The Weiner Component Vol.2 #11 – Trump & the Republicans: “Repeal & Replace”

The United States is now into being well over 60 plus days of Donald Trump as

President and Republican majorities in both the House and Senate. With the exceptions of a new Justice on the Supreme Court and a military raid on a Syrian air base.  Nothing significant has happened in the nation’s capital except that most members of Congress are working a three day week and have taken a two week Easter break.  Trump’s executive orders limiting the movement of Muslims from seven and then six Middle Eastern countries have been put on what looks like a permanent hold by the Federal Courts.

 

The members of the House of Representatives are on a two week vacation or break from the hard work they’ve been doing accomplishing virtually nothing except noisy Town Hall meeting with their constituents.

 

When the Democrats had a majority in both Houses of Congress the Republicans had loudly and persistently decried that they were ruining the Country with their irresponsible legislation like Affordable Health Care or as they like to call it, “Obamacare” and by supporting such national organizations like Planned Parenthood.

 

Also it seemed as far as the Republicans were concerned that nothing worthwhile could come from a Black, Democratic President. Now there is a white Republican President and a Republican dominated House of Representatives and Senate and to date, more than two months since they assumed power, nothing worthwhile has come from them except endless squabbling.

 

Their first major piece of legislative business was to get rid of Obamacare. They have been denouncing it since it first came into existence. It was signed into law on March 23, 2010, a little over seven years ago. Since that day, to hear Republican legislators speak about it, an individual gets the impression that it is worse than leprosy.

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The problem, as far as President Donald J. Trump is concerned, which he recently discovered, is that the healthcare law is very complicated. Trump’s understanding of a law is of something that can be put on a single sheet of paper with wording that will not even cover the entire page. The Affordable Health Care Law has to be about a thousand pages long. That makes it very complicated. It will take more than the passage of one simple law to be completely done away with.

 

On Thursday, March 23, 2017, the seventh anniversary of the law, the repeal and replace bill was pulled by the Speaker of the House of Representatives because it didn’t have the votes to pass in the House. Trump, presumably in a moment of disgust, outrage, or masterful negotiation, sent some of his aids to sell the bill to the doubting members of the House. Trump wanted the bill voted up or down the next day. He wanted to know who among the Republican Party in the House were his supporters and who “supports Nancy Pelosi,” the Democratic leader. No Democrats are voting for the bill.

 

What is the problem in the House with this bill? It seemed that the members of the far-right Freedom Coalition were against the bill because it was too lenient, while more moderate Republicans were against the bill because it would remove 24 million people from health care coverage. 14 million, according to a non-partisan Congressional Office, will lose their coverage within a year and the additional 10 million will lose it over a longer period of time.

 

House Speaker Paul Ryan’s, who developed the Bill from values he has held for years,  goal was to make health care accessible to everyone while keeping the minimum wage at its present low level. The problem that emerged with this prospective bill was that most people could not afford health care under the new proposed bill.

 

Younger participants will have their premiums reduced while older people would have their premiums massively increased. The Speaker of the House has stated that he will be making Health Care available to everyone. The catch there is if they can afford to pay the premiums. The Federal Government will give tax credits to the needy. But the problem is that most if not all of the needy will not have the money to afford the premiums and may be earning so little that they pay no income taxes.  Consequently the tax credits would be worthless.

 

This is particularly true since the minimum federal wage is seven dollars and twenty-five cents an hour. This means that a fair percentage of the population, particularly in red states where people believed in and voted for Trump, are earning $290 a week before unemployment and Social Security is taken out of their earnings. A goodly number of these people, who currently have Obamacare would lose it and be forced to go to ER, emergency rooms at hospitals. Under the proposed bill they will probably die prematurely. Many will face a choice between medication, food, or rent. This apparently is Paul Ryan and Donald Trump’s solution to Universal Medical Care. It is also a way of having the government significantly reduce its spending and being able to cut taxes for the rich and the corporations.

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According to one pole 17% of the population supports the Republican Health Care Bill, which has been labeled Trumpcare or Ryan-care. 56% oppose it. Virtually every Congressional District in the United States opposes the bill. If it passes in the House it should make for interesting voting in November of 2018.

 

On Friday, March 24, 2017 Trump and Ryan’s health care bill was pulled just minutes before it was supposed to come up for a vote. The Republicans, who have a wide majority in the House of Representatives, did not have enough votes to pass it. Presumably this was done on orders from Trump. Obamacare will continue to exist. The people of the United States in mass rallies throughout the country have demanded it. The Republicans have buckled down to the will of the majority. I suspect mainly because they don’t want to lose their seats in the House of Representatives.

 

Interestingly, Benjamin Franklin wrote toward the end of his career, “In free governments the rulers are the servants and the people their superiors and sovereigns.” It took massive protest movements for this point to be made throughout the country.

 

After a period of silence on the subject Paul Ryan is now talking about a new and better version of the Health Care Bill. They are again talking about it and will continue to work on developing it after their two week break.

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Listening to the President one got the impression that Trump never really examined the Affordable Health Care Law. It seems that he doesn’t like to read; that he gets most of his information from watching television. Trump promised to expand the plan and lower the cost when he was a candidate without really being aware of what he was talking about. I would suppose he is a 70 year old attention deficit adult. I would guess he knows things by instinct rather than by investigation.

 

Many of the House Republican legislators were announcing on the floor of the House on Friday how many of their constituents would lose health coverage if the bill were passed. The numbers were staggering. One could see what would probably happen in votes for the Democrats in the Midterm Election of 2018.

 

Ryan’s plan, had it passed would have decimated the current system. Again Trump probably had not bothered to examine the bill. It would have cut out the lowest rungs of society, all 14 million of them. This bill was rushed through the House without hearings or anything. It was supposed to be the fulfillment of the Republican dream of getting rid of Obamacare, after seven years of its existence and the Republican dominated House of Representative passing over 60 bills over the last seven years repealing Obamacare. None of these bills ever reached the Senate.

 

Ryan’s bill would have transferred much of the payment for medical treatment from the Federal Government back to the recipients of that medical treatment. Somehow the reduction in Federal costs would generally match Trump’s tax cuts, a little over 8 billion dollars.

 

This would have been very helpful to the Republicans in getting their tax cuts through Congress. It would be the reverse of Robin Hood’s behavior which was taking from the rich to help the poor. Instead Ryan-care was to take from the poor in order to help the rich.

 

Trump then spoke of moving on to his next legislative project, what he calls tax reform. This is mainly tax relief for both the top two percent of the population and for lowering the cooperate taxes. It would seem that they can’t afford to cut taxes without lowering medical costs

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The ultimate irony here is that Affordable Health Care was a Republican generated plan which, if I remember correctly, was generated for Mitt Romney when he was Governor of Massachusetts by Citizens United, a far-right Think Tank.

 

The plan worked well in that state and Romney got and took the credit for it.  In 2012, when Romney ran against Barack Obama as the Republican candidate for the presidency he denounced the plan for which he had been responsible.

 

The plan utilizes private enterprise to develop a Universal Health Care System. It follows Republican principles about private ownership. President Obama and the Democrats used it because they thought it would get Republican support in Congress. Not one Republican Party member voted for the bill.

 

It would have been far more practical and much cheaper for the Federal Government to become the insurer and set up a single payer plan throughout the United States. Virtually every single government that has universal health coverage for its people has done this and their overall costs are half or less than the U.S. pays for both medical care and pharmaceuticals. The Republican problem in “repealing and replacing” Obamacare is that they’re trying to improve upon their own plan and it’s not going to happen.

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The commitment to Socialized Medicine for the entire population requires much more than the Federal Government has been able or willing to do so far. What we have seen is a semi-voluntary Republican plan that includes the private sector. What we need is a plan that also supplies doctors and cuts out the profits of the middle men.

 

Becoming a medical person is a long and expensive process. There are many individuals who would go into this but cannot afford the time without earning anything or the expense of the process. What is needed first is a single provider who operates on a non-profit basis, and that would be the Federal Government. The Government Agency that would handle this then needs to be able to deal directly with the medical and pharmaceutical facilities that provide both the doctors and the medicines for the public. This could be done by having the Federal Government set up medical learning facilities or contract to pay the costs of becoming a doctor at the existing medical universities or both. The Government also has to control the costs of the medicines.

 

This requires a major monetary investment over a goodly period of time. The Federal Government would also have to set up a scholarship system where worthy candidates would have their tuition and possibly their living costs paid

 

Also right now the pharmaceutical companies are free to charge what they will. This is currently true because they are protected by Congress. Today the major contributor to the Republican Party are the Pharmaceutical Companies. The cost of medical treatment in other industrial countries is less than half of that in the United States. Also medicines cost a fraction of what they do in the U.S. Medical Care should be a right that everyone has. The cost of it could be easily added to the income tax with everyone paying their fair share.

English: Nations with Universal health care sy...

English: Nations with Universal health care systems. Nations with some type of universal health care system. Nations attempting to obtain universal health care. Health care coverage provided by the United States war funding. Nations with no universal health care. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Weiner Component Vol.2 #7 – Part 4 – The Fed & the Inflationary Spiral

English: Former President Jimmy Carter and his...

English: Former President Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalynn, wave from the top of the aircraft steps as they depart Andrews Air Force Base at the conclusion of President Ronald Reagan’s inauguration ceremony. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: President Ronald Reagan, the 40th pre...

English: President Ronald Reagan, the 40th president of the United States of America, delivers his inaugural address from the specially built platform in front of the Capitol during Inauguration Day ceremony. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Chairperson of the Federal Reserve heads this bank. Currently Janet Yellen is the chairwoman. She has held this position since 2014 when she was appointed by President Barack Obama. Prior to that Ben Bernanke was chairman from 2006 to 2014. He was appointed by George W. Bush and completed his term under President Obama. Alan Greenspan was the prior Chairman. His term was the second longest in the history of the Federal Reserve going from 1987 to 2006, 19 years. He was preceded by Paul Volcker, who served from August 1979 to August 1987. He was appointed by President Jimmy Carter and left toward the end of the Reagan administration. Paul Volcker served as Chairman for two terms, from August 6, 1979 to August 11, 1987.

 

These are the most recent people to serve as chairpersons on the Federal Reserve. If we go back to the Presidency of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, January 20, 1961 to November 22, 1963, the Fed Chairman was William M. Martin who had been appointed by Harry S Truman and served from April 2, 1951 to February 1, 1970.

 

The problem, when Kennedy became President, was that the country was in a recession cycle. By using fiscal policy President Kennedy was able to turn that economic phase into a recovery phase of the business cycle. At this time unemployment was slowly increasing and consumption was slowly decreasing. The economy needed an impetus. What the President proposed and Congress passed was a tax decrease. The result was that people had more money which they spent and the amount of Federal taxes collected actually increased. This move fairly quickly took the nation from recession to recovery.

 

Since that time, over fifty years ago, almost every Republican President has tried to follow that fiscal policy. In no case has it worked as announced. Instead from the time of President Ronald Reagan on it has allowed the National Debt to mushroom into the trillions of dollars. And during the last year of President George W. Bush’s presidency this tax reduction process led to the bursting of the Housing Bubble or the Great Recession in 2008. In the process of avoiding a Second Great Depression President Barack Obama was forced into excessive spending. It was the President and the Fed Chairman, Ben Bernanke, who enabled the country to squeak through the 2008 and 2009 Housing Crash or bubble bursting.

 

Currently President Donald J. Trump is proposing a massive tax cut for business and the wealthy. It has been suggested that this could bankrupt the U.S. Government. Whether his decrease in taxes and proposed increase in spending for the military comes about, if it does, then to what extent it will do so is still up for debate. Trump and some members of his Cabinet are claiming they can significantly lower taxes and increase production without adding to the National Debt. It should be an interesting experiment.

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President Lyndon B. Johnson, who had been President Kennedy’s Vice-President and succeeded him at his death in 1963, when he was reelected to office in 1965 massively accelerated the war in Viet Nam. He would have America, the strongest nation in existence, force North Viet Nam to accede to the wishes of the United States. And, at the same time, he would not lower the standard of living of any American. The country could both afford to fight a major war and care for its population as though it were still at peace; we would have both guns and butter. His only requirement was a small addition by everyone to their income taxes. This led to the beginnings of an inflationary spiral that would reach fifteen percent by the end of the 1970s. The inflation spiral would be broken by the Fed by taking drastic action in the very early 1980s.

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Paul Volcker was appointed was appointed Federal Reserve Chairman on August 6, 1979 by President Jimmy Carter. He began a process to end the inflationary spiral by making the borrowing of money so expensive that it would cause the percent of interest to rise to where it would cost too much to borrow. This, in turn, would cause the price of interest to drop toward zero.

 

If the inflation rate rises too high, like to 12 or 15 percent or more the way to reduce it is by raising the prime rate, the interest level the Fed charges banks, to a very high level. This forces the banks to raise their interest level to 20 percent or more. Money becomes too expensive to borrow.

 

Unfortunately many businesses have dormant periods during the year when they have to borrow money in order to meet their expenses. If the interest rate on loans is too high they cannot afford to borrow any money and consequently they go bankrupt. This causes an almost instant recession, with massive layoffs throughout the country. But it will end an inflationary spiral.

 

Early in this process President Jimmy Carter received innumerable complains from people around the country about what was happening to them and their businesses. He asked Volcker to back off and Volcker did so. The high inflation continued throughout President Carter’s term in office.

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Paul Volcker served two four year terms as Chairman of the Fed. He retired from that position on August 11, 1987, when Ronald Reagan was President of the United States. Reagan succeeded Carter in 1981 and remained in office for two terms, until 1988. He allowed Volcker to break the back of the inflationary spiral.

