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.

Friday, December 31, 2010

The 111th. Congress

Capping off two of the most productive years in the history of Congress, we have seen the most productive post-election period in decades. Democrats, Independents and Republicans came together to make progress on some very important issues.

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was overturned. It was the right thing to do for our military, and the right thing to do for our country. No longer will thousands of patriotic Americans in uniform be forced to live a lie or leave the military because of their sexual orientation. We demonstrated, that we’re a nation that believes all men and women are created equal.

The New START Treaty has ratified by the Senate. The most significant arms control agreement in nearly two decades was passed in a bipartisan fashion. Thus, we’ve strengthened American leadership on non-proliferation issues, reinforced our relationship with a vital ally, and made our country safer.

An Extension of Middle-Class Tax Cuts and Unemployment Insurance was passed. The package will spur jobs, businesses, and growth. Neither party was happy with every part of the package, however the bipartisan support it received indicates that when taken as a whole, this is a good deal for the American people and the American economy.

A New a Bipartisan Food Safety Bill represent the most significant upgrade of America’s food safety laws since the Great Depression.

The 9/11 Health Bill was passed. It will help cover the health care costs of the first responders who rushed to the World Trade Center to help, and inhaled toxic air as a result.

Unfortunately, Congress wasn’t able to pass the DREAM Act or come together around a budget to fund our government over the long run. Although, the filibuster was used a record 136 times in the 111th Congress, in the end, it proved, that Washington was not doomed to gridlock.

President Obama noted: “My hope heading into the New Year is that we can continue to heed the message of the American people and hold to a spirit of common purpose in 2011 and beyond. And if we do that, I’m convinced that we will lift up our middle class, we will rebuild our economy, and we will make our contribution to America’s greatness.”

By the end of 2010, the DOW was up 11% and a 10% growth in private sector jobs, was made possible by the Obama administration and the 111th. Congress.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Compromise

Senate Republicans held the middle class tax cuts hostage to high-end income tax cuts.  It’s very tempting not to negotiate with hostage-takers, unless the hostages end up getting harmed, and folks start questioning the wisdom of a no negotiation strategy.

The hostages were middle-class Americans, and Obama wasn’t willing to see them harmed. The hostage standoff wasn’t merely an abstract political fight in Washington, because people across our country were at risk of being hurt. Millions of Americans wouldn’t be able to pay their bills when their unemployment insurance ran out will. Many of those that had jobs were barely making it on their paycheck, and that paycheck was about to get considerably smaller on January 1st. Working families were going to have to figure out how they were going to be able to keep making the payments for their child’s college tuition.

Obama knew, that the American people were on his side. It wasn’t a situation in which he had failed to persuade the American people of the validity of the Democratic Party’s position. The polls clearly showed, that Democrats weren’t operating from a position of political weakness with respect to public opinion. However, congressional Republicans felt that tax cuts for the wealthiest 2 % of Americans were the single most important thing for them to fight for as a party. They had gained confidence from their victories in November. A compromise was the wise thing to do, because it would have been a protracted battle and Republicans will have a much stronger position in Congress next week.

Republicans were opposed to giving up things that are very important to struggling families across the country. However, they’ve agreed to extending the earned income tax credit, the college tuition tax credit, and the child tax credit.
 
Obama’s compromise with Congress ensures that middle-class families don’t get a tax increase, extends unemployment benefits for folks who are looking for work, and gives our economy a shot in the arm. The bottom line is that if Congress didn’t extend unemployment insurance, 2 million Americans would be losing their unemployment insurance. If Congress hadn’t extended middle class tax cuts, millions of families would have seen a spike in their tax bill when they could least afford it.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Highest Cognitive Process

I look forward to Tom Sears’ column in the Oneonta Daily Star, but was a pleasantly surprised by the 156 thoughtful comments made online by atheists.

In my opinion, “Believe whatever gets you through the night,” by Piper 2 was the most succinct and meaningful comment among those posted. However, I’ll continue to insist, that there is a legitimate meaningful difference between believing and knowing, that there is, or isn’t a supreme being.

Honorable mention goes to atheist Tomstaph, who wrote: “Non-believers are nearly a 1/5 of the US population and among the younger generations, closer to a 1/3 are. We are the only "religious" group to actually grow in the US since the last religion survey was taken. Doomed to irrelevance? Not really. You see, all religions are based on lies, misinformation, and hollow faith and open, democratic societies (like ours) tend to self-correct (e.g. substitute fact for fiction). In other words, a fraud is inevitably revealed. So ultimately, your kind (not us) are doomed to extinction. Look across the Atlantic to see what the future of the US is. Nearly every rich, democratic, industrialized country is nonreligious with skeptics outnumbering the pious at every turn. Meanwhile, check out where your "moral" coreligionists are most at home: Pakistan, Iran, Sudan, Nigeria, Malawi, etc, all with 100% belief ratings. Is it just a coincidence that naive faith tends to overlap strongly with ignorance, violence, and poverty? Not a chance. We have a beautiful future to look forward to in this country if only because your kind (Mr. Sears) is disappearing and our kind is increasing. Just to add a personal note: while your beliefs are truly ridiculous (have you ever taken the time to actually dissect them?), its your self-righteous moral "certainly" that is so off-putting and the primary reason why your beliefs are so suspect. Consider the following Freudian quote: "Of course it would be very nice if there was a god who created the world and a Providence filled with goodness, a moral order of the universe, and life after death, and yet it is very strange that all of this is exactly what we may wish for ourselves.”

Although, Abraham Lincoln said: “My concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God’s side,” I prefer to have reason and critical thinking on my side.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Out of Afghanistan

In a recent interview on "Meet the Press," Vice President Biden said, that our troops will be withdraw from Afghanistan by 2014.

The Obama administration had issued a strategic review of the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan, to assure the public that it’s on target to begin withdrawing troops in July of 2011 and hand over security operations to Afghan forces by 2014.

Biden added: “In the meantime, we'll help to build a government. We'll transfer responsibility and we'll be gone. That's exactly what we did at the recent Lisbon conference, NATO conference, where we said we're starting this process like we did in Iraq. We're starting it in July 2011, and we're going to be totally out of there, come hell or high water, by 2014.”

Former senior member of the U. S. intelligence community, Michael Scheuer had two decades of experience in national security issues. While with the CIA, he wrote "Imperial Hubris" under the pseudonym Anonymous.

In 2004, Scheuer wrote: “Unless U.S. led foreign forces are massively increased and are prepared to kill liberally and remain in Afghanistan permanently, the current Afghan regime cannot survive. In Afghanistan, above all other places, familiarity with foreigners breeds not just contempt, but war to the death. The reestablishment of an Islamic regime in Kabul is as close to an inevitability as exists. One hopes that Karzai and the rest of the westernized, secular, and followerless Afghan expatriates we installed in Kabul are able to get out with their lives.”

Nearly, seven years ago, Scheuer warned: "One of the greatest dangers for Americans in deciding how to confront the threat from al Qaeda lies in continuing to believe... Muslims hate us for what we think, rather than for what we do. We repeatedly hear: ( because they hate freedom) from senior U.S. leaders. Such a conclusion is potentially fatal nonsense.

