Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Modern Debtors' Prisons

Debtors’ prisons were banned under federal law in 1833. A century and a half later, in 1983, the Supreme Court affirmed that incarcerating indigent debtors was unconstitutional under the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection clause.

Yes, a person may be jailed while awaiting trial because they could not afford bail and could not afford the non-refundable 10% a bail bondsman charges. But that is not the only way people end up in jail. A creditor, or a debt collector hired by the creditor, may bypass bankruptcy court and take the debtor straight to civil court. If the debtor fails to show up, or if the judge deems that the debtor is “willfully” not paying the debt, the judge may write a warrant for the debtor’s arrest. A person owing money in a civil case may end up being charged criminally for "failing to appear in court," "disobeying a court order," or for "contempt of court." While a criminal defendant is afforded legal counsel, a person owing money may end up in jail without having had a lawyer.

Then there are criminal justice financial obligations, or "offender-funded" justice. These are fines, fees, and restitution. Included are traffic tickets, jail book-in fees, bail investigation fees, public defender application fees, drug testing fees, DNA testing fees, jail per-diems for pretrial detention, court costs, felony surcharges, public defender recoupment fees, and restitution owed to the victim or victims for personal or property damage. An offender may also have to pay the costs of imprisonment, parole, and probation, which may include fees for re-entry (into society), drug rehab, and electronic monitoring.

And if an offender or ex-offender fails to pay any of this debt, the court will outsource the debt to a private debt collector, and the process of taking the debtor to court begins all over again.

These debts affect creditworthiness, eligibility for a driver’s license, and any employment an "offender" may have had. These debts make it harder to get a job, get a home, get a loan, or otherwise find a way to avoid more jail time while trying to repay that existing debt.

Welcome to America.

The US bail system punishes the poor and rewards the rich
Ending Modern-Day Debtors' Prisons
Debtors’ Prisons, Then and Now: FAQ

Saturday, September 9, 2017

The Electoral College Plus Notes on the Modern GOP

Originally, more than half the states chose electors in their legislatures rather than by the voting public in the election. The electoral college was intended to give less populous states increased representation, to preserve the presidency as independent of Congress (the House only votes in the event of a deadlock), and to try to insulate the election process from political manipulation. The biggest problem is that people's votes are not given equal weight, some states have a winner take all system (essentially disenfranchises people who didn't vote for that state's winner), it discourages 3rd parties, and swing states are given undue importance. If you believe in "one person one vote," the electoral college is unfair.

On another note, there is absolutely no evidence of voter fraud. In-person voter fraud is very rare. From 2000 to 2014 there were only 31 confirmed cases of voter impersonation fraud out of more than a billion votes cast. Voter suppression, however, is alive and well. Extreme gerrymandering, voter photo ID requirements, disinformation even when contrary to specific court orders, not enough voting machines in minority districts, restrictions on early voting and absentee ballots, distorted purging of voter rolls, sending registration confirmation requests to deliberately false addresses, and voter intimidation. And don't tell me both sides are equally bad and don't try to dismiss facts with name-calling. If you really believe all the lies that you are told, then you are beyond reasoning with.

The modern GOP. Racist, dishonest, looking out for the interests of large corporations and the wealthy. They are against environmental protections, worker protections, fiscal responsibility, food safety, consumer protections, public education, sane energy policies, equal justice, and Social Security (a self-funded program which is separate by law from the federal budget and has no effect on the National Debt).

Are you really against minimum wage laws? When people don't make a living wage, they need government assistance. When taxpayers have to fork out money to help a business's workers, that is corporate welfare.

Cutting Medicaid, gutting health insurance and giving huge tax breaks to the wealthy? Do wealthy people need tax relief? Universal health care such as that enjoyed by most other western countries is labeled communist or socialist and is against radical conservative's philosophy of individual responsibility without social responsibility (I've got mine, you can go to hell). They must be afraid that bankruptcies due to medical bills (including for those who are insured) will diminish. Their philosophy of individual responsibility doesn't even extend to paying employees enough so that they can be individually responsible.

If you really think Republicans are fiscally conservative, then you have been conned. They have been hard at work for decades to lower federal revenues so that they have an excuse to cut social programs and eventually to drown the federal government in a bathtub.

Draining the Swamp

Sure, Trump is draining the swamp. Right into the White House. Have you bothered to see who he has appointed to head government agencies? People whose mission is to deregulate and to deconstruct the agencies that they head. He surrounds himself with Goldman Sachs' executives, conspiracy theorists, purveyors of fake news, and people who don't like the federal government.

Just last week Trump said, "We're going to be working with Congress on helping out the state of Texas...It's going to be a costly proposition, because, again probably Ted Cruz is here." He refused to put his assets into a blind trust and is raking in money from people who are hoping to buy influence (Mar-A-Lago, Trump Tower, violations of the emoluments clause of The Constitution). He has long been known as Don the Con and regularly screwed employees and stiffed contractors. He has had numerous bankruptcies, including for a casino that he ran into the ground with a billion dollars in debt. Who loses money on a casino??

He lies constantly about easily checked things such as his inaugural crowd. He blamed Democrats for the failure of the ACA repeal even though he never bothered to talk to any of them, and now he is threatening to sabotage it because it's not imploding like he thinks it should. He thinks Climate Change is a hoax and does not understand the difference between climate and weather. He is vindictive, hateful, impetuous, and corrupt. He thinks health insurance works like life insurance, where "by the time you’re 70, you get a nice plan." For $12 a year.

He pardoned Arpaio, who was labeled the worst sheriff in the U.S., and who treated presumed innocent people awaiting trial as if they were the scum of the earth. Arpaio's thugs even turned a paraplegic into a quadriplegic in the "punishment chair" because he had the temerity to request a medically necessary catheter. A paraplegic turned quadriplegic who was a guest of Arpaio for one day while he awaited trial for possession of pot. Arpaio, a man who was found guilty and then refused to follow the judge's orders and was thus found in contempt and was awaiting sentencing. A man who apparently shared Trump's disdain for the rule of law and for judges.

Trump is the guy who claimed Hillary didn't have the stamina to be president and then excused his atrocious behavior towards a foreign leader by saying that it was after 5 and he was tired. This is your hero and savior. An ignorant, narcissistic, praise-seeking, delusional, corrupt, threatening, insulting, angry, hateful idiot.

Yeah, go ahead and dismiss criticism of Trump by other world leaders as a deflection. Don't believe the confessions of collusion with Russia by Trump's people. Ignore all of the fact-checking as fake news. Just don't expect us to join you in your delusions. We have seen the truth.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

You Call Yourself a Conservative

You don't like government regulations or taxes? Do you call yourself a conservative? So that means you want to eliminate worker protections, discrimination protections, environmental protections, and unemployment benefits. You want bigger banks, bigger tax cuts for the rich (including dropping capital gains taxes to zero), no financial or consumer safeguards, no Pell grants for students, and no minimum wage. You are okay with no heating assistance for the poor, no Head Start for preschoolers, no community block grants, no infrastructure spending bills, no healthcare insurance assistance and insurance protections, no Social Security or Medicare or Medicaid. But you are okay with a budget increase for our ridiculously massive military.

You do not want public libraries or public roads or bridges or dams or well-funded public schools or police or fire departments or national parks. You want a return to child labor, six-and-a-half day work weeks, senior poverty and poorhouses, sawdust in hot dogs, rivers catching fire, workers being fired for not being able to perform their jobs after being injured on those jobs, and wages that are little more than indentured servitude. You want to starve the government of funds so you can have an excuse for eliminating social programs, which means that you are not a fiscal conservative. You want freedom from ethics, oversight, responsibility, justice, fairness, and equality.

All of the above so that you can have your pure capitalist society where the free market is inherently moral and self-correcting and where discrimination is a sacred right. Where being poor is due to laziness and being sick is the result of bad choices and government should not encourage dependency nor deprive people of the self-esteem that comes from earning a living and being individually responsible. Where the wealthy do not give their hard-earned money to the sick and the poor and the lazy, to people who are moochers and less worthy and less moral. Where money making money is valued more than a worker's sweat. Where tax giveaways to the wealthy are called tax relief. Where one in five corporations pay no taxes.

So you can have your utopia where the federal government is kept out of boardrooms and put into bedrooms to enforce your notions of morality. Where you can be kicked off health insurance just when you need it because you didn't disclose that you had acne even though you were asked about your medical history for only the last 10 years. Where treatment for brain cancer is called experimental and treatment is not covered. Where the leading cause of personal bankruptcies is medical bills. Where financial advisors are not required to act in your best interests. Where the Bernie Madoffs of the world are free to steal retirement savings. Where Enron, WorldCom, and Tyco are free to fleece investors and cost consumers billions of dollars. Where commodities brokers can manipulate oil prices and drive up the costs of gasoline. Where laws and regulations and oversight are called job-killing and are eliminated.

