The Weiner Component #107 – The Issue of Hospitalization and Care for the Homeless or Near Homeless

Los Angeles is the second largest city in the ...

Los Angeles is the second largest city in the United States (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: A homeless man in New York with the A...

English: A homeless man in New York with the American flag in the background. Français : Un homme sans domicile fixe à New York. Un drapeau des États-Unis est visible en arrière plan. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Social Security, Affordable Health Care, and assorted other health plans all have lapses in them dealing with certain medical problems. These lapses can cause severe problems for the individuals involved and for their families, if they have one.

In most families today both parents work, their children go to school; their house is empty for a good part of the day. If they are forced to have an elderly parent or parents living with them that person(s) stays at the home all day generally by themselves. This is particularly true if they can no longer drive and are no longer ambulatory.

Many elderly adults will eventually lose some control over their bodies, they may have to revert to diapers. If they can still walk, they can occasionally fall and seriously hurt themselves. This is particularly crucial in a two story house.

If they are left alone and fall this constitutes elder abuse. They need someone with them all day and even those times at night when they get up to use the restroom. For most families this is impossible to provide.

If an elderly individually goes into the hospital and has this tendency to occasionally fall once the hospital has done everything medically that it can do for this person then what happens? The hospital cannot keep this individual indefinitely, it will fill up eventually and have no room for patients who it can help. If the person is living with his children they cannot take proper care of him or her. Most of the nursing homes do not want to take in patients who will occasionally fall. They don’t have the manpower to watch them all the time and they could be liable if the individual falls and is seriously hurt.

If the individual is homeless he or she was picked up in the street. Are they to be released back there? Some of the hospitals in the city of Los Angeles were doing that, releasing these patients back to a homeless section of the city, leaving them out in the streets. This was presumably stopped when the city of Los Angeles sued the hospitals over this action. I’m not quite sure what they are doing now. Possibly releasing them outside the city limits. Seemingly there is a major homeless population in most major cities within the United States.

Another factor to consider is that a fair percentage of the homeless people, those living out on the street, have mental problems and are not really capable of holding a job. In 1967 in California then Governor Ronald Reagan signed the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act. It went into effect in 1969 and shut down the mental health system in the state and quickly became a national model, saving the states large amounts of money. In effect they released the harmless mentally disabled presumably back to their families but actually to join the homeless in the various cities around the nation. It would seem we are too poor a country to care for our mentally disabled.

What I find fascinating is that the United States today is the richest country in the history of the world but we cannot afford to take care of a goodly percentage of our helpless population. We are against Euthanasia but we are perfectly capable of allowing people to freeze to death while being homeless in the winter. We seem to have a superfluous percentage of our population that is non-productive and requires care for which the society does not want to pay or even acknowledge exists.

Is there a solution for this problem? Apparently not, according to the Republicans. To be Biblical:” As a man sows, let him reap.” Seemingly everyone is responsible for themselves. If they end up not able to take care of themselves and then undergo all sorts of suffering, then that’s their problem. A strange attitude for a group that professes to be Christian!

Of all the modern industrial nations the United States seemingly is one of the few that refuses to accept responsibility for all of its citizens. There is no real excuse for this type of behavior. We can easily afford a level of care for all the people in the country. There should be no homeless, particularly no homeless children who make up at least twenty-five percent of this population.

Why do we, as a nation, refuse to accept this basic responsibility? Is it individual greed? Is it a policy of letting the other people pay? Whatever it is this policy flouts the term hypocrisy over all our so-called decent values.

The point has been made in other articles that the distribution of the national income is blatantly unfair. Despite Republican protest that the upper twenty percent’s taxes being too high, these people do not pay their fair share of taxes. A person like Mitt Romney pays a lower percent of his income in taxes than the average middle or lower class individual or family. This is true for all the wealthy in the United States. They pay less in taxes, percentage wise, than everyone else.

Isn’t it time the principles of fairness were applied equally to everyone in this country? If that were done we could easily solve the problems stated in this blog.

Official Portrait of President Ronald Reagan

The Weiner Component #106 – The Fickle Voter

English: President George W. Bush and Presiden...

English: President George W. Bush and President-elect Barack Obama meet in the Oval Office of the White House Monday, November 10, 2008. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Years ago, when I used to write occasional articles for a local newspaper, I discovered that there was nothing deader than yesterday’s news. Within a very short period of time the past drops out of the minds of the American public. This seems to be particularly true also in politics.

The Republicans have systematically fought President Barak Obama since he was first elected trying to hamper anything and everything he has attempted to do. Affordable Health Care, Obama care, was passed during his second year in office when the Democrats had a majority in both Houses of Congress. The medical plan, which the Democrats espoused, was a Republican plan that had originally been developed by a far-right think-tank and was first put into practice by Mitt Romney when he was the Republican governor of Massachusetts. It relies on private enterprise to supply universal health care.

Obama Care is unlike the Canadian and European plans in which the government serves as the provider and private insurance companies are excluded. The Republicans came out against the plan because President Obama would get credit for it. They dubbed it Obama Care originally as a put-down. It was the action of spiteful adolescent.

But even before this the Obama Administration in 2009 saved the economy from totally collapsing in the 2008 Real Estate Bubble that was inherited from President George W. Bush. The economy collapsed in late 2008 toward the end of the Bush presidency. New President Obama halted the economic disintegration and turned the tide in the direction of recovery. Six years later we still have not reached total recovery. Many people are still hurting but the overall economy is functioning well again.

One of the major reasons we have not yet fully recovered has been caused by the Republicans, particularly those in the House of Representatives which acquired a Republican majority in 2011 and adroitly kept it since then.  They have systematically refused to consider fiscal policy or any other real job creating measures that would allow President Obama to look successful. The sad part of this is that the country needs to have its infrastructure rebuilt, much of it is well over fifty years old. We desperately need to have it brought into the 21st Century.

Despite the fact that nothing has been said about it for quite a while, the Republicans have facilitated a continual war on women. In the states where they control the legislature and the governorship they have legislated the free health services for poorer women practically out of existence using the excuse that these facilities perform abortions. In essence they are limiting the medical choices for poorer women. Those who can afford it can always go to a state or country where these medical procedures are legal. But for the poorer women in that particular state all medical services they should have are now essentially gone. In point of fact many Republicans would like to push through a personhood bill or amendment that would not only make abortion illegal it would also make birth control illegal. It would seem that to them women are second class citizens incapable of making their own decisions and would be better off “barefoot and pregnant.” Or it would seem that these men have been frustrated too many times over their life cycles by females and are consciously or unconsciously attempting to get even.

Immigration is another subject the Republicans in the House of Representatives have refused to even consider. A bill was passed in the Senate but never taken up by the House. President Obama has taken take executive action on this issue after the House of Representatives has refused to even deal with it. The President can act by executive order but he cannot legislate. Whatever he does will still be a temporary action. Only Congress can make laws.

