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.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Least Productive


Norm Ornstein and Tom Mann are considered the most respected scholars of Congress in Washington.  They’ve concluded: "We have been studying Washington politics and congress for more than 40 years and never have we seen them this dysfunctional."

Congress is on track to be by far the least productive, and the most despised of all time in the eyes of the public.  On top of being historically inept and unpopular, there’s also the issue of this Congress doing real measurable damage to the country.  The debt ceiling debacle last year when Republicans took the country to the brink of default had real world consequences.

After the monthly the job growth had started off pretty strong, it fell off a cliff  in May, about the time House Speaker John Boehner and congressional Republicans initiated the debt ceiling fight.  While Congress debated whether America was going to pay its bills or not, hiring slowed, but once that fight was over, hiring immediately picked up.

By having an unnecessary fight over the debt ceiling we lost our AAA credit rating for the first time in our history.  This week, we learned, that the debt ceiling fight has so far cost taxpayers $1.3 billion in extra borrowing costs.
Every year Congress must pass 12 annual appropriation bills to keep our government funded.  It didn’t pass any appropriations bills by the deadline last year.  During a weak economy the Federal Aviation Administration was shut down, and 4,000 FAA workers and 70,000 airport construction workers were furloughed from their jobs.  They were out of work until Congress finally managed to get its act together.  Congress has not only been historically unproductive, it has taken steps that have harmed the country, and have directly harmed our economic recovery.

Why would Republicans want to slow the recovery?




Monday, July 30, 2012

Time for a Conversation


When 0ur founding fathers wrote the Second Amendment, they couldn’t have imagined the killing capacity of the weapons that we have today.

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

A Pew Research Poll shows most Americans value gun rights over restrictions, but it’s not a wide margin.  Only 49% say it’s more important to protect the right to own a gun.  Support for stricter gun laws spiked after the Columbine shootings in 1999.

We have a right to respond to killing tragedies by looking at what we can do as a country to change underlying policies.  And, the NRA has a right to talk about how they don’t think any rules should be added to the way we regulate guns.  However, they don’t have a right to shut the rest of us up when we look at these tragedies, and try to figure out ways that we can regulate gun ownership.
Clinton answered the question of gun ownership, by signing the Assault Weapons Ban, which has now expired.  Do most Americans think weapons that are designed for mass murder have a place on our streets?

Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Aurora Massacre


President Obama is correct in thinking that it’s impossible right now, for any kind of substantial gun legislation to pass the House or Senate. 

The National Rifle Association supporters claim, that it’s not time to be political.  They don’t even want to see any kind of legislation that would keep guns out of the hands of mentally disturbed individuals.

However, the questions, we should be asking is why does any individual need an automatic weapon?  Why do they need to buy 6,000 bullets?  Why do they need to have a high capacity magazine, that allows them to shoot off 60 bullets in less than a minuet.

Even some members of the National Rifle Association, think that there are some limits that are reasonable and still protect Second Amendment rights.

Given the lack of regulations for purchasing ammunition on the Internet, and the lax gun laws in many places, it’s improbable that we could stopped anybody, who is determined to commit mass murder.

How many instances of mass murder like the one in the Aurora movie theater will occur before Congress decides to take a look at the proliferation of guns in our country?

When pollsters ask about specific gun restrictions, 86% of Americans want background checks, 63% want a ban on high capacity clips in magazines, 69% want to limit the number of guns you can buy at a time, 66% want a national gun registry, and 88% think people on the terror watch list should not be able to buy a gun.  

It turns out most Americans support common sense restrictions on guns, but it’s unlikely any of those common sense measures will be passed any time soon.

The time for a rational conversation is overdue, but the NRA won’t tolerate any such conversation.  The National Rifle Association is a very powerful political force.  When it say that it’s going to score members of Congress, and rate them according to their votes, the most ridiculous pieces of legislation can get passed.

Recently, there was an amendment passed in the House with over 300 votes that in the case of bankruptcy, individuals may keep $3,000 worth of guns protected from any creditor.  The National Rifle Association threaten members of Congress with primary elections and with defeating them, with ads.  They spent over $7 million on elections in the last cycle, and they’re prepared to do it again.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

American Exceptionalism


President Obama maintains: “What makes us exceptional, what makes us great is not just how many skyscrapers we have.  It’s not how powerful our military is.  What makes us special is this idea that, in this country, if you are willing to work hard, if you’re willing to take responsibility for your own life, then you can make it if you try.”

Obama pointed out: “My entire career has been a testimony to American exceptionalism.”

As president Obama said: “Michelle and I had the chance to succeed beyond our wildest dreams.  We’re only here because somebody passed on this incredible notion, of an exceptional American idea that it doesn’t matter where you come from.”  

He also noted: “The United States has been and will always be the one indispensable nation in world affairs.  One of the many examples of why America is exceptional.”
Nevertheless, Republicans continue to attack him for not believing in the idea of American exceptionalism. 

Governor Rick Perry of Texas: “Those in the White House today, they don’t believe in American exceptionalism.”

Former Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich: “If you are for American exceptionalism, you’re us.  If you’re for European socialism and Saul Alinsky radicalism, you’re with Barack Obama.”

Senator John McCain: “This has all got to do with a foreign policy led by a president who doesn’t believe in American exceptionalism.

Former Secretary of State, Condoleeza Rice: “I’m pretty certain I don’t see that same level of willingness to assert that the United States is, indeed, exceptional.”

What has this president done, or said to bring on these attacks? 

