge.

Political and social leaders use the example of Steve Jobs having never graduated from college as an example that people do not have to attend college. This anti-intellectual speech undermines Democracy; if The People do not understand economics, the Choices of History, and geography, then we fall victim to people who can and will turn our ignorance against us.

Remember, Steve Jobs did not operate in vacuum. He may have been the spiritual and intellectual leader of Apple, but he still employed hundreds of computer scientists, engineers, programmers, and an entire ecosystem of people who did attend college. Bill Gates never graduated, either. Did he hire thousands of other high school and college drop-outs? No. Again, Gates created an ecosystem of highly intelligent, college educated people.

All Candidates

All candidates continue to mis-characterize Immigration and Illegal Immigration. I noted the silence last night when Romney asked the panel about legal immigration. No one spoke to support him. Almost as if none of them supported immigration, period.

I will continue to ask these questions: who has lost a job to an illegal immigrant? Who has lost a job that they really loved and enjoyed to an illegal immigrant? I challenge anyone to find me a Computer Programmer, a Database Administrator, an Engineer, a Doctor, a Lawyer, a Bookstore Clerk, a Wal-mart Associate, a Gas Station Attendent who has lost their job to an illegal immigrant.

Please. Find me someone who has lost a job to an illegal immigrant, that is a Middle- or Upper-class person, who represents the Middle Class of the United States.

I do know where illegal labor is being employed, though, just so you know. Roofing contractors – pay guys in cash because the work is easy to train and illegals keep costs down. Pulling the heads off chickens – because that is a shitty job (I’ve seen it first-hand) and Americans do not want the work. Cutting tobacco – because the work is hard, hot, and dangerous, and paying cash helps farmers manage costs. Landscapers – like, roofing, the jobs are easy to train and paying guys in cash helps manage costs.

I’ve talked to landscapers, visited poultry plants, talked to meat-packing plant owners, and farmers. The real people who have an investment in manual and physical labor are being ignored. Some Americans have these jobs, and when they loose them, get immediately get upset. However, when they use their re-training money to receive an alternate education, they are pretty happy to have ditched that sucky-job for something better.

Farmers and people in Agriculture routinely argue that something needs to be done to support some form of guest labor program. Americans do not want those jobs. I have student-farmers in class every semester. They tell me they cannot find American who want to work in fields. When I hear people say, “high school students can do those jobs,” that tells me those people have not a single foot planted in Reality. American students do not want those jobs; they might work one shift, find out how shitty the work is, and quite. The only Americans that appear to head for those jobs are former prisoners, inmates, people with a criminal record who can’t find work any where else. And, that brings an entire host of other problems.

If politicians were really honest about people “Gaming the System,” people who perpetrate fraud and misuse of social monies in the United States, they would talk about Americans, not illegals. Americans are responsible for more fraud and misuse of Social Welfare, of Hospital Emergency Room Visits, than illegals.

But, it is easier to point fingers at a scapegoat than hold ourselves accountable.

The Obama Administration has deported more illegals than Bush, a Republican, ever did. Every year since Obama has taken office has seen an increase in deportations. The GOP won’t acknowledge this.

The “Missing Decade,” as the years under Bush are now being called, must be missing for the GOP, too. Like Iraq and Afghanistan happened completely under the Obama Administration, like 9/11 happened in September 2011.

If we, the American People, continue our Journey to Ignorance, electing and supporting ignorant, racist, bigoted, or revisionist politicians to manage our country, we will only carve a path of demise.

And probably blame Amadinejad and illegal aliens, instead of ourselves.

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