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Posts Tagged ‘Democrats

The Congressional TP is wrong…and it is killing the GOP.

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Is the New Yorker wrong or has the GOP gone GOP Elephant Closes Governmentover the top? I’m of the opinion that the GOP is hurting themselves for a generation if the most hardline members of their base continue this quixotic campaign. There are a lot of things about the ACA that could and should be fixed that would enable better growth in our economy, but the GOP has not offered any alternatives that fixes the problems of coverage, affordability with consumer protections, or bends the medical cost curve that the nation, as a whole, supports. If the nation had, Romney would be president right now.

What the Republican intransigents were willing to deprive of funds, besides the Capitol police, included the following: The Centers for Disease Control, which said that it would have to stop its seasonal flu-prevention program and would “have significantly reduced capacity to respond to outbreak investigations.” The Environmental Protection Agency, which would close down almost entirely, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which would stop most of its inspections. The WIC program, which provides healthy food supplements for millions of pregnant women, new mothers, and babies, and could run on temporary federal funds only through the end of the month. The Food and Drug Administration, which said it “will be unable to support the majority of its food safety, nutrition, and cosmetics activities,” and would have to halt “the majority of the laboratory research necessary to inform public health decision-making.” The National Institutes of Health, which announced that it would not be enrolling any new patients in ongoing studies or clinical trials.

Since Tea Party conservatives dislike the federal government on principle, the derailing of what the federal government does every day doesn’t bother them all that much. What should bother them, deeply, is the anti-democratic nature of the maneuver. To hold up a budget and shut down the government in order to sabotage a law you don’t like is not just nose-thumbing at the government; it’s flouting the will of the people. Obamacare passed both Houses of Congress nearly three years ago. In June, 2012, in an opinion written by Chief Justice John Roberts, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of its fundamental elements. In November, 2012, Obama, who had devoted much of his political capital to the Affordable Care Act—it will likely be his signature legislation—was handily reëlected. And, last week, on the first day that you could sign up for insurance through the new health-care exchanges, 2.8 million people went on the federal government’s enrollment site. Surely that’s evidence that, whatever else Obamacare will prove to be, it is legislation that is fulfilling a real need: that of the fifteen per cent of the American population who are uninsured, as well as of individuals who are paying exorbitant sums for insurance on the open market, all of whom live with the insecurity of being unable to afford health care. In no small part, fixing this problem was what Barack Obama was elected to do.

In the meantime, the diehard opponents of the bill in Congress remain a faction within their own party, whom fellow-Republicans seem determined to identify by more and more outlandish epithets. To Representative Devin Nunes, a Republican from California’s Central Valley, they are “lemmings with suicide vests.” To Senator John McCain, they’re “wacko birds.” (He used the term in March, when Senators Rand Paul and Ted Cruz were filibustering the nomination of John Brennan for C.I.A. director; McCain later apologized, but Cruz, according to a profile in GQ, has embraced “wacko bird.”) To Representative Peter King, of New York, Cruz is the “con man” who knew “this would never work” but somehow “suckered” House Republicans. Cruz, meanwhile, compared those Republicans who were willing to vote on the budget—and let Obamacare proceed—to appeasers of the Nazis.

It’s worth remembering that in the early nineteen-sixties, when another health-care bill was under debate, the rhetoric of the Republicans who opposed it was just as over the top. We didn’t get socialism, as those opponents warned; we got Medicare, which turned out to be a very popular, mostly high-functioning program that saves elderly people from going bankrupt when they get sick. In the end, as the President says, that is the kind of outcome that the extremist Republicans running this budget battle fear the most: that Obamacare will work, and the Democrats will get credit for it. And what the mainstream Republicans fear the most is that voters will blame them for letting the lemmings run the show. If Obama refuses to back down, this could be a moment that will define his legacy—a fight for democracy as much as for Democrats. ♦

According to reports, the Dems already accepted the House budget numbers, which, in reality, are lower than the Ryan budget for the 6 week CR. Six weeks! It’s not like we’re talking about a full year, for heaven’s sake. That, in itself, is a great win for House Republicans. But attaching a defunding or delay in the individual mandate – that only applies to individuals who don’t get health insurance through their company – to the CR was always going to be a loser for the GOP which they should have known. First, most of the ACA funding is not part of the discretionary (aka annual) budget. It’s self-funded like Social Security or Medicare. Second, the Dems would never agree to delay it start up until close to the next election, making the ACA again another election year issue.

Moreover, using the debt ceiling as a negotiating strategy, regardless of how much the deficit is hated, is not acceptable. It’s one thing to decry how on the House or Senate floor how much the country is going into debt when you know the increase will happen anyway, but it’s another to threaten the US economy with default on the nation’s promises of payment. The debt limit and promised payments to our all of our nation’s creditors, whoever they may be, should never, ever be put at risk.

Yes, there is an ongoing disagreement over the size of the federal government. Some are good arguments, such as should the US be the world’s police force or have a huge, expensive national security state that infringes upon the rights of privacy of citizens, but some are bad arguments such as throwing the least able into the trash can of history. Can government work better? Clearly the answer is yes. Our federal government continues as a model of the 19th Century. But *only* Congress can change that antiquated model…and that change will only occur when committee power and fundraising models change.