Perhaps, the Republican Party has become a refuge for resentful, fearful people, who are anxious about the fact that America is on its way to becoming a majority non-white nation and Obama represents that threat.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Work to be Done


A disturbed person attempted to assassinate Ron Reagan’s father.  Recently, he said: “Pretty simple, no one loses their right to own a gun.  They merely have a demonstrate competence.  Many of us Americans will not soon abandon our fetish for firearms.  That doesn’t mean we can’t be more adult about it.”
Days after the Colorado movie theater massacre, Obama forcefully spoke out against gun violence, making the strongest comments yet by any president.
Obama stands by the Second Amendment and recognizes the traditions of hunting and gun ownership in the country, but insists, that there is work to be done in tackling the problem.

He said; "I also believe that a lot of gun owners would agree that AK-47s belong in the hands of soldiers, not in the hands of criminals.  That they belong on the battlefield of war, not on the streets of our cities."
Obama had steered away from talking about gun laws, while visiting the families of victims in Aurora, Colorado last Sunday, because he didn’t want the political debate over gun legislation to dominated national dialogue.
Talk of gun rights was also absent from Obama's speech in the aftermath of the Fort Hood shooting in 2009 and after Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and others were shot in Tucson, Arizona, in 2010.  He did mentioned gun safety in passing after the Tucson shootings to describe the polarizing nature of the issue.
Last Wednesday, Obama emphasized a need for background checks and the prevention of "mentally unbalanced" individuals from obtaining guns.  He faulted opposition in Congress for lack of progress made in reducing violence.
Obama argued: "These steps shouldn't controversial.  They should be common sense.  We should leave no stone unturned and recognize that we have no greater mission as a country than keeping our young people safe.”

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Government Programs


The Republican Party has changed over the last two decades, and its become obvious the last few years.  It’s now a party that rejects many of its own policy proposals, many of which have been passed into law by Congress and signed by Obama.

Infrastructure spending has always a bipartisan idea until Republicans suddenly turned against it when Obama became president.  After all, President Eisenhower came up with the idea of a national highway system.  Even the dreaded individual mandate for health care came from the conservative Heritage Foundation.  It was put forward as the Republican answer to Hillary Clinton’s health care proposal.

The most recent example is the Republican effort to stop defense spending cuts.  A bipartisan budget agreement was reached last August, and a sequestration process that mandates half a trillion dollars in defense spending cuts could start in 2013.  A coordinated effort by Republicans to barnstorm swing states to prevent those cuts is about to begin, and one of their prime arguments will be how many jobs will be lost if those cuts are made.

Ironically, the Republicans Party has been insisting that government doesn’t create jobs.  House Majority Leader Eric Cantor insisted: “Economic growth is not a government program.”

Apparently, economic growth isn’t in a government program unless it’s a program to fund defense spending and jobs.  When domestic spending cuts resulted in the loss of jobs for teachers, firefighters, and police.  Speaker of the House John Boehner asserted: “It doesn’t create jobs.”

A list of things many Republicans were for until a Democratic president took office include: the health care mandates, TARP, the auto bailout, financial disclosure, the minimum wage, the Economic Development Administration, the Federal Reserve, deficit spending, the Nuclear START Treaty, the DREAM Act, gun control, public education, environmental protection, and infrastructure spending.




Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Opportunity


President Obama pointed out: “If you are successful, somebody along the line gave you some help.  There was a great teacher somewhere in your life.  Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive.  Somebody invested in roads and bridges.  If you got a business, didn’t build that.  Somebody else made that happen.  The Internet didn't get invented on its own.  Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.”

A recent Romney ad criticized Obama’s remarks, however at one time Mitt Romney seemed to have agreed with Obama’s point of view.  

Romney actually said: “I know that you recognize a lot of people help you in a business. Perhaps the banks, the investors, no question your mom and dad, your school teachers, the people that provide roads, the fire, the police a lot of people help.  There are a lot of people in government who help us and allow us to have an economy that works and allow entrepreneurs and business leaders of various kinds to start businesses and create jobs.  We all recognize that.  That’s an important thing.”

In our country, we’ve gotten ahead because somebody else helped make sure there was an opportunity for us to succeed.  Nobody does it completely on their own.  That’s part of the role of government.  And, that’s what Obama has talking about, and what makes our country so special.

Romney has spoken passionately about the importance of investing in America, but "The Wall Street Journal" estimated Mitt Romney’s IRA is worth somewhere between $20 million and $101 million. 

Why would the Republican candidate for president keep so many millions of dollars in a retirement account?  "The Wall Street Journal" also found many of the assets in Romney’s IRA were Bain Capital investments overseas, in places like the Cayman Islands. 

Romney has admitted: “I can tell you, we follow the tax laws, and if there’s an opportunity to save taxes, we, like anybody else in this country, will follow that opportunity.”  

If you have enough lawyers and accountants, you can avoid paying as much as 35% in taxes by using a retirement account.  It doesn’t appear that Romney is actually committed to investing in America or helping those people in government to create an economy that works to provide opportunities for American workers. 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Balanced Budget Approach

According to Republican Congressman Paul Ryan, America can’t afford to keep the promise to care for our senior citizens.  His plan called for a 65-year-old, who’s eligible for Medicare 10 years from now to pay nearly $6,400 a year more than required today. The median income for people over 65 years old in our country is $19,000 a year.
Instead of guaranteed health care, older Americans will get a voucher. But, if the voucher isn't worth what it takes to buy health insurance in the private marketplace, you're out of luck.  Who is going to sell an 83 year old a medical insurance policy.  Seniors would be on their own and Medicare would end as we know it. 
Obama argues: “It’s wrong to ask you to pay for Medicare so that people who are doing well right now get even more.  That’s no way to reduce the deficit.  We shouldn’t be squeezing more money out of our seniors.  My plan is to squeeze more money out of the health care system that is being wasted with waste and abuse and fraud.  And we’ve been cracking down on Medicare fraud harder, because those dollars should be going for your care, not to folks who are cheating the system.”
Some government programs don’t work.  The Obama administration insists, that we can’t afford to waste money so they’ve already made a trillion dollars’ worth of cuts.  Democrats are willing to cut spending on programs, that aren’t helping the middle class and not helping our economy grow.   They also want to balance the budget by making sure that everybody’s paying their fair share. 
Under the Clinton administration 23 million new jobs were created.  We had a budget surplus instead of a deficit, and both Medicare and Social Security were protected. 

