The Weiner Component Vol, 2 – #2: Images of the 2016 Election

English: Painting, 1856, by Junius Brutus Stea...

English: Painting, 1856, by Junius Brutus Stearns, Washington at Constitutional Convention of 1787, signing of U.S. Constitution. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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

In every Democratic Country, with the exception of the United States, the winner of the Presidential or Prime Minister Election is the one who receives the most popular votes.  All the votes count equally; every citizen has one vote that counts the same as every other vote.  The exception to this is the U.S. where the winner is the one who receives the most Electoral Votes.  It takes 270 Electoral Votes to win the Election in the United States.  There are 538 Electoral Votes possible, 435 for the members of the House of Representatives, 100 for the Senators from the 50 states, and 3 for members of territories belonging to the U.S.

 

The system was designed in the late 18th Century when the Constitution came into existence.  It was the first Democratic instrument of modern government.  Its intent was to be Democratic without being overly Democratic.  According to the original document of government, the Constitution, the House of Representatives would be elected directly by the property owning male voters and represent them, two Senators would be elected by each of the State Legislatures and represent their interests.  The President or chief executive would be chosen by an Electoral College made up of the same number of both members of the House and Senate.  The voters would choose the smartest men in their Districts to pick out the best man in the country to be President.  Everyone understood that George Washington would be the first President.  There is no mention of political parties in the Constitution nor was there any thought of them at the time.

 

The first political party was organized by Alexander Hamilton, one of the Founding Fathers, while the Constitution was being voted into existence by nine of the twelve states.  Rhode Island refused to participate in this activity.  The first political party, the Federalists, represented the Urban Business Class. 

 

The second political party was organized by Thomas Jefferson for the 1800 Presidential Election in order for him to become President.  It was called the Republican Party.  The Federalists satirically christened it the Democratic-Republican Party and shortly thereafter it became the Democratic Party, a name it still bares today. 

 

Jefferson favored the Yeoman (small) farmer.  In fact his rationale for the Louisiana Purchase in 1803 was so that there would be land available for the small farmers for the next hundred years.

 

In essence the Democratic Party has always favored the ordinary citizen above the merchant or business class.  During the Great Depression of 1929 the Democratic Party took on a level of responsibility for him where he couldn’t provide for himself.  That is still the major maxim of the Democratic Party. 

 

The Republican Party which officially came into existence in the Election of 1860 over the issue of slavery and has always favored business and the wealthy class.  It is an interesting commentary on the current society that they elected a group who favors the business class over the ordinary individual citizens.  They were able to do this because the form of our government is archaic, allowing a minority of the population to elect the President and allowing the states to gerrymander or shape their Election Districts in such a way that they favor the Republican Party.

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The Constitution has been amended numerous times in the past, clarifying or changing aspects of its original intent.  In fact the first ten amendments, the Bill of Rights, was agreed upon even before the Constitution was ratified by the original nine states.  James Madison wrote twelve amendments, of which ten were approved by nine of the states, a 2/3 majority.  The rest of the amendments, currently making a total of 27, were added through 1992.  An equal rights amendment, making women equal legally with males was attempted but never passed by the 2/3s majority.

 

All citizens of the United States, both males and females since 1972, upon reaching the age of 18 now have the right to vote.  It took more than one Amendment to the Constitution to do that.  But the votes are not counted equally and innumerable instances of voter suppression during elections occur today in the United States.

 

By law a census of the population is taken every ten years and the fixed number of seats in the House of Representatives is reapportioned according to changes in the population.  There are 435 seats in the House of Representatives and they are reapportioned every decade.  The next census will occur in 2020. 

 

Regardless of its actual population every state must have at least one representative in the House of Representatives.  Seven states have that number beginning with Montana which has a population of 1,023,579, with the number decreasing to Wyoming which has 584,153 citizens.    Five states have two representatives, three states have three, six states have four representatives, three states have five, two states have six, three have seven representatives, and four have eight representatives.  Four states beginning with Tennessee, which has a population of 6,549,352 have nine representatives in the House of Representatives.  Then single states have ten, eleven, twelve, and thirteen representatives.  Two states have fourteen representatives. One state has sixteen.  Two states have 18 and two have 27.  Texas has 36 seats in the House of Representatives and California has 53 seats. 

