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.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Biblical Ignorance

On his show, Rush Limbaugh claimed: “A favorite tactic of the left, when it suits them, they’ll talk about Jesus Christ. When they can convince or try to convince everybody Jesus Christ was the patron saint of liberalism, then they will herald Jesus Christ. That’s what he’s good for, as far as the left is concerned. Yeah, he’s the first liberal, the great socialist, Jesus Christ. He knew who to punish.  Jesus Christ knew it was the rich who were the targets.  Jesus Christ stood up for the downtrodden.  The question is not, what would Jesus do.  The question is not, what would Jesus cut.  The question is, what would Jesus take? Taxes and budget cuts? What would Jesus do?  What would Jesus take.  That’s the question people need to ask to put this in perspective.  Of course, the answer is nothing.”

Thus, Rush Limbaugh demonstrated his Biblical ignorance. In the New Testament’s “Gospel of St. Mark,” a man approaches Jesus and asks him, “what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”  And Jesus said to him, “go and sell all your possessions and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven.” 

The story continued: “he was saddened and he went away grieving, for he was one who owned much property.  And Jesus looking around said to his disciples, ‘how hard it will be for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God. It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.’” 

Jesus actually said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others.  They all gave out of their wealth, but she, out of her poverty, put in everything, all she had to live on.” According to Jesus, there is such a thing as an overburdened rich person, overburdened by societal obligation, overburdened by obligation to neighbor, the very neighbor that Jesus instructs the rich person to love. 

“When the son of man shall come in his glory, all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory.  And before him shall be gathered all nations and he shall separate them, one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheeps from the goats.  Then shall the king said unto them on his right-hand, come, you blessed of my father, inherent the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world, for I was hungry and you gave me meat. I was thirsty and you gave me drink.  I was a stranger and you took me in and you clothed me.  I was sick and you visited me.  I was in prison and you came unto me...Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, lord, when did we see you hungry and fed you, or thirsty and gave you drink?  When did we see you a stranger and take you in, or naked and clothed you?  And when did we see you sick or in prison and came unto you?  And the king shall answer and say unto them, verily, I say unto you, in as much as you have doneth unto one of the least of my brethren, you have done it unto me." 

Friday, April 29, 2011

Deficits Don’t Matter

As the Bush administration was running up the debt, Vice President Dick Cheney said: “Reagan taught us deficits don’t matter.”

Dr. Alice Rivlin served as the budget director for Clinton and as the founding director of the Congressional Budget Office.  She is also a member of President Obama’s fiscal commission.

According to Dr. Rivlin: “They don’t matter if they’re temporary, if they’re caused by something that is going to go away, like a deficit created by a recession from which you’re recovering. But the deficits we’re facing now aren’t of that sort.  They’re created by promises made by both parties, Republicans and Democrats, over many years to fund entitlement programs, Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, at a time when we have a lot more old people, we have the baby boom generation, and we have a rapidly rising cost of medical care.

“So, the combination of those things means that federal spending is going to go up rapidly over the next couple of decades, and taxes won’t.  So, we will have to borrow more and more money. We can’t do that.  Nobody’s going to lend it to us, at anything like the current interest rates, we’re going to have to pay more and more.  The government will end up spending a lot of your tax revenues on just paying interest, and we could have a serious debt crisis.  Meaning at some point, we just can’t market our bonds or only at very high interest rates, and the economy plunges into a new and deeper recession. That’s a big risk.  We can’t do that.

“We have to slow the growth of Medicare and Medicaid because we can’t afford to have them grow as fast as they’re going over the next few years.

“We have to put Social Security on a firm foundation.  So, it’s there for the next generation or the current generation even.

“We have to reform our tax code so we can have a fairer, simpler tax code that raises more money.  And we have to spend the money that we appropriate every year more wisely, and not quite so much of it. So, it’s going to take all of those things.”

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Dangerous Game

Republicans in Congress are playing a very dangerous game of brinksmanship with the vote to raise the debt limit, and they’re getting encouragement from Karl Rove, who helped elect the worst offenders of irresponsible fiscal policy in history.

Recently, Carl Rove used his column in the “Wall Street Journal” to advise congressional Republicans on how to leverage the debt limit vote without ever stating the consequences of what would happen if the debt ceiling is not raised.  Rove wrote, that when the members of the Obama administration: “warn of catastrophic consequences if the debt ceiling isn’t raised,” that’s just part of their strategy.

Then Rove claims: “The adults in the Obama administration understand the debt ceiling must be passed with deficit and spending caps to reassure markets that the U.S. is serious about putting its fiscal house in order.  Unfortunately, the adults are few in number, and the politicos run the show.”

Rove is wrong when he insists that the markets require anything attached to the debt limit vote, and business leaders are saying the exact opposite. The president of the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors, Dirk Van Dongen, told “The Hill” newspaper today: “I‘m more concerned that it gets done.  If we get it down with ornaments, let’s get it done.  If we can’t get it done with ornaments, let’s get it done anyway.  This is a check-the-box exercise for lawmakers.”

The Chamber of Commerce, which spent $33 million helping elect Republicans in 2010, is stepping up its efforts to convince the Republicans they helped get elected not to play chicken with the debt limit.

The debt ceiling was raised seven times under Bush, but Rove says this time is different: “A vote to raise the debt ceiling is an acknowledgment of past actions—in this case Mr. Obama’s massive spending since coming to office.  Republicans are not to be blamed for Mr. Obama’s spending.”

Obama responds: “We had a surplus a decade ago.  But we cut taxes, including for millionaires and billionaires.  We fought two wars.  We created new prescription drug plan, and we didn’t pay for any of it. A lot of folks promised us a free lunch.”

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Out of Luck

Recently, Obama shared his family background at a gathering in California, prior to criticizing the Republican budget plan.

“You know, I wasn’t born wealthy.  You know, I was raised by a single mom and my grandparents.  I went to college on scholarships.

“There was a time when my mom was trying to get her PhD where for a short time she had to take food stamps.  My grandparents relied on Medicare and Social Security to help supplement their income when they got old.  So, their notion is, despite the fact that I‘ve benefited from all these investments, my grandfather benefited from the G.I. bill after he fought in World War II, that somehow I now have no obligation to people who are less fortunate than me, and I have no real obligation to future generations to make investments so that they have a better future.

“What they’ve said is, let’s make Medicare into a voucher program so that retirees, instead of knowing that they’re always going to have health care, they’re growing to get a voucher that covers part of the cost, and whatever health care inflation comes up is all going to be on them.  And if the health insurance companies don’t sell you a policy that covers your illnesses, you’re out of luck.”

Obama pointed out: “The Republican budget that was put forward, I would say, is fairly radical.  I wouldn’t call it particularly courageous.  I do think Mr. Ryan is sincere.  I think he’s a patriot.  I think he wants to solve a real problem, which is our long term deficit.  But I think that what he and the other Republicans in the House of Representatives also want to change our social compact in a pretty fundamental way.  Nothing is easier than solving a problem on the backs of people who are poor or people who are powerless or don’t have lobbyists or don’t have clout.”

