Posts Tagged ‘congress’

So Crimea, or cry me a river?

So, we supported the forceful overthrow of a democratically elected government because they were not kissing our ass properly. We are condemning a 98% vote by a people because it does not promote our agenda. Lets see, voting good, a democratic thing to do right. Well I guess not! We are spending a billion dollars, not to help out beleaguered citizens, but to make sure the bankers get theirs and control of the area reverts to the IMF. I thought bailouts were something we said, as a people, were bad. Does not look like our politicians give a damn about what we think!

Hell, I am not sure who is in the right here. Needs more study before I could make that determination. I do know that Crimea is full of ethnic Russians, and that it was part of what is now Russia long before even the Soviet Union came around. If you look at it’s history it had at some time been held by just about every major ethic group on the planet, starting with the Greeks in fifth century BC. So what I think I know is, what the hell business is of ours? It is in their backyard, it poses no threat, has no strategic significance, and the people seem to want Russian control, so there is no human rights issue. Should Russians be allowed to engage in border changes? Well jeez, what about Serbia and elsewhere in the world where we thought it was ok for us to the same. Just asking.

I guess my biggest bitch here is the billion dollars and the billions that will inevitably follow. If we have the ability to come up with this money, don’t we have some financial woes here at home? Doesn’t the fed have an obligation to repay the bonds it took out against the Social Security Fund as just one example of many? Most of you would argue to pay down the debt and I have no problem there either. Instead it is bailing out world banks and financing an IMF takeover of a region with your and my tax dollars. I don’t want to rekindle a cold war. I don’t want to rattle sabers or try to prove I swing the bigger stick! Ok, I know that there are other opinions out there, and I could be totally wrong. If I am, there is a comment section to this blog, use it. Or email if that is how you got it; I am never going to object to being educated.

 

 

 

 

Inequality in the United States

 

Inequality overall is usually expressed as wealth or income gap. Regions (southern states is one example) also make a difference as does race and religion. Religion is a war generator, just as much as ethnic bias is. It indirectly has an effect on world economies and poverty. Education is no longer a guarantee of higher wages or even of employment, at least here in the United States of America!

Americans are living in an unequal society, more so than practically anytime in the last century.  The income and wealth differences are greater in the good ole U.S.A. than in any democratic or developed country in the world.  As Joe Friday used to say, “the facts, nothing but the facts.” 

It is not as if we are condemned to watching all of this from the sidelines. All of these economic and demographic changes are embedded in a larger institutional and political story. In order to understand U.S. inequality and its growth over time, and in order to think about what we need to do to fix it, we need to focus on differences that matter. The simplest way to do this is to go back to our midcentury public policies that sustained both a floor for the bottom of the labor market and a ceiling for the top of it. This was done primarily with the power of unions, believe it or not, as they limited how much management could syphon off in pay and bonuses and other areas like buying back their own stock to manipulate profits for gain, but this puts money in the pockets of few, while money for increased wages and benefits is not even in the plan of a major corporation anymore. The work force was motivated because they were being treated fairly and able to transition to the middle class.  The tax base on the top tier of income and profit was also at a much higher rate in the years after WWII, so that the government was able to more easily have funds to operate without creating a huge deficit. Now top tier taxes have dropped dramatically and our politicians are asking you and I to take up all the slack.  This includes education, which in my opinion is a criminal act in itself. Some of the so-called 2% are crying that we should be glad we even have a job, and they feel like we are treating them like the Nazis treated the Jews. Actually said, I did not make that up. 

Some people blame globalization and entities like the World Bank and International Monetary Fund for this inequality. Yes, they are partly to blame, however the real result in globalization has been to bring about more equality to nations, but more inequality within them. We were the only major power after the war that did not have to rebuild an infrastructure destroyed by war. That and the fact that at the time fuel and power sources for industry were cheap and plentiful.  However our spending started to increase dramatically starting with the Vietnam War while cheap plentiful fuel was getting harder to come by and also more expensive. Money in the world economy started flowing to countries with younger more energetic economies or who were rich in natural resources. This started narrowing the advantage we had in both trade and influence. What resulted was an economy that used the vast cheap labor pool and manufacturing available at lower costs on foreign soil to blackmail the American worker into working longer for less money, giving up things like unions, healthcare and retirement, in exchange for the company not to outsource their jobs, or moving the company itself overseas or to countries to the south.                                                                                                                 

We need Unions with their power restored to act for the worker as they once did until they were finally made ineffective by a systematic attack by a small percentage of the population whose avarice has no bounds, basically large corporations.  Without unions, workers have no bargaining power at all. Over the years labor’s bargaining power collapsed as I explained previously. This all began with the passage of the Taft-Hartley Act in 1947, which outlawed secondary labor actions (such as boycotts, or the picketing by workers not involved in the dispute) and undermined union security in so-called “right to work” states—especially in the South, the rural Midwest, and the mountain west.  The Landrum-Griffith Act (1959) further constrained secondary labor actions and permitted non-members to vote in certification (or decertification) elections—essentially inviting employers to hire scabs, and then count scab votes against the fate of the unions. This is a direct result of big business buying the votes it needed to enact such legislation. An assault on unions was systematic, and the middle class and all workers, even those outside of the unions began to suffer. The net result is telling. Early in the century, the share of the American workforce which belonged to a union was meager, barely 10 percent of the labor force. At the same time, inequality was stark–the share of national income going to the richest 10 percent of Americans stood at nearly 40 percent. This gap widened in the 1920s. But in 1935 the New Deal granted workers basic collective bargaining rights; over the next decade union membership grew dramatically, followed by an equally dramatic decline in income inequality. This yielded an era of broadly shared prosperity, running from the 1940s into the 1970s. After that, however, unions came under attack—in the workplace, in the courts, and in public policy. As a result, union membership has fallen and income inequality has worsened—reaching levels not seen since the 1920s. Today’s unions are merely figureheads, they have no real power, they have been systematically stripped over the years by influence peddlers (lobbyists) that work for the elite who can afford to make policy with their wealth, to make even more wealth.  Some suggest it is less than two percent of the population that control how the rest of us are going to live. It definitely is not a government for the people and by the people any longer. Well for 98% of us anyway! So look, if you knew that you were going to have to work almost twice as hard for about half the money, would you have agreed? If you knew that a huge portion of health insurance and retirement security was available to employees of corporations but was going to disappear without the protection of a union and that this would result in our elderly being more dependent on social security, medicare, and medicaid, would you still have a bad taste in your mouth about unions? And, of course, union decline contributes to inequality beyond the bargaining table or the paystub. But because public and private sector unions have been such a potent political force across the last century; their decline also undermines support for a wide range of public policies that might sustain working families or check corporate power. 

The net effect is clear. For a generation after World War II, the economy and the wages of working Americans grew together—a clear and direct reflection of the bargaining power wielded by workers and their unions. From the early 1970s on, however, union strength fell—and with it the shared prosperity that it had helped to sustain. Labor productivity has almost doubled, but the median wage has grown only 4 percent.   Let me repeat that, labor productivity has almost doubled; yet wages have only grown by 4 percent! The share of national income going to wages and salaries has slipped, while the share going to corporate profits has risen. Inequality has widened most dramatically for those who at an earlier point in our history or in any other democratic and industrialized setting would benefit the most from collective bargaining. You can boo hoo and nay say all you want but there is no denying that our country was growing as was our middle class and industry all with higher taxes on corporations and the wealthiest Americans with strong unions representing workers. Now you think that the average American should work two jobs to get out of poverty and thank the wealthiest for the fact they have jobs. Education suffers because most can’t afford to access it. The specter of poverty, jobs with no future, no advancement with a decent wage, drives people to do some pretty despicable things. This is human nature and we can fix it, we just have to wake up and pay attention to Joe Friday and not the swill being fed us by those who think of us as nothing more than a means to more profit. When we cannot service them anymore we are discarded and replaced.  Is that the legacy you keep talking about? I sure hope not.