Regardless, PIMCO’s El-Erian notes, the failure to increase to increase the debt ceiling would lead to a Great Depression worldwide and cause irreparable harm to the US in prestige, authority, and, most of all, to our status as the world’s reserve currency and the special borrowing rates that status implies.

Further, China, in 2011, when Congress last threatened the debt ceiling as a serious negotiating point, entered into talks with other BRIC nations to replace the US dollar as the world’s reserve currency. China, apparently, received a lot of support among those nations. Does anyone in their right minds believe that China will let go of their ability to reduce the status of the US dollar as the world’s reserve currency when it obviously is in their own interest to reduce the influence of the US? Although the Chinese did not say as much publicly, I am quite sure they would like the Renminbi become the world’s reserve currency.

If US voters do not understand the perils on the world stage and to the US economy of the Tea Party strategy, then God help us all.

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Written by Valerie Curl

October 9, 2013 at 9:23 PM

America the Stupid!

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There is a growing movement among the Tea Party and the far right to impeach President Obama. Buzzfeed today wrote story about a book, published by World Net Daily which is a far right, conspiracy theory addicted website, that espouses all the reasons why Obama should be impeached.

A new book making the case for the impeachment of President Barack Obama is flying off the shelves, its author said, as the president’s reelection fails to entirely damp down the deep loathing of him on parts of the right.

Impeachable Offenses: The Case for Removing Barack Obama from Office cites everything from the attack on the American consulate and CIA outpost in Benghazi — which it compares to the Iran Contra scandal in the Reagan years — to the way Obamacare was passed, which the authors say constitutes “taxation without representation.” The book, by WABC radio host Aaron Klein and Brenda Elliott, an anti-Obama blogger, also includes American military action in Libya and the Transportation Security Administration’s passenger screenings as impeachable offenses.

The problem for this book and the conspiracy theorists is that all their claims are fallacious or just hypocritical…or far worse. On foreign policy, Obama has continued Bush policies outside of starting wars of choice as Bush did. On internal, domestic spying, Obama continued the policies of Bush’s Administration. On Executive signings, Obama has used that method far less that Bush did…and only within legal and SCOTUS demanded requirements or his legal powers at head of the Administration. On regulations, his record shows he’s enacted fewer regulations than the anti-regulation Bush Administration. On sticking to regulatory timelines, Obama is no more guilty than any other administration. For example, Dodd-Frank is nearly 2 years behind in setting most of its rules yet no one is complaining, but somehow the rules on ACA have to be met on time even when businesses have asked for clarifications and simplification and HHA acceded those requests.

Should I continue?

I hardly think is it necessary. There are lots of reasons why Americans of all flavor dislike Obama. Some are solid and some are idiotically specious. But to those asking for his impeachment, allow me to ask these questions:

1) Would you prefer President Biden? Remember that Biden is far more liberal than Obama. Compared to Biden, Obama is downright conservative. Moreover, Biden’s decades in the Senate would make him a much tougher negotiator. He could very well be an incarnation of LBJ.

2) If you hate the national security state, why do you continue to vote for legislators who voted for the Patriot Act and NDAA? Regardless of what you may think or wish, the President, regardless of party affiliation, must follow the legislation that Congress passes. You don’t like the national security laws, then stop voting for the Congressional legislators who enacted and continually approve of these laws.

3) The whole Bengazi uproar is idiotic. American embassies and consulates throughout the troubled Middle East and Northern Africa have been targets for over two decades. How many American embassies and consulates were targeted and bombed during the GW Bush and Clinton Administrations? The insanity of perverted jehadism will continue regardless of presidential political party affiliation until Arab nations say enough and use their own power, influence and money to end it.

4) If you hate Obama because of his skin color, doesn’t that say more about you than him? I spent many years as a White child and young adult living in the deep South where Racism reigned supreme. It was ugly, cruel, and wrong. God did not differentiate between peoples based on skin color; He differentiated between people based on the moral values of compassion, respect, consideration, thoughtfulness, and consideration. And still does, as Jesus said over and over again.

5) If you think Obama is some kind of hidden Black Panther racist, then why has he excoriated the Black community, and especially Black fathers, over and over again for not meeting their familial obligations and responsibilities while at the same time not saying a word about White guys who run away from their children and responsibilities?

There are a lot of other conspiracy theories I could debunk, but those who deliberately choose to believe them will never be convinced because they adamantly refuse to change their thinking. Reason, rationality, and logic play no part in their lives. Hate is all that matters, for whatever reason.

The last time the US went through this kind of political and social insanity was during the 1930s because people were scared, confused, and became targets of self-indulgent, ego-centric individuals and organizations that played on people’s fears for their own self interest. This time is worse because of the President’s skin color. But skin color is only…skin color. A physiological development, caused by the pigment melanin, as a result of genetic adaption to sunlight over multiple generations. For example, the onlu reason Northern Europeans have light skin color, blue eyes, narrow noses, and light colored hair is because less melanin was required genetically, over thousands of years, to withstand the sun’s rays.

As a result, skin color has less to do with intelligence than adaptation to climate. Given the same economic and social advantages, all races perform the same, as science has proved.

As a result of scientific and social conclusions, it becomes quite clear that the current hatred of Obama has less to do with his policies and more to do with who is he physically and politically. And those are not good enough reasons for impeachment.