Monday, July 23, 2012

DISCLOSE Act


Thanks to Citizens United, corporations and special interest groups can funnel cash into elections and never tell us where the money came from.  Groups led by Karl Rove, the Koch brothers, and Sheldon Adelson have never had a bigger say in who represents us in Congress.
The DISCLOSE Act would have restored transparency to our electoral process by forcing groups to disclose their donors, but Senate Republicans filibustered it twice.  Most conservatives used to support full disclosure of campaign contributors.  Now they oppose it, because they get unlimited cash from corporations.
Republican supporters are putting millions of dollars into non-profit, tax-exempt organizations called 501(c)s that funnel the money into advertising on behalf of candidates or causes.  The Federal Election Commission doesn’t consider them political committees, so they can remain anonymous, and we’ll never know, who’s behind donations or political ads.  Corporations don’t want to risk offending customers by letting voters know how much their shelling out to obliging politician.
The Center for Responsive Politics and the Center for Public Integrity found that “during the 2010 midterm elections, tax-exempt groups outspent super PACs by a 3-to-2 margin with most of that money devoted to attacking Democrats or defending Republicans.” 
The insurance monolith Aetna gave more than $3 million to a pro-Republican non-profit called American Action Network, which spent millions on ads attacking Obama’s health care plan, although publicly Aetna supported Obama.  The Chamber of Commerce has pledged to spend at least $50 million on the November election.  Its contributors include Dow Chemical, Prudential Financial and MetLife.
Justice Richard Posner of U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals is a Republican, who  said that Citizens United had created a political system that is “pervasively corrupt” in which “wealthy people essentially bribe legislators.”

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Stalemate in Congress


America has the best scientists, universities, and entrepreneurs.  We've got diversity, ingenuity and talent coming from every part of the globe.  Every other country on Earth, would be happy to trade places with us, but there is a group in Congress, who want take us backwards. 
There are solutions for bringing down the deficit, while protecting Medicare and Social Security, but we have a stalemate in Congress. 
Romney and his friends in Congress have an economic plan.  Their plan is to cut taxes, for the wealthy, cut regulations on banks and insurance companies and unscrupulous lenders, while cutting investments in things like education and research.  They continue to claim that somehow all that will create more prosperity for everybody. 
That theory was tried for a decade before Obama was elected.  Obviously, it didn't work.  Voters need to understands that top-down economics doesn’t work.  We need a middle-out economics, whereby everybody has opportunity.  An economy where everybody does well, including those at the top.  That's how America became the most prosperous nation on  earth.  That's how we built the greatest middle class in history.  That’s what needs to be restored. 
Democrats don't believe that you can reduce the deficit without asking the wealthiest Americans to give up the tax cuts that they've been benefiting from for the last decade.  Mitt Romney doesn't just want to just keep those tax cuts.  He wants to give another $5 trillion in tax cuts, that includes a 25% tax cut for every millionaire in America. 
To pay for those tax cuts, Republicans would cut job-training programs for workers, and financial aid to students.  Republicans wants to roll back the Affordable Care Act, and force people to pay more for their prescription drugs.  They plan to turn Medicare into a voucher program. 

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Something to Hide


Prominent Republicans, including former Republican chairman Haley Barbour believe that Mitt Romney’s refusal to release more of his tax returns is an indication there’s something he’s trying to hide.

Bill Kristol of “The Weekly Standard and a Fox News contributor advised: “He should release the tax returns tomorrow.  It’s crazy.  You’ve got to release six, eight, ten years of back tax returns.  Take the hit for a day or two.”

Political contributor to “This Week,” Matt Dowd  pointed out: “There”s obviously something there because if there was nothing there, he would say, ‘Have at it”.  So there’s obviously something there that compromises what he’s said in the past about something.  Many of these politicians think, I can do this, I can get away with this, I don’t need to do this because I’m going to say something, and I don’t have to do this.”

Alabama Governor Robert Bentley suggested: “The best thing to do is just get everything out in the open and just say,  Hey, I have nothing to hide and I’m going to release my tax return.”

George Will, of the “Washington Post” initially suggested: “If something’s going to come out, get it out in a hurry.  I do not know why, given that Mr. Romney knew the day that McCain lost in 2008 that he was going to run for president again, that he didn’t get all of this out and tidy up some of his offshore accounts and all the rest.”

More recently, George Will concluded: “The cost of not releasing the returns are clear.  Therefore, he must have calculated that there are higher costs in releasing them.” 

“Business Week’s” Josh Green wrote that it’s not implausible Romney carried forward losses from the financial meltdown in 2008 and paid no federal taxes whatsoever in 2009.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Working Together


Last January, Massachusetts Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren made the point of how lucky we are to live in America.  She asserted: “I want to be clear: you moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for; you hired workers the rest of us paid to educate; you were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for.  You didn’t have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory, and hire someone to protect against this, because of the work the rest of us did... But part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.”

Ironically, Mitt Romney said something very similar: “I know that you recognize a lot of people help you in a business, that perhaps the banks, the investors, there’s no question your mom and dad, your school teachers.  The people that provide roads, the fire, the police, a lot of people help.

“There are a lot of people in government who help us and allow us to have an economy that works and allow entrepreneurs and business leaders the various kinds to start businesses and create jobs.  We all recognize that.  That’s an important thing.”

Recently, Obama agreed with both Elizabeth Warren and Mitt Romney, when he pointed out: “Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive.  Somebody invested in roads and bridges.  If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that.  Somebody else made that happen.