 

Under Reagan the monetary policies of the Federal Reserve Board led by Volcker were credited with curbing the rate of inflation and the expectations that inflation would continue. The United States rate of inflation peaked at 14.8 in March of 1980 and fell below 3 percent by 1989. The Fed Board raised the federal funds rate that had averaged 11.2 percent in 1979, to a peak of 20 percent in June of 1981. The prime rate also rose to 21.5 percent in 1981. All of this lead to the 1980-1982 recession, in which the unemployment rate rose to over 10 percent.

 

All of this elicited strong political attacks and wide spread protests. There were high interest rates on construction, farming, and the industrial sectors. U.S. Monetary Policy eased in 1982, leading to a resumption of economic growth.

 

Perhaps the most unfortunate part of this necessary readjustment of the economic base of the United States was the fact that President Ronald Reagan made a presentation on television one weekend in 1981 in which he held up the business section of the Sunday Times and stated that there were twenty full pages of job offers in the Times. If a person lost their job then they should go to where there was jobs available. President Reagan did nothing else. He could or should have set up some federal agency that could offer reliable job information. But he did not do so.

 

What followed was that sections of cities became deserted as people filled their cars with their belongings and followed rumors going from place to place looking for work. Mostly there were no jobs. Temporary agencies did a land-office business that year. I remember reading about an instance where a man with a wife and small child, having stopped for a red light, opened the passenger door, and pushed his wife and child out of the vehicle. When the light changed he drove on.

 

Cars moved from city to city that year, following rumors. While there had been some homeless before 1981 they became very visible from that year on; there were so many of them. The problem is still with us.

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What followed from 1981 on was the Fed’s tight money and the expansive fiscal program of the Reagan Administration: large tax cuts, and a major increase in military spending. While the middle class got some tax relief the tax cuts were essentially for the upper echelon of society who had their taxes reduced substantially. While the inflation rate stayed low, which it still is today, President Reagan’s spending produced large Federal budget deficits.

 

This combination of growing deficits and other economic imbalances led to the growing Federal debt and a substantial rise in Federal costs. Under Reagan’s spending the debt would reach over one trillion dollars for the first time.

 

Presumably Paul Volcker was fired or replaced in August 1987 after serving two four year terms in office because the Reagan Administration didn’t believe he was an adequate deregulator. Volcker was replaced on August 11, 1987, by Alan Greenspan.

The Weiner Component Vol.2 #3 – The Purpose of Government

English: Citizens registered as an Independent...

English: Citizens registered as an Independent, Democrat or Republican. Derived from :Image:Party affiliation USA.jpg. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If the question of what is the primary purpose of government in the 21st Century is raised then depending upon which major political party you adhere to you get different answers. 

 

Historically people have always been social animals, always functioning in groups with some form of social organization.  Traditionally governments have functioned to provide a framework in which people have lived.  They have provided rules or laws that have allowed them to live together, kept them safe within the society and from foreign invaders, provided the necessities for reasonable living conditions and protected their property.  These governments have provided a currency and regulated trade within and with other nations.  Other than that people have provided for their individual needs for themselves.  This, in essence, is the Republican concept of the function of government.

 

In 1929, through following these concepts and unlimited growth on the stock market, the United States economy crashed and billions of dollars were lost almost overnight in the 1929 Great Depression.  From 1929 through 1932 feeble attempts were made by the Republican dominated government to allow the Stock Market to adjust itself.  Instead it kept dropping lower.  This occurred from 1929 through 1932, when it and the rest of the economy reached its lowest level.  The Market Model was unable to adjust itself; it had been abused too much.

 

In 1933, the Democrat, Franklin D. Roosevelt became President, replacing the Republican, Herbert Hoover.  Roosevelt, in dealing with the massive unemployment problem, extended the purpose of the Federal Government, by having the Federal Government assume responsibility for those people who could no longer function successfully within the broken society.  He created mechanisms whereby these people could again function with a measure of success within the economy.  The Federal Government had now assumed responsibility for the people in the country who could no longer provide for themselves.  This now became the new additional function of the Central Government. 

 

While conditions improved considerably the Great Depression did not end until about 1940 with the outbreak of World War II when first European and Asian nations bought unlimited goods from America and at the end of 1941 when the Federal Government began unlimited spending in fighting the war. 

 

The government had dedicated itself to a new purpose which would continue on after the war had ended, more or less, depending upon which political party controlled the Central Government.  The Republicans tended to favor business and the wealthy, limiting social spending as much as possible, while the Democrats favored the middle and lower class extending this practice as much as they could.

 

Currently with the Republicans in control of Congress and the Presidency they are moving to get rid of Obamacare (Affordable Health Care).  They are presumably going to replace it with Trumpcare, whatever that is.  Probably it will be a voucher system that will be cheaper for the government to operate, but will gradually become more and more expensive for its recipients as medical costs increase but government vouchers do not.

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Two events occurred: one began in the 1970s, an increasing need for more money to be available in the National Cash Flow; and the other in the 1980s with the election of Ronald Reagan to the presidency.  In the earlier decade the major banking houses in the country began packaging mortgages in small fractions and selling them.  They did this gradually on a larger and larger scale.  The process took off in the 1980s with the Reagan White House.  This, in turn, increased the value of the homes.  In essence a percentage of the population began mortgaging and refinancing the ever increasing value of their houses over and over again.  At no time during the 30 years of this period was there any real inflation in the country.  For the first 10 years the country was in an inflationary cycle that began with the Viet Nam War.  This was ended at the beginning of the 1980s.

 

Reagan was the first of the really Conservative Presidents.  Forty-five years earlier he had majored in economics as an undergraduate in college.  Since that point in history economics had developed far from where it had been when Reagan was a college senior.  Much more about its functioning was understood in the 1980s.

 

Adam Smith began modern economics with the publication of his work,  “An Inquiry into the Wealth of Nations,” in 1776.  In this work, among other things, he developed the Market Model, which functioned through the use of the “invisible hand.”  The invisible hand is the profit motive.  Smith believed that the profit motive would best make all the Market decisions of what to produce and how to produce it. 

 

President Ronald Reagan and a good percentage of Republicans in Congress also believed this.  During his presidency hey did away with all bank regulatory laws that had been developed during the 1930s and beyond to avoid another Great Depression.

 

In the period before the 1929 Stock Market Crash many bank executives had taken depositors monies and invested them in stocks.  Shortly thereafter when the price went up they had sold the stocks and pocketed the profits.  People could also buy stocks on margin; all an investor needed was 10% of the value of the stock he/she bought, the banks would lend the remaining 90%.   The problem here was that many people were in love with the concept of the stocks, not with their true value, and they kept forcing up the value of all the stocks by continually buying and selling them.  This created a bubble that had to burst at some time.  When it did, from 1929 on, it not only bankrupted innumerable stockholders but also innumerable banks with unbelievable negative effects upon the overall economy.

 

The result of what Reagan considered reforms was that a multitude of banking organizations began an almost limitless level of refinancing homes, allowing people to take their ever increasing equity out of their properties to buy whatever, and countless billions of dollars were created in the National Cash Flow allowing almost endless spending.  All of this occurred until 2008 when the bubble burst.  Interestingly some of these companies insured the bank loans, charging generous premiums.  These companies and many banks faced immediate bankruptcy with the crash.

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In the year 2008 the Housing Bubble, that had been developing over the last forty years, burst, bringing about an almost instant and complete drop in home property values.  People’s home values virtually dropped overnight hundreds of thousands of dollars per single unit leaving a percentage of homeowners underwater, suddenly owing more on their home properties than they were worth.

 

This process had been slowly building since the 1970s, with it massively accelerating during the Reagan administration in the 1980s, when virtually all banking laws, many of which came into being during The Great Depression in the 1930s, were done away with and the country followed the administration’s mantra of letting the Free Market make all the economic decisions.  A good percentage of the population, with strong encouragement from the banks, had gone through a wild period of spending.

 

Specifically what happened was that the country did not have enough money in the National Cash Flow to meet its needs.  There was a shortage of money in the overall society.  The banks, among the many services they perform for the general society, also can increase or decrease the amount of cash available within their specific regions.  They do this through their lending or non-lending practices.  Most exchanges of cash at this time was through the transfer of funds by writing checks, bringing about an exchange of numbers in different columns of different bank ledgers.

 

People discovered the advantages of their equity in their home loans by taking out First, Second, and Third mortgages based upon their equity.  Over the forty year period as people borrowed upon their homes the value of their homes went up continually.  It seems the continual borrowing created a desire in people who rented living space to attempt to buy homes, forcing up the value of the homes even more for this forty year period.  Properties that were purchased for well under one hundred thousand dollars, because of the sudden great demand, were worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. 

 

For the forty year period, well into the year 2008 home values kept rising.  People refinanced their properties over and over again buying whatever they wanted.  The overall economy prospered.  People bought all the toys they ever wanted: boats, mobile homes for traveling, whatever.  There was no real inflation.

 

By the year 2007 the indications of a collapse were present for those in a position to understand what was going on.  But the bankers, who had taken home millions in compensation, were in total denial.  They were incapable of understanding that conditions could change.  To encourage further refinancing many banks raised the level of refinancing homes to 125% of the appraised value of the property.

 

Toward the end of the year 2008 the bubble burst or the crash came.  Many homeowners suddenly discovered that they were underwater, owing more on their home than they were then worth.  Some just walked away from their properties, leaving a deserted house behind them.  Others just stopped making payments they could no longer afford.  Unemployment rose significantly. 

 

Hedge Funds that had been developed from some of this mortgage paper were suddenly worthless.  Banks foreclosed upon properties that they both owned or had owned and sold to hedge funds.  The entire situation was a total mess.  Hedge funds were suddenly worthless, many banks were on the point of bankruptcy.  It looked like the entire economy was on the point of collapse.

 

At this point President George W. Bush and his Treasury Secretary, Hank Paulson, arranged for bank loans to keep many financial institutions from going bankrupt.  Then Bush was replaced by President Barack Obama who continued the bank loans and also bailed out the American auto industry which was also at the point of bankruptcy at that time.  With President Obama’s massive spending efforts what could have been a greater depression than the Great Depression of 1929 turned into what has been called the Great Recession, from which the country is still on its way out of.  By January of 2017 unemployment in the United States had dropped to 4.8%. 

 

The problem that existed here is that from the 1970s on more money was needed in the economy that should have been supplied by the Federal Reserve on a more gradual level.  A controlled increase of funds for the nation would have allowed for a slow healthy economic growth with no crash in 2008.  Allowing the banks to do this with just the profit motive led to unlimited and reckless greed as the major factor controlling the economy.

     

English: Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Herbert...

English: Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Herbert Hoover in convertible automobile on way to U.S. Capitol for Roosevelt’s inauguration, March 4, 1933 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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Th

e Great Depression was caused by the Republican’s legislating after World War I.  This was from the election of Warren Harding to the presidency through Herbert Hoover.  They created the necessary laws and general milieu that allowed it to come about.  The Housing Crash of 2008 was set forth by the policies of President Ronald Reagan.  He inspired and brought about the environment that allowed the financial institutions to go berserk through the unhampered use of the profit motive.  Now, with the election of Donald J. Trump to the presidency an equally horrible situation exists with the Republican legislature and Trump promising to do away with Affordable Health Care and the distinct possibility of taking medical care away from about 30 million citizens.

 

During his first year as President in 1993 William Jefferson Clinton, among other things, attempted to set up a system of Universal Health Care for all the people in the United States.  He placed his wife, Hillary, in charge of a task force that was supposed to develop a plan for this.  The Republicans were strongly against it.  They tried everything they could to kill this plan.  Finally they succeeded when they came up with a slogan: “There has to be a better way.”  The “better way” ended up being: No way.  With this mantra they successfully ended the plan for universal health care in 1993.

 

During President Barack Obama’s first two years in office he had a Democratic majority in Congress.  Together, they came up with a plan for the majority of people in the country to achieve health care.  The plan had been developed by a Republican think tank for Mitt Romney, when he was governor of Massachusetts.  I imagine that President Obama assumed that a Republican Plan would gain some Republican support in both Houses of Congress.  But by that time the Republican members of Congress had in a caucus and taken an oath to make Obama a one term President by not supporting anything he supported or for which he could take credit.  As a consequence they have vigorously opposed and continually denounced Obamacare (Affordable Health Care), which was in actuality their plan.  Affordable Health Care was passed in Congress strictly on a party basis, not one Republican Congressman voted for it.

 

In 2011 the Republicans gained a majority in the House of Representatives.  From then on the House passed bills to do away with Affordable Health Care; this was over fifty times.  While the Democrats controlled the Senate the bill was not even taken up there.  In 2014 the Republicans also gained the majority in the Senate.  In 2016 they gained Donald J. Trump as the new Republican President.  They are promising to replace Obamacare with a new and better policy.  But no specific plan seems to be on the horizon.  Meanwhile the first steps have been taken to begin the process dismantling Affordable Health Care.

 

Interestingly even the Republicans are now stating their sense of responsibility for the medical welfare of the general public.  But Affordable Health Care was their plan for universal health care.  It entails using private enterprise to bring universal medical care into existence. 

 

What is interesting or strange is that in 2012 when President Barack Obama ran for reelection, his Republican adversary, Mitt Romney and his fellow Republicans seem to have totally forgotten the Crash or Great Recession of 2008.  When elected they were going to do away with the laws passed in 2009 and 2010 to avoid that situation from occurring again.  And the same is true about the Presidential Election of 2016.  It would seem that the Republicans have some sort of collective amnesia about their own past.  The difference is that in 2016 the Republican candidate, Donald Trump and his fellow Republicans won the election, not only the presidency but also both Houses of Congress.  What will they do?  It seems that the Republicans themselves are not sure

The Weiner Component #175 – Part 2: Notes on Donald Trump

Currently there is little going on between the Trump Group

US Intelligence Community Seal

US Intelligence Community Seal (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

and the CIA and other intelligence services.  For one thing Trump is refusing to attend daily Intelligence Briefings more than once a week.  He claims he is smart enough to know what is going on in the world and that the meetings are redundant.  He is having his Vice-President, Mike Pence, attend daily. 