The solutions here are straightforward. We need to disentangle health care and pensions from job-based eligibility or participation. This would involve moving towards a sort of “Medicare for All” health care system and a system of universal and portable retirement accounts.  I know how much negativity there is about the Affordable Care Act, but if you follow the money, it is the same money that does not want unions to thrive, or social programs to be funded, or a minimum wage increase. We of course need to reinvent our compensatory social programs (unemployment insurance, food stamps) so that they are a better match in terms of eligibility, coverage, and duration for the challenges faced by the current generation of working families. Remember that Social Security, among others, is a paid deduction that comes out of every paycheck you receive.  You will probably not live long enough to get back what you put in most cases. Also that the federal government borrowed amounts that are described with words like trillion! Now that the bonds have come due, these same top tier lobbyist-funding czars have renamed them entitlements. That is money and a lobbyist talking out his ass, not the true state of affairs. Is there a problem with some people who do not deserve social programs, of course there are. But those are the problems we should be solving and not getting rid of a program that does not affect the deficit. 

The concentration of wealth and incomes at the upper end of the scale is bad for our economy and bad for our democracy. Making headway on this front depends upon the redistribution of both economic and political resources, indeed any real progress on the economic side of the equation is likely to be slight or fragile unless we can sever the close relationship (made worse, but hardly invented by the Citizens United decision) between economic affluence and political influence.

Much higher taxes on the rich are the starting point here—both to sustain and to raise the revenues that make other inequality-fighting policies possible. The form of such taxes is as important as their rates: Taxes that penalize or restrain things like a financial transactions tax for instance, which could both raise money and encourage investment in more productive forms of economic activity. Changes in the tax code could be accompanied by checks on executive pay—either through more transparent and active forms of corporate governance or through public leverage. And efforts to chip away at concentration of wealth at the very top should be accompanied by efforts to build the wealth and assets of ordinary Americans. 

Now Corporate America has also trained you to respond to the above paragraph by calling it socialism. It is a way to divert your attention from the truth. Were we a socialist republic after WWII? No we were not but corporate taxes were high, unions strong, and corporations and the working men and women were both doing well and getting better off each year. This is not the case today and the United States has the worst record of inequality on the entire planet! Japan and Germany, who surpass us, and most of the rest of the world economically, also have vastly lower inequality thresholds and support more and better social programs than we do. So I can’t say it enough, we rate right at the top of the list or bottom depending on how you want to look at it in rampant inequality on the world stage. I have heard the old proverb started by the gods of industry that if they do better it trickles down to you. Well what trickles down has been shipped overseas along with your job, or is in an offshore account. Dumbest saying I have ever heard. You have heard of lemmings? You say you want to leave a legacy for your children? Well unless you can figure out how to marry them off to about five or six families of royalty in the U.S., you’re just flat out of luck if the current trend continues. 

 

 

Just Some Thoughts

I know, OMG, right? I will try and refrain from politics and just try for some history, geography, and of course, some basic editorializing by yours truly. Hey, it’s my blog! Just been thinking about the human condition and trying to understand it.

Let’s start with Ukraine and the Crimea since it is in the news right now. I have been checking news reports from Crimea itself, most of the people there, as far as I can tell, are of ethnic Russian descent and feel like they are not treated the same as most of Ukraine’s citizenry. Now if you look at Crimea, basically it is a peninsula, connected to the main part of the country by a fairly narrow strip of land. The Crimea has always been an area of contention; today’s problems are actually old hat.

Way back in the 13th century Crimea was the capital of the Golden Horde. Under the protection of the Ottoman Empire for about 300 years until Catherine the Great snatched it up in 1783. As you will see if you peruse the maps I have included, you will see that all of Ukraine has been passed around like vodka at a toga party. You will notice also that Ukraine shares a common border with Russia, and that it has changed in size and shape several times. During world wars it seemed to change owners much like a used car with bad brakes. So changing various political entities and countries have claimed the Ukraine and it’s peninsula off and on throughout history, leaving their stamp on the population.  This in turn has caused confusion about who it is and what it stands for.  This is my uneducated opinion of course, but I think accurate.

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So not surprising that since Ukraine was a Soviet Socialist Republic until 1991 that this is still a pebble in the shoe of Mr. Putin, who is old school and used to be KGB right up to 1991 when it was still the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic. Wow, that was a mouthful! Hard to type too! Vladimir also has control issues, just look at him strut when he walks, and has to broadcast himself kicking some protagonists butt in a personal defense demonstration. If you poll Russians on who they voted for, you cannot get a lot of response, but out of the response you do get, very few people seemed to have voted for Vlad, but he still wins with comfortable majorities, go figure.

So what should we do? Well whatever we do it should not be trying to play the blame game. As I have stated, I think the President is weak when it comes to foreign policy, but part of that problem is our congress and president not speaking with one voice when it is critical that we do so. Recognizing when that needs to happen is something congress should know and do, but not this congress.

Do we have a right to interfere? That is the debate isn’t it? You see most of the demonstrators in Crimea wanting to return to Russian rule. So who are we to tell them different? Did Putin send in troops to protect ethnic Russians? I think not, my opinion is that he would like the borders of Russia to start to revert back to the way they were when it was the Soviet Union.  With the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, Crimea became part of an independent Ukraine. Crimea’s communist authorities proclaimed self-government in 1992, which ultimately led to the territory being granted expanded autonomous rights by Kiev. Just today they voted to return to Russian control, but of course that is not the way Kiev wants it. So just be aware that this author thinks that it is important not to let Putin have whatever he wants without opposition, he is a dangerous man. Better to pay attention now than later.

  • Rambling

   I really do put a lot of work into trying to put a factual face on what is going on. I even have two books on economics, one from each of the two different ideologies of how an economy should work. Totally confusing, by the way. One of Jim Mahon’s degrees gives him insight into this area and he got me the books. I do have the text of HR 3590, the Affordable Care Act on my desktop; refer to it all the time. I read and study different areas, and have for some time now, so I can try and understand from an informed place. There is a lot of myth out there that has been planted by, well big business. I was just talking to a good friend who accused me of always bashing big business. She stated as long as big business was making money she does ok. So as she said, big business needs to be healthy, but the middle class also needs to be healthy, and a dime or two in the pocketbook, is what makes big business healthy. Henry Ford created the middle class. He did this by paying his factory workers three times more than anyone else. By doing so he made his workers able to afford his cars.  At first he was called a traitor by big business, but then they saw that if there was a huge population that could afford to spend on items other than the basics, they made more money, way more than the cost of the wage increase. They also saw Henry getting very rich, so that helped. We have gotten away from this, and we are now driven by the quick profit. Companies are only dedicated to their shareholders, not their customers. We do this with minimum wage jobs, shipping jobs overseas where taxes and wages are less demanding, and the middle class is slipping away. Now this only works if unions are disabled so they cannot collectively bargain for wages, and if profits are made by using third world labor and positioning a company so as not to pay a lot of U.S. taxes. So companies have big profits, but you and me, not so much, and the federal, and yes, state governments go into debt because the revenue from big business just is not there anymore. So they feed you this bullshit about socialism and entitlements and how you and I need to tighten our belts and leave them the hell alone.  Now it used to be that as long as big business thrived you and I did ok, but the jobs the companies created were here in the U.S. being done by you and me. And even if your job was not union, a company had to compete for the best workers so had to pay a man or women well above minimum wage to attract that person. But today that is not the norm. Also, thanks to Wall Street and big banks playing with our money and lying to us about it for profit, there is a huge workforce out there desperate for any job, so again, you work two jobs if you can get it, because one puts food and maybe pays some utilities, the other puts a roof over your head, if your lucky. For those of us trying to secure the higher paying jobs, big banks are charging so much for student loans that people with degrees and an education are at risk when they retire because they are still saddled with a huge debt they still have not paid off, so must work up until the day they expire. I have found a huge portion of our mid level executives who say they will be in this fix at retirement age.  In order to afford an education at a good college, they are saddled with immense debt. Student loans are charged out at exorbitant rates, with very little oversight. So yes, they have better paying jobs, but they have less freedom than you might think. And yes I think big business has bought politics, and you and I are not represented. It is not a government by the people anymore, and it does not matter what party you are in.