So you can have a utopia where poisoning aquifers, clearcutting forests, filling the atmosphere and people's drinking water with lead are all just the price of living in modern times. Where pensions can be sold off and too bad if grandpa's or grandma's retirement income is cut in half. Where vulture capitalists can buy a company, take the cash, sell some assets and then saddle the company with the debt from the purchase of itself. Where billionaires are the job creators, not people who have money in their pockets to buy the things or services that a company sells. Where "Protect and Serve" means shooting people who make you afraid. Where someone carrying Skittles and walking home can legally be shot dead in the name of "stand your ground." Where the mentally ill can purchase machine guns and background checks are violations of constitutional rights, well-regulated militias be damned.

So you can have your country protected from illegal drugs by a border wall that any drone can fly over. A country where a child of two years old can grow up into an adult and be deported to a country they don't remember and where they don't speak the language. A country where a paraplegic awaiting trial for possession of pot can become a quadriplegic by having his neck broken in a "punishment chair" because he insisted on having a catheter so he could urinate and prevent his bladder from rupturing. And where a sheriff awaiting sentencing for proudly violating a court order can be pardoned because he was just "doing his job," as if racism was a legitimate job. A country where parents of a fallen soldier can be publicly and nationally shamed, where protesters against hatred are equated morally with advocates of hatred and perpetrators of deadly violence.

Congratulations. You are a conservative.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Another Attack on Social Security

To Rep. Collin C. Peterson (D-MN7)

Several of your colleagues are attaching a so-called Social Security commission to the routine debt ceiling increase in a blatant attempt to cut our earned benefits.

Social Security is self-funded and by law is separate from the federal budget. Cutting benefits or raising the retirement age does nothing for the federal budget or National Debt; the only change is the date that the Trust Fund zeroes out (2034). Only income up to the salary cap, currently $127,200, is taxed; the wealthy pay a maximum of $15,773 in Social Security payroll taxes on income which is often more than $1 million. Social Security is funded primarily by middle class and poorer workers; for me and many others, Social Security is the only retirement income we will have.

In 2015 you and a handful of other Democrats voted with Republicans to approve the rules which would govern the new Congressional session. Included in those rules was a provision that would prevent a routine reallocation between Social Security's retirement and disability programs unless the House also passed a Social Security "reform" bill.

I don't know what you have against Social Security and I don't care. The arguments against Social Security display an astonishing ignorance of how the program works and who pays for it. I am asking you to cease your hostility and join with those opposing cuts to Social Security. I am asking you to reject H.R. 3423, the Social Security Commission Act of 2017, a measure whose sole purpose is to justify cuts. Do the right thing this time.

Thank you.

Stop Congress from fast-tracking cuts to Social Security

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Charlottesville Counter-protester DeAndre Harris Also Beaten

In a Huffington Post article regarding additional felony charges against the car attack suspect, there is a police twitter post about it. I added the following comment to that article in hopes that Mr. Harris' Charlottesville story gets heard by more people:

Also mentioned in the police twitter post in this article is an investigation into the beating of DeAndre Shakur Harris. Mr. Harris, who was unarmed, attended the counter-protest and was attacked afterward with poles by "the KKK and white supremacists" in a parking garage right next to the police station (no police showed up to help him; it's not clear if they were called or not).

The photo of him bleeding profusely from his head went viral, and he ended up with a broken wrist, a chipped tooth, and wounds which required eight staples in his head and which caused him to lose consciousness during the beating. He was taken to be treated with other victims at the rally but was transferred to the hospital due to the severity of his injuries. Mr. Harris said if it wasn’t for his friends who helped him, after they noticed him under the pile of white supremacists, he probably wouldn’t be alive to tell his story.

I would think that since the beating of a counter-protester was by white supremacist protesters who were part of the rally, and who apparently objected to the non-whiteness of Mr. Harris's skin, that this mayhem would also be prominently mentioned in stories about Charlottesville. The police twitter post mentioning him is the first I've heard about this.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Protect Medicare and reject the House's FY18 Budget

Cutting Medicare? Cutting Medicaid? Is the Medicare payroll tax not enough? Is the Medicaid Extension too expensive? So you don't want to adjust the payroll tax. And you want to cut Medicare/Medicaid because you are having problems with your budget. And your philosophy is to take more money from people who can't afford it instead of taking it from the profits of companies or the pockets of wealthy people who by definition can afford it.

So the thought of grandma or grandpa having to choose between health care and food or car repairs or house repairs or increased rents or dental work or new glasses or hearing aides makes you smile and dance a little jig in your expensive shoes and expensive ties and expensive shirts and suits and perfect teeth and designer glasses that you can replace any time your prescription changes. Try cutting your bloated military spending. Try paying your fair share and stop screwing the workers in this country.

Vision, dental, hearing - not covered by Medicare. 20% copay. Deductibles. Premiums. I got a Medicare Advantage plan because it took me more than a year to pay for my share of physical therapy. My premium for the Medicare Advantage plan went up by $5 per month this year. That's okay, my Social Security monthly benefit went up by $4. My cable bill and my food bill went up, I need the brakes fixed on my car, and my electric bill went up by $50 a month even though I no longer use air conditioning. That's okay, my benefits went up by $4 and I cut out cable TV. I took out a bank loan to fix a tooth because I cannot afford to lose any more, and am paying it back $100 a month for the next 13 months. That's okay, I got a $4 a month raise. I need new prescription glasses. No problem. I get $4 more a month this year.

Sure, cut Medicare and Medicaid while at the same time you are threatening to decrease Social Security benefits or raise the retirement age, as if cutting a self-funded program that is separate by law would help your budget woes by even one thin dime.

I am your constituent and an AARP member, and I am demanding that you reject the House of Representatives' selfish FY18 budget bill. Your budget that would cut billions from programs that seniors count on to survive -- slashing Medicaid, making it harder to get food assistance, and even opening the door to turning Medicare into a voucher system.

It's simply not right that some in Washington want to put at risk the programs that I and other seniors rely on. I expect my legislators to represent our interests and protect the benefits that we worked hard for our whole lives.

I am counting on you to put aside the corruption and greed and take a moral stance.

Monday, August 7, 2017

VA Hospitals as an Argument Against Universal Coverage?

You cannot equate VA facilities with universal health care. VA facilities are government owned and operated. Universal health care is not nationalization and confiscation of private facilities nor is it forcing hospital providers and workers to become civil servants. Single-payer simply means that the federal government pays for health care.

I would much rather have a public servant between me and my doctor than some insurance agent whose primary motive is not my health, but his wallet. I don't like having a company whose driving motive is getting 20% of every health care dollar with a CEO who makes millions. Would you rather go back to insurance for healthy people only and the routine denial of coverage for bogus reasons when healthy people finally get sick? Long lines for a chance at treatment by doctors in animal stalls by people who could not get coverage? Medical bankruptcies even when covered? Finding out your coverage is more like a coupon? Bake sales to raise money to help someone get treatment?

Save your free market profit-driven corrupt health coverage for elective procedures. Relying on the free market for needed treatments is the freedom to go without health care, the freedom to go bankrupt, the freedom to die. Whenever I hear freedom and flexibility by radical conservatives, I hear the subtext of freedom from accountability, oversight, safety standards, wage minimums, competency, integrity, and legality. Keep your greedy hands out of my pockets and tell your health care lies to your Republican base.

"Some of Us Pay Our Own Way for Health Care."


And I suppose that people who can't get coverage only have themselves to blame? Bad lifestyle, bad choices. Less worthy. Lazy. And all the other excuses put out by people who think that greed is a virtue, that everyone must be individually responsible even if they are paid peanuts. If people are not paid well enough to go without government assistance, it is called corporate welfare. Ever hear of the concept of the wealthy paying their fair share? Ever hear of Social Responsibility? Not everyone wants to be a CEO or manager or owner of a business. Some people just want fair wages. And for you radical conservatives to recognize that your concept of freedom means freedom to do without, as in freedom for us to be without living wages, without health care, without a safe retirement income, without clean air and clean water, without maintenance of infrastructure, and without adequately funded agencies.

Every time I hear freedom and flexibility from you jokers, I hear the subtext of freedom from accountability, oversight, safety standards, wage minimums, competency, integrity, and legality. Spare me your version of morality. It's corrupt and selfish and greedy and heartless. Glad you can afford to pay your own way. So sorry you think the rest of us who can't are just lazy and are not worthy of health care. So sorry the wealthy want the profit on the money they send to work to be taxed at a lower rate than the total income from the sweat of someone who does the actual work.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Police Brutality

Police assault a short 115-pound girl who matched the description of a tall 170-pound male.