 

On the other hand there is heavy dissent over the issue of Russia having influenced or tried to influence the Presidential Election by hacking and releasing through WiliLeaks thousands of Clinton and others Democratic emails.  There is even a possibility of Russia having hacked into actual voting in the rural areas of the smaller states.  These assertions have come from both Democrats and Republicans, marking the first time he had been officially called out by his own party.  In fact Senator John McCain, the chair of the Armed Services Committee called for an investigation of Russian interference in the election.

 

The Trump people are mockingly pointing out that the CIA supported the concept of weapons of mass destruction during the first Bush Jr. administration, which incidentally they did not do.  They were surprised by this Bush assertion and stated then that it wasn’t true, there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.  Bush and Cheney had found a pseudo expert who propounded this theory.  Bush Jr. wanted the invasion because the ruler of Iraq had attempted to assassinate his “Daddy.”

 

Currently leaders in Congress are attempting to form a bipartisan group to investigate this situation.  Trump is insisting that this finding by the Intelligence Community is nonsense for two reasons: (1) He didn’t need any help in winning the election, and (2) He has specific plans for dealing with Putin and Russia under his administration and the move by Congress could force him to alter them.

 

Trump’s rationale seems to be that the Intelligence Community has “no idea if it’s Russia or China or somebody else.  He called their report “Ridiculous.”  Of course he knows this without looking at the CIA’s evidence.  Remember, he does not attend Intelligence Briefings.

 

In the first postelection pushback that Trump has encountered from the Republican Party that belatedly and reluctantly embraced the unconventional candidate whose views often clash with traditional GOP ideology, the majority and minority heads of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Republican Senator John McCain and Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer stated: “Democrats and Republicans must work together and across the jurisdictional lines of the Congress, to examine these recent incidents thoroughly and devise comprehensive solutions to defer and defend against further cyberattacks.”

 

During the final weeks of the campaign thousands of emails, many stolen from the Clinton campaign were released to WiliLeaks on an almost daily basis.  On Friday December 9th President Barack Obama ordered the CIA and other intelligence agencies to conduct a full review of foreign based digital attacks aimed at influencing the election. 

 

On Friday December 16th in his final Press Conference President Obama stated that he had seen the evidence that the hacking had been done by Russia in order to influence the American election in favor of Trump.   He also stated that this would never have happened unless Vladimir Putin was directly involved in the action.  President Obama further stated that the United States would take action, some visible and some publically invisible against Russia.

 

President Obama has a fraction over one month to take action or actions against Russia.  On January 20, 2017, Donald Trump becomes the 45th President of the United States for the next four years and he has a positive view of Vladimir Putin. 

       *************************************

Trump was elected by numerous individuals, many of whom probably voted for the first time because of Trump’s promises.  In fact choosing him as the Republican candidate was a populist revolt over Congress’ inaction over the last six years.  The group or groups in the individual states that caused him to win the election were both high school graduates and non-graduates who couldn’t stand the Democratic Party but had gotten nothing from the Republican Party in return for their votes in the past.  Trump, the so-called billionaire, became the representative of this group throughout the United States.  At the Republican Convention he promised to be their voice, to represent them and to bring back the past.  That is, to bring back the jobs which have gone overseas or had technologically disappeared during the last forty or fifty years, which their group supposedly had in those earlier decades when life was simpler and, presumably, these people prospered or at least were able to earn a decent living.

                       ****************************

Trump made all sorts of promises during the campaign.  Now we begin to see, in a vague manner, where Trump is going politically by his Cabinet choices.  He seems to favor generals, billionaires, and Wall Street.  This is a strange group to satisfy the needs of the “forgotten man” or woman.  He has chosen one of the most consistently conservative policy teams in the total history of the nation.  In fact, most of these people chosen seem to hold opposite views in terms of the offices to which they are being appointed.

 

Trump vigorously campaigned against Wall Street and big banks, then chose a former Goldman Sacks partner who is a billionaire, Steven Mnuchin, to run the Treasury Department.  Mnuchin is the co-chief executive of the hedge fund Dune Capital Management.  He has served as chairman of the One West Bank after he led a group to purchase it.  The bank has been criticized for a large number of foreclosures and for discrimination against minorities.  It has also financed several high-profile films.  Prior to that Mnuchin spent 17 years at Goldman Sacks.  According to the Progressive Orange Campaign Committee Mnuchin made a fortune foreclosing on working family homes.  This is the man Trump has chosen to oversee the financial structure of the United States.

 

A former lobbyist for the Koch brothers, who led a group that argued that solar energy would dramatically raise the cost of electricity is Trump choice to take over the Energy Department.  Thomas Pyle is the man.  For years Pyle has led a national assault on renewable power.  Pyle has tweeted that he expects the new administration would go beyond a mere rollback of President Obama’s climate change actions.  This is the man that Trump would have run the Energy Department.

 

In Health and Human Services, Social Security and Medicare, which Trump promised to save he has chosen Representative Tom Price, who has advocated major revisions in both, to run those services.  Price is a six term Georgia Congressman who has led the charge to privatize Medicare.  Trump did not mention Price’s plans for major changes to Medicare and Medicaid.  Price wants to privatize Medicare and give participants in the program medical vouchers.  He wants to save the government money by actually gradually making the beneficiary more and more responsible for paying for his own medical care.  In terms of Medicaid give grants of money to the states.  In this fashion the Federal Government can gradually decrease what it pays for these social programs.  These programs mostly serve poor Americans.  These changes would slowly decrease their benefits.  He probably would also privatize Social Security. 

  

 His choice for Labor Secretary is Andrew Puzder, the CEO of CKE that owns Hardees and Carl Jr., who will control the working people and has spoken of the advantages of using automation instead of people at Carl Jr.  He named Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, a man that has repeatedly expressed skepticism about the scientific consensus on climate change to lead the Environmental Protection Agency.

 

Presumably his choice for Secretary of State is Rex Tillerson, the CEO of the Exxon Mobile Corporation.  Tillerson has had dealings with Vladimir Putin and Russia.  In fact in 2013 Putin gave him the highest civilian medal that could be awarded to an individual, the Russian Order of Friendship.  It has also recently been released that Tillerson is a Director for a Russian-American oil company based in the Bahamas.

 

For Attorney General Donald Trump has chosen Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, a true Southerner with strong Southern values who claims he is not a racist.  Republican Representative Mick Mulvancy, a Tea Party deficit hawk is Trump’s choice as his budget director.  He is cofounder of the hard right House Freedom Caucus and has a reputation for pushing deep spending cuts in order to balance the budget.

 

For Transportation Secretary, Trump choose Elaine Chao.  She served eight years as George W. Bush’s Labor Secretary and is married to Mitch McConnell, the majority leader in the Senate.  Retired Lt. General Michael Flynn was named as National Security Adviser.  Flynn was fired by the Obama administration for erratic behavior and has used anti-Muslim language that even the most strident Republicans have avoided.  He has used the words “radical Islamic terrorism in a way that blurs the lines between a war on terrorism and a war on Islam.  Nikki Haley, the governor of South Carolina, was chosen to become Ambassador to the United Nations.

 

Trump is still looking for people to appoint to other departments and there are others he has already appointed.  The point has been made that most of Trump’s appointments are people who are opposed to the departments they are heading.  Their function, apparently, will be to do a hatchet job on their departments, destroying any progress that has been made toward a cleaner, nonpolluting environment.  The country has chosen a rather depressing four years.

           *********************************

In order to save jobs in Indiana Trump got the air conditioning company, Carrier Corporation to not move 2,000 jobs to Mexico.  Instead for a state tax rebate of seven million dollars voted by a committee headed by Governor Mike Pence of Indiana, Carrier, the highly financially successful company, is only moving twelve hundred jobs to Mexico.  Trump saved eight hundred jobs.  It only cost Indiana seven million dollars in lost taxes. 

 

What emerges here is essentially a negative pattern in which President Donald Trump by placing people who basic philosophy is counter to the departments in government to which they are appointed can in a relatively short time wipe out the achievements of their departments and bring the country back to where it was prior to 2008 when the Housing Debacle occurred.  They can relatively quickly get rid of all or most government restrictions on industrial and banking development.  Many Republicans, particularly the Tea Party group, applaud these choices by Trump.  A small percentage of the Republicans do not appreciate them. 

 

There are currently 52 Republican Senators and 48 Democratic ones in the Senate.  Most of Trump’s appointments require “advice and consent” by the Senate.  I can think of no way in which all the Republican Senators will give Trump a blanket vote.  Trump may find it impossible to get many of his choices for Cabinet department heads through.  The Democrats will give negative blanket votes against almost all of them.  It will only take 3 Republican votes to get a person rejected.  The hearings should be interesting and dramatic.

                       *********************************

What we see here seems to be a pattern of what the two major political parties stand for and where they currently are in terms of historical time. 

 

The Republicans seem to be in the late 18th Century, when this country was started, and in the 19th Century when life and work was simpler.  Their basic premise seems to be that the function of government is to take care of wars and provide a safe environment where business can take place.  The people of the nation are responsible for themselves.  This type of government did function during the early period of our history, when men could pack up their families and go west.

 

The Democratic Party, which was begun by Thomas Jefferson, initially was the party of the yeoman farmer, it served the little man as he and his family made their way through life.  This changed in the 20th Century when life became mostly urban and monopoly arrived, virtually totally exploiting the common man.  A young lawyer, Louis Brandeis, introduced sociological evidence, the living conditions of workers, in his trials for the first time and essentially changed the concept of what was considered evidence.  For this he was rewarded or punished by being placed upon the Supreme Court.

 

Brandeis was followed by the Great Depression of 1929 and Franklin D. Roosevelt who redefined the functions of the Democratic Party as the Party of the common man.  Its functions, in addition to the normal ones of a National Government, became those of assuming responsibility for the functions of society that individuals could not handle for themselves, making the nation safe and positively functional for everyone.

 

With the election of Trump we seem to be at the beginning of a return to the past.  Of course, with doing away with Affordable Health Care (Obamacare), which the Republicans have tried to do multiple times under President Obama and claimed should be done, we could, at some point in 2017, see well over 20 million people lose their medical coverage.  In addition the entire medical insurance industry could be totally disrupted as the insurance companies base their premium rates upon their knowledge of their clientele.  A disruption of this sort could cost the Republicans both Houses of Congress in 2018.  And it’s interesting to note that toward the end of 2016, after Trump became President-Elect, there has been a massive surge of sign-ups for Obamacare.  It is in the millions.

          **********************************

Donald Trump has promised, among other things, not to change Obamacare other than to make it better.  The Republicans in Congress have promised to do away with it for the last six years.  Over 20 million people who had no medical insurance prior to Obamacare are now insured.  The Republicans have promised to replace it with something better but in six years they have come up with nothing better.  What are they going to do?  Twenty million or more people suddenly losing their health insurance will, no doubt, make their feeling known in the next Congressional Election in 2018.

 

Paul Ryan, the Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives, recently was questioned by the press about Obamacare.  He equivocated, saying that nothing has been decided yet.  The Republicans have controlled both Houses of Congress for nearly two years and nothing has been decided.  Apparently the Republicans do a good job of objecting but a lousy job of legislating.  It would seem that the different shades of conservatism are incapable of coming to agreement on most things among themselves or, to put it more simply, compromising even among themselves.

                  

In terms of Trump and the majority of Congress, both claim to be Republican, but do they really agree on all or even most traditional conservative policies?  Keep in mind that the conservatives in Congress have problems functioning as a single unit, then add the President-Elect, who has his own version of conservatism and would come to different conclusions on many issues, and try to visualize what will probably happen.

 

The issue is Russian interference in the 2016 Presidential Election.  There are also innumerable other issues.  One gets the feeling that the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Paul Ryan, doesn’t quite trust Donald Trump.  The two smile a lot together but don’t really trust one another.

 

First: Ryan was the only Republican in the House of Representatives that all the Republicans in the House could accept as their conditional leader after John Boehner was forced to resign as Speaker.  Second: Ryan is using the same techniques against Trump that he used against President Obama.  The Finance Bill, which funds the Federal Government, traditionally was passed for the entire fiscal year.  Ryan changed that.  It is now passed on a four month basis.

 

According to the Constitution all money bills have to originate in the House.  The Bill then goes to the Senate.  They can pass it exactly as it is or they can change it.  If they change it the Bill then goes to a Conference Committee, made up of Representatives from both Houses of Congress.  Both Houses vote on the new Bill; and when passed, it goes to the President for his signature.

 

Paul Ryan changed that pattern.  The House would pass the money Bill just before the House adjourned for some sort of break.  The Bill sent to the Senate had to be passed just as it was.  There was no time for the Conference Committee to meet.  Attached to the money Bill were riders the President would not ordinarily approve.  The choice was to pass the Bill or allow the government to run out of money.

 

The last money Bill that Congress passed was in the middle of December of 2016.  The next money Bill will have to be passed in the middle of April of 2017.  Ryan has left himself with leverage that can be used against President Trump if it is necessary.

       **************************************

Trump’s Presidency should be loud and vociferous.  Trump will be highly frustrated every time he doesn’t get his way.  The frustration will begin with many of the appointments he has made.  Only a percentage of his appointments will be approved.  He should be denouncing congressmen loudly, accusing them of all sorts of things.  In addition he will want to perform assorted actions that Congress does not approve of and he will be reacting to that.  At some point the House may even vote a Bill of Impeachment against him for conflicts of interest or for some other reason.  The next four years will be colorful and probably, at times, very emotional.