 

Every state regardless of population has at least three representatives in Congress: one in the House of Representatives and two in the Senate, giving them at least 3 Electoral Votes.  California, according to the Census Bureau in July of 2014, had a population of 38,802,500 people and a total of 55 Votes in Congress: 53 in the House of Representatives and 2 in the Senate.  Wyoming, with a population of 584,153, had a total of 3 Congressional votes: one in the House of Representatives and two in the Senate. 

 

There are fifty states making up the bulk of the United States.  Population-wise it takes 29 of the lowest populated states to make up the approximate population of California.  Their populations go from about 5 ½ million down to a little above ½ million.  Yet each of these states have two Senators.  This throws their representation in Congress well out of kilter with the high population states like California, Texas, Florida, and New York.  Combined their representation in Congress is totally out of proportion to the high population states, making their votes count for far more than the other states.  It’s this type of balance that got Donald Trump elected to the presidency even though Hillary Clinton had almost three million more popular votes than he got in the 2016 Presidential Election.

        

In addition within all the states there is a gradual movement from the rural areas to the urban ones where more new jobs develop.  Farming, incidentally, has become and is more and more mechanized requiring less and less people.  This means that the votes in the rural districts tend to count for more than in the cities because their number is always decreasing.  Depending upon the accuracy of the census these numbers are adjusted every decade.  A new census will occur in 2020.

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Another factor that keeps the vote uneven is that in the United States there are 50 plus elections.  Each state conducts its own separate election under its own specific laws.  This can and does lead in interesting and unfair situations.  In Texas, for example, in order to vote an individual needs a special type of official identification.  These can be easily gotten in the cities.  But a percentage of the state live and work in rural areas.  In order for these people to get the ID they have to take a day off from work and go into a nearby city, pay a fee, and get the ID.  But the facilities that issue these IDs do not keep regular hours, nor are they open every day.  The days and hours they function are not advertised.  Texas is a right to work state which limits union operations there.  A goodly percentage of the people working in the rural area cannot afford to take a day off or are they necessarily allowed to do so.  Since these laws were passed, not many years ago, the voting by minorities has dropped several hundred thousand.  When this case was first appealed the Judge declared that this law was a modern version of the poll tax and declared it unconstitutional.  It was then appealed to the Fifth Circuit Court which was completely appointed by Republican presidents.  They upheld the law, declaring it Constitutional.  It can be appealed to the Supreme Court, but they now consist of four liberal and four conservative judges.  The probability is that they will not even take the case.

 

Before this law was passed Texas was becoming a purple state with a possibility of eventually becoming a blue or Democratic state.  By restricting minority voting in the state the Republican dominated legislature was able to turn it back into a red or Republican state.  This type of activity is going on throughout all the states where the Republicans dominate the legislature. There is a constant struggle between the Democrats and Republicans to expand and to restrict the vote.  Eventually the Democrats will win because the basic makeup or demographics of the U.S. population is changing.  The Caucasians or whites are no longer the majority of the population.  They are just one of the large minorities that exist in the country now.  And that number is gradually decreasing.

 

Another device for controlling elections in some of the larger states is by the use of gerrymandering.  Keep in mind that each state controls completely the elections held within its boundaries.  There is a fixed number of voting districts for the House of Representatives, 435.  Every ten years there is a census and the voting districts are reconstituted based upon population changes.  Consequently some states will gain seats in the House of Representatives while others will lose one of more seats.  In any case the state districts are redrawn after each census.  In Republican dominated states there is imaginative gerrymandering.

 

By going over the party registrations within the state each political party can determine which regions are strongly Democratic and which are mainly Republican.  By freely drawing the lines in an erratic fashion a district can be changed from being heavily for one or the other political party.  Both parties have done this.  But the Republicans have used this device far more than the Democrats.   

 

In fact since the 1965 Presidential Election when Barry Goldwater ran against Lyndon B. Johnson the extreme right section of the Republican Party has vigilantly worked to extend their influence on a state level.  By the Census of 2010 they were able to dominate the House of Representatives.  In 2012, even though one and a quarter million more Democrats voted for members of the House of Representatives the Republicans still had the majority of members there.  In terms of today’s House of Representatives Democratic voting blocs have been broken up by suddenly having their parts connected to three or four Republic areas with the Democrats becoming a minority in each of the new Republican dominated districts.