Police are on the lookout for a 30-year-old 5' 10" 170-pound bald, black man with a goatee and a pink backpack and a machete. It is broad daylight on a Sunday afternoon. They stop a 19-year-old 5' 2" 115-pound female who is not bald, does not have a goatee, and has a black and red backpack. According to their own statement, one of the officers got his feet tangled in her bike, yet they say she pushed the 200-pound officer and he fell. The officer grabs her wrist and wrestles her, but the claim is that she continued to assault the downed officer. The K-9 officer claims he was afraid that she would grab the mythical machete and continue her attack, so he sics the dog on her. It apparently takes two officers with their knees on her along with a K-9 dog chewing on her to subdue the 115-pound suspect. They also claim that she was the one who grabbed the dog's muzzle, yet the officer stated that he commanded the dog to release her hand. Also note that according to the police statement she attacked instead of fleeing on her bike, as if that were the only two choices.

The whole police statement stinks, yet she is arrested on felony charges for not complying, for resisting arrest, and for attacking officers. And the excuse once again is that a police officer was afraid. If you cannot understand how asinine and racist this is, then substitute white for black and ask yourself if their story makes any sense and is in any way consistent with proper procedure. Ask yourself why a short 115-pound girl would attack officers who had guns drawn as well as a police dog (which they threatened her with prior to the "resistance"), all while facing three police cars with lights flashing. Even if they mistook her for a male, nothing else in the suspect's description came close to matching her except that she was black. She was black.

Go ahead and continue to blame the victim. And keep dismissing Black Lives Matter as another way of saying Blue Lives Don't Matter and ignore and excuse the continued slaughter of blacks in this country.

Email to Al Franken on The Nomination of the Wolf of Wall Street

The nomination of Joseph Otting for the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. This was my reply to the news story. "Who are the fools who will confirm his appointment? The GOP - Greed Over People. Aiding and abetting the Conniver in Chief, the Head Thief, the delusional ignorant treasonous idiot who rode into Washington on a Russian Red carpet. Remember this moment in 2018. Remember the values and morals of these criminals, and reward them appropriately. Resist." If you have anything at all to do with the confirmation hearings, remember the anger of your constituents. We are mortified at the continuing nominations of thieves and anarchists and thugs to head the Departments which are supposed to be there to protect America and its citizens. How many decades will it take to repair the damage done? Who is protecting this country and protecting its people and protecting our standing in the world while these carpetbaggers destroy our government?


Huffington Post Article, "Donald Trump’s Pick For Key Bank Regulator Is A Foreclosure Kingpin, Of Course"

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

A Response to Someone Who Thinks Trump is Great

If you don't like the ACA, too bad. Millions got insurance that didn't have it before. Insurance before the ACA was primarily for the healthy and when people needed it they found that their insurance was more like a coupon. Ever see bake sales to raise money to help someone with medical expenses? Ever hear of insurance companies denying benefits because the treatment was "experimental"? Or the insured suddenly lost their coverage when they needed it most because they did not disclose treatment for acne which occurred before the time they were asked about on their application? And hello, medical bankruptcies. Ever see hundreds of people lined up for a chance of getting treatment by doctors in animal stalls?

Obamacare was Romneycare, a product of the Heritage Foundation. It was a Republican plan. More than 170 changes were made to the ACA to please Republicans. Even the public option was dropped. In the end, no Republicans voted for their own plan. After passage, Republicans sued to get Expanded Medicaid optional. The expansion was supposed to cover people who did not make enough to qualify for the ACA. So millions in Red states were screwed out of health care coverage.

This is your for-profit health care system. Don't like it? Then do what most other western industrialized nations have done. Single-payer universal health care. Paid for by a flat tax rate. I would rather pay 15% of my income than go bankrupt or go without life-saving treatment. Or are you going to cry American Exceptionalism and tell us all about how those people in other countries have it worse than us and can't get treatment and have long waits and how the lower costs are somehow a bad deal?

Don't like the idea of the wealthy paying their fair share? You think poorer people are moochers, are lazy, are less worthy, and are victims of their own choices? Too bad. We don't think greed is a virtue. We are sick of people at the top sucking up the wealth and forcing workers to get government assistance. A worker on welfare is a company getting welfare. And people who can't get medical treatment are people who can't work.

So don't call the ACA shitty. At least it got millions insured. And if your premiums went up, guess what? That's how insurance is supposed to work. Health insurance is not just for the healthy. And because insurance companies actually had to cover some sick people, their expenses went up. But their administrative expenses also went up, because they wanted their 20% take.

One more thing. With the GOP hell-bent on getting rid of the already weakened Dodd-Frank reforms, it is probably only a matter of time before the toxic mix of commercial banking and investment banking (securities firms) creates another financial crisis. The Glass-Steagall Act was passed in response to the Great Depression to keep them separate. It worked until its repeal in 1999, following which critics predicted a crisis in 10 years. They were wrong. It was 9 years.

Now banks are bigger than ever. Price/earnings ratio for stocks (how much investors are willing to pay for stock earnings) are as high as just before the Great Depression, the internet bubble in the 90's, and the Great Recession. So if you are somehow equating your pension doing great with the rise in the stock market, good luck. And I hope your pension is not being invested by your broker with someone like Madoff.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Radical Conservatives and the new GOP

From Bush II into Trumpolis I have described members of this new GOP as radical conservatives. They profess traditional conservative values while working for an extremist dystopia. Their ideology is characterized by unrepentant and unfettered capitalism with a hatred of government interference and oversight, jingoism, patriarchal and judgmental policing of people's behavior, and an extremist view of individual versus social responsibility.

In pursuit of this vision, they proclaim this country to be a Christian nation. They characterize liberals as godless immoral socialists and tree-hugging save-the-whale pacifist hippies bent on the destruction of wealth and the end of American Exceptionalism. Any threats to this vision or any dissension are met with charges of false news or accusations of being unpatriotic. Protesters are labeled as selfish criminals who want a nanny state and unearned entitlements. To them, we are lazy and unworthy, deserving of our poverty and ill health.

The new GOP is an extremist organization of radical conservatives hell-bent on sucking up as much money and power as they can while trashing government, ethics, oversight, responsibility, justice, fairness, and equality. The ends justify the means, and if Russia provides the means then why not. Theirs is the new morality. Greed is a virtue and they are the anointed ones.

This ain't the grand old party of right-wing conservatives.

Inspired by a Huffington Post article, "The GOP Is No Longer A ‘Conservative’ Party"

Friday, July 28, 2017

Social Security - A Re-cap

Those paper IOU's in the Social Security Trust Fund are U.S. Treasury Bonds earning interest. The radical conservatives have convinced people that the Trust Fund is worthless paper because they want to privatize Social Security. Why? Think 20% commissions and a belief that the free market is better than government. If you want to trust that your retirement won't be stolen or lost (think Madoff and stock market crashes and fund managers who churn accounts for the commissions and financial advisors who don't have to have a fiduciary responsibility), then by all means support privatization.

BTW, the Trust Fund has $2.8 trillion because the retirement of Baby Boomers was anticipated. So when Social Security runs deficits, it only means that Treasury Bonds are being sold to make up for more being paid in benefits than is being collected with payroll taxes. It does not mean Social Security is broke. Would you be broke with $2.8 trillion in the bank?

Also, raising the retirement age or cutting benefits has absolutely no impact on the federal budget or the National Debt. It only affects the date at which time the Trust Fund is drawn down to zero, which is currently the year 2034. A very small increase in payroll taxes or raising or eliminating the salary cap would give Social Security a 75-year solvency. Currently, only the first $127,200 in regular income is subject to Social Security payroll taxes. This means that someone earning $1 million pays the same amount as someone making $127,200. Make less and your whole income is taxed for Social Security, unlike the income of the wealthy.

Stop believing all of the lies by those radical conservatives. Social Security will always be there. Unless politicians take it from us.

One more thing. When a Treasury Bond is redeemed from the Trust Fund, the Treasury simply sells another bond to someone else (like the Chinese). No money is paid from the Treasury. Also (okay, two more things), Social Security is by law separate from the federal budget. It is not the federal government's "biggest expense." It is not even an expense. It has its own revenue stream (payroll taxes plus interest on bonds). Politicians lumped Social Security in with their budgets because the surpluses made their budgets look better. Some even hid the payroll taxes in the figures for general revenues, making Social Security look like an unpaid entitlement. And now with expected Social Security deficits and the drawdown of the Trust fund, they want to reduce benefits or raise the retirement age to keep the surpluses going and their budgets look better. Don't be fooled.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Love Thy Neighbor, Unless...

Let us all take a deep breath while we contemplate the love and understanding of those who work to follow Jesus' teachings. Love thy neighbor. Unless they are Latino or African-American or believe in equality or do not have enough money or want to protect the environment and consumers and workers and students and consumers. Follow the teachings unless that person does not fit your notions of gender or politics or patriotism. Follow unless your insecurities fuel your hatred of anyone different. Follow Jesus unless you believe that some people are taking the money that you need to fit through the eye of the needle.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Eliminate Company Health Insurance for Employees

Why It's a Good Idea


Eliminating the requirement for large companies to insure their full-time employees has several benefits. It is a step toward single-payer (gets rid of another middle-man). It lessens the incentive for companies to hire part-time rather than full-time workers (a benefit for job-seekers). It lessens the trend towards companies paying for cheaper health insurance that has higher deductibles and higher employee cost sharing. It reduces the disadvantage of competing against companies in other countries whose workers have universal health care paid by the government.