 

The Weiner Component #174 – The 2016 Election

 

Hillary Clinton won the popular vote in the 2016 Presidential Election by at least 2.8 million votes.  She actually won the election but lost the Electoral College Vote: Clinton had 232 Electoral votes to Trump’s 306. On the basis of a true Democratic Vote, rule by the will of the majority of people in the country, Hillary Clinton actually got the majority of votes.  She should have won the election.

 

Donald Trump won the actual election because of a system inaugurated by the Founding Fathers in the late 18th Century that allowed the election to be skewered toward the much less populated states.  The initial issue in the late seventeen hundreds was representation for all thirteen states regardless of population. 

 

Each state regardless of size got two senators while the number of representatives in the House of Representatives was determined by the population of each state.  The smaller states didn’t want to be totally overshadowed then by the larger states.  The 2016 Presidential Election is the fourth time in the history of the nation that the election has gone to the person with the lesser amount of the public votes.

 

It has happened twice in the 19th Century and, so far, twice in the 21st Century.  As a rule the Republicans tend to do better in midterm election than in Presidential elections.  This is mainly because a lot of voters don’t vote then.  In addition to this Republicans use what methods they can to suppress the minority vote.  Texas has been quite successful with voter suppression.

 

The majority political party in the United States is the Democratic Party, then comes the Republicans, then the Independents, down the line there are the Libertarians, and finally the Green Party.  There are other groups but they tend to be regional.  Occasionally there will be Third Party candidates.

 

During a Presidential Election only two of the fifty states, Nebraska and Maine, do not follow the winner take all principle.  In the remaining forty-eight states whoever wins the majority of votes gets all the electoral votes for that state. 

 

There are 435 elected members in the House of Representatives that represent the 50 states.  There are three more that represent territories held by the United States.  Not all territories are represented.  The 435 seats is a fixed number.  Every ten years a census is taken and the seats are redistributed based upon population changes.  Regardless of population every state will have at least one member in the House.  In the Senate every state is represented by two Senators regardless of population. 

 

Every four years a Presidential Election is held.  The voters, within the country, do not vote directly for the president.  Instead they elect an invisible elector who will vote for the person they choose.  There are 538 people who are chosen as electors, three or more from every state representing the members of Congress and three representing the U.S. territories.  It takes 270 electoral votes to become President.

 

One of the problems with this system is that the Electoral Districts are the same as the House of Representative Districts.  Both political parties, but the Republicans particularly, have gerrymandered their Districts within their states to give them the most advantage when it comes to elections.  They have drawn the districts to break up Democratic blocks of voters and whenever possible give Republicans the advantage.  This same advantage exists in the Electoral Districts of many states, since both are the same. 

 

This advantage has allowed the Republicans to hold a majority in the House of Representatives since 2011 even though in 2012 over one and a quarter million more Democrats voted for members of the House.  That same advantage existed for Donald J. Trump even though Hillary Clinton has received well over two million more votes from the general population than Donald Trump has gotten.

 

Two of the Texas electors have announced that they cannot in good conscious vote for Trump.  One has stated that he will resign and the other will vote for another Republican.  This, of course, will not change anything.

                    *************************************

Since the overall population of the United States increases and continually relocates a National census is taken every ten years to determine the number of House of Representative Districts in the nation.  The number is fixed at 435.  The Congressional Election Districts are rearranged every ten years.  Also within the cities of each state there is a continual movement from the rural areas to the urban cemters where most job opportunities occur, so that the population will dynamically change within the ten year period.  Consequently the cities continue to grow making for totally unequal numbers in many of the Congressional Districts.  Within most states the urban votes count for less each year against the rural districts, which tend to lose people continually.

 

What is true for the individual states is also true for the United States, except that here it works on a larger scale.  The number of people voting in the larger states, which have many more and much larger urban areas, have their individual votes count for a lot less than those residing in the smaller states, particularly in the rural sections of the smaller states.

 

All fifty states are shown on MSNBC, CNN, or Fox News as either red or blue states: red is Republican and blue is Democratic.  There are also purple states, which are the swing states that can go either way.  Most of the campaigning during Presidential Elections is done in the purple or swing states.

 

These battleground states carry disproportionate influence in Presidential Elections.  In 2016 most of the campaigning was done in just twelve states.

                         **********************************

According to the U.S. Census Bureau there is a net population gain of one person every 13 seconds.  This means that the United States gains 110.77 people every day or 40,431 every single year.

 

The following population statistics are taken from the Census Bureau’s July 2014 estimate.  If anything they tend to be conservative.

 

The statistics here used were done by the Census Bureau in July of 2014.  According to the official 2010 population count officially done by the Census Bureau the population of the United States was 308,745,538 and was estimated to be 318,857,056 in July of 2014.  The 2016 Vote was taken from the results of the Presidential Election.

 

                                                               House     Elect.      Pop. Per   |2016

Rank|     State           | Population|  Seats|   Votes   |House Seat| V0te

    1  |  California      | 38,802.500|    53    |     55       |      717,763|  D

    2  |   Texas            | 26,956,958|    36    |     38       |      734,867|  R

    3  |   Florida         |  19,893,297|    27    |      29       |      715,465| R

    4  |  New York     |  19,746,227|    27    |      29       |      724,824| D

    5  |  Illinois           |  12,880,580|   18     |      20       |     715.292 | D

    6  |Pennsylvania |  12,787,209|   18     |      20       |     709,085 | R

    7  |     Ohio           |   11,594163|   16     |      18       |     721,514 | R

    8  |    Georgia      |   10,097,343|   14    |       16      |      708,568 | R

    9  | N. Carolina   |      9,943,964|   13    |       15      |      750,159| R

  10  |  Michigan     |      9,909,877|   14    |       16      |      705,954| D

  11  | New Jersey  |      8,938,175|   12    |       14      |      738,716| D

  12  | Virginia         |      8,326,289|   11    |      13       |      744,170| D

  13  |Washington  |      7,061,530|   10    |      12       |      689,701| D

  14  |Massachusetts|   6,745,408|     9    |       11      |      738,460| D

  15  |   Arizona       |      6,731,484|     9    |       11      |      728,139| R

  16  |   Indiana       |      6,596,855|     9    |       11      |      726,370| R

  17  |  Tennessee  |      6,549,352|     9    |       11      |      717,360| R

  18  |   Missouri     |      6,063,589  |     8   |       10      |      752,749| R

  19  |  Maryland    |      5,976,407  |     8   |       10      |      735,570| D

  20  |  Wisconsin   |      5,757,564  |     8   |       10      |      715,800| R

  21  |  Minnesota  |      5,457,173  |     8   |       10      |      672,392| D

  22  |  Colorado     |      5,355,856  |     7   |         9      |      741,083| D

  23  |  Alabama     |       4,849,377  |     7   |        9      |       688,860| R

  24  | S. Carolina   |       4,832,482  |     7   |        9      |      674,818 | R

  25  | Louisiana     |       4,649.676  |    6    |        8      |      766,982 | R

  26  | Kentucky     |       4,413,457  |    6    |        8      |      730,069 | R

  27  |  Oregon       |       3,970,239  |    5    |        7      |      779,871 | D

  28  |Oklahoma    |        3,878,051 |    5    |        7      |      762,964 | R

  29  |Connecticut |        3,596,677 |    5    |        7      |      718,059 | D

  30  |     Iowa         |        3,107,126 |    4    |        6      |      758,547 | R

  31  |  Arkansas     |        2,994,079 |    4    |        6      |      737,283 | R

  32  |Mississippi    |        2,984,926 |    4    |        6      |     746,232  | R

  33  |      Utah         |        2,942902  |    4    |        6      |     713,822  | R

  34  |   Kansas        |        2,904,021 |     4    |        6      |     721,476  | R

  35  |   Nevada       |        2,839,099 |     4    |        6      |     689,733  | D

  36  |New Mexico |        2,085,572 |     3    |        5      |     695,179  | D

  37  |  Nebraska     |       1,881,503  |     3    |        5     |      618,508 | R

  38  | W. Virginia   |        1,850,326 |     3    |        5     |      618,471 | R

  39  |    Idaho         |         1,634,464|      2    |       4     |      797,864 | R

  40  |   Hawaii        |         1,419,561|      2    |       4     |      696,157 | D

  41  |   Maine       |    1,330,089   |         2    |       4     |      664,596 | D

  42  | N. Hampshire| 1,326,813  |         2    |        4     |      660,350| D

  43  |Rhode Island|   1,055,173  |         2     |        4     |      525,146| D

  44  |   Montana   |    1,023,579  |         1     |        3      |  1,005,141| R

  45  |   Delaware  |        935,614  |         1     |        3      |      917,029| D

  46  | S. Dakota    |        853,175  |         1     |        3      |      833,354| R

  47  | N. Dakota   |        739,482  |         1     |        3      |      699,628| R

  48  |   Alaska       |        737,732  |         1     |        3      |      736,732| R

  49  |   Vermont   |       626,011   |         1     |       3       |     626,562 | D

  50  |   Wyoming  |      584,153    |         1    |        3       |     576,412 | R

 

Depending upon population every state has at least three people in Congress, two in the Senate and at least one in the House of Representatives.  Wyoming, population-wise has the smallest population, a little over ½ million, while California has the largest population, almost 40 million.  California has 53 house members and two Senators.  The other states generally come between these two. 

 

Altogether there are seven states that have only one representative in the House and two in the Senate.  Of these two voted Democratic and five voted Republican.  Only thirteen states have ten or more electoral votes.  All the others go from one to nine.

 

If we take the bottom 29 states and count their total population then we have approximately the same population as California.  They have 55 House Districts and 42 Senators.  This gives them 97 electoral votes against California’s 55 electoral votes.  There seems to be something wrong with this math. 

 

If it’s argued that some of the bottom 21 states voted for the Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton, then if we skip those states and count just Republican states the number diminishes a little but the same problem exists.  The number of House votes will increase and there is still a large number of Senate votes.  No matter how this is added up it is totally unfair.  The smaller states each have two Senators and the number adds substantially to the number of electors representing them while the much larger states only have two senators.  

 

The reason for the Electoral College may have made sense in the late 17 hundreds but it makes no sense today.  A fair election in a Democracy is an election where all the people are equally represented.  This does not exist with the Electoral College.  It is past time for a change. 

 

Even Donald Trump has called the system unreasonable.  With a fairer system Trump said he would have done most of his campaigning in the bigger states.  He believes he still would have won.

                 ****************************************

In addition, under the current system, there are actually 50 plus elections going on with no carry-over from one to the other.  Forty-eight of the states are winner take all states.  This means that every vote for the losing candidate is lost.  In a truly democratic election there would still be one winner, but every single vote would matter until the winner was chosen.  That doesn’t happen here.  Hillary Clinton had well over two million more votes in the 2016 Election than Donald Trump.

 

In addition states like California send millions of tax dollars to the Federal Government.  The smaller states are generally the recipients of much of this money since many of them receive much of this tax money in aid. 

 

Trump ran up large margins in small cities and rural areas turning out white, working class workers in states like Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Ohio.  He also did extremely well in rural areas of battleground states like Florida and North Carolina, which he won.

 

It is certainly time to modernize our election system.  All votes should be counted equally.  The Founding Fathers did not visualize or necessarily approve of political parties.  They developed a system that they believed would allow the President to be chosen by the best educated people living in the country.  They never even had a glimmer of a country such as exists today. 

 

Political Parties came into existence almost immediately after the Constitution was ratified.  Alexander Hamilton organized the first political party, the Federalist Party.  Shortly thereafter Thomas Jefferson organized the Democratic-Republican Party.  Both men served under President George Washington. 

 

We are now in the 21st Century.  It is time to modernize the Constitution.  Hillary Clinton should have won the 2016 Presidential Election.  Hopefully Trump will not take us back to the 1920s and the disaster that followed in 1929.

                 **********************************

Hillary Clinton had 2.8 million more votes than Donald Trump.  She had approximately the same number as Barack Obama had in 2012.  She won big in the larger states like California and New York, beating Trump by almost 2 for 1 in California.  Trump, where he won, won by small margins.  In the smaller states he won by slight margins; and mostly by votes in the underrepresented rural areas of the smaller states.  It was an election where the smaller states, those that generally get economic help from the Federal Government, made Trump the winner.  The 2016 Presidential Election was a prime example of rule by the minority.

 

The Weiner Component #170 – The 2016 Presidential Election

On Tuesday, October 8, the 2016 Presidential Election

James Comey

James Comey (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

was held.  Surprisingly, the winner that emerged was Donald J. Trump.  Clinton went into the election clearly as the favorite.  According to a phone call with some of her staff she blamed her loss upon the FBI Director, James Comey.   

 

Early in his tenure as Attorney General, Eric Holder stated that it was essential that no government agency take sides in any political activity.  James Comey, the Director of the FBI, did that when he announced toward the beginning of July 2015 that the FBI was investigating the Emails of Hillary Clinton that were sent through a private server when she was Secretary of State.  This went against FBI policy, announcing an investigation while it was in process.  In essence, whether he meant to do it or not, Director Comey was both putting himself and the FBI in the middle of a Presidential Election and influencing its possible outcome.  This had not happened since the days of the first Director, J. Edgar Hoover, who used the agency for political purposes innumerable times.  It was, however, against the instructions of Obama’s first Attorney General and the practices of the institution. 

 

The outcome of that investigation was that Clinton had been careless but had done nothing prosecutable.  The investigation did, however, cast a shadow over her campaign. 