I have also been allowed to read several so called less expensive insurance policies, if it was less money it was a whole lot of “less” coverage. Actually they all cut you off with severe limits if you had anything other than a small accident, and that accident had better not be too severe. Your friends, if you actually read their policies, will have severe limitations. They will have caps on hospital stays, money, testing, and what operations you are allowed to have. So basically if you stay healthy, they will be glad to help pay for a few Doc visits and take your money, since they are making a profit off of you.  But if you get sick, you get dumped faster than a rattlesnake in a baby carriage. So minimums were set for care, and maximum profits based on how much we pay the company as a collective whole under the Affordable Care Act.  So the health care industry started pouring billions into the rumor mill and the political machines to defeat the very idea.

So my dilemma is that Obamacare is too unwieldy and has some severe drawbacks, but the premise of Obamacare is not such a bad idea. And the socialism thing, big business starts banging that drum whenever anyone tries to exercise any control over their actions, no matter how outrageous they get. Wall street and the current banking systems are prime examples. They have finagled their way into being able to use our money, which means your savings, retirement accounts, even your checking, and gamble with it on Wall Street. That is why banks can fail, and this used to be illegal and for good reason. I could go on and on.In closing, Capitalism is great, but for you and me, a healthy middle class is needed. And I am sorry, the way to do that is exactly how we did it in the past, and yes it was called socialism then also. Look, big business is making more profit now than anytime in history, so if they cry, it is just more of that same bullshit I mentioned before. If you want to see how it works today, go to Detroit and drive around for a couple of hours. If you survive, you will see what todays agenda gets you. Look, I am not oblivious to the fact that we need to pay down the deficit and the debt. It has to be done. But you get our businesses paying taxes here in the U.S., wages being paid here, which also increases the tax base, and enough so we can spend on “stuff”, and that in combination with closing loopholes and austerity is the way to go. Austerity alone simply punishes those of us who are already strapped. Don’t get me started on Social Security. That is the only system, when left alone that pays for itself and adds nothing to the debt. It would have also stayed equal to the task if politicians had not stripped trillions out of it, and then when it came time to pay the piper they want the very people they stole it from to pay it back. So how is that fair or an entitlement, and how is it socialism to tell them to go suck on a rock! Most of you will know this, but your employer also matched your contribution to the Social Security fund. When they figure out how much you contributed that amount is ignored.

Oh, and bye the way, if China loves it, it stinks for you and me, guaranteed! Not sure if that statement fits the conversation, but true nonetheless, and made me feel good. 

Now usually I know whom I am going to get a response from. I also have several followers, even from foreign countries, but my friends here and in Idaho are my primary targets. So I will post on Facebook, and will email this. If you bother to read it, and disagree, as I know almost everyone in Idaho will, give me hell. I will respond and I will not be disrespectful. If you can educate me, have at it. Jim Mahon and I are great friends, best friends as a matter of fact, but we have to agree to disagree all the time. But I have learned much from the experience, and I hope, so has he.

Bye the way, one of my followers is in grade school in Eastern Europe and knows more about American politics than most of us!

How do you Know if a Politician is Lying

You can Hear them Talking

Obamacare’s critics are going to town on the cancellation letters millions of Americans are receiving from their health insurers, informing them that their health plans won’t conform to the new federal standards for health coverage as of Jan. 1.

We’re supposed to be scandalized by this, since President Obama himself assured everyone that if they liked their insurance they’d be able to keep it. And people just love plans that in some cases cost just $50 a month. At that price, what’s not to love?

Back in March, Consumer Reports published a study of many of these plans and placed them in a special category: “junk health insurance.” Some plans, the magazine declared, may be worse than none at all.

Consumer Reports is right. Plans with monthly premiums in the two figures marketed to customers in their 30s, 40s, or even 50s invariably impose ridiculously low coverage limits. They’ve typically been pitched to people who couldn’t find affordable insurance because of their age or preexisting conditions, or who were so financially strapped that they were lured by the cheap upfront cost.

“People buy a plan that’s terrible,” says Nancy Metcalf, Consumer Reports senior project editor for health, “and if they get sick, they don’t even know they don’t have insurance.”

An example from CR: A plan costing $65 a month held by Judith Goss, 48, a Michigan department store employee. When Goss was diagnosed with breast cancer, she discovered the drawbacks of the policy’s coverage limits of $1,000 a year for outpatient treatment and $2,000 for hospitalization — barely enough to cover a day and half and a Tylenol in the hospital. She delayed treatment, so her cancer got much worse before she finally opted for surgery. Those sorts of coverage limits are illegal come Jan. 1.

Many of the supposedly bereft insurance customers being paraded before viewers of network and cable news — and dredged up by House Republicans during the theatrical grilling of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius — fall into this junk category. The news reporters never seem to lay out the benefits actually provided by these low-premium policies their subjects supposedly love, or their steep back-end costs if they actually get sick.

Consider the case of Diane Barrette, the 56-year-old Florida woman whose cancellation horror story was reported by a credulous CBS News and picked up by Fox News, which has been a one-stop shop for your Obamacare misinformation needs. Consumer Reports examined Barrette’s Blue Cross Blue Shield policy and made two discoveries: how junky it really is, and how badly her insurer may have misled her about her options. Barrette’s $54 monthly premium bought her almost nothing. The policy pays $50 per office visit (which can run two or three times that) and $15 per prescription (which can run to thousands of dollars a month); above that she’s on her own. Nothing for a colonoscopy. Nothing for mental health treatment. Up to $50 for hospital and ER services — and that only if her treatment is for “complications of pregnancy.” Nothing for outpatient services. Plus Barrette is not of an age where pregnancy is going to be an issue, so basically there was no coverage. This is one of the cases Fox news paraded before us as a “horror” story of lost insurance the customer loved and wanted to keep. Might have just as well cuddled up in bed with a timber rattler.

“She’s paying $650 a year to be uninsured,” said an insurance expert Consumer Reports Nancy Metcalf consulted. If she ever had a serious medical problem, “she would have lost the house she’s sitting in.”

As for the replacement plan her insurer offered, at a shocking $591 a month? Barrette has much better options via the government insurance exchange. Metcalf estimated that she’ll be eligible for “real insurance that covers all essential health benefits” for as little as $165 a month — a higher premium than she’s paying now, sure, but one that won’t cost her her home.

That raises the question of whether the insurers sending out these cancellation notices are trying to cheat their customers, expecting insurance companies to play fair with their customers is as pointless as expecting dogs not to drink from the toilet, but what’s the excuse of the reporters who retail these yarns without fully checking them out? You know how I feel  about that!

It’s time to tamp down the breathless indignation about these health plan cancellations. Many of the departing plans are being outlawed for good reason, and many of the customers losing them have no idea how much financial exposure they were saddled with in the old days. That’s the real scandal in American health insurance, and Obamacare is designed, rightly, to fix it. Look, I personally know people who have, and have had these junk insurance policies. This article and what I wrote here is the truth, they are not only junk, but they put your property and home in danger. Hospitals do go after everything you owe of value if you cannot pay. I know a nice lady, had a stroke, luckily she rehabbed nicely, no thanks to her insurance. Turned out it paid for nothing. The hospital attached her home. Luckily for her, she has three sons who were able to sell the paid for home and with the proceeds pay off the hospital and get her the rehab she needed. They then pooled their money and bought back their mothers house. So now they are all three sharing a mortgage on a house that had been paid off years ago thanks to junk insurance. The fact that our politicians are still playing politics and not doing what is right for you and me should piss you off.

