Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Yes to Dirty Air, No to Citizens

On 10/13/2011, Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minnesota) voted Yea on H.R. 2250, the “EPA Regulatory Relief Act of 2011”, which passed. The bill is not expected to pass in the Senate, and the White House has said it would veto such a bill.

According to EPA’s analysis, this bill would allow up to:  

20,000 additional premature deaths;
12,000 additional heart attacks; and
123,000 additional asthma attacks that could have been avoided.[1]

"[T]he measure also exempts smaller burning facilities from any regulation at all."[2]

"Environmental groups and Democrats were livid over the 272 to 142 vote, which they said will allow smaller incinerators -- often in urban settings -- to burn tires, solvents, plastics, oil sludge and other toxic-laden substances for profit without any oversight or reporting requirements."[2]

Two quotes from Betty McCollum (D-MN) in the congressional record is illustrative:
With this bill, Republicans are now seeking to delay and indefinitely block the ability of the EPA to regulate mercury emissions from industrial boilers and incinerators. These rules were called for 21 years ago under the 1990 Clean Air Act and were to have been completed by 2000.
The EPA estimates the cost of compliance for the boiler rule to be around $3 billion annually while providing between $17 billion to $41 billion in benefits to the economy starting in 2014. Bruce Bartlett, former economic advisor to President Reagan, has noted that regulations were responsible for a miniscule 0.2 percent of layoffs in 2010. Despite the evidence, Republicans continue to claim the economic necessity of discarding the health of our children and communities in order to protect a few bad polluters.[3]
Congress sets the rules in the U.S. under which businesses operate. Congress creates the "playing field", and it is their responsibility to balance the needs of consumers, investors, employers and employees, and American citizens.

Rep. Collin Peterson's record of voting with Republicans against the interests of citizens just keeps getting longer. Just how much money to his re-election campaign did this vote gain for him? And when is he going to reveal to voters that he is really a Corporate Republican, not a Democrat?

[2] The Huffington Post, "House Passes Incinerator Bill That The EPA Warns Will Kill Thousands".

[3] Congressional Record, 112th Congress (2011-2012), Extensions of Remarks - October 14, 2011, Page: E1867, SPEECH OF HON. BETTY McCOLLUM OF MINNESOTA IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Welcome to America

The American Jobs Act contained a provision that would have been extremely stimulative in terms of GDP expansion and jobs growth while also providing direct relief to the workers who have been hardest hit by the recession. That provision was an extension of federal unemployment insurance.

The extension is not likely to be included in a smaller, "bipartisan" bill. While this may gain Democrats talking points for the 2012 elections, millions of unemployed Americans are going to be hurt. And letting extended unemployment benefits expire is just bad policy in an anemic economy. But this is symptomatic of the new America.

In the wake of the weakening and final repeal of the depression-era Glass-Steagall Act, banks merged with investment and insurance firms, creating and selling instruments such as mortgage-backed securities, and creating structured investment vehicles which bought those securities. Supposedly, "a very effective" SEC, knowledgeable investors, and "very sophisticated" rating agencies would protect us from corporate misbehavior. But the SEC had deregulation fever, the rating agencies were selling AAA ratings on financial instruments without knowing or caring what those instruments contained, and investors were buying those instruments without the necessary transparency. The subsequent 2007 sub-prime mortgage financial crisis and the ensuing economic meltdown was reminiscent of the start of the Great Depression.

Now the banks have been bailed out, large corporations are sitting on trillions of dollars, and Wall Street is doing just fine. But Main Street has been trashed, and the blame for our economic ills has been laid instead on out-of-control spending on social programs which supposedly drove the national debt up to unsustainable levels.

Forget all of the cuts in taxes on incomes, capital gains, dividend incomes, and estates, along with subsidies and tax give-aways for large corporations. Never mind the stagnant wages of the middle class, and the flow of generated wealth primarily only to the top 1%, with effective tax rates on that 1% the lowest in decades. Don't think about the estimated $8 trillion in military and homeland security spending since 9/11. Ignore the millions of jobs lost along with the loss of consumer spending those jobs represented. Ignore also skyrocketing health care costs and the waves of medical bankruptcies. Don't look at all of the housing foreclosures and evictions of families.

Look only to the people who need assistance for someone to blame. Look only to gays and socialists and the unemployed and the disabled and immigrants and the poor for the cause of our economic woes. Label "Occupy Wall Street" protesters anti-American, and dismiss their grievances as baseless or incoherent.

Don't look for blame among our Senators, Representatives and Presidents who set the rules under which Wall Street and the wealthy played their games. Don't look at the lobbyists and the flood of corporate campaign contributions to our elected representatives for an answer as to why our unemployment is so high. Instead, blame the economy on immoral poor people, and blame the unemployed for being lazy. Blame seniors for getting welfare, and ignore the fact that Social Security is not paid out of general revenues.

So let's watch our elected representatives as they kick millions of unemployed people off of their gravy train, slashing those incomes to zero.

Let us applaud financial austerity. And let us also not forget to celebrate the passage of new Free Trade Agreements. Wave to the jobs going overseas to North Korean factories owned by South Korean companies who now can sell freely in the U.S. Marvel at the increase in U.S. assets hidden in Panamanian banks and the new regulations designed to prevent investigations of tax fraud in Panama. Smile at the Colombians and ignore the violence towards thousands of pro-union workers in their country.

