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.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Delhi American Legion


I wasn’t aware that a forum was held at the Delhi American Legion regarding the N.Y. Safe Act.  Therefore, I provide a constitutional history lesson for all of those that attended, which was published in the Delaware County Times this morning.

The Second Amendment is a shortened version of language found in the 1776 Virginia Declaration of Rights, which was primarily the work of George Mason.  It states: “That a well-regulated militia, composed of the body of the people, trained to arms, is the proper, natural, and safe defense of a free state; that standing armies, in time of peace, should be avoided as dangerous to liberty; and that in all cases the military should be under strict subordination to, and governed by, the civil power.”

In 1776, guns were important to put fresh meat on the table, as well as, putting down a greatly feared slave rebellion in the South.  Our founding fathers wanted: “a well-regulated militia” and a nation: “governed by, the civil power.”  They created our Constitution, which provides a blueprint for governing by a civil power, because they fear a military coup.

James Madison eventually became a leading advocate for the Bill of Rights, but initially argued that a federal Bill of Rights was unnecessary, by asserting that the federal government could never raise a standing army powerful enough to overcome a militia.  Similarly, Noah Webster argued that an armed populace would have no trouble resisting the potential threat to liberty of a standing army.

Of course, they couldn’t have envisioned the scope of the weapons of war, that our massive military possess, today.  Weapons of war, that can be used for national defense or annihilating a rebellion by a dissatisfied segments of the population.

Our Civil War was a populace revolution, instigated by very wealthy slave owners.  It resulted in 618,000 Americans being killed.  We best honor the authors of our Constitution and Bill of Rights by solving our disagreements at the ballot box instead of with bullets.

Today, we have extremist on the far right, who advocate violence as a solution to what they consider infringement of their Constitutional rights. Potentially, they’re foolish traitors, who have a very poor understanding of the intent and safeguards written into our Constitution and Bill of Rights.

In my opinion, our "well regulated militia" is the National Guard.  I’m concerned, that if  voter suppression doesn't work, radical ideologues are preparing to use bullets.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Collective Bargaining


On Sept. 1, 1980, Ronald Reagan said: “Where free unions and collective bargaining are forbidden, freedom is lost.”  

Since Reagan’s trickled down tax breaks took effect the income for about one percent of Americans have sky rocketed, and middle-class wages have remained flat.  

The Economic Policy Institute reported that 20% of the growth in the wage gap between high school educated and college educated men can be attributed to de-unionization.  Not only did unions protect lower and middle-class workers from unfair wages, they also established practices that were then adopted by non-union employers.  Two prime examples are employee pensions and healthcare. 

Right to work legislation prohibits paying union dues as a condition of employment.  Historically, whenever right to work laws are passed, union membership goes down along with workers’ wages.  This is all part of the Republican effort to dismantle the Democratic base by union busting.  Republicans have the support of corporate patrons who want to keep unemployment high and workers compliant, because it helps their bottom lines.  

Unions have been the most effective organization leading the fight to help working families.  They’ve been the great equalizer.  In fact, the top six states where unemployment is highest are all right to work states.

What right to work laws actually mean is the right to work for less, and they’re undemocratic.  When the majority of a company’s workers say we want a union, there ought to be a union and everybody should pay for it, because everybody is going to benefit from it.

Republican president Dwight Eisenhower said: “Workers have a right to organize into unions and to bargain collectively with their employers.  And a strong, free labor movement is an invigorating and necessary part of our industrial society.  Only a fool would try to deprive working men and women of their right to join the union of their choice.” 

“Should any political party attempt to abolish Social Security, unemployment insurance and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear from that party again in our political history.  There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things, but their number is negligible, and they are stupid.”

Eisenhower’s party platform called for action “to protect more effectively the rights of labor unions.”  It boasted: “The protection of the right of workers to organize into unions and to bargain collectively is the firm and permanent policy of the Eisenhower administration.”     

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

A Win-Win Situation


A new Congressional Budget Office report claims that an increase in the minimum wage would have mixed results.  The report estimates at 900,000 Americans would be lifted out of poverty by increasing the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, and over 16.5 million workers would get a raise.  However, number of people that would lose their job, because businesses could not afford it could be half million. 

California Senator, Barbara Boxer responded: “When people are earning a decent living, when they don’t have to fear that they can feed their families when they come home after working a full-day, it does lift everyone up including the communities in which they live because they spend dollars in the community.”

If we cling the position that some Republicans have taken for decades to not raise the minimum wage and applied it the first federal minimum wage of 1938, the minimum wage would still be 25 cents an hour.  However, since 1938 we’ve created over a 100 million new jobs, and man Americans have recognized for 7 decades that raising the minimum wage is a win-win situation.

Some House Republicans are have gone nuts on the idea of raising the minimum wage, and some of them don’t think there ought to even be a minimum wage.  If you believe that raising the minimum wage will result in losing jobs, should we assume that you believe that it never should have been raised, since it was 25 cents an hour.

The states that have raised the minimum wage haven’t seen their unemployment rates go up.

Again ask yourself the question: “Should those Americans, who work full- time, come home at night, kiss their children goodnight, and then have to wonder if they’ll have enough to feed them the next day?” 

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

People Suffering


Republican President Herbert Hoover is considered to have been one of our worst presidents, because on his watch that the worst economic crisis in our history took place.

As Secretary of Commerce and later as president, Hoover presided over the so-called roaring 20’s, which was the highest level of inequality that our country had ever experienced until our most recent decades of wage stagnation. 

Hoover boasted: "The fundamental business of a country that is production and distribution is on a sound and prosperous basis." Four days later the stock market crash of 1929 occurred.  The devastating economic crisis of The Great Depression followed, but Hoover’s only solution for the starving, homeless unemployed caused by that depression was private charity, not government intervention.  Even then, Republicans were all about a balanced budget, and their laissez-faire ideology demanded, that there should be no government intervention into the economy.