Michael Hiltzik posted the original article in the Los Angeles Times; I edited and added my own thoughts and points along the way.

Here in California you can use the national website, but we set up our own called Covered California. It also had some original glitches, which have been worked out. Mostly caused by the huge mass of people who attempted to access it on opening day. However California, instead of griping and complaining, has made an effort to make it work. You can compare what you have and what is covered with what is available and compare the cost. There are numbers to call with questions. I have heard no one complaining so far, even Fox is keeping its mouth shut, I guess they couldn’t find anyone willing to prevaricate for money in this case.  At least so far as I know!

Why Government is no longer

By the People or for the People

 

 

The blog you are hopefully about to read is inspired by a man whose articles and blogs are a favorite of mine. His writings mirror my own thoughts, but he has a much more educated background to draw from, so I am going to encapsulate several articles he wrote, culling the thoughts I wish to convey. His name is Robert Reich, Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley, was Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration. Time Magazine named him one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the twentieth century.

 

Before January 2009, the filibuster was used only for measures and nominations on which the minority party in the Senate had their strongest objections. Since then, Senate Republicans have filibustered almost everything, betting that voters will blame Democrats for the dysfunction in Congress as much as they blame the GOP. So far the bet is paying off because the press has failed to call out the GOP – which is now preventing votes on three D.C. Circuit Court nominees, the Labor Department and the EPA, the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, and the National Labor Relations Board. The GOP has blocked all labor board nominees. They have also violated hundreds of years of Senate precedent by filibustering the nomination of a Cabinet secretary, Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense, and using the filibuster to delay John Brennan’s nomination as CIA Director. I am not saying that all of these nominations and measures should not have been challenged, but when almost everything is held up stagnating the congress and it’s ability to perform, then I am saying we must look to the source. This congress has done less work than any in history. I am also not laying all the blame for the lack of product on the GOP, I am after all a Republican. But the entrenched GOP is not looking after my interest, or yours right now, and we need to see the truth of this, as it is as plain as the giant locust that just smashed into your windshield!

 

What happened to the Republican senators, such as Mark Hatfield of Oregon and Nancy Kassebaum of Kansas, who were willing to compromise, and who cared more about preserving the institutions of government than getting their way? Even Orren Hatch and John McCain in those days were more concerned about the institutional integrity of the U.S. government than about any particular policy difference they may have had with the other side.  But the new breed – Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, Sam Brownback, Jeff Sessions, David Vitter, to name a few – don’t give a rat’s ass about how or whether our government functions. In fact, they give every indication that they’d rather it didn’t. Economics, and much of public policy and political strategy, assume that people are motivated by self-interest, that the definition of acting rationally is to maximize what you want for yourself, and that other values – service, duty, allegiance to others, morality, and shared ideals – are either irrelevant or negligible

Ayn Rand, the philosophical guru of the modern Republican Party, popularized this view of human nature. In her world, selfishness is the only honest and justifiable motive. By looking out for Number One, we accomplish everything that’s necessary. Economist Milton Friedman extended the logic: The magic of the marketplace can be relied on to allocate resources to their highest and best uses. Anything “public” is suspect.

The titans of Wall Street and the CEOs of our major corporations have put this narrow principle into everyday practice. In their view, the aggregation of great wealth and maximization of profit is the only justifiable motive. Greed is good. Eight-figure compensation packages are their due. People are paid according to their economic worth.  This crimped perspective misses what’s most important. Shared values are the essence of a society. They fuel not only acts of valor, but they also motivate people to become teachers and social workers, police officers and soldiers, librarians and city councilors.

So why do our politician act as they do, because big banking, and entities of big business like the Koch brothers –have long been intent on blocking any legislation that does not benefit their deep pockets, at the expense of you and me. All politicians, but it is epidemic in Washington, pander to the people who have the influence and the cheddar to get them reelected and offer them high paying employment for doing next to nothing when their political careers have run their course.

One last example of to illustrate me point. Earlier this year the Republican-led House passed a bill pegging student-loan interest rates to the yield on the 10-year Treasury note, plus 2.5 percentage points. Republicans estimate this will bring in around $3.7 billion of extra revenue, which will help pay down the federal debt.
In other words, it’s a tax — and one that hits lower-income students and their families.

Meanwhile, a growing number of Republicans have signed a pledge – sponsored by the multi-billionaire Koch brothers — to oppose any climate-change legislation that might raise government revenues by taxing polluters. It is called the No Climate Tax Pledge.

Why are Republicans willing to impose a tax on students and not on polluters? Don’t look for high principle. Big private banks stand to make a bundle on student loans if rates on government loans are raised. They have thrown their money at both parties but been particularly generous to the GOP. Meanwhile, the Koch brothers, again – whose companies are among America’s 20 worst air-polluters –have long been intent on blocking a carbon tax or a cap-and-trade system. And they, too, have been donating generously to Republicans to do their bidding.

We should be taxing polluters and not taxing students. The GOP has it backwards because its patrons want it that way. Remember this is being said by a long time Republican, but we need to see that our party needs to change, along with the Democrats, to return to a government by the people and for the people. I mean all of the people, not 1% of the people, who just maybe will share to a lesser degree with a lucky 10% of the people.

The following paragraph is the most important statement I will be making, so pay attention. The modern GOP is based on an unlikely coalition of wealthy business executives, small business owners, and struggling whites. Its durability depends on the latter two categories believing that the economic stresses they’ve experienced for decades have a lot to do with the government taking their money and giving it to the poor, who are disproportionately black and Latino. The real reason why small business owners and struggling whites haven’t done better is the same reason most of the rest of America hasn’t done better: Although the output of Americans has continued to rise, almost all the gains have gone to the very top. If we were still doing things the way we did four decades ago a typical household’s income rose in tandem with output. But since the late 1970s, as we allowed big business, wall street, and banking to slowly weaken unions and lower taxes on corporate America, allowed out-sourcing of our wealth so they would not have to pay taxes in America, which slowly caused most Americans’ incomes to flatten. Had the real median household income continued to keep pace with economic growth it would now average $92,000 instead of $50,000.

I know my views do not make me popular with some of my dearest friends, but I will always keep you close to my heart, while still trying to convince you to see what I think is so obvious. If I did not, I feel that not only would I be letting myself down, but you as well. So I have to keep on trying. We need to get rid of the political parties as they are now. They do not work, just look at the mess we are in for evidence. I have written about that subject before so will not grind on you about that today. I hope, if nothing else, I have gotten at least one person thinking with a little more of an open mind. No one is trying to become the King of America or any other such claptrap. If we want things to be better, we have to not be lazy, and we have to be able to look at both sides of a problem, not make up slogans full of half truths and outright lies to convince ourselves that we are right, but debate with one outcome in mind, to make America work, for everyone, not just those you happen to agree with. Also, in closing, the people who can afford to influence you the most, or almost without exception your enemy, not your friend. So it all boils down to on simple fact, our politicians no longer represent you and me, but the 1%, or maybe the 10%, but that still leaves 90% of us hanging in the proverbial breeze! We now work harder, longer, for less money than most of our European neighbors, a far cry from just 40 years ago, and getting increasingly worse year by year.

 

A Political Facebook Conversation

I was participating in a conversation that was inspired by a post on Facebook by my best friend. It immediately attracted several of my acquaintances in a spirited conversation about our American political system, it’s pitfalls and several different and sometimes opposing views on how we should effect change.  Usually a point or two have been made in these types of posts before they stray off into he says she says limbo. In this case it did not and I think some valid points were made. I am going to try and see if I can give you, the reader, and an accurate synopsis of this conversation. It will be a little wordy, and sometimes repetitive, but in order to make sense of the different points being put forward I may have no choice. I will try to make an effort to keep it as concise and to the point as I can.  It started out with the following post making the statement as follows by the person, my friend, who will be called the Author for purposes of identification.

