Friday, September 30, 2011

The Job Con

Paul Krugman writes a great piece for the NYTimes about the con game conservatives are playing with the jobs numbers and blame for the bad economy. As Krugman points out, the problem is not government regulation, bad markets, or tax fears. The problem is demand. There is no demand and so no incentive to expand and add jobs.

Krugman also points out that the job situation, while bad, is not that unusual when compared to historical evidence of what happens after any recession. He even notes that the jobs market has been better since the current recession than after the 2001 recession.

The reason for the deception is the conservatives are trying to push the country in a direction that benefits them. This isn't all that surprising really, but it is disheartening. By laying the blame on the government, conservatives are trying to anger people and get them to demand change. The conservatives are ready with their message of change, which includes privatization, cutting taxes on the wealthy and businesses, slashing regulations, and doing away with whole sectors of public government. What is scary is that, now more than ever, people are buying into this.

The Tea Party in particular is a symptom of how effective this smear campaign is working. Conservatives have been so effective in duping these poor people that they've got them protesting the very things they depend on! TPers rag on about "keep government out of my medicare!" without realizing the medicare is a government program. The elderly who receive social security checks are screaming about social security. This kind of hypocritical madness is what the wealthy want. They want the masses, the poor majority, to be so misguided that they support the very system that oppresses them. Historically, this is what all oppressive regimes strive for. And it's happening here, now.

Cleaning up

We as a species have very little understanding of our own impact on our world. Sure, you can say we've gotten better with recycling, better MPG's for our cars, and better standards in our factories and industry. But we've ignored some of our more everyday pollution. Luckily, this cartoon helps to illustrate our complete lack of understanding about how we can trash our planet when we're trying to clean things up.;

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Cuts

Take a look at this pie chart. The biggest pieces are social security and defense. We can't really cut social security because the amount indicated is money that has been promised to retirees. The most logical place to cut money from the budget, then, would be defense. Most of the other large chunks are also required spending, such as benefits and interest, so those can't be cut easily either unless you renovate the system. All those little pieces on the side there probably couldn't be cut too much more.

But all those little slices are where the GOP wants to cut. They want to cut funding for education, heating oil subsidies for the poor, job training, and NPR. If you'll notice, those are all found in the very smallest pieces of the pie. You'll remember, also, that the GOP wanted to cut energy funding to offset the FEMA money recently. If you look at energy, it makes up 1% of the total budget. Other pieces that make up just 1% of the budget include international affairs, general science, space, technology, natural resources, environment, agriculture, general government, administration of justice, and community/regional development. Furthermore, allowances and financing/housing credit add up to 0% of the total budget.

So let's review. The smallest, most insignificant parts of our budget, are places that are targeted by the GOP to defund even further. They say they're being fiscally responsible, but what they're doing appears to be trying to phase out certain parts of our government. They're targeting the poor, they're targeting children, and their targeting those who don't generally vote for them.

The GOP may call this fiscally responsible, but it's discriminatory cutting of the budget. If they want to cut spending, do it in a way that does not jeopardize the welfare of our citizens. If you want to save money on social programs, renovate the program, don't just defund it. We can't keep cutting without increasing revenue and streamlining the system. The GOP has it completely backwards, and many of our most vulnerable citizens are going to pay the price.

Why Rick Perry is Bad News

It may come as a shock to some, but I don't like Rick Perry. At all. He strikes me as a man who has no mind of his own and who, like Bush Jr., relies almost entirely on the people he surrounds himself with to help him decide on positions and issues. He trusts his advisors before whatever thought happens to jump into his head, and so he is at the mercy of those he picks to advise him. It just happens that many of those people have strong connections to a lot of private sector groups, dubious organizations, and special interests.

Ian Fletcher recently posted an article that very clearly expresses this. It then lists all of the people and organizations that have donated more that $100 K to Perry's campaign. It's quite and eclectic group.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Worldwide Revolution

This is happening now. In New York City on Wall St., thousands of protesters have been picketing for days in protest against the institutionalized money and power that the stock brokers control. In countries all over the world, The protests are raging and the activists are gathering.

The primary grievance? All around the world, the complaint is that our vote is no longer meaningful. And why is that? Because the financial institutions in these countries have taken a greater interest in the elections and political process, essentially marginalizing the voters.

This is happening in America with the SuperPACs that have been flooding political campaigns with millions of dollars from anonymous donors. Each of these PAC's is the official donor of the money, but they don't have to say where they got the money from. What this does is essentially eliminates the need for candidates to run their own campaign fundraising or even depend on the people for anything at all except a vote.

It used to be that most politicians received a majority of their funding from middle-class donors. It might not have been much, but it totaled more than they received from other groups. Now, politicians don't even need to worry about raising money from drives or fancy dinners. Super PAC's will do the work for them, and with fewer strings attached. What does this mean for we, the people? That our influence on our politicians is waning dangerously.

