Mind and Destiny

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

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

The author and his webmaster, summer of 1965.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

$14.3 Trillion

Our national debt is at $14.3 trillion dollars, and the average interest rate on that debt is about 3.2%. Before spending a penny on any government programs, $460 billion dollars of our tax dollars must be transferred to the holders of our debt, which is held mostly by Americans.

In 1981, Reagan was able to convince voters, that our debt was out of control. Actually, compared to our gross national product (GNP), it was at a 50 year low. Congressional Republicans and Democrats voted for Reagan’s budget that lowered tax rates, which mainly benefitted the rich. Trickle-down economics didn’t work and by the end of Reagan’s 8 years, the deficit had tripled. The deficit grew by another 55% under George H.W. Bush.

The budget was balanced during the Clinton administration and the debt was actually on a trajectory to decline. Our country saw its largest employment growth under the Clinton administration.

Under George W. Bush, we saw unemployment increase dramatically. The budget deficit doubled after two tax cuts, that mostly benefitted the wealthy, while at the same time we were engaged in two wars.

Again, we learned, that trickle-down economics doesn’t work, because tax cuts for the wealthy are often invested in countries where growth rates are higher because of a much lower standard of living.

Today, corporate lobbyists and their representatives in Congress want to decrease the deficit solely by decreasing spending. That failed economic approach, and the rhetoric that supports it, must be rejected. Although, we must remove waste from our entitlement programs, our real problem is that of too low a tax rate on higher incomes. When the top 1% gets more than 20% of the country’s income and owns more than 40% of all of the country’s wealth, that is a problem.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

A Dirty Word

Obama has pointed out: “America has always been a grand experiment in compromise. We’re a unique democracy made up of every race and religion.”

Congress has few days left to act, and there is still path a forward.  The Senate has introduced a plan to avoid default, which makes a down payment on deficit reduction and ensures that we don’t have to go through this again in six months. 

It’s not a plan that would seriously reduce the deficit and would still require Congress to tackle the tough challenges of entitlement and tax reform. Nevertheless, Obama has told the leadership of both parties that they must come up with a fair compromise, that can pass both houses of Congress. He remains hopeful, that enough members of both parties will put politics aside, so that the debt ceiling can be raised.

However, it appears that every time Obama approves a proposal, Republicans change their mind and back away from it. Perhaps, behind all of this not raising the debt ceiling nonsense is the goal of making sure, that Obama is defeated in 2012.

Democrats want government to start living within its means, but most are fed up with a system in which the deck is stacked against middle-class Americans in favor of the wealthiest few.

Folks work all day long, many of them scraping by, just to put food on the table.  At night they come home, bone-tired, turn on the news, and all they see is the same partisan three-ring circus in Washington. They see leaders who can’t come together and do what it takes to make life just a little bit better for ordinary Americans.  Coming together requires compromise, but for some member of Congress, that has become dirty word.

Let us remember: “E Pluribus Unum”

Friday, July 29, 2011

Default

Jefferson wrote: “Every man cannot have his way in all things, without this mutual disposition, we are disjointed individuals, but not a society.” 

House Republicans have said that the only way they’ll vote to prevent America’s first-ever default is for Democrats to agree to deep spending cut.   

If our government defaults, there wouldn’t be enough money to pay our bills, that include monthly Social Security checks, veterans’ benefits, and government contracts already signed with thousands of businesses. 

Our country’s AAA credit rating would be downgraded for the first time. Interest rates would skyrocket on credit cards, mortgages and car loans, which amounts to a huge cost hike on the American people.  We would risk sparking a deep economic crisis caused entirely by our politicians in Washington.

Temporarily extending the debt ceiling would force Congress to again face the threat of default in six months. Thereby, providing a convenient distraction for House Republicans from the task of creating more jobs. A six-month extension of the debt ceiling might not be enough to avoid a credit downgrade and the higher interest rates for all Americans. There’s no point in putting the economy at risk by kicking the can further down the road.   

We know that the House of Representatives will once again refuse to prevent default unless the rest of us accept their cuts only approach. They’ll again refuse to ask the wealthiest Americans to give up anything.  Again, they’ll demand harsh cuts to programs like Medicare. The economy will again be held captive by a minority unless they get their way. 

This is no way to run the greatest country on Earth. Not when the jobs and livelihoods of so many families are at stake.  We can’t allow the American people to become collateral damage to Washington’s political warfare. 

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Richard Hartwick

Chuck Pinkey writes a right wing column every other week for the Oneonta Daily Star.

Yesterday, the Star published the following letter, that had been submitted by Richard Hartwick of South New Berlin.

“Chuck Pinkey feels the dominance of humans on the planet undermines the theory of evolution. Quite the contrary, it illustrates evolution in practice.



“Fossil records and genetic analysis show that primate evolution began about 65 million years ago. The genus Homo branched off 2.3 million years ago, and our last common ancestor with the chimp was about 5 million to 7 million years ago. Homo used tools and language, like many other animals, but eventually surpassed other species. The development of civilization 10,000 years ago accelerated man’s development.



“Today, man does dominate the world, and yes, a dog still wags its tail while we fly to the moon. However, this is because mankind accumulates small improvements in knowledge generated by each individual, and stores and organizes them, passing them on in the form of books, universities, etc., so that our cumulative power as a species continually increases.



“Imagine a human without any knowledge of fire. Put him back into the savanna 400,000 years ago. He would barely survive, much less discuss physics or moon shots. He would not be expected to invent fire on the spot, as that knowledge is taught, not invented by each individual.



“When Pinkey writes of ‘man’s greatness,’ he does so using thousands of years of accumulated language, scientific and cultural evolutionary development. An individual man, without such modern knowledge, is not that imposing.



“Modern society is the result of hundreds of thousands of years of ongoing human evolution, starting with a few favorable genetic changes readily explained by molecular biology. It is Pinkey’s right to believe that a creator directs this process, but evolutionary theory can explain the facts quite well.



“To paraphrase Isaac Newton, ‘If we see farther today, it is because we stand upon the shoulders of 400,000-plus years of continuing evolutionary development.’”