Candidates for next year's elections are vying with each other over how generous they can be to the supposed "job creators", and they are arguing which of their plans will best dismantle Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, and the Affordable Care Act. Politicians are more concerned with preventing gay marriages than with job creation. Assistance for home-heating, higher education and county and city governments is disappearing. Austerity is ushering in a global recession.

But don't worry. A new vision of America is on the horizon. Welcome to 1896.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Letter to Franken Regarding Votes on Free Trade Agreements

To Senator Al Franken (D-MN):

Thank you so much for voting no on the Panamanian and Columbian Free Trade Agreements.

I'm not sure why you would vote yes on the South Korean FTA. As I understand it, the deal would allow South Korean firms to sell their goods here tariff-free. However, over 47,000 North Korean laborers are currently performing work for over 120 South Korean firms doing business in North Korea, and this FTA does nothing to curb abuses of those workers.

Basically, we are encouraging the importation of goods into this country that are made by workers being paid 35 cents an hour, with those workers laboring in the Kaesong Industrial Complex in North Korea under conditions which are among the worst in the world, according to the AFL-CIO.

It is bad enough that manufacturing in this country has been decimated by corporations relocating overseas (or closing because of unfair competition). Must we encourage abuses of laborers in other countries, too?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Reply to Social Security Doubter

Comment: I've been paying into the Social Security System for over 20 years...I don't expect to see a dime of it when I retire. Leave it to the government to be fiscally irresponsi­ble. No one can even explain how the system is even sustainabl­e with the amount of retirees vs. people still working.

Reply to Comment: The system is sustainable because there's such a big surplus in the Social Security Trust Fund; it was anticipated years ago that there would be an increase in benefits paid out when Baby Boomers retired. Social Security running a deficit does not mean the program is insolvent. It means that it is drawing down from its 2.6 trillion trust fund (a fund which finances part of the national debt through the purchase of special Treasury Bonds).

Social Security can pay out every dime owed for the next 26 years with no changes to payroll taxes, retirement ages or benefits; after that, it can still pay out four-fifths of obligations. The only thing needed to "fix" Social Security is an increase in the salary cap at which payroll taxes cease to be collected. That cap is fixed at $106,800. (That means that people who make a million dollars pay an effective payroll tax almost 10 times less than people making $100,000.) Raising that cap to adjust for inflation would finance Social Security 100% through at least 2084.

So if you want and can afford to invest in a 401(K) or a Roth IRA or some other company pension plan, go right ahead. Social Security will still be there for you, even when the stock market tanks, you or your company goes bankrupt, or your financial adviser runs off with your retirement funds. Just don't screw with the most successful program ever that keeps millions out of poverty (look up poorhouses).

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Obama's New Trade Deal Negotiations Favoring Profits Over People

I have just read about current trade negotiations with the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) seeking more restrictive intellectual property laws in Vietnam and seven other Pacific nations. This, of course, will drive up medicine costs by giving companies long-term monopolies overseas. It will also "de-incentivize" drug companies from developing newer drugs.

The negotiations seek to export the American patent regime, long maligned as fueling the highest drug prices of any nation (along with the no-negotiation law that Medicare Part D suffers under).

This "junk patent" scheme will not only cause many deaths in those third-world countries, but will increase substantially the cost of foreign aid spent on medicines for relief programs for people lucky enough to get assistance.

Why is a Democratic president aiding in this scheme to maximize corporate profits at the expense of poor people and American taxpayers? Isn't 30 years of favoring large corporations and the wealthy over the middle class and the poor enough? Is there no point at which the president will take a stand against regressive and oppressive Republican policies?

I would suggest that Obama take a serious look at his chief-of-staff (former board member of one of the big drug companies), his economic team (an alarming number of whom are former officials of Goldman-Sachs), his negotiators with the Office of U.S. Trade Representative (who previously advocated corporate interests over those of consumers and taxpayers), and any others that he is responsible for hiring.

This is not just another capitulation; this is cronyism and hypocracy. We invested so much getting Obama into office to change things, and betrayals like this are heart-breaking.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

To Senator Al Franken

To Senator Al Franken (D-MN):

Thank you for your explanation of your Yes vote [on the Budget Control Act 2011].

We are disappointed that the Senate vote was delayed. We can only speculate that it was delayed to ensure the bill's passage and to prevent an alternative bill with a clean deficit ceiling raise from having time to get passed.

We are also dismayed that once again the White House seems to have taken over the negotiations, with the result being another anti-progressive (regressive?) and one-sided bill.

The bill does nothing about jobs, and does not extend federal unemployment benefits. It also does nothing about ending tax breaks on income, capital gains, dividends and estates, and does nothing about corporate welfare. The bill means that the average wealthy person will continue to pay less of a percentage in taxes than the average working person, who does not have money to do his work for him.

Nevertheless, we appreciate the superb job you are doing as our Senator, and we will continue writing Letters to the Editor in our area that make note of your efforts on Minnesotan's behalf.

Thnak you.

Wendell, MN

Letter to Obama post Budget Control Act 2011

To The White House, President Barack Obama:

We are disappointed that you inserted yourself into the debt ceiling negotiations, and as a result of your concessions, a very one-sided bill was passed.

Why was a clean debt ceiling bill not passed?

If there were going to be conditions on a debt ceiling hike, then where is the extension to unemployment benefits?

Where is the end to the Bush tax cuts? How about reversing the 25% reduction in taxes on capital gains and dividend income? What about doing something about corporate welfare? Why should small businesses pay more in effective tax rates than large companies?