Politicians owe the most to those who pay for their campaigns. When big oil dumps money into the coffers of congressmen and women, they're trying to buy support for their continued prosperity. When industries like banks support politicians, they are doing this so they can get favors in return such as looser restrictions and better bargains on trades. This is the way it's always been done, but never at this level.

This is a definitive issue of our political process. Sure, politicians still need the people to vote their way, but study after study have shown that a media blitz of ads and speeches is sufficient to clinch most people's votes. A GOP candidate that gets the nomination is almost certain to get most conservatives' votes. All they need is to get their name out there and people will vote for them.

We should be very worried about these issues. Our government is being controlled by special interest groups and lobbyists whose industries are benefitting from the decisions of the politicans they've bought and paid for. We need to change things in order to get back to a place where the people are the focus of our government. We need to end lobbying, end anonymous and unlimited donation, and allow oversight into the funding of Washington. When that's done, I think we may see a change in the policies and practices of our politicians, and a greater effort to serve the people of America and the world.

societal hot-spots

When a person wants to gauge the overall strength of a society, there are certain things to look at that will indicate whether a nation is doing well. One is the strength and size of the middle class. Another is the disparity between rich and poor. A third is to look at the trends in the markets. These three indicators, among many, offer a pretty good idea of how a country is doing. Based on these three indicators, our country is in trouble.

First off, our middle class is shrinking and seeing its influence diminish. One of the reasons for this is that their jobs are the first to be cut in order to save costs for business. Second, they were hit hardest by the housing collapse. And, now their unions are being upended. A recent study showed that union membership and strength actually helps the middle class. With unions being systematically destroyed nation wide, it's no wonder that the middle class is being whittled away as well.

Second, the disparity between the wealthy and the poor is greater than it's ever been, spurred on by high unemployment and business making record profts simultaneously. As the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, our economy flounders. The poor can't afford to buy things, and the wealthy tend to hoard the vast majority of their wealth instead of spending to fill in that gap. Again, a vibrant middle class would help here, but that is disappearing. The difference between the privileged and the under-privileged is starting to become a permanent state, with recent laws being passed or considered that help to keep this disparity going. Things such as the Citizen's United ruling, the laws limiting voter access, and the redistricting efforts being made by conservative lawmakers nationwide are building permanent barriers between the rich and poor that will soon be very difficult, if impossible, to dismantle. Combine this with a conservative group of politicians that refuse to force millionaires to pay a little extra so the poor won't starve, and it appears as though their plan is to create a permanent under-class of secondary citizens.

Finally, the volatility of the markets reflect the volatility of our society. Again, this helps the wealthy because they can capitalize on shaky investments, and demand money from the government, while the poor are left behind. In crazy markets that fluctuate rapidly, long-term investments make no sense. Long-term investments are what most of the lower to middle class citizens do to secure money for retirement. Instead, short-term investment becomes very profitable and helps the wealthy to get more and more money out of the markets. The poor can't compete at the same level, and the volatile markets means prices for goods and services goes up, reinvestment is down, which means no one is growing or passing on savings of any kind. This turns into higher costs of living for everyone, and the poor are the least able to handle that.

The solution to all of this is simple in theory, even if it is difficult in our current political and social climate. First, we need to balance the wealth in the country by taking more from the rich and giving some back to the poor so that they can survive and maybe even start buying things again. Second, we need to encourage businesses to expand, not by giving away cash, but by creating demand. We need to provide incentives for people to buy, which will in turn lead to increased demand. Increased demand means companies need to increase supply. If they need to increase supply, they will hire. Finally, once people start getting jobs, they will purchase more, leading to more demand, more jobs, more purchasing, more demand, more jobs, etc. When this happens, our middle class will effectively be re-established, and we can start getting laws passed that protect the middle class rather than demonize and diminish it.

It's a long, hard, contentious plan, but it's one of the only ways to go through this in a way that restores our American values, makes us stronger than before, and helps everybody benefit. Focusing on the hot-spots in our society will end up getting us into an upward spiral instead of a downward one.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Disrupting Progress

Despite being the most advanced species in our little corner of the universe, we do seem to have a problem with a great many things. One of the biggest ones is our energy. We are still very dependent on non-renewable resources like coal and oil, incredibly inefficient energy like wind, solar, and hydro, and very unstable and dangerous energy like nuclear. Even geothermal energy is too expensive and impractical for many. This issue is probably going to be the single most important worldwide in the coming years, after water.

The problem, really, is that our technology has not yet caught up to our ideas. Simply put, we've thought ourselves into the next century without building a solution for tomorrow.

Thankfully, we have visionaries among us, men and women who see the future of energy, how our world is going to change to accept it, and how it will lead into a new phase of human existence. One of these is Jeremy Rifkin.

Rifkin recently came out with a new book, The Third Industrial Revolution, in which he outlines his vision for the future, ushered in by the changing technology and innovative application of energy, and how that in turn will further shape the world. The idea is that with new, local-based energy solutions, the monopolies of oil, coal, and others will be broken. After all, who's going to pay a propane company for fuel when you can create your own heat for free using a local energy system? Rifkin argues that this is the wave of the future, and that it is an absolutely essential step into the future.

