Nel's New Day

October 31, 2011

Where Are the Jobs, Mr. Boehner?

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 6:00 PM

Congress is back in session this week which means that we’ll hear more about the economy. Tomorrow the supercommittee will have another public hearing on previous deficit reduction plans. Members will hear from the heads of other efforts to reduce the national debt. House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) said they are working on a one-month continuing resolution to fund the government past Nov. 19, which is when funding expires—again.

So what is the Republican House of Representatives doing to create jobs?

One of the conservatives’ issues is their “In God We Trust” bill. They need a two-thirds majority vote because it would be brought up under a suspension of House rules. Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee wrote, “Instead of addressing any of these critical issues, and instead of working to help American families keep a roof over their heads and food on their tables, we are debating whether or not to affirm and proliferate a motto that was adopted in 1956 and that is not imperiled in any respect.” Passing H. Con. Res. 13 might create a few jobs, however, because the resolution “encourages” that the motto be displayed in all public buildings, public schools, and other government institutions.

On Thursday the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s investigative panel will meet to vote on whether to subpoena the White House for documents on the Solyndra case. Conservatives have spent lots of their personal energy on this issue recently, trying to destroy President Obama after the failure of a solar business that lost over one-half billion dollars of government subsidy.

Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) has another jobs bill. He got in trouble for his bill that would require every employer in the country to use E-verify, the federal hiring database to check applicants—even if it’s the business-owner’s mother. Alabama’s punitive anti-immigration bill caused workers to flee the state, leaving its economy in bad shape because farm owners can’t find workers. In response, Smith proposed a second bill, the American Specialty Act which invites migrant workers to come from out of the country into Alabama but strips immigrant farm workers of their current rights.

One loss is the one allowing these immigrants to be eligible for federally funded legal services in the case of a labor dispute. It would push them to have arbitration and mediation clauses in their contracts while not allowing federally funded attorneys to sue on behalf of a worker until after mediation has occurred. In addition, at no time can federally funded attorneys provide legal representation for workers no longer in the country, and workers are allowed in the country for only ten months. Also eliminated in Smith’s bill are mandatory Adverse Effect Wage for workers, guaranteed free housing, and transportation reimbursement; reduced is the “three-quarters guarantee,” a provision that entitles workers to at least 75 percent of the total hours promised in their contract, to 50 percent.  Non-documented immigrant farm workers in the country would not be eligible for these farm jobs. Even the Murdoch-owned, conservative Hill thinks that this is a terrible bill.

Currently there are 24 million unemployed in the United States, but Rep. Raúl Labrador (R-ID) and Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) have a bill to promote the hiring of foreign college graduates in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) co-sponsored a bill with Smith to eliminate the per-country quotas on employment-based green cards. There are also bills to let in Cuban baseball players, Tibetan refugees, and the children of Filipino veterans of World War II.

One thing that the House ignores is to follow up on a request from Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL ) to name a room in the Capitol Visitor Center for Gabe Zimmerman, the community outreach director for Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) killed in the January 8, 2011 shooting in Tucson (AZ). Wasserman Schultz has 385 co-sponsors, which makes it pretty much bipartisan, and Transportation Committee members stand behind it. Even with all this support, however, nothing is happening. (This doesn’t fit with job creation, but it matches the House’s penchant for wasting time.)

Doing nothing, however, is better than passing destructive bills. According to the recently updated budget projections from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, if Congress does not pass any new fiscal policies between now and January 2013, the federal budget deficit will dwindle to just 1.6 percent of gross domestic product—the largest measure of our economy—by 2014, and continue dropping. Similarly, debt as a share of GDP will peak at 73 percent in 2013 and then decline down to 61 percent by 2021.

But the Republicans forge ahead, trying to destroy the country under the pretense of providing jobs. According to a report from Scott Lilly, longtime Capitol Hill staffer and Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress, the bills that Republicans enacted when they held the country hostage and threatened to shut it down have eliminated 370,000 jobs. Lilly’s report focuses on three major areas of spending cuts: funding for local law enforcement; environmental cleanup of sites where nuclear weapons were disabled and destroyed; and investments into construction, repair, and maintenance of government buildings. Cuts to just those three areas result in the loss of 90,000 jobs–60,000 from direct cuts, and 30,000 additional jobs lost from the secondary impacts of job losses in each community. These weren’t the worst areas, according to Lilly, “but without a doubt they demonstrate the consequences of slashing government spending in a weak economy.”

The House has at least five ill-conceived ideas: union-busting, lowering business taxes, repealing EPA regulations, cutting the minimum wage, and “free trade” agreements. They’ve already passed bills to support the last one. “Free trade” allows corporations to manufacture their products wherever they can find cheap labor and few regulations, in places where workers have no rights and protections, where overtime pay and child labor laws are a dream. The result will push down wages for our country’s workers—already shrunk 10 percent in the last three years—or losing jobs because factories move somewhere else in the world. “The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which was primarily touted as a job creator, has cost the US 682,900 jobs, 61% of them in manufacturing,” Daniel Denvir reported.

