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

Location: Delhi, N.Y., United States

The author and his webmaster, summer of 1965.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Obama’s Base

oldsoldier wrote: “George Soros, Warren Buffet, the Hollywood elite, etc the left’s elite rich are no different than the rights (sic) rich.”

We should be careful not to overgeneralize about any group of people and that includes the very wealthy, who oldsoldier considers the elite.

Our Constitution was established to:"promote the general welfare". The Bush administration promoted the welfare of the wealthy, while the average Americans have seen their incomes decline.

At an $800/plate fund raiser Bush quipped: "This is an impressive crowd, the haves and the have- mores. Some people call you, elite; I call you my base." Bush pandered to his wealth influential friends and self-serving international conglomerates. Driven by greed, dishonest special interest lobbyist have thwarted members of Congress from considering the common good.

Thomas Frank's "What's the matter with Kansas?" seeks to answer the question: Why do so many Americans vote against their economic and social interest? Republican's have skillfully promoted an agenda which works against the well-being of the average American family. They have kept voters distracted with cultural issues, thereby diverting attention from issues related to their own welfare. Frank a native Kansan and onetime conservative writes: "They may talk Christ, but they walk corporate. Values may matter most to voters, but they always take a back seat"- to Bush's elitist base.

Republicans have not produced a president in the past 34 years that has balanced a budget. Over the past 3 decades, they have practiced theories such as supply side economics, which have proven time and again that they can't be trusted with taxpayers' money. Of the past 12 presidents the top six in terms of job creation were all Democrats. At the bottom of the list is Bush the elder, Bush the younger and Herbert Hoover. Since 1989, only Clinton led the country in the direction of creating more jobs, significantly reduced unemployment and brought about a budget surplus. Bush squandered the budget surplus and created a record deficit, while the number of Americans without health insurance grew by 3.8 million.

CNN's exit polls found Obama received only 41% of the White male vote and 46% of the White female vote, but the most significant statistic was that Obama captured almost all of the African American vote and a huge percentage of the Latino and Asian American vote. In the end, Obama's victory shows he has broad support from American's of all racial background. Most of those folks aren’t wealth or elite, but Obama recognizes, that they are his base.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Cherry Picking

oldsoldier wrote: “We both can cherry pick instances in any administration of questionable actions, and that proves?”

That proves, that it’s important to remember the cherry picking, that took place prior to the invasion of Iraq.

Bush supporters continue to insist it was erroneous intelligence by the CIA, which resulted in his administration being wrong about weapons of mass destruction and a link between Saddam and al Qaeda.

Consider the following testimony of experts: "Policy makers love intelligence when it supports their policy and they have difficulty with intelligence when it does not. The spies call it cherry picking, choosing scraps of intelligence to prove a worst case scenario." - former CIA deputy director of operations James Pavitt.

"The problem is the White House didn't go to the CIA and ask, tell me the truth, it said give me ammunition."- Robert Baer a legendary CIA field officer, who served most of his 21 year career in the Middle East.

"As they embellished what the intelligence community was prepared to say and as the press reported that information, it began to acquire its own sense of truth and reality."- Rand Beers - former National Security Council Official, who resigned his White House post to work against the reelection of Bush.

Paul Pillar is the first high level C.I.A. insider to speak out on the use of prewar intelligence. After 28 years with the C.I.A., Pillar retired in 2005, as senior intelligence officer for the Near East and South Asia from 2000 to 2005. He charges the Bush administration with the selective use of intelligence about Iraq's unconventional weapons and of ignoring predictions of postwar chaos in Iraq.”

Pillar alleges that official intelligence was misused to justify decisions to topple Saddam Hussein. A decision, which had already been made, before 9/11. He claims the administration repeatedly asked the same questions, but when intelligence analysts resisted giving them the answers they wanted, Pillar and others were accused of "trying to sabotage the president's policies."

The Obama administration has not mislead the American people.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

A Clear Indication

oldsoldier wrote: “The primary’s are a true indication of the popularity of the Democrats, and the rats leaving the sinking ship but not running is a clear indication of the ‘Will of the People’ coming back and biting the Democrats for thier (sic) actions during this administration.”

On Tuesday, the only election, between a Republican and a Democrat was in the blue-collar 12th District, of Pennsylvania, which was represented for decades by the late John P. Murtha. Democrat Mark Critz won in a district, that had voted for Bush in 2004. It might be an indication, that the “Will of the People” is back.

Regarding the actions of this administration, as of January 1st, insurance companies will be required to spend 80% to 85% of what they take in from premiums on actual medical care. If an insurance company doesn’t spend 80% to 85% of what you give them in terms of premiums on actual medical care, they’ll have to refund you the difference back.

If they want to hike your rates, they’ll have to announce it, justify it and that justification will have to be reviewed.  They won’t just be able to unilaterally raise their rates anymore.

In 2014, it will no longer be legal for insurance companies to deny anyone coverage based on preexisting conditions. The health insurance exchanges at that point for people who don’t have coverage will also be up and running.  In addition to a ban on lifetime limits on benefits, which goes into effect shortly, insurers in will be banned from imposing annual benefits—annual limits, yearly limits on your benefits.

This legislation will lower costs for families and for businesses and for the federal government, reducing our deficit by over $1 trillion in the next two decades.

The threshold for imposing the Cadillac tax has been raised to health plans valued at over $10,200 for individuals and $27,500 for families. The tax won’t kick in until 2018, but may never be imposed.

According to Congressman Scott Murphy, the new legislation will save billions by cracking down on waste, fraud and abuse in Medicare and Medicaid.  Include in the Health Care Act are provisions and administrative changes, that will save billions in waste, protect tax payer dollars and drive criminal waste from the system. It is fiscally responsible and will help lift a decades-long drag on our economy.

Comprehensive healthcare has been talked about, since Teddy Roosevelt, but Obama got it done.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Political Pendulum

oldsoldier wrote: “The political pendullum (sic) swung too far left for the average American, it is now swinging right, maybe one day we can get it to settle in the center.

According to U.S. Treasury Department statistics, when Reagan took office in 1980, the national debt stood at $930 billion. In Reagan's eight years, debt increased by $1.692 trillion dollars and there was a budget deficit in each of his eight years largely fueled by tax cuts and increased defense spending. When he left office, the debt stood at over $2.6 trillion - triple what he inherited.

The national debt then increased by $1.587 trillion under the first President Bush, reaching $4.2 trillion by 1992. Under Clinton, $1.54 trillion was added to the debt leaving it at roughly $5.7 trillion by the end of his second term. When George W. Bush was sworn in, the national debt stood at $5.7 trillion. In his eight years it increased by $4.899 trillion to roughly $10.6 trillion.

