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.)


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" (

From page 103:
(A) in 2028, the Disability Insurance Trust Fund will be exhausted and program revenues will be unable to pay scheduled benefits;
(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.]

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:

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 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.


[ - 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:

Plus others stories found using the link

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,
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

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.