 

Shortly before the election, while early voting was going on in many states, in a different case, an investigation against Antony Weiner communicating inappropriately  with a 15 year old girl in another state, presumably more Clinton Emails were found.  Weiner’s estranged wife, Huma Abedin, who was one of Clinton’s close aides, had apparently used Weiner’s laptop computer.  Abedin didn’t know how the Emails got onto the computer.  Even the number of them on the computer was unknown.  The FBI needed a court order to look at the Emails, consequently none had been read.  Only their existence was known.  Comey issued this information to the Republican heads of all the Congressional committees in a letter.  They, in turn, released this information to the press with fictitious statements as to what the Emails contained.  Donald Trump in his campaign quoted the unread emails.

 

Three days before the election Comey announced that the Emails had been duplicates of those seen earlier. There was no case against Clinton.  But the damage had been done.  Several million people had already voted.  Comey had taken the FBI to a new level, it had become a political organization.

                      *******************************

Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by 1.4 million votes.  But Trump had 290 Electoral votes to Hillary’s 228.  The American Democracy does not count each vote equally.  When the Founding Fathers wrote the Constitution there were thirteen states which had been incorporated together under the Articles of Confederation.  In essence there were thirteen sovereign independent little nations that had acted together during the Revolutionary War and continued to act together under the Articles.  But each was sovereign; they could go their own way at any time.  The delegates under the Articles had very little actual authority to do anything.  When any major decisions about anything had to be made they had to go back to their state legislatures for instructions and, as a final step, all had to agree for the measure to be passed.

 

Before the Revolutionary War the large Southern Planters all owed English merchants millions of dollars which they refused to pay now that they had won their independence.  The prewar situation had been such that these rich planters could order anything they wanted through these English merchants: furniture, building materials of all sorts, clothing, whatever, and the merchants would supply whatever they asked for and deduct the costs from their clients slave raised crops or lumber or whatever else they got from the planters.  The planters generally exceeded their crop profits.  Eventually massive amounts of monies were owed.  After the Revolutionary War the planters considered themselves debt free.  Some of the English merchants sued in American state courts, but they always lost their suit.  No American jury would give them anything.

 

In the new country in Massachusetts the tidewater merchants who ran the government needed to raise a certain amount in taxes.  Transportation at that time was very poor and Inland farmers who raised grain all had stills and turned their excess grain into whiskey, which was much easier to carry to places where it could be sold or traded for needed household goods or whatever else they wanted.  The coastal lawmakers placed the tax on whiskey.  What occurred was called Shay’s Rebellion of 1786 – 1787.  Daniel Shay argued that if the Southern planters could make their debts disappear so could the inland farmers.

 

The problem was solved when former General George Washington called out the National Guard.  These were tidewater civilians, many of them veterans of the Revolutionary War, who formed up and went inland.  As the soldiers appeared the Rebellion disintegrated.  Some men were arrested and taken back to the coastal city areas.  Washington eventually pardoned all of them but they had been away from their farms for months.  Thereafter they paid their taxes.

 

This was probably one of the main reasons for the Constitutional Convention which met in the state legislative capital in Philadelphia during the summer of 1787, from May 25 through September 17.  They claimed that they were going to amend the Articles of Confederation.  But they met in secret, taking no notes during their meetings.  After quickly coming to the conclusion that the Articles of Confederation by themselves could never be effective as a document of government they decided under their Chairman, George Washington, to write a new document.  This was the Constitution.

 

The group, under Washington’s leadership, was essentially made up of the leading men of property.  Among other things they had their own self-interest at heart.  They wanted a government that was strong enough to protect them and their self-interest and free enough to gain the support of the entire population. 

 

In the process of working out the Constitution they faced a number of problems.  One of these was that among the thirteen states there were large and small states.  The small states wanted their rights; they did not want to be overshadowed by the larger states.  This brought about the idea of a bicameral legislature.  Each State would be given two Senators, older and more stable men who were 35 or older, and a House of Representatives, younger men who were 25 or older and elected every two years.  The Senate would be elected every six years and their election would be staggered into thirds every two years so the government could maintain a continuation of whatever it was doing. 

 

The House would be elected directly by men owning property and represent the property owning yeoman; the Senate by the State Legislatures and represent them.  The President would be elected by an Electoral College, the members of which would be the wisest men in the region and they would pick the best man in the United States to be President. This would be done every four years.  There was no thought at this point of political parties.  If no one person received enough votes then the House of Representatives would choose the President.  Everyone agreed that George Washington would be the first President.

 

Under this system the votes are not equal.  Today they count for much more in the smaller states than in the larger ones.  There are 435 members of the House of Representatives, the number is fixed.  Each State has two senators and currently anything, depending upon population, from one to 55 representatives in the House of Representatives.  The number of electoral votes is fixed to the number of senators and house members; that is 535 electoral votes. 

 

In the 2016 Presidential Election the people elected Hillary Clinton with 1.4 million addition votes for Hillary Clinton but the Midwestern States gave the election to Donald J. Trump.  It was not a fair election.  It’s time to again amend the Constitution.  All citizens now have the vote, both male and female, property owners and renters.  All votes should be equally counted.

 

There is another interesting point to be made.  The House and Senate are fixed at 435 House members and 100 Senators.  The population of the United States grows every year.  Every ten years a census is taken of the populations and the number of House of Representative Districts are reassigned on the basis of the population changes or reapportionment.  Each state legislature then redraws the new legislative districts within each state’s boundaries.  In many cases, particularly when the Republicans control the majority of state governments, the voting districts are gerrymandered to give the majority state party the voting advantage.  They can take any shape as long as the line is continuous. 

 

In 2010 the Republicans gained control of most states.  They gerrymandered the Election Districts to their advantage, giving them control of the House of Representatives from 2011 on.  In the 2012 Midterm Election about 1 ¼ million more Democrats voted for members of the House but the Republicans still ended up with the majority of House seats that year.  Gerrymandering can fragment strong Democratic districts attaching them, on a piecemeal basis, as small parts of Republican dominated districts.  This is blatantly unfair.

 

The Constitution has been amended numerous times.  Its initial object was to create, for the first time, a late 18th Century a Democratic Document of government.  It was the first time a Democracy came into existence since Ancient Athens.  The 15th Amendment in 1870 gave every male, regardless of color, the right to vote.  The 17th Amendment in 1913 made the people of each individual state responsible for electing their senators.  The 19th Amendment in 1919 gave women the right to vote.  The 24th Amendment in 1965 did away with the poll tax.  The 26th Amendment in 1971 reduced the voting age to eighteen.  If you were old enough to fight and die for your country you were old enough to vote.  It’s time for a 28th Amendment to the Constitution.  We have had three Republican Presidents who have stolen elections: one in 1876, one in 2001, and one in 2017.  Every vote cast for the President should count equally.  In a true Democracy the People are supposed to rule.

                        *****************************

Another major problem with the 2016 Presidential Election was the fact that voter turnout was the lowest in years.  The Republicans tend to do well when voter turnout is forcibly and/or voluntarily reduced.  In this election, despite numerous lawsuits to stop the process, there was a lot of voter suppression.  In the State of Texas in 2014 it exceeded 200,000.  In 2016 it could have been higher.

 

In addition the two major candidates, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump were both the two most disliked Presidential candidates in United States history.  Clinton was polled at a negative 60% level and Trump, at a 75% level.  Fifty-four percent of the population voted; forty-six percent of the population stayed at home and did not vote.  Still even though Hillary Clinton had the majority of votes she had far less than President Obama received four years ago.

 

Donald J. Trump was guilty of everything he accused Clinton of being and doing.  He has just settled a fraud class action lawsuit about Trump University which was scheduled to begin on November 28, 2016.  Trump had previously denounced the Judge as being of Mexican heritage numerous times.  The Judge had recommended that this case, that was filed 2010, be settled out of court. On Friday November 18, Trump settled this and two other Trump University class action suits for 25 million dollars.  Without admitting guilt Trump will be paying each of the class action participants about half of what they spent at Trump University.  If any or all the cases had gone to trial Trump could also have been guilty of fraud and have been impeached for “High Crimes and Misdemeanors” by the Republican dominated House of Representatives and found guilty in a trial by the Republican dominated Senate.

 

As far as I know there is still a 40 million dollar fraud suit by the State of New York which could also include participation by other states that were involved.  Also there is a criminal investigation going on concerning Trump’s Tax Free Foundation by the State of New York.  Forty-one other states could also participate in this case because Trump, among other things, tends to ignore state government laws, particularly dealing with his Foundation.  The IRS is also probably involved in this since the monies involved were tax free and probably shouldn’t have been.

 

As a side comment: What I find interesting is that the FBI could investigate The Clinton Foundation, which has a more positive rating than the Red Cross but not bother with the Trump Foundation where the evidence of wrong-doing is blatant.

                     *************************************

Hillary Clinton has been demonized since she was the First Lady in Arkansas in 1979.  She was then called the Lady Macbeth of Little Rock by several Republican writers.  She has been demonized continually since 1979 for essentially pushing for anti-Republican reform.  Presumably Hillary Clinton has never been a proper wife but has been as aggressive toward reform as her husband.  Obviously this behavior, to Republicans, is not being a proper lady. 

 

Where people believe, whose lives are very busy and don’t pay too much attention to the Federal Government other than on election years, is where there’s smoke there has to be fire or if it wasn’t at least partially true the Republicans would never bring it up.  What has been created is a negative myth about her.  Every one of us has made some mistakes over our lifetime or have done some stupid things but these acts do not define us.  Our entire lives do.  Hillary Clinton has worked, and in many cases successfully, to improve conditions around her, particularly for women and children.  To her “Women’s rights are human rights.”

 

The negative myths about her are just that, negative myths created by the Republicans to put her in her place.  Kevin McCarthy, Charlie McCarthy’s younger cousin, announced over the weekend of November 12th that the House of Representatives’ agenda does not include hearings on Clinton, which were promised for at least the next two years if she were elected President.  They may eventually amend the agenda to hold hearing on Donald J. Trump.  If they could dump Trump then Mike Pence, a good Republican, would be President of the United States and the House could probably do anything it wanted.  That could be the best of all possible worlds for them.

                    ***************************** 

The Weiner Component #169 – Part 3: The Modern Presidents & the Congress

English: Presidents Gerald Ford, Richard Nixon...

The first of the potentially extreme Conservative Candidates to run for the Presidency was Barry Goldwater.  He ran and was massively defeated in 1964 by Lyndon B. Johnson.  He received 22% of the vote, Johnson got well over 70%.  The extreme Conservatives (reactionaries) were not able to successfully mass their forces and win an election until 1980 with Ronald Reagan.  Both Eisenhower and Nixon tended to be more moderate Republicans.

 

Ronald Wilson Reagan was born on February 6, 1911 and died on June 5, 2004.  He served as President of the United States from January 20, 1981 to January 20, 1989.  This made him seventy years old when he first assumed the presidency and seventy-eight when he retired from that position, after serving two terms.  Up until that point he was the oldest President of the United States.

 

For his first four year term the Senate had a Republican majority and the House of Representatives had more Democrats than Republicans, meaning that the Speaker of the House was a Democrat.  This continued through the first two years of his second term.  During his last two years in office both Houses of Congress had a Democratic majority. 

 

In order to get legislation he wanted Reagan had to be able to compromise with the Democrats; “Take half a loaf.”  Occasionally he would go off on a tantrum and state that unless such-and-such a bill was passed he would not sign any other bills; but mostly he was able to compromise with Democrats.  Once in a while he would get his way.

 

Reagan has been called the Teflon President.  He came across as a nice guy with good intensions, being both an excellent speaker and a likeable person.  His years in the movies from the late 1930s on and the fact that he always played one of the good guys seemed to carry over. 

 

In 1964 Reagan gave a paid speech for Barry Goldwater called: “A Time for Choosing,” that threw him into politics.  He was elected the conservative Governor of California from 1967 through 1975.  Later he unsuccessfully entered the race as a potential Republican Presidential candidate in 1968 and 1976.  He lost both times and was not chosen as the Republican candidate.  In 1980 he did become the Republican choice and won against the incumbent, Jimmy Carter.

 

As the new president in 1981, Reagan instituted new and sweeping changes.  He espoused supply side economic policies which was described as “Reagonomics.”  This advocated tax reduction for the well-to-do, presumably in order to bring about rapid economic growth.  The argument being that if the rich had more surplus income they would then invest that money into new economic growth.  This new money would then trickle down to the ordinary citizens who would hold these new jobs and the government would then collect more taxes by reducing taxes.

 

There was only one problem with this system: it didn’t work.  Reagan himself had been one of the rich individuals benefiting from the new law.  His money had never been invested in new growth and this was true for the entire group that received this benefit; they tended to invest their surplus funds into old investments like the stock market.

 

He also advocated economic deregulation which brought about an increase in pollution and, in addition, he advocated a decrease in government spending; that would be entitlement programs to help the poor since he massively increased military expenditures.

 

Reagan felt that during administrations like that of Jimmy Carter the Soviets had militarily gotten ahead of the U.S. in military preparedness.  He firmly believed that America had to catch up and get ahead of Russia in its military ability.  Consequently we had to seriously upgrade our armaments.  The program was called “Star Wars.”   Apparently Reagan liked movies; some of the weapons he envisioned came out of films; they didn’t exist in real life.  He felt they could be developed as needed.

 

Reagan’s military concepts weren’t true; we were far ahead of the Soviet Union.  The U.S. National Debt went up for the first time to well over a trillion dollars during his watch.  In a sense it was a brilliant strategic move because if we upgraded, even though it was partly on a comic book level, the military was going to utilize weapons that didn’t exist but were going to be created as needed.  Following this happening the Soviet Union to just maintain it world position also had to upgrade its military. 

 

Every country, every economy is limited to the amount of productivity that its citizenry is capable of producing.  It may be a gigantic amount, almost beyond concept, but it is still a finite amount.  Consequently choices have to be made as to what it will produce.  The Soviet Union by trying to keep up with the United States militarily massively deprived its people of what they needed in order to successfully survive and the result was that the Communist State fell economically apart and Russia ceased being a communist dictatorship. 