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Think Again

Many congressional Republicans believe, that they have a mandate to cut taxes for the rich and privatize Medicare, but they might want to think again.

A recent, “Washington Post”/ABC poll found that 78% of Americans oppose cutting spending on Medicare in order to reduce the national debt; 65% said, that the Medicare program should remain the same; while only 34% of Americans favored Congressman Paul Ryan’s version of Medicare.

Obama said: “We’ve got to reduce the debt.  Nothing is easier than solving a problem on the backs of people who are poor or people who are powerless or don’t have lobbyists or don’t have clout... I don’t think that’s particularly courageous.”

According to the American people, the most popular method of reducing the deficit are defense cuts and raising taxes on the wealthiest. Consequently, proposing an agenda of cutting taxes for the wealthiest and getting rid of Medicare is about as unpopular a political agenda, that a political party could come up for a domestic policy.

Obama noted: “As a country that values fairness, wealthier individuals have traditionally borne a greater share of this burden than the middle class, or those less fortunate. It’s a basic reflection of our belief that those who have benefited most from our way of life can afford to give back a little bit more.  Moreover, this belief hasn’t hindered the success of those at the top of the income scale.  They continue to do better and better with each passing year.”

In fact, the top 1% of Americans took home about 10% of the total national annual income.  Yet, Republicans are fighting not let the tax breaks for the wealthy expire. Furthermore, Republicans members of Congress are fighting to not raise the Social Security cap above 90,000 dollars. They better think again because they’re wrong.

The only group standing in the way of raising the Social Security cap are the Republicans in Congress. They’re not representing a majority of their constituents on this issue. Clearly, their anti-tax strategy really is the starve the beast strategy, that was started in the Reagan administration. By refusing to ever raise taxes under any circumstances, including war, Republicans have made sure our government never has enough money.

Actually, Independent economists agree that Paul Ryan's Plan does nothing to reduce the deficit.  

Monday, April 25, 2011

All Down Hill

After World War II, Congress invested about 30% more every single decade on education and the standard of living for all Americans nearly doubled every decade until the 1980’s. 

The earliest use of the term “starving the beast” in reference to a political-fiscal strategy was in a Wall Street Journal article in 1985 where an unnamed Reagan staffer was quoted. In 1980’s we started starving the beast (the beast being our government).

In his 1981, Inaugural Address, Ronald Reagan claimed: “government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.” When Reagan came into office, we were the largest exporter of manufactured goods and the largest importer of raw materials on the planet, and the largest creditor.  The consequence of Reaganomics has been that in just 30 years, we’ve become the largest importer of finished goods, manufactured goods, exporter of raw materials. Today, we’re in debt more than any country in the world. 

For decades the middle class has lost money, income and jobs. A new survey of standardized test scores compared the knowledge and skills of 15-year-olds in the principal industrialized countries of the world. Today, our 15 year olds are rank a dismal 25th in math, which is far behind Shanghai, Singapore, Hong Kong and Korea. In science, our youth rank 17th, far behind Shanghai, Finland, Hong Kong and Japan. In reading American 15 year-olds rank 14th, tied with Poland and Iceland.

Nevertheless, some Republicans want to eliminate the Department of Education and would have us cut education by 20%, thereby reducing 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.

China, South Korea, India and Germany are not cutting education by 20%, because they understand that a countries competitiveness will be determined by how well they educate their workers for tomorrow. 

The best private, charter and public schools agree, that it’s all about quality teachers. “Starving the Beast” doesn’t provide sufficient pay to attract quality teachers in math and science. Only by turning innovative ideas into inventions, and inventions into industries will America prosper again.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Republican Budget

Obama has initiated the conversation on the deficit by starting with the issues House Republicans fear the most.

Obama said: “We can’t just tell the wealthiest among us, you don’t have to do a thing, you just sit there and relax, and everybody else, we’re going to solve this problem, especially when we know that the only way to pay for these tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans is by asking seniors to pay thousands of dollars more for their health care, or cutting children out of Head Start, or doing away with health insurance for millions of Americans on Medicaid, seniors in nursing homes or poor children, or middle-class family who may have a disabled child, or an autistic child... It’s not a tradeoff that I think most Americans think is fair.”

The House Republican budget bill written by Budget Chairman Paul Ryan doesn’t just want to keep the Bush era tax rate for the wealthiest Americans at 35%, his bill wants to lowers the top bracket down to 25%.

Obama’s comments on Paul Ryan’s Medicare plan included: “Medicare is one of the most important pillars of our social safety net.  The House Republicans just passed a proposal, and their main plan to reduce our long-term deficits and debt is to turn Medicare into a voucher program. It’s estimated by the Congressional Budget Office, which is an independent, bipartisan sort of referee in Congress that determines these things, they figure that seniors would end up paying twice as much for their health care as they are currently, at least twice as much.  And more importantly, it would get worse over time because health care inflation goes up a lot faster than regular inflation.  So, your health care costs keep on going up and up and up, the voucher doesn’t.”

The Ryan proposal would also partially privatize Social Security.  Future retirees would receive a combination of reduced federal benefits and income from a personal savings account carved out of their Social Security account.  The president wants to lift the income cap on Social Security taxes, which is now around $90,000 a year.

Obama asked: “How many of you who are in the audience have got a Pell grant to help you pay your way?  How many of you can’t afford to pay another thousand dollars to go to school? I know what this is like.  Scholarships help make it possible for me and for Michelle to go to college.  It’s fair to say I wouldn’t be president if it hadn’t been for somebody helping me be able to afford college.”

Could the heart of the matter be that elitist Republicans fear educating the commoners?

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Authoritarian Czars

Republicans in Washington are trying to defund four of President Obama’s policy czars. They’re supposedly ideologically opposed to czars, but when it comes to the states that ideology is ignored.

A czar in Benton Harbor, Michigan is offering intrusive, authoritarian, big government. It’s a “sit down, shut up, your elections don’t matter, we’re in charge now” government. 

Florida, Texas, Arkansas, North and South Carolina are moving to require citizens to take a drug test, as part of getting the unemployment benefits that they paid for when they were working.  Arizona and Georgia are passing laws that force “anyone” to prove they’re in the country legally whenever a police officer wants to know.

States across America insist, that they’ll decide whether or not a patient can get an abortion. They’ll provide a script of what doctors are allowed to say about abortion during an appointment.

State governments in Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee have sought to strip people of their union rights. 

In Montana, Democratic Governor Brian Schweitzer has been using his veto on string of bills that passed the Republican dominated legislature. One of those bills would have allowed the return of cyanide leaching in mines.  Voters had outlawed that procedure in referendums on two separate occasions, but the Republican bill would have overturned what the voters said they wanted.

In Wisconsin, the Republican legislature overturned a Milwaukee referendum that mandated that companies give their workers sick leave. When the referendum was voted on in the city of Milwaukee, it got a 69% favorable vote. 