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Bipartisan Approach

When, George W. Bush took office, we began spending more money than we took in.  In 2000, our government had a budget surplus, but instead of using it to pay off the national debt, trillions of dollars were spent on tax cuts, two wars and an expensive prescription drug program, which added to our national debt.

Consequently, the deficit increased dramatically during the Bush administration, then ended with a sever recession. That fiscal crisis resulted in less revenues coming in, and required the Obama administration to spend money on tax cuts for middle-class families to spur the economy; extended unemployment insurance; aid to states so we could prevent more teachers, firefighters and police officers from being laid off.  The Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 added to the deficit.

Our growing debt will eventually do serious damage to the economy, because more of our tax dollars will go toward paying off the interest on our loans. We won’t have enough money to make job-creating investments in things like education and infrastructure, or pay for vital programs like Medicare and Medicaid.

However, failure to extend the debt ceiling will result in interest rates climbing for the homeowners with mortgages, students with college loans, and small business owners, who wants to expand.

Neither party is blameless for the decisions that led to this problem, both parties have a responsibility to solve it. Obama has proposed, that we live within our means by making serious, historic cuts in government spending. He wants to cut domestic spending to the lowest level it’s been since Dwight Eisenhower. He’s suggested that we cut defense spending at the Pentagon by hundreds of billions of dollars.  He recognizes a need to cut waste and fraud out of health care programs like Medicare, and at the same time, make adjustments so that Medicare is still there for future generations. He insists, that we require the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations to give up some of their breaks in the tax code and special deductions.

A bipartisan balanced approach should ask everyone to give a little without requiring anyone to sacrifice too much.  It would reduce the deficit by around $4 trillion and put us on a path to pay down our debt.  The cuts shouldn’t happen so abruptly that they’d be a drag on our economy, or prevent us from helping small businesses and middle-class families get back on their feet.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A Balanced Plan

Before, we ask seniors to pay more for Medicare, let’s ask billionaires to give up tax breaks that they don’t need. Let’s ask hedge fund managers to stop paying taxes that are lower on their rates than their secretaries.

Everybody should have a chance to become a millionaire, because a free market system is the greatest wealth generator we’ve ever known. Democrats expect folks, who have benefited most during the Bush tax cut era to share in the sacrifice, because middle-class families shouldn’t have to pick up the whole tab for closing the deficit.  

The Democratic deficit plan is a balance approach requiring shared sacrifice. It includes tough spending cuts, but also tax reform that raises more revenue. That position isn’t some wild-eyed socialist position, it’s a position taken by Wall Street billionaire Warren Buffet, who is the third wealthiest person in the world, because he knows a lot about how capitalism works.  

A balanced plan isn’t going to make most people happy.  In fact, the easiest thing for a politician to do is to give their constituents more and ask less in return.  It’s much harder to tell them, we’ve got to cut back, and you’re going to pay more. The reality is that the budget can be balance in a way that doesn’t hurt folks too badly, and doesn’t put the burden on just one group.  

The President is willing to sign a plan that includes tough choices and there are a lot of Democrats and Republicans in Congress who are willing to do the same thing.  The only group of people left to convince are the Tea Party folks in the House of Representatives.  

Obama pointed out: “In 2010, Americans chose a divided government, but they didn’t choose a dysfunctional government.” 

Monday, July 25, 2011

Raising $78 Billion

Chuck Pinkey writes a right wing column every other week for the Oneonta Daily Star.

I wrote a rebuttal to his column, to which Chuck responded by asking: “At what per cent would you like to see the rich taxed? Those making over 1 million? Those making over 10 million? And the very few, making over 50 million?”

I was happy to inform him, that currently, the top tax bracket begins at $373,000 of income and fails to distinguish between the “well off” and billionaires. For example, the top 20 hedge fund managers average income last year was over $1 billion. For the first time in 2007, our nation's history, the Forbes list of the 400 wealthiest Americans included only billionaires.

The Fairness in Taxation Act would provide new tax brackets for millionaires and billionaires. A new bracket of 45% would be created for those earning over a million dollars.  Taxes for those making over $10 million would go up 1% to 46%. For incomes over $20 million, it would be 47%.  For incomes over $100 million dollars, the tax rate would be 48%. The top tax bracket would be for incomes over $1 billion dollars at 49%.

Those are 21st. century incomes, which are common in our economy. All of those rates are still lower than the top tax bracket when Ronald Reagan was president.  All of those tax brackets are more than affordable at those income levels.  All of those income levels are presently taxed at a maximum of only 35%. 

Everyone who lives at those income levels typically employ accountants and lawyers who find legal tax avoidance strategies (loopholes) that reduce their real income tax rate to something far below 35%.  None of them, actually pays 35% of their income in federal taxation. 

If enacted the Fairness in Taxation Act would raise more than $78 billion.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

“Who and What”

In the Oneonta Star’s online forum DNR asked Richard Stinson: “Who and what the Tea Party is before he blames them for all the country’s problems?”

It’s unlikely, Dick Stinson would go on line, so I decided to responded as follows:

Glad you asked, since David and Charles Koch are the most aggressive right-wing activists in America.  They supported the Tea Party movement and saw their wealth increase by $9 billion last year.  Individually, they’re each tied for the 18th. richest man in the world, but their combined fortune would rank them at number four, right behind Carlos Slim, Bill Gates, and Warren Buffett.

Koch Industries is the biggest privately held oil and chemical company in the world, the second largest privately held company of any kind in America.  Their political strategy has been to stop the government from limiting greenhouse gas emissions and make sure there is no tax on fossil fuels.  These brothers sought to prevent chemicals like formaldehyde from being labeled as causing cancer, because they’ve made many millions of dollars from formaldehyde.  Koch Industries has a history of serious pollution problems and even criminal problems having to do with their pollution record.

Several years ago, they began attempting to influence public policy by bankrolling a lot of right-wing organizing outfits.  They’ve funneling massive amounts of money into organizations with innocuous names, such as Citizens for a Sound Economy, Citizens for the Environment, and Americans for Prosperity. 