The Republicans have continually refused to deal with the issue of the minimum wage. It has remained $7.25 for the last seven plus years even though prices of virtually everything have slowly risen. Actually many Republicans would like to drop the concept completely. They feel the Market, the forces of supply and demand, should determine what can be paid to these unskilled workers. The irony of someone receiving $7.25 or even $10.00 an hour and attempting to raise a family is that in order to succeed they have to receive state and possibly federal aid. That wage does not even allow an individual to afford survival

The Republicans will not allow a law to be passed that requires equal pay for equal work. Generally women are paid about 60% of what a male will make in the same job. The overall justification for this is that the male is supporting a family but the woman is earning extra money. This is, of course, nonsense since a goodly percentage of the women are raising fatherless families or are divorced and supporting themselves and their children.

For the November 2014 Election twenty-one states, where the Republicans control the legislature and governorship, have laws restricting the right to vote. These restrictions tend to affect the poor minorities and the young voters who generally vote Democratic . They require types of identification that generally cost money, like a state driver’s license or a gun license in order to register to vote. The state that has the best of these in restricting voting is Texas which requires some form of official identification even for the people who are registered to vote. It’s estimated that in that state about 600,000 Blacks and other minorities have not been able to cast a ballot in the 2014 Midterm Election.

The Republicans systematically oppose any laws limiting gun ownership. They are staunchly supported by the National Rifle Association with heavy financial aid during their political campaigns. Regardless of the number of atrocities committed practically weekly throughout the nation they seem to believe that everyone should own their own weapon regardless of their mental state and that there should be no background checks on anyone buying a weapon. It would seem that the gun lobbies control this organization.

One of the major problems of the 2014 Midterm Election was voter indifference. Many people did not bother to vote. They had issues with both political parties. But by not voting they did indirectly vote for the political party that will do them the most harm over the next two years, that is the Republican Party. This is the one that specifically represents the upper two percent of the population and whose total agenda coincides with the needs of the very rich.

By feigning disinterest in the midterm election a goodly percentage of the population indirectly approved the party that works against their interests. If reasoning was required for these people to vote it came down to the question of which political party did you least dislike or which party best serves your economic needs? That would have been the party they should have voted for. By not voting they actually supported the political party they like the least.

English: Barack Obama signing the Patient Prot...

English: Barack Obama signing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act at the White House (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Anger is always justifiable but complete inaction is just plain stupid. It allows the individual in this case to work against himself. This seems to be the fickle position of a large percentage of the American voters. There was a 37% voter turnout in the 2014 Midterm Election, the smallest since 1942. Everything that was done by the Democrats over the last six years was forgotten, only what was not accomplished was remembered and reacted upon. The majority of voters are indeed fickle.

The Weiner Component #105 – The Midterm Election of 2014

A political cartoon of Andrew Johnson and Abra...

A political cartoon of Andrew Johnson and Abraham Lincoln, 1865. The caption reads (Johnson to the former rail-splitter): Take it quietly Uncle Abe and I will draw it closer than ever!! (Lincoln to the former tailor): A few more stitches Andy and the good old Union will be mended! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: U.S. President Barack Obama meets wit...

Now that the Election is over we can examine the results.

Less people voted in this election than did in the 2012 Midterm Election. In fact only 37% of those who could vote voted; 63% stayed at home. The pattern seems to be large scale voting during presidential elections and highly limited voting on midterm ones. That gives Republicans the advantage during non-presidential elections and the Democrats have it in Presidential Election years. It makes for a crazy pattern with Congressional gridlock.

In 2015 the Republicans will have a majority in both Houses of Congress. More states will have Republican control of the legislature and governorship. All 435 seats in the House of Representatives and 36 of the 100 seats in the Senate were up for election. The Republicans won 246 seats, a gain of 13 from the previous House. In the Senate the Republicans added 7 seats, giving them the majority in that body.

Elections were held for governors in 36 of the 50 states. The Republicans won 24 and now control 36 state governorships. The election left the Democrats with the smallest number of state legislatures since the Great Depression in 1929.

The President has met with the new majority and minority leaders in both Houses: Mitch McConnell and Harry Reid for the Senate and John Boehner and Nancy Pelosi for the House. President Obama stated that they will be able to get necessary work done. He may be overly optimistic.

House Speaker John Boehner stated in a press interview that if the President plays with matches he can get burnt, implying that if Obama issues executive orders the Republicans will react negatively.

The cooperation should be interesting since the goals of both parties are miles apart.

The Democrats are concerned about income inequality and tax reform. They want to raise taxes on the upper ten percent and increase entitlement programs, like social security and Medicare. They want immigration reform, particularly for non-citizens whose children were born in this country and are United States citizens. They are also deeply concerned about global warming and want actions taken to slow it down. They are also against the Keystone XL Pipeline which would cross the U.S. from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico carrying oil-rich mud and other toxins, arguing that spills could easily occur poisoning local water- tables. They would also like to have background checks on all people purchasing weapons.

The Republicans, on the other hand, very much want the Keystone Pipeline installed. They want to limit the power of the Environmental Protection Agency and allow for more petroleum production. They do not believe in global warming. The new chairman of the Senate committee that deals with that subject has stated that changes in climate are determined by God and that man has nothing to do with it. Pollution presumably occurs by itself. The Republican idea of tax reform is to lower taxes for the upper twenty percent and spend less on entitlement programs and more on the military. They would also like to limit weapon laws more than they already are.

If you put these two groups in a room and had them try to reach a compromise on any of the above issues, on what could they reach a compromise? For those Republicans on the far-right, many of them have stated that their definition of compromise is to have the other side accept their position. What we are looking forward to from January 2015 through December 2016 is far more gridlock that we have seem in the prior congressional session. Virtually nothing will be done in terms of new needed laws. The one exception might be a declaration of war against ISIS.

What many Republicans seem to want to do is hold investigatory sessions on all Democratic actions with which they disagree. With the Republicans now in charge of both Houses of Congress we could conceivably spend the two years of the next Congressional session in committee investigations instead of passing any laws.

Once President Obama begins taking executive action in immigration and some of these other areas where the Democrats want action the Republican agenda will be to impeach the President. In fact the threat is now in the air. It has already been made. But there is not enough time left in the current session to carry this out. If it does come about in the next session the Republicans do not have the 2/3 majority vote in the Senate to successfully bring it about.

There have been two cases of presidential impeachment in the history of the United States, both failed. There could have been a third but in the case of Richard Nixon, he resigned from his office one day before he could be impeached. The first such case concerned Andrew Johnson who became president upon the death of Abraham Lincoln. The second was William Jefferson Clinton.

Andrew Johnson had been a Democratic Congressman from Tennessee who refused to support the Southern cause during the Civil War. When Lincoln ran for a second term Johnson was chosen as his Vice Presidential candidate. They ran at that point under the guise of the Union Party. With Lincoln’s assassination Johnson became the 17th President of the United States. The Radical Republicans who controlled the Congress attempted to use him to get extreme legislation passed. President Johnson attempted to follow in Lincoln’s footsteps with a more moderate policy. In 1867 the Republicans passed the Tenure of Office Act over the President’s veto which required that he get the advice and consent or approval of the Senate before he could fire anyone on his cabinet. Johnson replaced his Secretary of War, Edwin M. Stanton, and the House of Representatives voted Articles of Impeachment accusing him of “High Crimes & Misdemeanors.” The case was presented to the Senate on March 2, 1868. The trial ended with acquittal. Seven Radical Republicans could not being themselves to vote guilty. One vote less than the needed 2/3 majority was cast.