In Missouri, the Republican legislature voted to overturn a citizen referendum that regulated puppy mills, by establishing rules regarding cage size, sick animals and feeding.

Republican-controlled legislatures are filled with politicians who campaigned on small government and respecting the will of the voter. However, once they got into office and they started doing the opposite. So, much for that will of the people stuff, that Republicans had campaigned on last year.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Intrusive Government

St. Joseph and Benton Harbor are twin cities on the shore of Lake Michigan. St. Joseph has a population 8,500, and it’s nearly 90% white, with a per capita income of about $33,000. Benton Harbor’s population is 10,000 and is nearly 90% black with a per-capita income of about $10,000.

Michigan’s new Republican Governor Rick Snyder spent the first few months in office engaged in an aggressive campaign to strip union rights in Michigan and passing new taxes on the poor and the elderly. Those new revenues are not being used to plug the state’s budget deficit, but is being given away to wealthy corporations. 

Governor Snyder has signed a law that allows the state government to appoint an emergency financial administer to tell local elected officials what to do and fire those that don’t comply. The first community to feel the impact of Snyder’s new law is Benton Harbor, one of the poorest cities in the state. Republican State Representative, Al Pscholka represents St. Joseph and Benton Harbor in the Michigan statehouse. It was Pscholka, who introduced the emergency state takeover bill that Governor Snyder signed into law. 

Until last year, Pscholka served on the board of directors for a nonprofit corporation that wants to build a half billion-dollar, 530-acre lake-front golf course and luxury real estate development that would span both wealthy St. Joseph and poor Benton Harbor.  The development would devour the one collective asset that Benton Harbor residents have, a beautiful beach-front park. The park was deeded in perpetuity in 1917 to the community as a gift to by Jean Klock. The residents of Benton Harbor are looking at a golf course where the cost of an annual pass for a family to play there would be $5,000, that sum would be half the average annual income of families living in Benton Harbor. A golf course development is not something most of them would benefit from.

Benton Harbor’s new state-appointed overseer Joe Harris has issued an executive order that restricted the mayor and the city commissioners to 3 duties: they can call a meeting, they can approve the meeting’s minutes, and they can adjourn the meeting.  Those are the 3 things that elected officials of Benton Harbor are now allowed to do. Period!

Most Americans don’t want “takeover your town,” type of intrusive government, whereby a state overseer can tells local citizens, that it doesn’t matter, who they’ve elected, because they’re taking over. A state has claimed the power to abolish local governments, to wipe your town off the map, and deed the land and its assets to another town.

This is a “sit down, shut up, your elections don’t matter, we’re in charge now” form of authoritarian government.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Distorting the Truth

I’ve noticed that those on the far right tend to distort the truth, and their representatives in Congress sometimes do the same. Recently, the Arizona Republican, Senator Jon Kyl stood on the floor of the Senate and stated:  “Everybody goes to clinics, to hospitals, to doctors and so on.  Some people go to Planned Parenthood.  But you don’t have to go to Planned Parenthood to get your cholesterol or your blood pressure checked. If you want an abortion, you go to Planned Parenthood.  That’s well over 90% of what Planned Parenthood does.” 

In fact, only 3% of what Planned Parenthood does involves abortion services. The next day, Senator Kyl’s staff released a statement saying that: “He didn’t intend to make a factual statement.”

Senator Kyl’s erroneous statement will not be found in the official congressional record of the Senate, because he has exercised his Senate prerogative to removed it.

“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.”

Senators take that oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States and to “bear true, faith and allegiance to the same,” but Jon Kyl took to the Senate floor and perhaps unknowingly trafficked in lies. Lies that the far right religious fanatics, who control the Republican party want to hear and believe. 

“Time Magazine” named Senator Jon Kyl one of the ten best senators in 2006. Nearly, everyone of his Senate colleagues will tell you he’s a nice guy and not a fanatic.

Possibly, Jon Kyl had been lied to by the fanatical enemies of Planned Parenthood who hate the idea that the word “planned” should ever come before the word “parenthood,” who don’t just oppose abortion but also oppose contraception.

Apparently, religious fanatics think that when they’re doing what they consider God’s work, knowingly telling lies is an acceptable practice.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Fiscal Sanity

For the first time in history, the S&P downgraded its confidence that the United States will be able to make good on its financial obligations in the future, from stable to negative.

On April 18th., that statement triggered a 240-point drop in the Dow, although it rebounded to close down 140 points. Keep in mind that S&P might have a credibility problem, since it was giving AAA ratings to the mortgage industry before it collapsed. S&P report took aim at the intractability of our politics as the reason why the United States is more likely to become a credit risk.

The S&P report talked about the intractability of government: “We believe there is a significant risk that congressional negotiations could result in no agreement on a medium term fiscal strategy until after the fall 2012 congressional and presidential elections.” There is a risk that Congress might not get any kind of real agreement until after the election. The S&P report ought to concentrate attention on getting together on something that charts a path toward some sort of fiscal sanity. 

Congressional policymakers still haven’t agreed on a strategy to address long-term fiscal pressures. The S&P report cited the rising costs of entitlements like Medicare, but was also critical of the extension of the Bush era tax cuts.  President Obama has already insisted, that he will not support another extension of Bush tax cut for the top tax bracket.

The budget passed by the House Republicans would lower the tax rate on the top tax bracket from 35% to 25%. Federal Reserve chairman, Alan Greenspan reaction to the House budget plan was:  “I think this crisis is so imminent and so difficult that I think we have to allow the so-called Bush tax cuts all to expire.  That is a very big number.  But having put the rates back to where they were in the Clinton administration, I would argue that everything else should be either cutting spending or taking out the subsidies which are in the tax expenditures.”

Alan Greenspan favors restoring all of the Clinton tax rates instead of just the top bracket, but Republicans are unlikely to budge before the election on their “no new taxes” mantra. All the Republican campaigners are required to take Grover Norquist pledge stating: “I will not allow any kind of tax increase at all.”

A reasonable course toward balancing the budget and reducing the deficit is impossible, if new tax revenues are taken completely off the table. The Republican leadership in the House and Senate don’t really wants to see America go into default. What eventually happens will depend on the intractable Tea Party caucus in both chamber.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Corporate Freeloaders

Vermont Independent Senator Bernie Sander's guide to corporate freeloaders.

Exxon Mobil's 2009 profits totaled $19 billion, yet according to its Security and Exchange Commission filings, the company received a $156 million rebate from the IRS.  Plus. It didn't pay any Federal Taxes.

Bank of America made $4.4 billion in profits last year, after it received a $1trillion bailout from the Federal Reserve and the Treasury Department, and a $1.9 billion tax refund from the IRS.

General Electric has made $26 billion in profits in the United States over the past 5 years.  It's also received a $4.1 billion tax refund from the IRS.  GE has cut a fifth of its American jobs in the past nine years, and is boosting jobs overseas - where tax rates are lower.  And where it can continue evading U.S. taxes.

