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.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

What You Need To Know


Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts introduced legislation to deal with the $1.2 trillion in outstanding student loan debt, as soon as, she became a Senator.  That legislation didn’t gain enough support, so she intends to introduce new legislation to deal with the issue, but this time she’ll put a slightly different proposal on the table.  

Her proposal is to refinance all hat debt it down to 3.86 percent, which is the interest rate that Congress said less than a year ago is the proper interest rate for student loans. 

The plan calls for bringing student loan interest rate down and paying for it, by closing one of the many large tax loopholes.  The problem is that many members of Congress work for corporations, and billionaires, who can hire armies of lobbyists and lawyers.  The voices of lobbyist are heard throughout the halls of Congress, because they have concentrated money and power on their side, which gives them a significant advantage.

Nevertheless, four years ago, there wasn’t an agency to prevent large financial institutions from cheating people on credit cards and mortgages.  Powerful interests warned, that they’d kill any financial reform agency, and they spend more than $1 million a day lobbying against financial reform. 

Those powerful financial institutions failed, and since the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau became active, it’s put more than $3 billion back into the pockets of families who were cheated on mortgages and credit cards.  

Senator Elizabeth Warren has points out: “We can choose to support billionaires, or we can choose to support kids who are trying to get an education.  The way that we spend our money as a country should reflect our values.”

Elizabeth Warren has made a career of fighting for the middle class, for shared prosperity, affordable education, and against domination of by Wall Street’s one percent.

There is an anecdote in Warren’s book “A Fighting Chance,” in which she talks about having dinner in Washington with Larry Summers, who was a top economic adviser to the White House.  She recalls, that Summers told her she had a choice to make.  She could be an insider or an outsider, but if she was going to be an insider, she needed to understand one unbreakable rule about insiders.  They don’t criticize other insiders. 

That anecdote tell you everything you needed to know about why so many people admire Elizabeth Warren.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Our Values


As an economic correspondent for the Financial Times, James Politi believed, that we are still a far cry from socialism, because the traditional definitions of socialism include a government taking control of huge chunks of the economy, allocating resources and deciding prices.

The policies of the Obama administrations are no more socialism and redistribution of wealth than our tax codes.  People, who own expensive homes pay more of the costs of our school system, than those owning modest homes.  On the federal level, people who earn most are expected to pay more of the costs of our military.

Obama and Democrats have attempted to enact the Buffett Rule.  The “Paying a Fair Share Act, would have impose a minimum 30 percent effective federal tax rate on those with adjusted gross incomes above $2 million.  A lower tax rate on capital gains is the major reason why many millionaires and billionaires pay a lower effective rates than the middle class. 

The Republicans in Congress should pass the Buffett Rule, because billionaires shouldn’t pay less in taxes than their secretaries.  Our government can continue to allow billionaires to keep their tax loopholes, or we can invest in people who are trying to get an education.   

Senator Elizabeth Warren proposes, that every dollar our treasury takes in by passing the Buffett Rule would go directly into reducing the interest rate on student loans.

We can choose to support subsidies for millionaires and billionaires or we can choose to support children who are trying to get an education.  The way that we spend our money as a country should reflect our values.  That is what the next election is really about.

It should not be about Democratic candidate Sean Eldridge purchasing a home in Rep. Chris Gibson’s newly gerrymandered eleven county congressional district.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Free Yourself


On 4/24/14, MSNBC played a video of Cliven Bundy saying: “I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro.  When I go through Las Vegas, North Las Vegas and I would see these little government houses, and in front of that government house the door was usually open and the older people and the kids and there is always at least half a dozen people sitting on the porch, they didn’t have nothing to do.  They didn’t have nothing for their kids to do.  They didn’t have nothing for their young girls to do.  And because they were basically on government subsidy, so now what do they do? they abort their young children.  They put their young men in jail because they never learned how to pick cotton.  And I’ve often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy?  You know, they didn’t get no more freedom.  They got less freedom.”

Since, Bundy and supporters oppose government subsidies, they should exercise some personal responsibility, to eliminate socialism from their lives, by not accepting Social Security or Medicare, and pay for all medical expenses.

Public school is a socialist program, so they should take their children out of school.  Nearly all roads are socialism.  Ride a horse or bicycle, because you can’t buy gas without paying state and federal taxes.

Grazing cattle on private land would have cost Bundy about $25 to graze a cow and calf per month.  For 20 years, Bundy has been a government freeloader, who put 500 head of cattle on federal land, and refused to pay the $1.35 per month fee.  A subsidy, that now amounts to $1 million dollars.  

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Common Core


Performance Level Descriptions describe the range of knowledge and skills students should demonstrate at a given performance level in English Language Art.  They’ve developed policy-level definitions of the expectations for each grade level in the Common Core standards.  Drafting definitions and content began with Level 3 proficiency level, to determine the content knowledge and skills necessary at a given grade level to be considered proficient according to the demands of the Common Core standards.

Performance Level Descriptions are essential to set N.Y. State standards for grades 3-8 assessments.  PLDs are used to determine the threshold expectations for students to demonstrate the knowledge and skills necessary to attain a higher level of assessment.

PLDs communicates to students, families, educators and the public the specific knowledge and skills, that students are expected of to demonstrate.  They are the foundation of discussion around what students need to do to perform at a higher grade level and explains the progression of learning within a subject and grade level.  The use of the PLDs are encouraged for a variety of purposes, such as differentiating instruction to maximize individual student outcomes, creating classroom assessments and rubrics to help in identifying target performance levels for individual or groups of students, and tracking student growth along the proficiency continuum as described.

For each grade, there are students performing along a proficiency continuum with regard to the skills and knowledge necessary to meet the demands of grade-specific Common Core Standards for English Language Arts/Literacy.  There are students who are above proficiency, students who are proficient, students who are not quite proficient, and students who are well below proficient at each grade level. 

Assessments are designed to classify students into one of four proficiency categories:
Level 4 students are performing at a level that excels the standards for their grade.  Level 3 students are performing at a proficiency level standards for their grade.  Level 2 students are performing at a level below proficient in standards for their grade.  Level 1 students are performing at a level well below proficient in standards for their grade.