Unfortunately, I think that Rifkin is understimating the power and influence of the energy lobby in Washington. The oil and gas companies, the coal mining corporations, they all have their hands in the political pie. It is through direct disruption by major businesses that we are not further along in our journey to clean, useful energy sources. Look at the electric car, which was originally designed back in the late 1800's. It grew in prominence until the early 1900's, when the only major manufacturer was bought out by Ford and the electric car was cut. If that hadn't happened, we might well be puttering around in electric cars today.

The point is, big money and special interests have a knack for stopping major innovations that will render them obsolete. They need us to need them, or they've lost everything. It is the greatest weakness of these groups that they still rely on our demand for their products. This is why electric cars, which are starting to make a slight comeback in our more environmentally conscious age, are still generations behind the internal combustion models. It takes many years of very careful work to make a new technology viable. Had the electric car been able to survive the intervening years, they would certainly be much more competitive, popular, and affordable.

Our future is in our hands, it is often said. Unfortunately, our hands are currently tied by the things we depend on so desperately. Imagine if we ran out of oil tomorrow. Would we be able to survive? Of course. Would it be the same? No. Yet that day is inevitable, and we may as well do what we can to delay it. It strikes me that there are so many alternatives - real, renewable alternatives - to things like oil and gas and coal. Entrepeneurs all over America havee been experimenting with alternative fuels for years. They've created fuels using corn, old cooking oil, or even Kudzu which is the fastest-growing plant in the world (it can grow up to a foot a day - talk about renewable energy!).

Biofuels, just like the electric car, have suffered from a major smear campaign, lack of interest, lack of funding, and general lack of everything else. Yet they are the future. Shouldn't we be devoting all of our time to making them as cheap and efficient as possible? Not if your in the oil business. Biofuels have been proven to run just as clean and efficient as oil-based fuels, but they are 100% renewable. Furthermore, they have less of an impact on the environment because their emissions are not as toxic. Unfortunately, because of our technological limitations, we don't currently have a system that allows us to mass produce biofuels cheaply enough for regular use. Sure, we could convert all of the corn fields so that we use the harvest to make fuel, but then what would we do to fill the gap that leaves elsewhere? There are a lot of questions that need to be answered, and a lot of problems to solve, but they must be solved sooner rather than later.

So, our biggest obstacles to the energy solutions for tomorrow are our energy providers of today. It's not even that surprising when you think about it. If they really wanted to be successful, however, they'd be diversifying into more natural fuel solutions. Funnily enough, that's what some of them are doing. I have a feeling that once technology catches up to our vision, the debate will be over and we'll be embracing a new generation of fuel and energy solutions, brought to us by the exact same corporate entities that control those things today.

The only thing we may be able to find solace in is Rifkin's other aspect of the future energy of our world: it's no longer part of the corporate world, but is controlled locally. When every community is in control of its own power supply, then we can finally get rid of our dependence on major corporations and learn to innovate for ourselves. It is, after all, what Americans are best at.

The Unthinkable

Today, I was listening to a portion of the Glenn Beck radio program when I heard him say something that I actually agreed with. The discussion was in regards to two different articles that had quoted Obama from a speech the POTUS gave recently. In the AP version, the quote was written in such a way that it reflected how Obama pronounced the words (he didn't pronounce the "g" at the end of certain words, and so it was omitted when the AP quoted those words in print). In the MSNBC version, Obama's words were written out instead. Apparently, people took issue with this, saying that one side or the other was being racist. Now, Beck's response to this was to reprimand the people spending their time debating this because it's clear that it's not racially tinged. I agree with that statement. The way a quote is printed does not suggest something about the individual writing it. After all, both versions are correct.

Unfortunately, Beck lost me after that, but pulling a quote from Obama in which Obama describes using different tones and dialects based on the group he is speaking to. Beck of course took issue with this as well, claiming that Obama was a "chameleon," not a president.

I don't know if you've ever noticed this, but most humans tend to change their style of speech depending on the situation. The way I speak to people at work is different than how I speak to my wife. The way I speak to some friends is different than how I speak to others. This is typical of everyone, so I don't understand why Beck is trying to claim that Obama is any different for acknowledging this about himself. Apparently Beck has issues with self-awareness.

Beck goes on and on with his usual tirade, trying to tie all these random facts and bits of information together, with tones of mild concern and slight panic. He lost me after a while, but it's still interesting to note that underneath the insanity there is a mind down there that can actually say something other people agree with: PC has gone a bit too far, a quote is just a quote, and racism does not live on in correctly typing out the words of a President.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Consumer-less wealth

One of the biggest problems with our current economy is that many of the biggest corporations no longer need to rely on consumers for their profits. With stimulus money, record profit due to reducing the bottom line and utilizing tax loopholes, and huge amounts of cash gathering interest or being self-invested for profit, there's no reason for companies to base their profit on the people anymore.

