Mind and Destiny

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

Location: Delhi, N.Y., United States

The author and his webmaster, summer of 1965.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Cry Babies

The Tea Party and the Republican Party are one in the same, as far as, I'm concerned. The Bush administration tarnished the Republican brand name so some strategist came up with a patriotic name in an effort to fool voters into thinking they were somehow different, but they obviously follow the same creed.

“I got mine, you get yours” is the creed of the Republican Party and their Tea Party flag waving patriots.

Chuck Pinkey who writes a column for The Oneonta Daily Star complains: “We are called hostage-takers, terrorists, racists, ignorant and lapdogs of the rich.”

Tea Party types seem to be able to dish it out, but they can’t take it. In my opinion they are a bunch of cry babies.

Okay it wasn’t exactly hostage taking, but figuratively in December of 2010, congressional Republicans refused to extend unemployment insurance, for 2 million Americans, who had their unemployment insurance run out. They refused to extended middle class tax cuts. Their actions would’ve caused millions of families to see a spike in their tax bill when they could least afford it.

Senate Republicans held the middle class tax cuts hostage to high-end income tax cuts. It was tempting, for Democrats not to negotiate with hostage-takers, but the hostages would have end up getting harmed.

Lapdogs of the rich, seems to be an appropriate description for those that would harm the unemployed and middle-class, in order to continue to provide unwarranted tax cuts for the richest 1% of Americans, who saw their income go up an average of more than 10% each year between 2002 and 2007.

As far as, most Tea Party members being “terrorist, racist and ignorant,” I’d suggest that each tea party member be evaluated individually, because those labels are definitely an overgeneralization.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Basic Fact

An excerpt from an article by Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz follows:

“It is this sense of an unjust system without opportunity that has given rise to the conflagrations in the Middle East: rising food prices and growing and persistent youth unemployment simply served as kindling. With youth unemployment in America at around 20% (and in some locations, and among some socio-demographic groups, at twice that); with one out of six Americans desiring a full-time job not able to get one; with one out of seven Americans on food stamps (and about the same number suffering from ‘food insecurity’)—given all this, there is ample evidence that something has blocked the vaunted ‘trickling down’ from the top 1% to everyone else. All of this is having the predictable effect of creating alienation—voter turnout among those in their 20s in the last election stood at 21%, comparable to the unemployment rate.

“In recent weeks we have watched people taking to the streets by the millions to protest political, economic, and social conditions in the oppressive societies they inhabit. Governments have been toppled in Egypt and Tunisia. Protests have erupted in Libya, Yemen, and Bahrain. The ruling families elsewhere in the region look on nervously from their air-conditioned penthouses—will they be next? They are right to worry. These are societies where a minuscule fraction of the population—less than 1%—controls the lion’s share of the wealth; where wealth is a main determinant of power; where entrenched corruption of one sort or another is a way of life; and where the wealthiest often stand actively in the way of policies that would improve life for people in general.

“As we gaze out at the popular fervor in the streets, one question to ask ourselves is this: When will it come to America? In important ways, our own country has become like one of these distant, troubled places.

“Alexis de Tocqueville once described what he saw as a chief part of the peculiar genius of American society—something he called ‘self-interest properly understood.’ The last two words were the key. Everyone possesses self-interest in a narrow sense: I want what’s good for me right now! Self-interest ‘properly understood’ is different. It means appreciating that paying attention to everyone else’s self-interest—in other words, the common welfare—is in fact a precondition for one’s own ultimate well-being. Tocqueville was not suggesting that there was anything noble or idealistic about this outlook—in fact, he was suggesting the opposite. It was a mark of American pragmatism. Those canny Americans understood a basic fact: looking out for the other guy isn’t just good for the soul—it’s good for business.”

Monday, August 29, 2011

Conflict of Interest

The Standard & Poor’s rating was nothing but a political judgment made by people who know nothing about politics. They also happen to have an absolutely atrocious track record as a rating agency.

When rating sovereign debt, S&P should have pay attention to the country’s wealth, size and record of the country to pay its debts. Instead, they said, that they believe that we’re going to honor our debts, but in the future they insist Congress should get much more serious over the next 10 years by reducing our debt by a certain amount.

S&P inappropriately recommended, that we increase taxes, and make cuts in Medicare. However, it appears, that although the stock market were initially rattled, the markets decided to tell S&P, we’re not going to listen to you.

Actually, it was Standard & Poor’s doing a lousy job of rating, that got us into this debt situation. The record shows, that had Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s and Fitch, and other credit rating agencies, done their job in 2005, 2006, 2007, we might have avoided this recession. They failed to appropriately rated all of the junk, such as credit default swaps, that were coming out of Lehman Brothers, AIG and Wall Street, in general. They’re money comes from Wall Street, and obviously it doesn’t want to have bad ratings. Accordingly, there’s a conflict of interest.

Had the credit rating agencies done their job, we wouldn’t have had the housing bubble. We wouldn’t have had this recession, the scale of which required the government bailout of Wall Street and a stimulus package. Those two remedies are contributing significantly to the enormous debt, that we now have.

The failure of S&P to do it’s job during the Bush era is what got us into the trouble we’re in today.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Ability to Act

Obama said that Standard and Poor’s didn’t doubt America’s financial ability to pay its debts: “They doubted our political system’s ability to act.”

Regarding the raising the debt ceiling, Speaker of the House John Boehner bragged: “I got 98% of what I wanted.”

A week later, the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 634 points. It was the worst one-day point drop since December 2008. Skittish investors, fleeing stocks, rushed to safer investments, as is customary during a stock market collapse. They began purchasing the safest investment in the world, United States Treasury bonds. Our federal government’s debt are still considered the safest investment in the world by experienced investors on the first trading day after Standard and Poor’s took the unprecedented political action of downgrading Treasury’s long-term debt from AAA to AA- plus.