The Constitution states that impeachment of a president can only occur because of “High crimes and misdemeanors.” Think about what that phrase means: murder, perversion of governmental, administrative powers for one’s own benefit, lying to Congress on matter of national importance, etc. None of these criteria have occurred under Obama, except perhaps the national security state which can equally be blamed on Congress and Chief Justice Roberts. Would you chose to impeach Roberts for appointing the FISA court justices who approved the warrentless wiretapping? Would you chose to impeach you local representative because he or she approved the Patriot Act or NDAA that allowed such actions to occur?

United States Americans have to clean up their act and start acting responsibly rather than politically. Tribalism destroys countries and societies. That may be why ancient Greeks developed a governing creed based on logic and not only the denial of emotions but the destruction of all emotions.

The far right and far left depend upon emotion over logic. As many problems exist with Stoicism, it still beats the kind of emotional irrationality that dominates today’s political conversation.

Written by Valerie Curl

August 21, 2013 at 12:27 PM

I’m disgusted

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Student Loan Bonanza

Illustration by Victor Juhasz

Over the last five years I’ve become more and more disgusted by both our federal government and our financial industry as a result of our entire country, and government, becoming financialized. All that matters now is how much profit can be made, regardless of the consequences to human lives, and protecting the worse financial actors from the recent financial meltdown that caused a worldwide recession.

A couple of days ago, Matt Taibbi, wrote a lengthy piece in Rolling Stone Magazine about the student loan scandal that threaten our nation’s economy.

Ripping Off Young America: The College-Loan Scandal
The federal government has made it easier than ever to borrow money for higher education – saddling a generation with crushing debts and inflating a bubble that could bring down the economy

I didn’t read this story two days ago when it was published. I wish I had since my voice now will make little difference – everyone’s moved on to the next scandal or reality show highlights. 

However much Taibbi’s rhetoric seems over the top, his actual story is accurate. A couple of years ago, the Higher Ed. journal he mentions published a story on the rapidly rising cost of a college education.

Although the journal didn’t go into the whole funding of students loans issue, the publication did lay most of the blame on institutions that went on a spending binge during the last decade, which universities defended as needing to do to “attract students”. According to the schools, competition among colleges required spas, hot tubs, outrageously expensive sports stadiums, cafeterias rivaling the best restaurants, and so much more. 



Money was cheap so colleges spent lavishly, expecting the public through taxes, to pick up the bill even as students were being saddled with higher tuition costs. Not long after that journal article came news of the UC Berkeley Chancellor being given a million dollar salary and a completely renovated (real) mansion (at the UC system) multi-million dollar expense. Within months, news broke of other chancellors receiving million dollar incomes…and other expensive perks. Like the dramatic increase in C-suite salaries, competition, you know. 



Then as the states’ began to deal with massive lost revenues following the financial crash, states cut back on higher educational funding, putting even more pressure on students in yet higher tuition costs. Even now under Obama’s Administration, as Taibbi notes, the federal government expects to make billions of dollars in profit off of student loans, especially since students cannot discharge those loans under bankruptcy. Nor were students and parents informed or warned of the hazards and total costs of those government backed loans. Now, we have millions of our young people’s lives being destroyed by the cost of loans they never understood and never expected.

To those of us who were paying attention, the inability of discharge student loans in bankruptcy is old news. The GOP Congress, under Bush 2, pushed it through, even though huge numbers of groups and people lobbied against it at the same time they turned over the student loan program to banks. What happened under that GOP sponsored and driven legislation is that student loans became one of only two financial obligations that cannot be erased in bankruptcy. The other is taxes owed. 



Taibbi is also correct about the degree requirement for even low skill workers. When I worked for Oracle back in the ’90s, even our receptionists were required to have 4-year degrees. Why, I have no idea; it’s not like someone answering the phone and forwarding calls needs an elevated education. 

Yet, in our increasing “information” economy, a degree has become a necessity…unless you agree with the recent GOP mantra that only some should attain a degree while the vast majority should forego college. To become what: checkers at Walmart or burger flippers at McDonalds? Even getting into a qualified tradesman program (not hyped for-profit ripoff programs), like plumbing or carpentry which cannot be outsourced, that actually trains apprentices and helps them with jobs are few and far between.

I keep asking but no one answers, why do we citizens continue to permit our entire economy to be financialized to the detriment of millions of families, both now and in the future? Why do we allow ourselves to be conned and lied to and abused? Why aren’t we fighting back not only with our votes but with our power to demand changes in electoral laws that protect our interests, rather than just the interests of the powerful, wealthy and connected?

As long as the voting public unwisely protects the lobbyists and wealthy donors who have far more power, influence, donor money, and ability to get their preferred message listened to and across to legislators, average Americans, and our future generations, will be nothing more than insignificant chess pawns.

It’s obvious that Obama is not really going to stand up for you. Neither will anyone on the GOP bench. Supply side, neo-liberal economics which has destroyed our jobs and our economy is all the GOP offers. And Obama’s Administration is not a whole lot better. Obama is not a progressive or a socialist or liberal. He’s center right on almost every issue. Even Republican TR was more progressive and more concerned about average Americans and new businesses and against the excesses of Wall St than Obama has been.