"Imperial Hubris" explored why they hate us and why our policies and actions are bin Laden's only indispensable allies. Scheuer quoted terrorist leader al Zawahiri: “Americans are facing a delicate situation in Iraq and Afghanistan. If they withdraw they will lose everything and if they stay, they will continue to bleed to death.”

Perhaps, the Obama administration has finally decided, that the CIA’s expert on Afghanistan knew what he was talking about and that nation building in a place like Afghanistan is not a good idea.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Theoretical Match Ups

A new NBC/“Wall Street Journal” poll shows that President Obama’s job approval rating is tied at its lowest point, 45 percent, and more people believe the nation is on the wrong track than at any other point in his presidency. However, he still leads all prominent Republican candidates in theoretical match ups in 2012, 42 to 39 against an unnamed Republican; 47 to 40 against Mitt Romney; and 53 to 33 against Sarah Palin.

The Presidents ratings have held steady over the past year and have been especially resilient with his core constituency of African-Americans, Democrats, Latinos and younger voters. People seem to like the president personally, but are less likely to view him as a strong leader who is uniting the country and changing business as usual in Washington.

His numbers have held steady for some time and there are glimmers of hope in that latest poll. Nevertheless, no president since FDR has been re-elected, when the unemployment rate was over 8 percent.

The tax cut compromise seems to be playing well in the polls; 59 percent overall approve of the tax cut compromise; 54 percent of Democrats supported it; 60 percent of independents supported it, and not surprisingly, 68 percent of Republicans supported it, since it’s a tax cut compromise.

Overall, Obama’s support among Democrats dropped from 82 percent to 76 percent following the tax compromise deal but, a Gallup poll found that Obama’s support among liberal Democrats dropped below 80 percent for the first time in his presidency.

Most voters recognize, that the compromise was about the economic needs of the long-term unemployed and that strategically, Obama has put himself in the middle. Whenever, liberal Democrats are beating him up, it sends a signal, that the White House has gone to the middle, where independent voters consider voting for Obama again.

Liberals tend to watch MSNBC; and when the compromise was first announced, Hardball, The Ed Show, The Rachel Maddow Show all came out vociferously against Obama. Only, Lawrence O’Donnell on The Last Word defended Obama’s compromise. O’Donnell served as senior advisor to the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who also valued a compromise.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Bush Era Tax Cuts

Republicans claim, that tax cuts do NOT require borrowing money, from China or anywhere else.

Actually, tax cuts add to our national debt, because its money that is not being paid to our treasury, that would have been paid if Bush-era tax cuts had been allowed to expire. By letting all of Bush era tax cuts to expire, about $3.7 trillion would NOT have to be borrowed in the next decade and Democrats couldn’t be accused of putting off debt onto future generation.

Ten years ago, Congress passed broad income tax cuts, but in a cynical accounting trick designed to mask their long-term impact, they scheduled these cuts to expire the end of 2010. We’re approaching that cliff, and millions of Americans are facing thousands of dollars in higher taxes on January 1st.

Obama fought to extend the tax breaks for middle class Americans, but our dysfunctional Senate stood in the way. Under his initial plan, the tax cuts would be permanently extended on incomes up to $250,000, which includes 98 percent of American taxpayers.

Some claimed it wasn’t fair, but it’s crucial to our economy, because middle class Americans saw their incomes shrink during the last decade, and they have borne the brunt of our current recession. They need relief, but our middle class families are most likely to spend the tax break money quickly, and give our economy a much needed shot in the arm.

The Congressional Republican tax cut plan would have add an additional $700 billion to the deficit over the next ten years and give America’s wealthiest people an average tax break of $100,000. Our Congressional Budget Office has found that giving a huge tax break to the wealthiest Americans is one of the least effective ways to stimulate our economy.

Since, Obama took office, House Democrats passed over two hundred bills, that were never acted on by the Senate. However, Senate Democrats have been forced to deal with an undemocratic 60 vote majority rule to invoke closure. Actually, our Senate is far from being a representative institution, since a states like Montana gets two Senators, even thought it has about the same number of voters as Staten Island.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

If the Fates Allow

The heart warming Christmas song Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas was immortalized by Judy Garland when she sang this song to Margaret O'Brien and brought tears to the eyes of the audience. The lyricist for Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas was Ralph Blane and the haunting music was composed by Hugh Martin. The song Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas was first published in 1943. The title of Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas is undoubtedly one of the saddest Christmas songs of the century.

Have yourself a merry little Christmas,
Let your heart be light
From now on,
our troubles will be out of sight

Have yourself a merry little Christmas,
Make the Yule-tide gay,
From now on,
our troubles will be miles away.

Here we are as in olden days,
Happy golden days of yore.
Faithful friends who are dear to us
Gather near to us once more.

Through the years
We all will be together,
If the Fates allow
Hang a shining star upon the highest bough.
And have yourself A merry little Christmas now.

Special Comment:
At this time of year it's especially important that folks, "Believe whatever gets you through the night."

In my opinion, that remark by Piper 2 was the most meaningful comment among over 130 written in defense of atheism posted online to refute Tom Sears' most recent controversial column in the Oneonta Daily Star.

Friday, December 24, 2010

A Higher Priority

Obviously, millionaires and billionaires are very good at manipulating the system, since the Obama compromise on the estate tax provides for $25 billion for 6,600 families.

In 2007, the Dow Jones Industrial Average hit an all-time high. For the first time in our nation's history, the Forbes list of the 400 wealthiest Americans includes only billionaires.

The rich have gotten richer, while the middle class is struggling, because real wages have fallen. According to the Census Bureau, the real median earnings of full-time working males has fallen 2%, and the real wages of working women had fallen 1.3%.

Under Bush, the median family income declined by $2,200 over an eight-year period. Millions of Americans slipped out of the middle class and into poverty. Nearly 13 million American children live in families with incomes below the federal poverty level. There are 1.3 million more children living in poverty today than in 2000, despite indications of economic recovery and growth.

Recently, Independent, Senator Bernie Sanders pointed out: “We talk about a lot of things on the floor of the Senate, but somehow we forget to talk about the reality of who is winning in this economy and who is losing. And it is very clear to anyone who spends two minutes studying the issue that the people on top are doing extraordinarily well at the same time as the middle class is collapsing and poverty is increasing.

“But the highest priority of many of my Republican colleagues is to make sure that millionaires and billionaires get more tax breaks. I think that that is absurd.

“I am sure that in a little while, my friends are going to come down to the floor and say, we’re very concerned about the deficit. We’re very concerned about the national debt. But you know what we’re more concerned about? Giving huge tax breaks to the wealthiest people in this country.

“We just don’t have enough money for working families and their needs. We’re going to cut back on food stamps. We’re surely not going to expand unemployment compensation. We got a higher priority, Mr. President. We have got to, got to, got to give tax breaks to billionaires.

“I mean, that’s what this whole place is about, isn’t it? They fund the campaigns, they get what’s due them.”