 

This gerrymandering has also carried over to the 2016 Presidential Election in medium sized states by establishing the Electoral Voting Districts which, in point of fact, are the same as the House of Representative Districts.  Donald J. Trump won the election even though Hillary Clinton had 2.8 million more popular votes. 

 

Trump had 306 Electoral Votes.  Several of his electors refused to vote for him.  Instead they cast their votes for other Republicans.  Clinton had 232 Electoral Votes.  The popular vote for Trump was 62,979,879 votes, 46.1% of the popular vote.  The popular vote for Clinton was 65,844,954 votes, 48.2%.  Clearly Hilary Clinton won the 2016 Presidential Election but Trump won the Electoral Vote.  Who should really be President of the United States?

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What is needed to fairly have rule by the majority are four Amendments to the Constitution, all dealing with one or another aspect of elections.

 

First: the Federal Government has to assume responsibility for the elections in all the states, having them all function with one similar set of rules from the census on.  The states with more than one Election District should be all divided geographically and not based upon the political registration of its inhabitants.  Thus gerrymandering will be permanently ended.

 

Second: we need some form of common registration in all the states and territories that will encourage the adult population to vote in all the elections.  Currently shortly after birth all babies born in the United States receive their Social Security number.  Upon reaching the age of 18 they could also receive their registration forms, pre-stamped, to be filled out and mailed back.

 

Third: the Electoral College has to be done away with.  Presidential Elections should be won by the number of votes cast.  One equal vote for every person voting, having them all count the same.  The winner being the individual getting the majority of votes.

 

Fourth: The 100 Senate seats to be divided up according to population.  Each of the 50 states to have one Senator.  The remaining 50 Senate seats to be divided up by state population.  While this would still give the smaller states an advantage it would half the advantage that currently exists.

 

This can be done as either a single Amendment with four sections or as four separate Amendments.  The probability is that the fourth section, dealing with the number of Senators per state, will not come about in the near future.  The two Senator per state concept is a sacred cow.

 

Whether the Amendment(s) will be passed sometime during the next decade or during the rest of this century is a moot question.  The current system is advantageous to the Republican Party and at this point they control 29 state governments.  It is dubious that these states would vote for one or more Amendments to the Constitution that could hurt their standing as a political party. 

 

However soon to be former President Barack Obama has called for and may lead a grass root rebellion starting with school boards and moving up to state governments in order to take back the Federal Government.  Donald Trump and the Republican dominated Congress may well cooperate with Barack Obama by the legislation they put forth and President Donald Trump signs. 

 

The next census is in 2020 that is two elections from now.  Trump and the Republicans may well discredit themselves with the American people by then.  The bleak seeming future could change fairly quickly, particularly with well over 20 million people losing their medical coverage.

Map of number of electoral votes by state afte...

Map of number of electoral votes by state after redistricting from the 2000 census. Modified by User:Theshibboleth for the font to be consistent with electoral maps. Edited with Inkscape. Reuploaded by User:King of Hearts to correct spelling (vs. Image:Electorial map.svg). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Weiner Component Vol 2 #1 Part 2 The Introduction

Deviations from the long term growth trend US ...

Deviations from the long term growth trend US 1954–2005 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Business Cycle

Business Cycle (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

To avoid the vicissitudes of the business cycle and the inequality of the distribution of the National Income, the Gross Domestic Product, we need a new economic model or we have to make intensive changes in our present system.  If we stay essentially with our present model then the government has through a tax and redistribution system to balance incomes. A realistic minimum standard of living has to be set.  Those earning more than this level will have to be taxed on a realistic graduated level.  Those earning less would receive transfer payments from the government to bring their standard of living up to the minimum level which has to allow for a decent standard of living.  With this system, which more or less exists today in many European nations, we can keep the profit system and have all its so-called advantages.  But would this end the vicissitudes of the Business Cycle?

 

The amount of productivity today per working unit/person is constantly increasing.  One individual working continually provides for more and more people.  In order to keep constantly producing goods and services this productivity must be continually used up so more is always needed.  Consumption now becomes as important as production if the economy is to continually grow.  Therefore the consumer whether or not he/she is employed is needed as much as the producer.  This system can only flourish through government taxes and a redistribution of the National Income.  The producers can earn assorted amounts of surplus income which they can spend, save or invest while the unemployed or underemployed population can receive government transfer payments which will allow them to properly consume the necessary goods and services to both keep production going and have a decent standard of living.