House Leader John Boehner (R-OH) claims that the Senate refuses to hear 16 of the “jobs-creating” bills that the House has passed. The most recent is a bill that would exchange land in Arizona between the federal government and an international mining conglomerate, Resolution Copper. Proponents claim that this land exchange would create 3,700 jobs. But the government land to be mined for its copper is sacred Apache Indian land, and mining the copper requires 40,000-acre-feet of water every year in a state very short on water. The copper mine would make an estimated $60 billion. The bill was first introduced in 2005 by Rep. Rick Renzi (R-AZ) who was indicted by the Justice Department for several corruption charges, including Renzi’s agreement that he would get the deal passed if part of his business associate’s land was included in the exchange.  Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) said of this bill, “It will rob Native people of their heritage. It will rob local people of their water. And it will rob the American people of their money.”

Bruce  Bartlett, an economist who worked in both Ronald Reagan’s and George H.W. Bush’s administrations, disagreed with the conservatives approach to create jobs. “Republicans favor tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations, but these had no simulative effect during the George W. Bush administration, and there is no reason to believe that more of them will have any today.” He also disagrees with the myth of creating jobs through cutting regulations. “It’s just nonsense. It’s just made up,” Bartlett said.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics, which tracks companies’ reasons for large layoffs, agreed with Barlett. It found that 1,119 layoffs could be attributed to government regulations in the first half of 2011 whereas 144,767 were attributed to poor “business demand.” Wealthy corporations are stockpiling tons of cash. The 500 companies of the S&P index have about $800 billion, the most ever according to the research firm Birinyl Associates.

In mid-October, Senate Republicans unveiled their response to President Obama’s jobs plan. (It would have been better to keep the plan under wraps!) “Jobs Through Growth Act” requires a balanced budget, repeals Obama’s overhaul of system, lifts prohibitions on offshore energy explorations, and promotes U.S. trade.

Two-thirds of the nation’s people approve of Obama’s plan to put cops and firefighters back on the streets and teachers back into the classrooms as well as repairing the infrastructure. The Republicans in Congress, however, follow their own path to destruction.

Republicans have three priorities that outrank job creation: defeat President Obama, cut taxes, and reduce government. Their plan of austerity is to impose pain and sacrifice, not help the economy grow and flourish. At the state and local level, officials have been forced to cut spending, scrap public investments, and lay off thousands of public-sector workers. The more states cut back, the worse off they are. The GOP wants the economy exactly as it is: the private sector is left to its own devices; the public sector is shedding jobs quickly; and the only permitted topic of conversation is about debt-reduction. Conservatives hope that the end result will be their re-election because of a worsening economy.

One measure of a society is how it treats its least well off. The United States is failing.

October 30, 2011

Whither the Constitution?

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 1:57 PM

Worship of the Constitution—and by extension, the country’s Founding Fathers—is a prime tenet of conservatives. Tea Partiers hold a high disregard for the new Occupy movement, yet both groups, the one funded by the Koch brothers and the one that formed through grass-roots work, express similar beliefs that they are an ignored silent majority. Both groups want freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and the right to petition the government for the redress of grievance. Both groups believe that the Constitution supports their rights. And it does. But what more should the conservatives know about the Constitution?

As originally written, the Constitution was an explicitly pro-slavery document protecting the Southern planters and other landed classes. Slaves were considered only three-fifths of a person for the purposes of population census, and “Indians not taxed” didn’t exist.

As originally written, the Constitution attempted to create its own House of Lords, with the Senate selected by state legislators as a check on the House of Representatives. Senators weren’t directly elected by the populace until 1913.

As originally written, the Constitution limited the right to vote to only white male land-owners, creating a large part of the citizens ineligible to vote. During the first election under the Constitution, less than one-fifth of the adult population was eligible to vote. This ruling stayed until the middle of the nineteenth century when North Carolina became the last state to eliminate property ownership as a voting requirement in 1856. Even then, women were prevented from voting in federal elections until 1920.

Conservatives ignore (or don’t know that) the Founding Fathers, including James Madison, wanted the Constitution to protect themselves because they were the ones who held either money or land. They used their personal situations to make the decisions that would result in a document that many people now accept as if from on high. The Electoral College was written in such a way as to deter direct citizen involvement because the Founding Fathers simply did not trust the masses to make a decision as important as deciding the president.

“If you took the originalists at their word,” said David Strauss, a liberal University of Chicago law professor, “you could punish people for criticizing the government, the federal government could discriminate against anyone it wanted to, and there’s a real argument that the interstate highway system is unconstitutional. The federal prison system and criminal law would be in serious question, and forget the Federal Reserve. It would be gone.”

Since the creation of the Constitution, the three branches of the government have fought to broaden people’s rights, liberties, and freedoms by extending the rights of  citizens not specified in the original Constitution. Mass democracy for all the people has required fighting the elite democracy produced by the Founding Fathers.

The Constitution still contains procedures that lack the one-person, one-vote of democracy.  The requirement for adding amendments to the Constitution is that three-fourths of the states ratify the proposed amendment, but this number has no relationship to the number of people voting for or against an amendment. Because of population distribution across the country, one-fourth, or 14, states could have only 4 percent of the entire population, meaning that 4 percent of the country’s population could veto an amendment. Technically, people don’t even vote on ratifying an amendment; their representatives do. So far fewer people than the 4 percent would have any part in this action. Thirty-nine percent of the population can adopt an amendment if they live in the right states, yet the majority of the people are unable to either adopt or veto an amendment.