With the economy the way it is, there is very little purchasing going on, at least on the level that helps boost the economy. People don't have disposable income and so aren't going after luxury items. When people don't buy, businesses suffer. And many are suffering right now, but mostly small businesses who, like the middle class, are wealthy enough to get slammed by regulation, taxes, and insurance, but not wealthy enough to weather the financial struggles and come out better than before. In short, small businesses lose and big businesses win.

The GOP likes to say it's on the side of small business, but they don't do anything to help them. If they wanted to help small business owners, they'd work to get people in the door rather than throwing cash at their competitors. Government stimulus money is how companies are getting by. They don't need people to buy products if the government will just give them money.

Eventually, we may even see companies that are created who don't produce a single good or service. They will simply be created to make money for their CEO's by taking government funds, utilizing tax loopholes, and engaging in investment practices. When this happens, it won't matter if the unemployment is 10%, 20%, or even 50%. It won't matter if people can't afford food, housing, or luxuries. It will not matter that there are no consumers, because the companies would be completely self-sufficient. It's scary, but it's starting.

The solution is that we have to stop government intervention in keeping businesses in the black. We need to break up big businesses that have monopolies on their markets, or that engage in questionable practices like this. Moreover, we need to put the power back in the hands of the people to decide who sinks and who swims in the free market economy. No one is too big to fail, no one is too small to succeed. We need to encourage buying by stimulating the consumer. Let's have the government bail out the people rather than the businesses. Let's have Congress pass every citizen, wealthy or poor, a check and tell them to go out and buy. When we raise demand, we force business to expand and hire. When more people work, more money is made, empowering the people even more and increasing our buying power. It's a cycle that grows stronger and stronger as time goes on. Let's get the ball rolling again.

Well, which is it?

Compare the following stories.

Rush Limbaugh complains that Obama ripped off a line that Limbaugh wrote in a piece back in the 1980's. Limbaugh is abashed and angered that Obama used his own words "verbatim" (they weren't verbatim) without giving Limbaugh the credit. HP found at least 7 individuals who relate similar words to Limbaugh's, many of whom said them before Rush.

Rush Limbaugh points out that Gary Johnson used a joke of Limbaugh's in the GOP presidential debate on Thursday night. Far from being angered about the blatant plagiarism, Limbaugh passed it off with a laugh and said "I guess I've become show prep for the GOP debates now, too." Keep in mind, this joke was a Rush Limbaugh Original, unlike Limbaugh's words on the "35 UTL".

So, which is it, Rush? Are you upset when someone quotes the words you did not invent yourself but took credit for almost 30 years ago, but just fine when a GOP pundit lifts a joke off your radio show from the day before and passes it off as his own? If you want it both ways, please explain the distinction. If the distinction is that one is a POTUS that you don't like, a Dem, or someone you generally don't agree with, that's not really fair.

And how do you know that Obama was quoting you when you were not the original author of that particular thought. It's very possible that Obama got the words from Martin Luther King Jr, who also said them, or Harry Truman who had similar beliefs. You can't claim Obama was plagiarizing when a) he did not use your words as they were printed, and b) you were not even the first person to say them.

It's just hypocrisy, I know, but it alludes to the fact that people like Rush do not care if someone uses their words, unless those words are used by someone they don't like to make a point they don't want to agree with.

So, Mr. Limbaugh, by your reasoning, if I were to go out and say "Rush Limbaugh is a big, fat idiot," I am not plagiarizing Al Franken, because I'm making the same observation to make the same point that he was. That point being, you are a big, fat idiot.

GOP candidate debate No. 2

Once again, we had an awkward moment in the debate, when a gay soldier was booed after his video was posted and his question asked of the candidates. Rick Santorum, the first to speak after the booing died, said nothing in regards to the reaction of the crowd, but went into a heartfelt tirade about the repeal of DADT and how it weakened our military. This received great applause.

This is the second time a particularly disheartening situation has arisen at a GOP candidate's debate. First, it was people yelling that an uninsured sick person should be left to die (again without any immediate reaction from the candidates). Now, we have a much larger group booing one of our national heroes because he is gay.

I would just like to say that this is reprehensible, discriminatory, and hateful, especially against a member of our armed forces. I don't want to get too worked up about it, so I'll leave it that, and just say that I'm just as ashamed of all those candidates who said nothing, and even more angry at Santorum, who agreed with them.

The content of this debate was almost identical to the content of the previous one. Perry and Romney were given the most air time, with Bachmann coming up third. Ron Paul, of course, was completely left out of Fox News's post-debate analysis (he was not mentioned once), while the new guy was talked about quite a bit for a little joke he lifted off of Rush Limbaugh. I would just like to point out that Limbaugh complained that Obama plagiarized him earlier this week and is threatening to sue because the POTUS used a phrase that was very similar (but not identical) to something Limbaugh wrote in the 80's, but has yet to issue a similar threat to Gary Johnson for using the exact same joke that Limbaugh has used in the last year. Anyway, the big things last night were jobs, immigration, and health care.