The S and P downgrade was a purely political act taken by John Chambers the managing director of S and P and David Beers the head of the sovereign credit rating division of S and P. Standard and Poor's has been egregiously wrong before, and they’re wrong again.

The downgrade wasn’t based on some sophisticated analysis of the numbers. Actually, S and P got the numbers very wrong. The Treasury pointed out to S and P that among the many miscalculations it has made over the years. It had miscalculated our debt by $2 trillion. After S and P accepted out Treasury’s correction of its calculation, S and P’s went ahead with the downgrade, but announced it’s reason in entirely in political terms.

They had concluded: “The political brinkmanship of recent months highlights what we see as America’s governance and policymaking becoming less stable, less effective, and less predictable than what we previously believed. The statutory debt ceiling and the threat of default have become political bargaining chips in the debate over fiscal policy.”

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Top One Percent

During the savings-and-loan scandal of the 1980’s, banker Charles Keating was asked by a congressional committee whether the $1.5 million he had spread among a few key elected officials could actually buy influence. Keating responded: “I certainly hope so.”

The Supreme Court, in its Citizens United decision enshrined the right of corporations to buy government, by removing limitations on campaign spending. Nearly all Senators are members of the top 1% when they arrive in Congress. By and large, the key executive-branch policymakers on trade and economic policy also come from the top 1%. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, that pharmaceutical companies received a trillion-dollar gift, through legislation prohibiting our government the largest buyer of drugs, from bargaining over price.

Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz wrote, that inequality massively distorts our foreign policy. The top 1% rarely serve in the military, since the “all-volunteer” army doesn’t pay enough to attract their children. The wealthiest class feels no pinch from higher taxes when the nation goes to war, because borrowed money will pay for it. With the top 1% in charge, and paying no price, the notion of restraint goes out the window, since corporate contractors stand to gain from war.

The rules of economic globalization are designed to benefit the rich, who encourage competition among countries for business, thereby driving down taxes on corporations, weakening health and environmental protections, and weakening what used to be viewed as the “core” labor rights, which include the right to collective bargaining.

If the rules were designed to encourage competition among countries for workers. Governments would compete by providing economic security, low taxes on ordinary wage earners, good education, and a clean environment. Things workers care about, but the top 1% don’t need to care about.

Friday, August 26, 2011

A Core Principle

Voltaire said “Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good.” Obama is a pragmatist, and is willing to compromise, because he doesn’t consider compromise a dirty word. Without compromise our founding fathers would have never been able to agree on a Constitution. Obama's core principle is to do what's right for working class Americans.

In December of 2010, Republicans opposed tax credits that are very important to struggling families.  Obama convinced them to extend the earned income tax credit, and the college tuition tax credit. His compromise ensured that middle-class families didn’t get a tax increase, and extended unemployment benefits. If Congress hadn’t extend unemployment insurance, 2 million Americans would have lost their unemployment insurance. Had Congress not extended middle class tax cuts, millions of families would have seen a spike in their tax bill when they could least afford it.

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

Millions of Americans wouldn’t have been able to pay their bills when their unemployment insurance ran out.  Many of those that had jobs were barely making it and that paycheck was about to get considerably smaller on January 1st.

Congressional Republicans felt that tax cuts for the wealthiest 2 % of Americans were the single most important thing for them to fight for.  They had gained confidence from their victories in November 2010.  A compromise was the wise thing to do, because it would have been a protracted battle and Republicans were going to have a much stronger position in Congress on Jan.1st.

Recently, after the leadership in Congress couldn't reach an agreement to raise the debt ceiling, Obama worked out a compromise. It wasn’t the deal, that Obama would have preferred.  He wanted to make the tough choices required on entitlement and tax reform as part of the deal, rather than again going through a special congressional committee process.  Obama admits, that the  compromise doesn’t make a serious down payment on deficit reduction.  Nevertheless, it gives each party a strong incentive to get a balanced plan finished before the end of the year. The deal allowed us to avoid default and ended a crisis that Tea Party Republicans imposed on the rest of America.  It also ensures, that we’ll not face this same kind of crisis again until 2013.  More importantly, it will begin to lift the cloud of uncertainty that hangs over our economy.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Closed Door

Versions of golden rule: “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you,” is shared by 21 world religions. It’s also called the ethic of reciprocity and is arguably the most essential basis for the modern concept of human rights.

The inscription on the Statue of Liberty says:
“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses, yearning to breath free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore,
Send these, the homeless, tempest tossed,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”

Apparently, the golden rule has been forgotten and golden door has been closed. “I got mine, you get yours” has become the creed of Tea Party Republicans.

The growing concentration of wealth and power in our country is very disturbing. In order to take back America, we must unequivocally state that we will never consent to policies that pander to the super-wealthy while hurting the rest of us. We must reject lawmakers who believe or pretend to believe that corporations are people in order to allow unlimited anonymous money to flood our elections and drown out our voices.

The Koch brothers have seen their wealth rise $11 billion in recent years. That makes them among the richest in the country by being worth around $22.5 billion each. Most of their profits are due to soaring gas prices and the fact that Koch Industries has avoided compensating the public for hundred million tons of carbon pollution the company produces each year.

Koch companies receive significant taxpayer subsidies, despite Koch’s supposed opposition to government spending. The company is among the country’s top sources of carcinogenic chemicals and air pollutants. The Koch don’t want to give back, especially through more taxation, and their Tea Party cronies in Congress are stubbornly insisting taxes must not be increased.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Serious Challenge

For the last two and a half years, America has been going through as tough of a time as many of us have seen in our lifetime. We’ve experienced the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. When, Obama took office, America had already lost 4 million jobs and another 4 million were lost in the next few months.