Americans for Prosperity were behind all of the supposedly grassroots tea party rallies around the country.  The group paid for the buses, organizing the speakers, putting together training kits for attendees, making talking points and designing the web sites.  Early on, those that attended the tea party gathering were instructed to rally against things like climate change legislation in support of the billionaire oil tycoons. 

The Koch brothers have an interest that is hardcore ideological conservatism and that agenda goes back long way.  They’re hardcore libertarian ideologues and have been for many years.  They were early backers of a man named Robert LeFevre, an anarchist, who believed that the government should be completely decimated.  LeFevre believed that the only responsibility government had was to protect individual rights.  They were early supporters of getting rid of social security, income taxes, the FBI, the CIA and regulations. 

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Tea Party Failure

Yesterday, the Oneonta Daily Star published the following letter, that had been submitted by a fellow Democratic activist Richard Stinson of South Kortright.

“After all the support, funding and training the Republicans gave the Tea Party founders ... and the promises of "jobs, jobs, jobs," smaller government and rebuilding the economy, what does the Tea Party have to show for it? Betrayal! No jobs have been created; in fact, more jobs are going overseas. Smaller government was achieved by firing 5,000 government employees and gutting regulatory agencies.



“They want to privatize Social Security (it will require just as many people but be run by a corporation that will take its profit out of your money). This is your money, not the government's nor the taxpayers'.



“They want to raise the SS age and lower the benefits. They want to do away with Medicare and Medicaid. How many Tea Party members are older than 65? 

“They have not only done nothing to improve the economy, they have stalled or voted down every bill that would help the economy, the average citizen, our infrastructure, the environment and the health and safety of the citizens.



“They continue to encourage fear-mongering and lies about other religions, illegal aliens, marriage equality, global weather change, Social Security running out, etc. Don't believe it! Check the facts yourself and ask yourself why they insist on maintaining the tax breaks for the super-rich and corporations making record profits.



“You are being warned that we will all have to make sacrifices in order to pay down the deficit, but the rich and the corporations won't have to pay an extra penny. Do you think this is fair ... or even sensible?



“Trickle-down economy is pure hogwash. Money does not trickle down; it gets sucked up. What's in your children's and grandchildren's future if the attacks on unions and the minimum wage are successful? Start thinking for yourself.”

Friday, July 22, 2011

Fair Share

We can reduce our national debt by cutting spending, increasing taxes and encouraging job growth, so that more people are paying taxes.

In 2010, 1.3 million private sector jobs were added, which was the strongest job growth, since 2006. We still have a long way to go, because 40 thousand factories closed during the Bush administration. 

When Bush era tax cuts were passed a predictable cycle of poverty began. The richest 1% of Americans saw their income go up an average of more than 10% each year between 2002 and 2007.

Most Republican politicians continue to claim, that tax cuts benefit the economy, even after the Bush-era tax cuts provided irrefutable proof, that tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires didn’t stimulate the economy. 

By letting all of Bush’s tax cuts expire, about $3.7 trillion wouldn’t need to be borrowed over the next decade. Furthermore, Republicans would find it difficult to accused Democrats of passing on the debt to future generation.

Our Congressional Budget Office found that giving huge tax break to the wealthiest Americans is one of the least effective ways to stimulate our economy.

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

Notably, House Republicans have refuse to passed any legislation that would promote employment, because they’re hoping that continuing high unemployment will enable a them to defeat Obama in 2012.


Republicans condemn Obama and Democrats for wanting to raise taxes on the rich, but the overwhelming majority of the American people believe that deficit reduction must be about shared sacrifice. The wealthiest Americans and the most profitable corporations in this country must start paying their fair share. 


Thursday, July 21, 2011

"We need to."

The Treasury Department has warned that failure to raise the debt ceiling by August 2 could lead to a default, which could push interest rates to skyrocket and cause the dollar to plummet.

The new director of the International Monetary Fund said: “A U.S. default on its debt obligations would have real nasty consequences for the United States and the global economy”

When asked if a deal to raise the debt ceiling could be reached within 10 days, Obama told reporters, "We need to."

Republicans had demanded, that Congress drastically reduce spending before they would agree to raise the nation’s $14.3 trillion debt ceiling. Obama announced, that he would support an ambitious 12 year plan to reduce our national debt by $4 trillion, mostly through cuts but also with revenue increases. His intent was to pave the way for Congress to raise the debt ceiling before August 2cd, since not reaching a deal by that date, would result in our government defaulting on its obligations.

Vice President Joe Biden had been conducting discussions on the topic with eight congressional leaders from the two parties at the White House.

House Speaker John Boehner admitted, that House Republicans could not support a major deal as long as Obama and Democrats insist on increasing taxes. He acknowledge that any revenue-raising initiative would prevent the bulk of Republicans from supporting a more ambitious deal, even if it was one including cutting spending and reforming entitlement programs such as Medicare.

The White House immediately pointed out, that Boehner had initially accepted the need to increase tax rates on wealthy Americans as part of a deal. Obama maintained, that he’ll still push for a larger deal and reiterated his intention to rejected a short-term, temporary agreement to get the debt ceiling raised.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The America, I Knew

Obama pointed out: “Our leaders came together three times during the 1990s to reduce our nation’s deficit.  They forged historic agreements that required tough decisions made by the first President Bush, then made by President Clinton, by Democratic Congresses and by a Republican Congress. All three agreements asked for shared responsibility and shared sacrifice.  But they largely protected the middle class.  They largely protected our commitment to seniors.  They protected our key investments in our future. As a result of these bipartisan efforts, America’s finances were in great shape by the year 2000.  We went from deficit to surplus.  America was actually on track to becoming completely debt-free and we were prepared for the retirement of the baby boomers.”

Under the second President Bush spending and tax cuts for the very rich increased our national debt dramatically. Spending included two wars and an expensive prescription drug program. However, Congress failed to pay for any of the new spending.