From Ronald Reagan's presidency to the end of George W. Bush's - 28 years covering January 1981 to January 2009 - the national debt went from $930 billion to $10.6 trillion - an increase of $9.67 trillion. If you subtract the $1.54 trillion added to the debt during the Clinton years, there was a $8.13 trillion increase under Reagan and the two Bushes. That means 84 percent of the debt incurred from Reagan to Obama occurred in the 20 years under Republican presidents.

In February 2009, congressional Democrats passed the Recovery Act, that expanded unemployment insurance at a time when it was absolutely vital for people as they were trying to stay afloat. The Recovery Act provided jobs for construction workers, cops, firemen, and education professionals. Two million Americans who would otherwise be unemployed continued working.

On 1/29/10, Obama pointed out at the Republican House leadership retreat in Baltimore, that we lost 650,000 jobs in December 2008 and an additional 700,000 jobs in January 2009, the month Obama was sworn in. In February 2009, 650,000 jobs were lost.

Last month, there was a gain of 290,000 jobs. It was the largest number of jobs added to our labor force in four years. Those jobs were the result of the Recovery Act. Every House Republican voted against the stimulus bill and only 3 Republican Senators joined Senate Democrats in passing that bill.

Recently, Obama said: “After they drove the car into the ditch, made it as difficult as possible for us to pull it back, now they want the keys back. No! You can’t drive! We don’t want to have to go back into the ditch. We just got the car out....You would have thought at a time of historic crisis that Republican leaders would have been more willing to help us find a way out of this mess. Particularly since they created the mess."

The pendulum has a long way to swing, before eight million Americans get a job back. Does the Tea Party have a solution for that problem?

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Missed the Point

oldsoldier decided to make another comment online regarding the comparisons, that I had already made. His comments follow:

“Jim, you missed the point. We both can cherry pick instances in any administration of questionable actions, and that proves? And if by chance you did actually post a negative on your favored party and Obama, maybe the credibility gap you are creating would close a tad. But showing a pure bias in argument lessons that arguments (sic) credibility. And going on the percentage of Obama's win, and then ignoring the percentage in polls that disagree with Obama and Congresses action is hypocritical. Again it is a double edged sword we swing. I am against bailouts, and yes recover all monies, and if the bussiness (sic) fails that is bussiness Darwinism, survival of the fittest. Fannie May, Freddy Mac, Wallstreet, GM, etc all need to be revamped and or fail. Jim, I and the majority of my Tea Party friends are tired of the excesses from DC, representitive (sic) votes by party block instead of the will of the people, the games and payoffs during votes, and an overall elitist attitude from the current as well as past congresses. George Soros, Warren Buffet, the Hollywood elite, etc the left’s elite rich are no different (sic) than the rights rich. And the Woody Allen its OK if Obama was a Dictator is a classic, any mention of this during Bush would lead to the left rioting in the streets, but since it is a popular idea for the left, the media ho-hums it, while wishing it was true. Incremental Socialism is more of a definition of the current actions of the Federal Government. Social Security, Medicare, etc had its purpose but through government mismanagement are failing, how can we trust the government to stay on budget with any other social program. Just as bussiness (sic) the Government can fail and should be replaced. The primary's are a true indication of the popularity of the Democrats, and the rats leaving the sinking ship but not running is a clear indication of the ‘Will of the People’ coming back and biting the Democrats for thier (sic) actions during this administration. The political pendullum (sic) swung too far left for the average American, it is now swinging right, maybe one day we can get it to settle in the center.”

I didn’t miss the point, and I’ll continue to frustrate oldsoldier by turning around nearly everything he writes with factual information, in order to make oldsoldier and the Republican Party look deceptive and incompetent.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Every Single Dime

oldsoldier should be relieved to learn, that Obama is determined to get back the Troubled Asset Relief Program money, that was given to the Wall Street during the Bush administration.

The Bush administration wanted Congress to immediately give them $700 billion virtually unrestricted. Their arrogant request to Congress stated: “Decisions by the Secretary pursuant to the authority of this Act are non-reviewable and committed to agency discretion, and may not be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency.”

In stark comparison, Obama has announce a new fee on our country's largest financial firms to recover up to $120 billion in taxpayers’ money used to prop up corporations during the economic crisis. He has proposed a Financial Crisis Responsibility Fee on the country’s largest banks: "My commitment is to recover every single dime the American people are owed. And my determination to achieve this goal is only heightened when I see reports of massive profits and obscene bonuses at some of the very firms who owe their continued existence to the American people...We want our money back, and we're going to get it."

The fee would recover every penny loaned to Wall Street during the financial crisis and stop the reckless excesses that nearly caused the collapse of our financial system in the first place. However, the banking industry is among the most powerful lobbies in Washington and has already launched attacks to stop Congress from enacting the proposal.

The $120 billion recovery goal is the most that administration officials expect to lose from the government’s $700 billion TARP that bailed out banks, automakers and other financial firms. Most of the TARP losses are expected to come from auto industry rescues and the bailout of insurance conglomerate American International Group Inc.

Obama’s plan has been in the works since August and would seek modifications to the law that sent billions of dollars in bailout money in 2008 and 2009 to a flailing Wall Street that was approaching collapse. Details of the fee are expected to be spelled out when Obama releases his 2011 budget this month, but Congress would have to approve the fee plan.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Vacation Time

When it comes to taking vacations, Obama is much different than Bush. The Associated Press reported that on 8/4/01: “President Bush seems to bolt from the White House every chance he gets. He begins a month-long vacation on his Texas ranch today, and by the time he returns he will have spent nearly two months of his presidency there. And that doesn't include the many weekends he's spent at Camp David, the presidential retreat in Maryland’s Catoctin Mountains.”

While Bush was on vacation in Texas, FBI agent John O’Neil repeatedly warned of the prospect of suicide hijackings. The controversial Presidential Daily Brief of August 6, 2001 entitled “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in the U.S.” sought to informed him, that there were patterns of suspicious activities in this country, consistent with preparations for hijackings.

According to the 9/11 Commission Report, CIA Director George Tenet was asked by Timothy Roemer, when he first found out about the report from the FBI’s Minnesota field office, that Zacarias Moussaoui, who turned out to be an Islamic jihadist, had been taking lessons on how to fly a 747. Tenet replied that he was briefed about the case on Aug. 23 or 24, 2001.

Then Roemer asked Tenet if he mentioned this information to Bush at one of their frequent morning briefings. Tenet replied: “I was not in briefings at this time,” and “Bush was on vacation.” He added that he didn’t see the president at all in August 2001, because Bush was at his ranch in Texas. Furthermore, Tenet admitted that he was “on leave,” for much of August.

Recently, the “Washington Post” calculated that Bush took; 149 visits to Camp David for a total of 487 days, 77 visits to Crawford for a total of 490 days, 11 visits to Kennebunkport for a total of 43 days. It's a fact, that Bush took off 1,020 days, which is more than a third of his entire 8 year presidency.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Comparisons to Follow

oldsoldier’s conclude his most resent contribution to the Oneonta Star online site by writing: “And to those who support this administration and see dissent as wrong, I advise you to look back at your actions during the Bush Administraion (sic), and explain the differances (sic) you see, and how we who dissagree (sic) now are different than yourself.”