We were on the verge of going into another Great Depression, but were able to recover and the economy began to grow again. Over the last 17 months, more than 2 million jobs in the private sector have been created. The American auto industry, that was on the brink bankruptcy was saved. Our government has made investments in clean energy, and is rebuilding our roads and our bridges.

The economy was predicted to be growing at about 3.5% at the beginning of this year, because the Obama administration had worked a bipartisan package of tax cuts and investment credits to encourage businesses to invest. There’s nothing wrong with our country, but there’s a lot wrong with our politics, that need to be fix.

The recent debt ceiling debacle and the downgrade was a self-inflicted wound. It was completely unnecessary, and merely served to delay a compromised solution on the deficit.

In 2000, we had a balance budget, but we began fighting two wars without paying for them. Congressional Republicans created, and Bush signed a prescription drug plan for seniors, but we didn’t pay for it. Plus, tax cuts, that weren’t paid for.

The recession required a lot of money to help local communities keep their firefighters, police officers and teachers. Unemployment insurance help folks get back on their feet, but required additional money was going out. Consequently, we have a serious debt and deficit challenge that will require shared sacrifice.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Buffett’s Op-ed

An excerpt from Warren Buffett's recent op-ed:

“Our leaders have asked for ‘shared sacrifice.” But when they did the asking, they spared me. I checked with my mega-rich friends to learn what pain they were expecting. They, too, were left untouched.

“While the poor and middle class fight for us in Afghanistan, and while most Americans struggle to make ends meet, we mega-rich continue to get our extraordinary tax breaks. Some of us are investment managers who earn billions from our daily labors but are allowed to classify our income as ‘carried interest,’ thereby getting a bargain 15% tax rate. Others own stock index futures for 10 minutes and have 60% of their gain taxed at 15%, as if they'd been long-term investors.

“These and other blessings are showered upon us by legislators in Washington who feel compelled to protect us, much as if we were spotted owls or some other endangered species. It's nice to have friends in high places.”

In 2005, billionaire Warren Buffett was asked about a comment that our country is becoming a sharecropper society and economy. Buffett responded: “The rich people are doing so well in this county, I mean we never had it so good... It's class warfare, my class is winning, but they shouldn't be.”

A new cycle of poverty for millions of Americans began during the Reagan administration, and it got much worst during G.W. Bush’s presidency, when tax cuts legislation was passed, that 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 richer, the middle class saw their income stay about the same, and the number of people in poverty gradually increased. Unconscionable tax cuts for the wealthiest 1 % are partly responsible for the deep schism, which has opened between the very rich and our middle class.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Cut, Cap, and Balance

House and Senate Republicans voted to pass the Tea Party’s preferred solution to deficit reduction, the “cut, cap, and balance” bill. The bill would have slash spending and make raising taxes even more impossible. Based on mainstream economic estimates, those cuts would have cost about 700,000 jobs in the fiscal year that starts October 1st. 

The cap part would have put a cap on the total amount of federal spending allowed each year for the next 10 years at the same the level we would have gotten, if every one of the cuts in Paul Ryan’s budget had been implemented. It would have effectively require future Congresses and Presidents to enforce the Ryan budget with its cuts in Medicare, Medicaid, and education.

The most extreme part of the bill was the balance part. It would hold the increase in the debt limit needed to avoid a default hostage to both houses of Congress by a 2/3 vote, by passing an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to require for all time, that federal spending be cut dramatically deeper than even the Ryan budget would have done.

It would have required 67 votes in the Senate and 290 in the House to close any tax loophole for any powerful individual, a corporation that ships jobs overseas, the corporate jets, the Wall Street traders, loophole where they pay lower taxes at a lower rate than many upper income families do. All that would essentially become impossible to ever pass because you would most likely never get 2/3 of the House and 2/3 of the Senate for any revenue measure.

The ideologically extreme “cut, cap, and balance” bill was designed to use the Constitution to lock in permanently the Grover Norquist/Tea Party vision of what this country should be. 

Sunday, August 21, 2011


The America Heart Association says 83 million Americans have some form of cardiovascular disease and many of the traditional risk factors for heart disease, such as obesity, are at all time highs.

Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn Jr. points out, that certain cultures around the world do not suffer from heart disease, the No. 1 killer in the Western world. Esselstyn's practice took a dramatic turn -- from performing surgery to promoting nutrition. Follow his dietary prescription, the 77-year-old Esselstyn claims: “You can be “heart attack proof,” regardless of your family history. It's a foodborne illness, and we're never going to end the epidemic with stents, with bypasses, with the drugs, because none of it is treating causation of the illness.

The Esselstyn diet is tough for most Americans to swallow: no meat, no eggs, no dairy, no added oils.” Dr. Erin Michos, a cardiologist at the Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Heart Disease at Johns Hopkins University" said: “Anyone who is able to do that diet can have dramatic success. The problem is that many people are unable or unwilling to make these changes so in my practice, I try to take baby steps -- one step at a time.”

Dr. Terry Mason, chief medical officer at Cook County Hospitals in Chicago and the city's former health commissioner insists: “We've eaten ourselves into a problem, and we can eat ourselves out of it.”

Esselstyn's prescription goes against conventional wisdom, which considers diet only one factor in preventing heart disease. Other key factors include physical activity, cholesterol, blood pressure and weight. Esselstyn's plant-based prescription also runs up against a culture where meat is served at most meals.

Esselstyn says people shouldn't hold off on starting his diet until after they develop symptoms of heart disease because most heart attacks strike with no warning. He warns: “The reason you don't wait until you have heart disease to eat this way is often, sadly, the first symptom of your heart disease may be your sudden death.”

Esselstyn says his diet works because it keeps the lining of the blood vessels free of the dangerous blisters or bubbles or cholesterol-laden plaque that causes heart attacks. He emphasizes: “We are on the cusp of what could be an absolute revolution in health -- not dependent on pills, procedures or operations, but on lifestyle.”