Some conservatives purport that the only purpose of the Constitution is to limit government; others maintain defense of the country from foreign attack as the only purpose of the Constitution. They missed the first sentence of the document with its six intentions: (1) form a more perfect union; (2) establish justice; (3) insure domestic tranquility; (4) provide for the common defense; (5) promote the general welfare; and (6) secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.

In their “cherry-picking” of the Constitution words, conservatives have used their “limit government” excuse to work toward eliminating regulations that actually “promote the general welfare” while they extend government to reduce the ability for everyone to vote and for women to control their own bodies. Conservatives fail to see that every one of the amendments, except the 18th Amendment, either clarified legislative actions or expanded citizens’ rights. The 18th Amendment, prohibiting “intoxicating liquors,” was overturned by the 21st Amendment within 13 years. Thus the history of the Constitution is to ensure rights for the people of this nation.

Despite their supposed reverence for the Constitution, conservatives want changes like those that Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry recommends. He would abolish lifetime tenure for federal judges (Article III, Section I), give Congress the power to override Supreme Court decisions by a two-thirds vote, repeal federal income tax (16th Amendment), and end direct election of senators (17th Amendment). Then he would add amendments requiring the federal government to annually balance its budget, define marriage as between one man and one woman, and make abortion illegal.

The problem is not the Constitution: the problem is that the majority of today’s politicians (and many judges) fail to represent the common good. Instead they represent the powerful private interests which fund them, pursuing self-interest and seeking to retain their offices that bring them wealth and power. In our current system, advertising in the media is crucial. Economic power produces political power, and political power produces economic power.

October 29, 2011

Pat Buchanan on America

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 8:11 PM

Conservatives complain about the cable station MSNBC being so liberal, but if that is true, why does the station continue to employ Pat Buchanan? This is the man who claims that Hitler never wanted war with Poland and instead wanted to end the war in 1940, almost two years before the trains began to roll to the camps. According to Buchanan, Hitler isn’t just a man of peace, but “an individual of great courage.” The Holocaust was actually Churchill’s fault. Regarding the Latinos, he said, “We’re going to have 135 million Hispanics in the United States by 2050, heavily concentrated in the southwest. The question is whether we’re going to survive as a country.”

Following is a quotation from his new book, Suicide of a Superpower: Will America Survive to 2015?” It’s my guess that with conservative leaders like Buchanan, it may not.

“In the first five years of the Iraq war, Asian-Americans were 1 percent of our fallen heroes, Latinos 11 percent, African-Americans 10 percent. White Americans were 75 percent of the dead, and from photos of the fallen in newspapers since, the ratios appear to hold. Does this overrepresentation of white men in the body bags and caskets coming home bother our commander in chief, who wants fewer white men at the top level of his executive branch?”

Jillian Rayfield, another MSNBC contributor, has provided more quotations from Buchanan’s book.

From the chapter, “The Death Of Christian America”: “Obama’s White House thus enlisted in the long and successful campaign to expel Christianity from the public square, diminish its presence in our public life, and reduce its role to that of just another religion.”

From the chapter, “The End of White America”: “The white population will begin to shrink and, should present birth rates persist, slowly disappear. Hispanics already comprise 42 percent of New Mexico’s population, 37 percent of California’s, 38 percent of Texas’s, and over half the population of Arizona under the age of twenty… Mexico is moving north. Ethnically, linguistically, and culturally, the verdict of 1848 is being overturned. Will this Mexican nation within a nation advance the goals of the Constitution—to ‘insure domestic tranquility’ and ‘make us a more perfect union’? Or has our passivity in the face of this invasion imperiled our union?”

On the group UNITY: Journalists of Color, Inc. pushing for more diversity in journalism: “Half a century after Martin Luther King envisioned a day when his children would be judged ‘not by the color of their skin, but the content of their character,’ journalists of color are demanding the hiring and promotion of journalists based on the color of their skin. Jim Crow is back. Only the color of the beneficiaries and the color of the victims have been reversed.”

Also from the chapter, “The End of White America”: “Those who believe the rise to power of an Obama rainbow coalition of peoples of color means the whites who helped to engineer it will steer it are deluding themselves. The whites may discover what it is like to ride in the back of the bus.”

From the chapter, “Equality or Freedom?”: “Not until the 1960s did courts begin to use the Fourteenth Amendment to impose a concept of equality that the authors of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, The Federalist Papers, and the Gettysburg Address never believed in. Before the 1960s, equality meant every citizen enjoyed the same constitutional rights and the equal protection of existing laws. Nothing in the Constitution or federal law mandated social, racial, or gender equality.”

From the chapter “The Diversity Cult”: “Americans who seek stricter immigration control have been charged with many social sins: racism, xenophobia, nativism. Yet none has sought to expel any fellow American based on color or creed. We have only sought to preserve the country we grew up in. Do not people everywhere do that, without being reviled? What motivates people who insist thatAmerica’s doors be held open wide until the European majority has disappeared? What is their grudge against the old America that eats at their heart?”