I qualify as a supporter of the Obama administration and will begin by pointing out, that liberals advocate in favor of the concepts of maximum individual freedom possible. A true liberal would never suggest that dissent as wrong.

We differ in that I’m attempting to promote civility and inclusiveness in political discourse and engage our government not as an enemy but as the collective will of the people. I’m attempting to push our political leadership to enact the progressive change for which 52.9 percent of the country voted in 2008.

I’ve looked back at the Bush administration and feel qualified to comment on the difference between that administration and the Obama administration.

In 1944, Learned Hand said: “What then is the spirit of liberty? I cannot define it; I can only tell you my own faith. The spirit of liberty is the spirit which is not too sure that it is right; the spirit of liberty is the spirit which seeks to understand the mind of other men and women; the spirit of liberty is the spirit which weighs their interests alongside its own without bias...” In my opinion Obama comprehends the meaning of the spirit of liberty.

For the next week, I’ll continue to explain the differences between the Bush and Obama administrations, and I’ll relish the opportunity to do so.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

A Lesson Learned

Among the online comments made by oldsoldier 173, I discovered a criticism of one of my posts. oldsoldier137 wrote: The reign of FDR was not the 'perfect’ solution to the depression. Just as Jim cherry picked his facts to prove his bias in the argument... FDR was not the savior many believe him to be, history is filled with 'facts' that question FDR's economic policies, his agenda on the War,”

Perhaps, oldsoldier believes that the perfect solution was what Republican President Hoover did after the 1929 stock market collapse. Republicans insisted on a spending freeze and by 1933, when FDR became president nearly 25% of Americans were unemployed.

In the summer of 1932, a large group of WW I veterans, who became upset with their miserable circumstances, were lobbying aggressively to get our government to change the date their bonus certificates could be paid. Those certificates had been provided to veterans in 1924 as a bonus for war service, but they were not payable until 1945. A bill to pay the benefits early was rushed through the House, but blocked in the Senate. 

The Hoover administration was growing annoyed with the so-called Bonus Army of protesters, that had set up a large camp, they named Hooverville on the Anacostia Flats not far from DC. The Army was ordered to clear out the protesting veterans. Infantry and cavalry troops under the command of Douglas Mac Arthur fixed bayonets and hoisted sabers, and rolled up the Bonus Army encampment using tear gas, fire, and forceful persuasion.

The lesson learned by the Bonus Army that day was that our leaders do not like to be presented with a constant eyesore that advertises their failure. They will put up with it for awhile, but inevitably the enforcers will be sent in and the shacks destroyed, heads busted and people killed.

These are not facts, that have been cherry picked. It is information, that tea party patriots want to ignore. Revisionist historians have difficulty explaining the fact that FDR was elected President four times by a grateful electorate.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Same Tactics

Yesterday the Oneonta Star published a letter submitted by John C. Ryan, who wrote: “In his column of April 27, Tom Sears hit a new low when he referred to the president as ‘that bastard child of Marxism.’

“Perhaps Mr. Sears wishes to keep alive the canard of the president’s birth. Or, perhaps, it's because Mr. Sears is a boor with no sense of propriety or even decency, for such a phrase should not be used in referring to anyone, no less the president.

“Mr. Sears is an ignorant man. The way in which he uses terms like ‘Marxism’ and ‘socialism’ shows that he knows nothing about either.

“Instead of fact and reason, he deals in abuse and insult, pseudo-facts and distortion. He is also a small-minded man who, instead of promoting thought and discourse, demonizes all those who disagree with his very limited point-of-view. 

“That there are such people isn’t surprising _ they’ve always been around: some 2,000 years ago Jesus spoke of ‘the blind leading the blind.’

“What is surprising is that he is given a voice in a journal that calls itself a newspaper. Perhaps I'm naive, but I still consider journalism a profession, with standards and a sense of obligation and responsibility to the reader.

“If The Daily Star wishes to present a conservative point-of-view, there are far better representatives than Mr. Sears who can give reasoned presentations and also stay within the bounds of decency.

“But, perhaps I'm expecting too much of The Star, a journal that generally gives four to five pages to sports, two to three pages to entertainment but, often less than one-half page to international and national news: a ‘newspaper’ that thinks so little of itself that it plasters its masthead with stickers pushing butts, beef and bric-a-brac. 

“Standards? I guess I'll have to flee to the Internet _ there may be something there.”

I disagree with John Ryan, because comments such as: “Mr. Sears is an ignorant man.… He is also a small-minded man who, instead of promoting thought and discourse, demonizes all those who disagree with his very limited point-of-view,” suggest, that Ryan is an arrogant, highly educated elitist. He is very intelligent, and can probably recite all of the amendments and many passages from the bible verbatim. However, his ability to think critically has been cancelled by anger.

I actually look forward to Tom’s column, because it gives me an opportunity to use civility, facts and reason to educate those that are still on the fence. It’s true, that Sears tend to insult people that he disagrees with, but Ryan shouldn’t have resorted to the same tactic.

Unless, The Daily Star continues to publish Tom’s column, readers may never realize, how boring, he can be. I do not want this newspaper to find someone, who is able to better present the conservative point-of-view, because it would make my job much more difficult.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Little Devils

Among the Oneonta Star online comments, Chatham2738 wrote: “If this Country is to survive as a viable republic, we must return to rule by Constitution Law, not progressive interpretation of the Constitution.”

My online response was, that progressives don’t interpet the Constitution, the Supreme Court does. Today, our Republic, that was intended to be democracy is being replaced by minority rule. Although, Gore won the popular vote in 2000, but the Supreme Court handed Bush the presidency. The Electoral College has become inherently undemocratic.

Article I, Section 8 of our Constitution provides and extensive list of the powers of Congress. The list concludes: “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.”

Obviously, the Constitution was not “a divinely inspired document”, because in 1787, it allowed only white, male, literate, land owners to vote. Our founding fathers wrote it without the benefit of a crystal ball.

In the early years of our Republic, the population ratio between the most populated state, Virginia and the least populated state, Delaware was 12 to 1. By 2004, that ratio was 70 to 1 between California and Wyoming. Currently, the Senate is skewed in favor of sparsely populated states. In theory, if the 26 smallest states held together on all votes, they would control the Senate, with a total of less than 17% of our population.

In his book, 'A More Perfect Constitution', Dr. Larry Sabato has recommended, that we expand the Senate to 136 members in order for it to become more representative. Dr. Sabato has proposed, that the 10 most populous states; California, Texas, New York, Florida, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Georgia and North Carolina gain two additional Senator. The fifteen next most populous states would gain one additional senator each, with the District of Columbia represented by one senator.