If we ever do get universal health care paid entirely by our federal government through taxes, we will eliminate medical bankruptcies and have healthier citizens and healthier workers. But it won't be Republicans who get it for us. They think that the profit-driven free market is inherently moral and self-correcting, that government is evil, and that if anyone cannot afford insurance it is because they are moochers who have made bad choices and are somehow less worthy. We need people who don't think greed is a virtue and who understand what being a public servant means.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Crediting/Blaming Presidents for Stock Market Gains/Losses

With the GOP hell-bent on getting rid of the already weakened Dodd-Frank reforms, it is probably only a matter of time before the toxic mix of commercial and investment banking creates another financial crisis. The Glass-Steagall Act was passed in response to the Great Depression to keep them separate. It worked until its repeal in 1999, following which critics predicted a crisis in 10 years. They were wrong. It was 9 years.

Now banks are bigger than ever. Price/earnings ratio for stocks (how much investors are willing to pay for stock earnings) are as high as just before the Great Depression, the internet bubble in the 90's, and the Great Recession. Credit or blame Trump if you want to, but beware that this is (probably) only the start of his presidency, and a lot can happen.

The Stock Market is not the same as the economy, and the markets have risen much higher and faster since the Great Recession than economic growth and the income of consumers. Investor confidence, Treasury policies, wars and natural disasters also affect the economy, as does how much influence a president has in getting a Congress to adapt administration agendas. Blaming or crediting presidents is a risky venture. Will we blame Trump if another financial crisis hits or if Congress shuns his proposals? Should we have blamed Obama for a sluggish recovery with a Just-Say-No Congress? Was Bush at fault for an average annual loss of 4.6% in the Stock Market in the face of 9/11 and the economic meltdown? (You can blame him for starting another Middle East war on a second front and for getting huge tax cuts at the same time, but you can also credit him for the bank bailout at the end of his term.)

  • http://copsbest.com/2017/07/23/trump-woke-to-find-huge-surprise/
  • http://fortune.com/2017/01/20/thanksobama-heres-how-stocks-did-during-obamas-presidency/
  • http://time.com/money/4636241/stock-market-investments-presidents-obama/
  • http://money.cnn.com/2017/01/10/investing/obama-stock-market-trump/index.html

Friday, July 21, 2017

A Further Exchange of Comments About the Budget

The president’s budget director, Mick Mulvaney, was the one proposing changing Social Security retirement to age 70. You are correct that retirement age adjustments are not specifically mentioned. But read on.

This item is supposedly in the House Budget Committee resolution, but I don't see it there. "The committee's proposals call for higher contributions of federal employees to their pensions and the removal of supplemental Social Security payments to employees who retire before age 62." But you have already found where it is, correct?

Also, from the House Budget committee's "Concurrent Resolution on the Budget for fiscal year 2018" (https://budget.house.gov/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/FY2018_Budget_Resolution_xml.pdf):

From page 103:
(A) in 2028, the Disability Insurance Trust Fund will be exhausted and program revenues will be unable to pay scheduled benefits;
and
(B) with the exhaustion of both the Disability Insurance Trust Fund and the Old-Age and Survivors and Disability Trust Fund in 2035, benefits will be cut by as much as 25 percent across the board, devastating those currently in or near retirement and those who rely on Social Security the most.
(4) The recession and continued low economic growth have exacerbated the looming fiscal crisis facing Social Security. The most recent Congressional Budget Office (‘‘CBO’’) projections find that Social Security will run cash deficits of more than $1.3 trillion over the next 10 years. [The Trust Fund is $2.8 trillion. Cash deficits sound scarier than Trust Fund drawdowns which were anticipated.]

Pages 104-106 talk about a reform trigger which occurs when the 75-year actuarial balance is not positive [such as now]. The Social Security trustees would be required to send recommendations to the President, and "within 60 days of the President submitting legislation, the committees of jurisdiction should report a bill, which the House or Senate should consider under expedited procedures." [I hate to ask what expedited procedures means. I suspect that the members of the full Senate or House will be barred from offering amendments. This is likely to be where retirement ages are adjusted.]

Page 108 talks about how the House should "reform the Disability Insurance program prior to its insolvency in 2028 and should not raid the Social Security retirement system without reforms to the Disability Insurance system." [Raid the retirement system? Pitting the disabled against the retirees again, are we? Reallocations of revenue between the two systems were routine, bi-partisan, and non-controversial in prior Congresses. Not in this Congress.]

https://www.facebook.com/socialsecurityworks/posts/1602337569790096?comment_id=1385668874885139&ref=notif&notif_t=feedback_reaction_generic&notif_id=1500657462892264

GOP Budget Proposals Do Impact Social Security

A response to a troll on a Facebook post by Social Security Works about an article in New York magazine:

Yes, the House budget does address Social Security. Here are the links you requested:
https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/07/house-gop-budget-plan-puts-medicare-and-social-security-on-the-line/533991/
http://www.cnn.com/2017/07/18/politics/budget-billions-tax-cuts/index.html
https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/05/trump-budget-snap-social-security/527799/
https://budget.house.gov/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/Building-a-Better-America-PDF-1.pdf
https://budget.house.gov/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/HCR_budget_2018_RH_outofcommittee.pdf

The GOP preferred method of "reform" for Social Security is to raise the retirement age; the current proposals would raise the retirement age to 70 - a solution that would fall only on the less-wealthy. Simple adjustments to the payroll tax and the salary cap would achieve 75-year solvency without screwing workers. Removing the salary cap altogether and taxing the wealthy on all of their income, the same as people making under $127,200 are taxed, would not only solve any potential shortfalls for the next 75 years but would have the wealthy pay their fair share. Removing the exemption of capital gains (investment income) to Social Security taxes would further the objective of fairness. The GOP also wants to cut benefits to Medicare to "ensure its solvency," rather than a modest Medicare payroll tax increase.

Legislation is also proposed to reform the disability portion of Social Security. Rather than a simple adjustment to the ratio of revenues into the SSDI and SS programs, as past Congresses have done on a bipartisan basis with no controversy, the current GOP wants to change eligibility and benefits for SSDI.

The GOP proposals do not impact the federal deficits or the National Debt by one thin dime. Yet they continually attack Medicare and Social Security in the name of budget reform. Social Security is not the largest federal expense. It is not part of the federal budget. It has its own revenue stream. All the lies by the GOP will not change those simple facts. And screwing workers because of ideological ideas about letting the free market loose on our retirements and reducing government is cruel, immoral, selfish, and endangers our retirements (ever hear of Madoff?). And all of the rhetoric about Individual Responsibility while ignoring or denigrating Social Responsibility points to the GOP's basic motivation - greed.

Crawl back under your rock and take your flawed morality elsewhere. We are sick of your lies and corruption.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Mr. Trump Speaks, Sort Of

7/19/2017 Interview excerpts


On health care:

Obama worked so hard. They had 60 in the Senate. They had big majorities and had the White House. I mean, ended up giving away the state of Nebraska. They owned the state of Nebraska. Right. Gave it away.

So pre-existing conditions are a tough deal. Because you are basically saying from the moment the insurance, you’re 21 years old, you start working and you’re paying $12 a year for insurance, and by the time you’re 70, you get a nice plan. [Seems to think health insurance is the same as life insurance.]

I said it from the beginning. No. 1, you know, a lot of the papers were saying — actually, these guys couldn’t believe it, how much I know about it. I know a lot about health care.

It’s a mess. One of the things you get out of this, you get major tax cuts, and reform. And if you add what the people are going to save in the middle income brackets, if you add that to what they’re saving with health care, this is like a windfall for the country, for the people. [Note: Middle-class would get an average tax cut of $280. The top .1% would get a tax cut of $250,000.]


His trip to Poland:

So I go to Poland and make a speech. Enemies of mine in the media, enemies of mine are saying it was the greatest speech ever made on foreign soil by a president.

[On 7/25 he talked about his 7/24 speech at the Boy Scouts Jamboree. "I got a call from the head of the Boy Scouts saying it was the greatest speech that was ever made to them, and they were very thankful.” The Boy Scouts denied the quote. They did issue a statement in which they apologized for Trump's speech.]


On President Emmanuel Macron of France and his Paris trip:

He’s a great guy. Smart. Strong. Loves holding my hand...People don’t realize he loves holding my hand. And that’s good, as far as that goes.