Thursday, December 23, 2010

A Great Rationalization

Many years of military service can resulted in combat veterans being unable to feel compassion for the less fortunate. Dr. Edward Tick submits that the key to the healing process for veterans is for them to experience the emotions that they could not allow themselves to feel in the war zone and to address the spiritual damage that they suffered during combat.

Oldsoldier frequently submits comments to the online version of the Oneonta Daily Star. Recently, he wrote: “Man is a predator, and by nature will take what he can from his neighbor to ensure his power over others, nature of the beast.”

That is a great rationalization for thieves, fascism and imperialism. A key part of Benito Mussolini’s fascist philosophy was that he believed neither in the possibility nor the utility of perpetual peace. Critics of Bush’s foreign policy argued that the best road to national security lies not in military conquests abroad, but in a foreign policy that stops making our country an object of hatred. It’s obvious that our military industrial legislative complex doesn’t find perpetual peace profitable and consequently of no utility.

Our military forces delivered death and destitution upon Iraq, while privatizing and expropriating the country's entire economy. People throughout the world are fearful of our military empire, with its unanswerable destructive capacity never before seen in human history.

Practicing Christians obey the eight commandment of God “Thou shall not steal,” and, versions of: “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you,” are shared by 21 world religions. History shows, that many nations haven’t subscribed to the Golden Rule. Imperialistic and fascist countries tend to disregard the ethical code that states one has a right to just treatment, and a responsibility to ensure justice for others. It’s also called the ethic of reciprocity and is arguably the most essential basis for the modern concept of human rights.

Oldsoldier is a combat veteran, who in my opinion has not addressed the spiritual damage, that he has suffered.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Intercontinental Exchange

According to the “The New York Times,” the derivatives market is controlled by nine ultra-rich bankers behind closed doors and is accountable to no one.

Derivatives are financial bets about the future.  They affect the heating oil companies, who can purchase derivatives on the future price of heating oil to hedge against big fluctuations in price.  That offers customers an opportunity to avoid massive spikes, but at what cost.

Derivatives on commodities ranging from jet fuel, that is a factor in determining airline ticket price, to this year’s harvest, there ascertaining the cost of your food. Derivatives are bought and sold in secret, and are worth trillions of dollars. However, only the largest Wall Street financial firms know how much you’ll pay for them, because when these bets are made, neither party knows how much the other is getting or paying. 

No one knows how much Wall Street is skimming off the top for itself. Therefore, only the nine ultra-rich bankers know how much their skimming adds to the price, that consumers will eventually pay for the bread made from that wheat, that they’re betting on.

The nine members from the world’s largest financial firms at the Intercontinental Exchange are not keeping the prices and profits a secret, but they’re blocking the creation of open clearinghouses and the addition other banks who might add some competition to the equation.

Recently, Gary Gensler, the chairman of the government commission that theoretically oversees derivatives, cancelled the vote on making derivative prices more transparent. “The New York Times” is reporting speculation that the vote was cancelled because Gensler lacked the votes from fellow commissioners for more transparency.

Massachusetts Republican Senator Scott Brown helped water-down the Wall Street reform bill, by shifting $19 billion in cost from the banks to the taxpayers. “The Boston Globe” has revealed, that when his vote emerged as the pivotal swing vote for reform, Brown received $140,000 in donations from financial firms and their executives while other Republicans received an average of just $28,000.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Greed is Good

On July 28, 2009, Cardinal Tarcisio cited the “greed is good” slogan in a speech to the Italian senate. He insisted the free market had been replaced by a “greed market ”and blamed that mentality for the 2007-2008 financial crisis.

Those, who think we can move this economy forward with a few doing well at the top, hoping it’ll trickle down to working folks struggling to keep up haven’t studied our history. America didn’t become the most prosperous country in the world by rewarding greed. We didn’t do it by just gambling and chasing paper profits on Wall Street.

We did it by producing goods and services, that we could sell. We did it with sweat and and innovation of middle-class workers, and small business owners. We did it by out-working, out-educating, and out-competing the rest of the world.

Congressional supporters of greedy people didn’t pass the financial reforms, that provides for new accountability and tough oversight of Wall Street. Supporters of greedy people didn’t pass the reforms that stopped credit card companies from gouging us with hidden fees and unfair rate hikes. They didn’t pass reforms that ended the era of taxpayer bailouts for Wall Street. They didn’t eliminated tens of billions of dollars in wasteful taxpayer subsidies to big banks that provide student loans. And, congressional supporters of greedy people definitely didn’t pass health insurance reform that make health care coverage more affordable.

The primary reasons we’ve become a debtor nation is Bush’s two unnecessary wars, and tax cuts for the very wealthy. Driven by greed, lobbyist continue to thwarted members of Congress from considering the common good.  

Social Security is an example of a program that serves the common good, because as we grow old, we’ll need a safety net. Congressional supporters of greedy people want to privatize our safety net and turn it over to Wall Street gamblers.

Obama has made it clear that as long as he is President, he’ll fight every effort to take the retirement savings of this generation of Americans and hand it over to the greedy on Wall Street.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Clifford Alexander

Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is no longer against our democratic traditions of morality.

During the Carter administration, Clifford Alexander became the first African-American to serve as Secretary of the Army.  He wanted the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy to be repealed, because it said to gay people that they should lie when they came into the service and stay under cover, because if they didn’t stay under cover they’d be kick out.

Alexander suggested that we analyze the basic inequity of present policy. He pointed out, that to continue studying the issue of repealing the policy is condescension, since the President supported it, a majority of the service people supported it, and the American public supported repealing DADT. Alexander believed, that anyone, who is ethically sound supports the repeal, therefore resistance to reform has reached the point of absurdity. 

As Secretary of the Army, Clifford Alexander insisted, that both women in the Army and gay people in the Army are soldiers, because that’s what they do. They do their job according to their military occupational specialty, that they’re assigned to do. He said those Senators, that repeatedly pontificate about gays in the military are revealing their biases, nothing else.  They’re not helping our military service by any stretch of the imagination. 

Alexander insisted, that we shouldn’t be asking people about their sexual orientation. Instead, we should be asking people about their skills.  We shouldn’t be asking young men and women as they come into the service whether, they’re worried about sitting next to somebody. The only way to address the issue is straight on by pointing out, that those who oppose repeal are hurting our military readiness. Furthermore, in order to have a strong military service we must includes those, who have the skills.

Eight Republican Senators joined their Democratic and Independent congressional colleagues to void the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” by a vote of 65 to 31.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Our Work Continues

Yesterday, I received the following message from President Obama.

“Moments ago, the Senate voted to end ‘Don't Ask, Don't Tell.’ When that bill reaches my desk, I will sign it, and this discriminatory law will be repealed.

“Gay and lesbian service members -- brave Americans who enable our freedoms -- will no longer have to hide who they are. The fight for civil rights, a struggle that continues, will no longer include this one. This victory belongs to you. Without your commitment, the promise I made as a candidate would have remained just that.