“I have been curious lately concerning how low the ratings of our Politicians in Washington are, and yet we keep voting them in. I have come to the conclusion that there are two reasons. The first is that the Democratic and Republican Parties have become so powerful that they prevent other candidates from entering the race. The second is that our current Political System is so corrupt that we have became inured to the to failings, and just accept it as business as usual. Both reasons are sad to me because the answer is so simple; we use the vote to change the entire process.”

“We were founded as a Republic because our Founding Fathers believed a Democracy would result in a Mob Rule. A Republic and a Democracy are identical in every aspect except one. In a Republic the sovereignty is in each individual person. In a Democracy the sovereignty is the group. Sadly, our Republic seems to be dead, and Mob Rule in its’ most unruly form as business as usual in our Nation’s Capital. All that is important to our Politicians is that their particular Mob rules over the other Mob, and the rights of its’ supposedly sovereign citizens, us, are left in the wayside.”

“On a side note, the Constitution seems to be forgotten by all. It is commonplace for our politicians as well as our citizens to forget the bill of rights as our emotions rule over our rights. At one time The Federal Government was limited by the Constitution, and the rights of the States were paramount in the recognition that we embrace our differences as well as our individual sovereign rights. As per the Constitution, all rights that are not spelled out in the Constitution are granted to the States.”

“It is also a fact that I as an individual can provide for myself much better than any political body. I am proudly registered as a Constitutionalist rather than a Republican or a Democrat! Just saying…..”

This statement is what started a long debate. The Author of the original post was asked if we are to use the vote to vote out incumbents or to impress upon our government bodies what it is we demand they do, why then do we still need and use the Electoral College.

The Author responded with, “If you read the Constitution, the Electoral College has morphed into something controlled by the Political Parties. As stated in the Constitution, all States are given an equal single vote in the election of the President. Also, the President is supposedly NOT to be of a Political Party (this last statement is worded poorly, sorry) As it stands right now, States like Idaho do not have a say in the election of the President. The only reason I can see as to why our State Legislature allow this is that they accept the limitations in order for the power to be in the hands of the Political Parties. I recommend reading “The Evolution and Destruction of the Electoral College” by Gary and Carolyn Alder. It is not too long, and easy reading. It is an eye opener….. Oh, and John, in reading it, I also discovered that as you my belief that my thinking that the Electoral College was founded due to poor education and communication was in error. The actual reasoning is that it is a process in finding the best American Statesman to lead and represent our Country apart for the Political Process and the Political Parties.”

I responded to this with the following statement. “I ordered your book but the two links I am giving you have some good points and seem to be addressing the same issue. They do however, touch on scattered populations only connected by rail in major population centers, and that everyone, without the communication advantages of today would just vote for the favorite son, the local guy from each state. It also touches on how the original framers of the Electoral College believed in part, that political parties were evil entities and not the way to elect a president. Now that struck a cord. So in the original 13 states, I can see how this was not such a bad idea. As a matter of fact, probably a good one, as the only other solutions were to elect the president by the federal or state congresses, with the popular vote not considered because of the afore mentioned voting of each state for the favorite son not giving a president a mandate from the country to preside. Today this is not the case, as we are connected by an information highway, as convoluted as it may be.”

http://www.uselectionatlas.org/INFORMATION/INFORMATION/electcollege_history.php

This second link has several headings, all about different aspects of how we vote and how the system handles it, but there is one on Electoral College. Several have insights that are worthy of our attention.”

http://www.archives.gov/federal-register/electoral-college/index.html

The Electoral College – Origin and History

www.uselectionatlas.org

The Author responded with the following. “Your links are close, very close, to my understanding of the Electoral College. However, originally, it was a NOMINATING process, not a voting process. However it always had the stipulation that if there were a clear majority during the nominating process, that individual would be President. The amendment changed the word nominating to voting. It was and still is a one vote per State process if there is not a clear majority. The process we are following with two candidates running chosen by the Political Parties is unconstitutional from both the original and existing Electoral College system. As I said earlier, the Electoral College system has “morphed” into what it is today; a system controlled by the Political Parties. Sadly, I have yet to see anyone stand up and yell foul from the States, which do not have a say in the election of a President. Again, the only reason I can think of for this is that the Political Parties do not want to give up their control of the Presidency.”

At this point some inappropriate comments were made, starting with me, which do not contribute to the timber of this conversation, so I will skip them. There were some queries made by other participants asking if in all this back and forth was anyone offering any solutions. Someone else commented that in all this information somewhere solutions were to be had, or at least the germination of thought processes should have started. In an attempt to answer the query I added the following. “Well, my solution would be to abolish all political parties, each candidate would campaign on his or her qualifications for the job, everyone would just vote their choice. We would still need primaries to narrow the field, then a general election, all done without party affiliation, The politicians at the state and federal level would have no allegiance to any party, or pressure from said entities, and would better vote their conscience and be able to work with anyone of like mind they wished. Then you shoot all lobbyists, problem solved!

Since I wrote the latter, I would like to add that what I imagined is that anyone could run for President, for example, but they would have to get a qualifying petition to get on the ballet. Then a convention would be convened, with only the two top vote getters attending out of all candidates that ran. The convention would be used for the candidates to announce their choice of a running mate, and allow that person to introduce himself and why he was chosen, so forth and so on. Then no advertisements would be allowed. Each candidate could have televised statements about what they have planned for the country and why they should be elected, I would not even like to see a debate, you know how those tend to go.

There were some various conversations, links shared, and opinions given about what had been said. Then a new voice entered the conversation. Now I happen to find that I agree with this gentlemen’s point of view, almost without reservation, so I just thought at this point this should be mentioned. He added the following.  “Gentlemen, the problem, in a nutshell, is money. Money controls both parties. Money is the grease that makes our political / election system run. We desperately need to remodel election financing. Our representatives in Washington D.C. spend at least a third of their time pandering to wealthy donors. A side note: a Republic is a form of Democracy, just as a Chevy is a form of car. They are not two entirely different things.” We will call this person Gentleman A, for further reference.

The original Author came back with, “So are you saying there is no hope, or that the remodel of campaign finances should come first? I agree that financing is an important part of how elections are run today, and, concerning that issue (and in my opinion), all campaigns should have either a cap, or that they need to be limited to free public announcements on all news media; basically a resume and invitation to debate public forums. I know, that last won’t work, but the cap might eventually have hope; after all they do it in sports, why not politics. What I AM hoping for is for a grass roots campaign that will start holding our elected officials accountable, and to actually follow the Constitution as it was intended as, “The Law Of The Land.” No way to know if it will work, but there seems to be a little interest, and a lot of discontent. We can either say we the people have no money so we can’t fight the system, or try to build a grass roots political movement. As people say, you need to vote to make your voice heard, but as it stands now, your vote is for one of two sides of the same coin, perpetuating the problems, not the solutions. Be it folly or not, I, for one, am unwilling to sit back and do nothing.”

I would like to note at this juncture that I firmly believe that a fair and low cap be set on campaigns, thus allowing a broader base of individuals to compete for office. No funds from those represented by any lobby, foreign governments, big business, or special interest groups. The only contributions should come from registered voters, period.

At this point two of the other participants asked pertinent questions about the Authors comments about a democracy and a republic and what the differences were? The Author responded thusly, “My main thoughts concerning Republic vs. Democracy, is that in a Republic the individual has more importance than he/she does in a Democracy. The United States was formed as a Republic so the individual can become the best he/she can be. In a Democracy, the individual has no importance other than part of the group. What has made the US great in the past was that the individual could achieve greatness on his/her own terms. Think about why freedom means so much to us. Freedom to voice our opinion, freedom to own our piece of the pie, freedom to achieve the American dream! We are loosing that freedom as our elected officials “socialize” America. Think of Obama Care where we as Individuals are forced to buy into the system being administered to the mob. We no longer will have the ability to make our own choice concerning medical care. You can see that many Government programs are being forced on us for our own supposed good. The final outcome of that is that we are being forced to accept mediocrity instead of being allowed to achieve greatness. I wish I could actually express what is in my heart and soul concerning this idea. I worry that my children will never have the chance to have the same freedoms that I have enjoyed.”