Where are the jobs provisions?

How is a bill which passes huge costs onto poor and average American citizens, taking that much out of their spending power, supposed to help the economy and get tax revenues and job numbers back up?

In effect this bill is the same as a massive tax increase on the middle and working classes.

If this is the kind of bill that results from White House sponsored negotiations, the same kind of bill that passed last December, it would be better to let Congress do its own negotiating.

As a result of this bill and your involvement, not only will Americans and the economy suffer, but Republicans will continue to blame Democrats and the White House for the poor state of the economy. Winning in 2012 will be that much harder for Democrats, and especially for Progressive candidates.

Thank you.

Wendell, MN

Monday, August 1, 2011

Debt Ceiling Deal: Almost No Spending Cuts Before 2014

From The Huffington Post:
The first phase of a deal to raise the government's borrowing limit would pose little threat to the economy in the short term because almost none of the spending cuts would occur before 2014...

Discretionary spending, which excludes Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, would be cut by $21 billion in 2012 and $42 billion in 2013, according to an analysis by the Congressional Budget Office...

"[M]ost of the cuts" have been put off for several years...

The deal comes as the U.S. economy is worsening. Manufacturing activity dropped to its lowest level in two years, according to a survey released Monday...

And economic growth dropped below 1 percent in the first six months of this year, the government said last week, much weaker than economists had expected. Government spending fell for a third straight quarter, contributing to the slower growth...

The sluggishness of the economy has raised concerns that it could slide back into recession...

The deal enables the government to avoid defaulting on the nation's debt. Credit ratings agencies may still downgrade their ratings of U.S. debt...

There's little in the package that would promote growth, many economists said. And some measures that were intended to stimulate the economy are slated to expire at year's end...

[E]xtended unemployment benefits....will be difficult to extend...

[C]uts in federal spending and the end of the tax cut could reduce growth by about 1.5 percentage points in 2012.

Letter To Obama And My Representatives.

Reject this total capitulation. Force a vote on a clean debt ceiling bill, and if that fails, force Obama to raise the debt ceiling under the fourteenth amendment.

This is just a massive tax hike on the middle class and the poor. This will kill the economy as well as insure that Democrats lose in 2012.

This hurts everyone except the wealthy and large corporations. Small businesses will be hurt badly by the decrease in spending power of the average American.

No extended unemployment benefits? No jobs creation? No end to the Bush tax cuts? No end to tax loopholes and subsidies? Forcing a vote on a balanced budget amendment? A super Congress? This is just total capitulation to extortion! Wake up!!

Don't throw us under the bus again. Just please, please say no!

P.S. Where do I send Obama his cigarettes?

Satan Sandwich

The deal is the same as a massive tax increase on the middle class in the middle of what to us is still a recession, just to keep tax cuts, loopholes and deductions for the wealthy and large corporations.

Hello to a big drop in purchasing power by the middle class and poor, who will have to pay more for college, more for heat in winter, more for healthcare, etc.

Goodbye to jobs.

No extension of unemployment benefits?

Automatic cuts if Republicans do not pass a bill crafted by their super Congress?

A mandatory vote on a balanced budget amendment? That should be fun come election time.

This truly is a Satan sandwich, but I don't see the sugar coating. Unless the coating is the debt ceiling increase. Is there any reason the last minute deal just prior to the default was not a clean bill?

So Democrats are capitulating once again, led by the Conciliator-In-Chief. Welcome to the New Deal for the wealthy.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Compromise? We Don't Need No Stinking Compromise!

What is being proposed are massive cuts to programs which help the poor and vulnerable, the working class, and ordinary middle class citizens. In effect, they are proposing massive tax increases on middle class America. A dollar more in health care costs is the same to someone as a dollar increase in their taxes. And cuts to programs are what Republicans are using as the price for keeping tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires, and for keeping the huge tax deductions and subsidies for large corporations.

Automatic cuts? Yes, let the Republicans sit back while automatic cuts get made which will put even more of a burden on the middle class, while not asking anything of the rich.

Let's not do anything about the causes of the massive financial meltdown, of which deregulation of the banks is number one.

Let's blame socialism, not disaster capitalism, for the poor state of the economy (at least poor as far as average Americans are concerned).

It is not compromise when there are only spending cuts with no revenue fixes. It is capitulation. Does anybody remember last December's deal? At least we got a thirteen month extension of unemployment insurance benefits then.

Oh, yeah, and wasn't there a jobs problem? Well, eliminating trillions in spending by the middle class should certainly help create jobs.

And We Didn't Even Get A T-Shirt!

Back in December, when a deal to get unemployment extended was in the works, many of us commented on the need for a debt ceiling hike to be included. It was not too difficult to foresee that the need for a raise in the debt ceiling would be used to force program cuts. But all we got for a two-year extension of the Bush tax cuts and a mixing of general revenues into the Social Security Trust Fund was 13 months of extended unemployment benefits, along with a fear that Democrats would capitulate in the upcoming debt ceiling negotiations.

However, I certainly did not anticipate just how much the Republicans would demand in exchange for the authority to borrow money to pay for obligations already incurred.

So, get ready for a massive tax hike on the middle class, because that is what the shifting of the burden of social programs onto them amounts to. Gotta keep those tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires and large corporations. And that trillion plus in government spending which will now be paid by those who can least afford it? I guess they won't be spending it on goods and services. Say goodbye to more jobs.