“The Internet didn’t get invented on its own.  Government research created the Internet so that all of the companies could make money off the Internet.  The point is, is that when we succeed, because of our individual initiative but also because we do things together.”

Romney has responded to Obama’s remarks about public investments, by taking them totally out of context.  Romney now claims: “I just want to say it exactly as he said it, speaking about small business and businesses of all kind.  He said this: if you have got a business, you didn’t build that.  Somebody else made that happen.”

Romney knows that he’s got a problem with releasing tax returns, outsourcing and offshore accounts.  So, now he’s suggesting that Obama is against capitalism.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

“Will Persist”


President Eisenhower warned: “In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex.  The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.”

Under a bipartisan budget agreement reached last August, two sequestration processes are about to occur.  The most controversial requires the 2013 defense budget to return to roughly the same level it was in 2007 and grow only with inflation for the rest of the decade. 

Today, the Republicans’ strategy of blocking every deal doesn’t look very smart, because if Congress does nothing, the sequestration processes takes effect.  First, a budget cut and then a tax increase.  Those two measures will cut over $4.5 trillion from our deficit over the next 10 years.  It amounts to $3 of tax increases for every dollar of spending cuts.

Approximately $500 million of those spending cuts will be cut from the Defense Department over the next 10 years.  Keep in mind, that the Pentagon’s budget has risen for 13 consecutive years.

The Republican mantra about waste, fraud and abuse in government is vastly exaggerated, but the exception is defense.  There is a lot of overlap among the military services, so much duplication and waste that no one bothers to defend it anymore.

Between 2001 and 2009, spending on defense rose from $412 billion to $699 billion, a 70% increase.  We spend more on defense than almost all the planet’s remaining countries put together.  Going down from this high over a ten-year period shouldn’t be a serious concern, since were gradually leaving Afghanistan.  However, from 2001 to 2011, military pay and benefits increased by 46% on a per-person basis, excluding war funding and adjusting for inflation.  If personnel costs are allowed to keep growing that quickly while the overall defense budget grows only with inflation, pay and benefits will swallow the entire defense budget by 2039.

The fiscal reality is that it will be difficult for Congress to find a way to avoid sequestration or further significant defense cuts.  Doing so would require some combination of increased borrowing, major cuts to programs like Social Security and Medicare, and higher taxes.  No alternative is particularly attractive.  Sequestration would return the defense budget to roughly the level it was in 2007, a decline of about 14% from 2010, adjusting for inflation. 

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Not Much Help


Many Americans have gone through a decade in which wages and incomes didn’t go up no matter how hard they worked.  Meanwhile, the costs of everything from college to health care to groceries to gas kept going up.  They worry that their children might not do as well as they’ve done.
The campaign in 2008 was about our desire to make sure that the American Dream continues for the next generation.
Obama didn’t realize at the time, that he was about to confront the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.  Over 8 millions people were thrown out of work, and many lost the value of their homes.  In some ways the American dream seems even further away for many folks.  Unquestionably, the Obama administration worked hard over the last three and a half years to try to restore the belief that in America you can make it if you work hard.
They were able to save an auto industry, after Romney said: "let Detroit go bankrupt."   Today, GM is back on top, and Ford and Chrysler are selling cars.  Business have created more than 4.4 million new jobs, which includes 500,000 manufacturing jobs.
All across America, folks who were laid off are going back to a community college and should be able to find a new job in new industries. 
The reason people came together in 2008 was to restore that promise for middle-class families and all those who are striving to get into the middle class.  That’s what the Obama administration is fighting for, and he admits that a lot more work needs to be done. 
In some ways, this election is going to be more important than 2008, because after three and a half years, it’s obvious that Obama hasn’t gotten much help from House Republicans.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Held Hostage


Two years ago, President Obama extended the Bush tax cuts as part of the lame duck 2010 session compromise.  Recently, he indicated, that he’s willing to talk about extending the Bush tax cuts for 98% of Americans.

People making $261,000 a year would continue to enjoy the Bush tax cut for the first $250,000 of their income.  Obama believes, that members of Congress should be able to agree on 98% of Bush’s tax cuts.  However, congressional Republicans are again holding that proposed compromise hostage.  They’re aware, that it’s very difficult to justify continuing tax cut for 2% of the wealthiest Americans.

They’re holding the rest of us hostage, just as they did in 2010.  Their strategy is to again try to stare Obama down by claiming that it’s a tax hike.
The Bush era tax cuts were designed to be temporary, but Republicans insist, that if you revert to the original rates, you must call it a tax hike.  It’s semantics, and double talk, because Congress must vote to extend them by the end of the year, or they’ll expire.

Republicans want to make sure that their rich friends, get those break, but they can only do it by coupling them to the tax cuts for everybody.  There isn’t any empirical data, showing anything quantifiable that we can look at to conclude jobs are being created by very wealthy Americans.

Nick Hanauer is a technology entrepreneur, and a billionaire venture capitalist.  He has rebuked the Republican false argument on job creators.  Hanauer insists: “If there was no one around who could afford to buy what we had to sell, all those companies and all those jobs would have evaporated.  That’s why I can say with confidence that rich people don’t create jobs.  Nor do businesses large or small.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Predatory Capitalism


According to the a “Boston Globe" report: SEC filings show Romney listed as the sole stockholder, chairman of the board, chief executive officer and chairman of the board, and president of the firm.  Not just in 1999 when he says he left, but also in 2000, and 2001, and 2002.  Romney got paid six figures during 2001, and 2002, for being an executive of the firm.  

Romney’s political ads claimed, that he was responsible for creating  jobs.  However, a company he bought in Holyoke Massachusetts named SCM, moved its headquarters to Dallas, Texas.  He fired all 350 workers and told some they could reapply at a 25% pay cut.  The workers who were pregnant or older were denied jobs.  Romney made $11 million in two years.

