Mind and Destiny

“I make no pretension to patriotism. So long as my voice can be heard ... I will hold up America to the lightning scorn of moral indignation. In doing this, I shall feel myself discharging the duty of a true patriot; for he is a lover of his country who rebukes and does not excuse its sins. It is righteousness that exalteth a nation while sin is a reproach to any people.”- Frederick Douglass

Name:
Location: Delhi, N.Y., United States

The author and his webmaster, summer of 1965.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Statesmanship

Today, many Americans have lost faith that our corporations, our media, and our government reflect their values. These institutions are full of honorable men and women doing important work that helps our country prosper. However, every time a CEO rewards himself for failure or a banker puts the rest of us at risk for his own selfish gain, increases our skepticism.

Each time lobbyists corrupts the system or politicians attack each other instead of working together to lift our country up, we become more skeptical. The more that TV pundits reduce serious debates to silly arguments, big issues into sound bites, viewers turn away and become cynical.

President Obama campaigned on the promise of change, but now many Americans aren't sure if they can believe in change, or that Obama can deliver it. He never suggested that change would be easy or that he could do it alone. Our Democracy is a nation of 300 million people, and lasting change is very complicated. Whenever, our leadership attempts to make controversial changes, it’s to be expected that people will become passionate.

Consequently, those in public office often respond by playing it safe, and avoid telling hard truths or doing what’s best for the next generation. Instead of doing what needs to be done most politicians play it safe, inorder to keep their poll numbers high and get through the next election.

Throughout the course of our nation, difficult decisions were made by statesmen. The only reason, we are a powerful nation today, is because generations of American statesmen were unafraid to do what was hard, to do what was needed even when success was uncertain, to do what it took to keep the dream of this nation alive for their children and their grandchildren.

From the very beginning the destiny of our nation has always required, that our political leadership take decisive action, because it was right thing to do. That kind of unselfish leadership is statesmanship.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Stimulus Hypocrisy

Over a hundred Republican governors, senators, and representatives have spent the past year vilify the Recovery Act, while simultaneously requesting funds to create jobs in their districts and taking credit for projects at ribbon-cutting ceremonies.

They're trying "have their cake... and vote against it too." They know the Recovery Act is creating jobs, but they think attacking it will bring them victory in the 2010 elections.

President signing the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act one year ago, has saved or created at least 2 million jobs, cut taxes for 95 percent of working families, and made loans to over 42,000 small businesses. It also provided critical relief for state governments facing record budget shortfalls.

Rep. Joe Wilson told the Department of Agriculture that the money he was seeking "would provide jobs and investment" for his South Carolina district. Minnesota Republican Governor Tim Pawlenty balanced his state budget with the same funds he has often attacked on TV.

Last February, the Republican leadership in both the Senate and House sought to kill the stimulus bill. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was able to get all but three Republican Senators to vote against the Recovery Act. Now, he’s bragged about funding for a military project in Kentucky. Virginia Rep. Eric Cantor the Republican House Whip succeeded in getting every Republican member of the House to vote against the Recovery Act, but is now seeking funds for a high-speed rail project in Virginia to create jobs.

President Obama is focused on creating jobs and being honesty with the American people, but Republicans continue to engaged in a hypocritical campaign of attacks. They're proving, that their opposition is about politics, pure and simple.

Dozens of congressional Republicans, who have praised, the stimulus at home are denouncing it in Washington. These hypocrites aren’t at all unembarrassed by attempting to maintain two opposite positions simultaneously.

Oklahoma, Republican Senator Inhofe attacked the stimulus over the course of the past year, but recently in his state he touted the stimulus spending as great news and necessary funds to his constituent.

If you are both praising something as necessary and saying it doesn’t work, you are a hypocrite. 

Friday, February 26, 2010

Not This Time

Recently, the Senate voted for closure on a $15 billion jobs creation bill that would give businesses a tax break for hiring the unemployed.

Republican Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts and four other Republicans reached across the aisle to approve the procedural measure, which passed by a 62-30 vote. In addition to Brown, the Republican senators backing the measure were Kit Bond of Missouri, Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine, and George Voinovich of Ohio. Democrat Bill Nelson of Florida voted against it.

The 4-prong bill would exempt employers from Social Security payroll taxes on new hires who were unemployed, fund highway and transit programs through 2010, extend a tax break for business that spend money on capital investments like equipment purchases and expand the use of the Build America Bonds program, which helps states and municipalities fund capital construction projects.

The legislation is a scaled-down version of an $85 billion bipartisan draft bill that was crafted by Sens. Max Baucus, D-Mont., and Charles Grassley, R-Iowa.

However, the bill does not extend the deadline to apply for unemployment benefits and the COBRA health insurance subsidy. Some 1.2 million people will run out of benefits after Feb. 28 if the deadline is not extended. Lawmakers are looking to pass a separate, 15-day extension to give them time to enact a longer fix.

The House has passed a similar $154 billion stimulus bill, that unlike the Senate bill provide additional assistance for states. Many governors, who recently held their annual meeting in Washington, want the Obama administration to send more federal dollars to the states so that they can cope with huge budget deficits.

The Obama administration said, that it strongly supports the $15 billion jobs measure, but indicated it is one step in the job creation effort.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Same Policies

This past year has been an uncertain time for the American people. Some of that uncertainty had to do with an economy in free fall. In 2008, our economy abruptly contract by 6 percent and loss of trillions of dollars of wealth in the blink of an eye. Home values dropped 20 percent, thus creating a lot of uncertainty in the business environment and among families.