 

Communism, where it existed, now became a National Movement rather than an international one.  Each of the existing communistic states like China and Cuba now became mixes of socialism and capitalism.  Reagan can claim credit for this; but it was an accident based upon his fears rather than a strategic move.

                   ********************************

Early in his first administration Reagan allowed Paul Volker, the Chairman of the Federal Reserve, to institute the Draconian measures needed to break the inflationary spiral that had been gradually generated from the time of the Vietnam War.  These measures caused a lot of unemployment and misery throughout the United States.  Interest rates had reached over 12 1/2 percent. To break the cycle of inflation Volker raised them far beyond that.

 

With massive unemployment occurring Reagan went on national television with a copy of the Sunday Employment Section of the New York Times and stated to the American public that he held twenty pages of employment ads.  If anyone had lost their job then they should go to where there was employment.  After the announcement he returned to the Oval Office and forgot about the problem. 

 

From that day on people in old jalopies left home with their families and followed rumors of where there was supposedly employment.  Most of the rumors for employment in other parts of the U.S. were just that, rumors.  By 1982 the FED would reduce interest rates; the GDP would rise to 3.4%; the inflationary spiral was broken but the homeless problem would persist to the present day.

                             *******************************

In 1984 Reagan won a landslide victory for his second term.  His foreign policy was at times strange: He described the Soviet Union as the
Evil Empire.
  In late 1983 Reagan approved having the CIA mine Nicaragua’s main harbor.  This was the harbor of a Socialist country with whom we were at peace.  The object was to keep out civilian cargo vessels and cut off imported weapons, fuel, and other supplies.  The premise being that this would seriously hurt the Sandinista or socialist government of Daniel Ortega.  This, in turn would give a serious boost to the CIA backed rebels or “Freedom Fighters,” as Reagan called them and create and uprising.  The CIA used firecracker mines dropped by small speedboats.  They were noisy but did little damage.  This act created an international uproar which forced Congress to take action.

 

In 1986 the U.S. bombed Libya in retaliation for a 1986 Berlin discotheque terrorist bombing.  There were 40 reported Libyan casualties and one U.S. plane was shot down.  The dead included a baby girl.

 

Reagan illegally authorized the Iran-Contra Affair.  Toward the end of his second term Reagan requested that Congress authorize funds for his “Freedom Fighters” in Nicaragua.  The Democratic Congress would not authorize any money.  Reagan’s people, with his approval, began a secret operation by which arms would be illegally sold to Iran through other countries and the profit would be used for the Nicaraguan rebels.  The operation was right out of the movies, probably a James Bond movie, and the man coordinating everything was Colonel Oliver North, who probably saw himself as the super-patriot.  North avoided prison because he testified before Congress and all of his testimony was exempt from prosecution.

 

It was all totally illegal and Reagan could have been impeached and he and his staff prosecuted and sent to prison.  In his speech when he admitted it to the nation he couldn’t believe that he had acted illegally.  But since his term was almost over and as he had acted, it was believed, for the good of the United States nothing was done.

 

President Reagan initially transitioned the Cold War from détente to rollback by escalating an arms race with the USSR.  He engaged in talks with Mikhail Gorbachev that culminated in the INF Treaty which shrank both countries nuclear arsenals.   He challenged Gorbachev to tear down the Berlin wall.  This was done five months after he left office and on December 26, 1991, nearly three years after he left office, the Soviet Union collapsed.  It can be argued that President Ronald Reagan ended the Cold War.

                    *******************************

Reagan was followed by his Vice President, George H.W. Bush as the 41st President of the United States from January 20, 1989 to January 20, 1993.  He served one four year term as President.  Both Houses of Congress were controlled by the Democratic Party, consequently there wasn’t much cooperation between them and the Republican President.

 

President George H. W. Bush had a lot of experience working in the government: he had been a member in the House of Representatives from 1967 to 1971, United States Ambassador to the United Nations from 1971 to 1973, Chair of the Republican National Committee from 1973 to 1974, Chief of the U.S. Liaison Office to the People’s Republic of China from 1974 to 1975, Director of Central Intelligence from 1965 to 1977, and 43d Vice-President of the United States from 1981 to 1989.

 

In domestic policy Bush wanted to lower the National Debt which had grown to well over a trillion dollars under President Reagan.  He felt that this should be done by lowering government spending.  Congress, on the other hand felt it should be done by raising taxes.  Mostly the Democratic Congress won out.  Bush had promised not to raise taxes when he ran for the presidency but he later signed a bill that raised them.  This lowered his popularity significantly among Republicans.

 

President George H.W. Bush spearheaded, along with Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, the negotiations of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which eliminated the majority of tariffs on products traded among the United States, Canada, and Mexico.  The treaty encourages trade among these countries.

 

In foreign policy the U.S. invaded Panama and placed the popular elected president in charge of the country.  He had won the election but the old government under Manuel Noriega had invalidated it and remained in power.  After an American soldier was killed the U.S. invaded and arrested Noriega.

 

In Iraq the situation was different.  President Bush sent a plenipotentiary or special unassigned diplomat to deal with Saddam Hussein the ruler of Iraq.  The diplomat was a woman, which in the eyes of an Arab ruler meant that the mission was unimportant and also her authority to commit the U.S. to anything was highly limited.  Apparently the two verbally spared for a while. 

 

What Saddam Hussein needed to know was what would the U.S. do if Iraq invaded oil-rich Kuwait?  It would seem that diplomatic meetings never deal directly with the question that needs to be answered.  Saddam Hussein assumed from the meeting that the U.S. would do nothing to stop the invasion. 

 

I suspect that George H.W. Bush assumed he was establishing the concept of equal rights for women.  With his experience he should have known better.  The result of the Kuwait invasion was the Gulf War, which Bush had the sense to end without unseating Hussein.  Saddam Hussein would later attempt to have Bush assassinated for betraying him.  George W. Bush, his son, would later get even with Hussein and turn the Middle East into a cage-less zoo, which it still is.

                           ****************************

In 1992, Bush was succeeded in the presidency by Bill Clinton, a Democrat, who held that office for two terms, until January 20. 2001.  Previously Clinton had been Governor of Arkansas.

 

Bill Clinton presided over the longest period of peacetime economic expansion in American history.  During his first two years in office he had a Democratic majority in both Houses of Congress and he signed into law The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which had been initiated by Republcan President George H.W. Bush.

 

From 1992 until early 1994 the Republicans were able to stop legislation from passing in the Senate by use of the filibuster.  Clinton’s Health Care proposal was never voted upon and other legislation was also stopped in this fashion.

 

In 1994 both Houses of Congress achieved a Republican majority.  Newt Gingrich became Speaker of the House and Strom Thurman Majority Leader in the Senate.  The Senate had 47 Democrats and 53 Republicans.  The House had 230 Republicans and 204 Democrats.

 

President Clinton was seen by the Speaker and other Republicans as the enemy.  The Republicans shut down the government twice: from November 14 – 19, 1995 and from December 16 – January 6, 1996, for a total of 28 days.

 

The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Newt Gingrich, would resign his speakership and also resign from the House over ethics violation charges.  The potential vote against him was overwhelming by both Republicans and Democrats.

 

The final attack against Clinton ended in Impeachment Charges by the House of Representatives.  An independent council, Ken Starr, was appointed to investigate Clinton’s involvement in an earlier land deal, called “Whitewater.”  Nothing negative or impeachable was found about Clinton’s involvement.  What was discovered was that he was having an illicit relationship with a White House intern.  When questioned by a Grand Jury he gave misleading information.

 

Presumably he lied to the Grand Jury.  The first article of impeachment was approved by a House vote of 228 to 206.  Five Republicans refused to vote for it and five Democrats supported the impeachment.  He was accused of lying to the Grand Jury about the nature of his relationship with the intern.  The second article of impeachment, obstruction of justice passed by a narrower margin: 221 to 212.

 

The trial was held in the Senate, which also had a Republican majority.  The question, of course, was: Are these “High Crimes and Misdemeanors”?  Bill Clinton was found, Not Guilty.

 

The irony attached to this was that Newt Gingrich had earlier resigned both his Speakership and position in the House of Representatives.  He had been replaced by the Louisiana Republican, Robert L. Livingston as the new Speaker.  Larry Flynt, the publisher of Hustler Magazine offered one million dollars for each unflattering sexual story about Republican members of Congress. 

 

Apparently one million dollars is serious money.  Livingston was a true family man.  He so believed in it that he had two families, one legal and one not so legal.  His second extra-legal wife gave Flynt her story and received the one million dollars.  Robert L. Livingston resigned both his Speakership and his position in the House.  Other Republicans in Congress got very nervous as Flynt’s offer still remained.

                    ***********************************

For his last two years in office Clinton had a budget surplus and reduced the National Debt.  He signed a welfare reform act and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program that provided health coverage for millions of children.  Clinton left office with the highest public approval rating of any U.S. President since World War II.

 

The man who replaced Bill Clinton as the 43d President of the United States was George W. Bush, the second man elected president who did not receive the majority popular vote by the American people.

 

George Walker Bush was elected president in 2001 after a close and controversial election.  Eight months into his presidency, on September 11, 2001, The Twin Towers in New York City were destroyed in two terrorist suicide attacks.  Bush launched the War on Terror, an international military campaign which included the war in Afghanistan (2001) and the War in Iraq (2003).

 

In addition he promoted policies on health care, education, and social security reform.  While going to war he signed into law broad tax cuts, the Patriot Act, the No Child Left Behind law, social security reform, the Partial Birth Abortion Act, and Medicare prescription drug coverage benefits for seniors.  During his presidency there were national debates on immigration, social security, electronic surveillance, and torture or enhanced interrogation. 

 

George W. Bush was reelected to office in 2004 in another close election.  During his second term he received criticism for his handling, from both sides of the aisle, of the Iraq War and the Katrina Hurricane. 

 

Presumably the preemptive Iraq War was launched because Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.  No “weapons of mass destruction” were ever found in Iraq.  In point of fact, Saddam Hussein, the ruler of Iraq, had tried to have George H.W. Bush, the president’s father assassinated over Iraq’s Gulf War.  Bush Jr’s attack on Iraq was a punishment for that. A rather expensive punishment!

 

In the case of Hurricane Katrina which devastated much of the Gulf Coast and put much of New Orleans underwater, the man who headed the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Michael D. Brown, was a Federal appointment.  He had been rewarded for his participation in the presidential election with that job and was incapable of properly carrying it out.  Bush responded to mounting criticism by accepting full responsibility.  But that was beside the point.

 

In 2006 the Democratic Party regained control of both Houses of Congress.  In December 2007 the United States entered the worst economic downturn since World War II, the so-called Great Recession.  Its causes had been rapidly generated from the Reagan administration on.  The Bush administration obtained Congressional passage of numerous economic programs intended to preserve the country’s financial system.  In 2008 Bush initially bailed out the major banks who through their hunger for profits and the lack of regulation had brought the nation to the brink of financial collapse and themselves to the point of bankruptcy.

                   ************************************

It was at this point that Barack Obama assumed the presidency with the nation facing a disaster far greater than the 1929 Great Depression.  President Obama had been elected on a platform of “Time for a Change.”  Instead he had to make a potentially Great Depression into a Great Recession and allow the country to recover from the state of disaster that the Republicans had created, of which American was in the midst.

 

In his first two years in office he signed the American Recovery and investment Act of 2009 and the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010.  He also signed the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) and the Dodd Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.  In foreign policy he ended U.S. involvement in the Iraq War and increased troop levels in Afghanistan. In January of 2011 President Obama ordered the military operation that resulted in the death of Osama bin Laden 

 

Up until 2010 the Democrats had control of both Houses of Congress.  In that year the Republicans gained control of the House of Representatives.  The Democratic Party lost 63 seats in that House of Congress, giving the Republicans 243 representatives to 193 for the Democrats.  The Republicans had earlier in caucus taken an oath to make Obama a one term president by impeding everything he wanted to do.  For the first two years of his presidency they would delay and make extensive use of the filibuster in the Senate.  After they achieved their majority they would oppose everything he had or would try to do in the House of Representatives.

 

From 2011 on the House of Representatives has not only hampered Presidential actions but have also forced through laws by attaching amendments to necessary legislation that have actually worsened economic conditions brought about by the Great Recession or Housing Debacle of 2008.  They did this by, among other things, increasing unemployment.  Through the Federal Reserve’s use of creative Monetary Policy the President and the Chairman of that organization have brought about a good percentage of recovery.  Had they had Congress’ full cooperation, fiscal policy could have been applied and recovery would have been completely achieved.  Instead the country is still at about 5% unemployment.

 

President Obama was reelected to a second term in 2012.  He has, unsuccessfully in terms of Congress, promoted policies related to gun control, particularly after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, among other reforms.  On foreign policy troops were sent back into Iraq to help counter the effects of ISIS and the situation in Afghanistan continues.  In 2015 the Paris Agreement on climate change was signed by the United States and by 192 other countries.  The U.S. was part of a United Nations agreement with Iran not to develop an atomic bomb and relations with Cuba were normalized.  All this, despite the actions of Congress, have given President Obama a highly favorable rating among American presidents and the general public.

                   **********************************

On November 8, Donald Trump was elected President of the United States beginning January 20. 2017.  While the Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton had 395,595 more popular votes than Trump, 60,467,245 to 60,071,650.  Trump had 290 Electoral College votes to Clinton’s 232. 