In the summer of 1932, a large group of WW I veterans decided to lobby over their miserable circumstances, and get their government to change the date their bonus certificates would be paid.  Those certificates had been provided to veterans in 1924 as a bonus for war service, but weren’t payable until 1945.  A bill to pay the benefits early was rushed through the House, but blocked in the Republican controlled Senate.

Hoover became annoyed with the protesters, who had set up a large camp, they named Hooverville on the Anacostia Flats not far from DC.  Hoover ordered the Army to clear out the protesting veterans.  Infantry and cavalry troops under the command of Douglas Mac Arthur fixed bayonets and hoisted sabers, and rolled over the encampment using tear gas, fire, and forceful persuasion.

The lesson learned that day was that our leaders don’t like to be presented with a constant eyesore that advertises their failure.  They’ll put up with it for awhile, but inevitably the enforcers will be sent in and shacks destroyed and heads busted. 

In Nov. 1932, Hoover’s record of economic mismanagement ushered in the dominance of the Democratic Party, who won both the presidency and Congress.

Although FDR was elected in Nov. of 1932, his inauguration didn’t take place until March, when the unemployment rate had fallen to 24.9 percent.  Hoover’s lame duck presidency wasn’t shortened with the passage of the 20th Amendment to the Constitution.  But, after seeing people suffering so long under Hoover, Congress amended the Constitution and made inauguration day January 20.


Monday, February 24, 2014

Political Interference


The United Auto Workers have asked the National Labor Relations Board to set aside last week's vote at Volkswagen's Chattanooga, Tenn., plant and hold another election because of outside interference from elected officials and lobbyists.
Workers had voted 712-626 to reject union representation at the plant.  However, prior to the vote, Republican Sen. Bob Corker urged them to reject the union and suggested that Volkswagen would not build a new SUV in Chattanooga if workers voted for the UAW.  
Volkswagen management announced the SUV will be built either in Tennessee or Puebla, Mexico, and that the union vote wouldn’t affect a decision on where to build the SUV.
Tennessee Republican Gov. Bill Haslam had claimed accepting the UAW would discourage other companies from moving into the state.  Furthermore, the Republican leader of the state senate threatened to withhold tax incentives to support new investment at a UAW affiliated Volkswagen.
The UAW filed a 58-page document with the NLRB, that insisted: "Senator Corker's conduct was shameful and undertaken with utter disregard for the rights of the citizens of Tennessee and surrounding states that work at Volkswagen Chattanooga."
 UAW President Bob King argued: "It's an outrage that politically motivated third parties threatened the economic future of this facility and the opportunity for workers to create a successful operating model that that would grow jobs in Tennessee.  It’s extraordinary interference in the private decision of workers to have a senator, governor and leader of the state legislature threaten the company with the denial of economic incentives and workers with a loss of product."
Labor experts claim, that it would have been against the law for Corker to threaten future jobs if he was speaking on behalf of Volkswagen.  But, the law is less clear if Corker was simply voicing his opinion.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Delusional


The Oneonta Daily Star published the following criticism, from Donna J. Shaver of Laurens, of Tea Party conservative, Chuck Pinkey’s most recent column.
“Chuck Pinkey and his distortions: In attributing the phrase “equality of income” to the liberals, he conveniently omitted the ‘IN” (inequality).  Unemployment figures are another misrepresentation of facts, just like Fox getting all the numbers wrong on election night.  Maybe the “frogs” didn’t vote for Obama, but he won the election and received more than 50 percent of the popular vote! 
“Quote us some facts, Chuck; post in your column the numbers rating for the tea party, Republicans and Congress?  When did the “generation of welfare, food stamps, politically instigated class warfare and blatant propaganda” begin?  You can’t blame it all on Obama; might be some Republicans mixed in.  Especially when it comes to blatant propaganda! 
“Is your mind so limited that you have no idea what contributions that other countries in the world have made to civilization?  Do you know where America ranks in education, health care, mortality rate, crime, etc.?  Do you know how much the national debt has been reduced during this administration?  Would you like to state in your “facts” just what it cost this country and the taxpayers when the Republicans shut down the government? There was ZERO return to the taxpayers from that farce.  A lot of jobs could have been created with that money.  Like the “frog” story, ignorance is bliss .
“What credentials do you have in determining the dollar value of a job or an employee?  I am sure you don’t work for $7 an hour, yet I am sure there are many in this county that could do your job just as well. Is your job worth $10.10 an hour?  Quote the percentage of Americans that want the minimum wage increased.  Liberals talk of INEQUALITY of income because of people like you!  You and your right-wing cohorts remain delusional.”

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Worst Recent President


George W. Bush acknowledged that he'd have gone to war knowing the intelligence for invading Iraq was wrong, because he considered Saddam Hussein a bad man.  Would Americans have been willing to risk the lives of thousands of their sons and daughters to remove a bad man?  I doubt it.  

Therefore, Bush’s propagandist convinced many Americans and Congress with the threat of a mushroom cloud.  Some in Congress wouldn't risk being labeled weak on defense, and others foolishly trusted Bush to explore all options before going to war.

An estimate of more than one million violent Iraqi deaths was confirmed in a 2007 poll by the British polling firm Opinion Research Business, which estimated 1,220,580 violent deaths since the invasion.  This was consistent with a study conducted by doctors and scientists from the Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health a year earlier.  Their study was published in the Lancet, Britain's leading medical journal.  It estimated 601,000 people killed due to violence as of July 2006; but if updated on the basis of deaths since the study, the estimate would be more than a million.  Those estimates didn’t include those who died because of public health problems created by the war, including breakdowns in sewerage systems and shortages of medicines.