In 2002, Romney’s Democratic opponent was Shannon O’Brien.  She decided to use the GST Steel Mill collapse against Romney.  The GST Steel Mill had been in operation since 1888, before Bain Capital purchased it.  Subsequently, the mill shut down, and 750 jobs were lost.  The employees didn’t get the severance pay or the health insurance they had been promised.  Their pension benefits were cut by hundreds of dollars a month.  And, the federal government had to pitch in tens of millions of dollars to bail out the workers that Bain cut off through a pension guarantee program.

More recently, that same tragic story was part of the"King of Bain" criticism that Newt Gingrich deployed against Romney.

During the time period in which those potent political attacks were used against Romney, his answer has been:  “I wasn’t there, I didn’t do it.  I don’t have to answer for this.  I left.”

Romney specialized in low wage jobs, but today he favors $100 billion in tax cut for the wealthiest 1% of Americans.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Romney and Bain Capital



Stephanie Cutter, deputy Obama campaign manager, said on a campaign conference call: "Either Mitt Romney, through his own words and his own signature, was misrepresenting his position at Bain to the SEC, which is a felony, or he was misrepresenting his position at Bain to the American people to avoid responsibility for some of the consequences of his investments." 

Mitt Romney’s campaign manager responded by calling on President Obama to apologize for "the out of control behavior of his staff, which demeans the office that he holds."

At issue is whether former Massachusetts Governor Romney is telling the truth when he says he had no role in investment and operations decisions at Bain Capital once he left in 1999 to take over the Salt Lake City Olympic Games.

Critics have questioned Romney's claim by citing Securities and Exchange Commission filings listing Romney as Bain's top officer after 1999. 

Did Mitt Romney remained the “controlling person” in a number of Bain Capital investments between Feb. 1999 and 2002, when he left to work on the Salt Lake City Olympics, or did he have no personal control over those investments during that time?
Several SEC filings indicate that Romney remained the “controlling person” at Bain Capital after 1999.  However, Mitt Romney’s position is that he was the “controlling person” and yet had no active management responsibilities.
How common is it for someone to be listed in corporate filings as a company’s CEO over a period of years when that person isn’t running the company?
Who ran Bain Capital when Romney was overseeing the Olympics?

How much contact did Romney have with the people, who were running Bain Capital?

When Romney left for Salt Lake City was the understanding that he was leaving the firm for good, or coming back after the Olympics? 

Saturday, July 14, 2012

National Debt


The top tax bracket begins at $373,000 of income and fails to distinguish between the “well off ” and billionaires.  We’re not going to be able to pay down the national debt unless more Americans are back at work and paying taxes.  The other ways to pay down our national debt are cutting spending and raising taxes.  Republicans have taken an oath not to raise taxes.

Thirty years ago, about 10% of the total income went to the top 1% of Americans.  Today, more than 20% of total income goes to the top 1 %.  The tax rates on the top 1% of Americans are the lower than they were 30 years ago.  The wealthiest 20% of American households own 85% of our nations wealth.

The top 20 hedge fund managers average income is over $1 billion.  Since, America has so much debt, logic would suggest that we raise taxes on the very top, have more tax brackets, and treat all sorts of income the same.

Capital gains requires no labor, and the capital gains tax is a big loophole, because it’s taxed at 15%.  We have a tax code that honors earnings of capital gains more than we honor the earnings of labor.  Real tax reform would treat all taxes exactly the same.

The IRS found that the 400 richest families in America are sitting on a total wealth that is greater than the total wealth of the bottom 150 million families.  They have huge incomes, but are paying on average at a 17 % tax rate, because of the capital gains loophole.  Our current tax system isn’t progressive, it’s regressive.  Poor people are paying huge shares of their income in Social Security, payroll taxes and sales taxes.  It’s unfair and a flat tax would make it even more so.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Thirty-three Times


On 7/11/12, House Republicans again pushed through a vote to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.  As expected it passed in the Republican controlled House of Representatives by a wide margin.  However the bill is certain to die in the Senate like many earlier repeal bills have.  House Republicans have held symbolic votes to repeal all or part of what they refer to as Obamacare a total of 33 times.

They’ve  repeatedly use this political stunt, because they’ll do everything they can, as many times as they can, for as long as they have the majority to protect insurance company profits, instead of strengthening the middle class.

This charade began in January 2011 with a vote for Paul Ryan’s budget that took Medicare away from senior citizens.  As long as they’re in the majority, they’ll continue voting endlessly to repeal patient protections for the middle class.  That’s what the Tea Party majority does in the House and every single one of them vote in lock step, because they don’t tolerate a diverse caucus.

They vote to protect insurance company profits.  If you’re a woman with breast cancer, Republicans vote to take away the protection, that prevent insurance company from saying it’s a preexisting condition.

The Supreme Court upheld President Obama’s health care law.  The lesson learned, since 2010 is that the more people,who know about the patient protections in the health care law, the more popular it’s becomes. 

After the bill passed, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi pointed out: “The American people want us to create jobs.  That is what we should be using this time on the floor for, not on this useless bill to nowhere, bill to nowhere that does serious damage to the health and economic well-being of America’s families.”


Thursday, July 12, 2012

Obstructing Progress


When President Obama took office, he inherited, the worst economy since the Great Depression.  Initially, we made steady progress, but progress has slowed since Republicans took control of the House.

Congressional Democrats will have to take back the House, because obviously Tea Party Republicans aren’t going to vote for the American Jobs Act.  In order to substantially improve the unemployment rate, our country may not only need the Jobs Act to be passed, but another Civilian Conservation Corps might be needed as well.  We need to rebuild our nation’s infrastructure, and our education system in order to again become a first class nation in every respect. 