On crime: “If [conservative political commentator Heather] MacDonald’s statistics are accurate, 49 of every 50 muggings and murders in New York are the work of minorities. That might explain why black folks have trouble getting a cab. Every New York cabby must know the odds, should he pick up a man of color at night.”

From the chapter “‘The White Party’”: “What the above points to is a strategy from which Republicans will recoil, a strategy to increase the GOP share of the white Christian vote and increase the turnout of that vote by specific appeals to social, cultural, and moral issues, and for equal justice for the emerging white minority. If the GOP is not the party of New Haven firefighter Frank Ricci and Cambridge cop James Crowley, it has no future. And although Howard Dean disparages the Republicans as the ‘white party,’ why should Republicans be ashamed to represent the progeny of the men who founded, built, and defended America since her birth as a nation?”

From the chapter “The Last Chance”: “Our intellectual, cultural, and political elites are today engaged in one of the most audacious and ambitious experiments in history. They are trying to transform a Western Christian republic into an egalitarian democracy made up of all the tribes, races, creeds, and cultures of planet Earth. They have dethroned our God, purged our cradle faith from public life, and repudiated the Judeo-Christian moral code by which previous generations sought to live.”

On the segregation era: “Perhaps some of us misremember the past. But the racial, religious, cultural, social, political, and economic divides today seem greater than they seemed even in the segregation cities some of us grew up in. Back then, black and white lived apart, went to different schools and churches, played on different playgrounds, and went to different restaurants, bars, theaters, and soda fountains. But we shared a country and a culture. We were one nation. We were Americans.”

In addition to listening non-stop to the lies on Faux News, conservatives will read this book. It’s frightening.

October 28, 2011

Wal-Mart Women Are Back

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 9:18 PM

Last summer the U.S. Supreme Court told the women of Wal-Mart that they should go home. They didn’t stay there long. Lawyers for women employees of Wal-Mart are filing a revised discrimination lawsuit in federal court in San Francisco on behalf of approximately 95,000 women workers in California. The Supreme Court said that too many women were part of the last lawsuit that challenged the blatant discrimination of their male employers, so the lawyers plan to segment their lawsuits by region.

The amended lawsuit, filed by five women, seeks to be certified as a class action on behalf of current and former female employees who worked Wal-Mart’s more than 200 stores in California since 1998. The new filing alleges that Wal-Mart blocked women in California from promotions and paid them less in management and hourly positions than men doing comparable work.

In the last lawsuit, originally filed in federal court in San Franciscoin 2001, the Supreme Court claimed that there was insufficient evidence of a company-wide discrimination to allow a nationwide class action. Part of their reasoning came from the fact that the company has an anti-discrimination policy—one that everyone ignored.

The lawyers claimed the revised lawsuit meets guidelines set down by the high court and also asserted they have new evidence of discrimination by regional managers in California. “The Supreme Court did not rule on the merits of the action, but only ruled that the class as certified could not proceed,” they said in the filing Thursday. “It did not preclude prosecution of a class that was consistent with its newly announced guidelines and standards.”

“We’re back,” said attorney Brad Seligman.

Wal-Mart attorney Theodore Boutrous disagrees. He said, “The Supreme Court rejected these very same class action theories when it reversed the plaintiffs’ lawyers’ last effort in June.” The revised lawsuit will now go before U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer in San Francisco for further proceedings.

Way to go, women of Wal-Mart!

October 27, 2011

A Fascination with the Fence

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 8:07 PM

The debt crisis is a mantra that we hear constantly from conservatives, yet they seem to find ways to spend money, many times through lawsuits because of their unreasonable laws against people’s rights. The past few weeks have shown a fascination among Republican presidential candidates for spending exorbitant money on THE FENCE. That’s the fence that several of them insist should be built along the entire Mexico-United States border.

Michele Bachmann signed her pledge (these people are big on pledges to prove that they are totally inflexible) to build this fence in Perry (IA). Seems that this far from the border would be a safe, white place for her declaration. Not so. In a town with the meatpacking industry, 32 percent of the town’s 9,800 residents are Hispanics. Her pledge would require double-fencing the entire length of the 2,000-mile border with Mexico. Bachmann gives the feeling that a president can do anything without Congressional cooperation.

Herman Cain agreed. “It’s going to be 20 feet high. It’s going to have barbed wire on the top. It’s going to be electrified. And there’s going to be a sign on the other side saying, ‘It will kill you — Warning.’” At an earlier rally he added that the sign would be written “in English and in Spanish.” Then he said he was joking. And after that he said he wasn’t joking. Early on, he mentioned alligators in the moat, but maybe that was really a joke.

Thus far border authorities have built 650 miles of  fence along the southwest border, including about 299 miles of vehicle barriers. In 2009, the Congressional Search Service reported that the Department of Homeland Security had spent roughly up to $21 million per mile to build a primary fence near San Diego. The cost had ballooned as the fence extended into hills and gullies along the line. The same year, Customs and Border Protection estimated costs of building an additional 3.5 miles of fence near San Diegoat $16 million per mile.