But nothing…absolutely nothing…will change until we voters demand that the entire campaign financing system be rebuilt from the bottom up. Corporations, so-called non-profit Super-PACs and unions are not people as all of our founders concluded and should not have First, Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights. They are nothing more than legal fictions, which our greatest legal minds stated long ago. Moreover, TR eloquently wrote when money became heavily involved in the political process, corruption occurred either by bribery of legislators or by legislators blackmailing companies. In both cases, the public loses even as legislators grow more wealthy.

The current system of financialization of our entire economy and political bribery and blackmail are killing our country and destroying the lives of our children and grandchildren. Just throwing these “bums” out and replacing them with another set of bums changes nothing since the incentives remain the same. Nothing will change but the faces. If America is to recover, the voters must demand new and strict new election donor laws, including a Constitutional Amendment and prohibitions on party gerrymandering, that puts power back into hands of voters again.

As voters, parents and workers, we must demand real change that protects our interests. Ask and demand all legislative candidates promise in their first term to promote election changes that prohibit lobbying donations and lobbyists writing legislation, make all campaign donations even to SuperPacs transparent and online within 24 hours, and a Constitutional Amendment that eliminates all non-human entities First, Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights.

Written by Valerie Curl

August 17, 2013 at 3:54 PM

GOP Turns Off Youth Vote

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So, the GOP must be in REAL trouble with the young vote if Politico says the report is scathing. As most know, Politico has a Republican bent to its editorials and reporting.

Report: How GOP lost young voters

Here’s my assessment. It’s a little long, but bear with me.

I’m a registered Democrat but consider myself fairly moderate. After California changed its primary rules to allow open primary voting, I considered changing my voting status to Independent. But no more. If anything, the modern, conservative movement GOP has caused me to become even more assuredly Democratic in my voting. As an older Boomer, I’ve witnessed the changes in both parties over many decades. But the change in the Republican Party has been so dramatic, and so negative that I no longer trust Republican candidates. And that’s a shame.

Throughout the 50s to early ’80s, Republicans could be counted upon to strong but sensible on defense and rationally conservative on spending. They believed in balanced budgets and taxing at required levels to pay for what was being spent. As a result, spending was controlled because no one really wants higher taxes. (The national credit card hadn’t been invented by latter GOP politicians.) And they had lots of ideas to strengthen the middle class as well as move lower income groups out of poverty.

Mind you, when I was growing up the majority of Republicans were either Eisenhower or Rockefeller Republican who grew up during the Great Depression and fought with everyone else during WWII. Many of that era’s leaders had a wholly different take on economics: they saw America, albeit of diverse background and religions, as one people striving to achieve the fabled American dream of success via education and economic opportunities…which is one reason why they continued to control Wall St’s penchant for unbridled peculation that caused the Great Depression. In their minds, as a result of their experiences during WWII, they concluded that we are all in this together. Moreover, honor, honesty, dignity and integrity really meant something to them.

I remember watching the Watergate hearings during which the only senator that grabbed my attention…and my praise…was Republican Senator Howard Baker from Tennessee. He exhibited all the honorable values and integrity I had come to expect, from my civics education and my youth as a military brat, from members of the Senate. Partisanship seemed not to enter his mind; only seeking  the truth.

Following the Goldwater rout in ’64, an extremely conservative, religious, libertarian segment of the Republican Party made a concerted push to take over control of the Party. That segment, from Southern state conservative immigrants to Orange County, California, worked hard to execute an all out campaign to take over the GOP. Both Nixon and Reagan fostered that movement to increase their electoral opportunities until their Republican Party take over was complete.

What Nixon and Reagan began and fostered, as a politically advantageous counter to the Civil Rights and Women’s Rights movements, unleashed a backlash against both government and large segments of the population. Prior to Reagan, most people did not hold the federal government in total distain. Except for a somewhat minor loss of presidential, executive prestige caused by Nixon’s paranoia, from which the federal government recovered nicely throughout Ford’s and Carter’s administrations, the federal government generally was held in high regard.

It took Reagan telling Americans that the federal government couldn’t be trusted…and all of his and Nixon’s old staff to convince conservative and Moral Majority religious Americans to hate the federal government as well as state, county, and city governments. In fact, they unknowingly advanced hatred any government whatsoever at all levels…and thus advanced the libertarian utopian idealism espoused by the Cato Institute.

The Republican Party used to be a party of middle class concerned ideas, i.e., protecting the middle class while helping lower classes enter the middle class, rather than a party that strictly protected the most wealthy in the nation. Eisenhower and Rockefeller Republicans, perhaps because of their WWII experiences, understood that a rising middle class was the secret to American economic success. They lived through the Great Depression and some even remembered via their parents TR’s era. As a result, their policies advanced long term capital investment (five plus years) while penalizing short-term investment gains; strict control of investment vehicles to prevent dangerous speculation; and corporate investment in product and business expansion as well as R&D over short-term stock yields.

For all the racial, religious, ethnic and gender discrimination, Republicans of ’50s through the early ’70s and even some into the early ’80s believed in the party of Lincoln. The party of opportunity even when it meant expanding federal welfare as well as the kind of fiscal responsibility that meant paying for what you spend. In truth, those older, fiscally responsible Republicans held down spending by simply making clear that increased spending meant higher taxes now…not somewhere down the road as our modern GOP chose to exhibit during the GW Bush Administration.