Congratulations, Congress. Another victory for those who fund campaigns and who hire those high-priced lobbyists. I can just hear the laughter in the back rooms about poor Grandma Millie.

Massive Tax Hike On Middle Class

Republicans have been cutting income taxes, corporate taxes, taxes on capital gains and special dividend income (both now taxed at 15%), and estate taxes. Revenues as a percentage of GDP are the lowest in decades. Yet we are told over and over that we have a spending problem. Well, yes, if you repeatedly cut the means, then that does make it hard to live within your means.

Republicans are refusing to reverse any of their revenue cuts, crying "No new taxes!" even though what is desperately needed is restoration of some of the old taxes.

What they are proposing is massive cuts to programs which help the poor and vulnerable, the working class, and ordinary middle class citizens. In effect, they are proposing massive tax increases on middle class America. A dollar more in health care costs is the same to someone as a dollar increase in their taxes. And those cuts to programs are what Republicans are using as the price for keeping tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires, and for keeping the huge tax deductions and subsidies for large corporations.

Republicans also refuse to fix the Medicare Prescription Drug program, which with its no negotiating clause is a big giveaway to pharmaceutical companies.

Both sides are looking at Social Security, even though changes to retirement ages and benefits will have zero impact on the national debt.

Oh, yeah, and wasn't there a jobs problem? Well, eliminating trillions in spending by the middle class should certainly help create jobs.

Social Security and the Debt Ceiling Negotiations

Why are Republicans and Democrats insisting on making Social Security part of the current Debt Ceiling negotiations?

Social Security accounting is separate by law, and in fact is counted as an off-budget item. The trust fund holds special Treasury Bonds, bought whenever there is more collected in Social Security payroll taxes than is paid out in Social Security benefits. Those bonds fund part of the national debt, to the tune of $2.6 trillion. (Yes, those paper IOU's in the Trust Fund are actually U.S. Treasury Bonds, backed by the full faith and credit of the United States.)

When Social Security pays more in benefits than it collects in payroll taxes, it cashes in some of those treasury bonds. The Treasury Department is able to pay for those special Treasury Bonds by selling regular Treasury Bonds (say, to China).

Treasury Bonds are what fund the national debt (and have since the 1917 sale of Liberty Bonds). Since Social Security's special Treasury Bonds are only redeemed at the same time that new regular Treasury Bonds are sold, and money given to Social Security for redeeming the special bonds is offset by money from the sale of regular bonds, there is no change in the national debt. Thus, even if Social Security is running a deficit for the current year, there is no impact on the National Debt, and no change in how close or how far that actual debt is from the debt ceiling.

Furthermore, even though Social Security is projected to have deficits for the forseeable future, the $2.6 trillion Trust Fund will insure that Social Security is able to pay out 100% in benefits for the next 26 years, and is able to do so with no changes in retirement ages and no changes to benefits. (The upcoming retirement of Baby Boomers was foreseen, and is the reason the Trust Fund was built up to such a large amount.) In fact, any changes to retirement ages or benefits would have absolutely no impact on the National Debt. Raising retirement ages or cutting benefits will only have an impact 26 years from now, and would still only affect Social Security benefit payouts, not the National Debt.

Anyone trying to include Social Security in the Debt Ceiling negotiations is doing so only as part of a partisan agenda, either as a tactic to scare Social Security recipients, or in an effort to privatize (think huge administrative fees) or eliminate Social Security. Social Security is the reason (along with living wages) that we no longer have huge numbers of seniors and disabled people in poorhouses and in poverty. Private retirement plans are subject to theft, bankruptcies, stock market crashes, bank closings, and incompetent or unscrupulous administration. In contrast, Social Security will always be there. Unless, of course, our politicians take it from us.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Primary Concerns

It is time for more people to go to the party caucuses or the primary elections to help pick what candidates we want running in the general elections. Do we want ideological zealots, be they Republican or Democrat? Do we want corporate (Blue Dog) democrats, Tea Party politicians, historical revisionists, or factually challenged candidates? Or do we want progressive members of both parties who have the state's, the nation's, and the people's interests at heart?

Do we want disaster capitalism or debt crises junkies? Do we want politicians who don't understand how Social Security is financed? Do we want people who think that a prescription drug plan written by the pharmaceutical industry which allows for no negotiation of drug prices is fine? Do we want candidates who claim that anyone who has even a dollar of dividend income is a small business? Or that having businesses bear the majority of the cost of health insurance is a great idea?

Go to the primaries and argue for party candidates who represent your interests, or just sit back and wonder how extremists from your own party got on the general election ballot. It's your choice.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Left Wing Couple Searches For Allies

Annie and I are having our usual morning-after political discussion following the prime time debt ceiling speeches.

Our National Debt is in a large part from the prior administration. Two unfunded wars, a financial meltdown from deregulation, a Medicare prescription plan with no negotiation (written by the pharmaceutical industry and passed by Republicans), along with tax cuts and an increase in the national debt from $5.7 to $10.7 trillion under Bush. Does that tell you something about the debt? Before Obama even took office, the deficit was projected to be $1 trillion.

So don't tell me it is suddenly a problem with social spending. Where are the jobs that were supposed to come with all of the tax cuts since 2000? Where were the cries about the debt during the Bush years?

We are not asking for new taxes. We are asking for an end to the Bush tax cuts, including an end to working money being taxed less than a working man's income (capital gains, dividend income). We want corporate tax rates to not be industry specific, and for large corporations not to be paying a lower effective rate than small businesses.