Chevron's IRS refund last year totaled $19 million, but its 2009 profits came to a whopping $10 billion.

Boeing received a $30 billion contract from the Pentagon to build 179 airborne tankers. It also received a $124 million refund from the IRS.

Valero Energy made $68 billion in sales and received a $157 million tax refund check from the IRS.  Over the past three years,  it has received $134 million tax breaks  thanks to oil and gas manufacturing tax reduction.

Goldman Sacks paid 1.1% of its 2008 income taxes.  Yet it made a profit of $2.3 billion, because it received $800 billion from the Federal Reserve and U.S.  Treasury Department.

Citigroup profits last year totaled more than $4 billion, but it paid zero dollars in federal income tax.  It had also received a $2.5 trillion bailout from the Federal Reserve and U.S. Treasury Department.

ConocoPhillips' profits from 2007 through 2009 totaled $16 billion, but  it received $451 million in tax breaks because of oil and gas manufacturing deductions.

Carnival Cruise Lines earned profits of over S11 billion, but its Federal Income Tax came to just 1.1%.

Actually, 38% of American corporations don’t pay any taxes.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Deceptive Practices

A bipartisan report by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations looked at what causes of the financial crisis that pushed us into this recession and continues to afflict families across the country. It found that the financial crisis was a man-made economic assault, the product of reckless risk-taking and rampant conflict of interest on the part of some big banks, mortgage companies and credit rating agencies.

The report pulled back the curtain on shoddy, risky and deceptive practices. It showed that major financial institutions deceived their clients and the public, aided and abetted by conflicted and deferential regulators and credit rating agencies.

Washington Mutual Bank, the nation’s largest thrift, issued thousand of mortgages that later failed and resulted in foreclosures that devastated neighborhoods. Executives at WaMu pursued a high-risk strategy of selling dubious and often fraudulent mortgages and pushing customers into high-risk, high-interest loans so WaMu could reap higher profits.

WaMu’s main federal regulator, the Office of Thrift Supervision, knew all along about major problems with the bank’s mortgages. But instead of cracking down, OTS treated WaMu with kid gloves, refusing to act on repeated warnings by its examiners and blocking efforts by other regulatory agencies to act. The Senate committee investigators examined how credit rating agencies that were supposed to provide objective opinions about the quality of mortgage-related securities gave high ratings to toxic assets.

The report showed how investment banks such as Goldman Sachs assembled toxic securities, misled the clients they sold them to, and then profited by betting against the very same investments they had sold to their clients.

Last year, Congress passed the Dodd-Frank Act, which addresses many of the problems the investigation identified. It included a provision that limited the ability of banks to make risky investments for their own profit, and prohibiting them from betting against the same investments that they sold to clients.

The Senate report includes 19 recommendations to further curb Wall Street excesses and conflicts of interest. Those recommendations, like the Dodd-Frank Act itself, will be opposed by some members of the financial industry that want to continue their risk-taking ways. We must urge our representatives in Congress to make sure that federal regulators act with forcefulness and determination to fully implement the recommended reforms.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Accusations and Reality

In the Oneonta Daily Star On-line forum, DNR wrote: “Typical for liberals, they always think those on the other side of the political spectrum are confused or stupid.”

From my perspective most of those on the other side of the political spectrum are misinformed, and stupid is a word that I don’t use to describe other people.

DNR has a different visions for America, than liberals. Recently, my vision was eloquently described by Obama, who said: “That's not a vision of the America I know. The America I know is generous and compassionate.  It’s a land of opportunity and optimism. Yes, we take responsibility for ourselves, but we also take responsibility for each other; for the country we want and the future that we share.  We’re a nation that built a railroad across a continent and brought light to communities shrouded in darkness.  We sent a generation to college on the GI Bill and we saved millions of seniors from poverty with Social Security and Medicare.  We have led the world in scientific research and technological breakthroughs that have transformed millions of lives.  That’s who we are.  This is the America that I know.  We don’t have to choose between a future of spiraling debt and one where we forfeit our investment in our people and our country.  To meet our fiscal challenge, we will need to make reforms. We will all need to make sacrifices.  But we do not have to sacrifice the America we believe in.”

DNR’s response to Obama’s comment: “Those are just words. Obama's actions are driving this country into oblivion. All the best intentions in the world won't save us from out of control spending and the enormous, unafordable (sic.) pipe dreams of the Democrat party.”

It wasn’t Obama’s actions that created the need to make these cuts. He has pointed out: “But after Democrats and Republicans committed to fiscal discipline during the 1990s, we lost our way in the decade that followed.  We increased spending dramatically for two wars and an expensive prescription drug program -– but we didn’t pay for any of this new spending.  Instead, we made the problem worse with trillions of dollars in unpaid-for tax cuts -– tax cuts that went to every millionaire and billionaire in the country; tax cuts that will force us to borrow an average of $500 billion every year over the next decade. 

“To give you an idea of how much damage this caused to our nation’s checkbook, consider this:  In the last decade, if we had simply found a way to pay for the tax cuts and the prescription drug benefit, our deficit would currently be at low historical levels in the coming years. 

“When I took office, our projected deficit, annually, was more than $1 trillion.  On top of that, we faced a terrible financial crisis and a recession that, like most recessions, led us to temporarily borrow even more. 

“In this case, we took a series of emergency steps that saved millions of jobs, kept credit flowing, and provided working families extra money in their pocket.  It was absolutely the right thing to do, but these steps were expensive, and added to our deficits in the short term.”

I believe that this current fiscal crisis was intentionally designed and utilize to take us back to the era of the 1920’s. But, “those are just words.”

Saturday, April 16, 2011

150th Anniversary

Recently, our nation commemorated the 150th anniversary of its deadliest war, and we’re still fighting over some of the same issues that fueled the Civil War.

Stephanie McCurry examines why Southerners seceded, in "Confederate Reckoning." She wrote: "When you hear charges today that the federal government is overreaching, and the idea that the Constitution recognized us as a league of sovereign states -- these were all part of the secessionist charges in 1860."

The Civil War erupted not long after the "Second Great Awakening" sparked a national religious revival and spread across the country. Thousands of Americans repented for their sins and readied themselves for the Second Coming.

David Goldfield, author of "America Aflame," believes that moral certitude helped make the Civil War happen. He wrote that evangelical Christianity "poisoned the political process" because the American system of government depends on compromise and moderation, and evangelical religion abhors both because "how do you compromise with sin... By transforming political issues into moral causes, you raise the stakes of the conflict and you tend to demonize your opponents... The erosion of the center in contemporary American politics is the most striking parallel between today and the time just before the Civil War... Today's government gridlock results, in part, from this religious mind set that many issues can be divided into good and evil and sin and salvation."

Making a comeback are from Civil War history books are terms such as nullification, state's rights and secession. Since the rise of the Tea Party more Republican lawmakers are using those terms. According to a recent article in USA Today, Republican lawmakers in at least 11 states have invoked nullification regarding the Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act. One of the biggest debates during the Civil War was how far should governments go in dictating our lives, and we’re still having that debate.