 

Trump has largely but not completely acted presidential since the election.  He still tweeted stupidly about the spontaneous protests that have occurred across many cities in the United States against him.  He is thin-skinned and over reactive.  But this is not the real crux of his present problems.  On November 28 the first of his Trump University class action suits begins.  Even though it’s a civil suit if Trump loses and is found guilty of fraud, which he is accused of, he could conceivably be impeached.  The judge in the case, who Trump has accused of being prejudiced because of his Hispanic heritage, has recommended that Trump settle the case out of court.  But there are over 7,000 claimants who say they were cheated by Trump’s false claims about Trump University, some of whom paid as much as $35,000 for tuition.  Trump may not be able to afford the cost of settlement.  In addition there are two other class action suits coming up in addition to a $40 million suit from New York State for fraud.  The current case was filed in 2010.  Trump could be impeached during his first year in office for what he did before being elected president.  It should be interesting, if not colorful.

 

 

English: Seal of the President of the United S...

 

The Weiner Component #164 – President Hillary Clinton & the Republican House of Representatives

English: President Barack Obama and sec. of St...

The Weiner Component #164 – President Hillary Clinton & the Republican House of Representatives

 

If Hillary Clinton is elected President on November 8, 2016, and the probability is that she will be, then the question arises of: How will she avoid political gridlock with the Senate having a Democratic majority but the right to filibuster and the House of Representatives having a Republican majority?  Is it possible that she will be able to take the country beyond the point which had limited President Barack Obama, that of a Republican majority in the House of Representatives?

 

President Obama during his first term in office (2009 – 2012) kept trying to get Republican cooperation.  He did not succeed in doing this during either of his two terms in office.  President Clinton would be starting out with this knowledge.  She would not put herself in a position to be rejected by the Republicans.  In this case the responsibility would be clearly theirs to cooperate with her.  How could she achieve this?

                         ********************************

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt from 1933 on used, what he called, The Fireside Chat to talk the people of the United States through The Great Depression.  These were weekly radio broadcasts to the people throughout the country. 

 

At that time the center of family entertainment and news was the family radio.  Television did not exist.  Presidential announcements were made through it.  So were sports, music, and drama presentations.  Mothers listened to drama serials as they prepared dinner.  Children listened to adventure stories during dinner and afterwards.  The family listened to news, concerts, or drama presentations in the evening.  President Roosevelt used this device to communicate with the people of America, by giving weekly reports to the nation on what was happening and what was being done by the government.  It served as an emotional crutch for the people of the United States.

 

Earlier, at the turn of the 20th Century, Theodore Roosevelt had used, what he called The Bully Pulpit to transmit his messages to the people.  He made his speeches and announcements before crowds and the press.  They were carried in newspapers throughout the country.  This, when necessary, brought pressure on members of Congress to pass many of the laws he desired for the benefit of the public.

 

The President of the United States does not make laws.  That is the job of Congress.  He/She is the chief administrator of the country.  But that individual is supposed to lead the nation through his/her party in Congress, by proposing many necessary laws in order to carry out his/her agenda which is supposed to exist for the benefit of the public.

 

What President Barack Obama proposed after 2011 to a Republican dominated House of Representatives was generally turned down.  The Republicans even tried to force him to carry out their agenda by adding riders to many laws which would carry out their agenda which he, in turn, would veto.  This was carried to the point of shutting down the government by attaching riders to necessary finance bills. 

 

Currently, during President Obama’s last four months in office, the Republican dominated House of Representatives is refusing to really deal with the Zika epidemic and also refusing to pass anything but a temporary budget to fund the U.S. Government over the next few months instead of for the full fiscal year.

 

In addition to this the current Republican dominated Senate has been refusing for the last seven months to allow the President to appoint a ninth Justice to the Supreme Court to replace Antonin Scalia who died on February 13, 2016.  They want the next President, if he is a Republican, to choose the ninth member of the Supreme Court.

 

However some Republicans feel that if Hillary Clinton is elected then they should hold a lame duck session and approve President Barack Obama’s choice, Merrick Garland.  The argument being that he is more conservative than anyone Hillary Clinton might choose.

 

My feeling is that the best choice Hillary Clinton could make would be a Constitutional lawyer by the name of Barack Obama; if he would take the job.  That would be the second time the Republicans have gotten what they deserve for refusing to properly do their job.

 

The first instance was Elizabeth Warren, who helped create and was supposed to be the head of the Consumer Protection Agency.  They would not allow her to be confirmed so she ended up becoming the second Senator from Massachusetts.  This would be the second instance where Republican plans backfired.  And there is precedent for this move by Clinton, President Warren Harding appointed former President William Howard Taft to the Supreme Court.

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How would Hillary Clinton keep in constant contact with her public?  Generally most people in the United States have very little free time.  They are mostly busy with work, raising children, and the rest of their lives.  It takes a lot of time and effort to closely follow what goes on in Washington, D.C.

 

Radio has not been an important means of communication since the end of World War II (1945) when black and white television made its first appearance.  Today colorized television has become the major means of communication across the country.

 

In order to have a live, functional agenda the President today needs to have constant contact with the people of the United States.  He/She needs to keep in constant contact with her constituency. 

 

He/She still has the bully pulpit.  She is the directly hired representative of all the people.  And the people, as a whole, can make themselves heard by Congress.  And if Congress does not carry out their will then they can fire the entire House of Representatives and 1/3d of the Senate at the next election in 2018.

 

The President, as the representative of the entire nation, can keep up a weekly communication by weekly reports.  These reports can also function two ways with the constituency also being able to communicate with the President through the internet.

 

This would mean at least weekly reports of what is and is not going on.  Up to this point the Republicans in the House of Representatives, all 247 of them are fairly visible; their votes and the issues upon which they vote are recorded but not advertised.  It takes a lot of time to dig up that information.  It would certainly pay for the chief executive to set up a staff to keep a record of these happenings.  They could also script or outline the President’s report and keep the records of public’s communications to the President. 

 

In addition this group could also have easy access on the internet to specific information, like the addresses of all the members of Congress.  From this bank of specific information that could be accessed at any time by the public on demand, intense pressure could be brought on any or all members of Congress. Those citizens who so desire could also share their thoughts with the President.  It would make the individual Congress members responsible for their actions.

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If President Hillary Clinton and/or her husband were to do a weekly television broadcast together or separately each week and specifically state their objectives and then go over what was done or not done by the specific members of Congress and the political party they represent for the prior week that would affect the general electorate.  This would be especially true if they had the means to easily respond to these members of Congress.  The President could also keep the public aware of their advance plans and what help they could expect from Congress by passing specific laws.

 

This weekly broadcast would have to be on prime time over one of more major TV stations.  I would suspect that CBS, NBC, or ABC might each be willing to carry the program.  The major cable networks: CNN, MSNBC, and even Fox News would probably also vie for the broadcasts.  This would be particularly true if they could sell commercial time just before or after the broadcasts.

 

What the White House would be doing here would be keeping constant contact with the voting public whose prosperity would be tied to the White House agenda.  It would also demonstrate to the voters exactly what they were getting from all their elected officials.  And it would do this with no additional effort by the public except watching a government report each week. 

 

As an additional benefit from an arrangement like this there would be a feeling by the public of contributing to the running of the government.  This could allay the feeling of frustration and helplessness many Americans feel about their government.

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While there are different governmental philosophies between the two major political parties this type of move could bring about an end to gridlock in Washington, D. C.  It’s a little ridiculous to wait four months or more to have Congress sit on the Zika epidemic and mainly argue political points during a national medical emergency.  It’s equally ridiculous to have the House of Representatives refuse to fund the government, using it as a means of blackmail to get their way on other issues, because they don’t have the votes to pass those other issues.

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The Weiner Component #163 – Part 2: The 2017 Presidency

English: Seal of the President of the United S...

Official portrait of Secretary of State Hillar...

The Presidential Campaign will continue until Tuesday, November 8th of 2016, with both sides continually verbally attacking the other.  Trump has reorganized his staff three times, hiring among others someone who has made a career of attacking and trying to discredit the Clintons. He is supposed to excel in dirty tricks.  Hillary Clinton will continue with her basic premise that Trump is unfit to be President and move on from there.  In fact on Wednesday, September 7, at a back to back veteran’s Town Hall with Clinton, Trump defined the secret briefing as being anti Obama in the body language of the men who gave it, something which the intelligence community said never happened.  In terms of money raised for campaigning Clinton seems to be able to raise well over ten times the amount Trump does.

 

(In fact, Trumps entire Washington Bureau Organization quit when Trump refused to send them the promised checks for their work. This seems to be a pattern of Trump’s, stiffing his employees by not paying them.}

 

There are to be four debates scheduled, three will be between the Presidential candidates and one between the Vice-Presidential choices.  Of these one will be moderated by a NBC moderator, one by a Fox News employee, one by ABC News and CNN with joint a moderator from each network, and the Vice Presidential one by CBS News.  They will begin on September 26th and end on October 19th.  They should be interesting or at least colorful.

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When all this is done and the votes finally counted at the end of November 8th the next President of the United States will be officially elected to that office and will take the helm in January of 2017 of guiding the country for the next four years.

 

If we ask, which candidate will it be?  There is a high probability that it will be Hillary Rodham Clinton.  It is also probably that the Senate will return to a Democratic majority after the election but that the House of Representatives will remain in the hands of the Republicans.  This is the exact situation that President Obama faced from his third year in office until his sixth year there.  In 2014, a non-Presidential Election year, the Republicans also achieved a slight majority in the Senate.

 

From 2011 on there was a Democratic President, a Republican majority in the House of Representatives, and until 2014, a Democratic majority in the Senate.  The result, since 2011, has been total gridlock with the House most of the time unsuccessfully trying to force its will upon the President and the Senate; and in many cases adding something that they wanted like defunding Planned Parenthood to a necessary bill which was then vetoed.

 

For the duration of his first term in office the Congressional Republicans in both Houses of Congress were determined to make Barack Obama a one term President.  They opposed everything he supported.  The Affordable Health Care Bill, which was modeled upon one developed by the Republican Think Tank, Citizen’s United, for Mitt Romney when he was governor OF Massachusetts and applied to that state.  It espouses Republican values by allowing private enterprise to control the plan.  Yet it was passed in Congress on a strict Party basis.  Democrats voted for it and all Republicans all opposed it.  The House, after the Republican majority was reached there spent over fifty days bringing its demise up and voting to end it even though these numerous identical Bills were never brought up in the Senate.  The vote has always been strictly upon Party lines.

 

For his first four years in office President Barack Obama seemed to feel that he could get some cooperation from the Republicans in Congress.  It never happened.  For his second term he knew better but he nor the rest of the Democratic Party ever really took them on.  While neither the President nor the Democrats in Congress never really exposed the Republican actions or non-actions the Republican’s never stopped blaming the President and the Democrats for what they, the Republicans, did not do.

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The odds are that Hillary Clinton on November 8th will be elected 45th President of the United States, and the Senate will regain its Democratic majority.  But there is a high probability that the Republicans in the House of Representatives, while losing some of their majority members, will still have control of that body.

 

There are 435 voting members in the House.  Currently 247 are Republicans and 188 are Democrats.  The Democrats would have to win 30 seats in the House to just gain control of that body.  They will probably gain some seats but not the 30 needed.  Consequently the probable state of affairs during the Clinton Presidency could very well be continued gridlock.

 

With this situation there is the question of how will Hillary Clinton be able to bring part or all of her agenda about.

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One of the major group of incidents that have frustrated President Obama during his presidency has been the random terrorist massacres that have occurred throughout the United States.  Generally Congress will observe a moment of silence but essentially the Republicans will pass no laws to control the purchase of firearms.  The National Rifle Association, which contributes heavily to Congressional elections and supports gun owners throughout the U.S. and is controlled by the gun, magazine, and ammunition producing companies, holds the position that any step in weapon control is the first step in taking guns away from American citizens. Essentially what the reformers want is to have thorough background checks upon everyone buying a firearm and to stop the sale to people with mental problems or to those who have criminal records.

 

The random gun shootings in the United States are at least 22 times higher than in any other industrial nation.  The last terrorist attack was on the night of June 12, 2016, when Omar Mateen, an American born, not too well mentally balanced 29 year old Moslem, who worked as a security guard, killed 49 people and wounded 53 others in a terrorist hate crime inside Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida.  After a three hour siege he was shot and killed by the Orlando Police Department swat team.  Mateen had purchased the semi-automatic firearms legally the prior week.

 

This issue was dealt with at least twice at the Democratic Convention: once by adults who had lost a parent or child to random shooting and once by people whose parent or child had been specifically or otherwise targeted.

 

The Senate had blocked four gun measures the following Monday, two from each party.  Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader said that Democrats were taking advantage of the Orlando Massacre, using it as a political talking point.  He called the Republican proposals, “real solutions.”  Harry Reid, the minority leader, called the Republican measures, “political stunts.”  Hillary Clinton had one word for the Senate after the gun vote, “Enough.”  She later tweeted, “It’s time to demand more than thoughts and prayers from our elected officials.”

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At the Democratic Convention, the Platform writing committee consisted of fifteen members: Clinton appointed six of them, Sanders five, and Wasserman Schultz four.  The Platform was described by NBC News as the most progressive in party history.

 

They want to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour and index it to inflation.  They also desire to include 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave.  On health care, the Democrats want a public option for the Affordable Care Act and legislation to allow Americans aged 55 and over to buy into Medicare.  They also want Medicare to negotiate lower prices for prescription drugs and to double their support for community health centers that provide primary health-care services, particularly in rural areas.

 

The Democrats express support for Wall Street reform.  They want a 21st Century Glass-Steagall Act to keep banks from gambling with depositor’s money and a breakup of “too big to fail” financial institutions.  Also there should be an expansion of Social Security and the abolition of the death penalty.  There is support for criminal justice reform, and an end to private prisons; and reforms to boost police accountability to communities.

