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.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Taxes Breaks

A letter in an area newspaper claimed: “They have three kids, they didn’t make a lot of money last year and paid in about $2,000 in taxes. I was floored when I saw they were getting back more than $9,000 from the federal government.”

I share that writer’s concern about giving away taxpayers’s money.

Although, last year Americans paid the lowest level of federal, state and local taxes, since 1950. Republicans and Tea Party members continue to call for tax cuts. It’s a fact, that 95 percent of Americans got a large tax cut from the Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

For the wealthy, that’s old news, since Warren Buffett revealed in May 2005: “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.”

Republicans running for office last year promised to cut an onerous corporate tax rate. However, Bank of America, Citi Bank, GE, and many other corporations were already paying a net tax of zero dollars. Furthermore, eleven times over the last four years, congressional Republicans voted to preserve tax breaks, that encouraged corporations to ship jobs overseas.

American taxpayers will be subsidize oil and gas companies $36.5 billion over the next ten years, including deductions for certain drilling costs, tax credits for low-volume oil and gas wells and a manufacturing tax deduction for oil and gas companies.

Taxpayers bailed out American International Group (A.I.G.) to the tune of nearly $182 billion dollars. Today, those tax dollars are desperately needed to fund other economic recovery measures including aiding the nation’s unemployed workforce.

During this recession a $9,000 tax rebate for a couple with 3 kids is nothing compared to what was going on with the Bush era tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires. I’m sure the family of five will spend the rebate money and to stimulate the economy.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Job Creation

It’s our government’s responsibility to do whatever it can to stimulate the economy and create jobs. Creating jobs helps to reduce the need for higher taxes, because usually unemployed folks aren’t paying state or federal income taxes.

When, Obama took office, we we’re in the middle of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. America had 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, twenty-four days after Obama took office the Recovery and Reinvestment Act was passed, but the job loss 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 tax cuts to billionaires and big corporations with the farcical hope that prosperity would trickle down to everyone else. For 8 years, no one in the Bush administration payed attention to 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.

By December 2009, employment in the private sector has risen by 1.1 million. That was 10 straight months of job growth. The Obama administration had already created more jobs, than Bush did in 8 years.

By the end of 2010, the DOW was up 11%, and a 10% growth in private sector jobs, were made possible by the Obama administration and the 111th. Congress. Recently, corporate profits as a percentage of U.S. economic growth reached their highest level in the three decades. Profits had plummeted to the lowest point ever, when the recession hit, but two months ago, corporate profits reached their highest point ever as a share of GDP. The recovery of corporate America has been much faster than anyone anticipated, however the recovery hasn’t trickled down to the average workers.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Union Movement

The union movement has provided Americans with the end of child labor, the right of workers to negotiate with their employers over wages, benefits and working conditions, the 8 hour work day, paid overtime, compensation for workers injured on the job, unemployment insurance, minimum wage, pensions, healthcare insurance, paid sick leave, vacations and holidays, limitations of job discrimination by ethnicity, color, religion, sex or national origin, and family medical leave.

The public employees union movement in Wisconsin and across America insist that the money isn’t the issue. They don’t want labor to have to give up its right to bargain collectively. 

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker knows, that he has gotten the concessions from the unions to balance the budget. He has admitted: “I don’t care about the money, I’m not giving this up,” He doesn’t intend to give up his ability to bust every single public union in Wisconsin.

Walker is trying to bust the public unions in Wisconsin and Republican governors in Ohio and New Jersey are considering doing the same. Governor Walker and the Tea Party movement are supported by billionaires Charles and David Koch.

On 2/23/11, Shepard Smith of Fox News said, that the battle over union rights in Wisconsin was all about busting unions and securing Republican political power, not about the state’s budget deficit.

Smith admitted the fight was “100 percent politics. There is no budget crisis in Wisconsin,” and added that the unions have given concessions.

Smith brought up the Koch brothers, the billionaires who have bankrolled much of the anti-union push back in Wisconsin. According to the fight started with the Kochs, who were trying to get a return on the money they donated to Scott Walker’s campaign.

Smith concluded: “Bust the unions, and it’s over. I’m not taking a side on this, I’m just telling you what’s going on...to pretend this is about a fiscal crisis in the state of Wisconsin is malarkey.”

Friday, February 25, 2011

Sincerity Questionable

Republicans don’t have a lot of ideas for creating jobs and they can’t do much to bring down the national debt, since the things that need to be done are politically toxic. Consequently, they’re returning to the culture war issues in order distract voters from the economic issues.

The Obama administration wants to make continue to make investments in education, science and technology, research and development in order to win America’s future. Republicans don’t agree.

The Congressional Budget Office insists, that government spending on infrastructure, research, education and energy, will get $1.75 in economic output for every dollar spent. Republicans claim that tax cuts, for the very wealthy will improve the economy.

Corporate profits as a percentage of U.S. economic growth have reached their highest level in the three decades. Republicans continue to claim the trickle down theory of economics works, but it doesn’t.

Speaker of the House, John Boehner insist, that our country is broke, but Republicans continue to insist on extending tax cuts to millionaires and billionaires.

Prior to Obama’s December compromise, the Republican tax cut plan would have add an additional $700 billion to the deficit over the next ten years by giving America’s wealthiest people an average tax break of $100,000.

Bank of America, Citi Bank, GE, and many other corporations are already paying a net tax of zero dollars. Nevertheless, congressional Republicans voter eleven times in the last four years, to preserve tax breaks, that encouraged corporations to ship jobs overseas.

Presently, those making $1 million are putting the same amount into the Social Security system as somebody making $106,000. Republicans, don’t want the FICA cap be raised.

Are Republicans sincerely interested in reducing our national debt and unemployment problem or are they merely attempting to ensure that Obama fails.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Cooperation and Compromise

In the past 30 years, we’ve piled up a lot of debt and a lot is interest on that debt. Our first goal must be to whittle down the interest, that has already accumulated on our debt.
 
The next problem is rising health care costs in programs like Medicaid and Medicare, that have started zooming up as a consequence of the population getting older and health care costs going up more rapidly than revenues.