In 2007, Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz insisted the Iraq war contributed to our economic slowdown and would hinder an economic recovery.

In their book “The Three Trillion Dollar War,” Stiglitz and co-author Linda Bilmes insists that an ultraconservative estimate of the true cost of the Iraq War would be at least $3 trillion.

Stiglitz and Bilmes discovered an under reporting of casualty figures by the Pentagon.  The official Pentagon figure of nearly 30,000 wounded in action didn’t account for 40,000 service members who required medical attention for non-combat injuries or illness.

On top of launching wars, in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Bush administration put in place a huge tax cut, at a time when military spending was going up. 

During the first five years, of George W. Bush’s presidency tax cuts legislation was passed, which mostly benefited the very wealthy.  The richest 1% of Americans saw their income go up an average of more than 10 percent each year between 2002 and 2007.  As the rich got richer, the middle class saw their income stay the same, and the number of people in poverty increased.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Worst Presidents Ever


Historians spend a lot of time thinking about our presidents and comparing them to each other,  But, opinions tend to change over time.  In 1962, shortly after Dwight Eisenhower left office, a panel of historians rated him as a mediocre to below-average president.  However, by 2012,  a "Newsweek" survey of historians put him in the top 10.

My opinion is that Eisenhower, was the best Republican president during my lifetime of 78 years.

According to a Siena College survey, George W. Bush rated poorly among presidential scholars in handling the economy, communication, ability to compromise, foreign policy accomplishments, and intelligence.  

In surveys, taken between 1982 and 2010, by the Siena College poll of presidential historians Andrew Johnson, James Buchanan, and Warren Harding were rated as the three worst presidents.

Perhaps, the most amoral sociopath, we ever had, was President Andrew Jackson.  He personally killed many people in duels, and as a soldier, ordered his men to kill women and children when they raided Indian camps.

President Jackson pushed through the Indian Removal Act, which formally approved the ethnic cleansing that led to the Trail of Tears.  In one of the most shameful moments in American history, Jackson overruled the Supreme Court, and tens of thousands of Indians were forcibly removed from the South.

The Trail of Tears was the forcible relocation of Native Americans, that  included members of the Cherokee, Creek, Seminole, and Choctaw nations, from their homelands to Indian Territory (present day Oklahoma).  Many Native Americans suffered from exposure, disease, and starvation while en route to their destinations, including 4,000 of the 15,000 relocated Cherokee nation.

At the end of his life, Andrew Jackson said that he had but two regrets. His regrets were, that he had been unable to shoot Henry Clay or hang John C. Calhoun. 

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Subhuman Mongrel


In 2012, Ted Nugent was questioned by the Secret Service for saying: "If Barack Obama becomes the president in November again, I will either be dead or in jail by this time next year."
Nugent first became known a rock musician, but increasingly, he has become known for his controversial comments about President Obama.  Recently, Nugent described Obama as “a Chicago communist-raised, communist-educated, communist-nurtured subhuman mongrel...”
That comment led CNN’s Wolf Blitzer to point out: "That’s what the Nazis called Jews to justify the genocide of the Jewish community.  They called them untermenschen, subhuman mongrels.  If you read some of the literature that the Nazis put out, there is a long history of that specific phrase he (Nugent) used involving the president of the United States."
In his interview, Blitzer cited the work of  an early Nazi party official Julius Streicher, who used the words subhuman and mongrel interchangeably, but generally had the same derogatory meaning.
In the mid 1920s, Streicher began publishing a tabloid aimed at the working class called “Der Sturmer.”  The front of each edition carried the slogan: "The Jews are our misfortune."
A 1935, an English translation of a student essay published in “Der Sturmer read: "Regrettably, there are still many people today who say: Even the Jews are creatures of God. Therefore you must respect them.  But we say: Vermin are animals too, but we exterminate them just the same. The Jew is a mongrel.  He has hereditary tendencies from Aryans, Asiatics, Negroes, and from the Mongolians.  Evil always preponderates in the case of a mongrel."
According to historian David Myers, Adolph Hitler repeatedly used the word "untermensch" or subhuman in his book Mein Kampf in 1925.  Myers also reports, that word ‘mischling’ or mongrel, were used regularity by the Nazi propaganda machine."

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Attacking Hillary


Senator Rand Paul noted: “The Democrats, one of the big issues is they have concocted and says Republicans are committing a war on women.  One of the workplace laws and rules that I think are good is that bosses shouldn’t prey on young interns in their office.

“And I think really the media seems to have given President Clinton a pass on this.  There is no excuse for that and that is predatory behavior, and it should be something we shouldn’t want to associate with people who would take advantage of a young girl in his office.”

Mitt Romney pointed out: “I think Hillary Clinton, if she becomes a nominee, will have plenty to discuss about her own record.  I don’t imagine that Bill Clinton is going to be a big part of it.  He embarrassed the nation.  He breached his responsibility, I think, as an adult and as a leader and his relationship and I think that’s very unfortunate but I don’t think that’s Hillary Clinton’s to explain.  She has her own record, her own vision for where she would take the country and I think that’s something which we debated extensively during the 2016 campaign.”

Romney seems to be warning Republicans to steer clear of that type of attack. 

Senator Paul sought to make the case Hillary Clinton doesn’t have the moral high ground on women’s issues because of a 16-year old scandal involving her husband.  He doesn’t seem to understand the incongruity of claiming to defend women, while at the same time attacking Hillary Clinton for the contemptible behavior of her husband.

Republicans are afraid of Hillary Clinton, because according to the poll, she’s the strongest candidate in the next presidential elections.  Would the pro-family conservatives have been in favor of her divorcing Bill Clinton?

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Loud Music


On 11/23012, Michael Dunn pulled into a gas station in Jacksonville, Florida and parked next to red Dodge Durango with 4 teenagers in it.