Regardless, the 1980s changed everything.

Modern generation Republicans have forgotten – or never learned – what their parents and grandparents learned. Even those skeptical of the federal government, Southern conservatives who immigrated to So. California during the Dust Bowl and those who stayed in their states eventually came around to asking the federal government for help, as Ken Burns’ documentary on the Depression and Dust Bowl illuminates. After many years of denying federal help, Southern and Midwestern farmers finally gave in, pleaing for federal help. It was the federal government that helped Southern state immigrant families in the West when they found themselves being exploited and Southern farmers who discovered modern federal farm policies could help them save their lands.

When WWII occurred, everyone, rich or poor alike, joined up and served together. Those vets learned about each other – from every sort of community and neighborhood, rich and poor alike – and out of that conflict arose Eisenhower and Rockefeller Republicans. Not unlike their Republican ancestors nearly 80 years before, they sought a better, fairer America in which anyone could succeed if given the opportunity.

Although racism continued, the barriers began to break down. First with Jews and then with Catholics. Finally, as a result of WWII, the barriers along color lines began to break down even as many Southerners refused to permit that breakdown. With Nixon’s Southern Strategy…and Reagan’s expansion of it…racist Democrats (Dixiecrats) shifted from the Democratic party to the Republican. But that wasn’t the only change that occurred.

Unlike 20th century generations, in which everyone, regardless of wealth or class, was expected to participate, we now have a military comprised mostly of poor or lower income people. Richer, upper income people refuse to serve. It’s not the first time in American history that the most-wealthy refused to serve, but that circumstance is new since the dawn of the 20th Century.

As the nation has grown, the separation of income status and communities has become even more stark, becoming a barrier to public unity. I see it all the time in my small, conservative rural community where community involvement and concern for the commons (local businesses, economic development, charities, and involvement in local activities) exists at nearly negligible levels. There is an attitude that says, “It’s not my problem, and I don’t care. Let someone else do it.” Yet, in communities of comparable size with a more liberal bent where I lived, community events volunteers were turned away as a result of the too many volunteers…and community events were packed with resident participation.

I grew up in a military household who voted Republican. I became a Democrat because of Civil Rights and the ERA. I believe in fairness and charity as practiced by government because of the lessons I was taught in Sunday School in Georgia as a small child. “God loves all the little children. All the children of the World. Black and White, Yellow and Red, all the children of the World.” Scripture is not much clearer than those words as I remember them.

There is a lot conservatives could do to put forth policies that seek better results than those proposed by old fashioned Democrats. But they don’t. They seek only to protect the plutocrats even if doing so destroys America’s ability to compete and succeed in the 21st Century.

The US is not Russia, ruled by a corrupt oligarchy whose only concern is their own wealth and power. The US is better than Russia. It always has been…and it always should be. The US should be the land of opportunity for everyone that Lincoln envisioned.

A few – very few – Republican reformers and pundits get it, but they’ve a very hard uphill climb against those Republicans who seek to return to the 1870s or 1890s or 1950s. As Austrian economist Hayek stated in Chicago, he was a classical liberal because liberals looked to the future while conservatives looked back at the past for answers.

How Progressives Can Save California…And the Nation

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Californa State Flag

Conor Friedersdorf has a great editorial over at the Atlantic on California’s political and economic situation. As a Democrat (mostly because I’m too lazy to change my registration to Independent) and as someone who PEW described in a study as a liberal, I agree with most of what he wrote about California. Yet, for all that I enjoy Freidersdorf’s editorials, I think he fails because of his libertarian bent and his understanding of history.

As a few examples of why I agree with Friedersdorf’s editorial, I submit these examples:

Regarding the citizen approved non-partisan redistricting committee, I was absolutely outraged by Democratic party attempts to con, manipulate and impede the independent redistricting committee. It was wrong, immoral and highly unethical. I gather from later news reports that it failed; at least I hope so. No seat should be safe for a party or a legislator through redistricting. All people, regardless of partisan or political views, need to be represented fairly.

Moreover, I voted for Prop 5 and thus against the 3-strikes law for the reasons Freidserdorf stated: its economically wasteful as well as unreasonably harsh. Even Superior Court Judges have stated that the 3-strikes law forces penalties, in terms of prison sentences, that are excessive considering the crimes. But California’s prison system was mostly sold off private prison corporations. Thus, private profit motives nearly preclude any sensible changes like rehab, community monitoring, and ankle bracelet monitors for drug and minor infractions. If California enacted the same kind of reform that Texas did to save money, our prison costs would drop dramatically while leaving plenty of room in our prison system for hardened criminals. I have a few thoughts on them as well: like required real, prison fiscally sustaining work, job training and education rather than inmates spending time weight lifting and body building. For example…and this is my bias…ditch the gyms and create sustainable food gardens.

As for the pension funds, I’d like to see state employees given salaries comparable to private industry for that specific job and then have the employees make defined contributions to CALPers. I’d recommend, too, that CALPers investigate/study pulling the funds out of Wall St. firms to create it’s own investment bank where it loaned money to businesses and bought state infrastructure bonds for a reasonable return, a la ND’s state bank.