“Instead, you helped prove again that no one should underestimate this movement. Every phone call to a senator on the fence, every letter to the editor in a local paper, and every message in a congressional inbox makes it clear to those who would stand in the way of justice: We will not quit.

“This victory also belongs to Senator Harry Reid, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and our many allies in Congress who refused to let politics get in the way of what was right. Like you, they never gave up, and I want them to know how grateful we are for that commitment.

“As Commander in Chief, I fought to repeal ‘Don't Ask, Don't Tell’ because it weakens our national security and military readiness. It violates the fundamental American principles of equality and fairness.

“But this victory is also personal. I will never know what it feels like to be discriminated against because of my sexual orientation.

“But I know my story would not be possible without the sacrifice and struggle of those who came before me -- many I will never meet, and can never thank. I know this repeal is a crucial step for civil rights, and that it strengthens our military and national security. I know it is the right thing to do.

“But the rightness of our cause does not guarantee success, and today, celebration of this historic step forward is tempered by the defeat of another -- the DREAM Act. I am incredibly disappointed that a minority of senators refused to move forward on this important, commonsense reform that most Americans understand is the right thing for our country. On this issue, our work must continue.”

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Untouchable

The two co-Chairmen of Obama’s Deficit Commission, Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson unveiled a plan that would entail drastic cuts in most areas of American life, including Social Security and Medicare. American citizens are going to experience severe cut-backs in all sorts of benefits and economic security. 

Meanwhile, the U.S. continues to shovel billions of dollars every year to Israel which, unlike our country enjoys booming economy and universal health care coverage.  The Bowles and Simpson proposal would not cut any of that, but it at least calls for a reduction in the rate of growth in foreign aid, which would encompass the numerous foreign countries to which our government is transferring money, with Israel leading the list and its neighbor Egypt in second place. That aid money buys Egypt stability and peace with Israel.

Republican congressman Eric Cantor, will become the House Majority Leader once the 112th Congress takes office next month. He is anticipating that the extreme austerity measures, the Republican Party will be demanding, might sweep up foreign aid and therefore threaten the billions of dollars every year our government transfers to Israel.

Therefore, Cantor has proposed that the money going to Israel not be classified as foreign aid in order to shield it from all cuts. He wants American citizens to sacrifice and lose all sorts of benefits in the name of austerity, while shielding Israel from those cuts. Cantor would have Americans give up Social Security and Medicare benefits so that they can continue to transfer billions of dollars every year to Israel, a foreign country which offers a much better safety net to its citizens, than we do. 

Eric Cantor appears to have a greater allegiance to Israel, by subordinating the interests of our fellow Americans to a foreign country.
 

Friday, December 17, 2010

Budget Priorities

In May of 2005, Warren Buffett pointed out: “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?”

The difficult part of accepting the tax cut compromise was the appalling giveaways for the rich, that Senate Republicans insisted on. However, the agreement has some important provisions, for middle income people, unemployed workers and low income families and children.

The Obama compromise extends for 13 months additional unemployment benefits, when most people didn’t think the White House would be able to get more than a 3 to 6 month extension. The Republican majority in the House, who will take office in January would not have extend those benefit.

In Feb. 2009, the Recovery Act secured tax credit improvements that lifted millions of children out of poverty or made their families less poor. Republicans had been adamantly opposed to those tax credits, that were scheduled to expire at the end of this month. Instead, they’ll be extended for another two years.

The Republican leadership had told the White House, that if they insisted on doing away with new estate tax provisions, the Republican leadership would reciprocate by taking out those provisions that help millions of low income working families and children.

The Obama negotiators had to accept an estate tax giveaway of $25 billion to 6,600 very wealthy families, but in return got $40 billion in extremely important income support through tax credits for low and moderate income working families.

The bottom line was that if the Obama compromise legislation had been defeated, the new negotiation would have taken place with the Congress that comes into power in January, when middle-class Americans would have end up with a much worst deal.  All the fiscally irresponsible tax breaks for the wealthy would have remain, but the positive parts of unemployment benefits and assistance for the working poor would have end up being watered-down or disappear.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Measure Of Public Service

Last February, Obama pointed out to congressional Republicans: “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.”

When Republicans lost the majority in the Senate in January 2007, they started using the filibuster on nearly every vote. Consequently, the Democratic majority in 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 very difficult to do. However, the Republican minority in the Senate has decided that a supermajority is required for everything.

Recently, Obama scolded House Democrats: “You know, so, this notion that somehow, you know, we are willing to compromise too much reminds me of the debate that we had during health care.  This is the public option debate all over again.  So, I pass a signature piece of legislation where we finally get health care for all Americans, something that Democrats had been fighting for for 100 years, but because there was a provision in there that they didn’t get, what would have affected maybe a couple of million people, even though we got health insurance for 30 million people, and the potential for lower premiums for 100 million people, that somehow was a sign of weakness and compromise.

“Now, if that’s the standard by which we are measuring success or core principles, then let’s face it, we will never get anything done.  People will have the satisfaction of having a purist position and no victories for the American people.  And we will be able to feel good about ourselves and sanctimonious about how pure our intentions are and how tough we are, and in the meantime, the American people are still seeing themselves not able to get health insurance because of preexisting condition, or not being able to pay their bills because their unemployment insurance ran out.

“That can’t be the measure of how we think about our public service. That can’t be the measure of what it means to be a Democrat.”

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Historical Facts

At 8% unemployment, this recession was far from over when Obama took over. America lost 650,000 jobs in December 2008. An additional 700,000 jobs were lost in January, the month Obama was sworn in. On February 13th, the Recovery and Reinvestment Act was passed and the 650,000 jobs lost. The job losses from this recession prove to be much more severe in the first quarter of 2009, than anybody had anticipated.

Obama inherited a financial system teetering on collapse. We had witnessed 8 years of the same old economic theory that gave to billionaires and big corporations with the farcical hope that prosperity would trickle down to everyone else. For 8 years of no one in Washington watching Wall Street because politicians and lobbyists repeatedly killed common-sense regulations.

Small businesses have historically been the engine of job creation in this country. Therefore, Obama took $30 billion of the TARP money Wall Street banks had repaid and use it to help community banks give small businesses the credit they needed to stay afloat. Many small companies had weathered the worst of the recession and were ready to grow, but the banks on Wall Street were mostly lending to larger companies.

Next, Obama proposed a tax credit, for small businesses who hire new workers or raise wages. He wanted to eliminate all capital gains taxes on small-business investment and provide a tax incentive for both large and small businesses to invest in new plants and equipment.

We’ve seen nine straight months of private sector job growth. More than 850,000 private sector jobs were gained last year, which is in sharp contrast to the 700,000 jobs that America lost the month Obama took office. 

Within 2 weeks of Obama signing the Small Business Jobs Act more than 2,000 small business owners received more than a billion dollars’ worth of new loans. We’ve had five straight quarters of economic growth, thanks to the Recovery and Reinvestment Act, that was passed on 2/13/09, twenty-four days after Obama took office.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Robert Caffee

In a letter to the Oneonta Star, Robert Caffee expressed concerned regarding a proposal to cut Social Security benefits and raise the retirement age to 67 or 69. In order to ensure the solvency of Social Security for 75 years, the debt-reduction commission recommended raising payroll taxes for the affluent and reducing future benefits, by slowly raising the retirement age for full benefits to 69 by 2075.

