The Weiner Component #86 – Retirement & Budgeting Through Life

Many people put themselves in an uncomfortable position when they retire, if they retire. They can no longer afford their former cost of living. Their retirement, be it social security or a private fund or a combination of the two that they have contributed to throughout their working lives makes up their retirement; they have no other source of money. By maintaining what they consider their proper standard of living these individuals have not been able to save; they have essentially spent all they have ever earned. They have never applied any basic lessons of economics to themselves; seeing money throughout their lives only as a basic means of satisfying their needs and wants.

Money, income, can be divided into two categories: something to be used for living, pleasure and fulfillment of needs and desires or it can be used as a commodity, a means of earning more money.

To the upper 20% of the population, who have a surplus income, more money than they can reasonably spend, it is used in both ways. To most of the remaining 80% it tends to be utilized for the process of living. In fact, most of them will spend 110% of their incomes to maintain what they consider their proper standard of living. As a result they will always be carrying a certain amount of debt throughout their lives and never be able to find themselves getting financially ahead. Of course to the bottom rungs of society, the unskilled and homeless, they earn so little that what there is, is needed to just survive.

The United States is basically divided into classes; many of which can be divided into subclasses. There is the very rich, the upper 1%, who earn far more that they can possibly spend with incomes in the multimillions of dollars. Then there is the remaining 19% of the upper class with incomes in the low millions to the high hundreds of thousands. These people have no problem using money as both a commodity and for daily living.

Economically below is the middle class which consists of three categories. The upper middle class, the comfortable middle class; these are usually the college graduates; generally they consist of company management with salaries in the low hundreds of thousands of dollars. These are also the professionals: doctors, engineers, college professors and the like with specific occupations. The middle, middle class would be made up of college and non-college graduates, “the white collar” employees who have lower management positions and earn from over one hundred thousand dollars down. This group also includes successful “blue-collar” workers. Then comes the lower middle class which would be made up of a group similar to the above class but with lower salaries.

Next comes the lower class. This group is split into two parts: those earning an adequate income to more or less comfortably survive and the group living in the area of the minimum wage. The latter group generally needs government aid in the form of food stamps and rent controlled housing in order to properly survive. Finally there is the underclass, the people living in the streets, the homeless. A small percentage of these live in their cars; they do not earn enough, if they are employed, to pay for housing.

From the bottom up, through most of the middle class, these people spend everything they earn. In fact, most of them spend more than they earn; the society allows life to be lived on credit which can be paid off monthly or extended infinitely with interest. Consequently a lot of these people are in a position that will never allow them to retire. They will work until they are no longer able to do so. Also a goodly percentage of the bottom groups are either unmarried or divorced women with young children.

The major problem that most of these people face is budgeting. They have no idea how to do this and, as has been indicated, the overall society is oriented toward getting people to spend, to consume the goods and services produced and readily available.

Money is the means through which everything functions. It has no real value other than what is assigned to it by the society and this value is flexible, ever gradually changing. Its distribution to the population is determined by the various occupations its people have or through inheritance and ownership of the means of living and of production. People use it both to live and earn more money.

The society is geared to have people spend their money, even to a point of spending more than they have or are earning. Many big ticket items like automobiles or houses require installment purchasing. This includes not only necessary items but also adult toys like boats, and traveling mobile homes. Buy now and pay later is even carried to food and clothing purchases with credit cards. By and large a whole segment of the society’s lives are based upon credit purchasing. This has been carried in many cases to the point where the level of credit has been maxed out and the people are paying 18 to 21% interest virtually forever on five or ten or twenty thousand dollars’ worth of credit that they never seem able to reduce.

However a goodly part of the middle class by a conscious effort can put away a small percentage of their income which, over their working lifetime, can give them a fair to excellent increase in their retirement. It is just as easy to spend $900 a week as it is to spend $1,000, $600 as $550. A hundred dollars saved a week equals $5,200 a year. Fifty dollars saved a week is $2,600 a year. While these amounts may not seem like significant amounts that changes when thirty working years is added to each of them. Add either interest or growth from a safe investment and the individual has put away in excess of $156,000 or $78,000. At 3% interest add another $54,200 to the first sum and $26,100 to the second amount. This is probably the most conservative investment anyone can make on a long term savings account.

If the individual feels that he or she cannot afford this much in savings then skipping two fast food luncheons a week would provide ten dollars; that’s $40 a month or $2,080 for a 52 week year. This equals $62,400 for 30 working years with no interest. At 3% interest it would approximate $63,092. All of this is straight savings bank or credit union savings.

Probably most people, who want a decent retirement, have no self-control and use insurance. This is a popular means used by those who have no self-control; they do not have the ability to save or invest. Money to these people is only used to supply needs and pleasures. Whatever they have they spend.

The insurance industry is based upon gambling and for the people who own and control it, it is safer and more profitable than Los Vegas casinos are for their owners.

There are several types of insurance policies. One kind is term insurance. The individual is betting a small amount each month that he or she will die and the insurance company is betting that he or she will not die. The insurance company will pay out to the individual’s family $100,000 if he or she passes on. It keeps the small payment if they continue to live. The amount is usually set by a person’s age and the insurance company has actuaries that figure out how many people in that age group will die. For every $100,000 the insurance company pays out it keeps millions of dollars. This is term insurance.

Then there is life insurance. Here the individual pays in so much a month for the rest of their lives or until they are 65; and upon their death their family gets 15, 30, 50, 100, or whatever, thousand dollars. The premium of these policies also include term insurance which would cover the policy if the individual dies early.

There is also the life insurance annuity policy where there is life insurance and upon reaching the age of 65 the individual receives a monthly payment of several hundred dollars a month for the rest of his life. It doesn’t really matter how long he lives because the insurance company has made far more than they’ve paid out or will pay out from his payments. There are innumerable insurance plans or variations of plans but these are the major ones,

However a goodly number of the middle class, those with self-control, by a conscious effort can put away a small percentage of their incomes which, over their working lifetimes, can give them a fair to excellent increase in their retirement. It is just as easy to spend $900 a week as it is to spend $1,000 or $550 as it is to spend $600.

All of the methods of building a resource base shown so far are relatively safe. One can see their basic wealth slowly increase over one’s lifetime and have it eventually supplement their retirement income, whether it be social security, a government retirement plan, or a private retirement plan. This allows for comfortable unemployed years with a possible estate upon the demise of the individual.

There is another way to go. The more risk one takes the higher the possible rewards; but also the higher the risk of losing all or part of the money.

One method is the gradual purchase of properties. Usually property accrues in value over the years. If it is the purchase of a house for rental and there are continued tenants then they actually pay for increases in the owners’ equity. The problem is that in order for the property to be profitable the owner has to be a landlord with all the responsibilities of a landlord. Also if the house is not continually rented out the owner is still responsible for the monthly payment. Another advantage would be yearly tax benefits. And, of course, the house can always be sold.

How does this come about? One has to save his money until he have enough for a down payment on a property plus an emergency amount for unexpected occurrences.

One can build ownership in a large number of houses over a period of time in this fashion.

Another method to save for retirement would be the stock market. Here the risk increases considerably but with conservative long term purchases can be fairly safe.

A stock is one share of ownership in a company that has probably issued millions of shares of its stock in order to raise money. If the company makes a profit they may pay a dividend, usually quarterly. Many companies allow the recipients of their dividends to automatically reinvest their dividends into additional shares and will also allow them to invest small amounts in additional shares.

Perhaps one of the safest areas in which to invest is in utilities, gas and electric. These items are necessary for comfortable living; the companies have been around for a long time and will continue to be needed infinitely into the future. If anything they will be gradually expanding as populations expand. Also these stocks pay a reasonable dividend. The stock for these companies generally runs from $25 a share up to around $60. Just about all of them allow the owner to reinvest their dividends and buy additional shares with no fees. There is very little chance of one of them going out of business. One can buy 25 to 100 shares and build their portfolio from there.