Would a responsible parent want their child to be passed to a higher grade, when they’re incapable of preforming at the higher grade?  Would it be fair to the teacher of the next high grade to have to deal with those students, who performed well below proficiency standards of a lower grade?

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Public Watering Trough


One in four profitable corporations don't pay taxes, and no federal program gets more bipartisan support than agriculture socialism.  

Tennessee’s Republican Congressman, Steven Fincher received over $3.5 million directly from our government in agriculture subsidies.  He insists that he hates socialism, but his family has been living off millions of agricultural subsidy dollars for generations.

If cattlemen graze cattle on federal land, they’ll pay about a $1.35 a month per head, but grazing cattle on private land in western states will cost between $20 and $30 for a cow and calf to pasture per month.  For 20 years, Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy has refuses to pay the $1.35 fee, or 6% of market value,.

Corporations like Walmart pay a subminimum wage, that is essentially worth what the minimum wage was in 1968.  The cost for taxpayers amounts to $7 billion in food stamps, because most Walmart employees don’t earn enough money to stay out of poverty. 

Subsidies for profitable oil corporations have been costing taxpayers $21 billion a year.  Originally oil subsides were meant to bolster an “emerging” industry a 100 years ago.  Cumulatively, oil companies have benefitted from trillions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies over the last century. 

Applying the “Buffett Rule” to people who earn more than $2 million a year, so that they would pay at least 30 percent tax rate was never allowed to come up for a vote because Speaker Boehner won’t allow it.

Elizabeth Warren observed: “There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own.  Nobody.  You built a factory out there, good for you.  But 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 bans would come and seize everything at your factory and hire someone to protect against this because of the work the rest of us did.

“You built a factory and it turned into something terrific or a great idea, God bless.  Keep a big hunk of it.  But part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.”

Friday, April 25, 2014

Outrageous Lies


Yesterday, the Oneonta Daily Star published the following letter to the editor, that had been submitted by Donna J. Shaver of Laurens, N.Y. 
“How anyone under the present circumstances can hold their heads up and call themselves Republicans is beyond me.  The outrageous lies that are emanating from the elected officials in Washington are beyond belief. 
“Eighty Muslim Brotherhoods in Obama’s administration?  Who are they?  Twenty-three executive orders restricting guns?  Name one!  He breaks all the laws?  Which ones?  Obama doesn’t abide by the Constitution?  How? 
“The accusations are 24/7 and sadly false, without any facts to substantiate their talking points.  The Republicans claim that the world views America as weak and that it is the president’s fault.  Yet they also claim he is an absolute dictator.  Has it occurred to them that the world watches and listens to these Republicans and right-wing groups that are trying to destroy a legally elected president of America? 
“The world watches and listens to them refuse to pass legislation that would help the U.S. and the world’s economy.  The world sees how the Republican Congress deliberately works against its own citizens so as not to give the president any benefit.  They count the number of times they have voted to repeal a law that our Supreme Court ruled constitutional.  Yes!  They see our government as broken and are also intelligent enough to see who is responsible. 
“People need to listen to all the accusations that are made daily and ask the questions “who,” “where,” and “what” are the facts backing up the claims.  To simply believe right-wing Republican talking points indicates a simple mindset.  Add up the Republican salaries in Congress and ask yourself if the taxpayers are getting their money’s worth. Laws against the poor, middle class, women, children, the elderly, restricting voting rights, millions spent on investigations that have no basis in fact! 
“Read Paul Ryan’s budget.  Wake up America; vote them out!”

Thursday, April 24, 2014

A Fighting Chance


Massachusetts Senator Warren has written a book about her long battle to reform Wall Street entitled: “A Fighting Chance." 

In 2004, Warren pointed out: "It’s just staggering to me this is not part of our national debate right now.  We’re talking about young people who are beginning their professional careers and starting families by declaring themselves financial failure, because of the debt they have run up while they’re in college.”

College for many students is their first taste of responsibility, and the average freshman is inundated with more than 50 solicitations.  Today, Congress is talking about the problem of the predatory sector of our economy, that has been hunting for customers to lure them into its web and crushing them with debt.  

Ten years ago, it was Elizabeth Warren, who reported: “What’s happened in the United States is that families with children believe that the number of places that they can buy homes and still send their children to public schools is shrinking.  And so, families are bidding on prices in places with decent school districts.  And the consequence is their mortgage as a proportion of their total income is reaching way out of proportion.

At a time when the average male’s wages have not increased by a full 1 percent, the amount of family is spending on mortgages has gone up 69 percent.” 

She was right that Americans were being priced out of a future, because wages had gone flat.  She was also right that the banking industry was doing something unsustainable.  and when, the the housing bubble burst in 2007, Warren proved to be right again.

Thanks to the persistence of Elizabeth Warren, we now have a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to protect consumers from credit card companies and mortgage lenders, that had been scamming us of years.



Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Cattle Industry


Former Montana Governor, Brian Schweitzer said: “Well those of us in the cattle industry don’t support the Bundy’s at all in Montana, in Idaho, in Nevada.  People in the cattle business pay their bills.  You know, grazing on federal land doesn’t mean you own that federal land.  If you graze cattle on private land in Montana or Idaho or Utah, you’re going to pay somewhere between $20 and $30 to put a cow and calf on that pasture per month.

“If you graze on federal land and you have the right to graze on federal land, you’ll pay about a $1.35, but Cliven Bundy wasn’t even willing to pay 6% or 8% of market value a $1.35.  For 20 years he’s been putting some 500 head of cattle on federal land, America, your land.  And even with this huge subsidy, he is not willing to pay it.  Most of us we consider a guy like this a grifter.”

“Harry Reid grew up in Searchlight Nevada.  Harry Reid knows western range law and he knows Nevada law.  You notice, there’s no cattlemen that are standing beside Bundy.  The Nevada Cattlemen Association, the Stock Grower Associations from across the west are not with this guy.  They know that the Taylor Grazing Act was passed in 1934 so that there would an organized way of grazing cattle on federal land.  They understand that we were overgrazing the resource and we needed to have some organization and they support what the Bureau of Land Management does.