What exactly is Boehner's compromise? That all of the spending that Congress has authorized he will allow to be paid for, in return for which he will trash assistance programs when they are most needed? Why is he using the debt ceiling to force his agenda through?

How about if we just raise the debt ceiling, and Boehner's proposals can be debated on their own merits?

Monday, July 25, 2011

Switching Parties

If Obama is not going to stand up against anti-spending conservatives, but instead embrace their policies at the cost of jobs, the economy, the environment, and protection for consumers, the disabled, the old, the young, students, and small businessmen, then I suggest he change party allegiance.

It is painfully obvious that he not only won't take away the scissors from the running children, but that he is now the one running with those scissors. All of the principles he said he was for are compromised. He has caved time and time again to people with no social responsibility and no sense of accountability. He has let them frame the issues and the debate, so that the embattled Democrats in the House and Senate will face even tougher fights in the 2012 elections.

In pursuit of independent voters, is it really necessary to throw Americans under the limousines and onto the runways of the corporate jets?

Say it ain't so, Obama. Say it ain't so.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Tim Pawlenty = Gomer Pyle ?

Hold mouse cursor over each picture to see who is who.

Who is the real Gomer Pyle?

07/25/11 Update: Bachmann, a former tax lawyer who heads the Tea Party Caucus in the House, contrasted her record opposing "irresponsible spending" in Congress with what she called Pawlenty's tenure as governor backing bloated programs and "leaving a multi-billion-dollar budget mess in Minnesota."
And to think that the Republicans in Minnesota, not wanting to raise taxes on their rich friends, forced a state government shutdown to again balance the state's budget without tax increases but with more of the same accounting tricks Michelle Bachmann is now lambasting Pawlenty for.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Letter to Obama; The Debt Ceiling, Children with Scissors

If there are to be no revenue increases, it is time to take cuts off the table, and simply raise the debt ceiling. Push it through the Senate and the House must follow.

The children have been running with scissors; it is time to take the scissors away.

Now that the children are out of the room, restart with a fair deal. Don't let radicals in the House destroy the economy.

No new taxes. Restore old ones. End the Bush tax cuts and stop protecting millionaires and billionaires at the cost of cuts to people who can least afford it.

Article 1, Section 8, the General Welfare Clause, "is not an independent grant of power, but a qualification on the taxing power which included within it a power to spend tax revenues on matters of general interest to the federal government." That interest is not served by repeated tax cuts for the wealthy and for corporations, tax cuts which deprive the government of the means of providing for the general welfare.

We cannot live within our means by reducing the means.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Letter to Sen. Tom Coburn About His Radical Social Security Plan

I have read your proposals for Social Security with dismay. Having looked over the SSA figures and having read the CBO suggestions for possible fixes, I have seen that it is very easy to fix Social Security for the next 75 years with no benefit cuts. Simply raise the Social Security taxable income cap, and then sometime in the next few years raise payroll taxes by 2% (1% employee, 1% employer) over 20 years.

Your proposal clearly is partisan politics with no basis in reality. It seems quite apparent that you are an admirer of Ayn Rand, who was a proponent of "full, pure, uncontrolled, unregulated laissez-faire capitalism," and that you now believe, as did Rand, that taxation is state sponsored legal theft. This is the politics of greed and social irresponsibility.

A Dearth of Greatness

In these challenging times, Obama had the opportunity to, as he said, "be a great president." But you cannot give in on issue after issue, you cannot repeatedly compromise when the other side does not also compromise, and you especially cannot start out with a compromised position, and still expect to get a fair deal. The GOP is practicing Disaster Capitalism, creating a fiscal disaster and then using it to push through their ideological and radical agenda, and Obama doesn't get it.

Republicans openly express admiration for Ayn Rand, the author of an amoral and fiscally bankrupt philosophy called Objectivism. The GOP is doing all it can to institute Rand's "full, pure, uncontrolled, unregulated laissez-faire capitalism." Conservatives now believe, as did Rand, that taxation is state sponsored legal theft. They are also now in opposition to antitrust laws, the minimum wage, public education (there is a big push here in Minnesota for private enterprise charter schools), and child labor laws.

Welcome to the politics of deception and greed.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

A Desperate Plea to Obama

Mr. Obama, please don't cave in again. America cannot afford it. Don't cut Social Security and Medicare. Fix the prescription drug part, raise payroll taxes and/or income caps, but don't give in. The GOP has a plan, and you are falling for it, and you are dragging too many Americans with you into the Republican's con game.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

ALEC exposed

I recently came across an article about Milton Friedman and the corporate-funded American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). ALEC is the source of nearly identical radical state legislative measures which have been introduced or which have passed in many states through GOP efforts.

ALEC has over 800 "model" bills on worker and consumer rights, tort reform, injured Americans, school privitization, higher education, health, pharmaceuticals, safety net programs, the environment, energy, agriculture, democracy, voter rights, federal power, taxes & budgets, guns, prisons, crime, and immigration.