Social Security Insurance was passed in 1935, when the average life expectancy for males was 65 years. However, today the average life expectancy for men is 75 years of age. Furthermore, the baby boomer generation has reached retirement age and with so many people out of work fewer people are paying into the system.



More than 58 million Social Security recipients will go another year without an increase in their monthly benefits, because the automatic cost of living adjustments (COLA’s) are determined using an inflation measure approved by Congress in 1973. Based on inflation so far this year, the trustees who oversee Social Security projects have determined there will again be no COLA’s next year.

To determine whether to give Social Security recipients a raise, trustees look at the inflation rate from the third quarter of each year. In 2009, when the trustees looked at the inflation numbers in July, August and September, and saw, that energy prices had shot up and they approved a 5.8 percent increase in Social Security benefits. In 2010, the numbers didn’t add up not to raise benefits and the latest figures suggest that there will be no raise in 2011. If there's a decrease in inflation estimates, benefits remain as they are. The next increase in benefits could come in January 2012.



Mr. Caffee recommended: “The business leaders would do our country a lot of good if they’d stop ‘outsourcing’ our jobs to China.” Does Caffee realize, that eleven times over the last four years, congressional Republicans voted to preserve tax breaks, that encouraged corporations to ship jobs overseas?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Screwing the Public

In a letter published in the Oneonta Daily Star, Jack Harmon concluded:“Madoff is just one screwing the public. We have 545-plus politicians doing a job on the U.S.”

To over-generalize about every member of Congress is an indication of ignorance. Every one of those politicians in Congress represent a very diverse constituency. Prominent investment manager Bernard Madoff's hedge fund was a giant fraud scam, that deceived well-known investors and gave hedge funds another black eye.

A much more serious fraud scam was discussed in the “Time” magazine issue of 2/23/09. It presented a list of those responsible for the current economic crisis, and ranked at the top of their list was Angelo Mozilo the chief executive of Countrywide Financial Corporate. The ranking was the consensus of opinion of 10 business and economics columnist. Recently, the Securities and Exchange Commission fined Mr. Mozilo a measly $67.5 million.

Countrywide provided subprime loans for years, but began giving mortgages to people, who couldn’t pay them back and they knew very well they weren’t going to be paid back. Countrywide was able to securitize those mortgages, by putting them in a pool and selling them almost immediately to investors around the world.  That was the chain of events that ultimately allowed there to be an enormous amount of credit, and Countrywide used that access to easy loan money to seduce people into buying houses they couldn’t afford.

Number two on the “Times” list was former Republican Senator Phil Gramm, who was the chairman of the Senate Banking Committee. In 1999, he played a leading role in writing and pushing through Congress the repeal of the Depression-era Glass-Steagall Act, which had regulated the financial services industry.

Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act was significantly to blame for the 2007 subprime mortgage crisis and the 2008 global economic crisis.
Today, Gramm is employed by UBS AG as a Vice Chairman of the Investment Bank division in Zurick, Swizerland. It’s a premier global financial services firm offering wealth management, investment banking, asset management and business banking services to clients.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Comptroller General

As the head of the Government Accountability Office, Comptroller General David Walker was our nation’s top accountant. The office is a professional position, not a political position. Walker was nominated by Bill Clinton for a 15 year term and was confirmed unanimously by the Senate.

In 2003, Walker issued an exceptionally critical assessment of our country’s future in a report that warned of dramatic tax increases, slashed government services and the large-scale dumping by foreign governments holdings of US debt.

Unfortunately, the American people never got to see those numbers because they were pulled out of the 2004 budget, just a few days after Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill, who ordered the analysis, was fired by George W. Bush. In early 2008, David Walker resigned in frustration.

The Bush administration encouraged recklessness spending and financial risk taking on both an individual and national level. By Oct. 2008, they had transformed America into a country where there was socialism for the rich and well-connected. A country where Wall Street profits remain privatized, but losses has been socialized, by TARP.

Many have predicted that the American empire is collapsing and Obama will be unable to do anything substantive to reverse the course. It has always been about the wealthy elite designing schemes, which enable their representatives in Congress and to put more wealth into hands of a few.

Chalmers Johnson author of “Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic” suggests that the solution to this crisis is for the American people to make the decision to dismantle our imperialistic empire, which has required a huge military establishment. The task is comparable to that undertaken by the British government after World War II, which liquidated the British Empire. By doing so, Britain avoided becoming a domestic tyranny and losing its democracy, as would have been required if it had continued to try to dominate much of the world by force.

A decision to mount a campaign of imperial liquidation may already be too late, given the vast and deeply entrenched interests of the military-industrial-legislative complex.

In my opinion, last November, the American people vote for the party, who they wanted to lead them, deceive them, act against their interests, and continue to screw up the economy.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Jack Harmon

In a letter published in the Oneonta Star, Jack Harmon wrote: “Bernie Madoff goes to prison for doing the same thing our government has been doing to us for 70 years with Social Security, with both talking people into investing with them”

It’s inaccurate to compare Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme to Social Security Insurance, because Social Security Insurance has been the law of the land for 75 years.

FDR and a Democratic Congress initiated Social Security after the Great Depression of 1929, because it had become apparent that the elderly were especially vulnerable to the greedy manipulation of Wall Street charlatans. Social Security is designed to be a safety net to protect older Americans from another depression or sever economic recession similar to the one that we’re now experiencing.

In 1933, a new regulatory system cause a great deal concern, it was the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, also known as the FDIC, an institution that has successfully secured the bank deposits of generations of Americans for the past 76 years.

The following quote appeared in Time Magazine in June of 1933: “Through the great banking houses of Manhattan last week ran wild-eyed alarm. Big bankers stared at one another in anger and astonishment. A bill just passed... would rivet upon their institutions what they considered a monstrous system... such a system, they felt, would not only rob them of their pride of profession but would reduce all U.S. banking to its lowest level.”

In a speech, Obama referred to the Time Magazine quote of 1933, by pointing out that : “This is the central lesson not only of this crisis but of our history.... Because ultimately, there is no dividing line between Main Street and Wall Street. We will rise or we will fall together as one nation. And that is why I urge all of you to join me. I urge all of you to join me, to join those who are seeking to pass these commonsense reforms. And for those of you in the financial industry, I urge you to join me not only because it is in the interest of your industry, but also because it’s in the interest of your country.”

Friday, December 10, 2010

Give and Take

Our government is the only institution, that can possibly protect the American people from the greed of its corporate master. All 42 of Senate Republicans signed a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, vowing to prevent a vote on “any legislative item until the Senate has acted to fund the government and we have prevented the tax increase that is currently awaiting all American taxpayers.”

Although, a majority of Americans support the passage of the Dream Act, the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, the ratification of the START treaty, and the extension of unemployment benefits for 2 million Americans, who can’t find a job, those legislative items have been held hostage.