Dunn had just left his son's wedding with his fiancee, who went inside the convenience store for wine and chips.  Dunn didn't like the loud music coming from the SUV, and asked them to turn it down.

Dunn claimed, that 17-year old Jordan Davis threatened him, so he decided to take matter into his own hands upon seeing what he thought was the barrel of a gun sticking out of the Durango.

However, prosecutors reported Dunn fired a total of 10 bullets at the SUV, because he didn’t like the loud music.  Then, he left the gas station drove 40 miles to a bed and breakfast in St. Augustine.  There, Dunn walked his dog, ordered a pizza, drank rum and cola.

After learning almost six hours later that he had killed one of the teenagers, Dunn testified that he became "crazy with grief," experiencing stomach problems for approximately four hours before taking a nap.  He testified: "My intent was to stop the attack, not necessarily end a life.  It just worked out that way."

Dunn never called police. The first contacts he had with them were at his home in Satellite Beach 130 miles south of St. Augustine, when he was being apprehended.

Dunn’s fiancee, Rhonda Rouer, testified that he had never mentioned any weapon the teenagers allegedly had.  After being arrested, Dunn claimed, that he thought, that he’d seen a shotgun, stick, barrel or a lead pipe.

Actually, police found a basketball, basketball shoes, clothing, a camera tripod and cups inside the teenagers' Durango, but not a gun.

A Florida jury returned with a mistrial verdict on Michael Dunn the alleged killer of Jordan Davis, on the count of first-degree murder.  However, Dunn was found guilty on four charges including three for attempted murder.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Democrats Aren’t Done


After the debt ceiling passed the House, Republican Congressman Tim Huelskamp predicted: “They’re going to wait until March of 2015 before they’re going to cut a dime of spending, and somehow they wonder why people get upset about what’s happening in Washington, D.C. today.”

In his State of the Union Address, President Obama warned Congress, that we need to do some things to grow this economy to make sure it works for every American, and people want to see us work together to accomplish that objective, if you’re not going to act, “I’ll act.”

House Democrats don’t plan to cut taxes, but will submit a discharge petition to get a minimum wage bill on the calendar.  They want their Republican colleagues to join them in providing an incentive for people to work, and not have full time workers living in poverty.

House Democrats intend to introduce a discharge petition to take up a minimum wage bill, that raise the minimum wage over a couple of years to $10.10 an hour.  A discharge petition is a means of bringing a bill out of committee and to the House floor for consideration without a report from the committee and usually without the cooperation of the leadership by "discharging" the committee from further consideration of a bill.

It will happen, if House Democrats can get 20 to 25 Republicans to sign the bill.  Some Republicans have rationalize their failure to act by claiming, that they don’t like, or trust this president, however the fact of the matter is, their party is deeply divided and cannot come up with a consensus for action.  They’re the party of no.  They’re the party that doesn’t listen to the American public, because 70 percent of Americans believes raising the minimum wage would be good for America.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

America’s “We” Problem

The following excerpt is from an article, that was originally posted on Robert Reich's blog.“America has a serious ‘We’ problem — as in ‘Why should we pay for them?’

“The question is popping up all over the place.  It underlies the debate over extending unemployment benefits to the long-term unemployed and providing food stamps to the poor. 
“It’s found in the resistance of some young and healthy people to being required to buy health insurance in order to help pay for people with preexisting health problems. 
“It can be heard among the residents of upscale neighborhoods who don’t want their tax dollars going to the inhabitants of poorer neighborhoods nearby.  
“The pronouns ‘we’ and ‘they’ are the most important of all political words.  They demarcate who’s within the sphere of mutual responsibility, and who’s not.  Someone within that sphere who’s needy is one of ‘us’ — an extension of our family, friends, community, tribe – and deserving of help.  But needy people outside that sphere are ‘them,’ presumed undeserving unless proved otherwise.
“Why in recent years have so many middle-class and wealthy Americans pulled the borders in closer?
“The middle-class and wealthy citizens of East Baton Rouge Parish, Louisiana, for example, are trying to secede from the school district they now share with poorer residents of town, and set up their own district funded by property taxes from their higher-valued homes. 
“Similar efforts are underway in Memphis, Atlanta, and Dallas.  Over the past two years, two wealthy suburbs of Birmingham, Alabama, have left the countywide school system in order to set up their own.
“Elsewhere, upscale school districts are voting down state plans to raise their taxes in order to provide more money to poor districts, as they did recently in Colorado. 
“‘Why should we pay for them?’ is also reverberating in wealthy places like Oakland County, Michigan, that border devastatingly poor places like Detroit.
“‘Now, all of a sudden, they’re having problems and they want to give part of the responsibility to the suburbs?’says L. Brooks Paterson, the Oakland County executive. ‘They’re not gonna talk me into being the good guy. ‘Pick up your share?’  Ha ha.’
“But had the official boundary been drawn differently so that it encompassed both Oakland County and Detroit – say, to create a Greater Detroit region – the two places would form a ‘we’ whose problems Oakland’s more affluent citizens would have some responsibility to address.
“What’s going on?
“One obvious explanation involves race.  Detroit is mostly black; Oakland County, mostly white.  The secessionist school districts in the South are almost entirely white; the neighborhoods they’re leaving behind, mostly black.
“But racism has been with us from the start.  Although some southern school districts are seceding in the wake of the ending of court-ordered desegregation, race alone can’t explain the broader national pattern.  According to Census Bureau numbers,two-thirds of Americans below the poverty line at any given point identify themselves as white.
“Another culprit is the increasing economic stress felt by most middle-class Americans. Median household incomes are dropping and over three-quarters of Americans report they’re living paycheck to paycheck. 
“It’s easier to be generous and expansive about the sphere of ‘we’ when incomes are rising and future prospects seem even better, as during the first three decades after World War II when America declared war on poverty and expanded civil rights.  But since the late 1970s, as most paychecks have flattened or declined, adjusted for inflation, many in the stressed middle no longer want to pay for ‘them.’”