Unfortunately, some Americans see nothing wrong with the fact that Wyoming has two Senators, even thought it is less populated than Staten Island and the District of Columbia, Weren’t the original Tea Party Patriots angry about taxation without representation?

The present situation is inherently undemocratic, and it might have been inspired over the last 100 years by a bunch of little devils.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

100% Disabled

A comment made to the Oneonta Star online, by a person identifying himself as old soldier 173 stated: “I am a Tea Party Member, I also am a 100% Service Connected Disabled Veteran...”

Being a 100% disabled veteran is an interesting concept. You might think that former Georgia Sen. Max Cleland, who lost three limbs in Vietnam, would be considered 75% disabled, but it doesn’t work that way. Cleland relentlessly campaigned for his friend John Kerry for president in 2004, but Kerry end up being “swiftboated.”

Cleland insists the deepest wounds and scars of war are psychological, mental and emotional, which you carry to your grave. Major depression should be anticipate and if we don't intervene with the emotional aftermath of war early, it can turn into alcoholism, drug addiction, depression and suicide.

In Dalton Trumbo’s timeless masterpiece “Johnny Got His Gun,” we read about a veteran, who has to be as close to being 100% disabled, as can be envision. The rage, that he feels, when denied an opportunity to be of service to mankind is startling and the reason the book was band for so many years.

The book ends with Johnny thinking: “If you make a war if there are guns to be aimed if there are bullets to be fired if there are men to be killed they will not be us who die. It will be you... Remember this. Remember this well you people who plan for war. Remember this you patriots you fierce ones you spawners of hate you inventors of slogans. Remember this as you have never remembered anything else in your lives.”

We are men of peace we are men who work and we want no quarrel. But if you destroy our peace if you take away our work if you try to range us one against the other we will know what to do. If you tell us to make the world safe for democracy we will take you seriously and by god and by Christ we will make it so. We will use the guns you force upon us we will use them to defend our very lives and the menace to our lives does not lie on the other side of a nomansland that was set apart without our consent it lies within our own boundaries here and now we have seen it and we know it....You plan the wars you masters of men plan the wars and point the way and we will point the gun.”

Sounds like something a Tea Party patriot would enjoy.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Car into the Ditch

In a reply to a post, I made on line regarding a recent column by Tom Sears published in the Oneonta Star, a person identifying himself as G, Baroni wrote: “all these billions of dollars are better spent feeding, housing and helping us the people to educate, set up business and take care of our own.”

I agree with Mr. Baroni and that is exactly what the Democrats are doing.

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 Health Care Reform Act. According to Ornstein, Obama has already had greater legislative success in terms of significant legislation than Lyndon Johnson or Ronald Reagan.

Democrats passed the Recovery and Reinvestment Act 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. That Act 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 provided critical relief for state governments facing record budget shortfalls. It expanded the Pell Grant program, made the largest investment in clean energy in history, and the largest investment in education in decades. It expanded unemployment insurance at a time when it was absolutely vital for people as they were trying to stay afloat. It provided jobs for construction workers, cops, firemen, and education professionals.

Recently, President Obama said: "After they drove the car into the ditch, made it as difficult as possible for us to pull it back, now they want the keys back. No! You can’t drive! We don’t want to have to go back into the ditch. We just got the car out.

"You would have thought at a time of historic crisis that Republican leaders would have been more willing to help us find a way out of this mess. Particularly since they created the mess."

Every other week, Tom Sears writes a column, which appeared in Oneonta Daily Star. Sears a professor of accounting at Hartwick College in Oneonta.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Jim Sliney

In response to a letter, critical of the tea party, published in the Oneonta Star, Jim Sliney wrote the following comment online: “Major concerns are taxation, a massive and growing national debt beyond histories parallel that threatens the future of our children and grandchildren.”

I responded online by pointing out, that in early 2005, Warren Buffett warned on the Lou Dobbs show, that if we keep doing what we’re doing, the world will own a greater percentage of this country. The cost of servicing the debt will mean that we’ll send abroad a percent of our GDP every year. Buffett continued by pointing out: “The rich people are doing so well in this county, I mean we never had it so good... It’s class warfare, my class is winning, but they shouldn’t be...The rich are winning. Just take the estate tax, less than 2% of all the estates pay any estate tax. We raise $ 30 billion from estate taxes. I would like to hear a Congressman say who they are going to get the $ 30 billion from if they don’t get it from estate taxes. It’s nice to say... wipe out this tax, but we’re running a huge deficit, so who does the $ 30 billion come from? … Right now corporate profits as a percentage of GDP in this country are right at the high. Corporate taxes as a percentage of total taxes raised are very close to the historical low.”

The Tea Party’s problem with big government is taxation, which they hate, but last year, Americans paid the lowest level of taxes since 1950. 

Roughly, 50% of the borrowing that will be needed over the next decade stems from Bush’s refusal to pay for the 2001 tax cut, the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and the prescription-drug benefit program for Medicare recipients.

The Congressional Budget Office concluded, that if federal health-care costs were not contained, the budget deficit would continue to spin out of control. The best way to reduce federal health care costs was to pass health care reform.

Republican critics of health care reform did a good job of frightening Americans by talking about bankrupting the Treasury. The truth of the matter is that the reform legislation has been designed to generate enough revenue and savings to more than offset the substantial cost of expanding Medicaid and providing subsidies to the middle class. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that the Health Care Reform Act will reduce deficits over the first 10 years by $138 billion and as much as $1.2 trillion, the following 10 years. A report by the CBO indicates that the healthcare reform is the most significant effort to reduce our deficits since the Balanced Budget Act in the 1990s.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Bridgeable Differences

In a letter published in the Oneonta Star, William Eckardt wrote: “Obama critics are labeled liars, hateful, fear-mongers and racists...”

Those using that kind of language would be wise to recognize, that: “Hate is like a powerful acid, which does more harm to the container, than that upon which it is spewed.”

Politics has never been for the thin-skinned, and if you write letters to the editor, you should expect to get roughed up. Some writers, who are interested in getting their letters to the editor read feels compelled to make outrageous comments. Those letters suggest, that the writer is incapable of articulating a respectful, factual and persuasive letter.

Mature adults should be able to disagree with another persons opinion without demonizing that person. We can question a person's views, facts and judgment without questioning their motives or their honesty and patriotism.

A healthy democracy requires, that we maintained a basic level of civility in our public debate. Unquestionably, health care, war and taxes tend to arouse people's passions. The problem isn’t merely hurt feelings or the bruised egos of those, who are criticized, but the repeated vilification of others and over-the-top rhetoric, that tends closes the door to the possibility of compromise.