Tests can predict heart attack risks, a total cholesterol of 89, LDL of 19, HDL of 53, and triglycerides of 83 is in fact possible.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Mandatory Sex Education

The NYC Department of Education has issued a new sex education mandate, which is a victory for New York City’s youth.

Sex education hasn’t been mandated in New York City for nearly two decades. But beginning this year, public schools will be required to teach sex education as part of the comprehensive health curriculum during at least one semester in both middle and high school.

Last year, a report was issued on the state of sex education in New York City public schools. Interviews with parents, teachers, and most importantly the students themselves revealed how the school system too often fails to teach the city’s youth the information they need to prevent unintended pregnancies and STDs, make informed and healthy decisions, and keep themselves safe.

The new mandate is an historic first step toward changing that reality and building a New York City where all young people have the skills they need to lead healthy lives. It will standardize a patchwork approach that has allowed too many students to fall through the cracks for far too long.

Although, some celebrate this mandate as an enormous victory, it’s just the beginning and not the end of the efforts by educators to provide students with comprehensive, age-appropriate, medically accurate sex education. Students should receive sex education throughout their adolescence, as an ongoing and integral part of their education.

With more than one million students, New York City has the largest school system in the nation. Changes can be slow, but when they eventually happen, the effect can be profound and the potential influence far-reaching.

Hopefully, other cities in New York State and across the country will follow New York City’s example in taking this critical first step of mandating sex education in public schools, because our youth deserve nothing less.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Simplistic Zeal

Last week, the Oneonta Daily Star published the following letter, that was submitted by William Masters.

“A minority of Republicans, with simplistic zeal, are acting like suicide bus drivers determined to take our country down their holy road to a supply-side paradise. Reagan and both Bushes fostered the most precipitous federal debt increases, claiming that tax decreases for corporations and the holders of great wealth would spur investment and job growth. It hasn't worked yet, but they still call the ultra-rich ‘job creators.’

“Truth is, these job creators sold out labor and the middle class, and now they sit on their ill-gotten gains trying to reduce government. They hide behind the deceitful diatribes they have fobbed off on the fanatical minority willing to suspend disbelief.

“Government credit is essential to maintain a smooth-running society through the ups and downs of economic fluctuation. But this government debt now is also a function of taxes irresponsibly reduced for the super-rich, as well as corporate welfare. Debt is properly addressed by increasing income. Look how many people work second jobs.

“But these one-sided wizards grew the debt themselves by curtailing federal income. They lowered taxes on the super-rich, and carved loopholes for the corporations that have profiteered by exporting jobs that will never come back. They scream about unions, the costs of unemployment, food stamps and consumer protections. They even scream about environmental protections. They reject health care reform, and all the social safety nets that are now ever-more necessary for the great majority of us, as if we choose ‘dependency.’

“America desperately needs government big enough to control corporations. Conservatives welcome corporate money as ‘free speech’ _ but of, by, and for which people?

“Without strong government, we face an elephant on the other end of the economic teeter-totter, like the poor in Third World countries with huge disparities of wealth.”

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Diminished Opportunity

Whenever, we diminish equality of opportunity, we are not using some of our most valuable asset (our citizens) in the most productive way possible. Much of the damage that results from inequality are associated with monopoly power and preferential tax treatment for special interests, that undermine the efficiency of the economy. Too many of our most talented young people, see the astronomical rewards going to investors, and don’t choose fields that would lead to a more productive and healthy economy.

A modern economy requires “collective action.” It requires a government to invest in infrastructure, education, and technology. America is suffering from an under-investment in infrastructure, especially highways, bridges, railroads and airports. We should be investing in basic research, and education at all levels, but instead cutbacks are being made.

This is what happens when a society’s wealth distribution becomes lopsided. The more divided a society becomes in terms of wealth, the more reluctant the wealthy are to spend money on common needs. The very rich don’t need to rely on government for parks, education, medical care or personal security. They buy all these things for themselves. Consequently, they become more distant from ordinary people, losing whatever empathy they may have once had. The top 1% may complain about the kind of government we have in America, but in fact they like gridlock.

Economists have difficulty explaining the growing inequality in America. The ordinary dynamics of supply and demand have certainly played a role: laborsaving technologies have reduced the demand for many “good” middle-class, blue-collar jobs.

Globalization has created a worldwide marketplace, pitting expensive unskilled workers in America against cheap unskilled workers overseas. Social changes have also played a role—for instance, the decline of unions, which once represented a third of American workers and now represent about 12%.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Taxable Income

In an op-ed piece published in The New York Times, billionaire Warren Buffett proposed, that taxes should be raised on Americans who make at least $1 million per year, and an even higher tax rate on those making at least $10 million per year.

Buffett insists: "While the poor and middle class fight for us in Afghanistan, and while most Americans struggle to make ends meet, we mega-rich continue to get our extraordinary tax breaks. My friends and I have been coddled long enough by a billionaire-friendly Congress, it's time for our government to get serious about shared sacrifice."

Some investment managers are taxed only 15% on billions of dollars in income, as compared to the middle class, with its income tax bracket of up to 25%.

In May 2005, Warren Buffett warned on CNN: “The rich people are doing so well in this county, I mean we never had it so good... It’s class warfare, my class is winning, but they shouldn’t be... Right now corporate profits as a percentage of GDP in this country are right at the high. Corporate taxes as a percentage of total taxes raised are very close to the historical low.”

Buffett revealed, that his 2010 federal tax bill, including income and payroll taxes, was $6,938,744. He admitted: "That sounds like a lot of money, but what I paid was only 17.4% of my taxable income - and that's actually a lower percentage than was paid by any of the other 20 people in our office."

Buffett pointed out, that 40 million jobs were created between 1980 and 2000, when the tax rate for the rich was higher than it is today. He added, "You know what's happened since then: lower tax rates and far lower job creation."