Over the course of this past year, the stimulus package put a floor under people’s feet.  Recovery Act and interventions in the financial markets broke the back of the recession, stabilized the markets, so that, the economy is now growing at a rate of 6 percent. Economists are no longer talking about a market meltdown and although people haven‘t recovered all that they lost in their 401(k)s, they’re feeling better than they did six months ago.

Although most state budgets are still suffering, they didn’t have to lay off teachers, firefighters and police at levels that they would have had to. The stimulus package has provided some stability and certainty. The Democrats in Congress and the
Obama administration took the very difficult, but necessary steps to stabilize our economy.

Many businesses are making a profit, but they haven’t started to hire. Republican naysayers are insisting, that the only way to provide stability is to go back and do what the Bush administration had been doing before the crisis. They want Democrats to continue to give tax breaks to the wealthiest Americans. They want Obama to adopt the exact same polices, that were in place for eight years leading up to the biggest economic crisis since the Great Depression. They don’t want any insurance reforms.
They want to let the banks keep on doing what they’ve been doing.

Why would anyone expect a different outcome by pursuing the exact same policies that got us into this fix in the first place? Perhaps, this is because, we have underestimate the ignorance of the American people.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Article I, Section 8

In a letter published in The Oneonta Star, Dr. Richard J. Ucci on Stamford claims, that our federal government has no constitutional authority to force people to buy healthcare insurance or provide healthcare to all.

Dr. Ucci is entitled to his own unsubstantiated opinions, but not his own facts. In N.Y. State, we’re mandated to purchase auto insurance. Is this a violation of the Constitution? Only in New Hampshire and Wisconsin drivers aren’t require to purchase a minimum level of car insurance. But, in those two states, if you don't buy car insurance you must provide proof of financial responsibility.

Dr. Ucci may not be aware, that Article I, Section 8 of our Constitution provides and extensive list of the powers of Congress. The list concludes with: “To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.”

Our founding fathers wrote the Constitution without the benefit of a crystal ball, and things have changed significantly. In 1787, the Constitution allow only white, male, literate, land owners to vote. Presently, the Constitution allow, two Senators from several states with about the same number of voters as Staten Island. Therefore, our Senate is dysfunctional, and it doesn’t come close the concept of equal representation. It’s a ridiculous situation and I suspect, the signers of our Constitution would agree.

 Obama and most Democrats in Congress are attempting to provide healthcare for every America, so that, 45,000 people will not die each year, because they don’t have access to health care.

Dr. Ucci insists: “We must urge our congressional legislators to not tweak the current “health care” bills, but to abolish these bills. I suspect, that many readers will urge their members of Congress to abolish these bills, because we must never underestimate the selfishness of the American people. I got mine, you get yours, is indeed the creed of the Republican Party.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Filibuster

Senate Republicans have tried to employ the filibuster more over the past year than in all of the 1950s and 1960s combined. Republican are shutting down the Senate over a routine nomination.  A presidential nominee for the National Labor Relations Board received 52 votes out of 100, which is a clear majority. The nomination, was subjected to a filibuster, because Republicans are using the filibuster in ways, that it has never been used before in history. They’ve use it to force a 60-vote supermajority for every single substantive vote in the Senate.

When Republicans lost the majority in the Senate in January 2007, they started using the filibuster on nearly every vote. Consequently, the Senate is no longer capable of passing legislation or approving presidential nominees. Our Constitution specifies a supermajority for ratifying treaties, ratifying constitutional amendments, overriding presidential vetoes, expelling members of Congress, and impeachment, because those are the things, that our Founding Fathers believed should be really hard to do. However, the Republican minority in the Senate has decided that a supermajority is required for everything.

The last time the rules affecting the filibuster were changed was in 1975, when the supermajority rule changed from 67 votes to 60.  It was changed, because Senators thought it was being abused.  The way it was being abused back then was nothing compared to how it’s being abused now.

The House of Representatives is where legislation actually gets done on Capital Hill. A total of 290 bills have already passed by the House and are waiting for the Senate to take action. Some of them were passed last spring. Everyone of those 290 bills were passed by a simple majority in the House and many of them were passed with a lot of Republican support. For example, last September, the Medicare Premium Fairness Act passed 406 to 18, with 161 Republicans voting “yes.”

Obama insists: “If you want to govern, you can’t just say no. It can’t be about just scoring points. The filibuster only works as intended if there is a genuine spirit of compromise.”

Monday, February 22, 2010

Jack Up Rates

In May, Obama signed a credit card reform bill designed to protect consumers from surprise fees and sudden interest rate hikes.  The problem was, that the rules didn’t go into effect until February.  Consequently, the credit card companies took the opportunity to jack up the rates while they could.  Therefore, the House decided to passed a bill that moved that date up, so those rules would go into effect on December 1st.

Democratic Congresswoman from New York, Carolyn Maloney explained: “We got many terrible complaints from consumers across this country, where credit card companies were raising rates, retroactively, on existing balances, any time, for any reason, and for no reason at all.  Jacking rates up from 18 to 30%.  The Pew Report that came out last fall showed that 100% of the credit card issuers were using some form of unfair and deceptive practices, as defined by the Federal Reserve.”

Rep. Maloney pointed out: “Most cards had hiked their rates by 20%, and 90% of the outstanding balances had seen an interest rate increase since the bill went into effect.  What we did on the floor was move the implementation date up to the day after Obama signs it into law, so that these abuses will stop.  Just in time for the holiday shopping season.”

Originally, the bill would have been implemented within 90 days, but the credit card companies claimed, that they needed more time in order to put their systems into place.  Instead, they used the extra time to get under the wire, to put more abusive increases in practice.