William Jefferson Clinton (Bill Clinton) was a Democratic President who had a Republic Congress for the last six years of his presidency. He was impeached on February 12, 1999. Clinton was charged with one count of perjury and one charge of obstruction of justice. Guilt of “high crimes and misdemeanors” required a 2/3 vote by the Senate, 67 Senators had to find him guilty. Fifty Senators voted guilty on the obstruction of justice charge and forty-five voted so on the perjury charge. No Democrats voted guilty. President Clinton was acquitted; the 2/3 majority was not reached. In fact, not all Republican Senators agreed on the charge of guilty.

In both cases Republican Congresses had attempted to impeach a Democratic president that would not do their will. In both cases the Congress was attempting to take over primacy in the government of the United States. And in both cases the principle of checks and balances remained in force.

In the case of the Republican president, Richard Nixon, the situation was different. He was clearly guilty of “high crimes and misdemeanors”. Nixon was fully engaged in the Watergate scandal and resigned from the presidency the day before the House of Representatives was to bring up a bill of impeachment. Had Nixon been impeached he would have been found guilty.

The two impeachment trials were political in nature. If Barak Obama were to be impeached it would be for the same reason and the results would be the same. The Republicans would have to have a 2/3 majority in the Senate for it to be otherwise. They do not nearly have that number and the vote for innocence or guilt would run along party lines with the Republicans voting one way and the Democrats the other. Everything here would be along party lines.

The next two years should be interesting. Hopefully something will get done. But that is doubtful. There is no way real compromise will be achieved. Some deals will probably be made but the Republican hostility or frustration level should reach the clouds. Of course the Republicans can always shut down the government again by not voting the necessary funds for it to operate.

The probability is very high that the Republicans will so alienate the American people that the Democrats will sweep into the Presidency and Congress in 2016.

 

The Weiner Component #104 – Obama & the New Republican Congress

English: U.S. President Barack Obama meets wit...

The day after the 2014 Midterm Elections President Obama and the two Republican leaders of Congress were sitting down together, smiling at each other, and discussing how they could get along and get necessary legislation passed. This era of good feeling lasted for one day.

On the subject of climate change both the United States and China are the two greatest polluters in the world today. It is estimated that these two nations produce the bulk of the carbon emissions of all the countries that pollute the atmosphere. During a recent visit to China both President Obama and China’s President Xi Jinping agreed to lower CO2 emissions by 2025 for the first time and also to reduce carbon emissions by 2030. Will the respective countries succeed in doing that? Obviously we’ll have to wait and see. But this brings pressure on other industrial nations like India to act in a similar way.

Almost immediately after the announcement was made both Republican members of the current two Houses of the U.S. Congress and those who will become members in January came out with irate announcements denouncing Obama for daring to use what they consider the false promise of Climate Change to justify limiting business growth in the United States. Some apparently threatened to shut down the government rather than let this happen. It should be interesting to see what happens. Fox news in its non-intellectual fashion suggested possible impeachment. I hadn’t realized that this act by President Obama constituted “high crimes and misdemeanors.”

On the subject of immigration, President Obama is at the point has issued executive orders attempting, as much as he can, without the aid of Congress, to reform the system.

He returned Sunday, November 16, from his eight day trip to China, Myanmar, and Australia. His declaration with China’s president has upset the Republicans. President Obama has promised to take action on immigration before the end of 2014. This he has now done.  Just prior to the trip his senior aides gave him a list of all the potential actions he could order in regards to immigration without congressional approval. He will receive their final recommendation on Tuesday, November 18 and will unveil his executive order any time after that.

One probable reform would be to allow the parents of children born in the United States who are citizens to have some sort of legal status rather than being subject to deportation while their children stay in the U.S. This, I understand, will affect about three and a half million people of the estimated ten million illegal aliens in the country. There are numerous other possibilities of what the President might do.

It should be interesting because the House Speaker has stated that “We’re going to fight the president tooth and nail if he continues down this path. This is the wrong way to govern.” Other Republicans have come out with more vicious messages about what they will do. Senator Jeff Sessions (Republican, Alabama) has threatened to defund any executive action of immigration. Sessions will be the new head of the Senate Budget Committee in January of 2015.

President Obama’s comment to the Republicans in Congress is that if they don’t like his actions then they should pass an immigration bill to supersede them. Approximately a year and a half ago the Senate passed an immigration bill. The Speaker of the House of Representatives, John Boehner, has refused to bring this bill up for debate and to be voted on. It is believed that both Democrats and enough Republicans would vote for this bill and pass it. The Far Right or extremist Republicans are against this bill and apparently they have been able to force Boehner to not act on it. The immigration crisis exists because of the will of a minority within the Republican controlled House.

On Wednesday, November 12, 2014 the House of Representatives by largely a strict party vote again passed the Keystone XL Pipeline bill allowing Canadian Oil Companies to ship oil slag from Canada south through the central United States to the Gulf of Mexico where it will be sent overseas to be processed. The bill came up the following week in the Senate where the Democrats currently have the majority until the end of December. It did not pass.  What will happen there in January is unknown. However the Republicans will be able to pass it in both Houses of Congress next year, when they have a majority there but the President will probably veto it.

The pipeline opens up all sorts of possibilities that can contaminate the water table in the areas under it. President Obama has stated that the United States will not benefit from the pipeline because the oil-muck will be processed overseas where the gasoline will be used. What happens should be interesting. Particularly the President probably will veto the bill causing inordinate levels of rage among the Tea Party Republicans as well as those who have already installed parts of the pipeline.

As I understand it the major problem with the Keystone Pipeline is leaks. Even in Canada where there are short stretches of pipeline there have been innumerable leaks and the oil containing muck that flows through these pipes is highly toxic, virtually contaminating the land upon which it leaks, poisoning the water table if it gets into it. The pipeline through the U.S. has been built by assorted entrepreneurs who see a quick profit if it is used and a loss if it is not used. It has been built as cheaply as possible with few, if any shut off valves in case of leaks. These people have contributed to the Republican Party campaigns and expect a return for the investments.

There is also the question of responsibility if or when a leak occurs. Is it the company in Canada that is shipping this toxic muck with the consistency of toothpaste or is it the owner of that particular section of pipeline that is responsible for the damage caused by the leak? I have the feeling that everyone will be blaming everyone else and that the local or federal government will end up being responsible for whatever possible repairs that can be applied. It could take years for the courts to determine responsibility and by then the person or group will apply for bankruptcy. Certainly no one who is adamantly arguing for the pipeline will take responsibility for their decision. It could take years for the courts to determine responsibility and by then the person or group will have disappeared. Certainly no one who is adamantly arguing for the pipeline will take any responsibility for their decision. Or to put it more simply it is the taxpayer who will in the last analysis foot the bill for whatever can be done to bring conditions back to where they were before the leaks.