In order to accomplish those reforms, a genuine spirit of cooperation and compromise will be needed in Congress. It will required some very tough choices just to stabilize the situation. Once, the national debt crisis is stabilized, the hardest part of solving our energy problem begins.

In 1977, President Carter recognize that we would no longer be in control of our economy, due to our increased dependency on foreign oil. In a speech to the nation, he predicted: “With the exception of preventing war, this is the greatest challenge our country will face during our lifetimes. It is a problem we will not solve in the next few years, and it is likely to get progressively worse. Our decision about energy will test the character of the American people and the ability of the president and the Congress to govern. This difficult effort will be the ‘moral equivalent of war’ except that we will be uniting our efforts to build and not destroy.”

America is addicted to foreign oil and it’s threatens our economy, environment and national security. It’s projected, that over the next decade, America will be sending $10 trillion on foreign oil, which represents the greatest transfer of wealth in the history of mankind. Instead of prolonging our addiction to oil, we need to look beyond fossil fuels and invest in new solutions.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Budget Cuts

Republicans continue to criticize the president’s budget for being too little and not specifying cuts in Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. Democrats insist, that Social Security isn’t a deficit issue, but a long term debt issue. 

Actually, Social Security is a deficit issue and a long term debt issue. The $2.6 trillion surplus in Social Security trust fund, is an obligation that according to the latest projections show the program could be deplete of funds by 2037. However, a major factor in determining the rate, that funds will run out is our current unemployment situation. We have 14 million unemployed Americans, who aren’t paying into the Social Security trust fund, nor are they paying taxes to reduce out national debt.

The Social Security trust funds run surpluses in that the amount paid in by current workers is more than the amount paid out to current beneficiaries. Those surpluses are given to the Treasury in exchange for special U.S. government securities, which are deposited into the trust funds. As the trust funds starts to run deficits, meaning more benefits being paid out than contributions paid in, the Social Security Administration is empowered to redeem the securities and use those funds to cover the deficit.

The Tea Party members of Congress are pressuring the Republican leadership to make big cuts in entitlement programs.  The Obama budget is a fully detailed presidential budget, but it’s also a negotiating tool, that leaves Republicans wondering, if they want to go first in proposing specific cuts to Social Security and Medicare when only 13% of Americans support cuts to Social Security and only 21% support cuts to Medicare.

Governing requires toughest choices with respect to spending cuts. Cutting the subsidy for ethanol or mohair farmers isn’t difficult, but eliminating the entire agricultural subsidy program, because it’s considered a socialistic program is much more dangerous politically.

Governing requires a position on raising the Social Security retirement age. There’s two elements to raising the retirement age. One, what is the maximum age it goes up to, and over what period of time do you accomplish it. It can be done over 30 years, or over 10 years.

Governing requires a position on how much to reduce Social Security benefits, or the cost of living adjustment, COLA increases in Social Security.

Governing requires a position on how much more do you want to raise co-pays for Medicare.

Governing requires compromising, also known as a give and take between spending cuts and solving the unemployment crises.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Controlling Deficit Spending

We have accumulated $14 trillion in debt, as a consequence of this recession and a series of decisions that were made over the last decade. The unrestricted part of the Defense Department budget receives only superficial scrutiny because members of Congress, seeking lucrative defense contracts for their districts, have mutually beneficial relationships with defense contractors and the Pentagon.

President Dwight Eisenhower identified this phenomenon, in the draft version of his 1961 farewell address, as the “military-industrial-congressional complex.” Fifty years later, in a way even Eisenhower probably couldn’t have imagined, the defense budget is beyond serious congressional oversight or control.

In their book, published in 2008, “ The Three Trillion Dollar War,” Joseph Stiglitz and co-author Linda Bilmes insists that our government continues to underestimate the cost of the Iraq War and arrived at a figure of more than $3 trillion. Stiglitz is the former chief economist of the World Bank and winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics.

Recently, the military brass held a press conference detailing the list of things that they don’t want Congress to keep purchasing for them. Defense Secretary Robert Gates personally reached out to Republican freshmen in the House in an effort to kill the spare engine spending for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. Gates told members of the House Armed Services Committee, that he considers the program “an unnecessary and extravagant expense, particularly during a period of fiscal contraction.”

Nevertheless, the House of Representatives recently voted 344 to 76 to reject an amendment, that would have insisted that cuts to the Pentagon budget be a significant part of any effort to control deficit spending. The continuing resolution would have insisted that the Pentagon budget be cut back to the level of 2008 as part of congressional efforts to reduce federal government spending.

The Pentagon has never had a full audit that makes it accountable to Congress and taxpayers. Military spending has doubled in the past ten years and the Pentagon has a history of enormous cost overruns. Therefore, its budget is one of the first places our representatives in Congress should start if they’re looking for ways to reduce wasteful spending.

In the 20th. Congressional District our Rep. Chris Gibson is unwilling to scale back our massive Pentagon budget, even though he supports deep cuts in most other areas of federal spending. 


Monday, February 21, 2011

Promote Birth Control

Stuart Anderson of Otego had the following letter published in the Oneonta Star.

“An ad on The Daily Star’s website grabs readers with an emotional hook, telling them that their taxes are paying for abortions. Readers are encouraged to take action by clicking a link to Americans United for Life, a group whose stated mission is the defunding of Planned Parenthood. If your emotional outrage prods you to support AUL, stop and think for a moment about what would result from the defunding of Planned Parenthood.



“Three million American men and women visited Planned Parenthood last year; 79 percent of them were age 20 or older. Eighty-three percent received services to prevent unintended pregnancies. Other services include cancer screenings, hypertension testing, testing for STDs, and counseling for all of the legal options that pregnant women have open to them, including both abortion and adoption. Abortion services account for 3 percent of Planned Parenthood’s budget.



“The fees for all services are on a sliding scale, adjusted for the patient’s ability to pay; without Planned Parenthood, many women would have nowhere to turn for health care except our hospital emergency rooms. For these patients, Planned Parenthood is the last safety net in the health care system.



“The single most common reason for abortion in the United States is failure to obtain and use contraception. Planned Parenthood is the most accessible provider of contraceptive services in the United States. It is difficult to understand how defunding Planned Parenthood would result in fewer women becoming pregnant and seeking abortions.