Consequently, the time for shared responsibility and shared sacrifice has again arrived. Obama rejected the Republican budget plan, written by Congressman Paul Ryan, by insisting: “Ronald Reagan’s own budget director said there’s nothing serious or courageous about this plan.  There’s nothing serious about a plan that claims to reduce the deficit by spending $1 trillion on tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires.

Obama explained: “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 life to communities shrouded in darkness.  We sent a generation to college on the G.I. bill and we save 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.”

Regrettably, the America, that I’ve known for 76 years might be about to change to one that could care less about opportunity, shared sacrifice, or a social safety net.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Sieze the Moment

Obama insists, that Congress has a unique opportunity to stabilize America’s finances for a decade, if it’s willing to seize the moment. He’s willing to take domestic spending down to its lowest percentage of our overall economy since Dwight Eisenhower. 

It would require significant cuts in Defense spending. Obama has said that in addition to the $400 billion, that has already been cut from defense spending, he’s willing to look for hundreds of billions more.

Stabilizing our economy will require taking on health care spending, which includes looking at Medicare. Obama is confident, that ways can be found to stabilize Medicare for future generations. 

However, increased revenues will be required, from millionaires and billionaires, who can afford to do a little bit more. Congress will need to close corporate loopholes so that highly profitable companies aren’t getting unnecessary subsidies.

Obama believes, that members of Congress have an opportunity to impress the American people that Washington can actually get something done.  It will require, that congressional Republicans stop just listening to lobbyists or special interests, and start listen to the American people. Poll after poll done by many organizations, show that it’s not just Democrats who think we need to take a balanced approach, but Republicans as well. The clear majority of Republican voters think that any deficit reduction package should include an increase in revenues.

American people understand, that we shouldn’t be asking sacrifices from middle-class folks who are working hard every day, or from the most vulnerable in our society, without asking the most fortunate in our society to make some sacrifices as well.

Apparently, Republicans are resisting doing a $4 trillion deal, because if our economy does stabilize and the unemployment rate goes down, their chances of defeating Obama in 2012 will become more difficult.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Human Dignity

“There but for the Grace of god go I.” Half of the people, who use that phrase mean: “God, am I lucky that didn’t happen to me?” The other half believe it didn’t happen to them because they’ve made smarter choices than the unemployed or they’ve worked harder than the people without health insurance, or they’re simply better people than the homeless, better people than the least of our brethren.

Obama claimed: “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 individuals, 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. 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.”

Apparently, Republican don’t believe that we’re all connected or that each one of us deserves some basic measure of security and dignity, especially if that security includes health care. Some think that unemployment insurance, makes us a weaker country because we give money to people who don’t work. They consider it a government handout and wonder why the unemployed don’t just start their own businesses.

The reason the social safety net that the Democratic Party created over the last 75 years is under attack is that half our country don’t share that basic value.

The political reality is that the burden of maintaining the liberal successes of Social Security and Medicare has always fallen exclusively to the creators of those programs.

Republicans were opposed to the creation of Social Security and Medicare. They’re not interested in figuring out how to keep them going. In the past, Republicans contributed to solvency solutions for those programs, only because they lived in political fear of being blamed for cutting back those popular programs.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

In Fact

We can reduce our national debt by cutting spending, increasing taxes and encouraging job growth, so that more people are paying taxes, but Republicans are against raising taxes on the very wealthy.

In 2010, 1.3 million private sector jobs were added, which was the strongest job growth since 2006. Nevertheless, we still have a very long way to go, because 40 thousand factories closed during the Bush era. 

Instead of investing dollars in the American way of life, the Carlyle Group is interested in investing nearly $2 trillion in China, India and Brazil, because Wall Street is addicted to profiting from cheap foreign labor.  

A new cycle of poverty for millions of Americans began during Bush’s presidency, when 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% each year between 2002 and 2007. As the richest Americans got much richer, the middle class saw their income stay about the same, and the number of people in poverty gradually increased.

Our Congressional Budget Office has found that giving huge tax breaks to the wealthiest Americans is one of the least effective ways to stimulate our economy. Republican politicians have continued to claim, that tax cuts benefit our economy, even after the Bush-era tax cuts provided ten-years of irrefutable proof, that tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires don’t stimulate the economy. 

By letting all of Bush era tax cuts to expire, about $3.7 trillion would not have to be borrowed over the next decade.

The Congressional Republican tax cut plan would have add an additional $700 billion to the deficit over the next ten years and give America’s wealthiest people an average tax break of $100,000.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

NOW!

Some are suggesting a Balanced Budget Amendment to our Constitution. The Constitution already tells members of Congress, that it’s their responsibility to make sure that the government is living within its means and making responsible choices. Now, is the time to taking care of our national debt problems. Kicking the can down the road has been a typical Washington response to serious problems for too long. 

Obama insists: “We don’t need more studies. We don’t need a balanced budget amendment.  We simply need to make these tough choices and be willing to take on our bases.”

Actually, we don’t have to do anything too radical to solve our debt problem. It turns out that our problem began in the last decade, when taxes were cut, without paying for them. Next, Congress instituted a Medicare prescription drug program for seniors that wasn’t paid for. We became involved in two wars, without paying for them. Then, a very sever recession required a Recovery Act with stimulus spending to help the states and rebuild our economy. On top of all those expenditures interest has been accumulating. 

A fair solution require that we roll back those tax cuts for the wealthiest American, clean up our tax code so we’re not giving out subsidies and tax breaks to companies that don’t need them and are not creating jobs. We need to cut unnecessary programs, while investing in things that are going to help our economy grow. 

Every commission and study group has basically said the same thing and recommended taking a similar approach. 

Some of decisions, that need to be taken are tough, but they don’t require Congress to gut Medicare or Social Security. They don’t require us to stop helping young people go to college. They don’t require us to violate our obligations to our veterans. They merely require Congress to make some modest adjustments to get our house in order. Now!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Professional Politicians

Presidential candidate, Rep. Michele Bachmann claimed: “First of all, it isn’t true that the government would default on its debt because, very simply, the Treasury secretary can pay the interest on the debt first, and then from there, we have to just prioritize our spending. The interest on the debt isn’t any more than 10% of what we’re taking in.  In fact, it’s less than that.  And so the Treasury secretary can very simply pay the interest on the debt first, then we’re not in default.”