If state employees no longer need taxpayer funds, as a result of employee only investments and a CALPers investment bank, then taxpayers would be off the hook for employee pension funds, which would make CALPers and state employees more responsible for their own retirement management.

I also believe state workers should not receive retirement benefits until they meet the Social Security retirement age. My brother, who worked really hard and rarely had a day off for the State as a Budget Analyst, retired at 50 with a really good retirement pension as well as a large payout for all the accumulative vacation time he never took. He’s not worked a day since he retired because he didn’t have to…and he’s living quite comfortably as are all retired state workers who retired long before Social Security retirement ages. That’s absurd.

California’s public employee retirement benefits should match the Social Security retirement age. Another point of my agreement with Friedersdorf is teacher tenure. I hate it.

I had a couple of those bad teachers who ended up being a wasting my time and taught me nothing. I’d scrape tenure altogether along with the entire Civil Service System. Both systems exist because of outdated and disproved social psychology thinking from many decades ago (the 30s or 40s?) in which it was believed that if employees didn’t have to worry about being fired, they would do a better job. We now that is wrong.

The fear of being fired provides the additional incentive to work harder and be more productive while complete protection encourages laziness.

California should lead the nation in determining best practices based on recent research, private industry models and what are the best incentives for employees. Research is needed and should be done but in the short term both tenure and Civil Service guarantees should be eliminated. No more working hard until tenure or civil service employment guarantees occur to then become lazy workers as my mother discovered amongst many of her coworkers after she went to work for the State. All workers should be held to private industry best practices standards. Period.

Where is disagree with Friedersdorf are those areas which he exhibits a seemingly youthful naiveté.

Unlike Friedersdorf, I unfortunately don’t have much faith in California Republicans either to deal with California’s real problems of fiscal solvency and rebuilding the state back to the vibrant, thriving state I remember it being when my family returned to CA in 1959.

Admittedly, the state’s proposition ability has made fiscal constraint and budgeting sense much harder, allowing emotional appeals on spending while leading citizens to believe there is no financial penalty to that spending. In the very same election year, I’ve seen propositions approved by citizens that both increased spending while at the same time demanding higher restraints on taxes.

Californians, like the rest of nation over the last 30 some years, came to believe that spending and taxes were disconnected; deficits didn’t matter and a magical belief in growth (i.e., dynamic scoring) would solve all fiscal problems.

Does any company determine its spending based upon what might happen in a year or three or five years? No, they take a hard look at their market and, if they’re smart, make a strategic decision on where to spend their money. They don’t make fiscal decisions based on magical market predictions, which is exactly what Republicans across the country, and most specifically in Congress, now demand. Dynamic scoring, which the GOP pushes, is a lie based on an unproven economic myth of unknown growth. Yes, budgeting for an entire year is hard to do when no one knows what the future will bring which is why the most accurate numbers and predictions must be available.

That is why the California proposition system must to be reformed to bring some reality to it. Overall, the idea that you can get something for nothing, based on magical growth numbers, has caused much of the state’s fiscal problems. And very liberal Democrats have added to this fantasy along with their Republican fellows who said tax cuts were all that was needed to fix the state’s fiscal woes. Hidden accounts or lock boxed accounts no longer make any fiscal sense. Our Legislature must be free, regardless of voter propositions, to make economically fiscal sense of all money flowing into the state and end those that no longer are fiscally appropriate or feasible or necessary.

Right now, I’m praying the State’s Democratic majority will become more fiscally responsible and demand real, true accounting and be willing to say to the citizens that if voters want more spending, it’s going to mean higher taxes. But I don’t have much hope.

As a result of term limits, few if any legislators understand the budget or the budget process which means that few if any candidates understand the budget and all the hidden accounts. As has been noted in numerous news accounts, legislators now rely upon bureaucrats and lobbyists to teach them about the budget and often to write budget legislation. Our California legislators no longer have the knowledge they need to perform their job, and just about the time they begin to understand it, they’re termed limited out for another neophyte. Nevertheless, California citizens seem to getting that message…slowly.

As studies have begun to show, Californians are beginning to realize that our enormous number of propositions and gerrymandered districts caused legislative problems that have accumulated over the last 30 some years which led our state’s fiscal problems.

But California will never be able to resolve its fiscal problems until the state – and by extension the entire country – ends its reliance on special interest election funding, whether that funding comes from teacher and prison guard unions or from corporations or from other groups whose ideology has been totally debunked by mainstream economics. Citizens United and the whole notion of SuperPacs and lobbying dollars for all special interest groups must be overturned and made illegal.

TR described in his autobiography how a system of campaign financing, which closely resembles that which now exists, corrupted the political system during his early political career and before. He described it quite eloquently in his autobiography and showed examples of how it corrupted the public good. Right now, we are right back to where TR looked onto the political system and saw massive corruption on both sides of the political aisle. Nothing can be accomplished to reform our political process nationally or within California until well-funded special interests are barred from elections and lobbying.

Perhaps Freidersdorf fails to understand the special interest money that historically has led to the state’s fiscal dysfunction, but I’m old enough to have learned the history of it…and it ain’t pretty regardless of whichever side of the aisle you choose.