“Don’t let emotional appeals cloud your logic. The best way to reduce abortions is to promote birth control.”
*********************************************************************************************************************************
Plainly, focusing on fiscal issues has proven to be much more difficult, for the Tea Party folks than social issues. They’ve discovered, that it’s not as easy to deliver on their economic promises, because in order to significantly cut government spending they’ll eventually have to go after the Pentagon, Social Security, and Medicare funding.
 Consequently, they've voted to take away all federal funding for Planned Parenthood. 


Sunday, February 20, 2011

Congresswoman Speier

In the debate to ban all funding for Planned Parenthood, Congressman, Chris Smith graphically describe the process of late term abortion.

His remarks disturbed Congresswoman Speier, who decided to scrap her planned remarks.  She had underwent a dilation and evacuation at 17 weeks into a pregnancy in her early 40s, because medical difficulties made it impossible to continue the pregnancy.

To a hushed House chamber, the 60 year old Speier said: “The gentleman from New Jersey just put my stomach in knots.  I’m one of those women he spoke about just now.  That procedure that you talked about was a procedure I endured.  I lost a baby.  But for you to stand on this floor and to suggest, as you have, that somehow this is a procedure that is either welcomed or done cavalierly or done without any thought is preposterous.”

Irish Catholic, Congressman Steve Lynch concluded: “I am a pro-life Democrat.  And my faith informs my position on this issue.  And there used to be a general agreement—as divisive as this debate is and has been in this country for years, there’s been a level of agreement that we have reached where we agreed at one point in this country that the best way to reduce abortion in this country is to prevent unwanted pregnancies.  We used to agree on that.  This bill, this amendment will increase the number of abortions in this country.”

Speier elaborated: “As the night wore on, the vitriol and grotesque commentary got worse... It just overwhelmed me... This was a wanted pregnancy, it was the second miscarriage I had had... What they express doesn’t come close to the experience that a woman goes through when she is losing a baby or when a pregnancy is terminated.  It’s a painful, gut-wrenching loss.”

Saturday, February 19, 2011

On the Budget

Obama’s budget puts forth some tough choices and significant spending cuts. It’s goal is to match our annual revenues to our annual spending, by the middle of this decade. 

It’s important, that we not add more to the national debt, and all Americans need to understand that issue a real threat to our economy. Nevertheless, the Obama administration will be making investments in education, and science and technology, research and development that is required to win the future. Obama has taken a scalpel to the discretionary budget rather than a machete. However, discretionary spending only accounts for about 12% of budget.

So called entitlements, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, have to be talked about. Actually, Social Security is not the huge contributor to the deficit that the other two entitlements are. Obama is confident, that the political parties can come together and make some modest adjustments in Social Security to avoid slashing benefits.

Medicare and Medicaid are huge problems because health care costs are rising as the population is getting older. Obama is prepared to work in a serious way with Democrats and Republicans to solve the problem. Health care reform was a down payment on solving the rising cost of health care. Today, the projected deficits are going to be about $250 Billion lower over the next 10 years, and a Trillion dollars lower the following decade. Recently, federal authorities charged more than 100 doctors, nurses and physical therapists with Medicare fraud scams worth $225 million.

Hopefully, Democrats and Republicans are both committed to tackling these issue in a serious way. In the coming months a negotiation process will take place.  A process in which all sides must be willing to give a little bit, and that there’s a genuine spirit of compromise as opposed to people being interested in scoring political points.

The negotiations and compromise are always tough. Obama said: “there’s going to be a lot of ups and downs in the months to come before we finally get to that solution.  But just as a lot of people were skeptical about us being able to deal with the tax cuts that we did in December but we ended up getting it done, I’m confident that we can get this done as well.”

Friday, February 18, 2011

Unjustified Program

In Sept. 2010, a bipartisan group of House members, led by Democrat Barney Frank and Republican Ron Paul began putting forward serious proposals to address the runaway Pentagon budget.

After, the election it was anticipated, that taxpayers could actually see some Pentagon budget cuts for the first time in a long time, because Independent Senator Bernie Sanders and Congressmen Frank and Paul found new allies among the new crop of self-fiscal conservative. This provided an enormous opportunity to cut defense spending, because most conservative new members of Congress understand that, the elephant in the room is that we’re spending $700 billion a year on defense. 

The Pentagon is putting $25 billion of unused spare parts in warehouses every year. Every time they build one F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, an extra engine in built as a spare part.  The Pentagon is purchasing a total of 2,443 aircraft for an estimated cost of $323 Billion, making it the most expensive defense program ever.

Recently, the military brass held a press conference detailing the list of things that they don’t want Congress to keep purchasing for them. Defense Secretary Robert Gates personally reached out to Republican freshmen in the House in an effort to kill this spare engine spending. Gates told members of the House Armed Services Committee, that he considers the program “an unnecessary and extravagant expense, particularly during a period of fiscal contraction.”

On 2/16/11, the House of Representatives voted to strip $450 million from funds slated for the controversial program to build a second engine for F-35 Joint Strike Fighters. The amendment to strip the funds passed 233-198 with bipartisan support. It was added to a bill that would fund the federal government for the remainder of the current fiscal year, since neither the House nor the Senate have yet to passed the full spending package. However, a final deal on the full spending package isn’t a sure thing.

Obama had urged Congress to eliminate funding for the F-35 program. However, Speaker of the House, John Boehner is a key supporter of that program and the the vote was a setback for the Ohio Republican.

Historically, Congress has been reluctant to end major Pentagon projects, which can be an important source of local jobs and revenue.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

And Forevermore

Excerpts of remarks on Egypt, by President Obama on 2/11/11.

“There are very few moments in our lives where we have the privilege to witness history taking place.  This is one of those moments.  This is one of those times.  The people of Egypt have spoken, their voices have been heard, and Egypt will never be the same.

“By stepping down, President Mubarak responded to the Egyptian people’s hunger for change.  But this is not the end of Egypt’s transition.  It’s a beginning.  I’m sure there will be difficult days ahead, and many questions remain unanswered.  But I am confident that the people of Egypt can find the answers, and do so peacefully, constructively, and in the spirit of unity that has defined these last few weeks.  For Egyptians have made it clear that nothing less than genuine democracy will carry the day.