“And the federal government is going to collect this money, because when you own cattle in the west, you brand them with a hot iron brand and that brand will stay on that animal for the rest of its life.

“There are only two livestock barns in Nevada.  He is either going to have to ship them up to Fallon to Salem or he is going to have to take them into Utah and he needs a brand inspection either way.  When a brand inspector looks at that animal, they’re going to see that there’s a lean on it and when he sells those cattle, the check is going to be sent to the federal government, because the court has already ordered this guy to pay this bill.”

Perhaps, our federal government will recover our money, without shots being fired, but if those anti-government militias were groups of African Americans with sniper rifles and assault weapons, that stand off would have most likely ended much differently.   

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Armed Standoff


Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy  has been raising his cattle on federal lands and refusing to pay land fees, because he “doesn’t believe in the federal government.”  He was first ordered by a federal court to remove his cows from federal lands in 1998.

The courts have decided, that Bundy is a lawbreaker, after he refused to pay those fees the court had order.  The land belongs to the federal government and the Bureau of Land Management is responsible for collecting grazing fees on public land.  When, Bundy refused to pay those fees, our federal government seized his cattle.

Typically, most ranchers would pay the fees, but Sean Hannity of Fox News decided to back a lawbreaker, who had grazed nearly 500 cattle on federal lands for 20 years.  Hannity incited hundreds of anti-government militias and protesters from
Nevada and surrounding states, who staged an armed demonstration against our government.

Sean Hannity had Cliven Bundy on his show four times in a week, to argue his dangerous anti-government sentiment.
After Bundy’s first two appearances armed militias showed up to get his cattle back, and those demonstrators made it clear: "They weren’t messing around."

The Bureau of Land Management released Bundy’s cattle to avoid a gun battle.  Sean Hannity has admitted his coverage played a role in the standoff.  However, he also played a role in the photograph of a sniper aiming his rifle at federal agents during the stand off.

Sean Hannity has become a cheerleader for armed conflict with our federal government.

Senate Majority Harry Reid of Nevada pointed out: “These people who hold themselves out to be patriots are not.  They’re nothing more than domestic terrorist and I think that we are in a country that people should follow the law and what went up in Mesquite is not very good.  I repeat, what went on up there is domestic terrorism.

“It’s an issue that we cannot let go and just walk away from it.  Keep in mind, what happened up there, there were hundreds, hundreds of people all around the country that came in.  They had sniper rifles on the free-way, they had assault weapons and automatic weapons and a former sheriff from Arizona wanted children and women lined up...”  

Senator Reid is referring to a statement by Richard Mack a former Graham County, Arizona sheriff, who said: “We were actually strategizing to put all the women up at the front.  If they’re going to start shooting that’s going to be women that are going to be televised all across the world getting shot by these rogue federal officers.”


Monday, April 21, 2014

Compromises Integrity


After retiring from Congress, former House Majority Leader Dick Armey, became the chairman of the SuperPAC, “FreedomWorks for America.”   As chairman, he notably gave copies of Saul Alinsky’s book “Rules for Radicals” to Tea Party leaders.

Recently, as a former chairman of FreedomWorks, Armey told POLITICO, that right-wing talk show hosts are selling their influence.  Dick Armey admitted: "For them to basically sell their influence and say whatever the contract asks of them, it compromises the integrity of the pundit."

Between 2008 and 2012, right-wing media personalities have taken massive amounts of political money from Republican PACs.  Conservative groups spent $22 million to sponsor right-wing commentators, such as Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Laura Ingraham, Mark Levin and Sean Hannity.

The Republican PACs actually tell right-wing pundits what to say on the radio airwaves across America.

FreedomWorks paid Glenn Beck $6 million in recent years to promote its initiatives in advance.  Overall, The Heritage Foundation paid Rush Limbaugh over $9.5 million, and FreedomWorks paid him $1.4 million in 2012.

Meanwhile, Americans for Prosperity paid the new comer to the block, Mark Levin only $757,000 during the 2012 election cycle. 

According to Bill O’Reilly, not even a janitor at Fox News could accept money from political groups.  However, The Heritage Foundation paid Sean Hannity at Fox New $1.3 million in 2011.  Hannity also started airing ads to promote the Tea Party Patriots website in 2013.

Even as Hannity used Fox News airwaves to promote the Tea Party agenda, he claimed: “The Tea Party Patriots have create their websites Hannityforsanity.com and because they put this ads up and they are trying to get this ads out and it’s a testimony of people that are saying, ‘Hey, I was targeted because I’m a Conservative.’”

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Political Strategy


Since President Obama put his hand up to take the oath of office, we’ve been living in the age of obstruction.  Congressional Republicans have blocked virtually all legislations supported by the president.

In a recent committee meeting, House Republicans voted against considering bills on minimum wage.  After, Republicans took control of the House, the number of bills passed dropped significantly.  Their record is clear.  

Before the 2012 election, Senate Leader Mitch McConnell announced: “Our top political priority over the next two years should be to deny President Obama a second term.”  They failed, and Obama was re-elected president.

Recently, Senate Republicans voted against equal pay for women legislation, and a bill that would have provided discrimination protections for gays.

Like President Truman in 1948, Obama slammed Republicans for their blatant obstruction on immigration, minimum wage and gender pay equity.  He explained: "You’ve got a Congress right now that is solely focused on obstruction because they think it's a good political strategy."

Mitch McConnell has been talking about repealing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, since day one, but congressional Republicans don’t have an alternative to offer.  The ACA has enabled eight million Americans an opportunity to purchase affordable healthcare insurance.

Senator McConnell insists: “If I had my way, we’d repeal Obamacare and start all over and get it right.  There’s only one escape patch that will fully help those trapped by this law and that’s full repeal.  It’s time for Democrats to stop trying to defend the indefensible and join Republicans in wiping this colossal legislative mistake clear off the books.  We are hoping to have a chance to vote on repealing Obamacare again and we believe it’s appropriate to have that vote again and we’ll be working to get that kind of vote in the near future.”