On the jobs front, all of the GOP candidates seemed to think that they were really being asked about Obamacare. On several occasions, Obamacare was brought up instead of jobs, and the candidates tried to link the two. One even said "companies aren't hiring because of Obamacare." I wonder who told them that, because it's really not accurate. Speaking with small business owners, they will tell you that theyr'e not hiring because there's no incentive for them to expand: no demand, no money, no subsidies, no markets, and higher insurance (which is what really chokes businesses).

Immigration was interesting, because none of the candidates said anything that even approached a comprehensive plan to deal with it. Instead, they all bemoaned the number of illegals, scored points of Perry for giving illegal's kids in-state tuition, and then moved on to something else.

Finally, there was health care. Apparently, after the first day in office, none of the candidates have any plan for how to handle the rising cost of health care. They all said that the first thing they would do is repeal Obamacare. Pretty soon, they'll be debating about who will be able to do it faster. After it's repealed, though, whoever is sitting in the Oval Office is still going to have to tackle the problem that they've just recreated. That thought doesn't seem to have crossed their minds, since none of them have said anything besides "Repeal! Repeal! REPEAL!!!"

Again, Ron Paul looked the best out of all of them, but he's been completing shunned by the right-wing mediamongers and has been marginalized into a non-entity. The only ones that the Fox analysts really liked was Romney, though of course that's always been case, ever since they realized Bachmann was a little too serious in her insanity to be a relevant candidate.

While watching online, I was able to participate in a number of polls that were powered by Fox and Google. The interesting thing about these polls was that I generally agreed with the majority on just about every one of them. It just goes to show that the people who watched the debate are all of a similar mind. On some major moral and economic issues, people are in agreement about basics. It's the way we get results that we disagree on.

The debate ended awkwardly, as only three of the candidates actually answered the final question, but it again highlighted that slight differences between the various candidates. It will be interesting to see how things progress from here. Personally, all this character assassination going on the right is making Obama look better and better, and I don't think that can be a bad thing.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

How we started digging

A recent article on Huffington Post discussed an interview with Mitch Daniels, the current Indiana Governor and former budget official under Bush, in which Daniels said that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan had very little impact on our current debt problem.

Daniels points out that blaming people for past mistakes is no way to help us now. Daniels indicates that he believes our biggest problem was the housing collapse, but only as a passing notion. To Daniels, there's only one way to look: forward.

You know that old saying, those who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it? Daniels is a perfect example. While it's fiscally irresponsible for us to wage two full-blown wars at the moment, not to mention the minor tussles here and there we seemed to be getting dragged into, according to Daniels this doesn't have any impact on our country at all. In fact, we shouldn't even be thinking about the wars that are costing us billions a week, the lives and health of our soldiers, or the complete devastation of an entire region. Why? Because they were started in the past, and so they're practically over already. Didn't Bush already declare "Mission Accomplished"? See, we're all done there, no harm done to the economy.

Of course, this is a lot like saying that smoking has very little impact on whether you develop emphysema or lung cancer. Sure, there are other factors involved, such as family history, other choices you've made in the past, or environmental agents. The truth is, though, that a major issue may just be the cancer sticks your putting away two packs at a time. To say that it has nothing to do with why you can't breathe now is irresponsible. To say that it's not a factor because you started smoking years ago is insane.

Daniels doesn't seem to understand that things like spending money have long-term effects. He doesn't seem to get that the tax breaks, wars, subsidies, and bailouts under Bush are exactly what got us where we are today. Instead, Daniels is telling us to look around, blame the current administration for our current situation, because they are the ones in power now. Does anyone blame the janitor for spilling food all over the floor in the lunch room, because he's the one that has to pick it up? No, it's the snobby kid who decided to waste a week's worth of lunch money on all the yummy treats, then tossed it on the floor when the school bell rang.

For more information on just how our debt was accumulated, check out this link.

Class Warfare

There's a new buzzword floating around Washington right now, courtesy of the GOP: "Class Warfare." It's not new really, but it has been resurrected with great popularity in the last week or so as Obama has unveiled his new Buffet Rule, which would raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans and balance it against cuts to the government medical programs. This has been a real hot-button issue, since it is Obama's first hard stance against the GOP in his presidency. As it has been said many times, the president no longer has the crisis of total government shutdown and default looming over him. He can take his time with the negotiations, stand his ground, and make the choice to fight the GOP on their own turf.

This article explains the GOP position very well, and offers some interesting thoughts on why the GOP are acting the way that they are. They are willing to allow $3 Trillion in cuts and taxes to fail so they can prove that Obama is a failure. They are rattling on about how Obama is sparking class warfare when, as the article points out, is what the GOP has been doing for years.

The GOP have been systematically dismantling the middle class, and it's time we put our foot down and demanded better from our representatives. Trying to destroy the American Middle Class for the benefit of big business and the wealthy is not something we should be proud of.

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Federalist

I've decided that it's time for me to read "The Federalist" by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay. While this is usually hailed by conservatives as evidence that they are more in line with the founder's ideology, I believe that it can also be used to make a point about America as a whole.