“The military has served patriotically and responsibly as a caretaker to the state, and will now have to ensure a transition that is credible in the eyes of the Egyptian people.  That means protecting the rights of Egypt’s citizens, lifting the emergency law, revising the constitution and other laws to make this change irreversible, and laying out a clear path to elections that are fair and free.  Above all, this transition must bring all of Egypt’s voices to the table.  For the spirit of peaceful protest and perseverance that the Egyptian people have shown can serve as a powerful wind at the back of this change.

“The United States will continue to be a friend and partner to Egypt.  We stand ready to provide whatever assistance is necessary -- and asked for -- to pursue a credible transition to a democracy.  I’m also confident that the same ingenuity and entrepreneurial spirit that the young people of Egypt have shown in recent days can be harnessed to create new opportunity -- jobs and businesses that allow the extraordinary potential of this generation to take flight.  And I know that a democratic Egypt can advance its role of responsible leadership not only in the region but around the world.

Egypt has played a pivotal role in human history for over 6,000 years.  But over the last few weeks, the wheel of history turned at a blinding pace as the Egyptian people demanded their universal rights.     We saw people of faith praying together and chanting – “Muslims, Christians, We are one.”  And though we know that the strains between faiths still divide too many in this world and no single event will close that chasm immediately, these scenes remind us that we need not be defined by our differences.  We can be defined by the common humanity that we share.

“And forevermore it will remind us of the Egyptian people -- of what they did, of the things that they stood for, and how they changed their country, and in doing so changed the world.”

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Really Messed Up

Abe Lincoln approved the transcontinental railroad in 1861, after Congress funded it with 30-year government bonds and extensive land grants of government-owned land. The transcontinental railroad united our country by rail and is considered one of the greatest American technological feats of the 19th century. It surpassed the building of the Erie Canal in the 1820s and the crossing of the Isthmus of Panama by railroad in 1855.

Republican President Eisenhower launched the most massive government undertaking in our history known as the Interstate Highway System. Some complained that the program was too costly, however it turned out to be the one of the most successful long term economic stimulus programs in American history.

Recently, Vice President Joe Biden announced that we’re starting to build a very fast national train system. In Italy, you can take a high speed train from Rome to Florence. Another smooth riding train zooms under the English Channel in 20 minutes, to take passengers from London to Paris in two hours.  In Japan, China and Korea trains go 200 miles an hour from city to city. This has been going on for nearly a generation, but America is very late in catching the train.

Instead, of building high speed train lines, we’ve been spending money on imperialistic wars to ensure our oil supply. For some folks, laying out money to create jobs by building high speed rail lines is considered Socialism, but using taxpayer money to build football stadiums is considered a wise investment.  

Taxpayers paid 325 million dollars for the new Cowboy’s Stadium.  They paid 339 million dollars to build the Packers Stadium, and 262 million of the 312 million that went to Heinz Field in Pittsburgh. Economic studies have repeatedly shown, that taxpayer investment in stadiums is a loser for everyone except the owners, because they don’t generate anything close to the tax revenue that they take from taxpayers. 

Los Angeles is living very happily without a football stadium.  But, there’s a bid to build a football stadium in downtown Los Angeles to lure an NFL team.  The proposal requires, that the city of Los Angeles lease valuable downtown property to the stadium for one dollar a year and float a 350 million dollar bond to pay for the stadium.

The city of Los Angeles cannot afford to pay its public school teachers and it’s being asked to subsidize NFL football. Our priorities seem to be really messed up.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Wave of Discontent

I’m convinced that the Republican party has decided to not get specific about they’re plan to decrease unemployment. Essentially, they plan to just ride the wave of discontent, that got them elected.

They’ve made good on their promise to vote on repealing health care. Some congressional Republicans will explain, that their agenda is to dismantle everything the Democrats have done, but it’s too late to repeal the stimulus package. Consequently, the anti-abortion movement has come to the foreground. That’s the issue, that they intend to attack Democrats on in the next election. Tea Party was going to be different from the evangelical coalition, by focusing on fiscal issues and not on social issues, because our government’s debt has exploded.

Actually, the coalition hasn’t changed.  It’s the same people as four years ago, and the 50 most influential evangelicals in America are still getting elected to office. They’re pursuing the same ideological agenda and intend to make good on their promises. 

Republicans are finding it much more difficult to deliver on their economic promises, because in order to significantly cut government spending they must go after military, Social Security, Medicare funding. All three of those things are off the table, because every member of Congress recognize, that because of the nature of their constituency those things are politically toxic.

The Party of No has to return to waging culture war. Members of the House are getting a week off after every two weeks of being in session. They’ll be working less, while focusing intently on abortion, and attempting to redefine rape and incest.

Republicans don’t have a lot of ideas for creating jobs and they can’t do much to bring down the national debt, since the things that need to be done are politically toxic. Therefore, they’re forced to return to the culture war issues.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Relevant Facts

The Bureau of Economic Analysis reports, that federal, state and local taxes; including income, property, sales and personal income, are at the lowest rate since 1950.

Between 1952 and 1982, the share of America’s wealth held by the richest 10% of Americans remained stable at about a third of the wealth in our country. Today, with the exception of Mexico and Turkey, we’re the country with the highest income inequality level.

When Reagan came into office, we were the largest exporter of manufactured goods, the largest importer of raw materials, and the largest creditor on the planet. In just 30 years, we’ve become the largest importer of manufactured goods and exporter of raw materials, which is the definition of a third world nation. Today, we’re in debt more than any country in the world. Starting in 1981, the richest 10 percent of Americans began getting much richer and by 2007 they held about one half of all the wealth. 

From Ronald Reagan's presidency to the end of George W. Bush's our 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% of the debt incurred from Reagan to Obama occurred in the 20 years under Republican presidents. Clinton left a surplus after cleaning up after Reagan and the elder Bush. The second Bush got us into a $3 trillion war in Iraq, borrowed money to lower taxes on the richest Americans and pay for a prescription-drug program for Medicare recipients..

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% 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 about the same, however the number of people in poverty gradually increased.