 

On taxation the platform pledges “tax relief for middle class families” and improvement on K-12 education.  On workers’ rights the platform endorses expanding and defending the right of workers to organize unions and bargain collectively.  The platform maintains the long standing support of Israel.  On abortion it states, “We believe, like the majority of Americans, that every woman should have access to quality reproductive health care services, including safe and legal abortion – regardless of where she lives, how much money she makes, or how she is insured.”  It also defends Planned Parenthood.  It urges the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women and supports passage of the Equal Rights Amendment.  “After 240 years, we will finally enshrine the rights of women in the Constitution.”

 

There are other considerations in the Democratic Platform but these are ones that both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sander strongly support.

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The next question that arises is: How will President Hillary Clinton bring many or most of these positions to fruition?  Will she end up like President Barack Obama, having to fight the House of Representatives, in many cases unsuccessfully, for every change the country needed?  President Obama was mostly successful working through the Federal Reserve and by using executive orders.  He got very little from Congress except having the House close down the government.

 

The Republicans in the House of Representatives seem to have no understanding of fiscal policy and many of them seem to want to limit the powers of the Federal Reserve, particularly in terms of monetary policy.  One gets the impression that many Republicans in the House do not really understand the principles of economics as they apply to the Central Government.  Basic ignorance does not bring about solutions to problems.  In fact they worsen those situations.  Witness the Great Recession of 2008.  A Republican President in 2009 would have turned it into a Greater Depression than that of 1929.

 

The actions taken by the Republican dominated House of Representatives from 2011 tended to worsen economic conditions by cutting government spending and increasing unemployment.  It was President Obama and the Federal Reserve, under Chairman Ben Bernanke, using creative monetary policy that largely solved the problem of unemployment, which should have been solved completely by Congress using fiscal policy.

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In 2017 President Clinton will have her hands full.  Will she be able to work with Republicans to bring about full employment and an era of increased prosperity for the majority of the American people?

The Weiner Component #162 – Part 3b: Thoughts About the Republican Party

Official photographic portrait of US President...

In addition to the election of a new President of the United States, 1/3d of the Senate is up for election in November of 2016, plus the entire House of Representatives will also be running for reelection.  The Republicans tend to do better in non-presidential years since at that time lots of Democrats, especially Hispanics, do not bother to vote.  Consequently a light vote tends to benefit the Republicans.  In 2014, for example, the Republicans were able to gain control of the Senate by a very slight majority.  In 2016 they will probably lose that majority and control of the Senate will return to the Democrats.

 

2010 was a non-presidential year and the Republicans gained control of the House of Representatives and a number of state governments.  2010 was also a census year, when the population of the United States was counted, and the House Voter Districts were reset by the State Legislatures, presumably based upon population changes.  Those states under Republican control gerrymandered their Districts to give themselves ultimate control in the House of Representatives by setting up new districts that were light in Democratic votes and heavy in Republican voters.  In 2012, a presidential year, a million and a quarter more votes were cast by Democrats for their candidates running for the House of Representatives but the Republicans still maintained their majority in the House of Representatives.  They still today maintain control of that House of Congress.  It will probably take an additional two to three million more votes by Democrats for control of the House of Representatives to be returned to them.  The probability of that happening, I suspect, is very low unless the Republicans do something extremely stupid like shutting down the Federal Government by not funding it.

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What will probably happen in 2017 is that Hillary Clinton will be elected President of the United States.  The United States Senate will have a Democratic majority, and the House of Representatives will remain in Republican Control, where it has been since 2011.  If that is what happens then essentially gridlock can probably continue with the Congress.  President Hillary Clinton will be able to make some deals with the Republicans in the Federal Legislature, but it will be tit-for-tat, something will have to be traded every time.  The Republicans will be more interested, as they have for the last six and ½ years, in blaming the Democrats for legislative failures than in passing necessary laws.

 

An example of this is the Zika crisis, which the World Health Organization has called “an extraordinary event” and “a global emergency.”  Before the July 4, 2016 Congressional recess, President Obama requested a 1.9 billion Dollar Bill to be used to fight the Zika outbreak. The amount was put together by experts in the field as to what it will take to remove the danger of Zika virus attacks. 

 

The House of Representatives passed, before they left on vacation, a 1.1 billion dollar bill and then left Washington for their 4th of July hiatus which did not end until after Labor Day.  They were attending the National Presidential Conventions in late July and then spent the rest of their time in their home states presumably campaigning. 

 

Their version of the Zika Abatement Bill contained spending cuts in other health programs such as cutting funds for Planned Parenthood, and was 800 million dollars smaller than the amount asked for.  President Obama remarked that the Bill contains too little money and has too many partisan provisions.

 

In the Senate the Bill was filibustered by Democrats who wanted to spend the full 1.9 billion dollars without cutting funds from other programs.  The White House spokesman, Eric Schultz, stated that if the measure does pass the Senate it will be vetoed by the President.

 

The basic Republican position is: Take what we give you or there will be no bill and it will be your fault.  This process had been done with other bills earlier.  After the bill had died because there was no Conference Committee functioning, the House was on vacation; they, the Republicans, will blame the failure on the President and Democrats for what they themselves have not done.  Whether the public will believe them is another question.

 

The Democrats and Republicans have been unable, still by the middle of September, to come up with a compromise bill.  This crisis is now four months old since it first came to the Congress.  The House is still offering its 1.1 billion dollar bill.   The disease which has become more major in terms of becoming an epidemic seems to gradually be growing in the United States in such states as Florida and other Southern states.  One or more cases have come up also in California.

 

The House, as early as the end of May 2016 seemed to be in no hurry to solve the Zika crisis.  Democrats said it was wrong to require spending cuts for a public health crisis while not requiring them for past emergencies such as wildfires and floods.  Republicans said the cuts are innocuous.  More than 2,200 cases had been reported in the U.S. and its territories.  The number is even greater today; and as I understand the problem, Congress still has not passed a compromise bill which both political parties could agree upon.  This problem is currently being left to the states to handle individually.  They do not have the resources to deal with a national, if not international, problem.

 

Congress returned from its July 4th break or vacation on Tuesday, September 6th, the day after Labor Day.  The House of Representatives will have to deal with the Zika crisis, which has increased over the last two months, and also deal with the budget, funding for the Federal Government ends at the end of September.  The House also failed to pass the 12 annual funding bills needed to run the government.  The issue now seems to be passing a partial funding bill and letting the new Congress in January of next year fund the government for the full year.          

 

The government will run out of money by the end of September.  To date no additional spending bills have been passed.  If such a bill is not passed the Republican dominated House will again shut down the government; but this time it will be on an election year.

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There is an election coming up on November 8th.  Every single member of the House of Representatives will be standing for election or reelection.  The current situation is totally absurd.  It would seem that the Republicans care more for making political points than for legislating for the good of the country.

 

During the remaining short period of time the House Republicans are planning votes on several “message bills,” some of which will not even be picked up by the Senate.  They will vote to impeach IRS Commissioner, John Koskinen, over allegations that he obstructed a Congressional Investigation about whether the IRS improperly scrutinized Tea Party groups looking for tax-exempt status.

 

Speaker Paul Ryan wants a vote on some kind of legislation to register GOP opposition to a 400 million dollar payment to Iran.  This is money and interest on funds belonging to Iran that the U.S. Government has held since the late 1980s. 

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What strikes me as fascinating are the conditions under which the Senate and the House of Representatives function.  The length of a year is 365 days.  After being elected to Congress the average salary is $174,000 per year.  The Speaker of the House of Representatives gets $223,000 a year; the majority and minority leaders of both parties get $193,000 per year.  The House has averaged since 2001 139 legislative days a year; that is less than 3 days a week.  In 2013 the New York Times found that the House was in session 942 hours that year, about 18 hours a week.  The House of Representatives calendar for 2016 is 110 legislating days.  Their average time spent in session in 2016 has been three days a week plus lengthy holidays.  They work, generally, from Monday through Wednesday and take a four day weekend plus all holiday breaks.

 

The average salary in the United States is less than half that amount and it includes at least a 40 hour work week.  There is also a very generous retirement plan for Congress that kicks-in after serving one two year term in the House of Representatives.

 

The Founding Fathers did not originally envision political parties.  They expected an educated constituency to elect the smartest people available.  We are far from that point now.  The taxpayers are spending a lot of money for very little.  For the last 5 ½ years it’s been for gridlock in Congress.

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As of Friday, August 26, 2016, 42 new non-travel cases of Zika infections have been discovered.  The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) wants the entire blood supply within the United States, every single blood donation screened for Zika.  It is currently estimated that one out of every ten blood donations in Puerto Rico contains the Zika virus.  The number would also be high in Florida.  But the problem could also exist in any of the other states.  The country could be moving toward a massive epidemic.  It would seem that the House of Representatives is looking to get its way no matter what the cost to the general public.

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The Zika virus disease is a mosquito borne illness.  It is beginning to reach epidemic proportions in some of the states and territories.  The symptoms of Zika are a mild fever, skin rashes, muscle and joint pain, and pink eye or conjunctivitis.   The symptoms normally last from 2 to 7 days and then go away.  The virus remains in the blood stream after the 7 day period.  Zika can produce sever birth defects in pregnant women’s fetuses, such as a small head size, and presumably limited learning ability as well as other physical problems.  This infection can cause microcephaly.

 

While the disease was first discovered in 1947 little is still known about it.  What we do know is that it is transmitted by a specific mosquito and also by sexual intercourse.  Lots of people in the country require occasional blood transfusions which is another way it can be freely transmitted. 

 

On Friday, August 26, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) has recommended that the entire U.S. blood supply be screened for the Zika virus.  One out of every ten people tested in Puerto Rico has come up positive.  A massive epidemic of this disease can effect an entire generation of births and, if nothing else, cost the country trillions in medical care for the infected infants as they mature.

 

These new recommendations apply across the board.  The Red Cross said it will phase in universal testing.  It is currently conducting Zika testing in 5 Southeastern states.  It will now require it throughout the entire United States.

 

Because an infection can be transmitted during sexual intercourse someone who does not have symptoms might spread the virus unknowingly to his or her partner.  Then either of the two might donate blood, further spreading the infection.

 

In February of 2016 the FDA issued its first Zika virus blood screening recommendation in areas with active transmission.  Then, the agency advised screening blood and blood components for the virus or stopping blood collection completely in areas of active transmission.

 

The nation’s first local, non-travel related infection of Zika virus occurred in Puerto Rico in December of 2016.  Shortly after, American Samoa and the US Virgin Islands reported locally transmitted infections.  In July, Florida’s Miami-Dade County reported its own first case of a local mosquito transmitted Zika infection.

 

With all this occurring and Zika spreading the House of Representatives is in no hurry to solve the problem of nationally fighting the spread of this disease.  Their reaction to what can be a major health issue is pathetic.  It would seem to the Republicans getting their way and making political points is more important than the health and welfare of their constituents.

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This is a potential international problem that the United Nation’s World Health Organization takes very seriously.  Women of child-bearing age throughout the world are affected.  This can result in one or more generations of children growing up abnormally with no real futures, having to be taken care of by their healthier peers throughout the world; and the House of Representatives plays its political games essentially ignoring the issue.  They are basically leaving an international problem to the states and territories within the U.S. to handle by themselves without adequate resources or responsibility.  It would seem that a vote for a Republican legislator is a vote for political gridlock. 

 

President Barack Obama, on Saturday, August 27, issued a call to make the Zika crisis the first item of business that the House of Representatives deals with.  He stated that the various federal agencies dealing with this problem are running out of money.  He stated that, “a fraction of the funding won’t get the job done.  You can’t solve a fraction of a disease.  Our experts know what they’re doing.  They need the resources to do it.”  He further said about the current House bill, “But that’s not a sustainable solution.  And Congress has been on a seven-week recess without doing anything to protect Americans from the Zika virus.”

 

“Every day the Republican leaders in Congress wait to do their job, every day our experts have to wait to get the resources they need,” the President said.  “That has real-life consequences:  Weaker mosquito- control efforts.  Longer wait times to get accurate diagnostic results.  Delayed vaccines.  It puts more Americans at risk.”

 

“We need more Republicans to act … because this is more important than politics.  Republicans in Congress should treat Zika like the threat that it is and make this their first order of business when they come back to Washington after Labor Day.  That means working in a bipartisan way to fully fund our Zika response.”  So far none of this has happened.

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In addition, as of the present, no action has been taken on the hourly wage which remains at $7.25 an hour. And even the Republican National Candidate, Donald Trump, has mentioned raising it from $7.25 an hour to $10.00 an hour.  Also in the Republican Congress there has been no mention of requiring background checks on the purchase of firearms or limiting the size of weapon magazines.  Congress is currently in gridlock.  Will this change after the November Election if the Republicans remain in charge of the House of Representatives?  I suspect not.

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On Saturday, August 27, 2016, President Barack Obama has stepped up the pressure on Congress for Zika

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English: Breakdown of political party representation in the United States House of Representatives during the 112th Congress. Blue: Democrat Red: Republican This SVG file was originally hand-written. It contains comments suggesting how to amend it to reflect future changes in Congress. Inkscape reads this file as corrupted, thus changes must be made with a text editor or other program and checked with a browser. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

funding.  He has urged legislators “to make this their first order of business” when they return from a seven-week recess after Labor Day.

 

Their second order of business will be to fund the government past the September deadline. 

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Congress will meet for the balance of September and then adjourn for November and then probably meet for another few weeks in December.  What will probably happen is a short term funding bill which will hand the problem over to the new Congress next year.  If the Tea Party Freedom Caucus refuses to go along with the rest of the Republicans in the House of Representatives then the Speaker, Paul Ryan, would be forced to work directly with the Democrats.  This, incidentally, was probably the main reason John Boehner, the former Speaker, was forced to resign.

 

And, of course, the Zika epidemic grows worse daily.

 

What will happen should be interesting, if not tragic.