...the Bastille Day parade was — now that was a super-duper — O.K. I mean, that was very much more than normal...You know, it was two hours, and the parade ended. It didn’t go a whole day. They didn’t go crazy. You don’t want to leave, but you have to. Or you want to leave, really.


On Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany:

I have a very good relationship with Merkel....She actually called me, and she said, um, “You know, I think we get along very well.”


On Napoleon:

We toured the museum, we went to Napoleon’s tomb...Well, Napoleon finished a little bit bad...He did so many things even beyond [designing Paris]. And his one problem is he didn’t go to Russia that night because he had extracurricular activities, and they froze to death.


On regulations and bills signed:

...for the time in office, five months and couple of weeks, I think I’ve done more than anyone else...I heard that Harry Truman was first, and then we beat him...I’ve given the farmers back their farms. I’ve given the builders back their land to build houses and to build other things.

The energy stuff is going really well.

People can’t get loans to buy a pizza parlor, to buy a — you know, I saw out on the trail — people say, "Mr. Trump, we’ve dealt with banks, my own bank, and they can’t loan me anymore."...[The banks] because of statutory [garbled], they can’t loan to that kind of a business.


Was asked about dinner with Vladimir Putin:

So, that dinner was a very long time planned dinner. And what it was was an evening at the opera. It was a final night goodbye from Germany and from Chancellor Merkel. It was her dinner. It was, you know, everybody knew about it. It was well-known.

...everybody walked in to see the opera. Then the opera ended. Then we walked into a big room where they had dinner...quite a few people. I would say you have 20 times two, so you had 40, and then you probably had another 10 or 15 people...you had some others also.

[Melania] was sitting next to Putin...toward dessert I went down just to say hello to Melania, and while I was there I said hello to Putin...Just talked about — things. Actually, it was very interesting, we talked about adoption...which is interesting because it was a part of the conversation that Don [Jr., Mr. Trump’s son] had in that meeting. As I’ve said — most other people, you know, when they call up and say, “By the way, we have information on your opponent,” I think most politicians — I was just with a lot of people [lunch with Senators], they said [inaudible], “Who wouldn’t have taken a meeting like that?”


Asked about the email and the phrase “is part of Russia and its government’s support of Mr. Trump.”:

Well, Hillary did the reset....Hillary Clinton was dying to get back with Russia. She did the uranium deal, which is a horrible thing...and got a lot of money.

[Hillary] was opposed to sanctions, strongly opposed to sanctions on Russia.

Crimea was gone during the Obama administration, and he gave, he allowed it to get away. You know, he can talk tough all he wants, in the meantime he talked tough to North Korea. And he didn’t actually. He didn’t talk tough to North Korea. You know, we have a big problem with North Korea. Big. Big, big. You look at all of the things, you look at the line in the sand. The red line in the sand in Syria. He didn’t do the shot. I did the shot.

All I know is this: When somebody calls up and they say, “We have infor—” Look what they did to me with Russia [the dossier], and it was totally phony stuff...They make up whatever they want. Just not my thing — plus, I have witnesses, because I went there with a group of people...I said, this is — honestly, it was so wrong, and they didn’t know I was just there for a very short period of time...I think [Comey] shared [the dossier] so that I would — because the other three people left, and he showed it to me...he shared it so that I would think he had it out there.


Asked "was it a political mistake to have fired [Comey], given what’s happened?":

I think I did a great thing for the American people.

I feel like it was very dishonest when he wouldn’t say what he knew he said to the public. I thought that was very honest.


Asked about what Mueller, the special counsel in the Russia investigation, can look at:

I don’t know. Nobody has contacted me about anything. Because I have done nothing wrong. A special counsel should never have been appointed in this case.


On Jeff Sessions:

How do you take a job and then recuse yourself?...It’s extremely unfair, and that’s a mild word, to the president. So he recuses himself. I then end up with a second man, who’s a deputy...Rod Rosenstein, who is from Baltimore. There are very few Republicans in Baltimore, if any.


On Comey:

He illegally leaks, and everyone thinks it is illegal, and by the way, it looks like it’s classified and all that stuff.

He said I said “hope” — “I hope you can treat Flynn good” or something like that. I didn’t say anything...But even if he did — like I said at the news conference on the, you know, Rose Garden — even if I did, that’s not — other people go a step further. I could have ended that whole thing just by saying — they say it can’t be obstruction because you can say: “It’s ended. It’s over. Period.”

...unemployment is the lowest it’s been in 16 years. The stock market is the highest it’s ever been. It’s up almost 20 percent since I took office. And we’re working hard on health care. Um, the Russian investigation — it’s not an investigation, it’s not on me — you know, they’re looking at a lot of things.


Asked again about the email:

I didn’t look into it very closely, to be honest with you...I just heard there was an email requesting a meeting or something — yeah, requesting a meeting. That they have information on Hillary Clinton, and I said — I mean, this was standard political stuff...I didn’t know anything about the meeting...It must have been a very important — must have been a very unimportant meeting, because I never even heard about it...nobody told me. I didn’t know noth—— It’s a very unimportant — sounded like a very unimportant meeting.


Asked about how three hours after that meeting, he said he was going to give a speech about Hillary Clinton’s corrupt dealings with Russia and other countries:

I made many of those speeches...I’d go after her all the time...But there was something about the book, “Clinton Cash,” came out [The book had come out a year prior.] ...I was talking about, she deleted and bleached, which nobody does because of the cost...33,000 emails...

[U]nless somebody said that she shot somebody in the back, there wasn’t much I could add to my repertoire.

But when you say that — and think about this for a second. I don’t think — you could give me a whole string of new information. I don’t think I could really have — there’s only so much. You know, you can only say many things. After that it gets boring, O.K.?


Asked about Mueller going beyond the Russia investigation, if that would be crossing a line:

I would say yeah. I would say yes. By the way, I would say, I don’t — I don’t — I mean, it’s possible there’s a condo or something, so, you know, I sell a lot of condo units, and somebody from Russia buys a condo, who knows? I don’t make money from Russia. In fact, I put out a letter saying that I don’t make — from one of the most highly respected law firms, accounting firms. I don’t have buildings in Russia. They said I own buildings in Russia. I don’t. They said I made money from Russia. I don’t. It’s not my thing. I don’t, I don’t do that. Over the years, I’ve looked at maybe doing a deal in Russia, but I never did one [other than the Miss Universe pageant].

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The Latest Effort To Screw Social Security Retirees

Public comments by me in response to an article in The Atlantic, "House GOP Budget Plan Cuts Medicare and Social Security".


How dare the GOP change the retirement age and tell us it's part of budget reform. Changing the retirement age will have absolutely no effect on the Federal Budget or the National Debt. To say otherwise is a deliberate lie.

Social Security is not the biggest federal expense. It is not even a federal expense; by law it is not part of the Federal Budget. Social Security has its own revenue stream. Politicians love to include the Social Security annual surpluses in their budget figures to make their deficits appear smaller, but those surpluses go into the Trust Fund, not general revenues. When Social Security starts to run deficits to fund the baby boomer retirements, shortfalls in payroll tax revenues will be paid out of the $2.8 trillion in the Social Security Trust Fund. But then those same politicians will have annual deficits in their budget. That is the main reason why they want to raise the retirement age, so that Social Security continues to have annual surpluses and their budget figures look better. But the real Federal Budget and the National Debt will not change by one thin dime, and we will be screwed.

Any adjustment to retirement ages or benefits only affects the date at which time the Trust Fund is depleted (currently around 2033, after which Social Security revenue can pay only 80% of benefits through the year 2092 unless simple adjustments are made to payroll tax rates or salary caps). Social Security benefits are financed by dedicated payroll taxes plus earned interest on U.S. Treasury Bonds (those supposed paper IOUs) in the Trust Fund, not by general revenues. If Social Security redeems Treasury Bonds to pay benefits, the U.S. Treasury department simply sells new bonds to other entities such as China to keep the National Debt funded. They do not pay for the redemption of Treasury Bonds out of general revenues.

Social Security is not broke (would you be broke with trillions in your bank account?).

Conservatives are against Social Security ideologically. They do not want the government involved. They would rather the private sector handle retirements. Of course, private retirement accounts would be subject to administrative fees (think 20% rather than less than 1%). And $2.8 trillion to invest sounds wonderful to the financial sector. But Trump signed an Executive Order revoking the fiduciary responsibility of financial advisors to act in your best interest. And private retirement accounts are subject to loss by fraud (think Bernie Madoff), theft (Leonard Cohen's manager stole all of his money and he had to go back to work in his 70's), bankruptcies, and stock-market crashes. Social Security will always be there. Unless, of course, politicians take it away from us.

A word about Social Security Disability. A certain percentage of Social Security revenue funds the disability portion of the program. Adjustments are made from time to time in percentages to make sure both the disability and retirement accounts are fully funded. One new tactic of the radical conservatives is to divide and conquer by playing the disabled and the retirees against each other. But implying that reducing benefits for the disabled somehow benefits retirees or somehow improves the Federal Budget are flat out lies.