The House bill, that moved the date up had very strong bipartisan support, with 88 Republicans voting with the Democrats. The House wasn’t attempting to protect irresponsible card holders.  Instead, it was trying to protect those credit card holders, who had been playing by the rules, by paying on time, and not going over their limit. 

The credit card companies were upping rates retroactively on existing balances, and trapping card holders in a never ending cycle of debt. Unfortunately, our dysfunctional Senate was unable to bring the House bill to a vote, therefore instead of taking effect on 12/1/09, the rules take effect today.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Always “NO”

On 1/27/10, Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana claimed on MSNBC: “House Democrats in this administration have shut Republicans out of the entire process in the House.”

Democratic congressman James Clyburn of South Carolina insists: “That is absolutely not true.  We had these bills on the House side go through three committees, and Republicans are on all of those committees.  They participated.  They put up amendments. Many of those amendments were adopted.  And we came out with a bill that had a lot of their amendments in it.

“It is amazing how these people can go to the floor, after going through all of that, and because they decide not to vote for it, then they say they were not consulted.  They did not have an opportunity to participate.  It is the most ridiculous thing that you could possibly say.

“Now, that’s just the House side.  The Senate did two committees.  If you look at a big part of this bill, this high-risk pool that the Senate came forward with, go back and look at John McCain's campaign ad.  He campaigned on creating the high-risk pool.  That was his philosophy that we brought into this bill, and they still would not vote for it.

“But we ought not be surprised.  You just saw Republicans, seven of whom co-sponsored legislation to do something about the deficit commission.  Then when it came time to vote, seven of the people who co-sponsored voted against the bill.”

Obama accepted an invitation from the Republican House leadership to address their retreat in Baltimore. His speech was followed by a question-and-answer session, in which Republicans repeatedly complained, that the White House and congressional Democrats had ignored their ideas, locked them out of the policy-making process and unfairly labeled them as obstructionists.

The party of “No” has repeatedly demonstrated, that they’re obstructionist. They want Obama to fail and are willing to see our country fail in the process.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Shared Prosperity

Millions of American jobs have already been lost to outsourcing, and another 40 million middle class jobs are at risk. A basic component of negotiating a trade agreement should be, that it’s good for middle class working families and that every trade agreement results in shared prosperity.

Before any trade agreement is presented to the Congress, it should be evaluated regarding the impact the agreement will have on the American economy especially on communities and jobs. The president and members of Congress must be aware of the potential negative impact of trade agreements, in order to prepare those communities by helping them with job training or economic diversification.

Our country needs to export more goods, because the more products we make and sell to other countries, the more jobs will be created for American workers.

The Obama administration has set a goal of doubling our exports over the next five years, an increase that will support 2 million more jobs. In order to meet that goal, our government will be launching a National Export Initiative that is expected to help farmers and small businesses increase their exports and reform export controls consistent with national security.

Our competitors are aggressively seeking new markets and we have to do the same. America can’t sit on the sidelines while other nations sign trade deals, because we’ll lose the chance to create more jobs in this country.

In order to realizing the benefits of trade, our government must start enforcing present agreements with our trading partners by insisting that they play by the rules. The Obama administration will continue to shape a Doha trade agreement that opens global markets and strengthen our trade relations in Asia with key partners like South Korea, and Panama, and Colombia.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Supporting the Military

Since, Obama took office, his administration has focus on the terrorists who threaten our nation. Substantial investments have been made in our homeland security to disrupted plots that threatened to take American lives.

Unacceptable gaps were revealed by the failed Christmas attack with better airline security and swifter action by our intelligence. The Obama administration has prohibited torture and strengthened our partnerships from the Pacific to South Asia to the Arabian Peninsula. In the last year, hundreds of Al Qaeda's fighters and affiliates, including many senior leaders, have been captured or killed. In Afghanistan, Obama has increased the number of our troops, to train Afghan security forces so they can begin to take the lead in July of 2011 and our troops can begin to come home.

He’ll reward good governance, work to reduce corruption, and support the rights of all Afghans, men and women alike. Our allies and partners in Afghanistan have increased their own commitment and we’ve reaffirm our common purpose.

At the same time, that our troops are taking the fight to Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, we’re responsibly leaving Iraq to its people. President Obama is committed to having all of our combat troops out of Iraq by the end of August. America continue to support the Iraqi government, as they hold elections and in a partnership with the Iraqi people to promote regional peace and prosperity.

The war in Iraq is ending, and all of our troops are coming home. All of our men and women in uniform around the world will know that they have America’s respect, gratitude, and full support. They’ll have the resources they need in war, because we all have a responsibility to support them when they come home.

Last year, the Obama administration made the largest increase in investments in support of our veterans in decades. Retired Army General Eric Shinseki is building a 21st-century Veterans Affairs, and Michelle Obama has joined with Jill Biden to forge a national commitment to support military families.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Credibility Gap

We had record surpluses in the 1990s, because of a pay-as-you-go law. A law, that compelled new spending to not add to the existing federal deficit. Any new proposals would have to be, budget neutral or be offset by savings coming from an existing fund.

However, we can't address the deficit or freeze government spending when so many Americans are still hurting. Consequently, a freeze shouldn't take effect until next year, when the economy is stronger.

Economists agree that, if we don't take meaningful steps to rein in our debt, it could damage our markets, increase the cost of borrowing, and jeopardize our recovery, all of which would have an even worse effect on job growth and family incomes.