Republicans will continue to obstruct progress by insisting on not increasing taxes on the wealthy or spending more money.  Obama will continue to suggest compromises such as middle class tax cut, and exempting the first $20,000 of income from the Social Security payroll tax.

Obama doesn’t have to do something bolder than he’s done so far.  He doesn’t necessarily have to introduce a lot of new ideas, but he must stress, that he’s been trying to promote common sense solutions to the unemployment problem on Capitol Hill for over a year.  

For example, in June, we lost 14,000 jobs in local education, and we’ve seen public sector job losses take place in 23 out of the last 25 months.  Those job losses include teachers, police, and firefighters.  One of the most effective ways of helping communities retain those kinds of jobs is providing fiscal relief to the states.  

Obama has got to continue explain to American voters, that Tea Party Republicans, who control the House are standing in the way of a better economy, and greater opportunities for everyone.  It comes down to the voters putting Democrats back in control of the House.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Unaffordable Tax Cuts


Republicans believe that prosperity comes from the top down.  Therefore, they intend to spend trillions on additional tax cuts for the wealthiest 2% of Americans.
President Obama believes prosperity has always come from an economy that’s built on a growing middle class.  One that can afford to buy the products that our businesses sell.  His vision is a middle class that can own homes, and send their kids to college, and save enough to retire on.  That’s the reason, that he’s cut middle-class taxes every year that he’s been president.  The typical middle-class family has seen $3,600 in cut taxes since Obama took office.
In 2002, Congress started passing trillions of dollars in tax cuts that mostly benefited the wealthiest Americans.  We were told that it would lead to more jobs, higher incomes, and that prosperity start at the top, however it never trickled down.  The money we’re spending on tax cuts for the very wealthy is a major contributor to our deficit, and will cost a trillion dollars over the next decade.  We can’t afford to extend tax cuts for 2% of the wealthiest Americans, and pay down our deficit.
Since, the recovery is still fragile,  Obama is calling on Congress to extend the tax cuts for the 98% of Americans who make less than $250,000.  He believes that those making over $250,000 a year should go back to the income tax rates they were paying under Clinton, when our economy created nearly 23 million new jobs. 
The people who create most new jobs are small business owners.  That’s the reason Obama has cut taxes for small business owners 18 times.  He has also repeatedly asked Congress to pass new tax cuts for entrepreneurs who hired new workers and raised their workers’ wages.  Since, 97% of small businesses fall under the $250,000 threshold, he recently proposed, that Congress extend the Bush’s tax cuts for those small business owners.  He want to give small business owners a sense permanence, because Bush’s tax cuts will expire on January 1, 2013.
Most members of Congress agree that we should extend tax cuts for 98% of the American people.  The Republicans insist that they don't want to raise taxes on the middle class, and Obama certainly doesn't want to raise taxes on the middle class.  Hopefully, Congress will be able to come together and get this done. 

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

A Different Path


Obama has a different path for bringing change to the middle class Americans.  He admits that it's not a silver bullet, and that it’s not going to change things completely in the near future.  However, it will move America in a direction that’s aligned with our historic traditions of building not from the top down, but from the middle class out.
His vision is to bring manufacturing back to America, by investing in advanced manufacturing research.  He wants to change our tax code to make sure, that instead of giving tax breaks to companies, who are shipping jobs overseas, those tax breaks go to companies that invest in the United States of America.
Obama wants to invest in our young people so they get the best education in the world.   He want to hire new teachers in math and science, while making college more affordable.  We must continue to do more to bring tuition down, and give 2 million more Americans the chance to study at community colleges and get the job training they’ll need for the jobs of the 21st century.  Obama doesn’t believe that a higher education should be an economic luxury, because it’s an economic necessity in this global economy.  He’s committed to making sure everybody gets a chance to learn the skills and the training they’ll need to succeed.  
As promised Obama has ended the war in Iraq, and our military is winding down the war in Afghanistan.  He wants to take half of the money, that we'll be saving on war and use it to pay down the deficit.  With the other half of those savings, Obama wants to spend on nation-building at home.  Obama want’s to put Americans to work rebuilding our roads, bridges, schools, high-speed rail, broadband lines and wireless networks. 

Monday, July 09, 2012

Forward or Backward?


The November election isn’t just about two candidates or two parties, it’s about very different visions of where those parties want to take our country.  
Presently, there’s a stalemate in Washington, because of those two different visions of how America will move forward, and the voters have a responsibility to break that stalemate.
On one side, we have Romney and his allies in Congress.  Their vision is one that want’s to give $5 trillion of new tax cuts on top of the Bush tax cuts.  Most of those tax cuts would go to the wealthiest Americans.  Those cuts won’t be paid for, but if they end up being paid for, they’ll be paid for by slashing education funding, or making college loans more expensive, or eliminating support for basic science and research, or making Medicare a voucher system.
That's just part of the Republican plan.  Their plan includes eliminating regulations that Obama and congressional Democrats put in place to make sure that Wall Street doesn’t act recklessly.  Those regulations were designed to prevent another taxpayer-funded bailout when our financial system gets out of whack.  Additional regulations protect our air and water, and provide regulations that protect consumers from being taken advantage of. 
Congressional Republicans have already voted for that plan.  It's the same failed theory on how to grow our economy, that was practiced for 10 years before Obama took office.  It was tried and it didn’t work. 
Republicans are hoping, that voters won’t remember what happened the last time they were in charge of the White House.  They expect you to forget how Clinton surpluses became deficits, and that the job growth was more sluggish than it had been in 50 years, or how the world ended up with the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Cary Brunswick