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What I visualize from all this is a basic feeling of spite that a goodly section of the Republican Party has for Barak Obama. It and the rage that accompanies it is a bit psychotic. They blindly hate the President and strongly feel that anything he does or wants is wrong for no other reason than he desires it. Their opposition is based upon hate. How dare a black man oppose them since they now control the Congress! It will be fascinating watching the next two years unfold. Unfortunately a goodly percentage of the population will suffer needlessly.

There will be other issues over the next two years. The Republicans mostly will meet them with fury and frustration. In fact if they get incensed enough they may again shut the government down by refusing to fund it or they may actively try to impeach the President.

By November of 2016 I’m sure the general public will have had a stomach full of Republican gridlock. The 2010 Congress passed the least legislation in the entire history of the existence of the United States Congress. Even far less than when the Congress used to meet in the 19th Century for three or four months a year. The 2012 Congress, not only shut down the government costing the Federal Government several billion dollars but they also passed a fraction of the legislation that the 2010 Congress passed. How much legislation will the new Congress pass. From some of the statements made by Republican congressmen the implication is that the Congress will spend the next two years investigating actions by the Democrats to ascertain if they have broken the law. We would seem to be in for two years of investigating committees all chaired by Republicans.

There is also the issue of the Internet: President Obama backs rules that would force broadband providers to treat all Internet Data the same, regardless of who produces it. The Republicans favor the opposite position. The President also in terms of immigration has agreed with the Chinese president to extend the length of current visas for businessmen, students, and tourists currently in the U.S.

Obama returned to the United States on Monday, November 17. To quote former President Harry S. Truman, “The manure will hit the fan” at that time and continue for the next two years. It should be interesting or horrible to watch.

The Weiner Component #103 – Is the United States Moving to Become an Autocracy?

U.S. Supreme Court building.

U.S. Supreme Court building. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For the last decade many articles have appeared in numerous newspapers and there have also been many comments made on TV about the disparity in salaries, increasing exponentially for the rich and wages being essentially static or barely going up for everyone else; that the economic upper class’s incomes have risen significantly while everyone one else’s have stayed largely frozen. This has been not just within the United States but also in the entire industrial world. If this continues throughout this century all these nations could end up at some point becoming autocracies with a small percentage of the population, the rich, ruling everyone else, and ruling them for their own benefit.

We could, in a sense, be going back in time to when the European states were ruled by autocrats, that is rule by the nobility. The nobility in the United States today are the very rich, the upper ten percent and the assorted companies and corporations that they control.

It is interesting to note that the United States in the post-Civil War period, from 1865 until the early 20th Century underwent a rapid industrial growth, essentially the Industrial Revolution. A number of small businessmen became multi-millionaires. This was the period of the “robber barons:” Rockefeller, Carnegie, Mellon, J.P. Morgan and many others; the so-called “400.” They had their hands in both the states and federal legislatures, freely using bribery, having or not having laws passed that benefited themselves. The Senate, which at that time was elected by the state legislatures, was considered a millionaire’s club, each major company, through bribery or otherwise, having its own man in that body. The U.S. was then largely ruled by the wealthy upper mercantile class for their own benefit.

What changed this was the Progressive Movement and the muckrakers. Initially there had been no laws regulating industry or urban growth. No regulations about employment of women and children, the length of the working day, safety rules at worksites, employer responsibility or sanitary or any other conditions in the rapidly growing cities. This was the time of the growth of urban centers from small towns to megalopolis.

The nation had gone from a rural country with relatively small cities to a society of giant urban areas and factories. Everything by the owners of industry was aimed at profit, nothing else seemed to matter. Wages were low, hours were long for six days a week, women and children worked these hours and days, slums abounded in these new cities, in many cases sanitary conditions were non-existent, and overall misery and disease abounded, particularly in summer seasons.

Gradually over several decades, up until World War I, laws and regulations were gradually passed regulating slum conditions, factory employment, and food production. The many monopolies and oligopolies were mostly broken up and became regulated by the government. Autocratic control by the wealthy became limited. The Constitution was amended and the Senate became elected directly by the voters.

It should be noted the every single health and safety law was passed because of abuses. The ages and hours for working children and women became limited, safety rules were introduced into both the factories and slum housing making the owners responsible for mishaps, and working hours became eventually limited to 40 and days to five. The list goes on and on.

By 1914 the United States had become mostly an urban nation. We had a small upper class, a growing middle class and a large lower class. The upper class, the autocrats still exercised a large amount of influence in the running of the country.

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Today we are again in a period of autocratic growth with the wealthy getting richer and everyone else’s income being frozen or shrinking in the face of a very slow inflation. For the last decade or more compensation for executives and successful entrepreneurs have at least doubled or trebled while wages for middle class workers have remained static or shrunk. For the lower class, essentially unskilled worker the minimum wage has remained at $7.25 an hour for the last seven years. CEO’s salaries are in the millions while at the bottom of the economic scale a worker takes home $290 before withholdings.

Inflation has generally been below 2%; but over a decade that is well over a 10% increase in the cost of living. The result is that even though most people are earning as much or slightly more than they did earlier the money is buying a lot less. It cost considerably more to live in terms of food, housing, and transportation. This has actually caused a slowing down of the GDP. People buy less because they have less.

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While people like the Koch Brothers of Kansas, whose holdings mostly in the oil industry is over 41 billion dollars each, spend well over 200 million dollars a year on causes enhancing their businesses and their far-right beliefs. They are just two of a host of billionaires or corporations that are spending billions each year to sensitize the public to their largely self-interested causes.

Through the use of money the billionaires and their Republican allies by limiting the voting franchise, particularly to Blacks, Latinos, college students, and other minorities in states where the Republicans control the governorship and legislatures they have been able to successfully espouse their agendas.

In Texas for the 2014 Midterm Election the Republican legislature and the Republican governor have been able to require certain types of identification that many registered poor Blacks and Hispanics do not have. There is a cost to getting these IDs which according to a Supreme Court Justice is tantamount to paying a pole tax in order to vote. This excluded over 500,000 registered Democrats, about six percent of the voting population, from being able to cast their ballot in the November Midterm Election.

The candidates to the governorships and state and federal legislatures need endless amounts of money to both run their campaigns and stay in office. It is in this fashion that the wealthy gain and maintain control of the government. The Koch Brothers, for example, who control oil pipe lines, oil refining, and oil wells, have themselves and through legislators they have funded and control, attempted to get laws passed making use of the green energies illegal. They seem to see the nation as existing for their benefit.

It is into this milieu that the wealthy have and are gaining more and more control over Congress and the means of communication. Millions of dollars are coming into important state elections which strongly help determine who the governors and senators will be, what initiatives and referendums will pass. The Republicans feel they will retain, with the current gerrymandering of electoral districts, control of the House of Representatives and that they will also gain control of the Senate by adding six additional Republican Senators. The origins of much of this out of state money does not have to be disclosed. This has happened.

What we are seeing is an ever-rising level of autocratic control of our government. What we are moving toward is a concept of: Even though all men are created equal, some Men are created ever more equal than the rest. This has been the result of the 2014 Midterm Election. Will it continue in 2016, the next Presidential Election?

English: First page of Constitution of the Uni...