Most Republicans argue, that we make fewer investments in our people, extend tax cuts, including those for wealthier Americans, eliminate more regulations, maintain the status quo on health care, our deficits will go away. That approach was tried for 8 years under the Bush administration and it didn’t work. That approach is the reason, that we are in an economic crisis. Democrats and Republicans have fought these same battles for decades, and we try something new.

President Obama points out: “We face a deficit of trust, deep and corrosive doubts about how Washington works that have been growing for years. To close that credibility gap, we have to take action on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, to end the outsized influence of lobbyists, to do our work openly, to give our people the government they deserve.”

The Obama administration has posted the names of those visiting the White House online, and has excluded lobbyists from policy-making jobs or seats on federal boards and commissions.

He insists: “It's time to require lobbyists to disclose each contact they make on behalf of a client with my administration or with Congress. It's time to put strict limits on the contributions that lobbyists give to candidates for federal office. With all due deference to separation of powers, last week, the Supreme Court reversed a century of law that I believe will open the floodgates for special interests, including foreign corporations, to spend without limit in our elections. I don't think American elections should be bankrolled by America's most powerful interests or, worse, by foreign entities. They should be decided by the American people. And I urge Democrats and Republicans to pass a bill that helps correct some of these problems. I'm also calling on Congress to continue down the path of earmark reform, Democrats and Republicans.”

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Year One

Congressional scholar, Norm Ornstein says that this Congress has had a greater level of productivity than any Congress in the last 40 years. A total of 125 bills were passed into law. Among them was the stimulus package and the children’s health care bill. According to Ornstein, Obama has had greater legislative success in terms of significant legislation than Lyndon Johnson or Ronald Reagan.

So many things have gotten done so quickly in the first year, that people have forgotten, those accomplishments. Democrats passed the Recovery and Reinvestment Act, one year ago today, without a single Republican vote in the House and only 3 Republican votes in the Senate. By doing so, they prevented the worst financial crisis from getting worse and turned the economy from contraction to expansion.

Democrats upheld the principle of equal pay for equal work, by enacting the Fair Pay Act, also known as the Lilly Ledbetter Act. Lilly did her job for nearly two decades before discovering that for years, she was paid less than her male colleagues for doing the very same work. They expanded the Pell Grant program; and made the largest investment in clean energy in history, and the largest investment in education in decades.

Obama reversed Bush’s ban on embryonic stem cell research and sent the message, that he’ll restore science to its rightful place in America.

Democrats extended the Children’s Health Insurance Program, by providing health care to 4 million children who didn’t have it before, and passed the strongest veterans budget in decades.
 
Obama signed a credit card reform bill designed to protect consumers from surprise fees and sudden interest rate hikes.
Democrats have helped consumers deal with the twin plagues of mortgage fraud and predatory lending.

Obama appointed Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court and the Senate approved her nomination.

Obama is working with Congress to repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Public Trust

Congress has trimmed some unnecessary spending, but according to President Obama restoring the public trust demands more. Some members of Congress are posting earmark requests online, but Obama has called on Congress to publish all earmark requests on a single web site before there's a vote, so that the American people can see how their money is being spent.

Public trust won’t happen unless Democrats and Republicans change the way, that they work with one another. Although, there are philosophical differences that will always cause them to part ways, both parties have fed divisions that are deeply entrenched.

The American people are frustrated by the perpetual campaigning, where the only goal appears to be, who can get the most embarrassing headlines about the other side. Neither party should delay or obstruct every single bill just because they can. Many politicians and their supporters think that saying anything about the other side, no matter how false, no matter how malicious, is just part of the game. However, that approach has stopped both parties from helping the American people, because it’s sowing further division among our citizens and further distrust in our government.

Obama reminded congressional Republicans: “And if the Republican leadership is going to insist that 60 votes in the Senate are required to do any business at all in this town, a supermajority, then the responsibility to govern is now yours, as well. Just saying no to everything may be good short-term politics, but it’s not leadership. We were sent here to serve our citizens, not our ambitions. So let’s show the American people that we can do it together.”

“I know that all of us love this country. All of us are committed to its defense. So let's put aside the schoolyard taunts about who’s tough. Let's reject the false choice between protecting our people and upholding our values. Let's leave behind the fear and division and do what it takes to defend our nation and forge a more hopeful future, for America and for the world.”

Monday, February 15, 2010

Incentives

As a candidate for president, Obama insists that one place where investment would make an enormous difference is in a renewable energy policy. He wants to end our addiction on foreign oil, provide long-term relief from high fuel costs, and builds a green economy that could create up to five million well-paying jobs that can’t be outsourced.

Our government needs to encourage innovation. Last year, the Obama administration made the largest investment in basic research funding in history. Investments, that could lead to the world's cheapest solar cells.

Innovations in clean energy is already creating new jobs and the Obama administration intends to create many more. Last year an investments in a North Carolina company, that makes advanced batteries create 1,200 jobs nationwide. Another investment in a California business put 1,000 people to work making solar panels.

America will need to continue to provide greater incentives for more efficient energy production, such as, building a new generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants. Tough decisions will have to be made regarding opening new offshore areas for oil and gas development. We must continue to invest in advanced biofuels and clean-coal technologies.

Congress must pass a comprehensive energy and climate bill with incentives that will make clean energy a profitable kind of energy. The House of Representatives passed a clean energy bill last year, and Obama is encouraging a bipartisan effort in the Senate.