Social Security is separate from the Federal Budget and has its own revenue stream. Surpluses are put into the Trust Fund and deficits are paid from the Trust Fund. Changes to disability benefits have the same effect as changes to the retirement age. It only changes the date that the Social Security Trust Fund is depleted, and that date is 16 years away (2033). There. is. zero. effect. on. the. Federal Budget. Just because politicians conflate Social Security and its surpluses with the Federal Budget to make their claimed figures appear healthier does not change that fact. They are flat out lying to your face (or are profoundly ignorant of the budget they are in charge of) if they claim otherwise. Don't fall for it. Don't allow them to screw with your retirement or your disability. Call those shysters and tell them to keep their greedy hands off of the most successful federal program ever.

EPA Claims Immunity From Damages In Gold Creek Mine Disaster

The EPA claims it is not responsible under the Federal Tort Claims Act passed in 1946 because in passing the act "Congress wanted to encourage government agencies to take action without the fear of paying damages in the event something went wrong while taking the action."

In actuality, the FTCA was passed not to expand immunity but instead to limit the government's sovereign immunity. Prior to the act's passing, the federal government could not be sued. This claim by the EPA is an obvious lie, an "alternative fact" if you will.

The EPA further claims that the act "does not authorize federal agencies to pay claims resulting from government actions that are discretionary – that is, acts of a governmental nature or function and that involve the exercise of judgment."

Under the EPA's interpretation, most actions by the government and its contractors would again enjoy sovereign immunity, the abandonment of responsibility for damages caused.

"An Environmental Protection Agency crew accidentally triggered the August 2015 spill at the abandoned Gold King Mine in southwest Colorado. The spill released 3 million gallons of water laden with arsenic, cadmium, copper and other heavy metals." The EPA-led contractor crew was doing exploratory excavation work at the Gold King mine entrance in advance of a possible cleanup when workers "accidentally hit a wall in the opening of the mine..."

The action of accidentally hitting a wall does not involve judgment as to how hard to hit the wall or whether or not the wall should be hit. Claiming immunity from damages under the FTCA law because the action was discretionary is ludicrous. Neither was the exploratory excavation discretionary; it was an action undertaken as part of the statutory responsibility of the EPA. To claim otherwise is laughable and an obvious attempt to abdicate responsibility. Under any definition of action, the EPA is liable.

[https://www.epa.gov/goldkingmine/decision-federal-tort-claims-act-claims]

[http://www.denverpost.com/2017/06/26/supreme-court-declines-colorado-new-mexico-mine-spill-suit-arguments/ - Note: the SCOTUS ruling in this link only had relevance as to the venue for New Mexico's lawsuit against Colorado; it was not a ruling on EPA's liability.]

Related links:

http://www.daily-times.com/story/news/local/navajo-nation/2017/02/21/epa-seeks-dismissal-mine-spill-lawsuit-claims/98206386/

http://www.daily-times.com/story/news/local/2017/06/22/epa-gold-king-mine-sediments-no-longer-rivers/418289001/

http://www.daily-times.com/story/news/local/four-corners/2017/01/13/epa-says-wont-pay-mine-spill-claims/96553892/


Plus others stories found using the link http://www.daily-times.com/search/epa%20navajo/.

More GOP Tax Relief For the Rich

A public comment to the chief architect of the Senate tax giveaway, Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.


How dare you continue letting corporations and the wealthy pay less than their fair share? We see your colleagues go from regulating industries to high-paying "consulting" jobs in those industries. Payment delayed does not mean it is not a bribe. We see you chasing after corporate donations to keep yourselves in power and are revolted by your greed. You think millionaires and billionaires and corporations are the job providers? Jobs are created and sustained by ordinary people with money in their pockets to spend on your products.

We are sickened at the reality that 1 in 5 corporations pay no Federal Taxes. You think that profits from money sent to work should be taxed less than a working man's sweat. We are tired of the rich man's hand in the poor man's pocket.

Continue increasing the wage disparity in this country. Keep letting so many of your workers have no health care. Pay sub-standard wages forcing workers to get government assistance. A worker on welfare is an employer getting welfare benefits. Keep threatening our retirement benefits and delaying the retirements of those who do manual labor. Ship our better-paying jobs overseas and keep letting in imports that don't have to meet the standards that manufacturers in this country must meet. Continue insulating yourselves from "the little people" whom you consider lazy and less worthy.

You want to slash Social Security in the name of tax and budget reform? Cutting benefits to Social Security will only affect the date at which time the Trust Fund will run out of funds (2033). The Federal Budget and National Debt would not change by even one thin dime. Social Security has its own revenue stream. Raise the payroll tax or adjust salary caps if you think Social Security needs to be "saved". But keep your greedy hands from trashing the most successful federal program ever.

All of your lies will not change the true reason you are opposed to SocSec, that you don't like government involved in anything except individual's moral behaviors. You are not my father. Your idea of morality is a joke. You care nothing for others, for the environment, the well-being of citizens, the fiscal responsibilities of the financial sector, or consumer protections. You are all for Individual Responsibility, but Social Responsibility is a concept you consider anathema. You think that somehow the free market is inherently moral and that regulations on corporations are not needed. We are not all-knowing or all-powerful and we cannot detect and correct evil actions in your free market. That is why we have laws and regulations and government. That is why we elected you.

You denigrate science and deny Climate Change which is right in front of your face. You profess Christian values while mistreating your fellow man. You wear lapel flags and profess patriotism that you cannot even understand. Patriotism is not waving the flag and waving guns and shouting "Love it or leave it!" as if people who want to improve the country are somehow not true Americans. Patriotism is not your unfathomable greed and your lust for war at other's expense, and it is not your xenophobia and racism and religious intolerance and discrimination of people who don't fit your parochial and naive notions of gender. Patriotism is fighting for soldiers' and veterans' rights and working to take care of children, the elderly, the disabled, the disadvantaged and the working poor, working for better conditions for everyone, and working for clean air and water and soil and for a planet that will be livable for generations to come.

I am a U.S. citizen, and I am opposed to and offended by Donald Trump’s and the GOP’s plan to give huge tax breaks to millionaires and wealthy corporations, which will be paid for by cutting Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, education, and other critical services. How do you justify half of the Trump tax cuts going to the richest 1%? Do the wealthy need tax relief? Why would you support big corporations holding profits offshore getting a huge tax cut? Why would you not support real tax reform to make sure the wealthy and big corporations pay their fair share?

I am a U.S. citizen. You are betraying the meaning of public service and you are betraying us. If you don't understand what public service means, then resign or retire. We don't need representatives who do not represent or even understand us.

Monday, July 17, 2017

A Word or Two About Social Security

The Social Security Trust Fund contains U.S. Treasury Bonds (paper IOUs) backed by the full faith and credit of the United States. Also, those bonds earn interest. There is currently about $2.8 trillion in the Trust Fund, which was built up in anticipation of baby-boomer retirements. Social Security is self-funded (interest on bonds plus payroll taxes), and by law is not part of the federal budget. It is not the Federal government's biggest expense; it has its own revenue stream.

Any adjustment to retirement ages or benefits only affects the date at which time the Trust Fund is depleted (currently around 2033, after which Social Security revenue can pay only 80% of benefits through the year 2092 unless simple adjustments are made to payroll tax rates or salary caps). The wealthy pay very little into Social Security; payroll taxes for Social Security drop to zero for incomes above $127,200 (this year's salary cap). Someone making $10 million pays the same amount of money that someone making $127,200 does in Social Security taxes. Capital gains (investment income) are not even subject to any Social Security taxes.

Social Security is not broke (would you be broke with trillions in your bank account?).

Conservatives are against Social Security ideologically. They do not want the government involved. They would rather the private sector handle retirements. Of course, private retirement accounts would be subject to administrative fees (think 20% rather than less than 1%). And $2.8 trillion to invest sounds wonderful to the financial sector. Trump signed an Executive Order revoking the fiduciary responsibility of financial advisors to act in your best interest. Private retirement accounts are subject to loss by fraud (think Bernie Madoff), theft (Leonard Cohen's manager stole all of his money and he had to go back to work in his 70's), bankruptcies, and stock-market crashes. Social Security will always be there. Unless, of course, politicians take it away from us.

What Is Single-Payer?

Single-payer is health care paid for by the federal government. Insurance companies take 20% of every health care dollar for overhead (CEO salaries etc.). Most other western industrialized countries have universal healthcare (single-payer covering every citizen). We have a profit-driven system that is much more expensive and that does not cover everyone. Single-payer is Medicare without the 20% co-pay. The cost is covered usually by taxes that everyone pays. If I move to Canada and want to be covered by their healthcare system, I have to pay a 15% tax on income. In this country, medical expenses are the number one cause of personal bankruptcies. I would rather pay 15% than have a medical bill I could never pay off. (My last MRI had a price tag of $8000.) I would like to be able to go to the doctor and not get a bill. Even Cuba and France have universal healthcare. Medicaid (government paying for poor people's health care) is sometimes called single-payer but in actuality, the funding comes from both the individual states and the federal government.