I decided to check into just one of the ALEC ghostwriter bills, the Charter Schools Act. It turns out that Minnesota statute 124D10, Charter Schools, is based on that ALEC bill.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Delusional Politics

The GOP has convinced the president that he must cut social spending (they are not big on social responsibility). This means cuts in Community Health Centers, Head Start, financial aid for college students, home heating assistance for the poor, Food Stamps, and the payroll tax funded Social Security and Medicare. But they don't see all of the revenue cuts they enacted under Bush as being any problem whatsoever. They don't see the 2008 financial meltdown as having contributed to decreased revenues. They don't acknowledge that Bush's wars in Afghanistan and Iraq increased spending.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Points For Conservatives' Consideration

We do not have out of control spending. We have massive revenue reductions. We have taxes on the wealthy that are the lowest since the 1950's, along with massive cuts to taxes on capital gains, dividend income, and estates. We have corporate taxes which have gone from 30 percent of federal revenues in the 1950's to 11 percent today, in a large part because of targeted deductions and subsidies.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Debt Ceiling War

Bush almost doubled the national debt (from $5.7 trillion Jan 2001 to $10.7 trillion Dec 2008) while slashing income taxes, capital gains taxes, dividend income taxes, and estate taxes. Bush and the GOP would not let Medicare negotiate on drug prices with their new prescription program, so that Medicare now has to pay whatever the pharmaceutical companies want to charge (hint: some drug prices have more than doubled just since 2008).

Friday, July 8, 2011

Letter to Governor Dayton

We fully support your stance in the budget talks. We agree that Minnesota's Republicans are holding us hostage to their extremist ideology. The following is an e-mail that I have sent to our representatives in the state House and Senate, Rep. Torrey Westrom (R) District 11A, and Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen (R) District 11.
The GOP's stance on compromise is that the other side gives in. The extremist ideology of the current Republicans is frightening.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

A Word About The Conservatives' "Productive" Class

The conservatives' so-called "productive" class pays less of a percentage in taxes than the middle class. The "productive" class has sent jobs overseas, frozen wages for the middle class while sucking up increases in wealth, and shifted the burden of taxes even more onto the less wealthy.

The "productive" class has unleashed wave after wave of fiscal crises onto ordinary Americans with deregulation and elimination of protections which were in place since the Great Depression.

A New Workers' Manifesto

by Leo Hindery, Jr.:

"I believe in the American worker, and I believe in keeping manufacturing jobs here in this country. I believe that our workers and our businesses can compete with any worker and any company anywhere in the world, as long as we have a government that will stand up and demand a level playing field for all."

Thursday, June 30, 2011

A Plea to Republicans For Common Sense Debt Reduction

To: Speaker Boehner, Sen. McConnell, Rep. Cantor and Rep. Ryan:

As your constituent and a strong supporter of America's seniors and children, I am writing because I strongly disagree with deficit reduction proposals being put forth by the Republican leadership that would cut billions of dollars from Medicaid and shift the cost of Medicare onto seniors and the disabled.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

AARP's Misguided Stance on Social Security

Why is AARP giving in to radicals who are trying to trash Social Security? Cutting benefits or raising the retirement age will do absolutely nothing about the national debt. Cuts to Social Security may appear to lower deficits, but that is only because the US Treasury Bonds held by Social Security are not counted when they are bought (because Social Security and the Treasury are departments of the same government). In a year where more in benefits is paid out than is collected from Social Security payroll taxes, bonds held in the Trust Fund are cashed, and the Treasury has money going out of it to pay those bonds. In effect, deficits are moved from the year that they were created to some future year when the bonds are cashed.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Debate: Thoughts on Bachmann, Pawlenty, and Blaming the Economy on Dems

Why would the Dems be blamed for the GOP obstructionism? The Republicans in the Senate spent most of 2009-2010 saying "NO" (400 plus House-passed bills never even made it to the floor because of threats of a filibuster). The Affordable Health Care Act only got passed because the Senate Democrats passed it as a reconciliation bill, which needs only 51 votes and of which there can be only one per year (thus explaining why such a bad deal was made in December in order to extend unemployment benefits for 2 million Americans).

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Age of Greed

"The shaky U.S. economy...is a major liability for President Barack Obama"? Senate Republicans spent 2009-2010 saying "no" to almost every piece of legislation, threatening filibusters by their 41 members. Then, in the last election, they blamed Obama for the state of the economy, even though the 2009 deficit was already projected to be $1 trillion before Obama even took office. Republicans have opposed any efforts to increase revenues, preferring instead to blame the high debt on spending on social programs.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

The Right's Blame Game

Continuing to blame the national debt and the huge deficits on Obama, on social spending, on government regulations and oversight and environmental policies, on high taxes on the wealthy and other "job creators," and on mythical freeloaders of a welfare state, is partisan politics with no basis in reality.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Fixing Medicare The Right Way

David Brooks, on the 5/27/11 PBS Newshour program, states, "...the lesson for both parties is never touch Medicare...The problem is we can't afford that."

Of course we can't afford it. We don't even have negotiations on prescription drug prices, which alone would save an estimated $24 billion per year. What we need is a stronger Medicare system, not a "Wall Street-dominated healthcare system."

Friday, May 27, 2011

Letter urging a recess appointment for Elizabeth Warren

To Rep. Collin Peterson:

43 members of Congress have already signed a letter circulated by Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), which is urging a recess appointment for Elizabeth Warren. Your name is not among them.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Minncan's misleading petition

Minncan has a misleading petition titled "Minnesota: Don't Let Teacher Effectiveness Get Lost in the Political Crossfire."

Minncan is an organization which is trying to implement a "free-market" model for Minnesota schools, with the stated goals of "flexibility, accountability, and choice."