Many have questioned whether we can afford such changes in a tough economy, and there are those who disagree with the overwhelming scientific evidence on climate change. However, even if you doubt the evidence on climate change, providing incentives for energy efficiency and clean energy are the right thing to do for our future, because the nation that leads the clean-energy economy will be the nation that leads the global economy, and America must be that nation.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Spending Freeze

In 2000, America had a budget surplus of over $200 billion, but when Obama took office, there was a one-year deficit of over $1 trillion and projected deficits of $8 trillion over the next decade. Most of the deficit was the result of borrowing money for two wars, two tax cuts, and an expensive prescription drug program. Furthermore, the effects of this recession put a $3 trillion hole in our budget.

Ordinarily, Obama would have liked nothing more than to start bringing down the deficit. Unfortunately, his administration took over amid a sever economic crisis, and their efforts to prevent a second depression added another $1 trillion to the national debt. Obama has proposed specific steps to pay for the $1 trillion that it took to rescue the economy last year.

Starting in 2011, Obama suggests a freezing discretionary government spending for three years. Spending related to our national security, Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security won’t be affected. His administration will work within a budget to invest in what is need and sacrifice what is not needed. He has threatened to enforce this discipline with a veto, if necessary. He’ll continue to go through the budget line by line, page by page, to eliminate programs that our country can't afford. His staff has already identified $20 billion in savings for next year.

The cost of Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security will continue to skyrocket. Although, healthcare reform would have greatly reduce our deficit, it wouldn’t be enough to dig us out of the massive fiscal hole in which we find ourselves.

Therefore, Obama supported the idea of a bipartisan Fiscal Commission, modeled on a proposal by Republican Judd Gregg and Democrat Kent Conrad, but seven Republican Senators, who had cosponsored the bill suddenly joined in filibustering their own proposal. The commission would have provided a specific set of solutions by a certain deadline.

Obama has issue an executive order to allow a bipartisan commission to move forward, because he refuses to pass this debt on to another generation of Americans.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Middle-class Burden

The Obama administration wants to relieve the burden on middle-class families and health insurance reform is an important part of that agenda. Obama insists, that he didn’t choose to tackle healthcare to get a legislative victory under his belt and he knew it would become a political hot potato.

For nearly a century, our representatives in Congress have tried to get healthcare reform and they’re closer to bringing more security to the lives of many Americans, than ever before. The approach, that congressional Democrats are taking is designed to protect every American from the worst practices of the insurance industry. It would give small businesses and uninsured Americans a chance to choose an affordable health care plan in a competitive market.

The proposed plan would require every insurance plan to cover preventive care. It would preserve the right of Americans who have insurance to keep their doctor and plan. It would reduce costs and premiums for millions of families and businesses.
According to the Congressional Budget Office, the independent organization that both parties have cited as the official scorekeeper for Congress, reform would bring down the deficit by as much as $1 trillion over the next two decades.

Americans lose their health insurance everyday and millions will lose it this year. Our deficit will grow and premiums will go up. Patients will be denied the care they need and small-business owners will continue to drop coverage altogether.

There are reason why many doctors, nurses and health care experts, who know our system best, consider Obama’s approach to healthcare a vast improvement over the status quo. Obama has pleaded with Congress: “Don't walk away from reform, not when we are so close. Let’s find a way to come together and finish the job for the American people.”

If it’s true, that a majority of Americans actually want to maintain the status quo, I’ve underestimate the selfishness of the American people.

Friday, February 12, 2010

The Lions Den

On 1/29/10, Obama entered the lions den, when he address the Republican House retreat in Baltimore.

Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana asked: “Now last year, about the time you met with us, unemployment was 7.5 percent in this country. Your administration and your party in Congress told us that we’d have to borrow more than $7.5 billion to pay for a so-called stimulus bill.  It was a piecemeal list of projects and boutique tax cuts. All of which had to be passed or unemployment would go to 8 percent, as your administration said. Well, unemployment is 10 percent now, as you well know.”

President Obama pointed out, that when he was sworn in, everyone was hoping, that unemployment would remain in the 8 percent range. That number was based on the estimates made by both conservative and liberal economists because at that point, all of the data wasn’t in.

America lost 650,000 jobs in December 2008. Surely, Republicans can’t hold Obama’s policies for those lost jobs. An additional 700,000 jobs were lost in January, the month Obama was sworn in. He shouldn’t be held accountable, for those lost jobs, because he was in office for only a week. On February 13th, the Recovery Act was passed by Congress and the 650,000 jobs lost in that month wasn’t a consequence of Obama’s policies. In fact, the job losses from this recession prove to be much more severe in the first quarter of last year, than anybody had anticipated.

Obama informed Congressman Pence: “I think we can score political points on the basis of the fact that we underestimated how severe the job losses were going to be. But those job losses took place before any stimulus, whether it was the ones you guys proposed or the ones we proposed, could ever have taken into effect.”

Currently, the unemployment rate is up to 9.7 percent.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Education

The Obama administration recognizes the need to invest in the skills and education of our people. Hopefully, this year, they’ll be able to brake the stalemate between the left and right and launch a national competition to improve our schools.

Instead of rewarding failure, they’ll only reward success. Instead of funding the status quo, they’ll invest in reform. The goals of the reform will be to raise student achievement, inspire students to excel in math and science, and turns around failing schools that have stolen the future of many young Americans, from rural communities to the inner city.

The best anti-poverty program around is a world-class education. The success of our children cannot depend more on where they live than on their potential. The Elementary and Secondary Education Act, will soon be renewed and the Obama administration plans to work with Congress to expand reforms to all 50 states. In this economy, a high school diploma no longer guarantees a good job. Hopefully, the Senate will follow the House and pass a bill that will revitalize our community colleges, which are a career pathway to the children of so many working families. To make college more affordable, we need to end the unwarranted taxpayer subsidies that go to banks for student loans. Instead, that money should be given to families in the form of a $10,000 tax credit for four years of college and increase Pell Grants.