President Obama said: “It undermines democratic deliberation. It prevents learning - since after all, why should we listen to a fascist or socialist or right wing nut? It makes it nearly impossible for people who have legitimate but bridgeable differences to sit down at the same table and hash things out. It robs us of a rational and serious debate that we need to have about the very real and very big challenges facing this nation. It coarsens our culture, and at its worst, it can send signals to the most extreme elements of our society that perhaps violence is a justifiable response.”

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Mr. de Marrais

In a letter published on 5/12/10, John de Marrais wrote: “health reform was not supported by a majority of voters or taxpayers.”

I’m obliged to inform Mr. de Marrais and others, who remain uniformed on this very important subject, that although health care reform may not have been supported by a majority of voters or taxpayers it was urgently needed.

Roughly, 50% of the borrowing that will be needed over the next decade stems from Bush’s refusal to pay for the 2001 tax cut, the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and the prescription-drug benefit program for Medicare recipients.
The Congressional Budget Office concluded, that if federal health-care costs were not contained, the budget deficit would continue to spin out of control. The best way to reduce federal health care costs was to pass health care reform.

Republican critics of health care reform did a good job of frightening Americans by talking about bankrupting the Treasury. The truth of the matter is that the reform legislation has been designed to generate enough revenue and savings to more than offset the substantial cost of expanding Medicaid and providing subsidies to the middle class.

The Congressional Budget Office estimated that the Health Care Reform Act will reduce deficits over the first 10 years by $138 billion and as much as $1.2 trillion, the following 10 years. A report by the CBO indicates that the healthcare reform is the most significant effort to reduce our deficits since the Balanced Budget Act in the 1990s.

Throughout the course of our nation, difficult decisions were made by statesmen, who were unafraid to do what was unpopular, but necessary, even when success was uncertain. They did what it took to keep the dream of this nation alive for our children and grandchildren.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Threats of Collapse

Hardworking Americans can be heard in Washington, by speaking out together, we could make the Wall Street reform bill stronger so that it protects us from dishonest schemes and gets our economy moving again.

Republican have dropped plans to filibuster of the financial reform bill, and dozens of important amendments are being considered, including one to make sure no financial institution is ever so big that it can take down our economy again.

The momentum is on our side, but we need to make sure our Senators know that we’re watching. Bank lobbyists are poised to jump in if they see consumers backing off.

Pundits thought Wall Street reform could not survive the onslaught of lobbying dollars spent trying to kill it. But they forget the impact outraged voters like us can have on Washington. Recently an estimated 10,000 people marched on Wall Street, and generated thousands of phone calls to Senators.

Senators Ted Kaufman of Delaware and Sherrod Brown of Ohio are pushing an amendment to prevent banks from becoming too big to fail. Banks would be prohibited from holding more than 10% of the country’s total insured deposits and be limited on the amount of debt they could issue. That’s an important considering, because just 15 years ago, the assets of the six largest U.S. banks equaled 17% of our economy and now their holdings amount to 63%. No wonder the mega-banks can shakedown the taxpayer with threats of collapse.

Lobbyists are trying to fill the bill with loopholes, including one to exempt car dealers who make loans from the same standards of fairness and transparency as banks, with no unexpected extras or bait-and-switch interest rates.  Unless we all tell our Senators we want these and other common-sense consumer protections, we can expect the rich lobbyists to bury those important amendments.

Friday, May 14, 2010

John Rudy

John A. Rudy of Cooperstown had the following letter published in the Oneonta Star.

“Instead of attempting to ‘mend party fences’ with Democrats, as reported on April 28 on Page 1, Rep. Arcuri might better serve the Democratic Party by withdrawing from the race. His negative vote on health care reform disqualifies him from continuing to represent our congressional district as a Democrat.

“During the health care reform debate in Congress, I wrote Rep. Arcuri twice, urging him to vote for the legislation. I informed him that I had voted for him in his two prior races as I had for the Democratic candidate for Congress in each election over the past 45 years. I also informed Mr. Arcuri that if he persisted in his stated intention to vote against health care reform, I would not vote for him again. (My wife joined me in that pledge.) Rep. Arcuri chose to side with the Republicans and against our party and our president on this core Democratic issue. In so doing, he forfeited his right to Democratic support for re-election.

“If Rep. Arcuri does the honorable thing and withdraws for the race, Democrats will be able to field a candidate who supports their core values.”

Mr. Rudy stated: “Otherwise, those like me will be forced to refrain from casting a ballot for Congress this year, since voting for the Republican candidate is hardly a rational alternative.” Does that mean, that Rudy and those like him don’t plan to vote for Senator Gillibrand? She is also a member of Congress, who will be on the ballot in November.

Threatening, I won’t vote for you again, is definitely not the most effective way to influence a member of Congress. Mr. Rudy wrote to Rep. Arcuri twice, however I don’t recall him having any factual, persuasive letters published in any newspaper, that explained to Arcuri’s constituents the importance of passing health care reform or rebutting the erroneous information being spread.

Arcuri has made more than 300 votes and nearly all of them supported the Obama agenda and that of the Democratic Party. The Obama administration and the Democratic Party need Senator Gillibrand, Rep. Murphy and Arcuri in Congress to finish the job of saving the middle class.

Apparently, Mr. Rudy has forgotten the “we” in the motto: "Yes, we can."

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Onerous Regulations

During the Bush administration the Minerals Management Agency which is responsible for exercising oversight of the oil industry stopped providing any kind of effective oversight, and relied instead on the industry regulating itself.

An outcome of that decision was the Deep Water Horizon drill rig tragedy. It wasn’t equipped with an acoustical dead man’s switch, that is used universally by the oil industry all over the world, but wasn’t required by our government. Although, BP
uses those safety mechanisms on its oil rigs in the North Sea, Europe and Brazil.

The history this cosy relationship goes way back to Dick Cheney becoming the Secretary of Defense during George H.W. Bush’s presidency. He oversaw Desert Storm and after Clinton became president, Cheney became CEO of Halliburton from 1995 to 2000.

In 1992, Halliburton an obscure company, but when Cheney became the CEO, Halliburton became the darling of the petroleum industry. As Secretary of Defense Cheney awarded Halliburton fat contracts and they rewarded him by making him CEO when he left the government. Halliburton KBR became a cement company, began delivering mail to our troops, preparing and serving meals, did laundry, dry cleaning and provided phone service.

In 2001, the Minerals Management Agency was in the process of rule-making that would have provided new safeguards for offshore drilling. Copies of those rule-making minuets, said an acoustical switch is an “essential component for all offshore drill rigs.” 

In January of 2001, Cheney became Vice President and for the next 100 days, he met in secret with over 100 executives from the coal and oil industry. He was sued to gain access to the minutes of those meetings, but Supreme Court Justice Scalia wrote an opinion denying the request, and ruled that Cheney had executive privilege and didn’t have to share that information. 
Immediately after those meetings, the Minerals Management Agency was staffed by Cheney’s cronies from Wyoming, who reversed the 2001 rule-making decisions and in 2003 published a document stating, that the acoustical switch wouldn’t be considered an essential component. In 2005, the Energy Act was passed, which was actually a coal and oil industry wish list, because it got rid of most regulatory safeguards.