The Bank of America pays a dividend per quarter of one cent per share; yearly, that is four cents. The stock cost about $14 to $15 a share. Apple, which currently is over $90 a share, paid no dividend through most of its history, then in the last few years ago it has paid a fairly large dividend. Microsoft also paid no dividend originally, then at some point it was embarrassed by having a war chest of 55 billion dollars, and began paying a dividend. They were still embarrassed and issued a one-time special dividend of $3.00 per share. Microsoft currently goes for about $40 a share. The stock for Marvel Enterprises at one point sold for $1.50 a share. They at first licensed some of their characters for films like the Spiderman series then began producing their own films. The value of the stock rose significantly, then split into two for one share and finally the company was taken over by Disney, who paid $30 a share plus ¾ of a share of Disney stock, making the value of one share of that stock today about $90.

An example of a growing stock would be Tesla Motors which produces all electric luxury cars that sell from $70,000 to $100,000. According to Consumer’s Union they are the safest automobile on the road. When the company went public in 2010 the stock could be bought for around $30 a share. Today in mid-2014 it costs over $200 a share.

With a single battery charge the Tesla today can go a little over 300 miles. They are currently in the process of building the largest battery factory in the world. In 2015 they will begin producing and selling an all-electric SUV. About two years further in the future they will be making a smaller less expensive electric sedan that will sell at a much lower price. They are also planning to eventually open factories in China and Europe. The probability is that the stock will go up to $300 to $500 a share in the next three to five years. Unfortunately 100 shares of the stock today is over $20,000.

Another growth stock, which is much more affordable, is the Empire State Realty Trust that came onto the market in October of 2014 at $13 per share. There are four separate designations for this stock. They are all equal and pay the same dividend. The stock is presently between $15 and $16 per share and has paid 8 1/2 cents a share in the last quarter and will gradually rise. Within two or three years the stock value should double or triple as the real estate upon which it is based increases in value. Currently the cost is about $1,500 to buy 100 shares of this stock, $750 for 50 shares.

These are random examples. One can make or lose money quite easily in the stock market. The latter is easier if one does not know what they are doing.

Stock has to be purchased through a broker. Most banks and credit unions have a division that deals with this. They charge a fee for the service that is determined by the extent to which they advise you. There are also stock brokers many of whom go by formulas by which they advise their customers. These may or may not work. The broker will generally charge you more than the bank or credit union. These people make a living by buying and selling stock. Their primary interest is earning money, you come second.

Hopefully this blog has some value and will give some people ideas on how to have estates of at least five or six figures when they retire.

 

The Weiner Component #85 – Health Care & the American Public

English: President Barack Obama speaks to a jo...

English: President Barack Obama speaks to a joint session of Congress regarding health care reform (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Tea Party rally to stop the 2010 health care r...

Tea Party rally to stop the 2010 health care reform bill in St. Paul, Minnesota The Tea Party people held a rally calling for the health care reform bill currently being considered in congress to be stopped. Republican U.S. representative Michele Bachmann was the guest speaker. The crowd was filled with signs and stickers for Bachmann and other Republican candidates. Signs read: Abort healthcare Abort Obama Save Our Country Republicans Weed Out Your Progressives (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Most industrial nations in the world today have some form of universal health care sponsored by their government and paid for by taxes. One of the few exceptions is the United States where it is and has been strongly opposed by the Republicans in Congress and in some state legislatures.

Today, in most nations, virtually everyone needs some form of health care. Those who are employed by reasonably sized companies and up generally have some form of medical insurance. The members of Congress and the state governments have some of the best plans available. The employed middle and upper classes are generally nicely covered. The poor and those working for low wages do not generally have medical coverage. Therefore those throughout the United States with no health insurance would be most of the bottom 20% of the population, around 18 to 20 million people.

Today everyone needs at least yearly checkups by the medical profession. There are too many people walking around with coughs and with what they consider minor problems. These people cannot afford medical treatment until their malady reaches a critical stage and they are forced to go to emergency care at a local hospital. Many of these emergencies could have been avoided with proper medical treatment. A number of these emergencies will end up with unnecessary deaths; treatment was too late.

How do we know this? Twenty percent of the people living in the poverty group will die ten years sooner than those living in middle or upper class groups.

I have a malady which is not uncommon and come to many in the older population. Without constant monitoring and treatment I would have died several years ago. With treatment I will live for another ten to twenty years.

William Jefferson Clinton was elected to the presidency of the United States in 1992. He served as 42 President from January 20, 1993 to January 20, 2001. His wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton led a group of Congressmen in the development of a National Health Care Reform Bill. Even though the Democrats were the majority party in both Houses of Congress for the first two years of the Clinton Administration the Republican Party was able to defeat the bill. Their slogan, which was eminently successful, was: “There has to be a better way.” The “Better Way” was no health reform. We seem to be in a similar position today except that the bill was passed into law four years ago and is more or less in operation today with the Republicans still demanding its extraction.

The Republicans are claiming that they will have a better and more comprehensible bill. But they have presented nothing so far. The irony of the situation is that the basic medical plan was developed by a far-right Republican think tank and first put into operation in Massachusetts by its then Republican governor, Mitt Romney.

The system is run by private business with the government setting the rules and supplying much of the money. Unlike what exists in other countries this system is largely run by private enterprise. Why, then, are the Republicans so against it? Could it be because it was inaugurated by a black president

The major problem which is being faced in a number of Republican run states is that, because of a Supreme Court decision, the governor of each state can accept or reject total medical coverage for all his citizens within his borders. The Federal Government will pay the total cost of this plan for the first three years. This is money that these states have already paid in taxes that they will be getting back. A number of Republican governors have refused to accept this expansion of Medicare for their poor citizens who have no medical coverage.

Why are they doing this? Are they standing on principle? These governors and their Republican legislators have very comprehensive coverage for themselves. Yet they are refusing it to the poor within their respective states. Rick Perry, the governor of Texas is doing this as well as a number of others. An argument can be made as to how this refusal will be hurting not only the people who will still have no medical coverage but also the economics of the respective states.

I understand that many if not most of these men are religious, good white, fundamentalist Christians. They believe in Judgment Day and the world to come. If they’re right, then they’ll have to explain why they breached the Holy Commandment: “Thou shalt not kill,” and take the punishment for that action.

 

 

Republican Elephant & Democratic Donkey - 3D Icons

 

The Weiner Component #84 – The Republicans & the American Infastructure

Franklin D. Roosevelt

Official portrait of United States House Speak...

The purpose of Congress in the United States is to serve the people, not to play politics. The Republicans in Congress are not carrying out their proper function. The American people deserve better. Either the Republican Congressmen have no knowledge of Macroeconomics or they are plain vicious, caring only for themselves and the welfare of heir party.

John Boehner, the Speaker of the House of Representatives has come out with statements to the effect that Harry Reed and the Senate Democrats have not picked up any of the job creation bills that the House of Representatives have passed. The question here is what job creation bills? The only ones that come to mind are the fifty bills they passed to do away with Affordable Health Care. They claim that this law is a job busting one. How, they never say.

The fact is that eight million plus people, many who have never before been able to afford medical insurance, now have health coverage. If anything, Obamacare has created more jobs in the medical field. Just the paper work involved would require many more clerks

I am reminded of one of President Roosevelt’s 1936 campaign speeches where he stated sarcastically the Republican position at that time. The Republicans wanted to be elected so they could administer the New Deal. They said, in effect, that they would do it better and there would be more of it. Boehner wants to get rid of Obamacare so they can pass a bill creating Boehner Care that would be better and include more medical coverage for everyone. Of course there are no details of what this bill would contain. Probably they would be as efficient in passing it as they are in solving the illegal immigrant problem or a minimum wage bill.

In 1929 it was Republican Administrations that brought the Great Depression into being. In 2008 it was also Republicans who had brought the Real Estate Bubble into existence. Now they are going to solve this problem by bringing back conditions that brought this situation about.