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Debt and Deficit Realities

Too many people think that the projected deficits of the coming decade are the fault of the policies of President Obama and the Democratic Congress in 2009 and 2010. But the economic downturn, the Bush tax cuts, and the unfunded wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, all of which started before Obama even took office, account for virtually the entire deficit over the next ten years.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Pawlenty, a GOP presidential hopeful for 2012?

People in Minnesota were upset at what Pawlenty did to healthcare in this state. He did a line-item veto for GMAC (General Assistance Medical Care), cutting off health care for 30,000 low-income Minnesotans. He suggested that people on that program be moved to the MinnesotaCare program, which requires that premiums be paid, even for people with no income or with only the state's General Assistance of $203.00 per month, and which has higher co-pays than GMAC.

May 2011 Letter to the President

Why are we discussing cuts? Get rid of the Bush tax cuts, stop the corporate give-aways, raise the cap on Social Security taxed income, allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices rather than paying whatever the drug companies ask for, and raise Medicare taxes if needed for the Medicare Trust Fund. Tax capital gains and "qualified" dividend income the same as regular income. (Gee, it must be nice to send your money out to do the work for you and have income from that taxed at a substantially lower rate.)

Absolutely no cuts until the conservatives agree to the above!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Rep. Jim Jordan complains about 77 different means-tested social welfare programs

From the Congressional Record of the 112th Congress, page H3102, Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio:
We need to get more of our Americans to work. You notice I didn't say back to work, Mr. Speaker. We're sometimes into the third and fourth generation where they didn't work at all. They have learned how to game the system, and we've accepted it.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Ramsey County, Vikings strike stadium partnership

A new stadium in Arden Hills? "The state of Minnesota would commit $300 million."

The State of Minnesota's share is 300 million?? To be paid with a new tax? You're joking! Let's hope the tax is only on players and their owners, plus any politicians who think special taxes are a good idea. Gee, I thought we couldn't afford government expenditures? Well, how about a special tax to fund health care for the poor or for keeping teachers? Get real!

Question: Do you support Courage Campaign creating a political action committee to support pro-equality candidates?

The opposition already has PACs. In the 2010 Minnesota elections, groups opposing same-sex marriage financially supported anti-gay candidates. Minnesota has a "Defense of Marriage Act" passed in 1997 which restricts (rather than defends) marriage to one man one woman marriages. Republicans are trying to get a Minnesota constitutional amendment proposal passed which would place on the ballot a vote to oppose gay marriages (it has passed the Minnesota Senate). An amendment proposal bypasses the governor, and if passed by voters would be harder to overturn.

Courage Campaign

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

GOP Attacks on Health Care

Insurance companies promised to clean up their act when health care reforms were proposed under Clinton, and Republicans said they wanted alternative measures to enact reform. From 2000 to 2006, the GOP controlled the House, the Senate, and the White House, yet they would not do anything about the 50 million uninsured. They did nothing for those with pre-existing conditions and nothing for low-income workers who had no employer provided insurance.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

2012 - Progressive's Wanted; Generous Pay and Benefits.

We desperately need progressives. During Obama's first two years, Republicans voted "No" on almost every significant piece of legislation. Now Republicans and many Democrats (especially Blue Dogs) are voting for big money interests, and parts of the conservative agenda have been passed that hurt lower and middle class workers and families. What we are lacking is progressive leadership.

For 2012, we need to hammer the conservatives over and over on their actions that raised the national debt. George W. Bush almost doubled the debt.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Mitt Romney 'Hang' Obama Gaffe?

A response to the Huffington Post article Mitt Romney's 'Hang' Obama gaffe.

Republicans create the situation and then try to pin it on Obama. If you want to know why families are being squeezed, look at the Republican's budget, look at the history of tax revenues (1/3 of tax revenues used to be from corporations), look at the capital gains tax, the estate tax, and the stagnation of low- and middle-class wages. Republicans want to get rid of Medicare, Social Security, EPA, the Consumer Protection Agency, the SEC, etc., etc., etc.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Minnesota Senate committee passes anti–gay marriage amendment

Republicans are all about deregulation and removing protections for consumers, the environment, the elderly, children, the disabled, and the poor and middle-class. They argue that regulations and restrictions are unfair burdens to businesses, and that the social responsibilities of individuals cannot or should not be legislated.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Meet the Press

This show seems to make the assumption that Social Security is just another entitlement which must be cut. Guess what? Cutting Social Security will do nothing for the debt (other than delaying still longer the accounting for past deficits). Social Security is self-funded (except for the idiotic payroll tax holiday). Maybe we should no longer use special U.S. Treasury Bonds, a version of bonds which are not counted when bought, but only when sold, to hold surpluses in the trust fund?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Budget Talks

Comment to Huffington Post article White House Deficit Talks Coming Apart At The Seams:

It would be much better if the White House does not start budget talks again with compromises. In December Obama gave away the store before talks began, then wondered why Republicans wanted more. And let's hope Democrats don't continue to buy into trickle-down voodoo Reaganomics and the rest of the GOP lies. The programs they are cutting did not create the national debt.

Friday, April 15, 2011

FDR's Second Bill of Rights

Excerpt from President Roosevelt's January 11, 1944 message to the Congress of the United States on the State of the Union:
We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. "Necessitous men are not free men." People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made.
In our day these economic truths have become accepted as self-evident. We have accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all--regardless of station, race, or creed.

Progressive World or the Alternative?