The Republican candidate in the 20th Congressional District, Christopher Gibson is running on a platform of “eliminating onerous regulations.”

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


The explosion at a British Petroleum exploratory drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico, 120 miles south of New Orleans, killed 11 workers and initiated what could become the worst oil spill disaster in U.S. history.

As the rig sank to the ocean floor and the oil slick began to spread, the Coast Guard discovered that oil was actually gushing from the ocean floor, one mile beneath the surface. Initially, it was estimate that up to 5,000 barrels / 210,000 gallons of oil are leaking per day.

The technology used at the BP operation has been touted as the most advanced in the world, yet a safety valve that was supposed to shut off the flow of oil at the seabed in case of such an accident utterly failed to work. There is, in fact, no immediate way to stop the leaks or to clean up the oil slick, which is larger than the some of our states and already washing up on the coastal wetlands of the Mississippi Delta region.

Hundreds of imperiled species in the Gulf will be harmed by the toxic oil. The full extent of the damage won’t be known for some time, as the oil continues to gush and the response from industry and federal and state agencies appears largely ineffective to contain the spill.

The Gulf of Mexico disaster has shown with tragic clarity the absurdity of the Obama administration’s claims that offshore oil and gas development is completely safe. The Obama administration is reviewing the situation, before giving the final go-ahead to Shell to drill through the heart of polar bear critical habitat in the Chukchi Sea this summer. Many environmentalist insist, that offshore oil and gas development in the Arctic and elsewhere off our coasts should be taken off the table permanently.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, British Petroleum spent almost $16 million lobbying Congress in 2009 and over $3.5 million so far this year. Fifty-seven percent of BP's contributions went to Republicans, while forty-three percent went to Democrats.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Mr. Furnari

In his published letter in the Oneonta Daily Star, Mr. Furnari insisted: “I don't support either one of the major parties any longer. They're both corrupt, living in their protected bubbles with crime-family-style tactics being applied to the masses. The strongest military in the world exists, not only to protect freedom, but to also protect our government from its people who are so fed up with their doings.”

Nevertheless, Furnari concluded: “And please consider Ron Paul in 2012!” If, he doesn’t support either major party, because they’re both corrupt, why is he suggesting, that voters consider Congressman Ron Paul for president in 2012? Paul is not going to defect from the Republican Party. After being rejected as the Republican party nominee for president in 2008, Rep. Paul continued to march in lock step with the House Republican leadership.

Sal Furnari wrote: “Face it, our government is the ultimate example of a failed and corrupt system. I would be fearful to be a public official in these times. And I'm eager to see what is going to happen in time as this nonsense cannot go on. So think next time you defend your side and present factual information.”

Obviously, Furnari is being inconsistent in order to deceive readers. He failed to provide factual information regarding the reasons we should accept his conclusion, that our government is the ultimate example of a failed and corrupt system.

His remark: “I would be fearful to be a public official in these time,” is disturbing. It appears that Furnari has in mind assassinations, since he admits, that an armed rebellion would be quickly defeated by our very effective military.

Our Civil War was an armed rebellion, that resulted in 618,000 Americans being killed. Extremist, who advocate violence as a solution to what they consider a failed system have a very poor understanding of our Constitution. We best honor our founding father by solving our disagreements at the ballot box instead of assassinations.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Sal Furnari

On 5/5/7, letter written by Sal Furnari of Fly Creek was published in the Oneonta Star.

Sal Furnari wrote, that John McCain had insisted: "If Congress does not act, American taxpayers will continue to be exposed to the enormous risk that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac pose to the housing market. I urge my colleagues to support swift action on this reform legislation.”

Eventually, Senator McCain co-sponsor a bill that would have enhanced oversight of Freddie and Fannie. However, Sen. Chuck Hagel introduced the bill in January 2005, and McCain didn’t sign on until May of 2006, after an unfavorable federal report on accounting practices at Fannie Mae was released.

Fannie and Freddie quintupled in size between 1995 and 2004, as they joined Countrywide Financial Corporate in pioneering the practice of selling bundled mortgages in the form of securities. The Clinton and Bush administrations sought greater authority to regulate them, but were stymied by Congress.

Senate Democrats were willing to support stricter oversight, but wouldn’t support a provision in Hagel's bill that would limit the size of the company's portfolios. Negotiations stalled and the bill never made it to the floor. McCain exaggerated his role in pushing for Fannie and Freddie reform and continued to defended a deteriorating economy by reiterating that it was fundamentally strong, until the day the stock market dropped 500 points.

In 2000, Senator Phil Gramm got legislation through Congress that set derivatives free from virtually any regulation. Warren Buffett said, that the Gramm amendment enabled the creation of a shadow banking system, which allowed the creation of financial weapons of mass destruction, and that act directly contributed to the current mortgage foreclosure crisis.

In early 2008, McCain’s economic adviser former Senator Gramm downplayed the economy, despite it having been the top issue of concern to voters in public polling. He said: “We have sort of become a nation of whiners.”

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Letter to Obama

“Dear Mr. President,

“When you delivered your State of the Union address in January, you eloquently spoke the following words to Congress and the nation: ‘We find unity in our incredible diversity, drawing on the promise enshrined in our Constitution: the notion that we are all created equal, that no matter who you are or what you look like, if you abide by the law you should be protected by it... This year, I will work with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are. It's the right thing to do.'"

“At the time, we seemed to be making progress. You committed to finally end the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy once and for all, this year. Then in February, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates told a congressional hearing that ‘we have received our orders from the Commander-in- Chief and we are moving out accordingly.’ Both announcements were heartening.”

“However, as you know, Secretary Gates sent a letter to House Armed Services Chair Ike Skelton on April 30 which appears to indefinitely delay the possibility of moving forward with the repeal of DADT until the Pentagon completes a review of the policy."

“In his response, Aubrey Sarvis, Executive Director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, said: ‘As a result of the Commander in Chief's decision to defer to Secretary Gates' wishes and timeline, gay service members will continue to be treated as second class citizens, and any sense of fairness may well have been delayed for yet another year, perhaps for another decade.'"

“I share the concerns of Mr. Sarvis. And so do millions of Americans, as reflected in a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll showing 75% support  allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military. Americans clearly understand that if someone is brave enough to take a bullet for the USA, then they should have the same equal rights guaranteed to every American under the law - whether they are serving in the military, or when they come home.


“While I understand the need to research how repealing DADT will affect members of the military, the law can still be repealed with an implementation timeline this year. The time to end Don't Ask, Don't Tell is now. I urge you to take immediate action to insure that Congress includes the repeal of DADT - with an implementation timeline - in the Defense Authorization bill currently under consideration.