How do we know this? In the 2012 Presidential Election Mitt Romney, the Republican candidate, promulgated this plan. It was the Republican Platform. They acted as though there had never been an economic crash in 2008 during the Bush Republican Administration.

Everything the House of Representatives has done since it gained a Republican majority in 2011 has been aimed at exacerbating the conditions brought about by the Real Estate Disaster. They have not passed one jobs bill since that time. There has been no fiscal policy. Instead the House has shrunken government services, particularly to the poor, starting a chain reaction which forced state governments to do away with multitudes of state jobs. The Republicans have been hypocrites, saying one thing and doing the opposite. Paul Ryan has stated, in effect, that he would not feed a hungry person because the dependence would take his dignity away from him. Really!

What we need are programs to get rid of hungry, homeless people by providing jobs for them. Up to this point when we thought of the infrastructure of this country we believed how upgrading it would decrease unemployment in the United States and help bring prosperity to all its people. Isn’t it time to consider the actual needs of the nation? Going into the 21st Century with a 20th Century Infrastructure is just plain dumb. Most of our infrastructure was built well over fifty years ago and is outdated or inadequate.

Also, whether because of man’s abuses or for reason of natural changing conditions the weather patterns have and are changing and bringing phenomenal strain upon these structures. In the winter of 2013—2014 there were some radical changes in weather conditions within some areas of the United States. These changes or others like them, whether caused by natural climate changes or by pollution, could become normal in the future.

Temperatures dropped to 16 below zero in Chicago, during early January and set record lows across the eastern U.S. A fifth of all power generating capacity in a grid serving 50 million people went suddenly offline, as coal piles froze. Sensitive electrical equipment went haywire and utility operators had serious problems finding enough natural gas to keep power plants operating. The wholesale price of electricity jumped to more than forty-times its normal rate. The retail price became insane. One customer received a bill for $1,250 for January that was eventually reduced to $750. Another one with a $654 bill got no relief.

The problem with the cost of the electricity was the result of an antiquated grid and the pacific vortex, the cold air mass that settled over the nation. It exposed a growing fragility in the U.S. electricity grid. We need a modernization of the system or we are open to facing all sorts of emergencies in the near future.

The infrastructure is the basic facilities, services, and instillations needed for the proper functioning of the nation, such as communications and transportation systems, water and power lines, and public institutions including schools, post offices, and other needed public entities.

In April tornados hit sections of the central United States. Billions of dollars in property was damaged and destroyed. People were killed. The basic problem here is that the warning system is only fifteen minutes before the storm strikes. We have the knowledge and technology to do far better than that. Cities susceptible to these storms all need tornado warning systems and storm shelters. Since damage seems to be higher in mobile home parks these all need storm shelters. The cost of installing all this would not be that great and the savings in human lives would most likely be considerable.

Both urban and rural highways need constant maintenance. While constant construction does go on in some areas this does not occur. Also many highways are old, built decades ago, containing numerous pot holes and insufficient lanes. The population using them has increased considerably and improvements, if any, have been minimal. It’s time for a revamping of our nation’s roads and highways. We need a modern transportation system to supply the needs of today’s citizenry and to allow for rapid and easy movement of goods and people.

Public schools, both primary and secondary, in many cases were built during the first half of the 20th Century. They need to be refurbished or in some cases rebuilt so they can function as modern educational institutions. State colleges and universities also, in many cases, are dated structures. They need to be enlarged and modernized in order to serve the needs of today’s students.

Municipal, state, and federal buildings, proper and adequately built aqueducts to carry clean water to all the urban and rural areas of the country are needed. Most bridges in the country are over fifty years old. Some are in danger of collapsing; a section of one did a few years ago dropping several automobiles into the river. Luckily no one died.

At the rate we’re going most industrial nations will bypass the United States in their infrastructures.  Do we go forward with modernization or patch after each disaster?

 

 

 

 

The Weiner Component #83 – The Middle East & Ieaq

Nouri al-Maliki meets with George W. Bush.

 

Just before mid-June 2014 the Iraqi Shite Government had almost reached the point of total collapse.  Many of the soldiers holding the major city of Mosul threw down their weapons and their uniforms and deserted or fled.  The Sunni rebel forces were 70 miles north of Bagdad.  The Malaki Government seemed to be falling apart.

President Obama is examining the situation and has stated that all options are on the table but that he will not send troops back into the country. Senator John McCain is demanding that we send troops, which were withdrawn 2 1/2 year ago, and he does not want them to leave this time until we have won the war. Among other things he seems to have forgotten that it was President George W. Bush who signed a treaty with Iraq arranging for the withdrawal and he has not mentioned who we have to defeat in order to win the war.

(As a footnote: it seems the Republicans are willing to spend billions of dollars refighting Bush’s Iraq War but not one nickel on creating jobs in the United States or in rebuilding the U.S. infrastructure.)

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has essentially set up a Shite government, basically refusing to share power with the Sunnis. His “so called” democratic government, which was inadvertently set up under U.S. supervision, is a variation of the old Sunni dictatorship that Saddam Hussein ruled under. Maliki has and continues to rejected all U.S. attempts to reform his government and make it a real democracy.

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Prior to World War I the entire Middle East was part of the Ottoman Empire, which eventually became Turkey. They were a decaying medieval monarchy on the losing side. Shortly after the end of World War I (1918) the kingdom was divided up by the European allies as mandates, an anachronism for the colonies these states would rule. The boundaries were set arbitrarily for their convenience by the European victors with no real consideration being given to the people within these colonial nations. Neither ethnicity nor religious differences were considerations.

Shortly after World War II, most of these colonial countries, gained their independence either peaceably or through revolts and became sovereign nations. Generally they were now ruled either by absolute kings or military dictators. The boundaries were still those that the Europeans had imposed some thirty years earlier and they continue to exist today.

Iraq became a British mandate (possession). It includes most of Mesopotamia, bounded on the north by Turkey, on the east by Iran, on the south by Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, and on the west by Jordan and Syria. It has extensive oil deposits.

The kingdom of Iraq was established in 1923, becoming independent in October 1932 under King Faisal I. Actually it became a semi-independent state in alliance with Great Britain and, interestingly, was admitted into the League of Nations. Between 1950 and 1952 Iraq signed oil agreements with foreign oil companies and received 50% of the oil profits.   In 1953 Faisal II became the playboy king of the country.  In 1958 Iraq became a republic and the monarch was killed. In 1979 Saddam Hussein became Iraq’s president, succeeding and earlier dictator. On August 2, 1990 Iraq invaded Kuwait, an oil rich principality.

Prior to the Kuwait invasion President George H.W. Bush sent a plenipotentiary, a roving ambassador, to Iraq to meet with its president. Bush and his advisors had very little knowledge of Iraq and its culture or were overly arrogant. Bush sent a woman (presumably striking a blow for equal rights) and gave her general instructions but no real authority.

To Saddam Hussein the fact that a woman had been sent was both an insult and an indication that the mission was of little consequence to the United States. Apparently, obliquely he asked her what the U.S. response would be to an invasion of Kuwait. She equivocated giving Saddam the impression that there would be no real U.S. reaction. After she left the country Iraq invaded Kuwait. The U.N., under the leadership of the United States, engaged in operation Desert Storm. Bush was wise enough not to invade Iraq after the Iraqis had been pushed out of Kuwait.

Unfortunately his son did not inherit that same wisdom. George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld must have wanted a positive victory for the American People after 9/11. They felt the United States should have a great moral and political triumph. With virtually no knowledge of the Middle East, its people, culture and values they decided that an invasion of Iraq would be a win, win situation; that if we served as an international sheriff and invaded Iraq and got rid of its evil dictator, Saddam Hussein, both the Iraqis and the Americans would cheer the greatness of the U.S. Government, their administration.   Unfortunately they were wrong, it ended up being a lose, lose situation.