Recently, corporate profits as a percentage of U.S. economic growth reached their highest level in the three decades. Profits had plummeted to the lowest point ever, when the recession hit, but two months ago, corporate profits reached their highest point ever as a share of GDP. The recovery of corporate America has been much faster than anyone anticipated, however the recovery hasn’t trickled down to the average workers.

Regrettably, the trickle down myth has continued for the past 30 years.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Mitt Romney

Republican Mitt Romney’s recent remarks at CPAC included: “President Barack Obama has stood watch over the greatest job loss in modern American history. And that, my friends, is one inconvenient truth that will haunt this President throughout history.”

The inconvenient truth is that on 1/29/10, Obama entered the proverbial lions den, and address, that issue at the Republican House retreat in Baltimore.

In response to a question about the unemployment rate being at 10%, Obama pointed out, that when he was sworn in, everyone was hoping, that unemployment would remain in the 8% range. That number was based on the estimates made by both conservative and liberal economists because at that point, all of the data wasn’t in.

America lost 650,000 jobs in December 2008. Surely, Mr . Romney can’t hold Obama’s policies for those lost jobs. An additional 700,000 jobs were lost in January, the month Obama was sworn in. He shouldn’t be held accountable, for those lost jobs, because he was in office for only a week. On February 13th, the Recovery Act was passed by Congress and the 650,000 jobs lost in that month wasn’t a consequence of Obama’s policies. In fact, the job losses from this recession prove to be much more severe in the first quarter of 2009, than anybody had anticipated.

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

Currently, the unemployment rate is up to 9.0 percent.

Romney continued: “Let me make this very clear. If I decide to run for President, it won’t take me two years to wake up to the job crisis threatening America. And I won’t be asking Tim Geithner how the economy works—or Larry Summers how to start a business. ”

In fact, corporate profits as a percentage of U.S. economic growth reached their highest level in the three decades. Profits had plummeted to the lowest point ever, when the recession hit. In Nov. 2010, corporate profits reached their highest point ever as a share of GDP. The recovery of corporate America has been much faster than anyone anticipated, however the recovery hasn’t trickled down to the average workers.

Romney and his fellow Republicans don’t have a clue as to how to bring back the 8 million jobs lost during the Bush era.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Old Enemies

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce did its best to destroy the Democratic Party in the November elections.  The Chamber spend more than $30 million in those elections, and 93% of that money was spent on election ads, either to supported Republican candidates or criticized their opponents.

Nevertheless, on a day, when the Dow Jones index was at a two and a half year high, Obama visited with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to try to mend fences with America’s business community. 

Obama told the Chamber of Commerce: “And I’m reminded toward the end of the 1930s, amidst the Depression, looming prospect of war, FDR, President Roosevelt, realized he would need to form a new partnership with business if we were going to become what he would later call the arsenal of democracy.  And as you can imagine, the relationship between the president and business leaders during the course of the Depression had been rocky at times, had grown somewhat fractured by the New Deal.  So, Roosevelt reached out to businesses and business leaders answered the call to serve their country.”

Obama description of the rocky, fractured relationship between the president and business in FDR’s day, was definitely understated.

In 1936, Franklin Delano Roosevelt had delivered one of the all-time most shocking moments in presidential speechmaking. FDR had declared: “We had to struggle with the old enemies of peace, business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering.  They had begun to consider the government of the United States as a mere appendage to their own affairs, and we know now that government by organized money is just as dangerous as government by organized mob. Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today.  They are unanimous in their hate for me and I welcome their hatred.”

President Obama told members of the Chamber that they should hire American workers, that they should keep new jobs, on our shores.

Firing Americans from their jobs so people in other countries can do that work instead is not new.  The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has been openly advocating in favor of offshoring American jobs for years, and that is wrong. They’re the same "old enemies, " that FDR had to deal with.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Never Stop Caring

The following article by Dean Sternburg appeared in the Hudson-Catskill Newspapers.

"'Perhaps retirement may simply mean that one stops showing up at the office...eventually replacing those hours with other hours,' mused Dr. Michael G. O’Leary, former Columbia County Mental Health Director speaking to a packed Kozel’s Restaurant Wednesday evening. 'But it doesn’t mean that you stop caring about the people you worked with or worked for.'

"O’Leary, known best for his fight against the stigma that surrounds the mental health community, retired at the end of last June after almost 30 years of local service in the mental health field and was honored Wednesday night by the Columbia County Community Services Board at their 11th annual dinner. The Board holds a dinner each year to recognize distinguished community citizens for their commitment to advocacy.

"For those familiar with Dr. O'Leary's extensive work in the county's mental health field, his opening statement was a mild embodiment of his determination to advocate for those affected by mental illness, mental disabilities and alcohol/substance addiction. Because these three areas of mental health often cross over to form multiple diagnoses, O’Leary in 2007 pushed for three separate state agencies, each dealing with a specific disorder, to operate as one uniform agency. This was one accomplishment that Community Services Board chairperson Dr. Nancy L. Hoag talked about at the dinner and in speaking with the Register-Star.

“'He recognized that we really need to talk about concurrent planning and talk across disability borders,' she said. 'Because of his calm manner and his special ability to get committee members to let go of different and long-held assumptions, he was able to do what nobody else could do.'

"Hoag, who spoke before O’Leary, noted that other local initiatives under his leadership included services to the county jail to engage inmates in treatment through jail-based outreach, screenings and assessments to reduce relapse, a suicide prevention task force during a time of elevated suicides in the county, and the establishment of a drug court in Columbia County.

"O’Leary, speaking to the crowd, commended the board for creating an agenda for all mental health services in the county and representing those with mental disabilities. 'You do influence state policy. In these cynical times it’s easy to conclude, ‘what’s the use, no one cares about people with disabilities.' If we are left with such a defeated attitude, then the disability truly wins. Then the only voice in Albany will be those who are hawking a business agenda in one form or another.'

"O’Leary also spoke of impending fiscal challenges, saying that 'Medicaid, which assumes progressive change, may not be the most legitimate fiscal vehicle' for members of a mentally disabled population that may never be able to progress toward competitive employment or independent living."