“One of our nation's most precious and fundamental values is the guarantee of equal rights for every American. Gay and lesbian Americans have demonstrated their courage and given their lives in service to our country since our nation's military was founded. Now it's time to allow them to say who they are."

“On behalf of Courage Campaign and Democracy for America members, thank you for your consideration of this critical national security issue.”


Gov. Howard Dean, MD

Founder, Democracy for America

Saturday, May 08, 2010

James Haywood

On 5/5/10, the Oneonta Star published the following letter submitted by James Haywood of Walton.

“I have been watching for the past several weeks as a large amount of news coverage has been given to the Tax Day Tea Party phenomenon.

“After some careful consideration, I believe this sad testimony to our democratic society should be exposed for what, in my opinion, it really is: A simple covert ploy by a very weak political party.

“This is taking dirty politics to a whole new level. Are they so ashamed to have the name 'Republicans' up front and on every tag of this mockery. I believe every member of The Boston Tea Party on Dec. 16, 1773, would thumb his nose at this back-door action, which besmirches the character of what they stood for revolting against taxation without representation.

“At each and every opportunity over the last four decades I voted for my governmental representative.

“Winning candidate or not, I am still being represented by the chosen elected candidate, of the majority of voters, to whom I am free to contact without hesitation.”


I liked Mr. Haywood’s letter very much and take this opportunity to point out that it’s unfortunate that most Americans see nothing wrong with the fact that Wyoming has two Senators, even thought it is less populated than Staten Island and the District of Columbia.

In his book, 'A More Perfect Constitution', Dr. Larry Sabato has recommended, that we expand the Senate to 136 members in order for it to become more representative. Dr. Sabato has proposed, that the 10 most populous states; California, Texas, New York, Florida, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Georgia and North Carolina gain two additional Senator. The fifteen next most populous states would gain one additional senator each, with the District of Columbia be represented by a senator.

The original Tea Party Patriots were angry about taxation without representation. How times have changed!

Janet Rigby

Yesterday, the Oneonta Star published the following letter written by Janet Rigby of Cooperstown.

“It's ‘Tea Time’ in Otsego County. Frustrated people now have a chance to cry out in unison about the woes of this country. They have specified a target for their unhappiness and the forces are mobilizing. I guess I've been a Tea Partier longer than the movement has existed. I've been infuriated by the wastefulness in government spending for years. So, I guess my issue with the current Tea Party movement is a matter of timing: Remember who brought us to this dance.

“When the Republican forces took hold of the government in 1999, we had a surplus in the budget. Unlike ‘tax-and-spend’ Democrats, they simply ‘spent’ and emptied the nation’s bank account. They started a war with misinformation, gave tax breaks to those who needed them the least and caused the deficit to balloon. Their financial deregulation put the foxes in charge of the henhouse, and when all was done, the only things left were beaks, feet and feathers.

“Tax-and-spend Democrats came into power and stopped the train wreck of the economic decline. Their actions went against their principles but ‘the greatest depression since 1929’ was turned around inside of a year. It was the right thing to do to preserve this country. Now fuel is needed to get that train moving in the right direction, but forces have been mobilized to block the pumps. Go figure.

“If there are Tea Party people who are living on someone else’s money, who are carrying credit card balances, are driving cars with car payments and living in houses owned by the bank, they should get their own finances in order before they start throwing stones at this administration.”

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Ed Ambrose

In his letter recently published in the Oneonta Daily Star Ed Ambrose wrote:

“Tea Partiers come from many backgrounds. Nevertheless, in spite of their (contrived?) folksiness, they are disproportionately upper-income and college-educated. Many dislike paying taxes. Apparently, they regard themselves self-made, rugged individualists. They will accept tax breaks, but resent others receiving similar benefits. Apparently, they deserve breaks, but the poor, unemployed, poorly paid, underemployed, elderly and handicapped do not deserve benefits.

“Many can pay for private health insurance, yet those who are eligible receive Medicare and Social Security, which they otherwise regard as government socialism or communism.

“They conjure imaginary death panels and allege deceptively that they don’t want the government to stand between them and their doctors, but are perfectly content with insurance companies doing exactly that.

“They yell ‘fascism’ because everyone will be required to have health insurance, but they wouldn’t be without.

“Some go to meetings armed and proud to be extremists, while claiming they are simply mild-mannered, righteous folks.

“Many argue the stimulus plan created outrageous deficits, but they desperately want to hold onto the Bush tax cuts, which did just that.

“Many believe the government bailout of the banks was totally unjustified, but don’t want the government to regulate the banks so it won’t happen again.

“Even if they recognize the overwhelming, clearly visible evidence regarding global warming (which many still disbelieve), they argue that it has no human cause, so want to do nothing.

“I think there are a number of themes here, but three stand out rather clearly: inconsistency, refusal to recognize facts and self-concern. Of course, these are widely shared phenomena well beyond the Tea Party. On the other hand, at least some people outside the party seem to have a higher regard for consistency and facts, plus concern for others and the environment. Hopefully, you are among them.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Howson A. Hartley

Regarding, the Tea Party, Howson A. Hartley of South Worcester wrote:

“I guess that I can classify myself as a moderate liberal, but I admire the enthusiasm of the Tea Party people and share some of their concerns. However, I suggest that a little look at history may be useful to us all.

“First, the New Deal reforms of President Franklin Roosevelt aroused much of the same criticisms that are leveled at President Obama. The outbursts against the Social Security system were exactly like the attacks leveled at the recently enacted health care law. Similarly, it needs to be given some time.

“As for deficit spending, when Ronald Reagan took office in 1980, the United States was the world's greatest creditor nation. By 1992, after 12 years of Republican administration, it was the world's greatest debtor nation, the result of 'supply side' economics. By 2000, after eight years of Democratic rule, the national debt was almost eliminated. Then after eight years of Republican administration, with an ill-conceived war in Iraq pursuing imaginary weapons of mass destruction, the national debt had grown to huge levels.

“Yes, Obama and his people have grown the debt in a frightening way. It scares me a great deal and must some day be dealt with. However, remember the economic mess that this president inherited, and recall that he has been in office for only 15 months. We must try to be patient. Some things take time.

“As one of the ‘greatest generation’ who lived through the Great Depression and World War II, I can tell you that ‘you ain’t seen nuthin’ yet.’

“So, hold your tea parties, shout your complaints, listen to your raucous Sarah, but hang in there _ it will get better.”

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Handling Change

Recently, the Oneonta Daily Star published several interesting letters regarding the Tea Party. After, the last presidential election the brand name of the Republican Party had become so tarnished, that most of the remaining political leadership decided on a new approach.

The following letter written by Mark Lavine of Cooperstown is the first of several, I’ll be posting, that address the new and allegedly improved Republican Party.