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Things Are Working


On 4/17/14, President Obama announced: “The Affordable Care Act is now covering more people at less cost than most would have predicted just a few months ago.
“The first open enrollment period under this law ended a little over two weeks ago.  And as more data comes in, we now know that the number of Americans who’ve signed up for private insurance in the marketplaces has grown to 8 million people.  Thirty-five percent of people who enrolled through the federal marketplace are under the age of 35.  All told, independent experts now estimate that millions of Americans who were uninsured have gained coverage this year -- with millions more to come next year and the year after. 
“We’ve also seen signs that the Affordable Care Act is bringing economic security to more Americans.  Before this law added new transparency and competition to the individual market, folks who bought insurance on their own regularly saw double-digit increases in their premiums.  That was the norm.  And while we suspect that premiums will keep rising, as they have for decades, we also know that since the law took effect health care spending has risen more slowly than at any time in the past 50 years. 
“In the decade before the Affordable Care Act, employer-based insurance rose almost 8 percent a year.  Last year, it grew at half that rate.  Under this law, real Medicare costs per person have nearly stopped growing.  The life of the Medicare Trust Fund has been extended by 10 years.  And the independent Congressional Budget Office now expects premiums for plans on the marketplace to be 15 percent lower than originally predicted.
“So those savings add up to more money that families can spend at businesses, more money that businesses can spend hiring new workers.  And the CBO now says that the Affordable Care Act will be cheaper than recently projected.  Lower costs from  coverage provisions will shrink our deficits by an extra $100 billion.
"So the bottom line is, under the Affordable Care Act, the share of Americans with insurance is up, the growth of health care costs is down.  Hundreds of millions of Americans who already have insurance now have new benefits and protections from free preventive care to freedom from lifetime caps on your care.  No American with a preexisting condition like asthma or cancer can be denied coverage.  No woman can be charged more just for being a woman.  Those days are over.  And this thing is working.”

Friday, April 18, 2014

Oligarchy or Democracy


Despite the fact that the wealthiest people in this country are doing phenomenally well, the Republican idea of freedom is to continue to give huge tax breaks to millionaires and billionaires.   

Congressman Chris Gibson voted to pass the Ryan budget.  Under that plan, the average millionaire will get about $200,000 a year in tax breaks.  Presently, one out of four corporations pay nothing in taxes, but House Republicans voted to give even more tax breaks to very profitable corporations.

Meanwhile, people in the middle class, and low income working class are hurting.  The Republican proposals in the budget are about massive cuts, in Medicare, Medicaid, Pell grants, and food stamps. 

Their definition of freedom is that if you are 70 years of age, poor and have no health insurance, you’re going to have the freedom to die, because they don’t believe in strengthening Medicare.

Not only do most congressional Republicans want to not raise the minimum wage, but some want to abolish the entire concept of the minimum wage.

Recently, Independent Senator Bernie Sanders held at Town Hall at Saint Anselm College, in Vermont.  He explained: “What the challenges are about is whether we move in the direction of bringing tens of millions of people together, getting them involved in the political process, having discussions, and strengthening our democracy, which is the way I think we’ve got to go. 

“Then there’s another way which the guys at the other ends of the town are talking about.  And that is a handful of billionaires pumping hundreds of millions if not billions of dollars into campaigns, having candidates come before them and getting the litmus test that they will support the billionaire agenda.

“That’s where we are in America, either we’re strengthening democracy or an oligarchy, and I vote for democracy.”

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Fantasy Budget


Paul Ryan’s most recent budget promises a balanced federal debt in 10 years through sweeping cuts in social spending, including major changes to the health care law.

Congressman Gibson voted for the Ryan budget, that passed the House.  The budget claims more than $5 trillion in savings will be realized over the coming decade.  It would rely on drastic cuts to domestic programs, while shifting more money to the Pentagon.  The budget would add nearly $1 trillion of new military spending over the next decade.  Instead of cramming more cash down the gaping whole of the military-industrial complex, we should be changing federal spending priorities in order to achieve full employment.

Today, the wealthiest Americans are paying the lowest taxes in over half a century.  Do we want to make the investments we need in things like infrastructure, education and research and high-tech manufacturing or do we want to keep in place tax loopholes for profitable corporations, and tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans?

Congressional Republicans insist, that they want to make millions of sick, and hungry people more self-reliant.  Their cuts would come at the expense of poor people, seniors on Medicaid, and lower-income workers receiving the health care subsidies, food stamps and Pell Grants.

Ryan’s budget contains severe cuts to education, health and research.  Historically, government research has been a major factor in generating tomorrow’s innovations and economic growth.

The budget provides for tax cuts for multinational corporations, because they’re "job creators."  A more accurate description would be "job exporters."  The middle class will experience cuts in tax benefits, like the deduction for pension benefits and IRAs, in order to pay for those cuts.

Rather than defending cuts in Medicare benefits for only "those in or near retirement."  We should be protecting “everyone.“  Rather than increasing student loan interest rates, we should cut them until they’re no higher than what Wall Street pays for loans from the Federal Reserve.

Paul Ryan’s budget repeals the benefits of the Affordable Care Act but it keeps the revenue and savings from it.  It’s a dishonest document.  The goal of balancing of  the budget in 10 years has completely broken down, it’s a piece of fiction.  The fact, that they’re repealing the ACA, while keeping the benefits and the savings is a $2 trillion mistake on top of all the other things in that fantasy.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

National Voting Standards


Attorney General Eric Holder insisted that it’s time to consider national voting standards.  He pointed to a MacArthur Foundation study that found nearly 90% of voters support the creation of national standards.  Holder urged election officials to strive to administer elections more efficiently and fairly.

Republicans know they’re in the minority on key issues that matter most to Americans, and they know the only way to secure victory is to gerrymander congressional districts and suppress the vote.

State Senator Nina Turner is running against Jon Husted for Secretary of State in Ohio.  Recently, in Hamilton County, Ohio a vote was held to move the board of election from a centrally located place in downtown Cincinnati to a suburban area 9 miles away.  That change would serve to strategically disenfranchise voters, because it requires them catching bus for an hour and 15 minuets one way trip.  After getting off the bus, they’d still have a half mile walk.  There are no sidewalks, and one can’t assume perfect weather in early November.