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Oil is Finite

I greatly enjoy participating in the on line comment feature of the Oneonta Daily Star. Yesterday, Rhartick posted the following insightful comments:

“If anyone doesn't like gas at $4.50 per gallon, just wait a while - until it hits $10 and up. Oil is a finite, once-in-a-lifetime resource. Mankind discovered this little stash only a little over 150 years ago, and has been pigging out ever since. This concentrated pocket of energy has of course, made modern society possible.

“However, around 1860, the world population was about 1.5 billion. Today, we are almost at 7 billion, headed towards 9 billion in less than 50 years. And, much of that population is modernizing (China, India, etc.) with new industry, cars and homes.

“However, no new oil is being created, or has been in any significant quantity for the last 250,000,000 years or so. Anyone can do the math. Even if one were to believe the rosy fairytales promulgated by the oil industry, even if one were to believe that we have oil and coal for several hundred years - then I would say it forces us morally and economically to conserve, and to find alternate sources, if only so our children’s children, will still have some left over.

“Oil is an absolutely fixed, limited, one-time resource that can never be replenished. So if we don't get out of our comfort zones now, and aggressively develop alternate energy, at the same time we conserve, such as by extending automotive mileage, encouraging more efficient appliances, putting solar panels on our roofs, developing organic agriculture (which is now almost totally dependent upon oil for its production), we are essentially sealing not only our fates, but those of future generations.

“Oil is a fixed, finite resource. So price fluctuations are to be expected. Hopefully, we are wise enough as a society, to see this, and plan for it long before it runs out. However, the future in terms of the end of oil is not longer that far out in front of us. It is now, and confronting us, and our children.

“The Iroquois tribes that inhabited this region long before us, made important decisions based on their effects for the next 7 generations. How wise are we in comparison?

“Sorry to be dramatic, but these seem to be simple facts. The more we invest in solar, wind and even nuclear, the more oil we have left to use intelligently as chemical feedstocks for pharmaceuticals, etc., rather than burning this most precious stuff up for simple fuel.”

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Fond of Warren Buffett

Some on the far right complain, that I often quote billionaire Warren Buffett. I'm fond of quoting Warren Buffett, because he has pledged to give away 99% of his current $45 billion fortune through the the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. That foundation is the largest transparently operated private foundation in the world. The primary aims of the foundation are, globally, to enhance healthcare and reduce extreme poverty, and in America, to expand educational opportunities and access to information technology. The foundation is controlled by its three trustees: Warren Buffett, Bill Gates and Melinda Gates.

Recently, on ABC, 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 in May 2005, 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.”

In that CNN interview, Buffett suggested: “I personally would increase the taxable base above the present $ 90,000. I pay very little in the way of SS taxes.” Regarding a comment he had made, that our country is becoming a sharecropper society and economy. Buffett response was 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 will send abroad a percent of our GDP every year just to service debt, which arose from the over - consumption that is currently taking place. Buffett emphasized: "Our sons will pay for the sins their fathers." Buffett added: "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."

Former Republican Senator Phil Gramm slipped the “Commodity Futures Modernization Act,” into an omnibus spending bill just as Congress headed for vacation in 1999. Warren Buffett was the first to noticed, 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.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Republican Mantra

Since the Reagan era, we’ve had the Republican mantra of cut taxes and spending. Today, we’re in the middle of a jobless recovery from the deepest recession since the Great Depression.  Corporations are hoarding trillions of dollars in cash and they’re not hiring.  State governments are in the red and banks are sitting on trillions of dollars from the Federal Reserve, but are not lending.  

The federal government has to increase demand and the economic data shows from the Congressional Budget Office and that if you have government spending of the type that the Obama plan would do, infrastructure, research, education and energy, you get $1.75 in economic output for every dollar that you spend. In fact tax cuts, which are at the core of Speaker of the House, Boehner’s plan are more expensive than they are productive in the economy.

The Republican mantra, that tax cuts creation jobs is untrue. Actually, the opposite is true, because tax cuts hurt job creation. The vast majority of Bush’s tax cuts went to the wealthiest 3% of Americans, while many working middle class folks lived paycheck to paycheck. They spent every dollar on groceries and gas for the car, if they could afford one.

The problem with using tax cuts as a stimulus is that it’s far too expensive and it ties the government’s hands to do a more effective form of stimulus, such as infrastructure spending. Tax cuts are the most expensive and the least effective way to create jobs.

In 2005, “The New York Times” did a study of what Bush’s tax cuts meant for the richest, middle class and lower class Americans. The study found that because of the Bush tax cuts, the 400 richest households in America were paying the same share of income, on their federal income, Social Security, and Medicare taxes as Americans making $50,000 to $70,000. We should be investing in tax cuts for only middle class and low income Americans.

“Cutting the deficit by gutting our investments in innovation and education is like lightening an overloaded airplane by removing its engine.  It may make you feel like you’re flying high at first, but it won’t take long before you feel the impact.” - Obama

Monday, February 07, 2011

The Myth

Capitalism isn’t interested in economic patriotism, it’s only concern is the bottom line. Republican want to continue to reward their corporate masters, while unemployed Americans beg for jobs.

Bank of America, Citi Bank, GE, and many other corporations are already paying a net tax of zero dollars. Nevertheless, eleven times over the last four years, congressional Republicans voted to preserve tax breaks, that encouraged corporations to ship jobs overseas.

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 younger, Bush the elder and Hoover.  Since 1989, only Clinton led the country in the direction of creating more jobs, significantly reduced unemployment and brought about a budget surplus.

Eisenhower insisted: “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. The world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hope of its children.”

In the past 50 years, only Democratic President Carter has kept us out of war. Although, the Secretary of Defense Gates has said there’s plenty to cut within the defense budget, Republicans don’t want to disturb their lucrative relationship with the military-industrial- legislative complex. Consequently, they’re talking about privatizing Social Security and cutting programs that continue the shredding of a safety net for poor, disenfranchised Americans.