The following excerpt is from a column in the Oneonta Daily Star written by Cary Brunswick.
“Researchers estimate the total costs of billing and insurance related administrative tasks in the U.S. at more than $400 billion a year.
“Much of that $400 billion could be used to lower the price tag on actual care under a national, single-payer system. And that could mean no tax increases to pay for it.
“For example, studies point to the comparison between Massachusetts General Hospital, which employs more than 300 staff members dedicated solely to billing, and Toronto General Hospital, which is similar in size but employs only three because of Canada's single-payer health-insurance system.
“The real problem with the Affordable Care Act is that it may not make care any more affordable because it basically leaves our system of private health insurance intact.  The goal of health-insurance companies is to make profits, not make health care available and affordable for American citizens.  They don't care if people suffer with a pre-existing condition that might cost them money.  That's why the government has to force them into such coverage.
“Obama apologists explain the president's failure to fulfill his campaign promise of national health insurance by saying he had to compromise his real goal in order to get some reforms approved that would at least get most of the uninsured into some kind of coverage. OK, explanation accepted.  But let's not stop with the Affordable Care Act. 
“As Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont put it last week: "The real solution to America's health care crisis is a Medicare-for-all, single-payer system.  Until then, we will remain the only major nation that does not provide health care for every man, woman and child as a right of citizenship."

It should be noted, that Democratic Senator Max Baucus, was the Chairman of Senate Finance Committee.  The “Billings Gazette” reported: “In the past six years, nearly one-fourth of every dime raised by the Montana Democrat and his political action committee has come from individuals associated with drug companies, insurers, hospitals, medical supply firms, health service companies and other health professionals.  These donations total about 3.4 million, or 1,500 dollars a day, every day, from January 2003 through 2008.”

Senator Baucus refused to allow advocates for a single payer national health policy to testify at the Senate Finance Committee hearings.  Unquestionably, the Senate Finance Committee was corrupted by corporate health industry lobbyist.
Had Obama and Pelosi been able to get a single payer healthcare bill passed in Congress it would have led to greater unemployment.  I don’t see congressional Democrats from Massachusetts being eager to pass a law that would put 297 members of the billing staff at Massachusetts General Hospital out of work, while the overall economy was doing so poorly. 

Saturday, July 07, 2012

God Given Right


Many American’s have succumbed to a medieval view of the world, of curtailing access to our country, at a time when we desperately need the talent, energy and labor of our newest immigrants.  Illegal immigrants perform essential services, serve in our military, pay rent and taxes on every thing they buy.  As citizens, they’ll help balance the budget and pay into Social Security.
Immigrants are willing be laborers, maintenance staff, highway workers, janitors or service staff, changing sheets and bedpans in nursing care and do many other humble but essential tasks.  They’re willing to work hard at underpaid jobs and endure substandard working conditions, because they’re determined to support themselves and their families.
Unfortunately, the fear and anger directed towards illegal Mexican immigrants has become irrational hatred, and has nullified some people’s ability to feel compassion and think critically.  Deporting 13 million illegal immigrants is absolutely unrealistic, especially from a cost and manpower perspective.
The reason illegal immigration has become such an overwhelming issue is that Mexican farmers have been displaced by having to compete with powerful corporate agribusiness.  They’re no longer able to compete in local markets, because the rice and corn imported from America is cheaper.  Employers are eager to increase their profit margins at the expense of these desperately poor people.  Illegal immigrants are encouraged to come across the border, because of lax workplace enforcement. 
The best way to control this problem is to fine the American firms that hire people with fake documents.  The penalty needs to be significantly raised to a fine of $10,000 for the first offense, which should be sufficient to hurt the employer’s pocketbook.
The Mexican-American War was the first major conflict driven by the idea of "Manifest Destiny"; the belief that America had a God-given right, or destiny, to expand the country's borders from 'sea to shining sea'.  This belief would eventually cause a great deal of suffering for many Mexicans, Native Americans and United States citizens. 
Following the earlier Texas War of Independence from Mexico, tensions between the two largest independent nations on the North American continent grew as Texas eventually became a U.S. state.  Disputes over the border lines sparked military confrontation, helped by the fact that President Polk eagerly sought a war in order to seize large tracts of land from Mexico.
The Mexican illegal immigrant’s "Manifest Destiny" could be to become an American citizen.

Friday, July 06, 2012

Justice Roberts' Legacy


                                                                           
Professor Laurence Tribe, of Harvard Law School taught both President Obama and Chief Justice Roberts, when they were students of his at Harvard Law.  

He predicted: “Well, I think it would concern him (Roberts), as it would any good chief justice, that the court would appear to be very partisan and politically divided.  Even if all of the justices in very good faith voted their constitutional principles, you couldn’t blame the country for looking at that, especially after Citizens United and Bush vs. Gore, in saying that this is a more political than legal institution.

“And he would want very much to avoid that because that would undermine the wellspring of trust that the court commands, a court that’s already less trusted than it was just a few years ago.  I think that would bother him.”
The Roberts Court approved of Citizens United, thereby approving unlimited donation, and overruling all the reforms of Watergate.  The ruling of this conservative court has allowed unlimited money from the very wealthy to dominates political process.  This Court had already interrupted the recount in Florida in 2000.  Basically, it blew the whistle and said no more counting of the ballots.  The president is going to be Bush.

Had the court done it again it would have brought into question the moral and legal authority of the Roberts court.

Chief Justice Roberts presides over an increasingly partisan court, that has moved further right in recent years, and his legacy as a Supreme Court Justice was at stake. 

The Chief Justice may not have wanted the moral and legal authority of the court questioned by doing something so egregious as to strike down a law that had been passed by a supermajority of 60 Senate votes, a majority in the House, and signed by the President.  