There are 400,000 households in Hamilton County that don’t have cars, and thousands of people had been voting early downtown.  Local Democrats opposed the move because it limited the number of people who could take advantage of early voting.  Many of the people, that Nina Turner represents don’t have access to transportation and can’t get to the polling place on election day.  Some have to work more than one job, or they’re single parents, who need to arrange child care. 

An injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.  Democrats have got to stand up for the working poor, and speak out regarding voter suppression, because sometimes the victims don’t have a voice.  We have to represent them on their behalf and show exactly what is doing to our communities.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Proud of Accomplishment


Republican governors in the states of Arkansas and Idaho said: I may not like “Obamacare,” but I’m going to go ahead and make sure that my people are benefiting from this plan. 

By March 31st. Kentucky’s Democratic governor reported, that the “Kentucky Connect” exchange had enrolled over 370,000 people.  Overall, the uninsured rate in Kentucky has dropped 40 percent.

Nevertheless, Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell, of Kentucky, continues to repeat the Republican mantra, that Obamacare needs to be fixed.  Every law could use fixing, and Congress should start with campaign finance reform.

First, the Unites States remains the only country in the industrialized world that doesn’t guarantee healthcare as a right to all of its people.  Secondly, the congressional Republicans opposed the Affordable Care Act from day one, and it’s their worst nightmare that it’s succeeding.  Thirdly, these are the same politicians that want to convert Medicare into a voucher program, and make massive cuts in Medicaid.

The number of uninsured has fallen to the lowest level since 2008.  Imagine that, our government actually did something for ordinary people and not just billionaires.  Actually, that’s what congressional Republicans are furious about.

House Minority Leader, Nancy Pelosi insists: “We are celebrating the fact that we have over 7 million who have signed up, not counting the 3.1 million who are on the policies of their parents until they’re 26 years old, not including over three million and probably closer to five million on Medicaid could bring us closer to 15 million people.

“One person says one thing.  Seven million people, signed up.  The Congress of the United States, which wrote the bill, the members that are proud of what they have done are happy to not run away from what we have done.  I’m very proud of what we have accomplished.”

Monday, April 14, 2014

Prosperity Not Shared


Harvard economist, Lawrence Katze reported: “We went almost a century where the labor share was pretty stable and we shared prosperity.  What we’re seeing now is very disquieting.

"For many workers, labor’s shrinking share is even worse than the statistics show, when one considers that a sizable chunk of overall wages goes to the top 1 percent: senior corporate executives, Wall Street professionals, Hollywood stars, pop singers and professional athletes.  The share of wages going to the top 1 percent climbed to 12.9 percent in 2010, from 7.3 percent in 1979.

Corporate America’s push to outsource jobs has fattened corporate earnings, while holding down wages at home.  Most Economists agree on the forces that have driven labor’s wage share down.  Outsourced jobs include shipping call-center jobs to India and factory jobs to China.   Furthermore, new technologies have raised productivity and profits, while enabling companies to shed workers and slice payroll.  Computers have replaced workers who tabulated numbers, and robots have pushed aside many factory workers.

It’s been a lost economic decade for many households.  According to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, the median income for working-age households (headed by someone under age 65) slid 12.4 percent from 2000 to 2011, to $55,640.  During that time the American economy grew more than 18 percent.

University of California economist, Emmanuel Saez found that the top 1 percent of households garnered 65 percent of all the nation’s income growth from 2002 to 2007, when the recession hit.

Many economists insist, that the stubbornly high jobless rate and the declining power of labor unions are important factors behind the declining wage share, by reducing the leverage of workers to demand higher wages.  Today, unions represent just 7 percent of workers in corporate America, one-quarter the level in the 1960s.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Hearts and Minds


At the Civil Rights Summit at the Lyndon B. Johnson Library in Austin, Texas, President Obama noted: “LBJ was nothing if not a realist.  He was well aware that the law alone is not enough to change hearts and minds.  Lincoln said: ‘Until justice is blind to color, until education is unaware of race, until opportunity is unconcerned with the color of men’s skins, emancipation will be a proclamation but not a fact.’  He understood laws could not accomplish everything.  But, he also knew that only the law could anchor change, and set hearts and minds on a different course.”

In 1974, when baseball great Hank Aaron was about to break Babe Ruth’s homerun record, he received many threatening hate-filled racist letters.  Lately, he told USA Today, that President Obama’s opponents in the Republican Party are abusing him the same way people threaten him decades ago.  Aaron said: "Sure, this country has a black president but President Obama is left with his foot stuck in the mud from the way he’s treated by Republicans.  We’ve moved in the right direction and there have been improvements, but we still have a long way to go in the country.  Back then they had hoods, now they have neckties and starched shirts."

Recently, Texas Republican Congressman Louie Gohmert had an agitated exchange with Attorney General Eric Holder.  Holder replied: “I’m pleased to note that the last five years have been defined by significant strides and by lasting reforms even in the face of unprecedented, unwarranted, ugly and divisive adversity... You look at the way the attorney general of the United States was treated yesterday by a House Committee?  What attorney generals’ ever had to deal with that kind of treatment?  What president has ever had to deal with that kind of treatment?”

Saturday, April 12, 2014

LBJ's Legacy


The following excerpt is from remarks made by President Obama at LBJ Presidential Library Civil Rights Summit:

“What President Johnson understood was that equality required more than the absence of oppression.  It required the presence of economic opportunity.  He wouldn’t be as eloquent as Dr. King would be in describing that linkage, as Dr. King moved into mobilizing sanitation workers and a poor people’s movement, but he understood that connection because he had lived it.  A decent job, decent wages, health care -- those, too, were civil rights worth fighting for.  An economy where hard work is rewarded and success is shared, that was his goal.  And he knew, as someone who had seen the New Deal transform the landscape of his Texas childhood, who had seen the difference electricity had made because of the Tennessee Valley Authority, the transformation concretely day in and day out in the life of his own family, he understood that government had a role to play in broadening prosperity to all those who would strive for it.

“President Johnson said: ‘We want to open the gates to opportunity. But we are also going to give all our people, black and white, the help they need to walk through those gates.’