The Weiner Component #102 – American Greed

Bank of America Merrill Lynch

One of my wife’s favorite TV programs, which is on CNBC practically every day when the stock market reports are over, is American Greed. The programs are generally similar in that some individual has devised a scheme to get naïve and greedy small time investors to buy shares of whatever he is selling and has raised several to numerous millions of dollars that has enabled him to live well until he is caught by some government agency. After that justice is served by sending him to jail and returning what little is left of the funds that were invested to the original investors. My wife tends to record these and watch them at her leisure.

My wife has asked me numerous times to watch the programs with her. My response has always been that I can’t take the program seriously since the major perpetrators of American Greed never appear in any of those programs. These are the banks, particularly the larger ones in the United States.

On Monday, August 21, 2014, the Bank of America agreed to pay 16.65 billion dollars in cash and consumer aid as a penalty to the Department of Justice, certain federal agencies like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and six states. This was for selling flawed mortgage securities to government agencies and others in the run-up to the Real Estate Crash of 2008. This is presumably the last of the penalties that Bank of America will have had to pay. She had previously been fined for a number of illegal activities in the billions of dollars.

To be fair other major banks had broken the law and have had, also, to pay massive fines; but not as massive as those of Bank of America. In November of 2013 JP Morgan Chase, the biggest bank in the United States, paid a 13 billion dollar settlement to the Justice Department over a string of investigations into home loan bonds between 2005 and 2008. The CEO, Jamie Dimon, felt it was unfair because the settlement dealt mostly with Washington Mutual and Bear Stearns, banks that JP Morgan Chase had taken over. But the same point can be made for the Bank of America. In 2008 it took over Countrywide Financial Corporation, once the largest mortgage lender in the country, and six months later incorporated Merrill Lynch & Company.

In June of 2014, France’s biggest bank, BNP Paribas, paid 8.97 billion dollars to U.S. authorities for violating sanctions against Iran, Cuba, and Sudan. In June of 2014 Citigroup was labeled “egregious” by the U.S. attorney general, Eric Holder, following an agreement to pay 7 billion to settle an investigation into toxic mortgage products the bank sold up to 2008. In May 2014 Credit Suisse admitted that it illegally helped Americans evade paying taxes and it paid a fine of 2.6 billion dollars. In December of 2013 Deutsche Bank settled a lawsuit with the U.S. Federal Housing Finance Agency for 1.9 billion dollars over mortgaged backed securities. In December 2012 HSBC was found guilty by U.S. prosecutors of “blatant failure” to implement anti-money laundering controls and flouting U.S. sanctions. The bank paid 1.9 billion to settle allegations it allowed terrorists to move money around the financial system. In February of 2014 Morgan Stanley agreed to pay 1.25 billion dollars to settle claims that it sold faulty mortgages to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. In June of 2014 Atlanta based Sun Trust Banks paid 968 million dollars in fines after settling allegations of abusive mortgage practices. In July of 2014 UBS paid 885 million dollars in a settlement with U.S. regulators that the Swiss bank misrepresented mortgage backed bonds. In January 2013 ten banks and financial institutions, including Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, and Wells Fargo, agreed to settle claims of foreclosure abuses for 8.5 billion dollars. In 2014 Wells Fargo faced a number of class action lawsuits about abusive overdraft charges.

There are, of course, innumerable other settlement and cases that have gone through the courts and some that are still working their way through the judicial system. Examples are Wells Fargo agreed on settlement with Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae and also into a decriminalization settlement against Blacks and Hispanics. On July 25, 2014 Citigroup settled mortgage inquiry for 7 billion dollars. These and other settlements are in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

What struck me in 2009, during the period of the bank bailouts by the Obama Administration was that Kenneth Lewis, the then CEO of Bank of American vociferously complained that President Obama would not let the banks use U.S. Government bailout money for executive bonuses. In effect he said that the Bank of America would pay off its loans quickly so that the bank could again have complete control over its actions.

No doubt he felt that he deserved several additional millions of dollars in compensation for bringing the bank to the state it was in. The value of their stock has dropped considerably from what it was prior to the 2008 Crash. B of A then paid a dividend of four cents per share per year, that’s a penny a share for each quarter. Today it pays six cents per share a year, that’s a penny and-a-half each quarter.Since paying the U.S. Government back it has again been giving large bonuses to it executives.

On all these settlements large fines and penalties were paid by the offending institutions but no one went to prison. In the American Greed series the guilty perpetrator after scamming assorted millions from his hopeful but unsuspecting victims is always discovered, tried, heavily fined and sent to prison. This, so far, has not happened in any of these banking frauds which almost totally destroyed the American economy.

Will all these financial institutions and their executives continue these practices, paying high fines when they are caught? An interesting question! If money is the only penalty and the banks and their executives continue with millions and billions of dollars in profit after the fines are paid then why should they ever stop these practices?

The U.S. Attorney’s Office is currently preparing a civil fraud case against the former CEO, Angelo Mozilo, of Countrywide Financial, the largest former mortgage lender in the United States, which is now part of Bank of America. He formally paid a settlement of 67.5 million dollars to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Twenty million of that was paid by the Bank of America and Mozilo paid the rest. That left him with well over one hundred million dollars. He could be the first of the criminals sent to jail.

What emerges here is that this for profit banking system of the U.S. engenders phenomenal American greed among its executive class. In fact this greed exists on an international level. Anyone placed in a position where he controls part of or all of the money system of a country it seems will take advantage of his situation.

The banking system in the U.S. almost destroyed the American economy in 2008. The major banking institutions of the nation gradually went berserk in their race for profits, mostly driving themselves to the point of bankruptcy. If the U.S. government had not stepped in with massive loans many of the banks would have gone under and the entire money system of the country would have been slowed to a trickle, creating a system far worse that the Great Depression of 1929. We probably would have hit over 50% unemployment and the country would have gone to a semi-subsistence level.

This type of situation can be avoided in the future by properly enforcing the laws and sending a large number of these perpetrators to prison. It can also be avoided by changing the banking system from one that exists for profit to one that exists for the public good. This can be done by changing the laws to allow the Federal Reserve to operate directly with the public. The twelve Federal Reserve Districts need to be able to open federal lending and commercial banks within their areas. This may take a bit of time to get organized but it will create a safe banking system within the nation and create a milieu where major recessions and depressions can be avoided by government financial action and control.

Bank of America Tower

Bank of America Tower (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Weiner Component #101 – Democracy & The Vote

English: Logo of the Democratic Party of the U...

On Tuesday, November 4th the people of the United States will vote in the Midterm Election of 2014. What they, as a majority, decide in each state will determine what happens in the country over the next two years and even possibly beyond that time.

The Founding Fathers, when they established the United States set aside the funds from a section of all government land sold to be used to set up public schools. They believed that an educated electorate would vote intelligently and elect the best possible people for public office. Unfortunately over the years life and politics have gotten quite complicated and many people do not have the time and inclination to delve into the issues and vote intelligently. As a result of this we have the thirty second or less adds on TV, both being generally a fountain of misinformation and also telling people how to vote.