Republican-led states that rejected Medicaid expansion (paid for by the federal government) have people who are uninsured because they make too little to qualify for the ACA (Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare) health insurance exchange (insurance with premium subsidies), but who make too much to qualify for that state's Medicaid program. The Medicaid expansion was supposed to cover every citizen who did not qualify for the ACA, but Republicans sued for the right of individual states to reject the expansion.

Single-payer would be a form of universal healthcare for U.S. citizens.

Why I Am a Progressive Democrat

A word about why I am a Progressive Democrat.

I got tired of all of the lies and confusion about Social Security and about health insurance so I did research. I have not received formal training in these subjects. But one day I realized that the Republicans in my state were telling one lie after another. The Democrats were better, but even they had problems with the truth (such as claiming that someone investing $1 in a business was a small business owner).

So I started looking things up and reading a lot, and I used original sources whenever possible (such as the Social Security Annual Trustee's Report). And I saw that the conservatives in Washington D.C. had become radical conservatives, interested only in ideology and money at the expense of practicality and common sense. I saw members of the GOP sign pledges for absolutely no tax increases, and I saw them claim that the government was going broke because of entitlements (such as Social Security, a self-funded program). I saw Bush and the GOP pass tax cuts for the rich while putting the expense of the Afghan and Iraqi wars directly onto the national debt without counting those costs in the yearly budgets (no deficits here, people!). I see politicians count Social Security surpluses in their budgets to make their deficits appear smaller. I see false claims about how the GOP is the party of fiscal conservatism, and Democrats are tax-and-spend.

I used to think I was a Republican. Turns out I am a Progressive Democrat. I don't put God and Greed above country and fellow citizens. I believe government and regulations have a place in our lives. I don't want corporations trashing our planet or dumping toxic wastes into our rivers and oceans or stealing our money or not paying their fair share.

I want to see roads, bridges, libraries, well-funded public schools, worker protections, fiscal protections. I want gender and racial equality, and I want our police trained to use non-lethal force. I don't want schizophrenics to have guns and I don't think people need machine guns. I want the Constitution followed without lies about our founding fathers' real intentions.

I think the government should be blind as far as religion goes. I want the government to stop making laws regarding religion; I want churches to be tax-exempt as non-profit charities rather than because they are religious organizations. I want patriotism to mean taking care of veterans and soldiers, the poor and the elderly, the children and the sick. Patriotism is not about waving guns and flags and wearing lapel pins, proclaiming that people who criticize our government don't love our country and should leave because they are not true Americans. Patriotism is about actions that show you really do love your country, not empty rhetoric.

I don't like the hate shown towards other people and other groups. I don't want people judged by the color of their skin, their country of origin, their age, their gender, their choice of partners, their religion, their political views or lack thereof, their professions, their health, the straightness or number or color of their teeth. I want people to be judged by how they treat others, how they treat their country, how they treat our planet.

I don't believe in American Exceptionalism; I believe that we can learn from other countries. I don't think that Climate Change is just a hoax. I believe in science, in its methods of verification and validation. Newton's Laws of Gravity are just a theory, the same as Climate Change. Ignore either at your peril.

Yeah, I used to be a Republican. I'm better, now.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

The GOP Philosophy Explained

Universal Healthcare is part of social responsibility, a concept that the radical conservatives consider anathema. We are the richest country on Earth, and our healthcare is third-world.

The radical conservative ideology is the concept of individual responsibility. You are responsible for your welfare and the welfare of your family. Government, like a good father, should not be enabling dependency by giving anything to people, be it unemployment, healthcare, Social Security, heating assistance, Head Start for preschoolers, community block grants or Medicare. They believe that people are inherently lazy and that adverse financial situations are their own fault. They believe that medical maladies are the result of bad behavior, and people should suffer the consequences of their behavior. They claim that capitalism is the solution. They say that the free market is inherently moral and self-correcting. If companies do bad things, the market will punish them. No regulations needed. If businesses want to pay less than the minimum wage or hire children, they should be allowed to. If workers do not like those wages, they are free to work elsewhere. The free market is their God and Ayn Rand (Paul Ryan's favorite author) is their prophet.

As for morals, government as the good father should regulate people's behavior. No abortions, no same-sex marriages. In the name of religion and the free market, people should be free to discriminate against other people who are seen as less moral.

There is no social responsibility in today's conservative movement. Conservatives don't see why successful "good" people should subsidize less worthy and less responsible people. Nobody is a victim of circumstances, they are just victims of their own behavior.

Radical conservatives disparage Black Lives Matter by saying that All Lives Matter, ignoring the slaughter of innocents that the BLM movement is trying to bring attention to.

Patriotism and love of country in their view means supporting gun rights, flag-waving, admiring traditional values as expressed by some romanticized version of the Confederacy or of some period in the past where people were not coddled by a nanny state. Their view of patriotism ignores fighting for soldiers' and veterans' rights and working to take care of children, the elderly, the disabled, the disadvantaged and the working poor, working for better conditions for everyone, and working for clean air and water and soil and for a planet that will be livable for generations to come. They do not understand that true patriotism comes not just from saying you love America, but from actions that show you really do love your country.

Finally, American Exceptionalism. We are the innovators. We do not look to other countries for solutions. Radical conservatives disparage and tell lies about the health care in countries with Universal Healthcare. Our solution is market-based insurance, a capitalist's solution. No socialism here.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Another Fight Over Net Neutrality

I have broadband service through my ISP. Very few of my online activities involve information services from that ISP. Similarly, very few of my phone calls are to or from my telephone service provider. In both cases, I am buying access. I want to be able to access my Google e-mail account, Netflix, Amazon Video, Youtube, other smaller video sites, Facebook, multiple news sites big and small, cloud storage, various online game providers, blog posts that I write and that others have written on different web sites. I want to be able to access government sites and other public sites such as libraries. And I don't want my ISP to inhibit any content just because they could legally extort money from larger corporations or larger political parties.

Calling my ISP an information provider is the same as calling my phone company an information provider because they have a time-and-temperature service. They are telecommunication companies. My broadband is a telecommunication service even if I don't specify the exact route my internet traffic should take. I don't care what satellites are used or what cables are used when I make a phone call. I am paying for access. My computer uses a domain name server to look up IP addresses in order for me to access web sites. Similarly, I can select names on my phone to talk to other people without my caring what their actual phone number is. In both cases, I am the originating point and they are the destination point. To say that my internet service or my phone service is not a telecommunication service is juvenile, unjustifiable, and is definitely not in the public interest.

I live in a rural area. My fiber-optic connection goes to exactly one broadband provider. I am not going to call long-distance for a slow telephone connection to a far away ISP. I am not wealthy enough to afford a satellite service for an ISP, especially one which would tie up my one phone line for uploading internet URLs and other information. To call your proposal Restoring Internet Freedom is a joke. Freedom for who and for what? Certainly not for me. The only freedom I would have is freedom from internet access. Just like unaffordable health insurance would give me the freedom to be without health care.

I want the FCC to protect me from fraudulent billing, price gouging, and privacy invasions. If my ISP raises my rates 10-fold, I want the FCC to have the authority to reverse it. My ISP has no competition. If you are not looking out for the public interest, then I have no remedy.

People at the FCC are there as public servants. Their mission is to work for fairness to both consumers and providers, doing so in the public's interest. To reclassify broadband as an information service is an abdication of responsibility and a betrayal of the public trust. If anyone at the FCC thinks that greed is a virtue, I would suggest they find another line of work.

Regarding proceeding 17-108, Restoring Internet Freedom.
Each of the above paragraphs was submitted separately for clarity. These comments were sent to the FCC public comments web site, https://www.fcc.gov/ecfs/search/proceedings?q=name:((17-108)).
Confirmation #:2017071506955133/Submitted:Jul 15, 2017 5:23:25 AM
Confirmation #:2017071587350836/Submitted:Jul 15, 2017 5:26:36 AM
Confirmation #:20170715773316277/Submitted:Jul 15, 2017 5:35:56 AM
Confirmation #:20170715040228766/Submitted:Jul 15, 2017 5:40:55 AM

Confirmation #:2017071541043429/Submitted:Jul 15, 2017 5:43:45 AM

Sunday, July 9, 2017

It's a Two-Party Country

Like it or not, we are effectively a two-party system. We may be able to get some people from other parties elected, but not at the presidential level. And the presidential votes impacts a lot of down-ballot voting. In a presidential election, a vote for a third-party candidate is a vote for the opposition. Clinton lost a lot of votes to other parties, and Trump was elected.