Most historians agree that Southern slaveholders provoke the Civil War while trying to build a slave state dedicated to the proposition that all men are not created equal. They didn't want to lose the tremendous wealth generated by slave labor.

Northern leaders didn't really think ordinary Southerners who had no slaves would fight in defense of slavery. Southerners didn't think Northerners were willing to go to war to preserve the Union. Neither expected the war to be so bloody and long. Once you commit to war, you don't have any control over how it ends.

Friday, April 15, 2011

The End of Medicare

It’s a fact, that older people get sick and need a doctor much more frequently than younger people. Our government has Medicare, because it’s not a good bet for the insurance business to insure people in their 70s and 80s.

Wisconsin congressman Paul Ryan, the Republican chairman of the House Budget Committee insists: “This is a plan that pays off our national debt.  This is a plan that creates millions of new jobs.  This is a plan that saves Medicare and Medicaid.  We’re patching the safety net.  We’re getting people on to lives of self-sufficiency.  If you do it now, nobody 55 and above sees a change.  We are taking great ideas from both political parties.  We take $78 billion out of Pentagon spending and apply it to deficit reduction.  We believe we should not be doing a big tax increase.  We’re doing revenue-neutral tax reform.” 

According to Republican Congress Paul Ryan, America can’t afford to keep the promise to care for our senior citizens. His plan calls for a 65-year-old, who’s eligible for Medicare 10 years from now to pay nearly $6,400 a year more than required today. The median income for people over 65 years old in our country is $19,000 a year. Instead of guaranteed health care, older Americans will get a voucher. But, what if that voucher isn’t worth enough to buy the insurance that’s available in an open marketplace. Who is going to sell an 83 year old a medical insurance policy.  Seniors would be on their own and Medicare will end as we know it. 

The Republican plan for American is that we can’t afford to invest in education at current levels, or clean energy, or maintain our commitment to Medicare and Medicaid, but we can afford more than $1 trillion in new tax breaks for the wealthy.

Ronald Reagan was a paid lobbyist against Medicare. In 1961, Reagan claimed: “One of the traditional methods of imposing statism or socialism on a people has been by way of medicine.  It’s very easy to disguise a medical program as a humanitarian project.  Most people are a little reluctant to oppose anything that suggests medical care for people who possibly can’t afford it.  Now, the American people, if you put it to them about socialized medicine and gave them a chance to choose, would unhesitatingly vote against it.”

A recent, NBC/”Wall street Journal” poll shows that cutting Medicare to deal with the budget crisis is opposed by a 3 to 1 margin.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

“Grace of God”

An excerpt of remarks made on 4/13/11, by President Obama on fiscal policy.

“From our first days as a nation, we have put our faith in free markets and free enterprise as the engine of America’s wealth and prosperity.  More than citizens of any other country, we are rugged individualists, a self-reliant people with a healthy skepticism of too much government. 

“But there’s always been another thread running through our history -– a belief that we’re all connected, and that there are some things we can only do together, as a nation.  We believe, in the words of our first Republican President, Abraham Lincoln, that through government, we should do together what we cannot do as well for ourselves. 

“And so we’ve built a strong military to keep us secure, and public schools and universities to educate our citizens.  We’ve laid down railroads and highways to facilitate travel and commerce.  We’ve supported the work of scientists and researchers whose discoveries have saved lives, unleashed repeated technological revolutions, and led to countless new jobs and entire new industries.  Each of us has benefitted from these investments, and we’re a more prosperous country as a result.     

"
Part of this American belief that we’re all connected also expresses itself in a conviction that each one of us deserves some basic measure of security and dignity.  We recognize that no matter how responsibly we live our lives, hard times or bad luck, a crippling illness or a layoff may strike any one of us.  'There but for the grace of God go I,' we say to ourselves.  And so we contribute to programs like Medicare and Social Security, which guarantee us health care and a measure of basic income after a lifetime of hard work; unemployment insurance, which protects us against unexpected job loss; and Medicaid, which provides care for millions of seniors in nursing homes, poor children, those with disabilities.  We’re a better country because of these commitments.  I’ll go further.  We would not be a great country without those commitments.        

“Now, for much of the last century, our nation found a way to afford these investments and priorities with the taxes paid by its citizens.  As a country that values fairness, wealthier individuals have traditionally borne a greater share of this burden than the middle class or those less fortunate.  Everybody pays, but the wealthier have borne a little more.  This is not because we begrudge those who’ve done well -– we rightly celebrate their success.  Instead, it’s a basic reflection of our belief that those who’ve benefited most from our way of life can afford to give back a little bit more.  Moreover, this belief hasn’t hindered the success of those at the top of the income scale.  They continue to do better and better with each passing year.”

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Women’s Health

The federal budget was held up over the issue of whether women were going to get family planning, Pap smears and breast exams. Although, ninety-seven percent of Planned Parenthood services are preventive care, the Republican Party was going after those services, in order to, satisfy its religious extremist.

What was really at stake was a woman’s right to choose to have an abortion. If a political party is indeed pro-life, one would think that they would be in favor of things that dramatically reduce the number of abortions by providing women with information to avoid unintended pregnancies.

Unintended pregnancies arise when people don’t use birth control consistently. Our government should be encouraging the use of birth control to reduce the number of pregnancies, because it’s a far better alternative than abortion. We could, also be giving out information and counseling as an alternative to an unwanted pregnancy, that could end up as an abortion. Publicly-financed birth control prevents 2 million pregnancies a year, and based on historic patterns, that means 800,000 fewer abortions in this country.

Besides birth control, doctors and nurses at Planned Parenthood provide a million screenings a year for both cervical and breast cancer exams. Plus, 4 million tests for HIV and other sexually-transmitted diseases. In fact, Planned Parenthood is the largest family planning provider in the country and prevents more unintended pregnancies than any other organization in America.

However, strict conservative are also against birth control. Their effort to defund Planned Parenthood was actually a war against family planning, blood pressure checks, diabetes help for our families, as well as, breast and cervical cancer screenings. Five million families count on those clinics.

Congressman Steve Lynch a rare pro-life Democrat, from Massachusetts said: “Look, we should be spending more money on family planning. If we really want to reduce abortion in this country, reduce unintended pregnancy, we should be both supporting Planned Parenthood and we should be supporting family planning. It’s good for American people, it’s good for American families.”

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Censorship

The Oneonta Star on line has repeatedly refuses to post the following factual information, but don't provide a reason for their censorship.

“Time” magazine issue of 2/23/09, presented a list of those responsible for the economic crisis. Ranked at the top of their list was Angelo Mozilo the chief executive of Countrywide Financial Corporate. Bill Clinton’s name was the only Democratic politician’s name, that appear on their list of 25. George W. Bush’s name was also on the list. The ranking was the consensus of opinion of 10 business and economics columnist.