During the Bush era, a Republican controlled Congress facilitated ever increasing inequality by passing unconscionable tax cuts for the top 1% income bracket. A rising economic tide has failed to lift most boats. Reaganomics and the trickle down theory of economics has revealed itself as a myth.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

$2.6 Trillion Surplus

Regarding the solvency of Social Security, Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid told “Meet the Press,” moderator David Gregory:  “I’m saying the arithmetic on Social Security works.  I have no doubt it does. It’s not in crisis. This something that’s perpetuated by people who don’t like government.  Social Security is fine.  Are there things we can do to improve Social Security?  Of course... I’m not going to let any of those back door methods whack Social Security recipients. We have a lot of things we can do with this debt that’s a problem, but one of the places where I’m not going to be part of picking on is Social Security.”

Republicans are talking about raising the retirement age, means testing, and reducing benefits. That’s not their real mission.  They want to privatize Social Security. Their method is a massive amount of misinformation. Their goal is line the pockets of their contributors on Wall Street.

Social Security was instituted 75 years ago, since then the suicide rate among senior citizens had dropped 50%. Before Social Security, 50% of seniors lived in poverty.  Today, 10% live in poverty. Americans, like Social Security, because it has always paid out benefits. It works very well, but if you’re a right wing ideologue, who hate government, that doesn’t support your agenda.

Speaker of the House, John Boehner is committed to helping his contributors on Wall Street get their hands on the $2.6 trillion surplus in Social Security trust fund, and he doesn’t want the American people to know that Social Security is financially sound. Following the State of the Union Address, he claimed: “Well, if you really want to talk about what the Sputnik moment is, it’s the fact that we’re broke. The American people know we’re broke.”

If, our country was in fact broke, why did Boehner insist on extending tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires. The mission of the Republican Party for a long time has been to privatize Social Security by having the funding go into risky Wall Street investments. Their method is massive amounts of misinformation. Actually, Social Security can pay out every benefit owed to every eligible American for the next 27 years.

Six years ago, Warren Buffett suggested: “I personally would increase the taxable base above the present $ 90,000. I pay very little in the way of SS taxes.” Recently, Independent Senator Sanders recommended: “lift the income cap so that people making more than $250,000 contribute more into the system.”

Presently, those making $1 million are putting the same amount into the Social Security system as somebody making $106,000.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Let It Go!

Recently, the Oneonta Daily Star published a letter to the editor written by an angry Bob Joyce of Cooperstown.

“Sarah Palin had a map on the Internet of districts where she wanted to see the office-holder unseated. On each district was sniper rifle crosshairs and, along with prior ugly statements, it suggests that Sarah Palin thinks they should be eliminated, perhaps by assassination. One of the crosshairs was on the district of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who suffered a bullet through the brain, and six people were killed by the gunman. 



No matter what the shooter says, this forges an indelible, permanent association between the gunman and Sarah Palin. She is now more than a cute, loose-lipped, lying jerk, who seems to have the constitutional freedom to indulge in well-known Republican dirty tricks. Is she entitled to her own opinion?



“Freedom and liberty, as listed by the original Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, were supposedly natural rights for all. The First Amendment to the Constitution was not evidently perceived at that time as necessary. It required an amendment later. The freedoms and liberty enumerated in the add-on First Amendment weren't available to millions, so the First Amendment was a hoax and unconstitutional until 1965. How so?



“First there was unconstitutional slavery until the Southern states initiated the Civil War. It ended with 600,000 dead. Then the Southern states substituted segregation almost as demeaning as slavery. This continued until the great liberal President Lyndon B. Johnson succeeded in making the South's segregation laws illegal. Hey, Constitution lovers, 45 years ago we got a functioning Constitution.



“The outrageous behavior and lying by Sarah Palin, the Tea Party, talk radio, Fox television and various conservative candidates during the last election graphically demonstrate what's wrong with politics in America. Freedom and liberty have been grossly overrated and for America's betterment, it's obvious we need a revision of the add-on First and Second Amendments of the U.S. Constitution.”
*********************************************************************************************************************************

The following excerpt from Obama’s speech at the memorial service on the campus of Arizona State University, in Tucson, should serve as a reminder to Bob Joyce, who continue to blame Sarah Palin to let it go.

“That’s what I believe, in part because that’s what a child like Christina Taylor Green believed. Imagine: here was a young girl who was just becoming aware of our democracy; just beginning to understand the obligations of citizenship; just starting to glimpse the fact that someday she too might play a part in shaping her nation’s future. She had been elected to her student council; she saw public service as something exciting, something hopeful. She was off to meet her congresswoman, someone she was sure was good and important and might be a role model. She saw all this through the eyes of a child, undimmed by the cynicism or vitriol that we adults all too often just take for granted.

“I want us to live up to her expectations. I want our democracy to be as good as she imagined it. All of us – we should do everything we can to make sure this country lives up to our children’s expectations.”

Friday, February 04, 2011

A Woman’s Choice

I do not consider myself pro-abortion, but I am very much pro-choice.

Sister Joan Chittister author of “Called to Question: A Spiritual Memoir”; asks: “Do we want the religion of the Crusades and the Inquisition and the witch burnings and segregation and slavery, the oppression of women and Puritanism? Sister Chittister points out that the religious right deletes some of the commandments, while accepting corporate and political greed. They sit by and say nothing about a doctrine of preemptive war. Either the religious right considers life is of value or it’s not of value.

Most people believe, that the decision to have an abortion shouldn’t be to made, by the government. Ten years from now, we may be having the same fruitless argument about abstinence only programs, and there will have been 10 million more abortions.

Approximately, 90 percent of the situations that lead to abortions result from couples, who failed to take any precautions. They get pregnant and then they decide to have an abortion. The decision to have a child should be made, before conception.

By threatening people with a law banning abortions, you’re essentially telling them, that you don’t respect their decision. Consequently, they’ll most likely tell you that they aren’t going to respect your authority. 

I don't believe that the heart wrenching decision regarding abortion should be decided by a bunch of arrogant old men on the Supreme Court. It should remain the woman's choice. If the law is change wealthy woman, will continue to have the option by taking a trip to Mexico. Illegal dangerous back room abortions will again be the only option for most women.