A recent, CBS News poll showed that only 24% of Americans believe the debt limit should be raise to avoid an economic catastrophe. However, 69% oppose raising the debt limit. Some in the media suggest, that Obama has failed to convince the American people that we have a crisis.

Obama responded by drawing a distinction between professional politicians and the public at large. He believes: “depending on how you phrase the question, if you said to the American people, is it a good idea for the United States not to pay its bills and potentially create another recession that could throw millions of more people out of work, I feel pretty confident I can get a majority on my side on that one.”  

Should the debt ceiling not be raised a crisis of confidence will occur in the markets. Interest rates will go up significantly. Folks will be paying higher interest rates on car loans, mortgages, credit cards and they won’t like that.

Professional politicians, such as Michele Bachmann know better, and for her to say that we shouldn’t be raising the debt ceiling is irresponsible. Obama and Treasury Secretary Geithner are not making this up. It’s real and Congress has got to deal with it.

Every American has a stake in Speaker of the House, Boehner being able to persuade his caucus that a compromise on tax increases is the right thing to do. Likewise, we all have a stake in Obama being able to persuade congressional Democrats that we have to deal with the increasing cost of entitlement.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

“Let’s Go”

Republicans have been insisting, that it is a moral imperative for us to deal with our deficit in a serious way. They claim, that this is the thing that's creating uncertainty and holding back investment on the part of the business community.  Obama said: “let's go.”

He put entitlements on the table, and set a goal of reducing our national debt by $4 Trillion over the next 12 years.

Obama believes, that it’s possible to construct a balanced package that would require share sacrifice, but it would involve both parties taking on their sacred cows. It would involved meaningful changes to Medicare, Social Security, and Medicaid in order to preserve the integrity of those programs while keeping our sacred trust with our seniors. He wants to make sure those programs are not there just for this generation but for the next generation. He insists, that it’s possible for Congress to bring in revenues in a way that doesn’t impede our current recovery.  

The political leadership of both parties had agreed on a series of spending cuts that would make our government leaner, more effective and efficient.  The cuts included both defense and health care spending. Some of the programs Democrats would like to keep, but Obama admits, that we can’t afford them.

The overall package could achieve a situation in which our deficits are stabilized at a manageable level. Obama insists Congress come up with a plan that solves our short-term debt and deficit problems, avoids default, stabilizes the economy, and proves to the American people that their representatives can do what’s right for the country. He’s pushing congressional leaders for the largest possible deal, and anticipated resistance. 

Resistance from the Democrats will have to do with reducing entitlements. On the Republican side there is strong resistance to increasing revenues. As long as each side wants 100% of what their ideological predispositions are, nothing will get done. 

The American people want something done.  They feel a sense of urgency, with regards to the breakdown in our political process and the situation in our economy. Obama is willing to consider all options, but he will not consider a temporary stopgap resolution to this problem. We can’t risk U.S. default on our obligations because we can’t put politics aside.  

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

As a Girl

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand learned about politics from her grandmother, Dorothea Noonan, a secretary in the New York State Legislature who defied the norms of her day and organized other women into what became a formidable political club in Albany.

Ms. Noonan, known as Polly, would take her granddaughter to the Albany Democratic Women’s Club when election season rolled around and had her stuff envelopes, work phone banks, slap bumper stickers on cars, hand out fliers and knock on doors. Gillibrand said: “I grew up watching her run these campaigns, it was pretty important to me.”

Today, Gillibrand has embarked on a campaign called: “Off the Sidelines,” to mobilize women across the country, as evidence emerges that the slow but steady progress made by women in elective politics has begun to stall. A little-noticed outcome of the 2010 elections was that the number of women in Congress actually declined for the first time in 30 years.

Gillibrand persuaded an old friend, Terri Sewell, to run for a House seat in Alabama. Ms. Sewell won, to become the first black woman elected to Congress from that state.

In May, her efforts helped Kathy Hochul win an open House seat in New York’s 26th District, one of the most conservative regions of the state. In a recent interview Ms. Hochul, a former Erie County clerk said: “She gave me legitimacy at a time when other people were not taking our race seriously. We spoke frequently on the phone. She gave me a lot of encouragement.”

Sen. Gillibrand has activated her network of donors to help female candidates. She tries to recruit female candidates, advises women thinking about running, and started a Web site, offthesidelines. org.

Gillibrand argues that an infusion of women into the political system would go a long way toward changing the tone in Congress, a male-dominated world of fiercely clashing egos. She explained: “We tend to be more results-oriented and less concerned with getting the credit. The female approach is more conciliatory and less combative.

Sen. Gillibrand contends, it should be a source of concern to women that the issues that are important to them, like workplace discrimination and access to child care are being decided by lawmakers who are almost exclusively male.

Gillibrand made it clear who her role model was. “My grandmother taught me, that when women’s voices are heard the outcomes are better.”

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Senator Gillibrand does have a tendency to over-generalize about men. Perhaps, that will change, when her two sons grow up.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Radical Republicans

The Paul Ryan budget proposal, passed the House with the 235 Republicans voting in favor of a Medicare overhall, and only 4 against it. The plan required our government to no longer directly pay health care bills for senior citizens, starting in 2022. Instead, recipients would choose a plan from a list of private providers, which the federal government would subsidize.

Republicans insist, that we can’t afford our commitment to Medicare, but we can afford more than $1 trillion in new tax breaks for the wealthy.

There’s a way to balance the budget called shared sacrifice, whereby you don’t balance it entirely on the backs of the middle class or senior citizens.

For example, going back to the Clinton income tax levels, for people making over $1 million a year would saves $360 billion in 10 years.

Democrats want to negotiate with the drug companies as the Veterans Administration does, because over 10 years, it could save $240 billion for Medicare Part D.

We would save $4 billion a year by cutting ethanol subsidies, a savings of $40 billion over 10 years. Subsidies to very profitable oil companies are costing taxpayers $21 billion. 