The point I want to make about reading The Federalist is that the modern Republican party are very far removed from the ideal of the founders. In fact, all of Washington has been misguided by the pull of money and power from special interests. America was founded as a place of ordinary freedoms for ordinary folks. It is based on the idea that every person, regardless of background, race, religion, or party can be successful.

The modern day parties do not reflect this ideal. The GOP spends all of its time scheming with private business, trying to disenfranchise the American People (to read more about how the GOP is looking to destroy the people's voice in Washington, read this). The Democratic party are not much better, with more and more pandering to refit social programs and dumping billions of dollars into social safety nets without trying to redesign them to be more efficient. All the while, there are major fights over simple things like budgets, taxation, and government regulations.

I believe that the founders, while imperfect, made a piece of legislation that can still be used today. We have the ability to try and extrapolate meaning from the original documents for modern concerns. As Joe Pesci's character said in the movie With Honors (which I highly recommend), the founding fathers were "a bunch of bums" who knew that what they said was not perfect and that what they devised did not solve every problem. What The Federalist Papers do for us is give us context for how the founders viewed the Constitution, how they wanted it used, and how they felt America should exist. We should take a lesson from them and get back to some of the original intents of America: individual freedom, the power of the people, and a government that serves its citizens and not the elite.

What we can Expect

Obama unveiled his jobs bill. Boehner countered it. Obama is unveiling the new Buffet Plan, and the GOP has sent Paul Ryan into the fray to claim that "This is War." Ryan is fighting Obama over whether the rich should take on a greater tax burden. Obviously, Ryan doesn't think so. But Ryan goes a step further by saying that the taxes should be raised on the middle class instead by allowing Obama's payroll tax cut to expire. Ryan said this is because the intent of the cut was to help the economy and it has failed.

Unfortunately, Ryan neglects the rather great hypocrisy of this when it was Bush that passed the sweeping tax cuts for the wealthy that were supposed to boost jobs and the economy. Now, if Ryan is saying that anything that was ineffective should be allowed to expire, he should support allowing the Bush tax cuts to go away, since they have helped keep us in this economic slump.

It amazes me that the GOP now believe that "compromise" means getting everything that they want and Congress passes the bill. That's not compromise, that's holding the nation hostage. Compromise is allowing there to be an adult discussion of every possibility, including but not limited to tax increases, spending cuts, restructuring programs, and getting rid of wasteful and needless regulation or programs.

The problem we are seeing with the GOP now is that they are not willing to negotiate, opting instead to take on an all-or-nothing mentality. Their goal, it seems, is to privatize as much of the government as possible, dismantle our safety and health regulations, and put more and more power into the hands of the investors, CEOs, and other major moguls of our economy. But the nation needs an effective government, not more fighting and gridlock. The Republicans are putting party before policy and politics before prosperity.

We don't need more taxes on the middle class, we don't need to loosen restrictions on business, we don't need to dismantle government to save money! We need to be smart, understand that the wealthy are getting wealthier, the poor are getting poorer, and the programs that more and more are relying on are being taken apart. We need a better option than what the GOP is toting, and Obama's got it. We need to listen to him.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Let the Record speak for itself

It amazes me that the GOP will so readily obstruct, block, and dismantle everything that is put forward by Obama and the Dems. After all, don't the GOP say over and over again that the policies of the Obama administration are harmful for the U.S.? Don't they say that they are trying to drive up the deficit, drive us into debt, destroy jobs, and weaken our security?

If all that is true, then Obama wouldn't stand a chance in a reelection. If Obama were allowed to do everything he wanted and the GOP's claims were found to be accurate, then we'd be ushering in a conservative president as quickly as we can.

So I have to ask myself: if the worst thing for Obama is to be a failing president, and if Obama's policies will fail America, why not let him do what he wants? Surely, that would make him look bad, right? Hasn't the GOP reiterated time and again that Obama is all anti-jobs, anti-business, and anti-American? Why not let him prove it? If the GOP really wants to discredit Obama, shouldn't they be letting Obama's own legislation be doing that?

The only reason, then, that the GOP are looking to stop Obama's policies is because they know that they will work. They know they'll be successful and that Obama would get credit for turning the country around. Furthermore, if Obama succeeds, it proves that everything the GOP said was incorrect, which would further diminish their reputation. That's why it's so important for them to keep on stopping everything. If they let Obama get a victory, and it turns out to be helpful, it shows the GOP is really just about grabbing more power, even at the expense of the American and world economy.

Republicans should be getting out of the way in Washington. Let Obama make decisions, and if they are a mistake, the public will get that and vote him out. But having a dysfuntional government is not helping anyone, and it's hurting a lot of people. We need real leadership, real progress, and real hope for a change.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Freedom of Speech is a two-sided coin

This is one of those articles that makes me feel physically ill. It's so amazingly un-American, discriminatory, and un-democratic that it amazes me the author can even think he's standing for U.S. values. What bothers me even more than the article itself, though, are the comments that are attached to it. Some of those include people insinuating that the only people who should be allowed to vote are wealthy individuals, white men, or people who generally believe what they believe in. There are comments that express how a person's voting power should be equivalent to the amount they pay in taxes to the government.