Today we have two major parties and a number of minor ones that may or may not exist in all 50 states. The largest political party is the Democratic Party. It has the most members but is not as aggressive as the Republican Party which also is better financed and represents mainly the upper echelon of the country. The Republican Party includes a good percentage of the top 20% of the population and also tends to contain the evangelical element within the society. They can be at any economic level going from poverty to super-rich. Together they are well less than 50% of the population, probably from 30 to 40%.

In the states where the Republicans have been successful, controlling both the legislature and the governorship they have both gerrymandered the voting districts in 2010 and attempted also to pass voter restriction laws to limit the voting of non-Republicans. They have been partly successful. The probability is that if the electoral process had been truly democratic President Obama would have gotten a much larger vote in 2012. As it was, in that year, the Democrats cast 125,000 more votes than Republicans for members of the House of Representatives but the Republicans were able to win the majority in the House through gerrymandering, adjusting the voter districts in the states they controlled so they would come out ahead.

The third largest group is the independents; people belonging to no political party. These people don’t trust any of the political parties. Then, but not necessarily in order of size, there are the Libertarian Party, the Green Party, and the Peace and Freedom Party. There are also the American Elect Party and the American Independent Party. We probably have a few more that are limited to a small number of states.

Not all political parties are represented in all 50 states. In the United States we have 50 plus separate elections. One in each state and in the territories and other areas the Federal Government controls. Each state sets its own general rules for the elections. They are not always fair and reasonable.

People vote for candidates and referendums and initiatives. The candidates are easy. One votes either by party or for the candidate he or she prefers. The referendums are propositions passed by the state legislature, whereby the legislators want the people to assume responsibility for particular measures or for amendments to the state or Federal Constitution. Initiatives are potential laws that have been issued after a voter signing process. They are done by individuals or groups. An example in California would be Proposition 13, passed in 1979, which lowered all property taxes in the state. This was put through essentially by a landlord’s association.

The meanings of these referendums and initiatives is another matter entirely. In many cases one has to take time reading them to fully understand them. Sometimes a No vote can mean yes or a yes vote can mean no. One has to be careful and read them thoroughly.

The ballots tend to be long, particularly on Presidential Election Years. For example: being a Midterm Election the current California ballot is only five pages. It contains thirty-nine items. The first ten deal with political party entries, starting with the governor and ending with who will be a Member of the State Assembly. Here the political party each person belongs to is listed with their name. Nonpartisan offices follow. There are twenty-four of these, going from different levels of judges through the Director of the Municipal Water District. We have the Governing Board of the local school district and the City Council of the local city. After that comes the referendums and the initiatives. On this ballot there are six of them, two referendums and three initiatives. There is also one Legislative Constitutional Amendment. The last three items deal with county issues.

The Referendums often deal with long term financing and taxing issues. The legislatures wants the public to approve state financing and their own tax increases. The initiatives deal with issues deemed important by specific groups.

There is a pamphlet that was sent to the voters explaining Proposition 1: State of California Water Bond, Funding for Water Quality, Supply, Treatment, and Storage Projects. It explains the referendum and ends with an argument for the proposition and one against it. These pamphlets are sent out several weeks before the election with a sample of the ballot.

Proposition 2 is a Legislative Amendment to the State Constitution: State Budget. Budget Stabilization Account. This referendum requires the state to set up a reserve fund in good financial years that can be used in lean times. This has been a pet project of Governor Brown since he was elected to office.

Proposition 45 is an initiative statue: HealthCare Insurance Rate Changes. This will require among other things approval from the Insurance Commissioner for insurance companies to facilitate rate increases. It gives state officials the authority to deal with the issue.

Proposition 46 is also an initiative which deals with drug and alcohol testing of doctors and raising the current fixed rate in medical negligence lawsuits to $250,000.

Proposition 47 is an initiative that deals with Criminal Sentences and Misdemeanor Penalties. My position on this initiative is expressed in The Weiner Component #92 – The American Prison System.

Proposition 48 is an Indian Gaming Compact. A   Referendum that requires the approval of the voters of California. It allows two tribes whose reservations are on unusable land to open their own casinos outside of the reservation. The legislature has approved the referendum; the voters have to make the final decision by a yes or no vote.

There are also local city and county matters that need to be voted on.

Registering to vote can be done online with the online form Register to Vote.(list your state abbreviation).gov). Voter registration applications are also available at most post offices, public libraries, city and county government offices, and from the State Secretary of State’s office. In order to receive the voter literature a person should be registered at least a month prior to the election.

A democracy is supposed to be a society where the will of the majority determines what the government does. Each vote should be, more or less, equal. This has not happened over a number of years. The wealthy have been able to predominate. It is time for the government to again become the instrument of the majority.

VOTE.

The Weiner Component #100 – Elections USA

English: United States Supreme Court building ...

English: United States Supreme Court building in Washington D.C., USA. Front facade. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the First Amendment prohibits the Federal Government from restricting political independent expenditures by billionaires, corporations, associations, and labor unions. Money could now be limitlessly spend by these entities because money is now just another expression of free speech even though every other Democratic power in the world limits political expenditures.

The First Amendment to the Constitution states that Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. 

It was in this Amendment to the Constitution that a majority of members of the Supreme Court suddenly discovered that the expenditure of money was simply an expression of free speech.

Under this principle the more money you have and are willing to spend the freer and more equal is your speech.

Every other Democratic country strongly limits the amount of money that can be spent on elections but in the United States it is now almost limitless.

Interestingly, The Federalist Papers, was a series of eighty-five short essays, published in 1787 – 1788 explaining the Constitution and written by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay prior to the vote on it in the colony of New York. These documents are considered the basic definition of the Constitution by men who participated in writing it. Nowhere in any of these essays is freedom equated with money. This discovery is solely that of the current five conservative members of the present day Supreme Court.

Of the original purposes of the United States Constitution the fifth one is to “promote the general Welfare” of the people. The issue of how this is done becomes extremely fascinating.

Congress makes the laws, the President administers them, and the Supreme Court defines both the laws and the Constitution. Nine Justices make up the body of this court; and they are each appointed by the sitting President, when a vacancy occurs through death or retirement, with the “advice and consent” of the Senate, for life.

Since its inception in 1788 there have been two approaches to ascertaining the meaning of the Constitution. One has been a strict interpretation of what it specifically says and the other is a loose interpretation of its intent.

For example: Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States, believed in a strict interpretation of the Constitution but when the French Emperor, Napoleon Bonaparte, offered to sell him the territory of Louisiana, which would double the size of the new United States, for the sum of 15 million dollars he instantly approved it even though he felt there was no authority in the Constitution to do this. Later the Supreme Court decided that the President had that authority through the treaty provision in the Constitution.

To Jefferson, time was of essence if the deal was to be made that would allow yeoman farmers to be able to have land to freely settle upon for well over the next hundred years and he had to act quickly. Practicality won out over principle.

Of the nine justices on the Supreme Court currently five are conservative and traditionally taking a strict interpretation of the Constitution and four are considered liberal and their reading of the document tends to be loose, dealing more with intent than the specific word.

In the 2009 case of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission the role of the nine justices have been reversed with the conservative judges taking a loose interpretation and the liberal ones supporting a strict view of the Constitution. If one conservative vote were changed the decision would be the opposite of what it is.