Mea Culpa

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colfax1

Dear Readers,

For the last couple of weeks, I’ve not posted anything to my blog. Not even about those little known stories the mainstream media tends to ignore…and I love. It’s not that those stories don’t exist. Heck, plenty of them exist everywhere; just look at any issue of Wired Magazine’s Wired Science blog. I’ve just been occupied elsewhere.

I admit to having “liked” Bruce Bartlett’s facebook page which supplies me with endless conversations (and articles) on economics and politics as well as the absurd. Of course, I still read the news every morning in the Washington Post (especially Wonkblog) as well as The Atlantic, The New Republic, The American Conservative, Bloomberg, and a few others like the Financial Times and the Economist.

But over the course of the last year I’ve become more involved in volunteering my expertise to community non-profit groups. My little, rural town in the Sierra Nevada foothills can’t afford paid services for the help it needs. We’re still suffering from the severe recession.

Wages are below median average for California, and industry, as we generally think of it, is practically unknown here. For years, Colfax, where I live, was ruled by a “no expansion” crowd that hamstrung local businesses and the community at large. Finally, that hold is breaking as a result of the Great Recession. Businesses, hard hit by lack of customer revenues, are finally speaking up and demanding revenue growth in order to stay in business and to fill the empty storefronts. Residents are seeing the need to build sustainable businesses that can help support necessary, and even desired, community services.

I’ve spent most of my adult years in large towns where governmental actions made a huge difference in both the local economy and in people’s lives. When governments partner with the business community, local service non-profits, and residents great accomplishments occur that better the lives of everyone in the community. The current Tea Party inspired, Ayn Rand anti-government fad fails to acknowledge the many benefits government provides communities via increased demand revenues and stabilizing taxes.

For me, when my local community chose to develop an Art Walk which promoted both local artists and main street businesses, expand the reach and profitability of our annual July 3rd Independence Day Celebration (yeah, I know it’s a day ahead of the real thing), and develop a community-wide business plan to promote our city, I volunteered. Unlike the Ayn Randers out there, there’s more to a good life than just me…and the financial perks I personally am getting. I saw these non-profit activities as a chance to rebuild and renew our business community.

Certainly, Social Security and Medicare made it economically possible for me to spend my time on efforts to help my community develop and become more profitable. Without those earned insurance benefits, as they currently exist, I’d be bankrupt…and be left wondering what to do to survive. It’s not that I didn’t save in retirement accounts throughout my 40-some working years. I had. I invested the maximum amount the federal government allows each working year. Regardless, between 2001 and 2009, following the great crash, I lost nearly 2/3s of my retirement savings. Over that decade, I continually bought more shares via my retirement accounts, but the values (profits) decreased. The end result became my need for these two primary insurance benefits into which I paid for over 40 years.

Nevertheless, those insurance benefits now afford me the ability to spend many hours each week voluntarily working for my cash-strapped community, rather than solely worrying about how I’m going to pay the bills or how to survive another month. I’m not forced to go begging for state or federal assistance. Or made to feel like I’m the lowest of the low for needing help. I still have my dignity and the knowledge that I’m taking financial care of myself.

But I’m no hero, by any means. Those earned insurance programs now have just provided me the means to the end of helping my community at large.

Strikingly, my community volunteering increased my skills far beyond what I learned during my career…and I really enjoy all I’m learning in the process of doing. Sure as heck beats vegetating and waiting to die!

But I guess, for me anyway, I feel valuable again. I feel like I really can make a contribution to my community and my fellow citizens…and that makes me feel important and good about myself.

I understand my senior’s path isn’t the same for everyone. But it’s working for me and adding to the renewal efforts of my community while not increasing costs. Most of all, though, I’m getting far more personal satisfaction out my volunteer activities than I’m putting in terms of time and my increased skills.

Missing 20th Century Republican Roots….

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Regarding the desire of many on the left and among Democrats to see the GOP die, I have very mixed emotions. I remember a very different GOP: one which had lived through the Great Depression and WWII and was firmly committed to fiscal responsibility, rebuilding and renewing the homeland, staying out of foreign military engagements as much as possible, and creating economic growth and security for everyone.

With this ignorant and bombastic GOP, I say keep up the publicity ’cause they’ll continue to lose and maybe lose even more sooner if the current Democratic fundraising push has legs, provided, of course, that the GOP doesn’t rig the electoral game too much more in their favor regardless of what is in the best interests of a constitutional democratic Republic. (FYI, a lot of these sneaky gerrymandering, etc., actions were Cheney’s grand idea. Another reason to hate that rotten old SOB.)

Movement conservative GOP libertarian ideology

Yes, I do want them to lose because they do not represent the GOP I grew up knowing and appreciating for their conservative yet economic moderation, understanding and knowledge of fiscal realities, their desire to rebuild and renew the American physical and economic landscape, and to keep Americans out of more wars. The modern conservative movement, and its many faceted coalition, no longer represent, let along understand, what those earlier Republicans stood for or helped build. Let alone why.

On the other hand, I’d like to see a renewal of a more centrist, post WWII like GOP, aka Eisenhower or Rockefeller Republican party, who were fiscally responsible (as in raised taxes to keep deficits and spending down), did not believe in American Imperialism or being the world’s great cops and liberty bringers, and recognized that the way to create both wealth and a strong functioning society was build the up middle class by providing economically family sustainable jobs and economic opportunity (including quality k-12 and affordable higher education) to anyone who worked hard enough to rise up through the ranks as two of my uncles did within major corporations to senior management ranks.