Religious leader abuse their positions on a regular basis, but Pastor Greg Boyd is an exception. He is disturbed by the fusion of faith and politics. He wonders; “Why in order to be pro-life, you’re expected to support a candidate whose mission is to overturn Roe vs. Wade?” He believes that to be pro-life is not just being concerned about the womb. It’s to be concerned about life. For example, what’s the relationship between poverty and abortion? Studies show that there’s a direct correlation there. So, maybe the best way to lessen abortion in society is to vote for the candidate that you think is going to do the most for poverty.”

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Bound Together

John Randolph Jones had the following letter published in the Oneonta Daily Star.

“The Bible, Book of Genesis, acknowledges the power of the word. Have we listened? Recent events suggest otherwise. During our midterm election, the country became more and more polarized. Instead of creating a cooperative government, we find ourselves with an adversarial one. This is not an accident, but direct result of the divide-and-rule caterwauling that come from Hate Radio _ and Hate Cable TV _ and our falling for them. These people don’t really believe what they’re saying _ they’re merely shooting for high ratings _ and high income. And it’s working.



“But what’s it doing to us? Take a look at the news: Six people killed, including a child, and a congresswoman shot through the head and struggling to live. “Freedom of speech,” these people cry out. But every freedom implies responsibility. There are persons out there who believe whatever we say, regardless of its outlandishness.
What then, is our responsibility here?



“Voluntary self-restraint, I submit, is worthwhile considering. Spiritualists claim that our every thought, word and deed has a ripple effect _ not only through our world, but throughout our universe. And if we think violence, or say, or worse _ do it _ it only creates more of the same elsewhere.



“Let’s remember that the identical atmosphere existed in this country leading up to the Oklahoma City bombing. We rail hateful things at each other, while the unhinged among us linger in the shadows, waiting for their sign, and when finally, like a bursting boil, the violence erupts, we feign bafflement.



“We cannot pretend to be innocent in this. We cannot rebuild a deteriorating national initiative, or form a “more perfect union” by waving ball bats in front of microphones, or sneering at each other. Do you want to build a nation, or kill it?”

Let us also remember, Obama’s words: “But there’s a reason the tragedy in Tucson gave us pause. Amid all the noise and passion and rancor of our public debate, Tucson reminded us that no matter who we are or where we come from, each of us is a part of something greater something more consequential than party or political preference.

“We are part of the American family. We believe that in a country where every race and faith and point of view can be found, we are still bound together as one people; that we share common hopes and a common creed; that the dreams of a little girl in Tucson are not so different than those of our own children, and that they all deserve the chance to be fulfilled.”

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Egypt

The Egyptian people have revolted against the repressive rule of Hosni Mubarak.

Our alliance with Egypt goes back to the aftermath of the 1973 Arab-Israeli war when, following the near-victory by Israel over Syria and Egypt, Henry Kissinger engaged in many rounds of shuttle diplomacy, which resulted in a separation of forces agreement between Israel and Egypt.

In the early 1970s, Egypt was an ally of the Soviet Union. President Nasser of Egypt died in September 1970, and Anwar Sadat became the President of Egypt. In 1973, Egypt switched sides in the Cold War. After Egyptian President Sadat’s visited Jerusalem, President Carter held a peace summit at with Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin. Carter, Sadat and Begin signed the Camp David Accord, that promise Egypt would receive $2.3 billion a year in aid, divided between economic and military, and Israel would receive $3 billion. That ratio was kept for many years, although now the economic aid to both countries has diminished somewhat.

Despite Sadat having been assassinated in 1981, Mubarak his vice president was continued the same type of regime as had been in power under Sadat.  President Mubarak has been a steadfast ally of the United States for the entire 30 years in which he’s been in power.

Egypt opposed the American invasion of Iraq in 2003, but maintained close relations with the Bush administration, after about 50% of its foreign debt was forgiven. Recently, Mubarak, along with King Abdullah II of Jordan and King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, have urged America to attack Iran, because they’re terrified of Iranian Shiite Muslim influence.

Bush’s Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice gave a speech in June 2005 at the American University in Cairo. It was a very strong pro-democracy, pro-reform speech, not unlike the speech President Obama gave in Cairo shortly after he was inaugurated. Secretary of State Rice’s speech suggested, that having toppled Saddam Hussein in Iraq, that approach would the model for democracy in the Arab world.

However, both the Bush administration and the Obama administration have had no choice. It would be great if Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia were to become more democratic and respectful of human rights, but our Presidents must be careful not to advocate overthrowing those regimes, because we need them.

In the State of the Union, Obama said, “We support the democratic right of the people of Tunisia to choose their own government,” but he wisely avoided saying that about Egypt.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Firearms

It’s a fact, that 34 people are murdered with firearms every day in America.

Most Americans, whether they think every citizen should own a gun or no one should own a gun, want to reduce gun violence. That's why, after Ronald Reagan and James Brady were shot in an assassination attempt, a bipartisan coalition in Congress added a background check system to strengthen our existing laws to keep guns out of the hands of felons, drug abusers, and the mentally ill.



It’s time to fix background checks and make America a safer place to live. A coalition of 550 Mayors nationwide, led by Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York, have launched a campaign calling on Congress to close the loopholes in the background check system.



Mayors Against Illegal Guns have two important changes to the system that can fix background checks and make America safer.



First, Congress must fix the holes in the background check database. Existing laws already outlaw criminals, drug abusers, the mentally ill, and other dangerous people from passing a background check. However, state and federal agencies aren't required by law or funded by Congress to supply that information to the background check system and it’s estimated, that as many as one million prohibited purchasers are missing from the background database.

A new law would create full funding and necessary incentives for states and federal agencies to comply with reporting requirements and make sure every legally prohibited purchaser is included in the background check database.

Second, no gun should be sold without a background check. Under the current system, even if a prohibited purchaser like the Virginia Tech or Tucson shooter would fail a background check, they could still have walked into any gun show and bought a car load of guns with no background check, and no questions asked.

A new law would close all of the loopholes and require background checks for every gun sale, with reasonable exceptions for law enforcement and certain gun permit holders.

Hundreds of guns recently bought in Arizona have made their way to Mexico to help drug cartels destabilize the Mexican Government. When loopholes in our laws allow drug cartels in Mexico to stockpile guns, we can all agree it is also a threat to the United States. It's not just the conclusion of progressive Democrats, it’s a conclusion drawn by Republican officeholders in the southwest as well.