“Now, if some of this sounds familiar, it’s because today we remain locked in this same great debate about equality and opportunity, and the role of government in ensuring each.  As was true 50 years ago, there are those who dismiss the Great Society as a failed experiment and an encroachment on liberty; who argue that government has become the true source of all that ails us, and that poverty is due to the moral failings of those who suffer from it.  There are also those who argue, that nothing has changed; that racism is so embedded in our DNA that there is no use trying politics -- the game is rigged.

“But such theories ignore history.  Yes, it’s true that, despite laws like the Civil Rights Act, and the Voting Rights Act and Medicare, our society is still racked with division and poverty.  Yes, race still colors our political debates, and there have been government programs that have fallen short.  In a time when cynicism is too often passed off as wisdom, it’s perhaps easy to conclude that there are limits to change; that we are trapped by our own history; and politics is a fool’s errand, and we’d be better off if we roll back big chunks of LBJ’s legacy, or at least if we don’t put too much of our hope, invest too much of our hope in our government.

“I reject such thinking.  Not just because Medicare and Medicaid have lifted millions from suffering; not just because the poverty rate in this nation would be far worse without food stamps and Head Start and all the Great Society programs that survive to this day.  I reject such cynicism because I have lived out the promise of LBJ’s efforts.  Because Michelle has lived out the legacy of those efforts.  Because my daughters have lived out the legacy of those efforts.  Because I and millions of my generation were in a position to take the baton that he handed to us.”

Friday, April 11, 2014

Wages Stagnated


Although, Speaker John Boehner won’t bring an increasing the minimum wage bill to the House floor for a vote, President Obama is campaigning for an increase to $10.10 an hour. 

Almost three quarters of the American people believe that the minimum wage should be raised, and if congressional Republicans continue to obstruct that legislation it will be a decisive issue in the fall election.  It’s an issues that will shows the contrast between the House Republicans who just passed a budget that would replace Medicare, slash Medicaid, and repeal the Affordable Care Act.  Thereby taking coverage away from millions, while raising taxes on the middle class to give tax breaks to millionaires and billionaires.  

Currently, the minimum wage is about the rate it was adjusted for inflation in 1968 and that doesn’t help our economy.  Henry Ford understood that if he wanted people to buy his cars he had to pay them a wage so they could afford to do that, because it was good for business.

Wages have fallen to a record low as a share of America’s gross domestic product.  Until 1975, wages nearly always accounted for more than 50 percent of the nation’s G.D.P., but last year wages fell to a record low of 43.5 percent.  Since 2001, when the wage share was 49 percent, there has been a sharp decline.

According to the Economic Policy Institute, from 1973 to 2011, worker productivity grew 80 percent, while median hourly compensation, after inflation, grew by just one-eighth of that amount.  However, since 2000, productivity has risen 23 percent while real hourly pay has essentially stagnated.
Overall employee compensation including health and retirement benefits has fallen to its lowest share of national income in more than 50 years while corporate profits have climbed to their highest share.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Fixing the Supreme Court


The Supreme Court has no business making laws.  Article I of the Constitution establishes the legislative body.  It has a pre-eminent place in the distinctive form of government created in 1788, of being a representative government with three branches, only one of which was popularly elected.  The Executive Branch is Article II, and the Judicial Branch is Article III.  The order in which these articles of the Constitution established our three branches of government is very significant.  
The very first sentence, Section 1, Article I stipulates, "All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives." It doesn’t say anything about legislative Powers being vested in the Supreme Court.  Section 8 sets forth a list of things "The Congress shall have  Power" including:  "To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof."  
There is no mention whatsoever of campaign financing in the Constitution.  Nowhere is injecting money into political campaigns given Constitutional protection.  Nor is it equated with speech.  In fact, the Constitution says nothing at all about corporations.     
The Supreme Court is sworn to uphold the Constitution, but by not protecting the integrity of elections, today’s Supreme Court is undermining the very foundations of  representative democracy.  Five of the justices have shown a disdain for parts of the Constitution they don't happen to like, and they’re blocking all attempts at campaign finance reform.  All five justices were handpicked by two arch-conservative Republican presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush.   
Unlike our country, major constitutional democracies elsewhere in the world don’t entrust basic rights or the integrity of elections to just 9 jurists.  For example, Germany has 16 judges, who are elected for a 12 year term, and face mandatory retirement at 68. Other constitutional democracies also have important structural differences, since they don’t have the concentration of power that characterizes our Supreme Court. 
Fixing the Supreme Court is crucial, because the McCutcheon ruling means that one wealthy individual can write checks totaling $3.5 million to candidates, political parties and political committees.  Presently, the super-rich 1 percent can go on a campaign spending spree like never before in our nation's history. 

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Veterans Committee Chairman


Regarding claims by congressional Republicans, that President Obama is weak defense, Independent Senator Bernie Sanders argued: “These are exactly the same guys who told us it was absolutely necessary for us to go into Iraq, to stay in Afghanistan year after year, to run up a bill of somewhere around $5 trillion for those wars, a bill that was not paid, just put on the credit card.

“So, I have a real hard time as chairman of the Veterans Committee hearing guys who are ready to rush up to war, rush to war in Syria, and concerned about Ukraine, but when it comes to the folks back home, the men and women who put their lives on the line to defend our country who often came back wounded in body or wounded in spirit, these very same guys who are prepared to spend any sum of money going to war, well, they just don’t have the funds available to take care of folks who are dealing with PTSD or dealing with traumatic brain injury or can’t get the education that they were promise and all other types of veterans needs that we’re not providing right now.  So I got a real problem with that.

“Under the Bush administration, we spend trillions of dollars in Iraq and Afghanistan, at the same time, Bush gave huge tax breaks for the wealthiest people in this country, ran up a huge deficit.  And then under Obama, the Republicans come back and they say: ‘We have a terrible deficit.  We’re going to have to cut social security, Medicare, Medicaid, education, environmental protection, the needs of the kids, nutrition programs because of this deficit.’

I think that same set of policies will play out more money for defense and then rising deficits and then cut programs that middle class and working family’s needs, absolutely that is what will happen.