Don't like the vision announced by Obama? How about the kind of world we've had under Republicans? As Dean Baker says, how about "ten years of zero job growth, 25 million people unemployed, underemployed or out of the workforce altogether, declining real wages, millions of homeowners losing their homes, and tens of millions of homeowners underwater."

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

From congress.org, a letter to Obama

This letter was sent to President Obama using congress.org, and was re-printed on their site. I think it deserves to be reprinted over and over.

I do not like the bill that was sign to keep the gov. going makes my heart sad

President Barack Obama

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Where Is Our President?

The long version of a letter to the president.

The majority of Americans who work have income which is taxed at 25% or above. The wealthy send their money to work, and receive income in the form of capital gains and dividends; that income is taxed at 15%. Which should be considered more valuable, income from people doing actual work, or income from money which is doing the work? Conservatives think that if you have to work for a living, your income should be taxed at a much higher rate.

Letter to the President

The majority of Americans who work have income which is taxed at 25% or above. The wealthy send their money to work, and receive income in the form of capital gains and dividends; that income is taxed at 15%. Which should be considered more valuable, income from people doing actual work, or income from money which is doing the work? Conservatives think that if you have to work for a living, your income should be taxed at a much higher rate.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Social Security not an entitlement

Social Security does not contribute to the debt/deficit. Revenue to SocSec is from payroll taxes paid by working people, not from general revenues. Look at your paycheck. Your employer makes an equal contribution. Where do you think the 2.6 trillion in U.S. Treasury Bonds in the Social Security Trust Fund came from, and where do you think benefits are paid from?

The only reason SocSec deficits (more going out than comes in) look like they affect the national debt and deficit is because Congress chose not to count the Treasury Bonds SocSec buys until they are sold.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

What Is Your Philosophy?

Conservatives are busy cutting taxes for the wealthy while slashing programs which help the less fortunate or which run contrary to their ideology.

The majority of Americans who work have income which is taxed at 25% or above. The wealthy send their money to work, and receive income in the form of capital gains and dividends; that income is taxed at 15%. Which should be considered more valuable, income from people doing actual work, or income from money which is doing the work? Conservatives think that if you have to work for a living, your income should be taxed at a much higher rate.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

FactCheck.org's Lies About Social Security

In Democrats Deny Social Security’s Red Ink on FactCheck.org, the author claims that Social Security is contributing to the deficit. The only reason it is apparently doing that is because the debt/deficit figures do not count the U.S. Treasury Bonds held by the Social Security Trust Fund as a liability, unlike the U.S. Treasury Bonds held by China.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Budget Cuts Equal Jobs Cuts

Comment posted to Robert Greenwald Blog:

Try increasing revenue. Why give billionaires and millionaires, corporations and capital gains recipients tax breaks while gutting programs which help the poor, the disabled, the sick and the elderly? Individual responsibility without social responsibility is irresponsible. The poor are not lazy, not without discipline, and are not spiritually weak. They are poor, usually from circumstances beyond their control. Take your paternalistic attitude and your misguided morality elsewhere.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Minnesota Budget Cuts vs. the American Dream

There is a petition at MoveOn.org to the Minnesota legislature. The text of the petition is:

"Minnesota is already dealing with tough budget cuts. Corporations and the wealthy must pay their fair share for quality schools, police, health care, and other vital public services."

I have added comments to this petition, and I will be sending these comments directly to my state representatives:

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Letter To Rep. Collin Peterson

Originally published as a Letter To The Editor on December 8, 2010, in the Grant County Herald, Elbow Lake, Minnesota.

I recently sent a letter to Collin Peterson.  This is a copy of that letter.

November 24, 2010

Rep. Collin Peterson
2211 Rayburn HOB
Washington, DC 20515

I see that you voted against extending unemployment benefits (just in time for winter and the Christmas season), apparently believing that it is the poor who should bear the burden of easing budget deficits and reducing the National Debt. Yet you voted for massive tax cuts for the rich in 2001, which increased the national debt.

Republican Hypocrasy

Originally published as a Letter To The Editor on November 24, 2010, in the Grant County Herald, Elbow Lake, Minnesota.

Please, please do not let the Republicans plunge us ever deeper into debt. Their idea is to "extend the tax cuts for the rich; let's pretend that supply-side economics will work even though it didn't for Reagan and both Bushes." The Republicans are calling the return to fiscal sanity a "massive tax hike." They are refusing to extend unemployment benefits (just in time for the holidays) because it is unfunded, yet they are not proposing that the continuation of the massive tax cuts for the rich be somehow paid for.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Debating "This Is War"

This is a response to a comment made on an article titled "Michael Moore on Wisconsin: 'This Is War'". The original comment:

After years, if not decades of media and the public decrying our leadership (in any of its forms) as not accomplishing anything, the Wisconsin governor comes out and accomplishes something in a way that he believes is good for the state.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Conservative Moral Error

The conservative moral system relies on the model of the strict father family, with the father as the ultimate moral authority in the family (with God as the ultimate strict father). The father will protect the family, support the family, and will be strict with his children so that they will develop internal discipline.

To protect the family, fathers will control reproduction and will oppose non-traditional families. To support the family, competition in the marketplace will provide resources; anything which detracts from the marketplace must be opposed. With discipline, children will prosper and become moral beings.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Individual, not Social Responsibility

The GOP philosophy is one of personal responsibility alone, not social responsibility. Any program or policy which interferes with taking care of one's own is something which must be eliminated. Conservatives also want to cut the part of government that helps its citizens, because that violates individual responsibility and therefore is against their "moral" code.