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Quadruple - A Rating

Our country received a downgrade by the credit rating agency Standard and Poor’s, because they doubted our political system’s ability to act following the grueling negotiations with congressional leaders that preceded a last minute agreement on a debt ceiling increase. Nevertheless, Warren Buffett, nicknamed the “Oracle of Omaha” for his calm, good sense and spectacular investing results said: “If there were a quadruple-A rating, I’d give the United States that.” 

We didn’t need a rating agency to tell us that we need a balanced, long-term approach to deficit reduction. In March of 2007, on CBS’s “60 Minutes,” Comptroller General, David Walker warned, that our government can’t keep its promises for Social Security and Medicare, because it’s too late to reformed our entitlement system. The official national debt figure was approaching $9 trillion, and didn’t reflect what the federal government has promised to pay millions of Americans in entitlement benefits down the road.

Congress didn’t need a rating agency to tell them, that the gridlock in Congress over the last several months wasn’t constructive.

Republicans knew from the outset that a prolonged debate over the debt ceiling, and using the threat of default as a bargaining chip could do enormous damage to our economy. 

House Speaker John Boehner and Obama came up with some good proposals, and came close to agreeing on a grand bargain. Unfortunately, Tea Party Republicans refused that deal, thereby accomplishing their goal of dampening consumer confidence and slowing the pace of recovery.

It’s not a lack of plans or policies that’s the problem. It’s a lack of political will in Congress.  It’s the insistence on drawing lines in the sand, a refusal to put what’s best for the country ahead of self-interest or party or ideology.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Forbears and Slavery

Devotion to the Founding Fathers is one of the fundamental things that unites the Tea Party movement. 

Tea Party’s favorite congresswoman Michele Backman claimed:  “We know there was slavery that was still tolerated when the nation began.  We know that was an evil, and it was a scourge, and a blot, and a stain upon our history.  But we also know that the very founders that wrote those documents worked tirelessly until slavery was no more in the United States. And I think it is high time that we recognize the contribution of our forbears who worked tirelessly, men like John Quincy Adams, who would not rest until slavery was extinguished in the country.”

John Quincy Adams died in 1848 and slavery was far from being extinguished.

Most Americans know who our Founding Fathers are, but a little fact checking will reveal that some were in favor of enslaving a whole group of people.  

Thomas Jefferson is credited with writing the Declaration of Independence. He owned 600 slaves, who working tirelessly, for him.  One of them was Sally Hemmings, with whom Jefferson had a number of children.  The only thing that we know about their relationship was that Jefferson was the slave owner and she was the slave. If, Thomas Jefferson was against slavery, why did he have so many.

James Madison drafted the Constitution and in 1820, he owned 106 slaves. Doesn’t seem as if he work tirelessly to end slavery.

The father of the country, George Washington owned 316 slaves at the time of his death in 1799. However, George Washington admitted: “I do not think we are more inspired, have more wisdom, or possess more virtue, than those who will come after us.”

Tea Party folks should consider admitting, that sin was part of America from the very beginning.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Battle Plan

Although, people are concerned about issues, they also want to know about values and what Democrats stand for. Folks need to know, that Democrats stand for everybody chipping in, and that it’s not right that billionaire hedge fund manager are being taxed at a lower rate, than a his or her secretary.

Voters need to know, that our troops will be out of Iraq, by the end of the year. Obama insists, that it’s time to transition out of Afghanistan and rebuild here at home, because we must prioritize our limited resources.

Democrats are focused on plans to improve our infrastructure and put construction workers back to work. They continue push for payroll tax cuts that on average puts $1,000 in the pockets of every American.

Democrats need to get engaged, because America’s future is going to be determined by the 2012 election. The two parties have very different visions in terms of where they should take our country. Clearly, the Democratic party is going to be looking out for working families, by investing in education, and will ensure that programs like Medicare and Social Security shall continue to be maintain in a responsible way.

Democrats have been able to start turning around this economy. In July, 117 jobs were added to the economy. They’ll make sure that the economy grows faster, and more jobs are created.

Obama is confident, that together we can make happen all the things that remain undone. That list includes getting immigration reform passed, and making sure that we’ve got a reasonable energy policy. Americans need a tax code that’s fair and just. We must start dealing with our deficits and debt in a balanced, responsible way, that guarantees entitlement cuts and costs are not put entirely on the backs of middle-class families.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Too Late

We’ve been watching protests against oppressive regimes that concentrate massive wealth in the hands of an elite few. Yet in our own democracy, 1% of the people take home nearly a quarter of the nation’s income every year.

In terms of wealth, the top 1% control 40% of this country’s wealth. While the top 1% have seen their incomes rise 18% over the past decade, those in the middle have actually seen their incomes fall. All the growth in recent decades has gone to those at the top.

In terms of income equality, America lags behind most countries in Europe. In Latin America, Brazil, has been successful in recent years, by improving the plight of the poor and reducing the income gap, but America has allowed inequality to grow. Republicans seem to be promoting inequality.

The corporate executives who helped bring on the recession of the past three years, that negatively impacted our society, and their own companies went on to receive large bonuses. In some cases, companies were so embarrassed about calling such rewards “performance bonuses” that they were compelled to change the name to “retention bonuses.” Those who contributed great positive innovations to our society, from the pioneers of genetic understanding to the pioneers of the Information Age, have received a pittance compared with those responsible for the financial innovations that brought our global economy to the brink of ruin.

Of all the costs imposed on our society by the top 1%, perhaps the greatest is the erosion of equality of opportunity. We have long prided ourselves as being a fair society, where everyone has an equal chance of getting ahead. However, the chances of a poor citizen, or even a middle-class citizen, making it to the top are smaller than in many countries of Europe. The cards are stacked against them.

Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz has pointed out that an economy in which most citizens are doing worse year after year is not likely to do well over the long haul. The very rich don’t understanding that their fate is bound up with how the other 99% live. Throughout history, this is something that the top 1% eventually do learn. Too late.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Kim DiScala

The Oneonta Daily recently published the following letter submitted by Mark Lavine.

“On July 19, Kim DiScala wrote that gay marriage should not be allowed because it is ‘against God’s laws.’” She then quotes from the New Testament to support her views and worries that clergy will be forced to marry gays against the teachings of their church.

“How many times must we remind the religious right that the laws of the United States are not based on the Bible or on the teachings of any one religion?

“What Ms. DiScala’s Bible says on the subject is irrelevant to public policy and the laws that govern us. There are those who practice Judaism and Islam and those with no religion who will never be ruled by Ms. DiScala’s church.

“She is free to practice her religion in any way she chooses and her church is not required to marry anyone, although it is very doubtful that any gay couple would wish to marry in a church that espouses Ms. DiScala’s views.

“Doesn’t the Catholic church refuse to marry divorced couples? That is its right, but it has not sought to make divorce illegal for all, has it?

“Basic civil rights are not determined by any religion and gays have the freedom to live their lifestyle, just as Ms. DiScala has the right to live the way she chooses. She would do well to keep her religion to herself and not try to impose it on others.

“There are no gays trying to impose their way of life on her. Why can’t she and her fellow believers do the same?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Imaginary Problem

According an analysis of historical data, Reagan exceeded all other presidents, by increasing the debt ceiling by 199.5%, during his eight years in office. He is followed by George W. Bush at a 90.2% increase over eight years and by George H. W. Bush at a 48.0% increase over only four years in office.

Democratic Presidents Bill Clinton and Obama, on the other hand, have only raised the debt ceiling by 43.6 and 26.3%, respectively.

Obama was on the verge of cutting a deal with Senate Democrats and House Republicans to raise the debt ceiling. The deal would have cut over $2 trillions in domestic spending over ten years to programs that affect everyday people. He angered many Democrats by put entitlements on the table, but wanted multimillionaires and very profitable corporations to pay their fair share.

The present lopsided deal came after months of wrangling in Washington, where Michele Bachmann’s Tea Party derailed the debt deal debate, by rejecting rationality and just saying ‘No.’ They manufactured a crisis out of nothing, and Congress debated the issue for 6 months. Actually, they were debating an imaginary problem that conjured scary future scenarios, while ignoring dire existing circumstances. The temporary solution to that imaginary problem damaged our country’s credit rating, because Standard & Poor’s downgraded our credit rating, by stripping the world’s largest economy of its prized AAA status.

There shouldn’t have been a debate over increasing the nation’s debt ceiling. It had become routine, and this time shouldn’t have been any different. Raising the debt ceiling merely authorizes our government to make good on spending previously authorized by Congress. Including during the Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush administrations.

We don’t need to worry about hard times coming in the future, since many folks are living hard times right now!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Bridge the Gap

According to Obama: “We need to do more to make the transition from military to civilian life easier for our veterans. That’s why I’m directing the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs to design what we’re calling a “reverse boot camp.” The problem is that right now, we spend months preparing our men and women for life in the military, but we spend much less time preparing them for life after they get out. So we’ll devote more time on the back end to help our veterans learn about everything from benefits to how they can translate their military training into an industry-accepted credential.  In addition, we’ll make it easier for veterans to go to their local OneStop career center and get help pursuing a career that fits them best.”

The program will help bridge part of the gap between veterans looking for work and companies looking to hire. Obama has proposing a new “Returning Heroes Tax Credit” for companies that hire unemployed veterans. It’ll increase the existing tax credit for companies who hire unemployed veterans with a disability.

The Obama administration is challenging the private sector to hire or train 100,000 unemployed post-9/11 veterans or their spouses by the end of 2013. It’ll build on commitments that many companies have already made as part of the “Joining Forces” campaign championed by First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden. 

For example, Siemens recently met their goal of hiring 300 veterans, and are aiming to hire 150 more by December.  Microsoft is helping more than 10,000 veterans get IT certified over the next two years. The Microsoft Certified IT Professional certification helps validate that an individual has the comprehensive set of skills necessary to perform a particular job role, such as database administrator or enterprise messaging administrator.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Energy Strategy

For decades, we’ve left our economy vulnerable to increases in the price of oil.  And with the demand for oil increasing in countries like China and India, the problem is getting much worse.  That means prices will keep going up unless we do something about our dependence on oil. 

There’s no simple solution to this problem. However, there are steps we can take that will save families money at the pump; make our economy more secure; and help innovative companies generate new products, technologies and jobs. 

Obama has laid out an energy strategy that would increase safe and responsible oil production here at home to meet our current energy needs. Those who are proponents of shifting away from fossil fuels have to acknowledge that we’re not going to suddenly replace oil throughout the economy.  We’re going to need to produce all the oil we can.

We should get rid of the $4 billion in subsidies taxpayers are providing oil and gas companies every year, when they’re earning record profits, and put that money into clean energy research, which would really make a big difference. 

Those are all short-term solutions. We’re going to have to harness the potential of clean energy companies across America by producing more hybrid cars, fuel-efficient engines and advanced electric vehicles. 

Increasing fuel standards represents the single most important step, we can take as a nation to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. 

Reportedly, by 2025, the average fuel economy of vehicles could nearly double to almost 55 miles per gallon. That means filling up your car every two weeks instead of filling it up every week. A typical family could save more than $8,000 in fuel costs over time, and consumers across America would save almost $2 trillion in fuel costs.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Starved Government

Some complain: “The upper 25% of our population pays 86% of all Federal Taxes.”

The reason the very wealthy are paying so much could be because the richest 1% of Americans are making 24% of the country’s income. The top 400 Americans own more wealth than the bottom 50% of Americans put together.