It's free speech. It's legal. I'm not saying they are wrong for what they believe. But I believe that they are un-American, bigoted, racist, sexist, and incredibly ignorant. And just as it's their right to say those things, It's my right to say these:

- I believe in socialized medicine for America.
- I believe Barack Obama could have been the best President in history if the GOP had put the country before the party
- I believe that corporate welfare is wrong, that social welfare is right, and that giving people opportunities is better than the bottom line.
- I believe the Tea Party is a group of racist, scared, angry, ignorant bigots who don't understand half the things they hear or say.
- I believe that abortion must be legal, available, and hopefully rare.
- I believe that people like the ones who write or support the things written in the article above are as dangerous to our way of life as Al Qaeda, but I believe we have to respect them just the same.
- I believe the Oakland Raiders can win the Superbowl if they would only stick with a head coach for more than one season and tighten up their offense.

Call me a communist, socialist, terrorist, idealist, whatever. It's my opinion, my personal belief, and no one else has the right to say that my blind faith in the Raiders is wrong. Or any of the rest of it.

GOP/Tea Party Debate

The debate last night raised some interesting points from nearly all the candidates, and gave us a better look at the kind of individuals that are running for Prez on the right-hand side of things. Unfortunately, I didn't see much that I appreciated, and much that was very concerning.

First, we have the current GOP target Rick Perry, who tried desperately to get out from underneath the avalanche of criticism piled on him by Bachmann and Romney. This was useful, though, in bringing to light some of Perry's less favorable moments, such as when he mandated unsafe vaccinations be given to every female 12 and older in the state of TX. One of the things that Romney, Perry, and Huntsman all mentioned were their respective jobs numbers as governors of Massachusetts, Texas, and Utah respectively. They each conveniently forgot to exclude jobs that were created in the government, which they believe don't count.

Herman Cain mentioned his "9/9/9" plan, meaning a 9% income tax, 9% sales tax, and 9% of some other tax. The other thing that Cain came out with was his belief in getting a handle on the "rampant EPA" by setting up a de-regulation committee to essentially dismantle our environmental safequards. The problem with this plan is that Cain proposed appointing individuals to that committee who have directly lost out because of these regulations (i.e. big business and other big polluters). Cain said that this is because he believes in getting as close to the problem to find the solution. To me, it sounds like allowing major industries to decide which regulations there should be. In my mind, it's the equivalent of allowing people to decide their own tax rate. Who in their right mind is going to voluntarily take on a higher tax burden if they can choose not to?

The biggest issue I had with the entire debate, however, came when Ron Paul made a very good point about our National Security and Bin Laden. Paul had recently been attacked by Santorum for posting something on his website that, according to Santorum, blamed the United States for 9/11. Santorum expressed his outrage that Paul would express such a thing. Santorum explained that Al Qaeda attacked us because they are jealous of our freedoms and our democracy and wealth. Paul then took the floor and tried to explain that this wasn't true. Bin Laden himself, Paul said, claimed that Al Qaeda's aggressions towards the U.S. have to do with the fact that America has a military base in their holy land, has marginalized the Palestinians, has killed tens of thousands of Middle Eastern people, and has suppressed their culture and society socio-economically and socio-politically for years. Paul then tried to get people in the audience to reflect on this, but couldn't continue with what he was saying because he was being booed so forcefully by the audience.

What strikes me most about this is that Paul was absolutely right. He was making a very important point, which is that we need to listen to and understand our enemies as part of our national security. Paul was absolutely correct in his explanation for the motives behind the 9/11 attacks. Yet despite this, he was booed and devalued because he spoke out of line with the GOP opinion. Ron Paul made another good point about this, stating that our security and safety would continue to be lessened if we did not understand the society, culture, and reasoning behind our enemy's desire to "destroy us."

On the radio this morning, Glenn Beck took this up, and made the same argument that Santorum did, stating that Ron Paul was dead wrong, that he was out of line, and that this statement all but disqualified him as a candidate for President. It was such an overstatement and distortion of what Paul was trying to say that I had to turn it off to keep from upsetting myself. Clearly there is something wrong when a major political party of the United States is so disillusioned that they cannot accept simple, factual, honest information that goes against their own closely held opinions and world view.

Monday, September 12, 2011

State-level Cash Flow

Pres. Obama recently outlined his new jobs bill, part of which calls for about $130 billion going to state governments to cover costs, pay for projects, and work on their unemployment. As you might expect, the plan is meeting resistance, mostly along party lines.

While the money would be helpful to states for covering their costs over the next couple of years, it would not make any long-term changes directly. Instead, it would provide states with the breathing room they need to reorganize and get things together for themselves. While I believe that money would be better spent stimulating the pockets of the American People, I am more willing to see it go to the states than to business, as what happened to the stimulus from 3 years ago.