The Senate attempted to pass a bill, extending Bush’s tax cuts for only those making less that $250 thousand a year and it received only 53 of the required 60 votes need. Next, they voted to extend Bush’s tax cuts for those making up to a $1 million a year, but that bill failed by the same margin. Senate Republicans are determined to renew Bush’s tax cuts for every millionaire and billionaire.

Consequently, Obama negotiated a compromise with the Senate Republican leadership to extend Bush’s tax cuts for two more years. Although, it extends Bush’s tax cuts to millionaires and billionaires, it also extends for 13 months additional unemployment benefits.  No one expects that the Republican controlled House that takes office in January will extend those benefits.

In addition to continuing tax cuts for the wealthiest among us, Republicans insisted on $25 billion in tax cuts for the top one quarter of 1% of the estates in our country. In return for that $25 billion, there is $40 billion of income tax credits for low and moderate income working families.

If this compromise bill is defeated, new negotiation will take place in the Republican controlled House in January and middle- class Americans will end up with a much worst deal. Without the compromise all tax rates would increase on January 1st. Those in the bottom tax bracket will be hurt the most, since they would see a 50% increase in their taxes.

Obama defended the compromise by saying: “My job is to do whatever I can to get this economy moving.  My job is to do whatever I can to spur job creation.  My job is to look out for middle class families who are struggling right now to get by and Americans who are out of work through no fault of their own. A long political fight that carried over into next year might have been good politics, but it would be a bad deal for the economy and it would be a bad deal for the American people.”

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Spirited Defense

The following excerpts are taken from comments made by Obama at a new conference defending his decision to compromise with the Republican leadership by extending tax cuts for all Americans, which were set to expire on Jan 1st.

“My job is to do whatever I can to get this economy moving.  My job is to do whatever I can to spur job creation.  My job is to look out for middle class families who are struggling right now to get by and Americans who out of work through no fault of their own.  A long political fight that carried over into next year might have been good politics, but it would be a bad deal for the economy and it would be a bad deal for the American people.”

“I’ve said before that I felt that the middle class tax cuts were being held hostage to the high-end tax cuts.  I think it’s tempting not to negotiate with hostage takers, unless the hostage gets harmed.  Then people will question the wisdom of that strategy.  In this case, the hostage was the American people, and I was not willing to see them get harmed.”

“I will continue to fight before the American people to make the point that the Republican position is wrong. And, you know, I will be happy to see the Republicans test whether or not I’m itching for a fight on a whole range of issues.  I suspect they will find I am. And I think the American people will be on my side on a whole bunch of these. We’re going to keep on having this debate.  We’re going to keep on having this battle.  I’m happy to have that battle.  I don’t see how the Republicans win that argument.”

“I understand the desire for the fight.  I’m sympathetic to that.  I’m as opposed to the high-end tax cuts today as I’ve been for years.  In the long run, we simply can’t afford them.  And when they expire in two years, I will fight to end them.”

“You know, so, this notion that somehow, you know, we are willing to compromise to much reminds me of the debate that we had during health care.  This is the public option debate all over again.  So, I pass a signature piece of legislation where we finally get health care for all Americans, something that Democrats had been fighting for for 100 years, but because there was a provision in there that they didn’t get, that would have affected maybe a couple of million people, even though we got health insurance for 30 million people, and the potential for lower premiums for 100 million people, that somehow that was a sign of weakness and compromise.

“Now, if that’s the standard by which we are measuring success or core principles, then let’s face it—we will never get anything done.  People will have the satisfaction of having a purist position and no victories for the American people.  And we will be able to feel good about ourselves and sanctimonious about how pure our intentions are and how tough we are, and in the meantime, the American people are still seeing themselves not able to get health insurance because of preexisting condition, or not being able to pay their bills because their unemployment insurance ran out.

That can’t be the measure of how we think about our public service. That can’t be the measure of what it means to be a Democrat.”

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Imagine

John Lennon was murdered 30 years ago, today. Imagine remains one of my favorite songs, because I too am a dreamer.
 
Imagine there's no heaven,
it's easy if you try,
No hell below us,
above us only sky,
Imagine all the people,
living for today.
 
Imagine there's no countries,
it isn't hard to do,
Nothing to kill or die for,
and no religion too,
Imagine all the people,
living life in peace.
 
You may say I'm a dreamer,
but I'm not the only one,
I hope someday you'll join us,
and the world will be as one.
 
Imagine no possessions,
I wonder if you can,
No need for greed or hunger,
a brotherhood of man,
Imagine all the people,
sharing all the world.
 
You may say I'm a dreamer,
but I'm not the only one,
I hope someday you'll join us,
and the world will live as one.

Written and preformed by John Lennon

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Compromise

Last night, President Obama outlined the following compromise with Congressional Republicans.

"For the past few weeks there’s been a lot of talk around Washington about taxes and there’s been a lot of political positioning between the two parties. But around kitchen tables, Americans are asking just one question: Are we going to allow their taxes to go up on January 1st, or will we meet our responsibilities to resolve our differences and do what’s necessary to speed up the recovery and get people back to work?

"Now, there’s no doubt that the differences between the parties are real and they are profound. Ever since I started running for this office I've said that we should only extend the tax cuts for the middle class. These are the Americans who’ve taken the biggest hit not only from this recession but from nearly a decade of costs that have gone up while their paychecks have not. It would be a grave injustice to let taxes increase for these Americans right now. And it would deal a serious blow to our economic recovery.

"Now, Republicans have a different view. They believe that we should also make permanent the tax cuts for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans. I completely disagree with this. A permanent extension of these tax cuts would cost us $700 billion at a time when we need to start focusing on bringing down our deficit. And economists from all across the political spectrum agree that giving tax cuts to millionaires and billionaires does very little to actually grow our economy.

"This is where the debate has stood for the last couple of weeks. And what is abundantly clear to everyone in this town is that Republicans will block a permanent tax cut for the middle class unless they also get a permanent tax cut for the wealthiest Americans, regardless of the cost or impact on the deficit.

"We saw that in two different votes in the Senate that were taken this weekend. And without a willingness to give on both sides, there’s no reason to believe that this stalemate won't continue well into next year. This would be a chilling prospect for the American people whose taxes are currently scheduled to go up on January 1st because of arrangements that were made back in 2001 and 2003 under the Bush tax cuts.

"I am not willing to let that happen. I know there’s some people in my own party and in the other party who would rather prolong this battle, even if we can't reach a compromise. But I'm not willing to let working families across this country become collateral damage for political warfare here in Washington. And I'm not willing to let our economy slip backwards just as we're pulling ourselves out of this devastating recession.

"I'm not willing to see 2 million Americans who stand to lose their unemployment insurance at the end of this month be put in a situation where they might lose their home or their car or suffer some additional economic catastrophe.

"So, sympathetic as I am to those who prefer a fight over compromise, as much as the political wisdom may dictate fighting over solving problems, it would be the wrong thing to do. The American people didn’t send us here to wage symbolic battles or win symbolic victories. They would much rather have the comfort of knowing that when they open their first paycheck on January of 2011, it won’t be smaller than it was before, all because Washington decided they preferred to have a fight and failed to act.