When students graduate, they should be required to pay only 10 percent of their income on student loans, and all of their debt could be forgiven after 20 years, or forgiven after 10 years if they choose a career in public service.

In America, no one should go broke because they chose to go to college. Furthermore, it’s time for colleges and universities to get serious about cutting costs, because they have a responsibility to help solve the rising cost of college tuition, that is just one of many burdens facing the middle class.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Transparency

We are closer than ever to historic health insurance reform, that will extend coverage to more than 30 million Americans, while providing security and stability to those who have health insurance.

The congressional Democrats version of health insurance reform rest upon the following building blocks:

Insurance reforms to protect consumers from insurance company worst-practices, such as denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions, capping total coverage, and dropping or watering down coverage when you get sick and need it most.

Consumer protections that will restrict how much of your premium dollars insurance companies can spend on marketing, profits, and salaries.

Creation of a health exchange to increase consumer choice and guarantee coverage.

Affordable health options, with subsidies for working families and a hardship waiver.

Tax credits to help small businesses afford coverage.

Making preventive care completely free, with no co-payments or deductibles.

Lowering the cost of health care for our seniors.

Improving the quality and extending the life of Medicare.

Ensuring that reform is not only fully paid for, but actually significantly reduces the federal deficit.

Obama told CBS’s Katie Couric: “I think that what I want to do is look at the Republican ideas that are out there.  And I would want to be very specific.  How do you guys want to lower costs? How do you guys intend to reform the insurance markets so people with preexisting conditions, for example, can get health care?  How do you want to make sure that the 30 million people who don’t have health insurance can get it? What are your ideas specifically?” 

C-Span would broadcast a live bipartisan meeting on health care reform on February 25, but apparently Republicans don’t want to meet with Obama on television. They claim, that they want transparency, but fear a live television broadcast might show the American people that Republicans have no real solutions for the health care problems. 

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Must Not Quit

An alarming new study shows that health care costs increased last year at the fastest rate in more than a half century. Health care spending rose to an estimated $2.5 trillion in 2009, or $8,047 per person, and is now projected to nearly double by 2019. If we don't act, this growing burden will mean more lost jobs, more families pushed into bankruptcy, and more crushing debt for our nation.

President Obama reminded us in his State of the Union address, that we're fighting for our families and we must not quit.
This isn't a problem we can kick down the road for another decade or even another year. We need to pass health reform now.
We're incredibly close, but many in Washington saying that we should delay or give up on reform entirely. We need to make it crystal clear that Americans understand the stakes for our economy and our lives, and that we want action.

Obama and many allies in Congress are working hard to finish the job, but we can't rest until it's done. We must help break through the Washington spin and show members of Congress and the media what voters really believe. It’s clear that we’re in the fight of our lives to pass real reform, and after a century of trying, the finish line is in sight.

The President told the Democratic National Committee, that: “We extended the promise of health care... We've kept our promises... We've kept our commitments... Change can't come fast enough for many Americans... Of course people are frustrated... And they have every right to be... We knew this stuff was tough... Care less about scoring points and more about solving problems... America can't afford to wait...We've had a long and difficult debate on health care... If we walk away, we know what will happen.”

“I am not going to walk away from health insurance reform of the American people on this challenge or other challenge. We are moving forward. We're going to live up to our responsibility to lead. Now is not the time for sitting on the sidelines. Now is the time to do what's right for the country."

Monday, February 08, 2010

A Better Life

President Obama took office amid two wars, an economy rocked by a severe recession, a financial system on the verge of collapse, and a government deeply in debt. Experts from across the political spectrum warned that if our government didn’t act, we were facing a second depression. The Great Depression saw 1 of every 4 Americans out of work.

The worst of this recession has passed, because Obama and congressional Democrats acted immediately and aggressively. Nevertheless, one in 10 Americans still can’t find work. Many businesses have shut down. Home values have declined. Small towns and rural communities have been hit especially hard and life for the poor has become much more difficult.

Most American are frustrated and angry, because change hasn’t come fast enough. It’s difficult for them to understand why the racketeers on Wall Street have been rewarded, but hard work and decency on Main Street hasn’t been. They can’t understand, why their government hasn’t been able to solve the problems, that they face everyday, and they’re tired of the petty partisanship, that exists in Washington.

America faces difficult challenges and the people want Democrats and Republicans, to work through their differences, set aside political agenda’s and work for them, instead of special interests. All Americans share the same dream of a job that pays the bills, a chance to get ahead, and the ability to give their children a better life.

Obama supported the Bush administration’s efforts to create a financial rescue program, known as TARP. Today, the markets have stabilized, and our government has recovered most of the money, that was loaned to the banks.

In order to recover the rest of that money, Obama has proposed a fee on the biggest banks. He insists, that: “if these firms can afford to hand out big bonuses again, they can afford a modest fee to pay back the taxpayers who rescued them in their time of need.”

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Small Businesses

Jobs will be the focus of the Obama administration in 2010. In his State of the Union Address, he called upon Congress to help create the conditions necessary for businesses to expand and hire more workers.

Small businesses have historically been the engine of job creation in this country. Therefore Obama is proposing that we take $30 billion of the money Wall Street banks have repaid and use it to help community banks give small businesses the credit they need to stay afloat. Many small companies have weathered the recession and are ready to grow, but the banks on Wall Street are mostly lending to larger companies.

President Obama is proposing a new small-business tax credit, for small businesses who hire new workers or raise wages. He wants to eliminate all capital gains taxes on small-business investment and provide a tax incentive for all businesses to invest in new plants and equipment.