Secretary of Defense Gates has suggested cutting the Pentagon budget by $78 billion. 

There are some Republicans who have thought that, we should have raised taxes to pay for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. However, they didn’t dare say so, because that would violate the written pledge they made to Grover Norquist, who presents every Republican in the House, Senate, or who will run for the White House.

They’ve signed a pledge saying, that he or she will never support raising taxes in any way, including by cutting loopholes out of the tax code that might then force an individual or corporation to pay a higher tax bill.

Republicans have been “starving the beast”(our government) for over 30 years and it was the reason Republicans had to vote to raise the debt ceiling 17 times during the Reagan presidency, and 7 times during the George W. Bush administration.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Enlightened People

Franklin D. Roosevelt wrote: "Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to choose wisely. The real safeguard of democracy, therefore, is education."

Unfortunately, many Americans don't fully comprehend that we have three branches of government and that it’s the responsibility of Congress to writes laws and decide to fund or not to provide funds for wars, entitlement programs or earmarks.

Obama said Social Security and Medicare was on the table for negotiations, which got many Democrats very alarmed and they started claiming they wouldn't vote for him.

These angry Democrats don't know the specifics and apparently don't realize that any deal to raise the debt ceiling will have to be approved by Senate Democrats.  In order to get a deal for Senate Democrats to approve, House Democrats will have to join forces with a sufficient number of moderate House Republicans.

Obama seems to be the adult in the room, because he’s pragmatic and fully recognizes the urgent need to compromise with Republicans in order to raise the debt ceiling and prevent another economic crisis.

The age of the electorate changed dramatically in 2010. Seniors voters increased from 16 % to 23% in 2010, while younger voters, between 18 and 29, dropped from 18% in 2008 to 11% in 2010. Seniors tend to be the most conservative voters and younger voters are the only age group that favor Democrats.

Apparently, younger voters helped conservative older voters put Tea Party radicals in control of the House of Representatives. In my opinion, both the young voters that didn’t vote in 2010, and those older voters that voted for Tea Party radicals must share responsible for what will happen if the debt ceiling is not raised.

"Let it be the study, therefore, of lawgivers and philosophers, to enlighten the people's understandings and improve their morals, by good and general education; to enable them to comprehend the scheme of government, and to know upon what points their liberties depend; to dissipate those vulgar prejudices and popular superstitions that oppose themselves to good government; and to teach them that obedience to the laws is as indispensable in them as in lords and kings." - John Adams

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Searching for Revenue

Obama has pointed out: “We are going through a spirited debate in Washington, but it's important to get the whole country involved, in making a determination about what are the programs that can help us grow, create jobs, improve our education system, maintain our clean air and clean water, and what are those things that are a waste that we shouldn’t be investing in because they're not helping us grow or create jobs or creating new businesses.”

Democrats are searching to find tax revenue that would improve the economy, but not fall on the backs of middle class working people. An idea, that is being considered is a financial transaction tax in the range of one-tenth of a penny to half a penny on the transfer or sale of bonds, stocks, credit default swaps, or any similar financial transaction like it. The tax wouldn’t affect trades for retirement, health, or education savings or mutual funds accounts.

A 2008 study by the Center for Economic Policy Research estimated it could conservatively raise about $100 billion a year. The industry responsible for this recession, Wall Street handles at least $50 trillion in transactions every year.

Democrats want those transactions to pay for, what they’re calling a “Make It in America” jobs bill. It would be a jobs bill, as well as a deficit and debt relief bill, since it would result in more people working and paying taxes.

Reportedly, 38% of corporations aren’t paying any taxes at all. We’ve been giving away enormous amounts of money to corporations in the form of subsidies and tax cuts.  We must eliminate the tax loopholes, that are being used by the most profitable corporations, such as Big oil.

Democrats want to require companies that use private jets for business purposes to write off the cost over seven years, instead of the five years allowed under current law. Airplanes used for charter or commercial flights already must be depreciated over seven years. Many of these kinds of things can be done without raising anybody’s tax rates.

We must stop giving tax breaks to companies that create jobs overseas. Obama wants to give those tax breaks to companies that create jobs in our communities, so that people can get back to work.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Life-affirming Institution

Recently, the Oneonta Daily Star published the following letter to the editor submitted by Peter Johngren of Hartwick.

“It is indeed a good day to be from New York, which has finally voted to legalize gay marriage. I believe the writing is on the wall, with regard to this matter across the entire country just as it was for other civil rights issues like segregation and interracial marriage.



“The main voice for denying equal rights to gay people has always come from religious organizations and they managed to write into the law certain protections, allowing them to continue to discriminate against gay people. Whether this holds up in court remains to be seen, but you have to wonder why anyone would be a member of an organization that advocates discrimination and works to deny a segment of the population equal rights under the law.



“For a religion to force its will on the rest of the population is clearly against the very founding principles of this country - the absolute wall of separation between church and state, as articulated by Thomas Jefferson.



“But this is a day for celebration. One more state has had the courage to advance the cause of justice and vote against discrimination. Marriage is a mutually supportive, life-affirming institution. My wife and I just celebrated our 46th anniversary. It is wonderful that this opportunity is now available to all New Yorkers.”

Friday, July 08, 2011

“Shall Not Be Questioned”

There may be a way, that has never before been considered to avoid a catastrophic default, should the Republicans in Congress refuse to raise the debt ceiling.

The 14th. Amendment to the Constitution states: “The validity of the public debt of the United States authorized by law, including debts incurred for payments of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned.”

Bruce Bartlett served as executive director of the Joint Economic Committee as a senior policy analyst in the Reagan White House and as deputy assistant secretary at treasury during the first Bush administration. Today, he’s a columnist for “The Fiscal Times.”

Bartlett insists: “I think a broad reading of that provision of the Constitution is justified, especially the part about the pensions.  And because that implies a symmetry to things such as Social Security benefits, which one can argue is a debt that is owed to the people who paid the taxes and the expectation of getting a benefit.  And that would be true of Medicare benefits.  And of course a lot of what the government pays for is vendors who provide goods and services to the government, especially the Department of Defense.