“If we cannot keep faith with those people who are really hurting as a result of their service to this country, I think you got to have a lot of young people out there saying do I really want to make a career in the military.

“You’re talking about people whose lives have been shuttered.  Their family’s lives have been shattered.  Their kid’s lives have been shuttered.  And if there’s any priority that the government of the United States should have is you take care of those people first.”

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Here to Stay


The Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act has provided millions of Americans with the economic security of having health insurance.  It’s all about making sure that all of us can count on the security of health care when we get sick, and that the dignity of every citizen is acknowledged.
The Affordable Care Act isn’t perfect and not unlike Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, when they were first passed, adjustments need to be made.  Initial implementation, especially with the website had its share of problems.  Obamacare, as Republicans sarcastically began calling it, has its share of critics, but that’s what change looks like in a democracy.  Overcoming skepticism and fear of something new is hard, because some people would prefer the devil they know to the devil they don’t.
Obamacare is actually helping people, which makes the lengths to which congressional Republicans have gone to undermine the law, and try to repeal it without offering a plausible alternative very hard to understand.  Why are members of Congress working so hard for Americans not to have health insurance?  Why are they so angry about the idea of people having health insurance?  There are no death panels.  Instead, Obamacare  is already helping 13 millions Americans, and in the coming years it will help many more.
The Obama administration didn’t have billions of dollars for commercials to defend the Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act.  They simply asked, look for yourself, see if it’s good for your family.  When, people did go on line a lot of them decided it was a good deal.
President Obama has repeatedly offered to work with anyone who is willing to make this law work even better.  But, the debate over repealing this law is over, and the Affordable Care Act is here to stay.

Monday, April 07, 2014

Money Talks


Senator Chuck Schumer has warned: “The Supreme Court just handed down a ruling in McCutcheon v. FEC that abolishes a crucial limit on campaign finance, allowing huge new amounts of money into elections.
“This ruling in itself is a small step, but another step on the road to ruination.  It could lead to interpretations of the law that would result in the end of any fairness in the political system as we know it.”
The McCutcheon ruling means that one wealthy individual can now write checks totaling $3.5 million to candidates, political parties and political committees. 
Prior to this Supreme Court ruling very wealth donors had two kinds of limits on their direct contributions to campaigns and campaign committees.  The limit on donations to an individual campaign was $2,600 in the primary election and another $2,600 in the general election, for a total of $5,200.
Very wealth donors were also limited on the total amount they could donate to all candidates combined each cycle.  The Supreme Court has decided to eliminated that restraint, and opened the door to a huge influx of money into campaigns, which will eventually undermine our democracy.
The integrity of our political system is based on free and fair elections.  However, five conservative Supreme Court Justices have continue to insist that corporations are people and money is free speech, which puts our government in the pockets of millionaires and billionaires.
The McCutcheon decision clearly demonstrates that holding regular elections is no guarantee that our Constitution will be respected.  We cannot hope to fix this problem unless or until we fix the Supreme Court. 
Presently, the only votes that count are those of five Supreme Court Justices, who have put responsible and responsive government out of reach for all but the super-rich. 

Sunday, April 06, 2014

A Lot Better


The enrollment of 7.1 million people, who have signed up for healthcare under ObamaCare doesn’t include the more than 3 million young adults who have gained insurance under the law by staying on their family’s plan.  On top of that millions more have gained access through Medicaid expansion and the Children’s Health Insurance Program. 
The Affordable Care Act has enabled 100 million Americans to have free preventive care, such as mammograms and contraceptive care, under their existing plans, and nearly 8 million seniors have saved almost $10 billion on their medicine because it’s closing Medicare’s prescription drug donut hole.  The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act ensures that families won’t be driven into bankruptcy by a serious illness, by preventing insurers from placing dollar limits on the coverage they provide.
This doesn’t mean that all the problems in healthcare have been solved.  Premiums are still rising for families who have insurance, whether they have gotten it through their employer or purchased it on their own.  That has been taking place every year for decades, but those premiums have risen more slowly since the Affordable Care Act passed than at any time in the past 50 years.  Despite the design of this law, millions of Americans remain uncovered, because governors in most Republican states for political reasons have deliberately refused to expand Medicaid coverage.
You’ll have to change your coverage if you graduate from college; turn 26 years old; switch jobs; or have a child, just like you did before this landmark healthcare legislation was passed.  But, you can now go to healthcare.gov and use it year round to enroll when circumstances in your life change.  The Affordable Care Act hasn’t completely fixed our long broken health care system, but the law has made our healthcare system a lot better. 

Saturday, April 05, 2014

State Budget


President Obama has applauded a New York State budget deal that will fund universal pre-K in New York City.  The policy proposal of newly elected Mayor Bill de Blasio delivered a major victory on early childhood education for NYC families.

According to Mayor de Blasio, 53,000 schoolchildren will benefit immediately from this budget deal, and the number is expected to grow to 73,000 next year.

However, Diane Ravitch a research professor at New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development is concerned, that the budget deal includes the following terms.

Those private corporations that manage charter schools in New York City will never have to pay for using public space.  Although, Major de Blasio had approved 14 of 17, of charter approved in the last days of the Bloomberg administration, he must now approve all 17, and must offer space to the CEO of Success Academy Schools Network Eva Moskowitz.

NYC charter schools located inside public school buildings may expand as much as they wish, and the mayor can’t stop them.  Even if, it means taking control of the entire building and pushing all of the students out of their public school.

If a charter school decides to rent private space, the New York City public schools must pay their rent.  Where will the money come from?  That’s their problem, since public schools can always increase class size, or lay off social workers, counselors and psychologists.

Democrats for Education Reform is an organization of hedge fund managers that is politically active in many states to promote privatization.  Those billionaires believe that students with high test scores deserve more privileges than students with low scores.  In their elitist world, those with the most money get to live in bigger houses, drive nicer cars, and have more privileges.

Friday, April 04, 2014

Success


Regarding the Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act, last September, Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius predicted: “I think success looks like at least seven million people having signed up by the end of March 2014.” 

On April 1, 2014, President Obama announced: “Last night, the first open-enrollment period under this law came to an end.  And despite several lost weeks out of the gate because of problems with the website, 7.1 million Americans have now signed up for private insurance plans through these marketplaces.” 