The remaining 1,400 miles would cost taxpayers from $2 million to $70 million per mile depending on the terrain and the style of fence. It’s relatively easy to build a fence in San Diego; it’s a lot harder to get it into the middle of Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge in Arizona. And no one’s even tried to come up with a cost estimate for a fence through Big Bend National Park, which hugs 244 miles of the border in Texas.

A 2006 Congressional Research Service report found that the total cost of building and maintaining a fence along 700 miles of the border (half of what’s left to do) could be as high as $50 billion. The New York Times pegged it at about $22.4 billion, but that doesn’t pay for buying the land. Already, the federal government has brought condemnation lawsuits against more than 400 landowners along the Rio Grande where land has long been prized because of its rich soil and the year-round availability of water. Many families along the river still hold title to lands that were granted to their forefathers by the King of Spain as early as the 1760’s, decades before the United States and Mexico became sovereign nations and more than a century before the Rio Grande became their shared border.

Then there’s the second fence that Bachmann pledged, the one with a near-continuous electric pulse capable of killing a human. That’s at least an additional $75 billion. And unlike the Great Wall of China, which Cain previously floated as a model, the fence he’s talking about building is expected to last only 20 to 25 years. The agency reported repairing 4,037 breaches in 2010 alone. In Arizona alone, U.S. Customs and Border Protection has issued a $24.4 million contract to a private firm to perform repairs and maintenance on border barriers, roads, lighting and electrical systems along Arizona’s border with Mexico after rainwater washed away the fence.

One last challenge, which applies to all border fences, but especially electric ones, is how to deal with the Rio Grande’s tributaries. The Pecos River, for instance, flows for 926 miles, before emptying into the Rio Grande. Border walls act like dams. To avoid this, the fence may be built as far as two miles away from the river border. As a result people’s homes and businesses are caught between the wall and the river. The fence there is not a continuous barrier: it’s mostly 18-foot-tall rusty iron posts with a shorter barrier at a U.S. golf course—to make the fence look friendlier for the business—and gaps for roadways through the fence. The gaps, deliberately placed near residents’ homes for easy access, funnel trafficking in those areas, putting residents in more danger than they were without the fence.

Cain still needs a warning sign every 50 to 100 feet. For the entire length of the border, that adds up to about 106,000 signs per side. Using the conservative assumption that the signs would cost $100 apiece, they’d cost $21.2 million. It’s also considered standard practice to construct a barrier, such as a nonelectric chain-link fence in front of the electrified fence, to prevent accidents. More money.

North Korea maintains its 151-mile demilitarized zone with South Korea through a combination of deadly electrified fences and land mines. India has built hundreds of miles of electrified fences through Kashmir to stop militants from smuggling weapons (though the project took 15 years). And Uzbekistan, which Cain recently referred to dismissively as “Ubeki-beki-beki-beki-stan-stan,” has built a 380-volt electrified fence along its 130-mile border with Afghanistan.

At the same time that these candidates ignored costs in money, they also ignored the cost for endangered species. The existing barriers have reduced the range of many species by 75 percent putting most at risk the Arroyo toad, the California red-legged frog, black-spotted newt, the Pacific pond turtle, and the jaguarundi. The current fence also runs through a preserve of native Mexican sabal palms where fewer than the 50 remaining ocelot in the United States live, separating them from a more genetically diverse population in northern Mexico. The barrier also affects 60% to 70% of the habitat in the South Texas Wildlife Refuge Complex, eliminating wildlife connectivity. For example, bobcats are killed on highways while searching for a new habitat.

Former Customs and Border Protection Commissioner W. Ralph Basham called the idea of constructing a physical fence along the entire border one of the “dumbest” ideas he was presented with during his tenure. Hopefully, the candidates have figured this out; none of them has mentioned it in the past week.

October 26, 2011

‘We Can’t Wait’

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 6:42 PM

“We can’t wait to make Barack Obama a one-term president,” tweeted Reince Priebus the chairman of the Republican National Committee, in response to Obama’s determination to make all the changes he can legally do without Congressional approval. “We can’t wait,” said a release from House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), “for President Obama to stop campaigning for more failed ‘stimulus’ spending and start working to find common ground.”

Obama started the “we can’t wait” cry by saying, “we can’t wait” for Congress to address the nation’s housing crisis when he declared new regulations to help people threatened with foreclosures on their homes. He also promised to establish easier rules on repayment of college loans. “Until they [Congresspeople] act, until they do what they need to do, we’re going to act on our own, because we can’t wait for Congress to help our families and our economy,” the President said.

Another thing that cannot “wait,” according to Obama, is to help veterans get jobs. He plans to get unemployed veterans, with their higher average of unemployment, hired in health care, where the demand for new jobs is growing faster than in any other sector. “Military medics gain invaluable health care training,” said Mary Wakefield, a top official at Health and Human Services. “It’s important for us to find ways to put their good skills to use once they return home.”

Republicans are angry because Obama told 200 donors in San Francisco that “The one thing that we absolutely know for sure is that if we don’t work even harder than we did in 2008, then we’re going to have a government that tells the American people, ‘you are on your own.’ If you get sick, you’re on your own. If you can’t afford college, you’re on your own. If you don’t like that some corporation is polluting your air or the air that your child breathes, then you’re on your own.