“It seems to me that all of those things can be legitimately considered debts that cannot be questioned.  And the term “cannot be questioned” is about the broadest, strongest, constitutional language you can find in the Constitution.”

Assuming, that there isn’t a give and take agreement that members of Congress pass by August 2nd. The president could make a speech citing the 14th. Amendment and announce to our creditors around the world, that as the chief executive of the executive branch, he will continue to make all payments that we are obliged to make, and therefore, this debt will continue to increase.

Bruce Bartlett points out: “There may simply be no other alternative, when that day comes, the president would be on very, very strong constitutional grounds by saying protecting the credit of the United States is as important as protecting the lives and property of the American people.  And it would justify the same kind of response that he exercises as commander in chief. And under those circumstances, he would order the treasury secretary to simply borrow as much as necessary to maintain the country’s credit and avoid default.”

No one would have standing to sue Obama except the Congress as a whole.  The House and the Senate would have to pass a joint resolution, condemning the president’s action, and authorizing a lawsuit.  And, that’s very unlikely.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Acceptable Compromise

President Obama and congressional Democrats put a $2.4 trillion deficit reduction plan on the table, but because it contained $400 billion in tax increases, Republicans walked out.

Clinton’s deficit reduction model bill in 1993 had 50% spending cuts, and 50% tax revenue increases. That deficit reduction package led us to the most economically successful decade with the highest surge in incomes ever seen, especially for the top income earners. 

The Obama administration has a tendency to start with what they think would be an acceptable final compromise.  Their deficit reduction framework was somewhat to the right of that proposed by the fiscal commission, since it had fewer defense cuts and fewer taxes. Democrats offered the bid to appear reasonable, and seem shocked every time the Republicans walk out. Frankly, Republicans aren’t interested in compromising with the Obama administration.

Recently, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell insisted: “The president can have one of two things.  He can have a bipartisan deal on the deficit or tax increases, but not both.

Normally, a bipartisan deal would be one with tax increases and spending cuts, but that isn’t how the current Republican House majority works.  They’re saying if you want any of our support, you give us everything that we want.

Democrats hope that outside interests, like Wall Street and business interests, will try to deliver some sanity to Republican controlled House of Representatives to try to get them to agree to raising the debt ceiling. Unfortunately, there isn’t any evidence that this new Tea Party version of the Republican Party will listen to Wall Street.

Presently, the Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO are both lobbying for the big infrastructure bill that Obama proposed. Unfortunately, Republicans are much more afraid of the Tea Party, than they are of outside groups.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Shared Sacrifice

Dear Mr. President,

This is a pivotal moment in the history of our country. Decisions are being made about the national budget that will impact the lives of virtually every American for decades to come. As we address the issue of deficit reduction we must not ignore the painful economic reality of today - which is that the wealthiest people in our country and the largest corporations are doing phenomenally well while the middle class is collapsing and poverty is increasing. In fact, the United States today has, by far, the most unequal distribution of wealth and income of any major country on earth.
 


Everyone understands that over the long-term we have got to reduce the deficit - a deficit that was caused mainly by Wall Street greed, tax breaks for the rich, two wars, and a prescription drug program written by the drug and insurance companies. It is absolutely imperative, however, that as we go forward with deficit reduction we completely reject the Republican approach that demands savage cuts in desperately-needed programs for working families, the elderly, the sick, our children and the poor, while not asking the wealthiest among us to contribute one penny.  
 


Mr. President, please listen to the overwhelming majority of the American people who believe that deficit reduction must be about shared sacrifice. The wealthiest Americans and the most profitable corporations in this country must pay their fair share. At least 50 percent of any deficit reduction package must come from revenue raised by ending tax breaks for the wealthy and eliminating tax loopholes that benefit large, profitable corporations and Wall Street financial institutions. A sensible deficit reduction package must also include significant cuts to unnecessary and wasteful Pentagon spending.
 


Please do not yield to outrageous Republican demands that would greatly increase suffering for the weakest and most vulnerable members of our society.  Now is the time to stand with the tens of millions of Americans who are struggling to survive economically, not with the millionaires and billionaires who have never had it so good.    

Respectfully, 
Sen. Bernie Sanders;
and Co-signers

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Millions of Votes

Dissatisfied Americans should send the following message to members of Congress:

I want Elizabeth Warren appointed as the director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the bureau fully funded and functioning as an independent agency. Professor Warren is the consumer advocate the American people trust. She is the only person who is qualified to head the agency that she fought for and is currently structuring with great passion and skill as a special adviser.

I am aware that powerful lobbyists in Washington are opposing Elizabeth Warren and the very idea of this agency and putting pressure on you to align with them. But I believe that supporting this appointment is to act on the will of the People.

Given our nation’s recent history, the appointment of an industry insider to regulate the financial industry would be nothing less than a betrayal. During the 2008 financial crisis, virtually every elected official promised the voters that, while public money would be needed to bail out Wall Street, in the future new regulatory tools would be created to ensure that the fiscal security of the United States would not be left in the hands of unscrupulous profiteers, and that consumers would be protected from predatory and irresponsible lending practices.

That future is now. It is time for promises to be kept.

At this point, Congress must choose between the handful of multi-national corporations and big banks that fund the US Chamber of Commerce and the American Bankers Association or We the People. Think of us as the US Chamber of Citizens. We don't have hundreds of millions of dollars in our annual lobbying budget, but we have millions of votes.

The appointment of Elizabeth Warren would be an opportunity for the federal government to demonstrate to the citizens of this country that there is hope that our elected representatives actually want the kind of reform that will lead to a fair and transparent financial sector.

Without real reform, we all know that another financial collapse is just around the corner. So, let’s put aside the politics and fight together for economic security of all Americans for generations to come.

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See post of 6/15/11 entitled “Incredibly,” for background information.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Egberto Willies

In his first Coffee Party blog Egberto Willies wrote:

“Our national debt is at $14.3 trillion dollars. Currently the average interest rate on that debt is about 3.2% which means before spending a penny this year on any government program, $460 billion dollars from the American taxpayer will be transferred to the holders of our debt. Contrary to popular belief neither China (8%) nor the combination of all major countries in the world own the majority of our debts, Americans do.