Gentleman A responded with, “Sir, I’m not sure I understand your definitions of “democracy” and “republic.” It almost sounds as if you are coming up with your own definitions. It may be that you are thinking of the difference in the same way the founding fathers did, which has changed in modern usage, but the terms democracy and republic have changed their meaning today. Under the definition that modern people in the world use, there are 5 basic forms of democracy:

Direct democracy is a political system where the citizens participate in the decision-making personally, contrary to relying on intermediaries or representatives.

Representative democracy involves the election of government officials by the people being represented. If the head of state is also democratically elected then it is called a democratic republic. The most common mechanisms involve election of the candidate with a majority or a plurality of the votes.

Parliamentary democracy is a representative democracy where government is appointed by representatives as opposed to a ‘presidential rule’ wherein the President is both head of state and the head of government and is elected by the voters. Under a parliamentary democracy, government is exercised by delegation to an executive ministry and subject to ongoing review, checks and balances by the legislative parliament elected by the people.

A constitutional democracy is a representative democracy in which the ability of the elected representatives to exercise decision-making power is subject to the rule of law, and usually moderated by a constitution that emphasizes the protection of the rights and freedoms of individuals, and which places constraints on the leaders and on the extent to which the will of the majority can be exercised against the rights of minorities.

Hybrid democracy: Some modern democracies that are predominately representative in nature also heavily rely upon forms of political action that are directly democratic. These democracies, which combine elements of representative democracy and direct democracy, are termed hybrid democracies or semi-direct democracies. Examples include Switzerland and some U.S. states, where frequent use is made of referendums and initiatives.

Democracy Variants:

Republic: In contemporary usage, the term democracy refers to a government chosen by the people, whether it is direct or representative. The term republic has many different meanings, but today often refers to a representative democracy with an elected head of state, such as a president, serving for a limited term, in contrast to states with a hereditary monarch as a head of state, even if these states also are representative democracies with an elected or appointed head of government such as a prime minister.

The Founding Fathers of the United States rarely praised and often criticized democracy, which in their time tended to specifically mean direct democracy, often without the protection of a Constitution enshrining basic rights. Republicanism may be distinguished from other forms of democracy as it asserts that people have unalienable rights that cannot be voted away by a majority of voters. What was critical to American values, John Adams insisted, was that the government be “bound by fixed laws, which the people have a voice in making, and a right to defend.”

Ok, you might want to let that sink in and maybe read that twice. I took and completed a course in college covering local, state, and the federal government and got an “A”, but have to admit that I now wish I had more formal education in these areas. Gentleman A continued, “The rights of the individual is always in conflict with the rights of the group. We have always lived in a country in which there is a compromise between pure, selfish, free market Capitalism, and everybody pulling together, which you might call Socialism at some point. Even civic clubs have to have rules that deny the rights of individuals to do whatever the hell they want to. That’s a loss of freedom, but there is always, ALWAYS a balance between freedom for the individual and the good of the group as a whole. Where that line is drawn is where people disagree.”

The Author answered, “I admit to being both a Constitutionalist, and an advocate of Austrian Economics. My arguments tend to follow along those lines. And many (some?), including me feel that our unalienable rights are being bent beyond recognition. Our Government since the early 20th Century has became increasing top down. Some of the histories of Presidents I have studied, trying to determine if the spending frenzies instituted by both President Hoover, and President Roosevelt (FDR) actually ended the Great Depression, point out that our leaders at the beginning of the 20th Century felt that a controlled society would lead to a better life for all. It was shortly after the time that Thoreau and Emerson postulated their Utopian ideals, which may have also contributed (I’m reaching here) to the birth of communism (notice the small case “c”, (I’m sure you know why that is important). Back on subject, read Ronald Thompson posts concerning a ruling class existing in America today. I found that very interesting and apropos to our discussion.”

Gentleman A responded with the following, “The Author stated, “What I AM hoping for is for a grass roots campaign that will start holding our elected officials accountable,…” There are numerous grass roots movements dedicated to improving our political system. And yes, I do very much think getting the money out of politics is one of the initial keys to reform. The primary motivation of politicians is to stay in office/power – to stay in office they need money – to get money, they have to please those who can afford to give it to them.”

The Author responded, “Granted, the article of the link provided is from a Conservative Publication, so you might want to dismiss it as propaganda. That point given, I looked for statistics, and found many all showing an increase over time. However, none of them discuss the reasons; whether the rise is due to unemployment, or due to the unwillingness to work based on various individual motivations. It is not an easy question to answer. Nevertheless here is an interesting article.” http://spectator.org/archives/2013/04/25/america-on-welfare

Gentleman A response was as follows, “I don’t have a lot of time or energy to research this, but what I did find leads me to believe, yes more people are becoming dependent on government assistance. But most of that increase has happened since the economic crash of 2008.

Enrollment in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) has surged 70% since 2008, reaching a record 47.8 million Americans in December 2012. That means 15% of the country receives the benefits, nearly double the rate as in 1975. That would be about 9% on SNAP in 2008 plus 70% (6.3) = 15.3%. So most of the increase in SNAP participants “can all be explained by a slow job market, more pockets of poverty and a push from states to get residents to apply for SNAP, reports The Wall Street Journal.” “An official at the U.S. Department of Agriculture told The Journal he expects the rolls to shrink as the economy continues to improve.”

More people on assistance, while at the same time the wealthiest of Americans have become richer and the income gap is the widest in modern history, can be interpreted as the deck being stacked in favor of those at the top – the big banks, the corporations that profit from shipping jobs out of the country, etc.”

The author responded to this by adding, “The one thing in the article that jumped out at me was that the Government Agencies running the programs actually were encouraging people to apply for their programs. This, of course, is typical of Government ran Agencies. Spend more money, so your budget increases, one of the things that is “wrong” with our current system is that increased Government Spending increases inflation. What many don’t realize is that inflation is basically a “hidden” tax. First it reduces the impact of the debt by allowing the Government to pay back it’s loans with cheaper dollars than it originally borrowed, and it wasn’t for still running a deficit, the ratio of debt to GNP would reduce accordingly. The second and most horrendous problem with inflation is that it is passed down the line with the bottom level of consumers, us, picking up the entire tab. This is one of the major causes of the rich getting richer, and the poor, poorer. I hesitate about saying it is the only cause, because of the financial greed of people manipulating money as a commodity in order to create wealth out of the thin air. I wish there was a way of taxing the generation of wealth by manipulation without also taxing companies trying to build wealth by actually making a tangible product. If there was, I would be 100% behind taxing that wealth at astronomical levels.”

So with that I will conclude. I did leave out several well-written and cogent passages by other participants, but I had to basically concentrate on the conversation between the Author and Gentleman A in order for this not to turn into a novel. Of course you did also have to put up with blather by me, but hey, it is my blog after all! I hope this is read by all of my readers, it is a little long, but I think you should know what it is your contemporaries are discussing. If any of you have comments, there is a place provided on my blog. If you want to email me, feel free!

Foreign Students Afraid

John Kerry recently stated that foreign students are afraid of gun violence in the U.S. and so are coming in fewer numbers as a result. The article I read was not very good at nailing down any point he was trying to make, but as he is aligned with president Obama, you can predict with a certain amount of certainty that he is talking about the need for gun legislation. Legislation aimed at curtailing certain firearms and their accessories. I will examine a couple of subjects today. One will be about my opinions on gun control, and secondly, the real reason behind fears of foreign students who are considering an American education, which has several parts, the least of which is the actual guns themselves!

First I firmly believe that the second amendment does in actuality guaranty our right to possess and bear arms. I think that all states should adopt gun regulations similar to Idaho. In Idaho, for example, if you apply for a license to carry, you are guaranteed the permit within 90 days. Now this is of course if you are not a convicted felon. You do not have to prove special circumstances however. Even so, as long as you carry in the open, and adhere to local statutes, such as weapons not being loaded inside city limits, you do not have to even have a permit.