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Top -Down Economics


Mitt Romney’s basic vision is one in which if wealthy investors like him and folks at the very top are freed up from any kind of regulations.  They want to maximize their profits even if it means polluting more, offshoring jobs, avoiding taxes, or busting unions. 
Congressional Republicans have voted for such a plan.  Their basic idea is to eliminate regulations on everything, and provide a $5 trillion tax cut on top of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, while letting the free market take care of the rest. 
That kind of top-down economics didn’t work during the Bush era.  It has never worked.  It's good for a few at the very top, but it doesn’t create wealth for middle class workers.
The Obama administration has an alternative vision, because Democrats believe we're all in this together.  Their vision says, that the way we're going to grow our economy and put people back to work is to make sure every child in America has the best education possible.  The way we grow our economy is by making sure that we're bringing manufacturing back to America.  The way we build our economy is by putting people back to work rebuild our roads, bridges, runways, ports, and airports. 
The way we'll grow our economy is to control our own energy sources so we're not dependent on what happens in the Middle East, and develop more clean energy such as wind and solar power.  They best way to grow our economy is to revise our tax code, and makes sure that the wealthiest Americans are paying a little bit more in order to bring down our national debt.  
When you look at the history of this country, the way we emerged as an economic superpower was doing it together. 

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Created Equal


“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

A democracy has been described as majority rule.  Majority rule is considered the only reasonable decision rule that is fair, because it doesn’t privilege voters by letting some votes count for more.  Alternatives to majority rule include an oligarchy and fascism.

An oligarchy is a form of government in which power effectively rests with wealthiest 1%.  Such states are often controlled by politically powerful families whose children are heavily conditioned and mentored to be heirs of the power of the oligarchy.  Many of the 99% consider America to already be an oligarchy.

“When Fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross.” ---Sinclair Lewis.

Fascism has been defined as a system of government that exercises a dictatorship of the extreme right, typically through the merging of state and business leadership, together with belligerent nationalism.

Fascist believes, that a nation requires strong leadership, singular collective identity, and the will and ability to commit violence and wage war in order to keep the nation strong.

Italian dictator, Benito Mussolini claimed: “And above all, Fascism, the more it considers and observes the future and the development of humanity quite apart from political considerations of the moment, believes neither in the possibility nor the utility of perpetual peace... War alone brings up to its highest tension all human energy and puts the stamp of nobility upon the people who have the courage to meet it.”

Historically, America’s wealthy elite covet the assets of weaker nations and have used our military to gain an economic stranglehold on the natural resources of weaker nations.


Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Badge of Honor


Laurence O’Donnell Jr. served as senior advisor to the late liberal Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan of Pinder’s Corners New York.  

It was Senator Moynihan, who famously said on the floor of the Senate: "Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts."  

Recently, Laurence O’Donnell famously said: “What did liberals do that was so offensive to the Republican Party?  

“I’ll tell you what what they did.  

“Liberals got women the right to vote.  

“Liberals got African-Americans the right to vote.

“Liberals created Social Security and lifted millions of elderly people out of poverty.  

“Liberals ended segregation.  

“Liberals passed the Civil Rights Act, and the Voting Rights Act.  

“Liberals created Medicare.  

“Liberals passed the Clean Air Act, and the Clean Water Act.

“What did conservatives do?  

“They opposed them on every one of those things, every one.  

“So when you try to hurl that label at my feet, ‘Liberal’ as if it were something to be ashamed of, something dirty, something to run away from, it won’t work, because I will pick up that label and will wear it as a badge of honor.” 

Both Moynihan’s remark and O’Donnell’s factual observation precisely express my feelings.

Monday, July 02, 2012

Big or Small?


The debate shouldn’t be whether we need a big government or a small government, but how we can create a smarter government.  Government should give our citizens the tools they need to succeed.  Our government can’t guarantee results, but it should guarantee a shot at opportunity for every American who's willing to work hard.  While, debating the role of government in our lives, it’s important to remember, that our government needs to respond to challenges of our times in a constructive manner.

If we choose to only expose ourselves to viewpoints that are in line with our own, we’ll become more polarized.  We’ll deepen the political divides in this country, but if we choose to actively seek out information that challenges our assumptions, we might begin to understand where the people who disagree with us are coming from.  If you grew up in a big city, spend some time with people, who grew up in a rural town.  If you find yourself only hanging around with people of your race, ethnicity or religion, broaden your circle to include people who've had different life experiences.  Learn what it's like to walk in someone else's shoes, and you may help make our democracy work.

Obama has pointed out: “When we don't pay close attention to the decisions made by our leaders; when we fail to educate ourselves about the major issues of the day; when we choose not to make our voices and opinions heard, that's when democracy breaks down.  That's when power is abused.  That's when the most extreme voices in our society fill the void that we leave.  That's when powerful interests and their lobbyists are most able to buy access and influence in the corridors of Washington, because none of us are there to speak up and stop them.”

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Jesus was a Troublemaker


The Oneonta Daily Star recently published the following letter by Richard Stinson of South Kortright.
“If you are a Christian and a Republican, you must choose which side you are on when you vote this year.

“Some Republicans want to do away with food stamps, Medicare, Social Security, unions, minimum wage, women's right to equal pay for equal work, money for schools and just about every advancement we have made in the past 100 years.

“Republican thinking seems to be based on the Old Testament rather than the New Testament. Jesus brought "The Good News" from a benevolent God.  He taught love, forgiveness, and giving to all who are less fortunate than you ... "for whatsoever you do for the least of my brethren you do for me."  He brought aid to the poor and troubled, not the rich and powerful.  His only act of violence was to drive the money lenders out of the Temple.  He was the original advocate for the 99 percenters.

“By Republican standards, Jesus was a troublemaker and a Socialist.  Go back to your Bible, read the Gospels and apply Jesus' teachings to your world. If you are really a Christian, think carefully about which side really represents what Jesus would want for the people of this state, our country and the rest of the world.  Whatever changes that are made by our government will affect all of us, but the ones in need, the sick, the homeless and most important, our children stand to lose the most under the Republicans.

“Unless you are one of the top 1 percent, you really cannot support the Republican agenda and call yourself a Christian.”