A new cycle of poverty for millions of Americans began during the Reagan administration, and it got much worst during G.W. Bush’s presidency, when tax cuts legislation was passed, that 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 richer, the middle class saw their income stay about the same, and the number of people in poverty gradually increased.

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. 

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.

Some Republicans want to eliminate the Department of Education and cut education by 20%. 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 of tomorrow. 

Sunday, August 07, 2011

May Sound Cynical

According to our Constitution, it’s the responsibility of Congress to raise revenues and decide how those revenues are spent, but it has failed to raise sufficient revenues to pay for the programs, that it has authorized.  

Reagan had the debt ceiling raise 18 times and G.W. Bush raised it 7 times.  Taxes are now at their lowest level, since 1930.  It’s time to stop ‘starving the beast’ and start paying back the money that we’ve been borrowing, by increasing taxes.  We should start with millionaires and billionaires, that don’t pay their fair share, Highly profitable corporations ship jobs overseas, but 38% don’t pay any taxes.

During the Bush era, reckless Wall Street charlatans were allowed to gamble in the stock market, without observing established rules and regulations. Some markets operated in the shadows of our economy, invisible to regulators, and the public. Reckless practices became rampant and the risks accrued until they threatened our entire financial system.

Consequently, eight million Americans lost their jobs. Today, with the exception of Mexico and Turkey, we’re the country with the highest income inequality level. The Republican party has been responsible for the significant increase in what some of them call a “nanny state.”

The Democratic party believes in getting people back to work, so that they can pay taxes and help reduce the deficit. However, since Tea Party Republicans have taken control of the House of Representatives nothing has been done to stabilize the economy or create jobs.

This isn’t surprising, because as long as the unemployment rate stays high, they see an opportunity to defeat Obama in 2012. They prefer an unstable economy so that investors will be less likely to expand. Cynical as this may sound, Republicans don’t want more Americans to be able to provide for themselves and their families.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

The Deal

The first part of the raising the debt ceiling agreement will cut about $1 trillion in spending over the next 10 years. Those are cuts that both parties had agreed to early on in the process.  That level of spending should result in the lowest level of annual domestic spending since Eisenhower. It should allow our government to still make job-creating investments in things like education and research. The cuts won’t happen so abruptly that they’d be a drag on a fragile economy. 

Despite what some Republicans have argued, Obama believes that we need to ask the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations to pay their fair share by giving up tax breaks and special deductions. The President also believes that we need to make some modest adjustments to programs like Medicare to ensure that they’re still around for future generations. 

The second part of the agreement establishes a bipartisan committee of 12 members of Congress to report back by November with a proposal to further reduce the deficit, which will then go to Congress for an up or down vote. Everything will be on the table, and it holds both parties accountable for making difficult cuts that they find objectionable.

More sever cuts to the Defense Dept. budget and entitlement programs will automatically go into effect if the bipartisan committee doesn’t act.  

It isn’t the deal, that Obama would have preferred. He wanted to make the tough choices required on entitlement and tax reform as part of the deal, rather than again going through a special congressional committee process.  Obama admits, that the compromise he was able to get doesn’t make a serious down payment on the deficit reduction. Nevertheless, it gives each party a strong incentive to get a balanced plan finished before the end of the year. 

The deal allow us to avoid default and ends a crisis that Tea Party Republicans imposed on the rest of America.  It also ensures, that we’ll not face this same kind of crisis again until 2013. More importantly, it will begin to lift the cloud of uncertainty that hangs over our economy.  

Friday, August 05, 2011


Obama asserted: “These are obligations that the United States has taken on in the past. The Congress has run up the credit card. And we now have an obligation to pay our bills. If we do not, it could have a whole set of adverse consequences. We could end up with a situation, for example, where interest rates rise for everybody all throughout the country. Effectively, a tax increase on everybody.” 

Democrats want to raise taxes on millionaires and billionaires, and the overwhelming majority of Americans agree 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. 

The Republican leadership retreated from a $4.2 trillion deal for a large deficit reduction bill, because Obama remained unyielding in his demand to include increased tax revenues in such a deal. 

Obama emphasized: “Now, what is important is that even as we raise the debt ceiling, we also solve the problem of underlying debt and deficits. You know, I’m glad that congressional leaders don’t want to default, but I think the American people expect more than that. They expect that we actually try to solve this problem, we get our fiscal house in order. We have a chance to stabilize America’s finances for a decade, for 15 years or 20 years, if we’re willing to seize the moment.” 

Tea Party member of Congress took a take it or leave it approach to negotiations to raise the debt ceiling. That merely kicked the can down the road again.

We have 25 million Americans either unemployed or underemployed, and nothing is being done in the Republican controlled House to solve that problem.

Obama pointed out: “The American people voted for divided government in 2010, not a dysfunctional government.”

Thursday, August 04, 2011

No Drama Obama

A significant difference between the Democratic and Republican parties is that conservatives have a greater unity of purpose than Democrats, who seem to always be stabbing their leadership in the back.  You don’t see that kind of public disharmony in the Republican party.  

The so-called 11th Commandment has served the Republican Party well over the years. Although, Ronald Reagan is usually given credit for the rule, it was Gaylord Parkinson, who decreed that Republican candidates should refrain from attacking each other. He called it the 11th Commandment: “Thou shalt not speak ill of another Republican.” The idea was to foster party unity.

The situation that America finds itself today, wasn’t caused by politicians, it was cause by uninformed voters and those that failed to vote. In a democracy, we get the government, that we deserve.

The midterm elections saw young Democrats not voting, thereby allowing the Tea Party to take control of the House. The chant for the Obama campaign was “Yes We Can”, but many of those that had voted for Obama decided to ignore the “We” in that slogan.