Those same old-fashioned Republicans, now called RINOs and who have been driven from the party by the Limbaughs, Ericksons, Coulters, and Hannitys of the GOP infotainment media universe, were the ones who also believed in efficient but enforced financial regulations that kept our financial system sound for 50 years. A financial soundness they knew had never happened before in the nation’s history, but at the same time empowered tremendous growth and development of new businesses, quite often through the sharing of financial and information resources of combined government and private enterprise.

Those Republicans had lived through the Great Depression and deeply understood the economic, family, and social harm caused by that speculative financial crash. Even Reagan proudly said he was an FDR Democrat (and a union head) until the ’60s when Democrats went too far left (and yes, Reagan was wrong on Medicare – the best thing the nation could do today economically would be to let go of its obsession with employer provided health care for one of the other OECD models in order to save well over a trillion dollars annually. But many like Reagan believed the AMA denunciations of Medicare way back when).

They, too, had experienced real war, unlike most in the GOP today who either like McCain cannot forget, let alone forgive, leaving Vietnam without winning, or hold to a Cheney-Kristol neo-con belief in American Imperialism that would have been antithetical to the Greatest Generation Republicans who fought WWII. Anyone who had read the dispatches of Ernie Pyle – there’s an out of print book of them and his diaries – quickly understands why Eisenhower kept the US out of more wars. Most of today’s leading GOP pundits and followers hold fast to their guns but have absolutely no knowledge or experience with actual realities of war. I’d bet few of them have ever seen the mid-1950s TV series, “Victory at Sea” that was aired every Sunday morning. They think guns, shooting, et al, are all fun and games kind of like a video game. But Ernie Pyle wrote about the dirty, bloody underside of war. Embedded with Army, he wrote about slogging through the mud, the American GIs (and himself) exhausted and worn out; seeing the bombed, bloody body parts of American GIs he knew spread across the landscape; seeing and feeling death and destruction everywhere as the Army moved north in Italy towards Germany.

My father and mother’s generation had lived through the hell of the Great Depression and WWII. My Dad rode the rails as a teenager, looking for work to send money home to his family and to support himself. My mom’s family lost their home and moved into a cousin’s barn, while my grandfather walked the highways and streets of eastern Washington, selling spices door to door. My dad convinced his mother to lie about his age so he could join the Army and later transferred to the Army Air Corps because he was allergic to horses. He and two other uncles became part of the USAF during WWII. Dad flew missions over Africa. My two other USAF uncles flew missions over Germany. Another uncle was lost when his ship was sunk in the Pacific. That is what Eisenhower knew about war and what today’s neo-cons have never experienced war and do not know…and have never experienced. They never joined up. They have never known the dirt and exhaustion, the horrors of the killing and the ugliness of death.

These prissy gun-toting haters of our social safety net have never experienced the fear, loss and devastation that my parents and grandparents went through. Worse, they don’t care to even learn or even understand. But the Eisenhower and Rockefeller Republicans knew just as Democrats of that era knew. Just as my Republican parents and grandparents knew. They had seen and lived through the worst of deregulation and speculation as well as the real horrors of war. They demanded stability, economic growth and opportunity for a better life than the one in which they had grown into adulthood. They demanded some sense of economic security and the knowledge that the killing was over. They supported reasonable, sound gun laws, as did the NRA in those days, to end the killing of which they had seen far too much.

They supported a social safety net because they knew how easily it was to lose everything they had worked years to achieve to be left with nothing: not homes, not jobs, not businesses, and often without families. They approved of restrictive regulations on Wall St. to prevent another Great Depression, caused by over speculation and gambling. Even the very McKinley-like Lochner SCOTUS eventually finally gave way to public demand for more social equity that put workers on a equal footing with owners and eventually gave way for more new business development and opportunity.

These are the reasons why Reagan was an FDR Democrat until the overreach of Democrats in the ’60s. For all of the GOP’s glorification of Reagan, they have quite literally forgotten, or chosen to ignore, what he had lived through and who he really was. They’ve twisted him into a McKinley laissez-faire hero he never was. In truth, he probably felt closer to a Rockefeller Republican with a great deal of sympathy for 1950s McCarthy-Bircher anti-communistic ideology. There is no where in his record of actions, legislation or speeches in which he preaches a laissez-faire, libertarian ideology. He was a real product of both the Great Depression and World War II…not of the cynical, selfish, ignorant modern movement conservative. I know. I lived in California, as an adult, during his Governorship as well as his Presidency. I watched him and I saw him. He is nothing like what modern conservative claim him to have been. Even his breaking of the Air Traffic Controllers Union was a product of union over reach rather than a hatred of unions. As a union negotiator, he knew and understood the values of unions in protecting the membership’s wages and benefits as opposed to inflating corporate profits at the expense of workers.

So, if and when the GOP returns to its 20th Century, post Great Depression, roots, I will begin to root for it as my parents did. Until then, I will pray – and work towards – for the national and state wide demise of its current incarnation. I believe our nation – and all her people – deserves better than the current GOP.

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