A Rand Corporation study shows that nine and a half million people have gained health insurance from Obamacare.  That number includes Medicaid enrollment, which not every state has taken, but if you factor in the young people, under 26, who can stay on their parents policy, it’s estimated, that 13 million people have gained healthcare.  Thus, the Affordable Care Act has created the largest expansion of coverage in healthcare, since Lyndon Johnson signed Medicare legislation, a half a century ago. 

By 2015, the ACA is projected a cover over 13 million Americans, and by 2016, the number could be 22 million Americans.  Who will seek to repeal Obamacare in 2017, when it’s estimated, that 30 million voters are expected to be covered? 

As Americans get healthier, the cost of healthcare has start to come down.  Republicans recognize that Obamacare is taking us down the road to universal healthcare, because that’s what the American people want.

Prior to Obamacare, our government spent twice as much on healthcare than other industrialized nations, but we still had 50 million people without health insurance.  More than 31 percent of every dollar spent on health care went for paperwork, overhead, CEO salaries, and profits.  A single payer system would eliminate an unnecessary middleman, the insurance industry.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Partisan Ideology


Actions speak louder than words.  Congressman Gibson likes to talk up his bipartisanship, but his voting record shows the opposite.  He’s been siding with the most extreme elements of the GOP.

Although 46.2 million Americans are living in poverty, Gibson voted to cut food stamps by $40 billion.  He opposes increasing the minimum wage, which would lift millions of Americans out of poverty.  In fact, 71 percent of Americans see lifting the minimum wage as a common-sense approach to giving hard-working, low-income families a chance to get off of food stamps.

Millions of people work 40 or more hours a week earning minimum wage and still struggle to make ends meet.  The more money, that goes into those workers’ pockets means more money back into our local economy.

Presently, $4 billion of our tax dollars goes to subsidizes the oil industry every year.  These companies make record profits of tens of billions of dollars yearly.  Gibson stands with the oil companies and intends to keep subsidizing a fossil fuel that has been getting taxpayer subsidies for a century.

On August 2, 2011, Obama signed “The Budget Control Act,” that cut spending by $1.5 trillion over the next decade.  Except for a small increase in Pell Grants funding, the bill was all cuts, and no tax increases.

In January, insurance costs fell 0.4 percent, and Medicare costs fell about 0.1 percent.  Obamacare is working, but Gibson’s opposition is not based on facts, but on partisan ideology.

American voters re-elected Obama to put forward a balanced approach of shared sacrifice.  Gibson expects Obama to tell senior citizen, students, and mothers with a disabled children, that you’re going to have to do with less, because we’re not going to ask millionaires and billionaires to do more.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Not a Moderate


Congressman Gibson is not a moderate. 

Prior to being elected Chris Gibson signed Grover Norquist’s no tax pledge.  But, if elected Democratic candidate Sean Eldridge will vote to increase revenues by taxing those who have benefitted the most, if necessary. 

Rep. Gibson voted to totally eliminated Title X funding for family planning and teen pregnancy prevention.  He voted to allowed insurance companies to once again discriminate against women by charging them higher premiums and dening women care because of so-called pre-existing conditions, such as pregnancy.  He voted to redefine rape as “forceable rape” only, which would exclude statutory rape and women who were drugged or verbally threatened.    

Gibson voted to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act over 51 times, but offers no alternative to lowering health care costs. 

Paul Ryan’s budget passed the House with Rep. Gibson and 234 Republicans voting in favor of a Medicare overhaul.  The plan, Gibson voted for would have required our government to no longer directly pay health care bills for senior citizens.  Instead, recipients would choose a plan from a list of private providers, which the federal government would subsidize.

Gibson joined House Republicans in shutting down our government in 2013, and last February, Gibson wasn’t one of the 28 House Republicans that crossed party lines and voted with Democrats to avoid another government shutdown by raising the debt ceiling.

Gibson is a climate change denier who cares more about oil industry profits than about the health of our children and grandchildren.  His voting record on environmental issues is 17 percent, and he wants to abolish the Environmental Protection Agency, and give fossil fuel corporations free rein to pollute our air and water.  Gibson ran on a platform of “eliminating onerous regulations,” and doesn’t care about health destroying pollution.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Schools in Finland


The following excerpts are from Diane Ravitch blog.
“On the basis of Program for International Student Assessment scores, Finnish public schools have ranked at the top, or very near the top in the world in the areas of mathematics, reading and science...
“There are no charter schools in Finland, no school vouchers, no “grading” of schools and no magnet schools.  Unlike the United States, the intent in Finland is to assure that all schools are of equal quality.  Again, that quality certainly does not owe it’s success to test driven instruction and curricula, nor does it have to do with “teacher accountability” campaigns as they have been called in the United States.  Such approaches would have no place in a trust -centered nation like Finland.  As has been made clear by their world ranking, Finnish schools are successful without the above questionable practices.  Finnish teachers are highly respected and their prestige ranks with that of doctors and lawyers.  Again, Finnish teacher preparation is paid for by the Finnish government.  All teachers are prepared traditionally through a five year university preparation program. There is no alternative teacher certification in Finland.
“Finnish teachers are fully unionized and they earn decent wages.  We learned from faculty and administrators in Finland that there is no place for a scripted curriculum if administrators hire well qualified, traditionally prepared teachers.  Moreover to be effective in their profession, teachers must be afforded professional autonomy and academic freedom.  Many of these essential, teaching success-inducing components have been eroded in the United States over the past few decades.
“Naturally, as educators we found Finnish schools to be very attractive, and yet we never lost our faith in the American public schools that had prepared us- the very schools to which we had also dedicated our professional lives.  Quite plainly, the successes we saw in Finland should occur in the United States.  Not only that, we were made aware that the entire design and implementation of the Finnish school system was based on American education research!  As a matter of fact, the United States generates eighty percent of the research in education worldwide.  If American education research is a good enough to base the design of one of the very most successful public education systems in the world, why is it not good enough to use in the United States?  Furthermore, if we had the answers in the United States, why were we traveling to Finland to find our own answers?”