On March 20, 2003 the U.S. and Great Britain invaded Iraq. The Iraqis were never too pleased with having the United States occupy their country and wanted us to leave, eventually passing numerous resolutions in their Parliament to that effect and finally refusing to allow American forces to be exempt from their law and only under American law. On 2008 a “Status of Forces Agreement” was signed by Bush and Maliki. U.S. combat forces would withdraw from Iraqi cities by June 30, 2009 and all U.S. forces would be completely out of Iraq by December 31, 2011. Also any soldiers committing felonies or other heinous crimes would be subject to Iraqi law.

Bush left it to President Obama to enforce this agreement, which he obviously did to all sort of derogatory comments from Senator John McCain and other Republicans blaming him for the withdrawal.

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The Kurdish people, who make up about 32 to 37% of the population are located in the northeast along the Turkish border. The other half of their population is in Turkey north of Iraq. The W.W.I Europeans had split them into two roughly equal parts. On March 18, 1988 Iraq is believed to have used chemical weapons, poison gas, on the Kurds in a dispute with them. The Kurds have consistently wanted to form their own nation

Of the remaining population in Iraq there are two major Muslim groups. The Shi’a that makes up 60 to 65% of that population and the Sunni which consists of 32 to 37%. Both these groups came into existence in 632 A.D. when the religious founder, Mohamed, died. They spit over the question of political and religious succession. By and large the Shia live in the south of the country and the Sunni are in the north. Saddam Hussein was a Sunni Muslim while Nouri al-Maliki is a Shite.

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ISIS, Islamic State of Iraq and Syria has emerged as one of the major groups fighting the Assad regime in Syria. They want to set up a Sunni caliphate in both Syria and Iraq.

The group is one of the most violent if not the most violent of all the jihadists. It is considered one of the world’s most deadly and active terrorist organizations which frequently and indiscriminately attacks large public gatherings for maximum casualties. They are credited with kidnappings, disappearances, and torture of opponents. Their soldiers keep their faces covered at all times. Al Qaeda has expelled ISIS for being too violent.

To Western nations there is the fear that Syria could become the next Afghanistan, serving as a training ground for jihadists to operate all over the world.

The group has also cultivated support among ordinary Syrians by providing aid to needy people in the form of free medical services, bags of food for the needy and below market fuel. Their gifts are always branded with the group’s black flag.

On April 27, 2014 Iraq military helicopters attacked and destroyed an ISIS convoy of eight vehicles inside Syria. June 5, 2014 ISIS militants stormed the city of Samarra in Iraq before being ousted by Iraqi airstrikes. On June 6 ISIS carried out multiple attacks upon the mostly Sunni city of Mosul in Northern Iraq. June 9 Mosul fell to ISIS control giving them, among other things, the central bank that contained about $429 million. Shortly afterward the ISIS leadership declared that they would pay each man in their army $200 a month.

On June 11, 2014 ISIS seized the essentially Sunni city of Tikit. The victors began seeking out and killing police, soldiers, and civilians who they perceived as being associated with the Shite government. June 15 they captured the city of Tal Afar. ISIS claimed that 1,700 Iraqi soldiers who had surrendered had been executed. They released many images of mass executions on the internet.

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What should the United States position toward Iraq be? It looks like a lose, lose situation. The Republican Hawks are demanding that President Obama act, do something. John McCain wants to send troops in to help the legitimate Iraqi government. Lindsey Graham wants to get rid of Nouri al-Maliki. Others are demanding immediate action.  Shite Iran has offered to cooperate with the United States in a joint operation.

Shortly before and after the U.S. occupation of Iraq its Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki arrested important Sunni political leaders. A return of the U.S. troops, whose exit President George W. Bush negotiated, would place the U.S. in a subordinate position in deciding policy and place us in the middle of a civil war. What should be the policy of the United States? It’s an interesting and scary question.

Meanwhile ISIS has been successful in taking mostly Sunni dominated areas in Iraq. Will it be as successful in conquering mostly Shite held areas?

President Obama has sent in an additional military group to guard the American Embassy in Iraq. He has also sent in 300 elite forces to act as advisors to the Maliki Government. What does the future hold?

As of Wednesday, June 25, 2014 Maliki, denounced anyone who wants him to step down as going against their constitution. He has categorically refused to step down and allow an interim government to be set up regardless of the level of ISIS’ military successes. This even though an election is coming up and a new government will be formed in July of 2014.

President Obama has stated that Maliki’s retirement is necessary if the Shite Government is to become truly democratic and be able to stop and possibly defeat ISIS. Maliki, on the other hand, has stated that the losses to Iraq are the fault of the United States because they did not deliver all the airplanes that Iraq purchased from the U.S.

Former Sunni soldiers, from generals down who fought against Al Qaeda, when the United States was in Iraq have been decommissioned or expelled from Iraq’s military. I suspect, if they were called, that they would not fight in a Shite dominated state where they are second class citizens. Also if ISIS becomes a benevolent ruler they may split Iraq into two countries, particularly in regions where they are Sunni majorities. We are, after all looking at a civil war. It is important to remember that the Shite Government under Saddam Hussein was not friendly to the United States and that an ISIS run state will hold the same attitude.

What should President Obama do? What would you do if you were in his position?

 

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The Weiner Component #82 – The Non-Intellectual Far Right Republicans

President George Bush introduces the Joint Res...

President George Bush introduces the Joint Resolution to Authorize the Use of United States Armed Forces Against Iraq, October 2, 2002. The resolution was passed by both houses of Congress and signed into law two weeks later. White House photo by Paul Morse. Image obtained from http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2002/10/images/20021002-7_d-iraq10022002-th-1-515h.html. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Michelle Bachmann and several other non-intellectual far right Republicans recently stated that the attack upon the American Embassy at Benghazi two years ago was God’s punishment on the United States for not properly acting in international affairs. I wonder if this will be the finding of the new Republican sponsored committee that is going to again investigate the attack upon Benghazi for the fourth time.

I understand that anyone can speak to God; it’s called praying. But I didn’t know that God was a “Tea Party” type Republican; and that he would verbally respond to special members of the Republican far-right; or that He would directly punish this nation by arbitrarily allowing ambassadors to be killed.

It is also interesting to see when God directly responds not only does he talk to Bachmann and other members of the far right he also talks to other Republicans like George Bush Jr. According to what ex-President Bush told us in a public speech his “Higher Father” told him to attack Iraq in order to take out the “weapons of mass destruction” that President Saddam Hussein was hiding in that country.

George W. Bush actually was the second United States president to whom God had spoken. The first was William McKinley, who in December 10, 1898, as a result of the Spanish American War which the U.S. won.  In the Peace Treaty with Spain the United States paid them twenty million dollars for the entire Philippine Islands. The only area we had directly conquered was Manila but we wanted to colonize all the islands so we paid for them. It took an additional number of years of fighting to pacify the Philippines; and that was for a relatively short period of time. The Philippines gained full independence directly after World War II.

Why are the Republicans investigating the attack and murder of four Americans for the fourth time two years after the incident at Benghazi? Can it be because there’s a midterm election coming up in November of 2014 and they need an issue on which to go after the Democrats? Their attempt to go after them and get rid of Affordable Health Care (Obamacare) seems to have died as an issue, particularly with over 8 million citizens enrolling. Also could this be an attempt to discredit Hillary Clinton, who was Secretary of State at the time and may well be running for president in 2016. Or could it be an attempt to raise money for the oncoming elections. Could it be a combinations of these causes?

Benghazi has been investigated front wise, side wise, and diagonally. There has been no new information. Is this a political game they’re playing because they have nothing else and feel they have to go after the Democrats?

This whole issue strikes me as innocuous. We have a number of issues in the recent past that should have been investigated but were ignored. Could it be that the political party in power was the one who committed these illegal acts?