I predicted, prior to the midterm election, that unless, Obama continued to have majority support in the House and Senate, change would cease to occur. Change is sustained by the unwavering support of one’s base. Democracy isn’t a spectator sport, it’s a team effort. It’s up to us to sustain this democracy and reclaim our birthright from corporate lobbyist.

Instead of disdain for politics and politicians, we need to value politics and what politicians do. My distain isn’t for politicians, but for those that don’t become informed and don’t vote. Your vote matters and it’s your responsibility to become informed and vote. Silence is complicity. Failing to vote is unAmerican.

Obama doesn't show his frustration and anger, because Republicans would like nothing better, than to characterize him as an angry black man, like Al Sharpton.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

The Big Players

Recently, the Oneonta Daily Star published the following letter by Duncan Smith.

“Though my liberal leanings lead me to a differing emphasis on the constitutional mandate to ‘promote the general welfare,’ I understand the importance of family and community, see the need to balance personal responsibility and freedom, respect the opportunities for success made possible by our economic system and agree with you ‘Tea Partiers’ that we wage-earners and consumers are in trouble and our debt unsustainable.

“But I don’t understand why because big business and big money talk about reducing taxes and easing government regulations, you don’t see their contribution to the problem.

“Remember that the overriding aim of free-enterprise capitalism is to maximize the return on investment, not to create jobs or to raise the general standard of living.

“Look around _ who is sending our jobs to cheaper labor markets, who is killing small, local retailers, and who is getting rich from the interest on our debt? Multinational corporations, huge chain stores, Wall Street ‘wise guys’ _ the big players who are making more and more money even as you and I suffer.

“Until there is increased consumer spending, cutting taxes on corporations and their investors and relaxing regulations will increase profits, but no well-run corporation will waste that money on unprofitable new hires.

“So, of course, the big guys echo your call for lower taxes and less government oversight. The big irony in this situation is that big money actually likes big government spending. All those soldiers, teachers, administrators and receivers of benefits are consumers. Government purchases of everything from aircraft carriers to paper mean profits. Investment in education, basic research and infrastructure assists business activity and growth. And the more public debt, the more opportunity to earn interest. So, while the hen house may need fixing, be careful of taking repair advice from the fox.”

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

“Growing Up”

Obama attempted to explained to a group of college students the reasons, that he’s been open to compromise with Republicans.

“If you’re only talking to people who you agree with, then politics is always going to disappoint you. You think about some of the issues we’ve worked on over the last couple of years, I think that the college Republicans here would say that I was a pretty liberal president. But if you read “The Huffington Post,” you’d think I was, some right wing tool of Wall Street. 

“Both things can’t be true, but I think that what has to do with is the sense of, what we expect, when we have a position and we can’t compromise on it. One of the challenges of this generation is to understand that the nature of our democracy and the nature of our politics is to marry principle to a political process that means you don’t get 100 percent of what you want. You don’t get it if you’re the majority, you don’t get it if you’re in the minority, and you can be honorable in politics, understanding that you’re not going to get 100 percent of what you want. 

“And that’s been our history. Think, about our greatest presidents, and the Abraham Lincoln, who didn’t believe in slavery, but his first priority was keeping the Union. I have the Emancipation Proclamation hanging up in my office, and if you read through it, turns out that most of the document is about those states and areas where the emancipation doesn’t apply because those folks are allied with the Union so they can keep their slaves. 

“So you got a war-time president who’s making a compromise around probably the greatest moral issue that the country ever faced because he understood that right now, my job is to win the war and maintain the Union.

“Think about it, Lincoln sells out slaves. There would be protests. As you talk to your friends about getting involved civically, don’t set up a situation where you’re guaranteed to be disappointed. That’s part of the process of growing up. That doesn’t mean you’re not principled. It doesn’t mean that you’re not focused on driving around a particular position or a particular issue. It means that you’re sort of pushing the boulder up the hill and you get it a certain way, and other people are pushing it. Sometimes it’s going to slip back.”

Monday, August 01, 2011

David Frum

David Frum was a special assistant to President George W. Bush from 2001 to 2002. Excerpts from recent article by Frum follows:

“The president has gone on television to declare himself willing to consider some startling moves: alterations to Social Security cost-of-living formulas, raising the age at which retirees qualify for Medicare, and large dollar figures for deficit reduction over the next decade.

“On background, administration briefers have talked about a package consisting of 85% spending cuts and 15% revenue increases. And, they said, they wanted only the kinds of revenue increases least obnoxious to Republicans: changes in deductions and tax credits -- not increases in overall tax rates.

“Republican briefers say that the Democrats are exaggerating their offer. They say the Democrats were less conciliatory inside the room than outside.

“But it would be remarkable, wouldn't it, for a president to say on TV that he was willing to do something as unpopular as raise the Medicare age -- and then say in secret: Nah, I'll do the popular thing instead. Wouldn’t you expect the behavior to be the other way around?

“I think we have enough information to draw a very different picture of what happened. Obama offered Republicans a lot of spending cuts if only they would move even slightly to meet him. But Republicans took the view that any change in current tax rules must be offset by an equal or greater cut in some other tax. Republicans would not agree to alter even the silliest parts of the tax code in ways that raised more revenue. The only deal they would contemplate is one that was 100% spending cuts, 0% tax increases -- that is, all their own way, total surrender by the president.

“Unconditional surrender was the Republican demand in the health care debate. That demand led to an unmitigated defeat.

“Unconditional surrender has become the Republican demand in the debt demand. The original Republican plan was to threaten to tip the country into default unless the GOP got everything it wanted. That threat is proving empty, as Republicans’ business constituencies mutiny against their party’s dangerous tactics.

“If blackmail won’t work -- and negotiation is not allowed by the party’s own taboos -- then the party that asked for everything is on its way to becoming the party that got nothing. Only it’s not just the GOP that is the loser. It’s the whole country."