“I reject an argument that says we’ve got to roll back protections that ban hidden fees by credit card companies, or rules that keep our kids from being exposed to mercury, or laws that prevent the health insurance industry from exploiting people who are sick. And I reject the idea that somehow if we strip away collective bargaining rights, that we’ll be somehow better off. We should not be in a race to the bottom where we take pride in having the cheapest labor and the most polluted air and the least protected consumers.”

This is the position that conservatives had announced. In the most recent debate among the Republican presidential candidates, Mitt Romney said that the solution to the nation’s housing crisis is “don’t try and stop the foreclosure process. Let it run its course and hit the bottom.”

Convinced that the only way to decrease unemployment is by an equal decrease in regulations and taxes for corporations and the wealthy, Republicans are finding petty ways to complain about Obama’s attempts to help people in the United States. Obama’s goal is to help people; Republican goals are to help the wealthy and erase regulations.

“Business owners are reluctant to create jobs today if they’re going to need to pay more tomorrow to comply with onerous new regulations,” said Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME). Obama’s “excessive regulations that unnecessarily increase costs” just “make it harder for our economy to create jobs,” said Boehner.

Yet regulations from Obama’s Republicans predecessors didn’t seem to offend these nay-sayers at all, even expensive ones. Obama’s White House approved 613 federal rules during the first 33 months of his term, 4.7 percent fewer than the 643 cleared by George W. Bush’s administration in the same time frame, according to an Office of Management and Budget statistical database.

According to the non-partisan Government Accountatility Office, new regulations in the last 12 months cost $8 billion to $9 billion, a decrease from 2010. Yet the 12 months of 1992 saw the record cost of regulations under George H.W. Bush–$20.9 billion in current dollars. Regulations in the last year of  Ronald Reagan’s term cost $16 billion in today’s dollars. Yes, that was St. Ronald.

Even if  some of Obama’s regulations seem expensive, many of them stop even more expensive outcomes. For example, new controls on deep-water oil drilling may cost the industry $180 million but save them $16.3 billion in one oil spill like the one caused by Deepwater Horizon. Some of the administration’s rules, like those governing coal ash, will actually help create thousands of jobs. Of the 10,361 mass layoffs last year, only 61 were attributed to regulations.

When McClatchy asked small business owners why they have been hesitant to hire, “none of the business owners complained about regulation in their particular industries, and most seemed to welcome it.”

Small businesses have cited the lack of regulation in mortgage lending as a principal cause of the financial crisis that brought about the Great Recession of 2007-09 and its grim aftermath. Rip Daniels, who owns four businesses in Gulfport (MS), said, “What is choking my business is insurance. What’s choking all business is insurance.” Zajic Appliance in south Sacramento was hurt until sales of bank-owned properties picked up. California used some of its federal stimulus money to pay for a “Cash for Appliances” program last year, a rebate program for purchases of energy-efficient washing machines and refrigerators. Other small firms say their problem is simply a lack of customers.

Lynn Swager, a co-owner of Brass on Ivory in Edgewater (MD) that sells, rents and repairs musical instruments cited the Internet as her main problem. She said, “There are so many things that are accessible on the Internet that they can purchase for less than I can purchase from my distributor. It is really, I think, killing a lot of small business.”

Now for those who “can’t wait” for a holiday, today begins the five days of Diwali, the new year Hindu Festival of Lights to vanquish ignorance that subdues humanity and drive away darkness that engulfs the light of knowledge. Celebrated by a gathering with family and friends with contemplation and prayer, Diwali reminds people of obligations to those less fortunate and the triumph of good over evil.

With a belief in this celebration, conservatives would cooperate with others in the need for regulations on food, water, land, business, education, corporations, etc. to care for our planet and our people while allowing freedom of women’s reproductive choice, religion, and civil rights including those for LGBT people. Understanding Diwali would explain the need for a safety net for the poor and elderly. All those who support Diwali would thus support the teachings of Christ.

October 25, 2011

Reason for Wall Street Protesters

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 6:29 PM

Wall Street workers claim that they are in trouble too, in fear of losing their jobs. (Protesters have offered a place in their tents!) Other people say that everyone benefits from Wall Street because they have retirement funds. The conservatives scream that privatizing Social Security will give people more money. Is Wall Street helping all these people who don’t have jobs or are having their salaries reduced? No.

The average money manager for mutual-fund investors skim 1.4 percent a year from stock funds and 1 percent from bond funds. One percent sounds like a small piece, but consider this example. A hypothetical person who invested $1,000 every year for the past 30 years in a balanced portfolio of 60 percent U.S. stocks and 40 percent bonds will have $105,000. Without the fees, that person would have $137,000–$32,000 less. Wall Street got 40 percent of that person’s return. And that’s 40 percent for every investor.

Mutual-fund “choices” during the past decade didn’t offer a gold fund or an emerging markets fund. Gold made 19 percent during that time, emerging markets 16 percent. Meanwhile the “large-cap growth” went up a pitiful 2.4 percent each year while a “mid-cap blend” increased 6 percent. “Target-date” funds, heavily weighted toward stocks because they “always outperform” over the long term, went up only 30 percent over the past 14 years (a little more than 2 percent each year) as compared to 150 percent in overseas markets.