The Iran Contra Scandal toward the end of the Reagan Administration could have sent the ex-president and his entire cabinet, including his vice president, George W. H. Bush, to jail for blatantly breaking the law by illegally selling arms to terrorists in Iran in order to raise money for American-backed terrorists trying to take over Nicaragua, a country that the President did not like, but with which we were not at war.

Still under President Reagan we also mined Nicaragua’s major harbor and bombed Libya, another country we were not happy with but also not at war with.
The first George Bush got the U.S. involved in a war with Iraq in order to rescue Kuwait from an Iraqi invasion. The second George Bush got the country into two wars, one in Iraq and one in Afghanistan over the destruction of the Twin Towers in New York City. In addition while fighting these he lowered income taxes for the people of the United States and vastly raised the national debt.

After the Real Estate Debacle toward the end of 2008, the last year George W, Bush was in office the country faced a depression greater than that of 1929. President Barak Obama was able to avoid it despite the continued efforts of the Republicans to bring it about. From 2011 on, when they gained control of the House of Representatives.  The

Republicans have continually worked to shrink the economy and bring about a major depression. This was avoided by the Federal Reserve and their creative policies, which countered the actions of the Republicans in Congress.

This country has major problems. We still have 6 plus percent unemployment; there is an immigration problem with the illegals present in the United States. The infrastructure throughout the nation is old, outdated, and faulty. A good percentage of the bridges are over fifty years old; some may not be far from collapsing; one has already drop

George W. Bush

Cover of George W. Bush

ped cars into the river. The power grid is inadequate in terms of any emergency.

What is the Republican House of Representatives spending its time doing? Investigating Benghazi for the fourth or fifth time. Trying to blame President Obama and Hillary Clinton for an act by a crazy terrorist group.

It should be noted that it was the Republicans in both the House and Senate, in order to save money that had earlier reduced the budget for guard duty at all the embassies. Would this action have made difference? That’s unknown. We may be lucky there was only one such incident at an embassy on foreign soil.

They make lots of crazy sense. The country is bleeding and the Republicans are playing political games, trying to collect money and earn points for their side. Do they care about the nation or are they interested in just gaining political control of it?

Why do we have these idiot and irresponsible statements from these idiot people? The country needs sane and purposeful legislation.

 

The Weiner Component #81 – The Concept of National Wealth

Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 1933. Lietuvių: Fra...

Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 1933. Lietuvių: Franklinas Delanas Ruzveltas (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The question of wealth is confusing. To an individual it appears to be the amount of money he or she possesses; but to a nation it would be the goods and services they produce in a given period of time, usually a fiscal year measured in terms of dollars and cents. This is the Gross Domestic product, the GDP. Which is the actual wealth? The productivity or the money?

Looking at a small area of United States’ history should answer this question.

On Tuesday, Black Tuesday, October 29, 1929 the New York Stock Market collapsed. Over a period of time the value of the Market dropped from 89 billion dollars to 18 billion dollars. (This was when a one ounce gold coin was a $20 gold piece and was officially worth $16.) That event was concurrent with downturns in all the other industrial nations. The rest of the U.S. economy would follow the stock market with massive unemployment, part time employment, and underemployment. Unemployment would drop to 25% of the working population. The President, Herbert Hoover, and his Secretary of the Treasury, Andrew Mellon, believed that the Market Mechanism would eventually bring the Market back to where it had been before the crash. It did not.

From October 1929 until the end of 1932 the country sank into deeper and deeper depression. The President and his Secretary of the Treasury kept stating that “Prosperity was just around the corner.” That corner was never reached.

John Maynard Keynes, an English economist, developed the theory of Keynesian Economics. Government, during times of recession and depression must spend more than they collect in taxes. During times of prosperity it can pay off its debt. Some of this was attempted on a small scale by President Hoover.

In 1933 Franklin Delano Roosevelt was elected President of the United States. He began, what he called, The New Deal; a process of massive spending that it was hoped would bring about recovery.

Roosevelt funded this in a very interesting way. Money at that time was gold and silver coins. All the gold coins in the country, with the exception of a small number held as souvenirs, were collected, melted down into gold bars, and stored in depositories like Fort Knox. Gold certificates, equaling the value of the gold coins, were issued to the Federal Reserve. The value of the gold was then by Act of Congress doubled from $16 an ounce to $32 an ounce. The ounce of gold had traditionally been the $20 gold piece. Each one was replaced by two $20 dollar paper bills marked Federal Reserve Notes. In one simple act the money supply of the United States had been doubled.

We were actually off the gold standard but the fiction of its continued existence remained. The money was as good as the gold that stood behind it. Roosevelt could now easily fund the early New Deal. All it took was a simple act of Congress and the money supply was doubled.

As the New Deal progressed, from 1933 to 1940 shortly after World War II broke out, Congress authorized spending by the Roosevelt Administration far beyond the amount of taxes that were collected or the extent of the money supply. The government followed the principles of Keynesian economics. This did not get the country out of the depression. In order to do that the money supply would have had to have been more than quadrupled. But it did allow recovery to begin. It took World War II for complete recovery to occur.

From the outbreak of W.W.II in 1939 to the end of 1941 when the U.S. became directly involved in the war the country could not meet the demands of Europe and Asia for goods. The depression ended; there was full employment. The Allied nations shipped their gold (money) to the U.S. to pay for their purchases of goods (food and assorted war materials) until they ran out of money, then purchases were made on credit until that became too large. At this point the Roosevelt Administration evolved the concept of Lend Lease, which was a fiction. From this point on the United States gave the necessary war materials to the Allied Powers.

World War II was a very expensive enterprise. How great was the cost to the United States? The best we can do is an approximate answer to this question. According to the Oxford Companion to WWII the cost to the U.S. was $306 billion. President Truman in an address to a joint session of Congress stated that the U.S. contributed $341 billion to World War II. This did not include the $50 billion given out in Lend Lease.

During WWII the United States became the “Arsenal of Democracy,” supplying all the allied nations with food and the materials of war. Within the country all efforts were aimed at fighting and winning the war. Practically all manufacturing was for the war effort. Farmers could not produce enough food. Many people set up “victory gardens,” growing vegetables on their lawns, while those in apartments used window boxes. Virtually everyone on the home front was involved in the war effort. Children collected scrap metal and old newspapers that could be reconstituted and used again. Housewives saved their used grease from cooking and turned it in to their butchers. It was used in the production of munitions.

With everyone on the home front employed, men, high school students after school, and women, and many people working double shifts money was readily available but there was little upon which to spend it. People could not freely spend money; most items were rationed or not produced; everything was focused upon the war effort.

The government, presumably to raise money for the military effort, sold war bonds. They could be bought in numerous denominations. The smallest was a $25 bond which cost $18.75 and was redeemable after ten years. School children bought 50 cent war stamps that they collected in books, until they saved $18.75, then turned them in for war bonds. All the resources in the country was focused upon the war effort.

Where did all this money come from? What was its effect upon the economy of the United States? Obviously Congress passed bills and the President signed them. And the money was created. Also all this currency that the country created was spent upon goods and services in the U.S. It was all this spending that took the country out of the depression and into a new level of economic prosperity. During the war people had money, many for the first time in their lives, but could not spend it.

In 1944 the Serviceman’s Readjustment Act (G.I. Bill) was passed by Congress and signed by the president. It was a law that provided a range of benefits for returning WWII veterans: low cost mortgages, low interest loans to start a business, cash payments of tuition and living expenses to attend college, high school, or vocational training, as well as up to one year of unemployment compensation. It was available to every veteran who had been on active duty during World War II for at least 90 days and had not been dishonorably discharged. Combat was not required.

By 1956 about 2.2 million veterans had used these benefits to attend colleges and universities. An additional 6.6 million had taken some kind of training program. This does not count the number who started small businesses with low government interest loans or who bought a house with a low interest VA loan.

In April 1948 Congress passed the European Recovery Program, generally called the Marshall Plan. In this bill the United States gave economic support to help rebuild European economies after the end of WWII in order to prevent the spread of communism. During the four years that the plan was operational the U.S. donated $13 billion in economic and technical assistance to help the recovery of the European nations.