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. He played a leading role in writing and pushing through Congress the 1999 repeal of the Depression-era Glass-Steagall Act, which separated commercial banks from Wall Street. Furthermore, Gramm slipped the “Commodity Futures Modernization Act,” into an omnibus spending bill just as Congress headed for vacation.

Warren Buffett the second wealthiest man in America, has been describes as a billionaire with a conscience. He 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.

Clayton Holdings, a Connecticut-based firm that analyzes home mortgages for banks, hedge funds, insurance companies and government agencies, provided its data to the Financial Crises Inquiry Commission, a bipartisan panel created by Congress to investigate the roots of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.

The firm 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.

Clayton Holdings had flagged those loans as potential problems, but 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. Investors were never told that the biggest home loan due diligence firm in the country had found potential defects in those mortgages.

Wall Street firms knew they were deceiving the buyers. The implications of the data released could bolster the case of pension funds and other investors in their pursuit to force Wall Street banks to take back the bogus mortgages they had peddled. Many lawsuits have been filed in the wake of the subprime mortgage crisis and subsequent housing market collapse. So far, Wall Street has been winning that battle, but that could change in light of this new information.

Recently, the Securities and Exchange Commission fined Mr. Mozilo a measly $67.5 million.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Shutdown Avoided

On Friday, Barack Obama announced a long awaited compromise at the eleventh hour.

“In the final hours before our government would have been forced to shut down, leaders in both parties reached an agreement that will allow our small businesses to get the loans they need, our families to get the mortgages they applied for, and hundreds of thousands of Americans to show up at work and take home their paychecks on time, including our brave men and women in uniform.

“This agreement between Democrats and Republicans, on behalf of all Americans, is on a budget that invests in our future while making the largest annual spending cut in our history. Like any worthwhile compromise, both sides had to make tough decisions and give ground on issues that were important to them. And I certainly did that.

“Some of the cuts we agreed to will be painful. Programs people rely on will be cut back. Needed infrastructure projects will be delayed.  And I would not have made these cuts in better circumstances. 

“But beginning to live within our means is the only way to protect those investments that will help America compete for new jobs - investments in our kids’ education and student loans; in clean energy and life-saving medical research. We protected the investments we need to win the future.  

“At the same time, we also made sure that at the end of the day, this was a debate about spending cuts, not social issues like women’s health and the protection of our air and water. These are important issues that deserve discussion, just not during a debate about our budget.

“I want to think Speaker Boehner and Senator Reid for their leadership and their dedication during this process. A few months ago, I was able to sign a tax cut for American families because both parties worked through their differences and found common ground. Now the same cooperation will make possible the biggest annual spending cut in history, and it’s my sincere hope that we can continue to come together as we face the many difficult challenges that lie ahead, from creating jobs and growing our economy to educating our children and reducing our deficit.  That’s what the American people expect us to do. That’s why they sent us here.”

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Increase Debt and Abortions

Apparently, scripture is the blueprint for religious zealots and their absolutely sure of their mission. Doing away with abortion and contraceptive rights seem to be the only issues that matter to religious extremist. They ignore the fact, that they’re imposing their religious dogma on Americans, that do not share their faith. To them voting is a matter of religion not politics. Their representatives in Congress are willing to shut down our government to defund Planned Parenthood. It doesn’t matter to them, that shutting down our government might undermine the bond market and cause interest rates on our foreign debt to jump from 2% to 6%, thereby exploding our national debt.

For the past 55 years, an army of of religious extremist, who share a deep dissatisfaction with modern secular society and a fierce determination to bring God and religion back to the seat of power. These Christian warriors have transformed America’s landscape with a mix of faith and politics. They’re not interested in solving our unemployment problems or reducing our national debt, because their primary interest has been to impose their religious convictions on every American.

Some will claim, that their objection to abortion rights is a moral issue not a religious one, but their moral compass on issues, such as, standing up for the rights of people who work for a living and the institutions that represent them, suggest otherwise. They tend not to support the right of union members to bargin collectively, minimum wage laws, expanded health coverage, workplace regulation, or responsible tax laws that don’t soak the middle class to subsidize the rich. Even people, who consider themselves conservatives like many of those policies.

Since 1977, the Hyde amendment has prohibited federal funds from being used to pay for abortions. Nevertheless, House Republican lawmakers approved an amendment that would block all federal funding for Planned Parenthood. The fact, that Planned Parenthood provides birth control advise to avoid unwanted pregnancies was considered irrelevant to the religious zelots that presently control the House of Representatives.

Irish Catholic, Congressman Steven 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.”

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Blowout Preventer

The process of exploring for oil is a dangerous process, but the oil and gas drilling industry claimed, that something called a blowout preventer should have stopped crude oil from flowing unabated into the Gulf of Mexico and causing the worst oil spill in U.S. history. The Gulf of Mexico disaster was not just about the environment, since the eleven crew members stationed on top of that oil rig were killed when the Deepwater Horizon oil rig blew in the Gulf of Mexico last April.

When drilling into the earth’s crust, all sorts of pressures build up below the surface of the earth.  Oil drilling is essentially about controlling that pressure while extracting the oil. Sometimes, that pressure builds and surges up through the drilling pipe, and the blowout preventer is supposed to prevent that surge.

Basically, the blowout preventer is a piece of equipment that’s attached to the top of an oil well. And when pressure surges up the drilling pipe the blowout preventer is supposed to kick into action seal the pipe and holds all that pressure in.

The Coast Guard hired a Norwegian firm to do an expert forensic analysis of what went wrong with that blowout preventer in the BP disaster. That forensic analysis found a big burst of pressure that causes an oil well blowout could also render the blowout preventer useless.  If the shock that causes the initial accident misaligns the rig’s pipes and valves, a blowout preventer won’t be able to seal off the pipe, even when used as directed.

Recently, the Norwegian firm released its findings. It has reported that blowout preventers don’t work, even when used as directed. The report stated: “The findings of these studies should be considered and addressed in the design of future blowout preventers and the need for modifying current blowout preventers.”

Essentially, the Deepwater Horizon oil rig disaster is a screw-up of the oil and gas drilling industry that is continuing to put our environment and the lives or the oil rig crews at risk.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Very Dangerous Cuts

Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice insisted: “We don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.”

However, it’s not fear-mongering to talk about the nuclear end of the world, if you’re actually working directly to stop the nuclear end of the world. An obscure office in the Department of Energy called the National Nuclear Security Administration has been assigned that responsibility. It’s their job to lock down unprotected loose nuclear material around the world to keep it off the black market and out of terrorist hands of groups like al Qaeda. It’s the part of our government that finds the most vulnerable nuclear material in the world and secures it.

Republicans in Congress want to strip the funding for that agency.  Even though they said they wouldn’t make any national security cuts, they want to cut $550 million from the agency that locks down unprotected loose nuclear material to keep it off the black market around the world.