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Five Years Ago


Five years ago, our economy was horrible.  On February 13, 2009, the Dow Jones closed at 7850.  Markets continued to down, and the Dow closed at 6,547 on Mar. 9, 2009.

In February 2009, employers slashed 651,000 jobs.  The unemployment rate hit a 25-year high, with 12.5 million Americans were out of work.  The unemployment rate was sitting at 8.1 percent, and eventually go to 10.2 percent.

On February 13, 2009, less than a month after Obama took office, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act passed.  Back then, both Houses of Congress were controlled by the Democrats.  Not a single Republican member of the House voted for the $787 billion economic stimulus package.  

In it’s first year, the Recovery Act saved or created at least 2 million jobs, cut taxes for 95 percent of working families, and made loans to over 42,000 small businesses.  It also provided critical relief for state governments facing record budget shortfalls. The stimulus included infrastructure investment, and assistance to the unemployed. 

By September of 2012, economists estimated that the stimulus had created up to 3.6 million jobs, and had boosted America’s annual economic output by $400 billion.

Even after all that obstruction from congressional Republicans, we’ve witnessed 47 straight months of private sector job growth.  And, yesterday the DOW closed at 16,157.

America has the lowest unemployment rate in over five years; a rebounding housing market; a manufacturing sector that's adding jobs for the first time since the 1990; we’ve seen more oil produced at home than we buy from the rest of the world; and our deficits have been cut by more than half.

Republicans blocked countless jobs bills, that sought to create jobs.  Had the American Jobs Act of 2013 passed, it would have created an additional 1.9 million jobs.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Most Deadly Drug


Heroin use has doubled since 2007 and the price has dropped.  Heroin has killed more Americans than car accidents.  And, since the beginning of the drug war, drug use has remained basically stable. 

However, there is a drug more deadly than heroin that we have been remarkably successful in attacking.

The drugstore CVS did something, we hardly ever see any big corporation to do, they walk away from $2 billion.  They’re going to stop selling cigarettes and other tobacco products by October 1st, because a company that consideres itself a health care provider shouldn’t be selling cigarettes, which cause half a million deaths every year.

Larry Merlo, CVS President and CEO said: “Every day we are helping millions of patients manage chronic conditions like high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes. And all of these conditions are made worse by smoking.”

That announcement drew praise from President Obama.

Regarding CVS’s decision anti-smoking advocate, John Banzhaf said: “I think it was an important and courageous decision.  In the long run, I think they’re going to make money out of it rather than losing.  It’s going to help discourage smoking and help the 90 percent of smokers who want to quit to do so thereby saving taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars.  It will put great pressure on other companies, other pharmacies to stop selling cigarettes or face inevitable legislation.”

The public health battle to lower rates of tobacco use and smoking related deaths has been one of the most successful policy battles of our time.  The percentage of Americans over 18 who smoke has gone from 42 percent in 1965 to just 18 percent in 2012.

The surgeon general’s report in 1964 was important, but smoking went up in 1964, 1965 and 1966.  But, when smoking was first restricted and then banned on airplanes, smoking rates started down.  Gradually, it was legal action which has led the way, not Congress.  Litigation, usually begins at the city level, then at the state level.

After banning smoking in workplaces and public places, taxation is the second most effective weapon against smoking.  Taxation brings in money, but many states lack the political will to tax cigarettes at the same rate that they’re taxed in many westernized countries.

About 18 percent of adults are costing taxpayers $300 billion a year, or roughly $12,000 per smoker.  Most taxpayers are sick and tired of it.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Addressing Important Issues


Speaker of the House, John Boehner claimed: “Listen, there’s widespread doubt about whether this administration can be trusted to enforce our laws and it’s going to be difficult to move any immigration legislation until that changes.”

Boehner, who was primarily responsible for last year’s government shutdown and the first credit downgrade in our history, has the audacity to claim that President Obama can’t be trusted.

Actually, the Amercan people can’t trust Boehner, and House Republicans to pass a 3 month extension of unemployment benefits, or an increase in the minimum wage.  Those are issue that most Americans want House Republicans to fix.

A recent poll shows that 91 percent of Democrats want a minimum wage increase, and overall, 71 percent of Americans want the minimum wage increased.  

More that half of Americans want an extension of unemployment benefits.  Both these issues are very important to addressing the issue of income inequality in America.  Unfortunately, congressional Republicans are doing everything in their power to thwart the will of the majority of the American people.

It’s very unlikely that immigration reform will be passed in the House, because the people, that it would affect the most don’t normally help the Republican vote.  House Republicans are only interested in protecting their gerrymandered districts.

Gerrymandered House districts create an absent of a Democratic majority in many districts, and possibly a permanent Republican majority in the House, for the next decade.  The demographics in all of those gerrymandered districts across the country, do not match the demographics nationally.  Those districts aren’t evolving the way the rest of our country has been evolving.  Those Republican districts are demographically much older and much whiter.