If we consider the inflation factor in terms of the value of gold, then an ounce of gold was worth $32; today an ounce of gold is worth in the area of $1,300. If you divide $32 into $1,300 you get an idea of the level of inflation since 1948.

How was all this paid for? The answer is by an acts of Congress. The government legislated the funds into being. What then is the real wealth of the United States? The goods and services it produces.

What happened to all this debt that Congress generated? How did the U.S. pay for the depression, WWII, the GI Bill, and the Marshall Plan? Of course the answer is obvious. Congress approved the expenditures and the government printed and issued the money.

Before we consider the National Debt there are some other factors to consider. First the population of the U.S. in 1930, several months before the census was taken, was 122,775,046. By 1940 it had gone up approximately by ten million people; and by 1940 by another eighteen million. By 1960, the year of the next census the population was 179,323,175 Americans, an increase of over twenty-five million. While the executive in each introduction to the official census has apologized for the sloppy enumeration, this number of individuals was actually counted.

With the constantly increasing population the economy needs an ever growing amount of money in the National Cash Flow. In no year, from the beginning of the Great Depression on, did the economy increase by less than one million people, generally the number was larger. If money had not been added to the economy there would have been mad inflation and total economic collapse.

What the Federal Government did was to add by acts of fiat multi-billions of dollars to the national economy. The initial cost of the New Deal was covered by doubling the money supply and creating the fiction of gold being behind every dollar. Later paper money was simply created for the latter part of the New Deal, Lend Lease and W.W.II, the G.I. Bill and the Marshall Plan. There was never any real gold behind the dollar. In fact, there was never enough gold in existence to make up an adequate gold supply for money.

What was the advantage of using this token money? It allowed full productivity to occur within the United States and the industrial world. World War II, forgetting for the moment its horrors, put everyone back to work. The G.I. Bill made this country into a middle-class nation by educating millions of people with college and providing for them to start their lives on a more secure level than their parents had lived. The Marshall Plan, in addition to allowing European nations to recover from the devastation of war, was also a six plus billion dollar checkbook of funds to be spent in the U.S. creating an endless number of well-paying jobs.

 

The wealth all this paper money produced was the production of goods and services that allowed America and a good part of the world to emerge after the Second Great War.

 

The Weiner Component #80 – The VA (Veteran’s Administration)

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: John McCain official photo portrait.

English: John McCain official photo portrait. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The United States Department of Veteran Affairs is responsible for all areas that concern veterans of the United States. It is the most comprehensive system of assistance for veterans in the world, providing patient care and federal benefits to veterans and their dependents. It covers a myriad of different operations: home loans and insurance, medical treatment and care, burial and memorial benefits, education and vocational training, vocational rehabilitation and employment, life insurance and military pensions and career counseling. It also has a history of problems during its existence.

In the Saturday, May 31, 2014, issue of the L.A. Times there was an article whose title is “Audit finds VA’s goals unattainable.” Basically if we look at a history of the VA we find there is a history of slop that has caused the death of numerous veterans and careless infection for many others. We find instances of incompetence. For example in 1986 the VA’s Inspector General’s office found 93 physicians working for the agency had sanctions against their medical licenses, including suspensions and revocations. In some instances improper sterilization of equipment resulted in infections of hepatitis. There have also been deaths because of delays in diagnosis and treatment, these taking well over a year or longer.

Have similar situations happened in civilian facilities? The answer is probably, yes; but to a lesser degree. The difference is that one can sue there but not in a VA hospital.

Because of greater demand for services than the facility can supply many of the VA hospitals have kept secret lists of clients, not on their computers, so that it looked like there was no waiting period and their executives could receive bonuses for what looked like efficiency, which in some cases ran as high as $33,000 a year.

What is the problem to cause all this? The answers should be obvious. Despite the amounts of funding allocated to the VA it is far from enough and basically the Veteran’s Administration is too big and varied an agency to be run by one man.

While the VA is very expensive to run it has traditionally been underfunded. For example in the 21st Century from 2001 on there have been numerous instances when the GOP in the Senate and after 2011 in the House when the Republicans got a majority there, have either filibustered or voted down any proposed increase in its medical facilities. The comments made in 2014 were that the government could not afford the expenditure with the current deficit. This was a comment made by Senator Rand Paul among others. Of course when it comes to medical plans Congress has given itself one of the best in the world, cost was never a factor here.

From what I understand the VA Hospital’s staffs can be either civilian or military, or a combination of the two. The personnel, both doctors and other medical staff, get the same training as in civilian facilities. The VA is very proud that their rates of pay are market competitive with medical civilian pay. Ostensively there is no difference between the two. If the GOP has supported the expansion of VA medical facilities would it have changed the current situation? The answer is yes, but it would not have solved the problem. Since the beginning of this century the country has been involved in two long wars. One in Afghanistan and one in Iraq. Millions of military personnel have been involved. The VA had long waiting periods before these wars. With no additional facilities the waiting period for any kind of treatment has in some areas been extended to well over a year. It will take a massive number of new facilities to resolve this problem; and it will take a large expenditure of time to build and staff these medical hospitals.

Congress, particularly the Republicans, wants this problem solved immediately with no additional expenditure of funds. Somehow the GOP is arguing out of both side of its mouth at the same time. They want an expensive problem solved but they don’t want it to cost anything. It’s like wanting to buy a new car with no down payment and no monthly installments. Good luck!

How can this problem be immediately resolved? The answer was given by President Obama. Let the veterans apply to public medical facilities if the VA ones are full. Will this solve the problem? That depends upon the facilities available in their area of the country and the amount of money the VA has available.

Probably sooner than later the VA will run out of money to pay the private doctors to attend to veteran’s medical problems. Congress, the Republicans, will have to appropriate more funds to pay for this. Will they do so? That’s an interesting question.

Both Bernie Sanders, the independent senator from Vermont who caucuses with the Democrats, and maverick Republican senator, John McCain have come out with a bipartisan solution to the VA medical crisis. Currently eighteen veterans have died while waiting for medical appointments in Phoenix. A bill cosponsored by these two men is supposed to come to the floor of the Senate the week of June 9, 2014. The bill, if passed, would allow veterans more access to private doctors, give the VA authority to open 28 additional clinics, hire more doctors and nurses, and fire poor performing staff.

Will this solve the problem? Not immediately. The bill has to pass through a Republican dominated House of Representatives and then be signed by the President in order to become law. Will this bill pass the Senate without filibustering? An interesting question! Will John Boehner, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, even bring the bill up for debate and a vote? I can’t even begin to guess what will happen in Congress this coming week and beyond.

And then, if we assume the bill is passed and immediately signed by the President, it will still take a while to come into complete functioning. While funds can immediately be released to take care of veterans needing medical help it will still take a while for the 28 additional clinics to be built and staffed. It will probably be well over a year.

In Aurora, Colorado in August 2009 the government began what was supposed to be the largest VA Clinic in the United States. The structure was supposed to be done in 2013. Today the project is less than half done and is projected to be completed in 2017. It’s cost, that was originally 600 million dollars, is now projected to be one billion dollars.

And then the question arises, are there enough private doctors and medical facilities to immediately treat all the veterans that need medical help?

Of course if the bill fails the argument will remain the same: the government cannot afford it. In essence the Republicans will continue talking out of both sides of their mouths; they will be running investigations as to why the VA is not servicing its members while refusing to pay for this servicing. It will continue to be the epitome of hypocrisy; but they will do it with a straight face, asking soldiers to give their all to their country, but then refusing to help them when they are hurt.

In essence even with this bill we are putting a large bandage over the problem. Solving the problem would require doing a “total needs assessment,” determining the full extent of the medical facilities needed to handle all the VA medical problems and then supplying them. This will take time.