Retired Lieutenant General Robert Gard is part of a counter-proliferation group running ads against the nuke terrorism cuts in key congressional districts. In the ads, Gard says: “Speaker John Boehner and the House Republicans cut hundreds of millions of dollars from the successful U.S. program to secure dangerous weapons-grade nuclear material all around the world. Terrorists can make nuclear weapons with it.  John Boehner’s reckless cut to our nuclear security budget goes way too far.  We all want Congress to cut the budget but do it responsibly.”

Those ads are targeting not just John Boehner but Mitch McConnell, Eric Cantor, Paul Ryan, Hal Rogers and Thad Cochran, all elected Republicans supporting big cuts to the part of the our government that actually works on the smoking mushroom cloud issue.

Depending on the circumstances across the board cuts can be very dangerous and unwise.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Appalled and Amazed

Kentucky’s Tea Party Senator Rand Paul continues to attack President Obama over his decision to join in the enforcement of a no-fly zone in Libya.  On the Senate floor Rand Paul said: “I am appalled that the Senate has abdicated their responsibility. The Senate has chosen not to act and to allow this power to gravitate to the president. I think that the precedent for allowing a president to continue to act or to initiate war without congressional review, without congressional votes, without the representatives of the people having any say is a real problem. I told my constituents when I ran for office that the most important vote I would ever take would be on sending their men and women, the boys and girls, the young men and women in my state or anywhere else in the United States to war. To me, it’s an amazing thing that we would do this so lightly, without any consideration by this august body, to send our young men and women to war without any congressional approval.” 

Faced with such a vote, you’d expect Rand Paul would be out on the Senate floor debating the issue and casting his vote. However, Senators can vote without bothering to go to the floor.  It’s called voting by unanimous consent and it’s the most routine way of voting in the Senate, because it avoids a roll call vote. 

On 3/1/11, Rand Paul and every other senator was asked to vote by unanimous consent, without leaving their offices, without going to the Senate floor, to pass Senate Resolution 85. That resolution strongly condemned the gross and systemic violations of human rights in Libya, including violent attacks on protesters demanding democratic reforms. It called on Moammar Gadhafi to desist from further violence, recognize the Libyan people’s demand for democratic change, resign his position and permit peaceful transition to democracy. It urged the United Nations Security Council to take such further action as may be necessary to protect civilians in Libya from attack, including the possible imposition of a no-fly zone over Libyan territory.”

When asked to vote for that resolution by unanimous consent, Senator Paul could have done what other Senators do, when they’re opposed to a resolution or to a bill.  They say no, I will not vote by unanimous consent.  I demand unlimited debate and a roll call vote. Had he done that, he could have debated that resolution endlessly and he could have voted no, if the roll was called. 
 
Instead, Senator Paul lied on Fox News, by claiming: “The president unilaterally, on his own, starting war without any consent from Congress.” 

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Eric Cantor

On 4/1/11, House Republicans vote for the “Government Shutdown Prevention Act.”

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said: “On Friday, we will bring to the floor the Government Shutdown Prevention Act.  And that will say to the American people the Senate’s got to act prior to the expiration of C.R.  If it does not act, H.R.1 becomes the law of the land.”

The Government Shutdown Prevention Act says: “If the Senate fails to pass a measure before April 6, 2011, providing for the appropriations of the departments and agencies of the government for the remainder of the fiscal year 2011, H.R.1 as passed by the House on February 19, 2011 becomes law.”

The next day, Republican House Speaker John Boehner pointed out:  “We can’t impose our will on another body.  We can’t impose our will on the Senate.  All we can do is to fight for all of the spending cuts that we can get an agreement to and the spending limitations as well.”

Eric Cantor also introduced the constitutional authority requirement for legislation into the 112th. Congress.  It was his idea that every bill introduced in the House of Representatives include specific citations for its constitutional authority.

That requirement stated: “A bill or joint resolution may not be introduced unless the sponsor has submitted for printing in the congressional record a statement citing as specifically as practicable the power or powers granted to Congress in the Constitution to enact the bill or joint resolution.”

Eric Cantor was one of the lawmakers who read aloud from the Constitution on the floor of the House on the first day of the new Congress.  He read Article I Section II, which explains the requirements for being a U.S. representative. Apparently, he missed the reading of Article II Section VII, which explains that the Senate must pass an identical bill to the House before it can be offered to the president for his signature and become law.

In fact, the “Government Shutdown Prevention Act” does absolutely nothing that can prevent a government shutdown. However, despite Eric Cantor’s stunt more responsible members of Congress are moving toward a compromise.  Reports indicate that Democrats and Republicans may agreed on a $33 billion cut package, approximately half the amount of cuts House Republicans have been seeking. This is in addition to the $40 billion in cuts, that Obama had already agreed to on his own.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Rebel Without a Cause

To the Oneonta Daily Star on-line forum, DNR wrote: “You contradict yourself every time you stand up to defend your favorite party, Jim. Why not join me in shunning all parties? Become truely (sic) independent and start questioning BOTH sides with equal vigor?”

Apparently, DNR didn’t comprehend that I had him in mind, when I wrote: (This leads to frustration and expressions such as; “Voting is a waste of time!”; “They’re all a bunch of crooks!" and “I’m not going to vote, because I’m fed up with all politicians.” This foolish defeatism infects others, and many Americans have lost hope for a better world.)

I’m a pragmatist, who accepts the reality, that we shouldn’t allow the perfect become the enemy of the good. I’m also proud to be a Liberal Democrat, who appreciates what the Democratic party has done for our country during my lifetime.

Historically, the Democratic Party has stood for opportunity and responsibility. They want to invest in education, innovation and infrastructure. They’re talking new roads, bridges, dams and levees, a smart electric grid, broadband internet and high-speed rail lines required to compete in the 21st century economy.

Responsibility is another issue, Democrats understand. During the 1920’s, the economic policies of three Republican Presidents resulted in the Great Depression. A responsible FDR took office in 1933, with the unemployment rate at 24.9%. He immediately increased spending on New Deal programs, and followed that by spending on WWII weapons.

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 percent of the debt incurred from Reagan to Obama occurred in the 20 years under Republican presidents.

Clinton cleaned up after Reagan and the first Bush and left us with a giant surplus. The second Bush got us into a $3 trillion war in Iraq, while borrowing money to lower taxes on the richest Americans. He handed Obama 2 wars, a sever economic crisis, and another huge deficit.

Americans hired Obama to clean that up the economic collapse, created under Bush, but many unemployed voters got impatient, because the Obama economic team couldn’t clean it up quickly enough. Not unlike FDR in 1933, Democrats took the more responsible route, by starting to clean up the mess, that a Republican President had created. 

Monday, April 04, 2011

A Critical Change

Reportedly, the individual mandate in the Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act is under a constitutional challenge.

In fact, the individual mandate is enforced through the tax code, but the tax penalty that was written into the bill is an unenforceable tax penalty, because the IRS is specifically instructed they are not allowed to collect the failure to pay the penalty using either criminal or civil process to collect fron those that fail to pay the penalty. Therefore, ultimately, the consumer may realize, that if they don’t pay their penalty under the individual mandate, absolutely nothing happens to them.