 

Of course if we can create a new economic model which would allow for a fair distribution of goods and services without using the profit system then we would be far better off.  But this would probably require a complete change in our overall thinking and value systems.  We would also have to deal with the issues of what to produce and how to produce it without the motivating force of the profit system. 

   

Is it possible?  We would have to separate production of goods and services from money and find another reason to labor other than individual profit.

 

There is a disparity between the use of money as income, a means of exchange, and storage for labor and profits.  The distribution and expenditure of money determines where we are on the Business Cycle.  This, in turn, can throw the economy into recession or depression and cause a breakdown in the production of goods and services and partial or massive unemployment.  The extent of the distribution of money can cause a partial or full cessation in the distribution of goods and services.  They are two separate entities that are tied together in an unwholesome relationship.  If they were separated the economy would be far better off.  The problem, of course, is how to separate them.

 

Generally speaking, the overall public reaction to all of this is to return to the thinking of the late Nineteenth Century: the “safety” of the profit system. This, I believe, President Donald J. Trump will attempt to do; and this, seems to be today, the basic Republican value for economic growth.

 

     MONEY: ITS HISTORY AND USE:  The two entities which keep any economy functioning are self-interest and money.  Self-interest would affect every working individual from owner, entrepreneur, to physical laborer who wants the greatest return he/she can get from their endeavors.  Money is the grease that operates the economy: it is wages, salaries, profits, rents, interest, and dividends.  The spending of money determines demand, production, and also the phases of the Business Cycle.

 

The entrepreneur, factory or store owner will charge the greatest amount they can legitimately and pay his employees the least amount they can get away with.  Thus prices will be as high as possible while money paid to worker will be as low as it can be.  The producer will maximize production to increase profits; the workers will not be able to purchase all the goods and services produced because of low wages and over-production will eventually result.  This will lead to recession, unemployment, business failures, and depression.  Self-interest, which is the major motivating force of the economy, also tends to eventually cause the economy to malfunction into depression.

 

What is the problem?  It is the process of the distribution of money throughout the economy.  Whenever the distribution breaks down the economy goes into recession and depression.  It ceases to operate for the benefit of its members.

 

The use and distribution of money becomes the problem.  What then is money?

 

To understand what it is and its use(s) we need to have knowledge of how money was used both historically and at present.  Presumably, at first, man begins with barter: goods and services were directly exchanged for goods and services.  At some later point in time these were exchanged for their exact value, generally, in precious metals.  Rather than continue using scales to weigh the metal one group of traders, probably the Phoenicians, began stamping the weight on the metal piece.  This became the initial use of money.  The idea was then picked up by other groups or nations and coins came into being: an exact weight of a precious metal with the country or ruler or some symbol stamped on the metal to guarantee its value.  What happens here is that a good is exchanged for its exact value in the metal: equal value for equal value.  This allowed for free trade throughout the Mediterranean several thousand years ago.

 

Money, as it existed at this time, was labor or a good whose value was exchanged for its equivalent in gold, silver, or cooper coins.  Similar worth was exchanged for similar worth.

 

As time proceeded the coins became more ornate.  Rulers images were stamped on the coins, various designs were used.  Different denominations appeared, allowing coins to be minted in different sizes and weights; and also in different metals.  And thus was value exchanged for value, money for goods and services.

 

Of course, into this economic system occasionally various enterprising individuals and/or governments began a process of “watering” some of the coins minted; that is, mixing base metal with the gold or silver, thereby hoping to get more goods and services for less gold or silver.  This process would be done on a large scale by such individuals as the Roman Emperor, Nero; who tended to need more money than he could collect in taxes.  The result was to cheapen the value of the specie bringing about inflation which also resulted in a lowering of overall wages and other disruptive problems to the economy.

 

However, this economic system worked and continued to work successfully as long as conditions in the society(ies) were stable; that is, there is no rapid infusion of massive amounts of gold or if large amounts of money don’t have to be transferred over distant areas.