The next problem that then arises is, are there enough doctors and nurses available to fill all these new facilities? The answer to that question is probably not. We need and will continue to need an ever-growing amount of doctors and nurses. Not only for the VA but also for the general public. One estimate I’ve heard is 500,000 doctors for the general public. We could need as many again for the VA. We are talking about the next decade of two.

How can this problem be resolved? A first step would be to allow members of the medical profession in other countries to easily and effortlessly emigrate to the U.S. That would not solve the problem but it would lessen it. The other solution would be for the federal government to set up innumerable scholarship programs that allow a massive increase in medical personnel.

Right now it is inordinately expensive for a student to become a doctor. He/She has to go through numerous levels of education, paying endless amounts of tuition with no immediate return. If the government were to remove this pay factor and allow those capable and willing to go through the process they could easily get the number of doctors and nurses that the society needs. In addition they could require them to serve in a given area for a small number of years in return from what they received. It would be expensive but it would solve the problem for both the VA and the general society.

 

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The Weiner Component #79 – A Letter to Elizabeth Warren

 

English: Elizabeth Warren speaking at March 29...

English: Elizabeth Warren speaking at March 29, 2010, at the Women in Finance symposium. Warren was part of a five-woman panel discussion. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On Tuesday, April 22, 2014, Senator Elizabeth Warren appeared on two television programs, the Rachel Maddow Show and with Jon Steward on Comedy Central. She was promoting her new book, A Fighting Chance, and in approximately fifteen minute interviews explained her position in the Senate and the meaning of her book, which, from what I understand, deals with the great financial burdens the Federal Government places upon those youngsters with their college loans, charging them extensive interest when they pay them off over goodly periods of time. She concentrated upon the unfairness of this.

(As a footnote it is interesting to remember that the reason the college loan interest rates are so high is because the Republican dominated House of Representatives refused pass a bill to lower them. Both the Democratic majority in the Senate and the President wanted to lower the rates.)

I sent the following letter to Senator Elizabeth Warren.

April 28, 2014

Dear Senator Warren:

I felt a need to communicate with you for two reasons:

First to tell you how much I enjoyed watching you on the two Tuesday broadcasts stating your position and promoting your new book. My son-in-law, who was present for the Maddow interview, said he would vote for you for president.

My second, and more important reason, was your position on education and student debt. This obviously was one of the main purposes of your new publication. I particularly appreciated your point about paying $15 a semester as an undergraduate and comparing that amount with the current costs of a college education.

If we go back to the 1950s and 60s many cities and states valued an educated citizenry and were willing to pay for it from a far smaller GDP than we have today. The Federal Government in 1945 also inaugurated the GI Bill which allowed a large number of returning veterans to go back to school and eventually graduate from college. At that time the country on all levels put money behind its words.

Today, with an irrational distribution of the national income, the majority of college students, with help from their parents, do not have the funds available to go to college. The Federal Government has allowed them to borrow the money with usurious rates of interest. This puts the student after graduation in a position where most of their newly earned income is devoted to paying back debt for a large number of years. They cannot really get on with their lives, living the American dream, instead they are debt encumbered.

The overall effect of this upon the society is also very negative. This process impedes economic growth. These graduates cannot afford to buy houses, decent auto-mobiles, or what is needed for middle-class living. A large

Percentage of their earnings go back to the government limiting economic growth in the economy. Money spent in the general society is re-spent a number of times generating six to eight times the initial amount while money used to pay off debt remains at the initial level. In addition these students will live for years in this fashion.

In your comments you spoke of lowering student debt by new legislation and you also stated that the funds spent for any purpose have to be made up. You suggested closing tax loopholes. While this would be worthwhile it is not really necessary. The two items are not interdependent or are they in any way related. One can be done without the other. For example a massive rebuilding of the infrastructure of the United States does not require new taxes. In fact if it were done it would generate, after an initial increased expenditure, a great deal of new wealth and probably lower the national debt below its present level.

Historically, the only time the country spends freely without any concern to debt is during time of war. Where did all the money expended during World War II come from? The Government created it and the nation became more prosperous. How was the Government able to pay for the GI Bill after the end of the Second World War and the Marshall Plan in 1948 that brought Europe out of the decay caused by W.W.II? We can also consider George Bush’s two wars in Afghanistan and Iraq or, for that matter, the Korean and Viet Nam Police Actions.

These were done by the government simply creating the funds needed. The money was not the wealth; it was and is the productivity. The goods and services brought about by the expenditure of these funds is the real wealth. It would be the new and refurbished bridges and roads, the new electric grids and structures that would bring the country into the 21st Century. All this would increase the wealth of the United States and its people. Fiscal policy expenditures would actually decrease the dollar value of the national debt. It would act similar to the Kennedy tax cut which substantially increased the GDP.

A bill that would begin this process would be one that forgave most of the student debt. One, for example, that wiped out the student debt of all students who graduated with a C or better average or who completed training for some specific occupation. The money these individuals would spend over the years becoming and being part of the middle-class or better would more than pay for the small amount of the GDP the government would have spent on their educations.

Sincerely,

Bernard Weiner

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The Weiner Component #78 – Government of the Super Rich, by the Super Rich, & for the Super Rich

Koch Gartenzwerg 1900095

Koch Gartenzwerg 1900095 (Photo credit: Chefzwerg)

English: Photo of Sheldon Adelson, chairman of...

English: Photo of Sheldon Adelson, chairman of Las Vegas Sands and Hong Kong-listed subsidiary Sands China. Photo taken 19 June 2010 in Hong Kong at a press conference held at the Four Seasons Hotel, following China Sands AGM. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The United States Supreme Court in the case of McCutcheon v. FEC determined that money contributions in political campaigns was a means of expressing free speech and that limits placed upon these contributions was placing limits upon the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights, the right of free speech. Of course the amount of free speech one can here afford depends upon the level of one’s wealth.

In the 2012 Presidential Election campaign Sheldon Adelson contributed well over $900 million to the candidates he supported for president in both the Republican primaries and in the presidential elections. The Koch brothers contributed at least a like amount in local, state, and national elections. And all this was before the Supreme Court’s last decision.

When we are talking about the Super Rich, the upper one percent, we are dealing with billionaires, probably with a lot less than fifty people. These are individuals whose interests go beyond getting richer; what they seem to want is power, more and more of it. They are obviously interested in their own welfare; they don’t want to see their profits diminish but they are also interested in bending the society to their will as well as their interests.

To look at a few examples: Lindsey Graham, the senior Republican Senator from South Carolina, who was first elected to the Senate in 2003, recently proposed a bill to make internet gambling illegal. Interestingly Sheldon Adelson is rabidly against this type of gambling and has publically stated so a number of times, particularly since he owns casinos in Las Vegas, Macao, plus other areas. He is estimated at having a net worth of 40.8 billion dollars. What could have changed or decided Graham suddenly that internet gambling was bad? Could it be massive financial contributions to the Republican Party?

Since 1962, when the Koch Brothers inherited a highly developed industry from their father, they have built a gigantic industrial empire consisting of numerous enterprises going from cattle raising, oil refining and sale, to 4,000 miles of pipeline, paper production, and on. Forbes stated that in 2013 it was the second largest privately held company in the United States. The two brothers are worth over $100 billion each. They employ 50,000 people in the U.S. and 20,000 in 59 other countries.

The brothers are libertarian, believing in maximizing individual rights and minimizing the role of government. A number of years ago one of them ran for political office as a libertarian.

Their political belief allows them to expand their possessions infinitely without any concern about the social costs of this growth. According to Bloomberg from 1999 to 2003 Koch Industries was assessed over $400 million dollars in fines, penalties, and judgments. This was a very conservative estimate according to other groups. In 2000, for the 300 reported oil spills in their 4,000 miles of pipe lines, the Koch Brothers paid a $30 million civil penalty and agreed to a leak prevention program.