"Make no mistake: Allowing taxes to go up on all Americans would have raised taxes by $3,000 for a typical American family. And that could cost our economy well over a million jobs.

"At the same time, I’m not about to add $700 billion to our deficit by allowing a permanent extension of the tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. And I won’t allow any extension of these tax cuts for the wealthy, even a temporary one, without also extending unemployment insurance for Americans who’ve lost their jobs or additional tax cuts for working families and small businesses -- because if Republicans truly believe we shouldn’t raise taxes on anyone while our economy is still recovering from the recession, then surely we shouldn’t cut taxes for wealthy people while letting them rise on parents and students and small businesses.

"As a result, we have arrived at a framework for a bipartisan agreement. For the next two years, every American family will keep their tax cuts -- not just the Bush tax cuts, but those that have been put in place over the last couple of years that are helping parents and students and other folks manage their bills.

"In exchange for a temporary extension of the tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, we will be able to protect key tax cuts for working families -- the Earned Income Tax Credit that helps families climb out of poverty; the Child Tax Credit that makes sure families don’t see their taxes jump up to $1,000 for every child; and the American Opportunity Tax Credit that ensures over 8 million students and their families don’t suddenly see the cost of college shooting up.

"These are the tax cuts for some of the folks who’ve been hit hardest by this recession, and it would be simply unacceptable if their taxes went up while everybody else’s stayed the same.

"Now, under this agreement, unemployment insurance will also be extended for another 13 months, which will be welcome relief for 2 million Americans who are facing the prospect of having this lifeline yanked away from them right in the middle of the holiday season.

"This agreement would also mean a 2 percent employee payroll tax cut for workers next year -- a tax cut that economists across the political spectrum agree is one of the most powerful things we can do to create jobs and boost economic growth.

"And we will prevent -- we will provide incentives for businesses to invest and create jobs by allowing them to completely write off their investments next year. This is something identified back in September as a way to help American businesses create jobs. And thanks to this compromise, it’s finally going to get done.

"In exchange, the Republicans have asked for more generous treatment of the estate tax than I think is wise or warranted. But we have insisted that that will be temporary.

"I have no doubt that everyone will find something in this compromise that they don’t like. In fact, there are things in here that I don’t like -- namely the extension of the tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and the wealthiest estates. But these tax cuts will expire in two years. And I’m confident that as we make tough choices about bringing our deficit down, as I engage in a conversation with the American people about the hard choices we’re going to have to make to secure our future and our children’s future and our grandchildren’s future, it will become apparent that we cannot afford to extend those tax cuts any longer.

"As for now, I believe this bipartisan plan is the right thing to do. It’s the right thing to do for jobs. It’s the right thing to do for the middle class. It is the right thing to do for business. And it’s the right thing to do for our economy. It offers us an opportunity that we need to seize.

"It’s not perfect, but this compromise is an essential step on the road to recovery. It will stop middle-class taxes from going up. It will spur our private sector to create millions of new jobs, and add momentum that our economy badly needs.

"Building on that momentum is what I’m focused on. It’s what members of Congress should be focused on. And I'm looking forward to working with members of both parties in the coming days to see to it that we get this done before everyone leaves town for the holiday season. We cannot allow this moment to pass.

"And let me just end with this. There’s been a lot of debate in Washington about how this would ultimately get resolved. I just want everybody to remember over the course of the coming days, both Democrats and Republicans, that these are not abstract fights for the families that are impacted. Two million people will lose their unemployment insurance at the end of this month if we don't get this resolved. Millions more of Americans will see their taxes go up at a time when they can least afford it. And my singular focus over the next year is going to be on how do we continue the momentum of the recovery, how do we make sure that we grow this economy and we create more jobs.

"We cannot play politics at a time when the American people are looking for us to solve problems. And so I look forward to engaging the House and the Senate, members of both parties, as well as the media, in this debate. But I am confident that this needs to get done, and I'm confident ultimately Congress is going to do the right thing."

Monday, December 06, 2010

Billboard Battle

A sign in front of the Milford Center Community Bible Church read: “Too many talk like Christians but live like Atheists”

Now, we have a battle of the billboards at the entrances of the Lincoln Tunnel. An atheist billboard, costing $20,000 calling Christmas a myth has sparked a growing controversy near New Jersey entrance to the Lincoln Tunnel. The Catholic League countered with a billboard reading: “You Know It’s Real: This Season Celebrate Jesus,” at the tunnel’s Manhattan entrance at a cost of $18,500.

I can understand the reasons, some people would considers the Milford Center Church sign offensive, but fortunately we all enjoy a right of freedom of speech. The sign in Milford would have been more accurate, if it had read: “Too many talk like Christians but don’t live like Jesus Christ,” or “Too many talk like Christians but fail to live by the Golden Rule.” Suggesting, that Atheists are bad people contradicts the Golden Rule and suggests ignorance, because it’s an over-generalization.

Atheists and Christians appear to be incapable of being intellectually honest, because they can’t admit that when it comes to the existence of a Supreme Being they don’t “know.” Reasonable people recognize that no amount of scientific evidence can prove or disprove the existence of a creator.

Life experiences can lead one to doubt the existence of a Supreme Being, but people of faith seem to have had life experiences, that lead them to an opposite conclusion. Nevertheless, it’s intellectually dishonest or at best a poor choice of words for one to insist that there is or isn’t a God. To suspect, to believe or have faith in either position is understandable, but for somebody to insist that they “know” there is or isn’t a God seems irrational to me.

Logic suggests, that Jesus would have preferred, that the $38,500 that was spent on the Lincoln Tunnel billboards had gone to helping the poor.

“Imagine there’s no countries, it isn’t hard to do
“No need to kill or die for and no religions too
“Imagine all the people
“Living life in peace”

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Law of the Land

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 is the law of the land, and therefore it’s not unconstitutional until the Supreme Court makes that ruling.

Nevertheless, I recently received an obsolete article written on August 12, 2009, by Michael Connelly claiming that our healthcare law was unconstitutional. Mr. Connelly is a former Army officer and retired Louisiana attorney, who wrote: “I defy anyone to read the text of the U.S. Constitution and find any authority granted to the members of Congress to regulate health care.”

Connelly seems unaware, 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.”

George Washington wrote: “The warmest friends and best supporters the Constitution has, do not contend that it is free from imperfections; but they found them unavoidable and are sensible, if evil is likely to arise there from, the remedy must come hereafter; for in the present moment, it is not to be obtained; as there is a Constitutional door open for it, I think the People (for it is with them to Judge) can as they will have the advantage of experience on their Side, decide with as much propriety on the alterations and amendments which are necessary as ourselves. I do not think we are more inspired, have more wisdom, or possess more virtue, than those who will come after us.”