“In his column of April 13, Tom Sears extols the virtues of the Tea Party and claims that the liberal media's coverage of it is biased. The signs portraying President Obama as a socialist, a communist and a Nazi with a Hitler moustache were the same on every network. The claims that he is the Antichrist, a Muslim and not a U.S. citizen were the same on every network.

“What is also obvious on every network is the nonsense these people propose. They want government out of their health care, but all want Medicare when they are 65. They want a strong military to keep us safe, but want small government with limited spending and low, or no, income tax. They all want the Social Security benefits they have earned, but how can small government manage what is essentially a pension plan for our entire working population?

“The Tea Partiers claim that health care reform deprives them of their freedoms under the Constitution. Exactly what freedoms have they lost? The right to be canceled by their health insurance carrier if they get sick? The right to be denied health insurance due to a pre-existing condition? The right to show up uninsured at a hospital ER and be treated for free while we pay for it?

“Their anger is not based on policy and principle, but on their hatred for the president. They cannot deal with an African-American, Ivy League-educated leader who wants change from the policies of the disastrous Bush/Cheney regime. What they want is a return to the ‘50s world of 'Leave It To Beaver,' when America was white and Christian. What they are getting is change, big time, and they cannot handle it.”

Monday, May 03, 2010

Overhall Wall Street

There is a lot of talk about holding Wall Street bankers accountable, as the Senate takes up the question of how to overhaul a financial services industry that is currently defined by a toxic combination of blind greed, unsustainable speculation and too-big-to-fail.

Most of the measures of success or failure when it comes to regulating big banks, credit card sharks and the Federal Reserve will be made by Republicans who are taking their marching orders from Wall Street lobbyists. Regrettably, Democrats are inclined toward compromises that will keep the corporate campaign cash flowing their way in a tough election year.

The Senate financial reform bill needs to break up the four largest banks, because Bank of America, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo issue two-thirds of all credit cards, write half the mortgages and control nearly 40 percent of bank deposits in the United States. Independent Senator Bernie Sanders insists. “It is simply not acceptable that a small handful of giant financial entities can exert such enormous influence over the economic well-being of hundreds of millions of Americans.”

We are experiencing rampant unemployment, but small and medium size businesses are unable to obtain affordable credit from financial institutions to expand and create employment opportunities. We need to create millions of new jobs by rebuilding our manufacturing base. Transforming our energy and transportation systems, by rebuilding our infrastructure is critical to America’s future. Meanwhile, our largest financial institutions continue to trade trillions in exotic financial instruments, thereby making Wall Street the largest gambling casino in the world.

Millions of middle-class Americans who pay their bills on time are being charged interest rates of 30 percent or more. Banks cannot be allowed to engage in usury and charge outrageous interest rates. Financial reform must cap interest rates for private banks at the same level federal law allows for credit unions, which is 15 percent except under exceptional circumstances.

During the bailout, large financial institutions received trillions of dollars at near-zero-interest loans, but the Federal Reserve refuses to tell us, who received those loans and under what terms. It’s time we had transparency at the Fed so that the American people know what our central bank is doing with taxpayer dollars.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Getting It Done

Sixteen months ago, our entire financial system nearly collapsed and that cost our nation more than 8.2 million jobs.

The Obama administration has made strides. Businesses are starting to hire, Americans are finding jobs, and many, who had given up looking are returning to the job market with new hope. However, the flaws in our financial system that led to the crisis remain unresolved.

Wall Street titans continue speculate with borrowed money. Big banks and credit card companies have stack the deck to earn millions while many middle-class families, who have done everything right, can barely pay their bills or save for a better future.

It's time to hold the big banks accountable to the people they serve, establish the strongest consumer protections in our nation's history -- and ensure that taxpayers will never again be forced to bail out big banks because they are "too big to fail."

Without enforceable, commonsense rules to check abuse and protect families, markets aren't truly free. Wall Street reform will foster a strong and vibrant financial sector so that businesses can get loans; families can afford mortgages; entrepreneurs can find the capital to start a new company, sell a new product, or offer a new service.

Consumer financial protections are currently spread across seven different government agencies. Wall Street reform will create one single Consumer Financial Protection Agency -- tasked with preventing predatory practices and making sure you get the clear information, not fine print, needed to avoid ballooning mortgage payments or credit card rate hikes.

Reform must provide crucial new oversight, give shareholders a say on salaries and bonuses, and create new tools to break up failing financial firms so that taxpayers aren't forced into another unfair bailout. Effective reform will keep our economy secure by ensuring that no single firm can bring down the whole financial system.

It's not surprising that allies of the big banks and Wall Street lenders have already launched a multi-million-dollar ad campaign to fight these changes. Lobbyist have been storming Capitol Hill, seeking to undermine the effective reform with loopholes and exemptions for the most egregious abusers of consumers.

Saturday, May 01, 2010


Under the Health Care Reform Act, small businesses will get a tax cut to help them pay for health insurance for their employees. Companies will get a credit up to 35 percent of the money they spend on premiums. Those credits will increase over time, eventually reaching 50 percent when the Insurance Exchanges go into effect. The full credit is available to small firms with 10 or fewer employees, and firms with up to 25 employees will qualify for a partial credit.

The federal government will begin investing in community health centers to provide care to the people who need it most. In the next five years, $11 billion will be spent expanding access to health centers to 25 million more people in 10,000 communities. Any senior who is affected by the so-called doughnut hole will qualify for a $250 rebate to help them pay for their prescription medicines.

In 2 months, people with pre-existing conditions will be able to get help with a special fund set up to cover the gap until the Insurance Exchanges are up and running. Retiree health plans qualify for a new federal reinsurance program for health plans covering early retirees (age 55-64) to bring down costs for businesses and lower premiums.

In 5 months, all health plans will be prohibited from denying coverage or care to children because of pre-existing conditions. This protection will apply to everyone when the Insurance Exchanges are up and running. All health plans will be required to allow young adults to stay on their parents' insurance until age 26. All new health plans will be required to provide free preventive care with no co-pays or deductibles. All health plans will be prohibited from canceling coverage when a patient reaches a lifetime limit on coverage. All health plans will be prohibited from canceling coverage if a patient gets sick or if they file too many claims. All new health plans will be required to allow consumers to appeal insurance company denials of coverage and get an independent review of their case. All new health plans will be required to let you pick your own primary care doctor. Women will also be allowed to visit their ob-gyn without getting permission from their insurance company first, and all patients will be guaranteed access to emergency care.

On January 1, 2011, seniors on Medicare can make an appointment for a free annual wellness checkup with their doctor. There will be no co-pays or deductibles for this visit. All insurance plans will be required to spend at least 80-85 percent of their revenues on medical care. If they spend too much on wasteful overhead, like executive salaries and advertising, they will be required to give their customers a rebate.