By using voting restrictions, on a state level Republicans are trying to suppress the minority vote in every way that they possibly can.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Debt Limit Raised


House Republicans couldn’t decide among themselves what their demands would be regarding the debt ceiling.  They had considered using the Keystone XL Pipeline or repealing Obamacare provisions as leverage for their vote to raise the debt limit.
House Speaker John Boehner admitted: “We’re still looking for the pieces to this puzzle but listen we do not want to default on our debt and we’re not going to default on our debt.  We’re in discussions with members about how we can move ahead.  We’ve got time to do this. We’re going to continue to work out.  No decisions have been made.”
In the past, Republicans refused to raise the debt limit, but all we got was a bad credit downgrade.
After multiple attempts, by Boehner to force some kind of concession in return for raising the nation’s debt limit, Boehner allowed a vote on a “clean” debt limit increase that passed by a 221-201 margin.
Boehner and 27 House Republicans joined 193 House Democrats to pass the bill, while 199 Republicans and 2 Democrats opposed the measure.
Last fall's government shutdown caused Republican poll numbers to drop.  Boehner and most House Republicans agreed they didn't want to set up another major confrontation on the debt bill.
The Speaker made it clear publicly and privately in the last couple of months that he wasn’t going to allow a default, but he also told his members if they wanted to demand any condition for raising the debt ceiling they needed to unite behind it, but he couldn’t get his members to agree on a strategy.
Since, President Obama was elected and Republicans took control of the House in 2010, a solid block of conservatives Tea Party Republicans vowed to oppose any measure to raise the debt ceiling unless it also cuts spending.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Diminished Safety Net


President Obama insists: “We make this promise to our fellow Americans who are working hard to get back on their feet, because when times get tough, we are not a people who say, you’re on your own.  We're a people who believe that we’re all in it together.  And we know, "there but the grace of God go I."
According to a Pew Research poll, 51 percent of Republicans think people are poor because of a lack of efforts.
They seem to be incapable of understand that we have lost over 50,000 factories in this country because of outsourcing.  Most Republicans will selectively pick certain examples and use them against the economic argument, for increasing the minimum wages in this country.
Only 32 percent of Republicans think poverty is due to circumstances beyond a poor person’s control.  Most Americans still believe that opportunity and hard work go hand and hand.  However good things don’t always happen to hardworking people.  Workers are much more vulnerable today, because of the global economy.
Those Americans, who come back after their jobs have been shipped overseas often come back at a significantly lower wage scale, and luck is a big part of being successful.
Fifty years ago our nation declared war on poverty.  Conservatives are claiming, that it was a complete failure.  However poverty rates have gone down because of the infrastructure investments that were made decades ago.
Unemployment insurance was designed to help keep food on the table while a father sends out résumés.  It pay the rent while a mother learning new skills that will prepare her for a new job.  It provides that a little more security so that losing your job doesn’t mean that you have to lose your house, and everything you've worked so hard to build for years.  

Monday, February 10, 2014

Distorting the Facts


Republicans claimed that a new Congressional Budget Office report proved that the president’s health care law will kill jobs. 

House Speaker, John Boehner sent the following message to constituents: “CBO report confirms devastating impact of Obama on jobs.”  The Senate Republican campaign committee followed with: “Obamacare to print even more pink slips.”  And, the RNC distorted the truth with: “CBO, ‘Obamacare’ is bad for economy.”

The truth is the exact opposite.  At a House hearing Democratic Congressman Chris Van Hollen asked the head of the CBO, Doug Elmendorf: “The CBO estimates that the Affordable Care Act will boost overall demand for goods and services over the next few years.

“And then you go on to say the net increase in demand for goods and services will in turn boost demand for labor over the next few years.  That’s the conclusion you make, right?”

Congressional Budget Office Director, Doug Elmendorf answered: “Yes, that’s right.”

Rep. Van Hollen continued: “OK.  So when you boost demand for labor in this kind of economy, you actually reduce the unemployment rate because those people who are looking for work can find more work, right?”

Elmendorf: “Yes, that’s right.”

The head of the nonpartisan CBO made it clear that the Obama health care plan will create a demand for more jobs.

However, in the first paragraph of a news release, readers might see that there could be fewer people wanting to work, because they have an option to get health care with fewer hours, and they may decide not to work more hours than they have to.

It’s easier for the Republican media machine to produce a bumper sticker saying: “Obamacare kills jobs,” than to say, it could reduce the number of workers, because they’ll be able to not have jobs just to have health care.

Sunday, February 09, 2014

A Federal Legal Matter


Attorney General Eric Holder has announced, that our government will recognize same-sex marriages as equal to traditional marriages in all federal legal matters, including bankruptcies, prison visits and survivor benefits.

This expansion of such federal recognition will also apply to the 34 states where same- sex marriage isn’t legal.  However, the new federal benefits will apply only where our federal government has jurisdiction.

For example, a same-sex couple legally married in Massachusetts can now have their federal bankruptcy proceeding recognized in Alabama, even though it doesn't allow same-sex marriages.  In the past, the federal  government could challenge the couple's joint bankruptcy because Alabama doesn't recognize same-sex marriage.

The initiative affects how millions of Americans interact with the federal government, including bankruptcy cases, prison visitation rights, survivor benefits for police officers and firefighters killed on the job, and the legal right to refuse to testify to incriminate a spouse.

In an excerpt from a recent speech to the Swedish parliament, Holder compared his work for the gay rights cause to the 1960s civil rights struggle of Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy's support for equality.

Holder said: "This means that, in every courthouse, in every proceeding, and in every place where a member of the Department of Justice stands on behalf of the United States, they will strive to ensure that same-sex marriages receive the same privileges, protections and rights as opposite-sex marriages under federal law."

In the future, the Justice Department will recognize that same-sex spouses of individuals involved in civil and criminal cases should have the same legal rights as all other married couples, including the right to decline to give testimony that might incriminate their spouses.