I also do believe however, that anyone buying a gun, or wanting a carry permit, should be required to go through a mandated background check for criminal record, mental status, and the like. Sure, career criminals will find ways to acquire guns and bypass this process, but that does not mean it is not invaluable in keeping documented loonies from getting a gun. It has been argued that most guns used in mass killings have been purchased legally. I am sure that is true, but why all the fuss over registering your weapon or submitting to background checks. I have relatives that will tell you that is the first step to the government taking them away from you. I do not believe this is even possible. Say they show up, you tell them you were crossing a stream up in Hell Bent for Leather country, lost your footing and had to ditch all you weapons in order not to drown! There is squat they can do as long as you use your brain housing group for more than a hat rack! There are so many weapons all ready out there, that the gov’t getting them is not going to happen.

Second argument is so we can fight back if the gov’t goes south and we need to protect ourselves. Well, if the gov’t ever went so far over the deep end that we need to start an armed conflict, I don’t care how many assault weapons, fully automatic machine guns and the like you own, you will lose against a drone attack, or maybe a heavily armed F18, or even a few missiles coming your way, and you haven’t even had an enemy you could shoot at yet, and your just an ash heap.  We do need to keep our right to bear and own arms, but to register and be checked out to see who and what we might be in relation to our mental health or our criminal record before we can buy, no problem with that. I believe every citizen should have the right to carry, and my next section will tell you why.

The second point I would like to make is the real reason that not only foreigners but also we at home fear violence in our country. It has nothing to do with our gun ownership or our rights under the 2nd amendment. Gun violence has gone up in countries like the United Kingdom after it deprived the public of most of their gun rights. The criminal element had no problems getting them however, thus the populace was made even more vulnerable, and there are statistics to back that up! The real reason is that gangs in America are responsible for the overwhelming majority of gun violence. They are actively engaged in prostitution, slavery, illegal gun trade, drugs, illegal gambling, and are even organized across state lines and borders! They should be classified as terrorists and hunted and prosecuted as such. This is the prime reason we are not safe in America. If I, a white man, was to walk the streets, day or night, but especially at night in certain areas of Compton or Watts, my chances of being alive would not be good. At the very least robbed and or hospitalized.  This is not politically correct, but it is accurate. I have personally been in these areas and barely survived. I was lost at the time; I was not looking for trouble. I will not admit to anything in this blog, but there was a reason I escaped unharmed, and damn lucky I was armed with that reason.

Now I used the examples I did because I had personal experiences there. But I am not picking on any particular race. Gangs exist in all ethnicities. Yep whites are an ethnicity and not exempt. Some of the most heinous and worst examples of gang violence and organized crime come from white gangs. So again I reiterate, gangs should classified as terrorists and pursued as such.

Just one last thought, who and why did gangs become so prevalent. The reasons are as diverse as the gangs themselves. But one overriding reason does come to mind, the American public! Yes, you, me, everyone! If you look back to the not so distant past, where the gangs are most prevalent there used to be Spartan neighborhoods, the inhabitants wanting nothing more than education and career opportunities. But affluent America did not want certain segments to live in their neighborhoods, or go to their schools, or even work alongside them. So gradually neighborhoods of people began to emerge that had disillusioned populations about any chance or change. This in turn caused an increase in alcohol and drug use as an escape from the depression this caused. Naturally crime became a way to earn a living when nothing else seemed available except as an underpaid menial laborer or other subservient job.  These gangs became more sophisticated, more violent, and more daring as they discovered that a lot of what they did would be overlooked as long as they had the sense to stay out of affluent neighborhoods except to supply them with the fruits of their endeavor, drugs and prostitution being the most prevalent. As I stated gangs are as varied as the makeup of the American citizens themselves. Some gangs actually immigrated here, already fully functioning and organized from abroad! Some are more vicious than our homegrown versions and some are as well organized as any well-oiled business organization. This is why they have to be recognized as terrorist organizations and the federal govt. needs to back up local law enforcement in cleaning up these terrorist cells.  I think we as a nation are starting to understand that racial diversity is our strength, and not a reason to segregate. We still have a long way to go, regardless of what laws are on the books; we still have rampant racial prejudice in this country that we need to deal with. All of it tied together with a poorly administered welfare system. Education, real education of every child is the answer. Just like in Iran and Afghanistan, the biggest reason for the attitudes and abiding terrorism is the uneducated masses. Well it is no different here. Until we stop using our schools as a way to house students during the day instead of educating them, we will never get ahead of this problem.  Schools have to be our biggest weapon against welfare, gangs, unemployment, and poverty. Education cannot be the first thing you cut because big business told you not to bother them or no contribution will be forthcoming and you will not be reelected.  Education, education, education, in case you didn’t get it, education not gun control! We need to get our priorities straight, and forthwith, if I might use a Middle English terminology.

The Facts?

Bloomberg News published a couple of new surveys just yesterday, at least it was when I started writing this. And I quote;

A 62% majority believe the deficit is getting bigger, 28% believe the deficit is staying roughly the same, and only 6% believe the deficit is shrinking.

In other words, in the midst of a major national debate over America’s finances, 90% of Americans are wrong about the one basic detail that probably matters most in the conversation, while only 6% — 6%! — are correct.

For the record, last year, over President Obama’s first four years, the deficit shrunk by about $300 billion. This year, the deficit is projected to be about $600 billion smaller than when the president took office. We are, in reality, currently seeing the fastest deficit reduction in several generations.

And yet, 90% of Americans don’t believe the demonstrable, incontrovertible, entirely objective truth. It’s worth pondering why.

End Quote.

 

Now before you just automatically disagree and start the blame game and the name calling, I checked several different sites, tried to get polling from different sources, from the left and the right, and I believe this poll is close, if not 100% accurate. Also I checked several different sites trying to see if the deficit is actually shrinking, I could find no one who could say otherwise. I did find some differing on how they calculated the deficit, which brings me back to my premise that figures don’t lie but liars can figure!  However they all agree that the deficit is coming down at a rate that has increased in the last four years. Now, what we need to decide, did the people they pole understand the question. I say they did not. Now I do believe that the deficit reduction is increasing under President Obama. I am not saying it is his genius that is behind it. We are winding down some pretty expensive wars and other factors which can’t help but help in deficit reduction. But let us now consider whether any of the opinion polls are accurate when you ask about the deficit. I say no, hell no, as a matter of fact! Most people I talk to automatically assume when I talk about the deficit that I am talking about the national debt. They do not understand the difference. So when you ask them whether they think the deficit is shrinking, and it is, but they answer no, they are not wrong. Why? Because they think they are giving an answer about the national debt, which is not shrinking. We have been increasing the national debt by about two trillion dollars the last few years. So the answer they think we are asking is in fact, correct. So if pollsters do not explain the difference between the deficit and the debt, the poll will be totally skewed and incorrect. So lets review what the difference actually is;

The deficit is when, for example, when we as a nation spend 800 billion more to operate than revenue we accumulate in a designated year, than your deficit is 800 billion. But the national debt is a culmination of all the years we have been in deficit, thus for example, our debt was about 16 trillion last year, so if the deficit had been 800 billion than our total debt would be 16 trillion 800 billion plus or minus a nest egg or two. So yes the deficit is decreasing, but as long as it is a deficit our debt continues to climb. So what we have to do is not spend more than available revenue, plus a profit to even start to lower the debt. Got a few hundred years? This is just the cherry on top of the huge cake everyone is trying to slice up.

When you tackle the deficit, and eventually the debt, you have to make some pretty hard decisions. First you have to use common sense, and look at things with a level head and sharp eye.