 The money is supposed to go to things like infrastructure, education, and safety services like fire departments and police. While this sounds admirable and intelligent, it is precisely this that some GOP-ers are concerned about. For them, these count as strings attached to their money. They'd rather get that money with the freedom to spend it as they see fit.

Normally, I'm all for freedom when it comes to how states manage their money. States that waste money soon experience economic and social calamity. Look at California. It's in a state's best interest to act in their citizen's best interest because if they don't they won't have many citizens left. It's much easier to leave a state than a country.

In this case, though, giving money to states to spend how they want is not a good idea. Every state has had to cut government pay and positions. Every state has had to limit the size and scope of their government in an attempt to feed the economy. If we inject billions of dollars for a one-time boost, that money will go nowhere that is useful to the people. It has to be directed, just like block grants for education. It's not unheard of, it's not unethical or scandalous. It's good business.

States should use the money to pay for the things that they can't afford easily now. Upgrade schools and roads, get the economy going by giving the people a tax break or bonus check, or give out subsidies to small businesses to get them started and to keep them going. Get your economy rolling again. That's what the money is for.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

A great read

Here's a great piece on the theology of the GOP. No disrespect to the free-thinking conservatives out there. This isn't aimed at you. It's aimed at the leaders and the hair-trigger ideologues who scream before they speak and speak long before they think. Take the time to read it. It's very insightful.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Labor in America

There are two fundamental aspects to the American economy that have helped to define us as a leading power in the world and forged us into the beacon of hope for millions across the globe. The first is the middle class lifestyle. When most of the world is polarized as rich and poor, America has championed the middle ground, the man who makes enough to support a family and can make ends meet. It is a fundamentally American ideal, this ability to stand up on one's own two feet and make it. The second aspect is harder to see and define. It is the knowledge that we as American workers are protected from the powers of the wealthy, the oppression of the powerful, and are given equal right and representation under the law and in our government regardless of our income.

These two fundamental aspects of American Life are as sacred as the American Flag. They are symbols of what makes America great, and they should instill a sense of pride in anyone who takes the time to appreciate them.

Yet despite this, despite the importance of things like organized labor, the middle class, and workers rights, there is a strong movement to dismantle this part of our nation's legacy.

All a person needs to do is turn on the radio and listen to Rush Limbaugh or Howie Carr. Or, turn on the TV and watch FOX news, Glenn Beck, or the numerous GOP presidential candidates and numberless ideologues. There is a vibrant anti-worker movement that has been growing steadily in influence and power for decades.

On Labor Day, these venomous individuals came out to protest the very foundations of the worker's holiday. They said it was "Socialist-Supported Labor Day" on the Glenn Beck program. The fight in Wisconsin recently over union rights and worker protections is still a source of contention and example, both sides pulling statistics and strength from what has become one of the most iconic labor battles of our recent politics.

The underlying themes of the anti-union movement are suprisingly sensible. They are based on a system of checks and balances. Those who oppose unions do so because they believe they are too powerful and that they are able to force businesses to do things that are not in the business's own best interest. In many ways, the anti-union movement is important because it helps to keep everything balanced,

But like all things, it gets to be bad when there's too much of it. And when there is too much opposition to organized labor, the laborers seem to lose out. It is happening all over America right now. GOP candidates for President are complaining about the unions while simultaneously trying to portray themselves as the champions of the working classes. Many statistics have shown that when the middle class workers are pushed out and marginalized, the economy suffers. Conversely, when the middle class does well, so does the economy and everyone else as a result. The Tea Party has formed up to protest against unions, saying they infringe on rights and are a government puppet. No one seems to stop and wonder about the worker's rights.

By attempting to break up unions without breaking up their arch rivals, the corporations, conservatives are pushing the balance of power in favor of big business rather than the workers, who are the backbone of America. By removing the ability for workers to combine their force and voice to request better pay and benefits and so on, we are removing the ability of the American worker to experience the joy of a good day's pay for a job well done.

Unions represent the very heart and soul of America, it's determination to stand united and demand excellence. Unions don't coddle blue-collar workers or twist the arms of CEO's. Ask any local teacher's union how effective they are at getting what teachers need. Ask a coal miner whose part of a union what kind of scare tactics the unions used to get him a raise that put him just barely over minimum wage. No, unions aren't the problem. It's irresponsible to complain about the amazing benefits received by retired teachers when you compare those benefits to what many CEO's get, or even what many school board members receive. Unions don't create inequality, they try to fight it.

America was built as a union for a reason. By definition, a union is a number of persons, states, etc., joined or associated together for some common purpose. America is a number of states, individuals, and institutions combined for mutually beneficial existence. America's common purpose is to preserve every man, woman, and child's right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Should we dissolve worker's unions because they endeavour to protect groups of individuals from the power and money of big business? There are those who think so. But I believe that unions, the workers they represent, and the message they send, are as important and unwaveringly American as anything can be, and it should be in our best interest to protect and preserve them.