Saturday, February 08, 2014

Executive Orders


During his State of the Union Address, President Obama introduced the owner of Punch Pizza in Minneapolis, John Soranno.  John gave his employees a raise to $10 an hour, in order to eased their financial stress.
Obama announced that he’s issuing an executive order requiring federal contractors to pay federally funded employees a fair wage of at least $10.10 an hour, and asks every mayor, governor, state legislator do the same.  Our country can’t wait for Congress to act, and we should follow the example of profitable corporations like Costco and John Soranno, who recognize that higher wages is a smart way to boost productivity.
Today, the federal minimum wage is worth about twenty percent less than it was when Ronald Reagan was president.  Senator Tom Harkin and Congressman George Miller introduced a bill that raises the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour.
Obama agree with Senator Rubio that the Earned Income Tax Credit doesn't do enough for single workers who don’t have children, and he wants to work together with congressional Republicans to strengthen a tax credit, that effectively reduces inequality and helps more Americans get ahead.
Our government should do more to help Americans save for retirement, since most workers don’t have a pension, and a Social Security check often isn't enough.  
Although, the stock market has doubled over the last five years, that doesn't help workers, who don't have 401(k)s.  Obama direct the Treasury to create MyRA.  A new savings bond that encourages working Americans to build a nest egg.  MyRA guarantees a decent return with no risk of losing what workers put in.
Furthermore, Obama urges Congress to send him legislation that protects taxpayers from footing the bill for a housing crisis ever again, and keeps the dream of homeownership alive.



Friday, February 07, 2014

Reward Work


Since, the early 1960’s the number of women in the workforce has increased by more than 50 percent, but the gap between men’s and women’s earnings only closed by 17 percent over the last 50 years.  By the age of 65, the average woman will have lost $431,000 over her working lifetime, because of that earning gap.
President Obama pointed out: “Women make up about half our workforce, but they still make 77 cents for every dollar a man earns.  That is wrong, and in 2014, it's an embarrassment.  Women deserve equal pay for equal work.
“She deserves to have a baby without sacrificing her job.  A mother deserves a day off to care for a sick child or sick parent without running into hardship... I believe when women succeed, America succeeds.”
Today, 49 million children depend on women’s salaries.  Women hold a majority of lower-wage jobs, but they're not the only ones stifled by stagnant wages.  Most people understand that some people will earn more money than others, and we shouldn't resent those who, by virtue of their efforts, achieve incredible success.  However, a majority of Americans also agree that no one who works full-time should ever have to raise a family in poverty.
The current minimum wage is not enough to enable workers and their families to get out poverty, so last year, Obama asked Congress to raise the minimum wage.  It didn’t happen, but five states did passed laws to raise their minimum wage, and businesses like Cosco did it on their own, and now pay a minimum wage of $11.50 an hour.
According to Cosco’s President and CEO, they’ve realized that it’s a lot more profitable in the long run to minimize employee turn over and maximize employee productivity, commitment and loyalty. 

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Change is Hard


Research shows that the best investments we can make in a child's life to provide high quality early education.  Last year, in his State of the Union Address, President Obama asked Congress to help states invest in high-quality pre-K for every 4-year-old.
It didn’t happen, but 30 states have raised pre-K funding on their own.  While, House Republicans decide what they’re going to do, Obama pull together a coalition of elected officials, business leaders, and philanthropists, who are willing to help more children access the high-quality pre-K that they need.
Last year, Obama pledged to connect 99 percent of our students to high-speed broadband over the next four years.  Today, with the support of the FCC and companies like Apple, Microsoft, Sprint, and Verizon, our government has started connecting more than 15,000 schools and 20 million students over the next two years, without adding a dime to the deficit.
Today, 82 percent of high school students from high income families immediately enroll in college, but only 54 percent of our students from low income families immediately enroll in college.  That gap hasn’t changed in the last 30 years. 
The Obama administration is working to redesign high schools and partner them with colleges and employers that offer the real-world education and hands-on training that can lead directly to a job.  They're shaking up our system of higher education to give parents more information and colleges more incentives to offer better value, so that no middle- class student is priced out of a college education.  They're offering the opportunity to cap monthly student loan payments to 10 percent of their income, and have been working with Congress to see how we can help those Americans who feel trapped by student loan debt.

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Give Us A Chance


President Obama has urged Congress to restore the unemployment insurance they let expire for 1.6 million people.  Unemployment insurance is a vital economic life line, and for many people, it’s the only source of income they have to support their families while they look for a job.
Economist have shown that extending emergency unemployment insurance helps the economy, because people will have a little more to spend on a few extra groceries.
In his State of the Union Address, Obama shared a letter he’d received from Misty DeMars, who is a mother of two young boys.  She had been steadily employed since she was a teenager, paid taxes, put herself through college, and never collected unemployment benefits.
In May, she and her husband used their life savings to buy their first home.  A week later, budget cuts claimed the job she loved.  Last month, their unemployment insurance was cut off, she sat down and wrote President Obama the following letter:  
"We are the face of the unemployment crisis.  I'm not dependent on the government.  Our country depends on people like us who build careers, contribute to society, care about our neighbors.  I am confident that in time I will find a job, I will pay my taxes, and we will raise our children in their own home in the community we love.  Please give us this chance."
Obama pleaded: “Congress, give these hardworking, responsible Americans that chance.  Give them that chance.  They need our help right now, but more important, this country needs them in the game.  That's why I've been asking CEOs to give more long-term unemployed workers a fair shot at new jobs, a new chance to support their families.  And in fact, this week many will come to the White House to make that commitment real.”