Assuming that provision survives a constitutional challenge, how effective will the health care bill be once freeloaders realize that the tax penalty is unenforceable?

For the most part, Americans are a pretty law abiding people. Despite all the stuff we hear about tax cheats, Americans tend to be honest people when it comes to paying our taxes. Paying taxes is seen by the vast majority of Americans as part of their obligation as citizens and they’re expected to respect the requirement of the individual mandate. 

The very first year they had the individual mandate in Massachusetts, 98% of their citizens were in compliance. That didn’t mean 98% of the people of Massachusetts purchased insurance the first year.  Instead, some insisted, that they’d rather pay the penalty. Thus, 98% of taxpayers in Massachusetts complied with the law, by either getting insurance or paying the penalty.
 
Today, Massachusetts has 98% health insurance coverage in the state and that’s considered virtually universal health care coverage. The goal of the Affordable Care Act, is to fix a broken market for non-group insurance. It allows individuals who don’t get insurance from their employer to purchase insurance without fear of discrimination.  And, that is the critical change, that the Affordable Health Care Act will make nationally. 

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Fundamental Structure

In the 2008, Republican primary debate in New Hampshire, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney told potential supporter regarding the healthcare plan, that he had signed into law: “If people can afford to buy it, either buy the insurance or pay your own way.  Don’t be free riders.” 

Romney eventually lost New Hampshire to John McCain, who won the inauguration, but then lost the election to Obama. Congressional Democrats eventually fashioned the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act after Romney’s health care law in Massachusetts. 

Now in its fourth year of operation, Massachusetts has 98% health insurance coverage in the state. Mitt Romney recently said that he’s proud of what he accomplished on health care in Massachusetts and supported giving states the power to determine their own health care solutions. 

Massachusetts Institute of Technology economics professor Jonathan Gruber helped Romney create that health care law.  Professor Gruber was also a consultant for the Obama administration and Congress while they developed the Affordable Care Act. 
 
Jonathan Gruber recalls, that Romney wasn’t enthusiastic about the individual mandate requirement, because it interferes with personal freedoms. However, he recognized, that in order to make health care reform work, individuals must not be able to ride the system free. 

According to Gruber, as Governor Romney believed, that individuals who have the means to afford health insurance coverage should get it, and if they can’t afford it, we should make it affordable so they can get it. Accordingly, he strongly supported the individual mandate. 

Professor Gruber insists, that Mitt Romney is one of the most important figures in health care history, because he made healthcare reform in Massachusetts happen and as a result of Massachusetts healthcare happening, federal reform happen.

Basically, the fundamental structure of what Professor Gruber and Governor Romney designed in Massachusetts reformed the insurance markets, included an individual mandate, and made health insurance affordable is a structure that can work anywhere. 

Saturday, April 02, 2011

The Difference

The differences between Obama and George W. Bush was defined by our President stating: “If we tried to overthrow Gadhafi by force, our coalition would splinter. We would likely have to put U.S. troops on the ground to accomplish that mission, or risk killing many civilians from the air. The dangers faced by our men and women in uniform would be far greater, so would the costs, and our share of the responsibility for what comes next.

“To be blunt, we went down that road in Iraq.  Thanks to the extraordinary sacrifices of our troops and the determination of our diplomats, we are hopeful about Iraq’s future.  But regime change there took eight years, thousands of American and Iraqi lives, and nearly $1 trillion. That is not something we can afford to repeat in Libya.”

In his speech, Obama consistently referred to soldiers and diplomats, and talked about using both force and persuasion. Diplomacy and persuasion may eventually be the hallmark of Obama’s presidency. Basically, Obama defined international persuasion and leadership as the core of American strength. He insisted that America can intervene in lots of places, but we must choose to intervene in places where a lots of other countries can be persuaded to join us.

The U.N. Security Council voted to authorize a no-fly zone over Libya, as a necessary measures to protect Libyan civilians. The rebels had been forced back to Benghazi by  Gadhafi’s forces, when the international community decided to step in with military force. 

Obama pointed out: “We knew that if we waited one more day, Benghazi...could suffer a massacre that would have stained the conscience of the world. It was not in our national interest to let that happen.  I refused to let that happen.  And so, after consulting the bipartisan leadership of Congress, I authorized military action to stop the killing and enforce U.N. Security Council resolution 1973.”

Obama conclude: “I know that some Americans continue to have questions about our efforts in Libya. Gadhafi has not yet stepped down from power.  And until he does, Libya will remain dangerous.

“Moreover, even after Gadhafi does leave power, 40 years of tyranny has left Libya fractured, and without strong civil institutions. The transition to a legitimate government that is responsive to the Libyan people will be a difficult task.  And while the United States will do our part to help, it will be a task for the international community, and more importantly a task for the Libyan people themselves.”

Friday, April 01, 2011

International Intervention

In Obama’s addressed to the nation, he emphasized the multilateral character of the intervention in Libya.

Obama said: “NATO has taken command of the enforcement of the arms embargo and the no-fly zone. Last night, NATO decided to take on the additional responsibility of protecting Libyan civilians... The United States will play a supporting role, including intelligence, logistical support, search and rescue assistance, and capabilities to jam regime communications.  Because of this transition to a broader NATO-based coalition, the risk and cost of this operation to our military and to American taxpayers will be reduced significantly.”

Obama continued: “America cannot use our military wherever repression occurs.  Given the costs and risks of intervention, we must always measure our interests against the need for action.  But that cannot be an argument for never acting on behalf of what‘s right.  In this particular country, Libya, at this particular moment, we were faced with the prospect of violence on a horrific scale.

“We had a unique ability to stop that violence and the international mandate for action, a broad coalition prepared to join us, the support of Arab countries, and a plea for help from the Libyan people themselves.  We also have the ability to stop Gadhafi‘s forces in their tracks without putting American troops on the ground.

“To brush aside America‘s responsibility as a leader and more profoundly our responsibilities to our fellow human beings under such circumstances would have been a betrayal of who we are.  Some nations may be able to turn a blind eye to atrocities in other countries.  The United States of America is different.”

Words very reminiscent of what Obama said, when accepting the Nobel Peace Prize:

“More and more, we all confront difficult questions about how to prevent the slaughter of innocent civilians by their own governor, or to stop a civil war whose violence and suffering can engulf an entire region. I believe that force can be justified on humanitarian grounds, as it was in the Balkans, or in other places that have been scarred by war. Inaction tears at our conscious and can lead to more costly intervention later.  That’s why all responsible nations must embrace the role that militaries, with a clear mandate, can play to keep the peace. America‘s commitment to global security will never waiver. But in a world in which threats are more diffused and missions more complex, America cannot act alone. We know that the United States, as the world’s most powerful nation, will often be called upon to help.  In such cases, we should not be afraid to act.  But the burden of action should not be America’s alone.”