In the 2013 case of McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, which was decided in early April of 2014, the Court by a five to four vote invalidated aggregate contribution limits as violating the First Amendment. The Court found no merit in arguments calling for a level playing field or to evening the financial resources available to candidates. It concluded that “The First Amendment prohibits such legislative attempts to fine-tune the electoral process, no matter how well intentioned.”

The five conservative justices have taken a paternalistic view, apparently figuring that the wealthy have a larger stake in the country than ordinary people and ought to have more influence in making societal decisions. They have actually abrogated a good part of the concept of democracy allowing the rich far more influence than everyone else. And all this by one vote on the Supreme Court.

Of the five conservative judges who voted in McCutcheon v. FEC, one, Clarence Thomas, concurred but wrote a separate decision. He wanted all restrictions upon financial contributions done away with.

A separate argument can be made to limit financial political contributions based upon the police power of the state. No right that any individual or group has is unlimited, the basic principle here is providing for the common welfare; that is, essentially leveling the field for all.

Currently two of the conservative justices are over seventy years of age, one liberal justice is over eighty. Within at least the next decade one or more of these judges will retire or become deceased. If the sitting president is Democratic a liberal justice will be appointed. If it is a Republican president the judge will be conservative.

Also if the Senate is to support a Democratic president they must have a majority of 60 or more votes. Otherwise, the probability is that the Republicans will filibuster all Democratic candidates for the Supreme Court, leaving one or more vacancies regardless of who the Democratic chosen candidate is.

What emerges here is if you disagree with the above decision then it is imperative to vote in all the oncoming elections, both presidential and midterm.

It should also be noted that every Hispanic, or for that matter anyone who usually votes and does not in the 2014 Midterm Election, is indirectly casting a vote for the Republican Party and weakening the Democratic position. These votes can strongly affect the Supreme Court if the then president is a Republican.

Many Latinos are disgusted with both major political parties feeling that President Obama has not carried through on his promises to solve the immigration problem. The President can issue executive orders but he cannot make laws. This is done by Congress. President Obama has issued a positive executive order concerning Hispanic children who were brought to this country as youngsters. He has issued none about other immigration issues. What he can do is Constitutionally limited. No doubt the President is waiting to see the result of the 2014 Election.

In many of the states like Georgia, which has a hot Senate and gubernatorial race with both sides running neck in neck in the poles, every Democratic vote is important. This is also true in states like California, Nevada, and Colorado, as well as many other states in the United States.

Remember every person who does not bother to vote is actually casting a ballot for the opposite party.

English: First page of Constitution of the Uni...

English: First page of Constitution of the United States Česky: První strana originálu Ústavy Spojených států amerických Español: La página primera de la Constitución de los Estados Unidos de América (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Weiner Component #99 – Stealing the Vote

During most of the 19th Century the United States was a Caucasian country with a Black slave minority and a very small Black free population. The 13th Amendment to the Constitution on January 31st 1865 freed the slaves and the U.S. suddenly had a mixed population with the Whites still in the majority but with all male adults legally able to vote. This continued until 1876 when the Northern armies withdrew their military forces from the Southern states that had rebelled against the Union and brought about the Civil War. From this point in time on the Southern Whites regained control of their states by a series of legal and illegal acts. Two popular ones were lynchings and the pole tax. The first instilled fear in all Blacks and the second, a requirement to pay a small tax in order to vote, was retroactive, the tax kept increasing with every election. In order to vote a man had to pay for every election that he had missed. Systematically Southern blacks tended to lose the right to vote. In the Northern ghettos this was done in other ways such as literacy tests.

In 1965 the Voting Rights Bill was finally passed after numerous earlier attempts had failed. This bill finally gave everyone the right to vote, both male and female, did away with the pole tax and literacy tests. This did not mean that everyone voted, one still had to register and many people didn’t bother or it was made very difficult for certain groups. The legislation was passed at that time as a sort of memorial to the late President John F. Kennedy who also had it on his agenda before his assassination. Versions of this bill had been attempted since the Administration of Eisenhower and had always died or been watered down with amendments to make them meaningless, mostly by Southern Democrats. It was passed in 1965 by votes of both Democrats and Republicans. The Southern Democrats adamantly had opposed it.

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Initially the country had been populated by immigrants from Western Europe with indentured servants who had to serve for a period of time: five to seven or ten years before becoming free. These were mostly Western Europeans and some Blacks. Eventually the Western European disappeared as indentured servants and the Blacks became slaves, who served for life.

The influx of immigrants throughout the 19th Century came from Western Europe. By the early 20th Century a larger and larger percentage came from Southern and Eastern Europe. From the 1920s through the end of World War II immigration was based up a quota system, with unlimited numbers able to come from Western Europe and small quotas from Southern and Eastern Europe. Chinese and Japanese had been needed for labor but were not allowed citizenship. Their children, however, were born in this country and were automatically citizens.

Throughout this period the WASPs: White, Anglo, Saxon, Protestants made up the bulk of the American population. They largely controlled most of the levels of government, particularly the upper level of the Federal Government. In fact, the first and only non-Protestant, a Catholic, elected to the presidency was John F. Kennedy.

The civil rights movement of the 1960s led to the replacement of the ethnic quotas with per country limits. From that point the number of first-generation immigrants had quadrupled. The numbers went from 38 million in 1970 to approximately 38 million in 2007. Nearly 14 million entered the country from 2000 to 2010. In point of fact according to the Census Bureau’s population clock, counting births, deaths, and immigration, an additional individual enters the U.S. every 11 seconds.

Most of the immigrants entering the United States since 1965 have been from Latin America and Asia changing the overall makeup of the citizenry. Initially, as we’ve seen, the majority of the population was Caucasian, white. With this new influx these statistics have changed. The Caucasian population is no longer the majority. It is now one of the minorities. No one race or ethnic group today represents 50% or more of the population. And this is very troublesome to the former majority. Many of them now feel themselves threatened by the rest of the population.

The current majority on the Supreme Court consist of five conservative male Caucasians. Their recent decisions on voting rights and the level of expenditures on political campaigns and issues have tended to strengthen their group within the society.

The Republican or conservative political party within the nation appears now to be the party of the White male minority. They are spending far more money on elections of both candidates and issues than the Democratic Party can afford and they are far more aggressive. Also they refuse to accept responsibility for anything and they blame everything, including, it seems, Ebola, upon the Democrats.

The Republican Party is actually the minority party within the United States. They have since 2011 controlled the Congress by controlling the House of Representatives. They have extended the 2008 Recession, which they engendered, blaming it on the Democrats. They have made the current Congress the least popular in the entire history of the United States. In essence they are a minority attempting the position of the majority and refusing to compromise for the good of the country on virtually any issue.

Eventually in two or six or ten or more years they will change or be voted out of existence; but in this time period a goodly percentage of the population will undergo all sort of economic and other miseries. The irony of this situation is that many of the people undergoing these negative conditions belong to their group.