In 1978, Dr. Larry Sabato became a member of the faculty at the University of Virginia and has taught more than 14,000 students. He’s considered an expert in the field of Constitutional law. His inspiration comes from the original framers—Jefferson, Madison, Mason, Washington, and others, who fully expected the Constitution would, and should, be regularly revised each generation to reflect the country’s changing needs. Apart from the ten amendments in the Bill of Rights, it has only been amended seventeen times in 221 years, and many of those amendments were inconsequential. 

I consider Dr. Sabato to be a very knowledgeable scholar. Michael Connelly’s political agenda may prevent him from recognizing Sabato’s expertise or exhibiting the wisdom and virtue, that Washington assumed would come after the founding father departed this world.

Apparently, the person that sent me the article doesn’t know the difference between a bill and a law.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Ultimatum

Our government is the only institution, that can possibly protect the American people from the greed of its corporate master. On July 28, 2009, Cardinal Tarcisio cited the “greed is good” slogan in a speech to the Italian senate. He insisted the free market had been replaced by a “greed market ”and blamed that mentality for the 2007-2008 financial crisis.

All 42 of Senate Republicans have signed a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, vowing to prevent a vote on “any legislative item until the Senate has acted to fund the government and we have prevented the tax increase that is currently awaiting all American taxpayers.”

Although, a majority of Americans support the passage of the Dream Act, the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, the ratification of the START treaty, and the extension of unemployment benefits to 2 million Americans, who can’t find a job, those very important legislative items are unlikely to pass.

The Party of No has made it clear, that unless millionaires and billionaires and those making over $250,000 a year, get their tax cuts gridlock will continue.

According to Robert Frank, an economist and professor at Cornell University the source of our economic problem is that people aren’t spending enough money. Businesses aren’t investing because they’re already producing more than people want to buy.  Consumers, who haven’t already lost their jobs are worried they’ll be next to lose their jobs so they’re holding on to their money. 

However, every nickel that goes to the long-term unemployed will be spent, and that’s why the program is ranked at the top of the Congressional Budget Office list of most effective ways to increase spending.

Once the unemployment checks stopped coming, those folks won’t have it to spend. Insufficient spending levels is the reason we don’t have full employment.  Unfortunately, there isn’t enough demand in our economy and cutting off unemployment benefits will make the situation even worst.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Wealth Distribution

Between 1952 and 1982, the share of America’s wealth held by the richest 10 percent of Americans remained stable at about a third of the wealth in our country.

After, Reaganomics was introduced the richest 10 percent of Americans began getting much richer, and by 2007, they held about one half of all the wealth. 

During the first five years, of George W. Bush’s presidency tax cuts legislation was passed, which mostly benefited the very wealthy. The richest 1 percent of Americans saw their income go up an average of more than 10 percent each year between 2002 and 2007.

As the richest Americans got much richer, the middle class saw their income stay the about the same, however the number of people in poverty gradually increased.

Recently, on ABC, billionaire Warren Buffett rebutted claims that the Obama administration is unjustly hurting business orders with high taxes by saying that in fact, the wealthy have never had it so good. He added: “I think that people at the high end, people like myself, should be paying a lot more in taxes. We have it better than we've ever had it.”

Actually, that isn’t anything new, because five years ago, Warren Buffett warned on CNN: “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... 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.”

Today, we’re faced with the dilemma of what to do about the 9.6 percent of Americans, that are unemployment and what kind of country do we want America to be? 

The Congressional Budget Office studied 11 different proposed policies for their effect on job creation and found, that most effective policy was to aid to the unemployed. 

Congress will soon decide whether our country will take on $700 billion of extra debt so that people making more than a quarter million dollars a year can become even wealthier, or extend unemployment benefits, because it’s the most effective way to stimulate our economy. The unemployed are broke and consequently, they’ll spend the money, because they cannot afford to save it. Spending unemployment benefits increases consumer demand, by helping companies that supply that demand. Those companies get busier, they grow, and hire more people, thereby creating jobs.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

What It’s Really About

Recently, Independent Senator Bernie Sanders made the following remarks on the floor of the Senate.

“We are now faced with the issue of what we do with the Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003.

“And if you can believe it, we have people here, many of my Republican colleagues, who tell us: Oh, I am so concerned about our record-breaking deficit. I am terribly concerned about a $13.7 trillion national debt, terribly concerned about the debt that we’re going to be leaving to our kids and our grandchildren.  But wait a minute—it’s very important that we give over a 10-year period $700 billion in tax breaks to the top 2 percent.

“We talk about a lot of things on the floor of the Senate, but somehow we forget to talk about the reality of who is winning in this economy and who is losing.  And it is very clear to anyone who spends two minutes studying the issue that the people on top are doing extraordinarily well at the same time as the middle class is collapsing and poverty is increasing.

“But the highest priority of many of my Republican colleagues is to make sure that millionaires and billionaires get more tax breaks.  I think that that is absurd.

“I am sure that in a little while, my friends are going to come down to the floor and say, we’re very concerned about the deficit.  We’re very concerned about the national debt.  But you know what we’re more concerned about?  Giving huge tax breaks to the wealthiest people in this country.

“We just don’t have enough money for working families and their needs.  We’re going to cut back on food stamps.  We’re surely not going to expand unemployment compensation.  We got a higher priority, Mr. President.  We have got to, got to, got to give tax breaks to billionaires.

“I mean, that’s what this whole place is about, isn’t it? They fund the campaigns, they get what’s due them.”

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Massive Fraud

America has 15 million people out of work through no fault of their own. We’ve got millions of Americans wondering about how they’re going to make their mortgage payment.  We’ve got banks raking homeowners over the coals, although some of them have been involved in massive fraud. Nevertheless, the question of the day is how much better can the Obama administration treat American corporations? 

All you have to do is look at the numbers to recognize, that Obama doesn’t owe the corporate titans of this country an apology. They’ve made $1.6 trillion in the past three months, the highest corporate profits in recorded history.

By exploiting tax loopholes, G.E. is doing just fine, since it got $1.1 billion in tax benefits last year. ExxonMobil paid zero taxes and will continue to do great even when the average American worker is not. 

Recently, Clayton Holdings, a firm that analyzes home mortgages for banks, hedge funds, insurance companies and government agencies revealed, that it had been hired by Wall Street investment banks to analyze mortgages given to borrowers with poor credit, which were then packaged and sold to investors during the boom years. The firm revealed that as much as 28 percent of those loans failed to meet basic underwriting standards. Nevertheless, Wall Street banks ignored the warnings of the rating agency nearly half the time and purchased those loans anyway to sell them to unwitting investors, thereby committing massive fraud and bringing on the recession.

Before, this recession began there was increasing inequality between the very wealth and middle class Americans. Some Republicans want to eliminate the Department of Education, cut early childhood and support of public school, by 20 %. They would reduce financial aid for eight million students, and leave our community colleges without the resources they need to prepare our graduates for the jobs of the future. That approach would deepen the recession and continue to increase the disparity between rich and poor.

Our tax policies, trade policies, and global labor policy are so skewed in favor of large multinational corporations, that although corporate America benefits enormously, none of it is trickling down to working class Americans.

As of today, another 800,000 thousand Americans have had their unemployment insurance run out.