“President Reagan came into power in 1981 after convincing Americans that our debt was out of control — at that time, compared to our gross national product (GNP), it was at a 50 year low. Republicans and Democrats alike voted for Reagan’s budget that lowered tax rates substantially with the bulk of the benefits going to America’s most wealthy (trickledown economics). By the end of Reagan’s 8 years, the deficit had tripled. The deficit grew by another 55% under George H.W. Bush after he saw the light of fiscal responsibility and broke his no new taxes pledge. The budget was balanced during the Clinton Administration and the debt was actually on a trajectory to decline. But the federal budget doubled under President George W. Bush after two tax cuts, again mostly to the wealthy, at the same time we were engaged in two wars.

“America had its largest employment growth under President Clinton’s administration and its poorest employment growth under the second President Bush. Trickledown (supply side) economics simply does not work and most reputable economists will admit as much. It fails especially in times of globalization because tax cuts for the wealthy are often invested, not in America, but in countries where growth rates are higher because of slave labor and a lower standard of living.

“Over the last 30 years we have dramatically reduced taxes mostly on the wealthy. This resulted in large deficits that impact all taxpayers. Before a penny of taxes is used for entitlements, defense, and infrastructure, a disproportionate amount must first be transferred to the wealthy owners of the debt (the same people who demanded the tax breaks that created the debt). Thus they profit at both ends as they are able to keep more money thanks to lower taxes and tax loopholes and then purchase the US debt which pays them a interest over time. That is the ultimate in wealth transfer from the middle class to the rich.

“Now, corporate lobbyists and their representatives in Congress want to decrease the deficit solely by decreasing spending. The real genesis of the budget deficits involved tax cuts and policies that benefitted the wealthy but the pain of closing the gap must be placed on the backs of the middle class. This failed economic approach, and the rhetoric that supports it, must be rejected. While we must remove waste from our entitlement programs, our real problem is that of too low a tax rate on higher incomes. When the top 1% gets more than 20% of the country’s income and owns more than 40% of all of the country’s wealth, there is a problem.”

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Tax Cuts/Revenue Increases

Some congressional Republicans clearly do not believe that any revenue increases are unacceptable in principle, since they’re touting a study by three conservative economists from the conservative American Enterprise Institute which claimed: “successful fiscal consolidations averaged 85% spending cuts and 15% revenue increases.”

Recently, there have been reports coming out of the secret bipartisan deficit reduction negotiations led by Vice President Biden that the ratio that was on the table when the Republicans walked out was 83% spending cuts, 17% revenue increases. Seemingly, when the talks got within a few of percentage points of the ratio that Republicans considered acceptable, they walked out.

Their current position on tax revenues including the refusal to close tax loopholes is too extreme even for former conservative Senator Alan Simpson, who was the Fiscal Commissions, Republican Co-chairman.

He said: “Tax expenditures, it’s really, really nothing more than tax spending.  They’re spending by any other name.  They are really, really earmarks. When we went into these tax expenditures, we found that only 10% of the American public, the wealthiest people in America, use them, because they are the ones that can hire the best lobbyists, go to the finance committee. The little guy had no idea what they are.  It means nothing to him.  He does the standard deduction and walks away. We found the top 400 income earners in the United States pay an average of 16% income tax, and it’s absolutely absurd.”

Longtime former Federal Reserve Chair, Alan Greenspan, who was first appointed by Reagan and reappointed by Presidents Clinton and Bush addressed the tax question.

Greenspan explain: “I think that the Republicans ought to identify a very significant amount of so-called tax expenditures which in fact are misclassified.  They are expenditures.  They are outlays, and many of them are subsidies.  And subsidies are not the type of thing that you want for an efficient market system.  There are a lot of them.”

He added: “My view is that I was in favor of the Bush tax cuts on the grounds that it was the dissipation of a surplus.  As soon as it became obvious that the surplus disappeared, I no longer supported that.  And my view about taxes is I would like them as low as possible, but not with borrowed money.”

Senator Chuck Schumer points out: “Let’s not forget Senator McConnell made it clear last October that his number one priority above everything else is to defeat President Obama. And now it’s becoming clear that insisting on a slash and burn approach may be part of this plan. It has a double benefit for Republicans.  It’s ideologically tidy and undermines economic recovery, which they think only helps them in 2012.”

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Global Catastrophe

When, George W. Bush came into office, there was no deficit, or debt ceiling vote, because under Clinton we were running a budget surplus of $127 billion.

It wasn’t long, however before raising the debt ceiling, became a yearly occurrence. Senate Republican voted to raise the debt ceiling seven times. Each time, as many as, 51 Senate Republicans and, as few as, 26 Republicans voted to raise the debt ceiling. By the time Bush left office, we had a projected budget deficit of $1.2 trillion.

As the deadline approaches and the possibility of default on our national debt grows near, Republicans are storming out of talks to prevent a global financial catastrophe. They’re offended by Democrats, who want to cut taxpayer subsidies for the most profitable companies the world has ever known.

A few months ago, Speaker of the House John Boehner said: “I don‘t think the big oil companies need to have the oil depletion allowances.”

Suddenly, the idea of cutting oil subsidies causes Republicans to refuse to participate in discussions.

In order to try to get a debt ceiling vote, Democrats proposed to a payroll tax holiday, but Republicans have even decided to be against business tax cuts.

Speaker Boehner insists, that a business tax cut won’t: “overcome the uncertainty that’s out there.”

Actually, the uncertainty that’s out there is the result of Republicans dragging our nation to the point of defaulting on its debt.

Congressional Republicans believe that a payroll tax deduction would probably be good for the economy. But, they’re playing a game of chicken with the debt ceiling. They’re threatening to cause another global catastrophe, which is a huge risk to the entire American economy.

Perhaps, Republicans think, that another sever recession will improve their chances of beating Obama in the next election.