Hedge funds make Wall Street the most money. Marketed to the wealthy, managers of these funds charge 2 percent of assets each year—plus 20 percent of all profits, if there are any. Then these managers turn around and pay a maximum of 15 percent income tax on their income. In a typical year, a hedge fund has to beat a balanced portfolio of stocks and bonds by approximately 50 percent just to stay even. One study showed that between 1980 and 2008, investors in hedge funds made an average of 6 percent each year; the stock-market index fund increased about 11 percent during the same time.

People who follow Wall Street advice will be in even more trouble. Six months ago, analysts rated Netflix stocks a “buy” twice as often as those who recommended that owners sell these stocks. As of yesterday, buyers lost half their stake, and the stock went farther down today. In March 2000, Cisco Systems traded at 120 times its forecast earnings, causing Wall Street to recommend buying their stock. That stock has lost 75 percent since that time counting for inflation. At the peak of the housing market in 2005-2006, right before the sub-prime bubble broke, most Wall Street analysts said to buy. They kept recommending the purchase of bank stocks in 2007.  All these stocks took a big dive.

By now people who hold bank stocks are suffering.  During the past five years Goldman Sachs employees have pocketed $80 billion in pay, benefits, bonuses, and other goodies. During the same time stockholders have lost $25 billion.

Some corporations are still providing their stockholders with income, Nike, for example. The company sits on $4.5 billion. But it’s keeping most of this money without hiring anyone while they contemplate buying more companies and going more international.

Occupy Wall Street opposes these egregious excesses–the high income for financiers and the corporations that don’t need lowered taxes to survive and that keep firing people to make more money for themselves.

October 24, 2011

World Changes in Past Two Weeks

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 1:19 PM

During the two weeks that I was gone, the world has continued to rapidly change! The Senate is determined to oppose any job creation—despite the public wish to pass Obama’s bill—while they pass punitive bills against women in the House which would allow hospitals that receive federal funds to turn away a woman seeking an abortion in all circumstances, even if an abortion is necessary to save her life. (Okay, maybe that’s just status quo for the conservatives!)

The Nevada Republican presidential candidate debate on October 19 turned out to be the funniest thus far in a season filled with their debates. After some of the candidates almost came to fisticuffs, the video made the round of comedians and less-than-totally-conservative news. Newt Gingrich, ever the peacemaker trying to keep the dirt from coming out for use in the general election, blamed the moderator, Anderson Cooper, for their bickering.

An analysis of Mitt Romney’s claims shows that his capital gains tax cut doesn’t do anything to help the bottom 80%, and Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 program (nine percent on each of the sales tax, income tax, and business taxes) penalizes the bottom 84 percent. (No one seems to have pointed out that both these plans would greatly help the creators of these policies.) Cain is also a bit confused on the Republican stance on abortion: first he said that it should be the family’s and the woman’s choice (the limited government approach) and then had to reverse this position to support the conservatives’ virulent desire to control women. Plus he still fervently maintains that anyone can be rich if they just try. That’s what’s wrong with the bottom 99 percent: they just don’t try! Perry’s plan for unregulated drilling across the country has also paid off more than $11 million donations from Big Oil. Meanwhile Michelle Bachmann’s entire New Hampshire staff quit less than three months before the primary. (She claims that she’s not quitting the race, but she has very little money.)

Moammar Khadafy (the man whose name has been spelled at least 134 different ways) has died, thanks to an American drone, and President Obama has declared the disastrous war in Iraq closed down by the end of this year. (Conservatives claimed that it was the French who was responsible for Khadafy’s capture before the information came out about the U.S. drone. Since then they’ve been very quiet about the death.)

On Real Time, Bill Maher cited Obama’s accomplishments: “So far this year he’s killed Somali pirates, he killed Bin Laden, he killed al-Awlaki, now he killed Gadaffi, our only threat to our way of life now is from Bank of America.” He added that the reason Obama is doing so well in quelling threats from around the world is that the Republicans have no control over foreign policy, explaining that the president’s foreign policy shows what he could accomplish with his domestic policy if the Republicans didn’t stymie his every action.

The two rising Republicans-of-color stars are not fitting in well with the party’s strong anti-immigrant position. Marcos Rubio claimed that his parents came to Florida from Cuba to escape Castro. Not true. They came at least two years before Castro took power. Conservatives rage about “anchor babies” coming from pregnant women trying to get U.S. citizenship. When Bobby Jindal’s mother came to the U.S. on a green card as the spouse of a skilled worker, she was five months pregnant with the man who has just been re-elected Louisiana governor. Both sets of parents immigrated here legally, but birthers believe that presidents must be born in the United States to U.S. citizen parents, not the case with Rubio and Jindal.

What does a married governor get when he vanishes from the Appalachian Trail to reappear in Argentina with a girlfriend and returns home to be threatened with impeachment hearings because of unethical use of state planes, campaign cash, and first-class travel? If you’re former South Carolina Republican governor Mark Sanford, you’ll be hired by Fox “News” as a political commentator through the 2012 presidential elections.