Since 1981 the Republican Party has moved gradually farther and farther to the right, becoming more and more conservative and gradually moving into the libertarian sphere. This has brought the Koch Brothers strongly into political activity. They have spent over $500 million to lobby Washington between 2006 and 2011. The company has opposed the regulation of financial derivatives and limits on greenhouse gases.  It has sponsored free market foundations and causes and backed conservative Republican candidates.

Koch Industries, along with other major producers of oil and petroleum like ExxonMobil and Chevron, have been criticized by the environmental group, Greenpeace, for the role they play in effecting climate change policy in the United States. These companies are currently arguing that the green energy policy is wrong and that energy should be produced in the traditional manner. In fact in one state the use of solar panels is taxed by the state government and in another it is illegal to use them.

Interestingly, according to the Los Angeles Times, Congressional candidates in hot races around the state of California are pulling in big money. “Billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch – conservatives who were early backers of the small government tea party movement in the GOP” - have contributed $2,500 from their political action committee. This is just one of a multitude of races and political causes to which they are contributing.

The question that arises here is what are these people getting for their contributions? The answer would be access to and influence with all these legislators. To what extent is this access and influence working? Do the legislators mostly represent the people who voted for them or do they mainly represent the groups or individuals and corporations that funded their campaigns? If, as I suspect, the latter is true then what becomes the major purpose of government in the U.S.A.? It would be to serve the needs of the superrich regardless of its effects upon the general public. We would have Government of, by, and for the superrich; the needs of the planet and the public become secondary and this seems to be the direction in which the Republicans are going.

In the 2014 Midterm Election it should be very interesting to see what the voters directly or ignorantly choose!

 

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The Weiner Component #77 – Changing Democgraphics, Republican Apartheid

People of All Kinds

People of All Kinds (Photo credit: Viewminder)

Apartheid is an Afrikaan word that means “the state of being apart,” or apart-hood.  It was a system of racial segregation in South Africa enforced through legislation by the ruling party from 1948 to 1994.  Under it the rights of the majority of black inhabitants were curtailed and white Afrikaner minority rule was maintained.  The term is today used for every kind of segregation established by a state authority in a country against the civil and social rights of a group (minority or majority) of its citizens.

The problem that the whites faced in South Africa was how to retain control of a country where they were the clear minority.  After all if the black majority got control of the government they could legislate the whites out of everything they owned.  It wasn’t a question of just equal rights for the majority of the whites also believed that they were superior.

From the initial settlements in South Africa there was a history of white superiority where the white settlers had taken control the best land.  Apartheid was merely a means of maintaining what already existed.  It seemed to guarantee perpetual white dominance in a country where  the white population would always be a minority.  It would continue until 1994 when both world (boycotts) and internal pressure would cause a realistic change to be brought about.

Since their victories, both on a state and federal level, in the Midterm Election of 2010 the Republican Party has begun their own version of Apartheid.  In essence they are the minority political party consisting mostly of old white men and evangelists.  They have further decreased their support by taking on causes that have alienated specific groups of people within the country.

The Republicans have systematically, in support of their evangelical members, attacked women’s rights, ostensibly they are against abortion, even in cases of rape, incest, or worst, where the woman’s life is in danger.  From this the Republicans, in states that they control, have legislated free health clinics out of existence.  Many are even against any form of contraception.  Rick Santorum, in his 2012 Presidential Campaign, seemed to want the country to become a theocracy.  In essence the Republicans have done away with the female health centers for poor women in states that they control stating that these facilities perform abortions.  (Any woman with money can receive any kind of medical treatment she can afford either in the U.S. or elsewhere.)

They have refused to support immigration reform.  Many have argued that if the undocumented people in the United States receive legal status they will vote for Democratic candidates.  They are also homophobic, supporting only marriage between a man and woman.

In the 2008 Presidential Election not only were the Republicans badly beaten (59,934,814 to 69,456,897) but a black man was elected President of the United States.  His theme during the election had been, “It’s time for a change.”  Unfortunately the new administration inherited a massive recession headed toward a deep depression.  For the next two years President Obama was busy working for recovery.  During his first two years he was able to avert the depression and, with a majority in both Houses of Congress, bring about the Affordable Health Care Bill, which was actually based up a Republican plan.

In the 2010 Midterm Election the Republicans were able to attain a majority in the House of Representatives and win a number of state houses and legislatures.  They gained six seats in the Senate, six additional governorships, and about seven hundred seats in state legislatures across the nation.  The Democrats lost sixty-four seats in the House of Representatives and the Republicans gained the majority in the House.

2010 was a census year.  In the states the Republicans controlled they gerrymandered the states to give themselves the advantage.  This was effectively done so that in the 2012 Election they retained control of the House even though 1.4 million more overall votes were cast for Democrats throughout the nation.

The knowledge that the Republicans gained from all this was that they won elections when fewer people voted.  In 2010 many Democratic voters, largely in disgust that the recession was not over, stayed home and did not bother to vote.  The Republicans were able to gain their victories from a greatly reduced electorate.  The probability is that if the same number of people that had voted in 2008 had voted in 2010 the Republican victories would have been largely reduced or non-existent.

The Republicans so like this idea of limited voting that they have been working hard to bring it about in the states that they control.  In the 2012 Presidential Election numerous state laws were passed that were intended to limit voting of groups of groups that favored Democrats; the elderly, the young, Hispanics, and women suddenly found their ability to vote limited.

The Republicans are against abortions and many forms of birth control but it should also be strongly noted that no provision has ever been made for providing help to all these poor families for all the additional births.  In fact the Republicans in Washington have cut entitlement programs which provide food stamps and other forms of aid to poor families.  They want all possible children to be born but they are not concerned with assuming any responsibility for helping to feed or raise them.

By their righteous definitions the Republicans have declared war on women, treating them as not being mature enough, regardless of their age, to make their own medical and life decisions.  It seems that these white old men now legislate the choices or females to reproduce.

In Florida and some other states people waited in line as much as eight hours or more in order to vote in the Presidential Election of 2012.  Many had to leave the lines in order to pick up their children at school or return to work and could not vote.  Others would have stayed in line no matter how long it took to exercise their Constitutional right.

A Democracy is supposed to be rule by the majority with the rights of the minorities being protected.  According to the Republican minority they are right in what they want and the majority is wrong.  The only way they can attain what they want, rule over the majority, is; by taking the vote away from those that do not agree with them.  This is what was done in South Africa, where it was called apartheid.  For the oncoming Midterm Election in November of 2014 and the Presidential Election of 2016 the Republicans are gearing up by numerous attempts through the states to further limit the vote by Democrats.

The demographics continue to change.  In 2014 there will be 2% less whites eligible to vote in the state and federal elections.  In 2016, the next Presidential Election, the white population will have decreased another 2%.  We are no longer a country of WASPs (White Anglo Saxon Protestants).  The white majority today is a memory.

In many states the amount of time to vote was shortened.  Additional days, like weekends, were eliminated as a time to vote.  Virtually anything that would reduce or restrict voting, particularly by registered Democrats, was attempted.  Use of driver licenses for identification affected many minorities and the elderly who did not have them.  Registered names were struck off of voter lists by the hundreds in some states.  These people, when they came to vote, had to have proof with them of their eligibility.  Gun licenses were accepted in at least one state as proof of who a person was but college student IDs were not.  Much of what the Republicans did was challenged in court and was found to be illegal; but a good percentage was acceptable and did limit the vote.  It is probable that President Obama could have gotten another five to ten million votes had 2012 been an open election and that the Democrats also could have regained control of the House of Representatives.

The problem that the old white men, the Republicans face in the American political system is how to retain control of a country where they are one of the minorities.  In the 2014 Midterm Election there will be 2% less whites voting and in 2016 it will be another 2%.  After all if the Democratic majority got control of the government they could legislate the Republicans out of everything in which they believe.  It isn’t a question of just equal rights for the majority of the Republicans also believed that they superior.  To them APARTHEID is a way of saving their superior civilization.  The Republicans believe they must have APARTHEID, rule by the righteous few.

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