The GOP has been very successful at destroying traditional Democrat fundraising (such as union contributions), and now both parties rely on corporate donations. Yes, it has been disastrous. But to counter extremist conservative policies we need the Democrats, and we need to work from the inside to effect change. A failure to understand this and to hide out in an alternate third party (or none at all) is to cede victory to those who would put corporate interests ahead of workers' interests, environmental concerns, consumer protections, judicial reform, diplomatic sanity, financial and economic reforms, health care and health insurance reforms, and racial and gender (including LGBTQIA) protections.

We need to elect people who don't think the market is amoral and self-correcting. We need people who are not proponents of social Darwinism. People who don't think that those on Social Security or SSDI or SSI are moochers. People who have principles and ethics and knowledge and an actual desire to help others.

Most of all we need people who can get elected because second place doesn't get you a seat at the table.

This has been a response to an article in The Liberal Network, What the Democrats Need To Do To Win Back The White House, which was linked to indirectly in a Daily Kos article via EgbertosWillies.com.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Don't Make Excuses For These Shysters

A reply to a comment in a Huffpost article, The Fake President.

Nicole Mi - Workers are treated like crap. CEOs think their only obligation is to stockholders and short term profits. How would you suggest minimum wage workers (largely with no benefits, sometimes working 2 or 3 jobs to get to 40 hours, many with families) get retraining? And can they even afford to move to where these miracle jobs are? Who will hire them if they are older?

CEOs salaries are skyrocketing to above 300 times what the people who actually do the work earn, and if they run the company into the ground they have golden parachutes. Trickle down means peeing on the peons. People who send their money to work are taxed at a lower rate than real workers' sweat. People like Romney buy companies, take the cash and maybe sell some assets, and then saddle those companies with the debt incurred in buying those companies.

And since the radical conservatives succeeded in decimating unions, both political parties are chasing after corporate donations. And the removal of limits on those donations means that our politicians are bought and paid for. There are not even restrictions on ex-legislators getting jobs in the industries they passed laws on. Just because payment is delayed does not mean it was not a bribe.

Are you getting the picture yet? Are you going to wait until Social Security is gone, Medicare changed to a voucher system, more rivers catch on fire, more corporate executives go unpunished for fraud, and the sick and elderly are put into resurrected poorhouses? Have you not seen all the bake sales and other events to raise money for people to help with medical expenses so that they might be able to avoid bankruptcy?

Don't make excuses for these shysters; wake up to what is really going on.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

On the Upcoming Senate AHCA Vote

On the upcoming GOP Senate vote to repeal and replace the ACA and take away health insurance from 24 million people to give tax cuts to the wealthy:

They will vote for the bill because it is all about "choice" and "freedom" and "individual responsibility". They will blame poor choices and bad lifestyles for those who cannot afford health care. They will continue to claim that the wealthy and corporations are overtaxed. They will continue to lie about the quality of universal health care that even Portugal and Slovenia have. Social responsibility is anathema to them. Being the richest country means nothing to them. Freedom to be without health care and freedom to die does not register. Diabetes and cancer and congenital conditions cannot be blamed on lifestyle choices. But people will keep voting for them because they believe these lies and all the other lies about Democrats. Republicans are not even fiscal conservatives, yet this is what they get people to believe. Next up, Social Security cuts.

Friday, June 16, 2017

I'm just saying...

From https://tmblr.co/ZPUuPy2KB-Wr4:

I’m just saying …
On a political cartoon site, one otherwise liberal cartoonist made the mistake of expressing doubt about the Russian connection to Donald Trump, to which a poster (handle “Radish”) provided the following amazing response: 
I don’t know – it’s hard for me to see any U.S. ties to Russia…except for the Flynn thing and the Manafort thing  
and the Tillerson thing
and the Sessions thing
and the Kushner thing
and the Carter Page thing
and the Roger Stone thing
and the Felix Sater thing
and the Boris Ephsteyn thing
and the Rosneft thing
and the Gazprom thing
and the Sergey Gorkov banker thing
and the Azerbajain thing
and the “I love Putin” thing
and the Donald Trump, Jr. thing
and the Sergey Kislyak thing
and the Russian Affiliated Interests thing
and the Russian Business Interests thing
and the Emoluments Clause thing
and the Alex Schnaider thing
and the hack of the DNC thing
and the Guccifer 2.0 thing
and the Mike Pence “I don’t know anything” thing
and the Russians mysteriously dying thing
and Trump’s public request to Russia to hack Hillary’s email thing
and the Trump house sale for $100 million at the bottom of the housing bust to the Russian fertilizer king thing
and the Russian fertilizer king’s plane showing up in Concord, NC during Trump rally campaign thing
and the Nunes sudden flight to the White House in the night thing
and the Nunes personal investments in the Russian winery thing
and the Cyprus bank thing
and Trump not releasing his tax returns thing
and the Republican Party’s rejection of an amendment to require Trump to show his taxes thing
and the election hacking thing
and the GOP platform change to the Ukraine thing
and the Steele Dossier thing
and the Leninist Bannon thing
and the Sally Yates can’t testify thing
and the intelligence community’s investigative reports thing
and Trump’s reassurance that the Russian connection is all “fake news” thing
and Spicer’s Russian Dressing “nothing’s wrong” thing
so there’s probably nothing there
since the swamp has been drained, these people would never lie
probably why Nunes cancels the investigation meetings
all of this must be normal
just a bunch of separate dots with no connection.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Liberal Rant Concerning Religion, Youth Discipline and Conservative Lies

Religion was put into schools when Congress added the words "under God" to the Pledge of Allegiance in the 1950's. And which God would you prefer? The god of the Baptists, Protestants, Catholics, Old Testament, New Testament, Mormons, Sikhs, Hindus, Jews, Sunni Arabs, Shiite Arabs, Buddhists, Taoists, or Wiccans? Or the Church of England, as our founding fathers were supposed to belong to? Do you want kids taught that evolution is just a theory (like gravity and dinosaurs)? Shall we be Climate Change deniers? Do you want respect for others and ethics and morality taught, or do you just want to tell kids to behave because God will punish you if you disobey?

Do you really think the founding fathers wanted this to be a Christian nation? Or that we must have religion in order to have values? Do you want to continue to deny people's rights with Old Testament value judgments? Was the prohibition of the establishment of religion clause in the Bill of Rights of our Constitution put in clandestinely by Revolutionary War atheists?

Discipline problems with today's youth? Don't blame a lack of religion or religious values. The 60's were a rejection of authoritarianism, sexism, racism, greed, ignorance, and hypocrisy, and the effects were long-lasting. Parents since then have had multiple theories of child-rearing thrown at them, and too many abdicate their responsibilities or just don't understand them. Add to that the stresses of decreasing wages and benefits over the last 30+ years. And the problems were not absent before the 60's. What was absent was openness, honesty, and public discourse. Mental illness was a stigma, and so were sexual, physical and mental abuse. Pregnancies were hidden, and too many died from back-alley abortions.

Yes, things need to change. But do you think we should be heading back to a time of poorhouses, no worker's rights, no affordable health care, no minimum standards for health care insurance coverage, no environmental or consumer protections, no protections from Wall Street shenanigans or bank speculations with depositor's money, no protections for people's retirement accounts, no anti-trust regulations or food and drug protections? Are you advocating no heating assistance for the poor, no Head Start for preschoolers, no community block grants, no infrastructure spending bills, Medicare changed to private health plans with ever increasing costs and fewer benefits, the elimination of women's healthcare, the defunding of Medicaid, no ethics oversight for government officials, inadequate pay for our military troops, the militarization of police forces along with inadequate training, no rights against discrimination, the right of states to eliminate provisions regarding pre-existing conditions, privatization of Social Security, a worship of individual responsibility and an abdication of social responsibility? Then congratulations. You fit right in with today's radical conservatives. 

You should have lived in the 1890's or the 1920's. Do you still think being a liberal is about hating our country or wanting pure socialism or communism? Then you have no clue what love of country really means, and you certainly don't understand that we are a representative democracy. We are not supposed to be a corporatocracy (government dominated by corporate business interests) or plutocracy or oligarchy, and the government is supposed to provide for and promote the general welfare (as in health and wellbeing) of its citizens, otherwise known as We The People.

So go ahead and continue to believe and regurgitate the lies of the radical conservatives of how they are the ones who want fiscal responsibility, and that they are the party of morality and justice and prosperity for all and the protectors of America's values, that they are the solution to rampant crime, decaying inner cities, radical terrorist infiltrators, godless science. Keep waving those guns and flags and be secure in your ignorance and hate. Keep them foreigners away and those tree-hugging animal-loving whale-protecting hippies in their place and put the God of your choice into your schools. Keep them brown and yellow and black and olive and red and pink and rainbow-colored people away from you and your womenfolk.

But leave me out of your world of fantasy and delusion.