I haven’t finished catching up with the news. There’s so much more out there in politics–the Occupy fill-in-the-blank (including my small town), etc. More tomorrow!

October 10, 2011

Next Blog In Two Weeks

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 7:17 PM

When I started this blog six months ago, I thought I might run out of ideas for topics. Now it seems that I am far behind in writing everything that I want. Despite that, I’m taking the next two weeks off.

It’s an exciting time: two upcoming Republican presidential debates possibly with altercations about religion, the gearing up (maybe) of the “Supercommittee,” the issue of net neutrality (more about that later), the conservatives’ determination to destroy the country through its austerity politics, the growing Occupy Wall Street protests, Congressional failure (in fact, total disinterest in attempting) to solve the unemployment problem—the list goes on and on.

In a letter to the Register-Guard (Eugene, Oregon), William (Chico) Schwall wrote about how hard it is to be a Republican in these times. “You have to believe that people are lazy and greedy, that if you provide universal health care people will abuse it. A good Republican would rather spend twice as much than his European counterpart for health care than share it with others at half the cost.

“You have to believe that other people are out to get you. That immigrants (like our grandparents) are trying to take over the country. That Muslims want to impose Sharia law inAmerica. That if people of color gain too much influence they will disenfranchise white people (as white people did to them). That gay people are trying to take over the school system.

“You have to believe that abortion is murder, but that capital punishment is not.

“You have to believe that rich people create all the wealth in this country and that working people should give up what they negotiated with their employers because the employers want out of the deal. [I’ll add that you have to  believe that wealthy people work 480 times harder than you do—that’s why they deserve that much more money.]

“You have to accept as legitimate candidates for high office people who compete to see who can sound the dumbest. You have to believe that scientists are liars, and that choices about reproduction belong with the state rather than with the individual or family. And you have to dislike renewable energy (I’m not sure why).”

Meanwhile, I want to leave you with some humor, albeit dark. My favorite local editorial columnist has skewered the Republicans who decided to run for president and those who have decided against it. David Sarasohn’s columns have cheered me and made me laugh for several years. If you like this one, you might want to find more of his writing.

I’ll be back in two weeks!

October 9, 2011

Protesters Increase Each Day

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 7:31 PM

The conservatives are in trouble.

In looking through my archives, I found an entry described “why people don’t fight back.” The article gave two reasons that people aren’t fighting back against the inequities between the wealthy and the others “with overwhelming force and running the mega-wealthy aristocrats out of town”:  People’s energies are dissipated in frantically trying to survive, and they fail to understand the severe inequities that have consolidated the wealth in the top economic one-tenth of one percent.

Those days are over. No longer are people looking down, desperately trying to hang on to what they have. And no longer are they ignorant of the wealth that has moved from the bottom 99 percent to the top one percent. Across the nation, people are camping out in the cities continuing the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement to protest the way that government has treated them during the past decade, taking money from them to give to the wealthiest in the nation.

Despite the way that conservatives describe the protesters as a bunch of young hippies who have no idea what they want, the media is starting to disabuse readers of this belief. One headline I saw today read, “Protesters Blur Age, Gender, Race Lines.” The New York Times editorial page has endorsed the 99 Percenters in both their tactics and their message, saying that it is not their job to draft legislation. Although most of the protesters up until now have been white, two Queens men have started Occupy the Hood—a solidarity group to educate poor blacks and Latinos as to why a successful OWS will have the most significant impact on their communities.

Even Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke understands the protesters. He said he “can’t blame” them for taking to the streets, considering continued high employment and slow economic growth. “They blame, with some justification, the financial sector for getting us into this mess,” Bernanke said.

As always, the conservatives are plying the fear game to control protesters. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) called them a “mob” and suggested they had been encouraged by the Obama administration. He also worried about pitting Americans against Americans, a concern he did not indicate when the Tea Party members were actually behaving like mobs. White House press spokesman Jay Carney said that Cantor’s remarks were “hypocrisy unbound.” “I don’t understand why one man’s mob is another man’s democracy,” Carney said.

Cantor’s remarks came after a Wall Street Journal  interview with Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain who said that the protestors were “anti-capitalism,” orchestrated to distract from Obama’s failed economic policies. Two of his statements will come back to haunt him in future TV commercials. One was when he said, “I have no facts to back that up.” The other was when he said, “Don’t blame Wall Street. Don’t blame the big banks. If you don’t have a job, and you’re not rich, blame yourself.” These people don’t understand that video is forever.

Mitt Romney, who pays 14 percent income tax on his millions, said, “I think it’s dangerous–this class warfare.” His lasting quote comes from Iowa last August: “Corporations are people, my friend.”

Earlier in the protests, Wall Street “workers” leaned over the balconies, drinking champagne and watching the people below. The video that has gone viral on YouTube was filmed at the end of the first week. Someone must have told the Wall Street folk that this looked really bad because there has not been a reenactment of this event.

The conservatives thought that by sneering at the rabble below them that these people would disappear. Instead the protests are growing by leaps and bounds around the world. It’s time for conservatives to be afraid.

If you can’t join a protest, you can still use your money to buy from corporations who support this movement—like Ben & Jerrys.

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