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Rapidly Changing Economy


In his State of the Union Address, President Obama outlined ways that our country can speed up economic growth and create more jobs.  However, in today’s rapidly changing economy, we need to make sure that every American has the skills to fill those jobs.
Twenty years ago America had the most educated population in the world, but we’re no longer ranked number one.  Belgium, Canada, Ireland, Japan, Korea, Norway and Sweden all have a higher percentage of it’s workforce educated than we do.
The Obama administration began by reforming the way student loans are handed out, and today more young people are earning college degrees than ever before.  Teachers and principals in schools are preparing students with science, technology, engineering, math, as well as, problem solving, and critical thinking skills.
Two years ago, Andra Rush opened up a manufacturing firm in Detroit.  She knew that Ford needed parts for the best-selling truck in America, and she knew how to make those parts.  She just needed the workforce.  So she dialed up an American Job Center where people can walk in to get the help or training they need to find a new job, or a better job.  She was flooded with new workers, and now, Detroit Manufacturing Systems has more than 700 employees.  What Andra and her employees experienced is how it should be for every employer and every job seeker.
Obama has asked Vice President Biden to lead an across the board reform of America's training programs to make sure they have one mission: train Americans with the skills employers need, and match them to good jobs that need to be filled right now.  That means more on-the-job training, and more apprenticeships that set a young worker on an upward trajectory for life.  It means connecting companies to community colleges that can help design training to fill their specific needs.  If Congress wants to help, they should concentrate funding on proven programs that connect more ready-to-work Americans with ready-to-be-filled jobs.
Making sure our economy works for everyone is the defining challenge of our time.  

Monday, February 03, 2014

Reform


If, House Republicans are actually serious about economic growth, it’s time they heed the call of business leaders, labor leaders, faith leaders, and law enforcement to fix our broken immigration system.
Republicans and Democrats in the Senate have voted, and members of both parties in the House want to do the same.  Independent economists claim immigration reform will grow our economy and shrink our deficits by almost $1 trillion in the next two decades. 
When people come here to fulfill their dreams, to study, invent, contribute to our culture, they make our country a more attractive place for businesses to locate and create jobs for everybody. 
Despite accounting for only 13 percent of our population, in 2011, immigrants started 23 percent of all new businesses.  It's time for immigration reform to be passed this year. 
Republicans have done an excellent job of alienating Hispanics in hyper-partisan districts.  In those districts, House Republicans have less to fear locally, especially when it comes to maintaining control of the House.  Nationally, however, it’s a different story, the Republican Party has continued to alienated Hispanics, African-American, and female voters.  On the basic issues of governance, some Republican extremists continue to threaten to shut down the government so that they can defund "Obamacare." 

These issues might not seem important in 2014, since all politics are local and hyper-partisan districts could have a very good year and give Republicans a false sense of bravado in 2014.

The tensions inside the Republican Party have been created by House Republicans who are attuned to the political winds of their own districts, that are much different than what the Republican Party needs on the national level.  A status quo strategy for 2014, could end up hurting the Republican Party chances for a win in 2016.

Sunday, February 02, 2014

Research


America can’t afford to fall behind China and Europe in research, because the nation that’s committed to innovation today will own the global economy tomorrow.  Federally-funded research helped lead to the ideas and inventions behind Google and smartphones.  And that's the reason Congress should undo the damage done by last year's cuts to basic research so we can unleash the next great American innovation.
Entire industries have been built based on vaccines that stay ahead of drug-resistant bacteria.  Graphene is the thickness of Saran Wrap, and 200 times stronger than steel.  Congress should pass a patent reform bill that allows our businesses to stay focused on innovation, not needless litigation.  
The "all the above" energy strategy that President Obama announced a few years ago is working, and our country is closer to energy independence than we’ve been in decades.
If extracted safely, natural gas is the bridge fuel that can power our economy with less carbon pollution that causes climate change.  Natural gas emits 43 percent less carbon pollution than coal and the natural gas industry employees more than 600,00 American workers. 
Every four minutes another American home or business goes solar, every panel pounded into place by a worker whose job can't be outsourced.  The solar industry added 23,000 jobs last year, and nearly half are installers, who earned an average wage of $23 an hour.  
In 2012, the 5 largest oil companies made $118 billion in profits, and received $4 billion in taxpayers subsidies.  We must stop giving $4 billion a year to fossil fuel industries that don't need it, so we can invest more in fuels of the future that do.
Over the past eight years America has reduced our total carbon pollution more than any other nation on Earth.

Climate change is a fact, and when our children's children ask if we did all we could to leave them a safer, more stable world, with new sources of energy we should be able to answer: “Yes.”
Changing climate is already harming western communities struggling with drought and coastal cities dealing with floods.  The Obama administration is working with states, and utilities to set new standards on the amount of carbon pollution our power plants are allowed to dump into the air.
The shift to a cleaner energy economy won't happen overnight, and it’ll require some tough choices along the way.

Saturday, February 01, 2014

Opportunity for All


President Obama insists, that the best measure of opportunity is access to a good job. With our economy improving many companies have said, that they intend to hire more people in 2014.  And over half of large manufacturers are claiming, that they're thinking of insourcing jobs from abroad.
He wants to make that decision easier for those companies, and since both Democrats and Republicans have argued that our tax code is riddled with wasteful, complicated loopholes that punish businesses investing here, and reward companies that keep profits abroad.  Obama wants Congress to change the tax code, by working with Republicans to close loopholes, end those incentives to ship jobs overseas, and lower tax rates for businesses that create jobs right here at home.
The president has suggested, that we take the money we will save from a transition to tax reform to create jobs rebuilding our roads, upgrading our ports, and unclogging our commutes, because in today's global economy, first class jobs gravitate to first class infrastructure.
Obama promises, that he will act on my own to slash bureaucracy and streamline the permitting process for key projects, so that construction workers can get to work on the job as fast as possible.
Obama has told congressional Republican: “Let's do more to help the entrepreneurs and small business owners who create most new jobs in America.  Over the past five years, my administration has made more loans to small business owners than any other.  And when 98 percent of our exporters are small businesses, new trade partnerships with Europe and the Asia-Pacific will help them create even more jobs.  We need to work together on tools like bipartisan trade promotion authority to protect our workers, protect our environment and open new markets to new goods stamped ‘Made in the USA.’”