Unquestionably, we must put more Americans to work building clean-energy facilities and give rebates to Americans who make their homes more energy efficient, which supports clean-energy jobs. Obama wants to encourage businesses to stay within our borders, and has insisted, that the time to slash tax breaks for companies that ship our jobs overseas is long overdue.

The House of Representatives has passed a jobs bill that includes many of these proposals, and it’s time for the Senate get to work on a jobs bill, because so many Americans are out of work and hurting.

These steps won’t make up for the 8 million jobs that have been lost over the last two years, but it’s the only way to move towards full employment and will begin to lay a new foundation for long- term economic growth, while addressing the problems that America’s families have confronted for decades.

Friday, February 05, 2010

James Barr III

In a letter published in the Oneonta Star on 2/3/10, James Barr of Hobart wrote: “This past October, the village of Hobart encountered a problem with the Maple Avenue bridge. I was advised to contact State Sen. John Bonacic and Congressman Scott Murphy for information. It took one phone call to Sen. Bonacic's office to receive a response, and his office continues to be very helpful. Unfortunately, I cannot say the same for our congressman, Scott Murphy.

“I personally contacted Murphy's office in Saratoga Springs, Glens Falls, Clifton Park and Washington, D.C., a total of 17 times, along with two e-mails through his website.

“As of Jan. 22, I still had not received a return call. Recently, when Scott Murphy took the time to campaign in Stamford, he was asked about all the phone calls that were made to his office and went ignored. He replied, “I’m not sure what happened, but give me the telephone number and I’ll make sure he gets a call first thing tomorrow morning.” Here we are weeks later and still no contact made.

“According to my research, a congressman’s base salary as of 2009 was $174,000 a year without travel expenses, etc. I know if that were me, I would do everything I could to make sure everyone who contacted my office had the courtesy of a reply. Apparently, Scott Murphy doesn’t really care about this area. He just cared when he was looking for votes. I hope you’ll think twice next election!”

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James Barr claims, that he was advised to contact Congressman Scott Murphy concerning a problem with the Maple Street bridge in Hobart. Who gave, that advise and what kind of information is he seeking? Since, State Senator John Bonacic office has been very helpful providing “information,” he has found a solution to his problem.

Members of Congress shouldn’t allow themselves to be distracted by those with political agendas or issues, that are the responsibility of a village, town, county or state government. Contacting Rep. Murphy’s office 19 times demonstrates, that Barr is harassing Murphy’s staff. Perhaps, Barr’s political agenda from the very beginning was to write the Oneonta Star and tell readers: “Scott Murphy doesn’t really care about this area.”

Some are claiming, that our Democratic representatives in Congress don’t really care about the people in Delaware County, but the facts prove otherwise.

Congressional Democrats made that clear a year ago, when they passed the Recovery and Reinvestment Act, that provided help to millions of Americans throughout this country. Although, Congressman Scott Murphy was not yet in Congress to vote, he did support the legislation because it address the economic challenges facing upstate New York.

The Recovery Act was passed without the vote of a single House Republican and only 3 Republican Senators (only 2 now). The bill, include $27 billion for highway and bridge construction projects. The person in charge of deciding which transportation projects would receive funding is Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, who is a former Republican Congressman.

Recovery Act legislation extended or increased unemployment benefits for more than 18 million Americans. It made health insurance 65 percent cheaper for families who get their coverage through COBRA, and passed 25 different tax cuts. There are million Americans working today, who would otherwise be unemployed. Two hundred thousand are working in construction and clean energy. Three hundred thousand are teachers and other education workers. Tens of thousands are cops, firefighters, correctional officers, and first responders, who remain employed.

The Recovery Act included $86.6 billion for Medicaid, $100 million for meals programs for seniors, such as Meals on Wheels, $100 million for free school lunch programs, $1.3 billion for medical care for service members and military families, $1 billion for the Veterans Health Administration, $44.5 billion in aid to local school districts to prevent layoffs and cutbacks, $2.1 billion for Head Start, $19.9 billion for the Food Stamp Program, $14.2 billion to give one-time $250 payments to Social Security recipients, and veterans receiving disability and pensions, $3.95 billion for job training, $500 million for vocational training for the disabled, $120 million for subsidized community service jobs for older Americans, and much more.

I suspect, that these services are being used by more than a few residents of Delaware County. It’s important to remember, that except for 3 Republican Senators every Republican member of Congress voted “NO.”

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Not Waiting

During, the last decade, jobs grew more slowly than during any prior economic expansion. The income of the average American household declined while the cost of health care and college tuition reached record highs. Prosperity was built on a housing bubble and financial speculation.

According to President Obama, some political advisors have insisted, that our political system is gridlocked and that Democrats should just put things on hold for a while. Obama responded by asking: “How long should we wait? How long should America put its future on hold?”

For decades, some in Washington have claimed, that our leadership wait, but waiting has only allowed our problems to grow worse. China, Germany and India aren’t waiting to revamp their economy and they’re not playing for second place. They're putting more emphasis on math and science. They're rebuilding their infrastructure. They're making serious investments in clean energy because they want the jobs of the future.

As uncomfortable and contentious as the debates may become, it’s time to get serious about fixing the problems that are hampering America’s economic growth.

Obama insists, that he isn’t interested in punishing banks, but serious financial reform is needed. We must insist that Congress begin protecting our economy by ensuring a healthy financial market. A market, that will make it possible for businesses to access credit and create new jobs. A market, that will channel the savings of families into investments that raise incomes and guard against the recklessness that nearly brought down our entire economy.