With the 2014 Midterm Election coming up they are and have been engaged in a myriad of ways to reduce the Democratic vote. The Republican Secretary of State in Kansas is claiming that 22,000 new voters did not properly register to vote. In Georgia 50,000 new registration applications somehow got lost. The Republican Secretary of State, after being sued, seems to have located them and is insisting that they were never lost. However the court case is continuing and will be heard on Friday October 31st, trick or treat day. In both these states the poling is essentially tied for the leading state positions.

In Texas the cost of getting the proper identification to register to vote was defined by a Federal judge as the equivalent of a pole tax and declared unconstitutional. However the Supreme Court, at practically the last minute, overturned this voter ID decision. The Court has denied emergency requests from the Obama Administration and other groups who said that this law harmed voting rights. On Saturday, October 18th, just two weeks before the Midterm Election the Supreme Court by a 6 to 3 vote declared the law constitutional. It is estimated that this law will prevent up to 5% of the state’s registered voters, or about 600,000 people from casting a vote. The majority of the disenfranchised will be Blacks and Hispanics who generally tend to vote for the Democratic Party.

In Florida and some other Republican controlled states thousands of people have been arbitrarily removed from the voting list as being dead or having moved without any documentation that this is true. Registration has been made very difficult in these Republican dominated states. College students in some of these voting districts now can only vote in their parent’s place of residence. This will limit those who are away at college and generally tend to vote Democratic. Virtually anything they could think up the Republicans have attempted to use to limit the vote

This is all the attempt of a minority trying to control the majority and bend them to their will. It certainly is not how a democracy is supposed to function. How much longer will the country tolerate it? There is no excuse for any group trying to steal the vote.

The Weiner Component #98 – Income Inequality

Income inequality and mortality in 282 metropo...

Income inequality and mortality in 282 metropolitan areas of the United States. Mortality is correlated with both income and inequality. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The United States and, for that matter, most industrial nations are today facing numerous major problems, economic and otherwise, that can and will definitely affect their futures negatively if they are not, more or less, solved in the near future.

According to the World Economic Forum: the gap between the rich and the poor is one of the major global risks we face today. The upper ten percent of most of these countries are expeditiously getting richer while the rest of the populations are either maintaining their level of income or finding it continually decreasing. How long can these conditions continue until the consumer base can no longer purchase the goods and services needed to reasonably survive and violence erupts from the level of subsistence more and more people find themselves living. The 21st Century could be bloodier than the 20th Century. The coming depressions could be deeper and far bitterer than that of 1929, the Great Depression of the 20th Century.

Over the last year or so in the United States many food prices have risen significantly, particularly the cost of many protein products have gone up 20 to 45 percent. Meanwhile the minimum wage remains at $7.25 an hour and has been at that level for the last five years. Someone with a family earning that much and working a full forty hour week needs government aid to survive. This is true even if his wife is also earning that much.

In order for this family to survive it has to be subsidized by federal and state entitlement programs which the taxpayers subsidize. One can say that a percentage of companies like Walmart’s profits, are indirectly supplied by the taxpayers.

Rand Paul, a hopeful presidential candidate for 2016, who like his father, is essentially a libertarian, in a recent interview, stated that to raise the minimum wage would be to increase the level of unemployment in the United States. Here someone who is opposed to government interference in the marketplace is supporting a system that is ultimately socialistic, with the government paying the difference between the family earnings and what is needed for survival.

Of course the overall Republican attitude toward all entitlement programs, like payments to the unemployed and aid to dependent children, is to reduce these government programs. They seem to want to bring about more privation than already exists.

I fail to understand the thinking here. These people are loudly and dramatically supporting a system that they adamantly oppose, indirect government support of the marketplace. It would seem that the Republicans are totally ignorant of some of the basic principles of economics; they cannot think far enough ahead to realize that they are espousing socialism, having the government provide for people, by their definition of a free marketplace. Wouldn’t it be easier to raise the minimum wage to a level where people can earn enough to pay for their family’s basic needs without needing to apply for government help?

Another interesting area pertains to student college loans. It is estimated that student loan debt has surpassed one trillion dollars.   Approximately three of every five college students have taken out student loans in order to pay for their tuition and books. These loans are strung out over their university career and have to be paid back after they graduate. The average college graduate has over $26,000 in student loan debt at graduation.

Many students can end up owing many more thousands of dollars at a good rate of interest which they generally have to begin paying back six months after graduation. It can, in many cases, take a decade or more to repay these loans and the interest charged on them, in some cases it can be even longer. Even if the ex-student declares bankruptcy it is practically impossible to have the college loan removed from his/her record.

People like Senator Elizabeth Warren have tried to reduce the interest rates but Republicans have refused to go along and support such legislation. I remember one such legislator commenting publically that the interest rate can’t be reduced because the government needs the money. This, of course, is pure idiocy because it means that whole generations of former college graduates have to wait years before they can afford to marry or otherwise start their lives. They have to spend their early work years for a decade or more paying back their college loans. But even more than that it also means that these young people will not really contribute to the economic growth of the nation unit they have freed themselves from debt.

There is in economics a principle called the multiplier effect. This means that money spent in the society tends to be spent numerous times. The amount, for example, that I spend at the supermarket is spent again as salaries or for the purchase of more goods, which, in turn, is spent as rent or a mortgage payment by the employee who receives it. It can then pay for the bank’s utilities or be used as salaries, and so on. The money is spent over and over again until it becomes part of the natural flow of currency creating for the GDP up to six or eight times the original amount. This principle also works in the reverse, negatively, on monies not spent. Dormant or non-spent funds can subtract six to eight times their initial amount from the GDP. All the ex-student payments to their college loans have this effect on the GDP, not allowing it to grow as it would if these people did not have this debt. The overall effect of the payment of these loans actually shrinks the GDP.

From comments made by a House of Representatives Republican and by the minority leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, the young college graduates rather than the upper 10 or 20% of the population are needed to help fund the government. Their paying the interest on their college loan debts will importantly help the government financially. The concept is inane. Interest on the debt should be mostly reduced or completely done away with. Having the ex-students spend their earnings on goods and services that will allow them to live in a positive and normal fashion will most aid the nation by adding to the GDP. Their welfare adds to everyone’s welfare and the monies they pay in taxes will exceed what they have to pay on their college loans.

By succeeding in completing college they put themselves on an earning level far greater than they would earn as high school graduates. The government has actually invested in them and the return over their lifetimes will be far greater than the cost of their education. This is a good argument for actually forgiving the loans. People invest their money to make a profit; so does government in its population with the use of taxes.

To get back where we started, the ever increasing gap between rich and poor is one of the biggest problems currently existing within the United States. The Congress is largely at a state of gridlock with the Republicans actually continuously trying to pass legislation to expand the economic space between the two groups. And, of course, many of the conditions causing this problem already exist in law. The conservative right in Congress will allow no reform of archaic legislation, some of which was passed during World War II to encourage oil production. Unless there is change this country will eventually find itself a second rate nation with a largely growing unemployed poor not able to afford the basic needs of survival.

The oncoming Midterm Election can help or worsen already negative conditions. The people of the United States will decide our immediate future. If they don’t vote or do vote for the conservative Republicans they will be asking for continued gridlock in Washington and continued misery for many of themselves and the rest of the population. It will be interesting to see what happens!