I am going to start with a simple tax reform. Did I say simple, well I should amend that to say simple in theory, but in reality, with the current climate of the political party system and its ever-present lobbyists employed by big business and banking, well it is almost an insurmountable process. I maintain that every American who gets paid, regardless of how that pay is distributed to him, pays the exact same percent of that pay with no loopholes, no deferments, and no excuses! However when you talk about how companies and corporations will pay their share, this is when it gets difficult. When companies go public and sell stock for profit and or borrow money on how much their stock is worth, well this can become a very complex business again, exactly what we were trying to avoid. So we would have to change how big business operates, and since big business controls politics, in my humble opinion, we are looking at a huge bump in the road to such tax reform. I believe if you could either go to a flat percent, or a flat fee for every person and get rid of the stock scheme altogether, then companies would have to revert to concentrating on making a product that is superior to the competition in order to make the company successful! Instead they manipulate profit and stocks with the bottom line being the cheapest product with quick and fast profits for stockholders and company officers that collect huge bonuses for making it happen. So, just to prove I am not a know it all, I do not have the experience to lay out a total plan that envelopes all aspects of wage earner to corporate giant and those it is beholden to. I am stating that we need to do it different. But in saying that I realize that big business is vital to the health of our nation. So it has to have a prize at the end for an entrepreneur to strive for, a business to aspire to, a conglomerate to want to be, here in America, and not overseas where labor and taxes are less expensive. The main reason I think this is something we need to strive for is simple however. All you have to do is count heads to know how much average Joe is going to kick into the coffers. Companies would know exactly how much of their profit is going to go to taxes, which allows them to know the bottom line, exactly. This will be hard on lawyers, who by the way absolutely hate this idea. So look at it this way, they are sharks and we are, well lets face it shark food in that we feed their greed. So who cares if they are removed from the equation! I discussed this with a friend who in the past has sent me books and articles dealing with economics. He likes the idea, but pointed out how hard it would be to buck the existing system I just described. I wish I had answers instead of just a wish, but I am hoping to get people to start thinking about how we got into this mess, more than once, and worse every time. It has always been greed by corporations and banks, making the fast buck instead of the wise one. Getting theirs and getting out! So we have to invent a better way, a more stable way. I don’t believe anything I have proposed is impossible, or that it impedes competition or entrepreneurial endeavor. Plus it is you and I, every time, that winds up paying for what a few manipulate into being. We pay for it as services are lost to us. We pay for it in lost education for our young; we pay for it in lives when the services we lost are police, fire, and emergency response teams.  Most importantly for this discussion, we pay for it in taxes that are not used wisely, but wind up building a bridge to nowhere, studying the sex life of theTsetse fly, or bucking up foreign powers that would like to see us dead if the truth be known.

So the deficit needs not only to continue to decline, it must cease to exist before we can even start to pay down the trillions we owe. That debt is also costing us plenty in interest. I tried to find out just how much, but nobody seems to be talking. I am sure of one thing, Japan, China, and the rest are not just giving money to us without expecting a payday with huge profits. It will hit us right in the gut sooner than later, I am afraid.

I would love to mention other important things that affect how all this is going to work. Things like Social Security, Medicare, and education. I know my audience however and know I tend to go on and on and you have read further than I have a right to expect. But one last thing, something I cannot let go of, social security should not be listed as an entitlement. It pays for itself. It was robbed time and time again to pay for the shortcomings of those in office. Now they don’t want to even admit there is an excess of 2.7 trillion dollars in non-marketable securities that have come due and are owed to the social security fund. Baby Boomers are not the cause. They are drawing at a higher percentage, sure, but they also paid in at the same higher percent all along. Not only do you and I pay every time we get a paycheck, but your employer has to also pay into it for you every time he does payroll. So it pisses me off that they expect me to eat dog food so they don’t have to pay back what they took while I paid in since I was twelve and so did every employer I ever worked for. I don’t have an answer for the other programs, but if the politicians were forbidden to touch the fund, it does not affect the deficit or the debt. It just means we are broke, and who better to pay for it then those of us who cannot afford high priced lobbyists or power brokers to speak for us. So you have to use your pen, your computer, your vote, and your voice, and you need to start yesterday, as it is fast becoming to late!

The Gun Ban Rhetoric

I am really tired of seeing all the bunk about President Obama and his supposed ban on all guns through some kind of end run using the United Nations. First off, I am a gun owner and do not ever intend to give up my right to have and own them. I think every citizen should be allowed to carry, laws similar to Idaho are appropriate. If you do not have a criminal record, by law in Idaho, your license to carry must be in your hands no later than, I believe 60 days after application. It has been a few months since I looked it up so It might be 90, but one or the other. My point is, the state believes in every citizen’s right to own and carry a firearm as long as they are law-abiding citizens and I believe in this premise also. These chain emails and postings also claim he is planning to bypass congress to pass laws banning all guns. Not true, could not do so even if he wanted, which he does not. He has to have a majority of both houses and there is no such majority, nor will there ever be in the foreseeable future.
The President actually has said that he believes in the 2nd Amendment and that it does guaranty the right to bear arms. The next question and answer I pasted from FactCheck.com.

Q: Does the Obama administration intend to “force gun control and a complete ban on all weapons for U.S. citizens” through a United Nations treaty?
A: No. The administration plans to negotiate a treaty to regulate the international export and import of weapons. It says that it won’t support any treaty that regulates the domestic transfer or ownership of weapons, or that infringes on the Second Amendment.

Back in April, when discussing the upcoming conference, Thomas Countryman, assistant secretary for the Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferations, said that the U.S. wouldn’t support a treaty that covers the domestic transfer of weapons, or goes against the Second Amendment:

This is what he said: Let me be clear once more on the question of domestic transfers. The Treaty must not touch on domestic transfers or ownership. The United States has received widespread international support for this oft-repeated position that only international transfers would come within the purview of this Treaty. We will not support outcomes that would in any way infringe on the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution. We have received, in fact, letters from United States Senators opposing any Treaty restricting the Second Amendment. This has been the position of the Executive Branch since 2009, and it remains our position today. We will not support or agree to any Treaty that would do so. We believe that the international community can draft a Treaty on international arms transfers that would both increase international security and still protect sovereign rights of nations. That is the Treaty that the United States will pursue in July and for which we expect there will be widespread support. There is not even a framework in place for this treaty; it is only in the discussion stage at this point.

What President Obama has said is that he does not believe we need a machine gun, assault rifle, or banana style magazines to defend our homes or hunt down a deer. So we need to quit quoting all of these crackpot chain emails and posting inaccurate posters and statements of supposed fact based on a bucket full of bullshit. It demeans us and weakens us for the real fight. If you think you should be able to have full auto, or a huge magazine of ammo that basically explodes into dozens of pieces and tears up flesh, then you need to educate yourself on what has actually been said so that when you start your argument for what it is you really want, you don’t sound like some uneducated hayseed who has no real idea of what it is you are fighting for. So if you really care about gun control and want to affect change, quit posting crap and stay on point. If you are just looking to bash the President and you don’t really care about the facts, then this article is not for you and I would not waste my time trying to have a discussion. You’re the same group of citizens who actually fired a science teacher in my hometown back in the day for teaching that the world was round. Yep, a fact, check it out. Oh wait; facts are not important to you. Well I hope we can win our fight to have the weapons of our choice. I myself can defend my home just fine. I do not need assault weapons to do it. I am not so gullible as to believe that I can ward off government forces if I decide to revolt when they can blow my ass away from distances a half a continent away with ease. But I respect your right to fight for them, just fight for them with the facts and do not diminish your chances by spewing lies or repeating them as the truth! I know this will not make me popular, but I am telling you truths. If the truth makes me unpopular, than I can bear it, my real friends will at least understand the need to argue from strength with the real facts. If you do not agree with the President, by all means resist him with your vote, writings, phone calls and emails, but calling him a terrorist, insisting his religion is other than it is, that he is an illegal is ludicrous, and makes those of us who bash him in this matter ludicrous as well! And maybe, just maybe, hiding a more sinister reason for this behavior!