The House of Representatives has already passed a financial reform bill with many important changes, but lobbyists are trying to kill it. Obama has promised, that if a bill ends up on his desk that doesn’t meet the test of real reform, it will be send back until Congress gets it right.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Moving Forward

When President Obama and his Cabinet took office a year ago, they faced an array of historic challenges: an economy in freefall, job losses averaging almost 700,000 a month, a middle class under assault, two wars and badly frayed global alliances, and a staggering $1.3 trillion budget deficit.

Faced with these unparalleled challenges, Obama and his Cabinet went to work. They’re attempting to rescue our country from a potential second Great Depression. Our economy needs to be rebuild, so that businesses can thrive and middle class families will be more secure. The ultimate goal is to restore America’s leadership in the world, as our government grapples with the global challenges of the 21st Century.

According to the National Bureau of Economic Research this recession began in December 2007. There are 7 million fewer jobs and many Americans are enduring extreme hardships on a daily basis. Fortunately, we’re no longer seeing the severe deterioration in the job market that we saw last January.  According to the Congressional Budget Office the “American Recovery and Reinvestment Act,”  has already created and saved up to 2 million jobs.

Small businesses have continued to find it difficult to get the loans they need to start up or grow.  Obama wants to increase the guarantees for Small Business Administration backed loans, and has asked his Treasury Secretary to make plans to transfer the remaining TARP funds to alleviate the difficulty, that small businesses are having getting loans.

Obama pointed out: “And when we walked through these doors last year, our first and most urgent task was to rescue our economy, to give immediate relief. These steps have saved or created about two million jobs so far. But more than seven million have been lost as a consequence of this recession, an epidemic that demands our relentless and sustained response.”

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Racists?

About 10 miles south of the North Carolina border just off Interstate 95 is the community of Dillion, South Carolina. Dillion is considered by some to be the focal point of a so-called Corridor of the Shame. The Dillion Central school has about 50% of their students reading two or three grades below level and a dropout rate of 50%.

South Carolina’s Lt. Governor Andre Bauer wanted the state legislature to kick Marc Sanford out of office after his Argentinean affair. He made the following comment regarding families who are in the government’s free or reduced-price school lunch programs: “My grandmother was not a highly educated woman, but she told me as a small child to quit feeding stray animals.  You know why?  Because they breed! You’re facilitating the problem.  If you give an animal or a person ample food supply, they will reproduce, especially ones that don‘t think too much further than that. And so, what you’ve got to do is you’ve got to curtail that type of behavior.  They don’t know any better.”

The recession has had a sever impact on South Carolina. It’s jobless rate is at 12.6, and 58% of its students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. Lt. Governor Andre Bauer is completely out of touch in suggesting that the government should treat its citizens like animals. 

Last summer, Republican Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina insisted: “If we’re able to stop Obama on this, it will be his Waterloo.  It will break him.” 

On 1/25/10, Senator DeMint sang an entirely different tune on ABC’s “This Week”. He was asked: “Did you break him?  And is that really how Americans want you to behave here in Washington?  Break the president?” Sen. DeMint responded: “I didn’t want this to be the president’s Waterloo.  But, pushing through a massive government takeover of our health care system was certainly not a good idea.” 

Apparently, a majority of the voters of South Carolina “don’t know any better,” because they keep voting for Jim DeMint and Andre Bauer.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Universal Jurisdiction

“Universal jurisdiction is the well established legal principle that some crimes can be tried outside of the boundaries of the country in which they were committed, if they can be considered crimes against humanity or war crimes. It was expressed in the Nuremberg Trials of Nazi war criminals at the end of the World War II.

“The Nuremberg judges concluded that the trials were ‘not an arbitrary exercise of power on the part of victorious nations,’ but were ‘the expression of international law.’ This principle was confirmed by the United Nations in 1946 and it was expressed in the trial of Adolf Eichmann in Israel for his part in the Holocaust. In 1998, the House of Lords upheld the principle in the case of former Chilean president Augusto Pinochet, who had been arrested in London.

“With regard to war crimes, the Geneva Conventions require signatory nations, such as Britain and the US, to pass the necessary laws and ‘provide effective penal sanctions’ for persons ‘committing, or ordering to be committed’ any ‘grave breaches’ of the Conventions. Crucially, Article 129 goes on to state that each signatory ‘shall be under the obligation to search for persons alleged to have committed, or to have ordered to be committed, such grave breaches, and shall bring such persons, regardless of their nationality, before its own courts.’

“Following the Davids Commission report, the Dutch government should therefore feel itself obliged to issue arrest warrants--not only for Balkenende, but for Blair and his cabinet, as well as all the senior members of the Bush administration, including the former president. Naturally, it has no intention of doing so. But that is far from being the end of the matter.

“In its modern form, universal jurisdiction is a democratic principle that arises historically from the bourgeois revolutions of the late 18th century, when it was established that sovereignty resides in the people and not the state. It implies that no one is above the law and that a minister, civil servant or military officer cannot claim immunity from prosecution for crimes committed against humanity because he was acting on behalf of a state. That is why individuals and groups can, at present, apply, as Palestinians have done in the UK, for an arrest warrant against even the most senior representative of a government or the armed forces.

“This situation is becoming intolerable for the international league of war criminals who head the governments of the world’s major powers. It has led to repeated efforts to curtail universal jurisdiction by the US, Israel Belgium, Spain and now Britain. In doing so, these governments and their representatives only place themselves more firmly on a collision course with the mass of the world’s population, who continue to believe that those responsible for the crimes committed in Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine and elsewhere must be brought to justice.”- Ann Talbo