 

The discovery of the New World by Christopher Columbus brought into Europe, in the Sixteenth Century, massive amounts of gold over a fairly short period of time.  The Americas were systematically looted.  The gold passing through Spain and went on to the Netherlands, which was ruled by the same person as Spain, and then into rapid circulation throughout Europe.  This caused, what has been referred to as, “The Gold Revolution” which decreased significantly and continually the value of gold in its relationship to goods and services, and brought about unbelievable economic hardships to the wage earning working classes of Europe.  Wages remained essentially fixed while the value of the money dropped continually in a never ending cycle of inflation; thus bringing about a tremendous drop in standards of living.  It took about a century for a new reasonable balance between the value of gold in relation to the cost of goods and services to come about.   

 

Another problem which could upset the economies was large scale trade over great distances and/or between different nations. There was great danger from bands of thieves on land or pirates when shipping gold over bodies of water.  A safe way had to be found to ship gold. 

 

During the late Middle Ages different cities, city-states, provinces, and countries became known for producing certain products.  These were desired throughout Europe.  Also some of the Italian city-states, after gaining control of the Mediterranean Sea, gained a monopoly of trade with the East for spices and other products.  (It was the search for a new route to the East that brought about Columbus’ expedition.)  This and other factors brought about a need for the safe transfer of specie over long distances.  In addition the breakdown of Feudalism and the rise of Kings brought about a necessity for the availability of large amounts of money for the payment of armies and other large scale projects.

 

To offset these economic needs there arose in various cities: first in the Germanies and then in the Italian city-states merchant families who eventually traded in money as a commodity.  These became the merchant bankers of the Hanseatic League and the Italian city-states.  They set up branches of their banks in different countries which allowed for immediate transfers of gold; and they became in many cases the new nobility: the merchant princes.  Of the Medici family of Italy two of the women became queens in France and one of the Medici became a pope.  Cosimo, the founder of the family had been a money lender whose symbol of trade was three brass balls.

 

From the Italian Renaissance on (Fourteenth Century) banking was fully developed with the banking families, in many instances, ruling the Italian city-states.  The goods of the East came to Europe by way of the eastern Mediterranean, through the Italian city-states, and on to the general population of the continent.  The fleets of ships plying that sea were controlled by the merchants of the city-states; who also controlled banking and, among other enterprises, made high interest loans to the emerging kings.

 

It was the potential profits from the trade that caused the new nations like Spain, Portugal, England, and France to explore, searching for a new route to the East.  This was the justification for sailing west to get to Asia and thus discovering the Americas.  Prince Henry of Portugal began sending expeditions south, exploring Africa trying to find a river crossing Africa west to east.  Eventually one of the expeditions rounded that continent and was able to bring back to Europe a cargo of spices worth many times the value of the ship and cost of the expedition.  Portugal controlled that trade for about fifty years. 

 

With the new routes and the emergence of pirates in the eastern Mediterranean, Italy lost control of that body of water and the trade and profits moved to the new emerging nations.  Incidentally the Renaissance now became the Northern Renaissance and banking and trade moved to these countries.

 

Money, during this period, remained as it had always been: equal in value to the goods and services for which it was exchanged.  Spain’s looting of the gold from the New World and having it pass directly into the European economy brought about a 90 year period of inflation in the Sixteenth Century but did not change the concept of value for value.  Actually by making gold more plentiful and less expensive it allowed for a more rapid economic growth.

 

With the coming of the wonders of the Industrial Revolution (the development of machines going from wood to metal, transportation: put a steam engine on wheels and you have a train, advances in medicine: ever increasing abilities to fight the assorted diseases, phenomenal population growth, advances in metallurgy, gas and electric engines, etc., etc.) the nations of the planet underwent massive changes: national populations went from the low millions to the high millions approaching and exceeding in one or two cases a billion people.

 

As we moved into the Twentieth Century (in addition to the major wars which wiped out millions) with the tremendous growth of business, of  the needs for ever increasing goods and services there were not enough precious metals to allow for an exchange of goods and services based upon value for value.  For this and other reasons in 1929 we have the Great Depression.

 

Paper money when it was first used consisted of silver and gold certificates which supposedly could be exchanged for actual specie at any time at one’s bank.  (However, if everyone were to do it at the same time there would be a run on the banks and they might well become bankrupt because there was never enough metal to satisfy everyone’s needs.)  In point of fact the Industrial nations eventually got off the direct gold standard by collecting and storing the gold bullion and printing paper money supposedly based upon the value of this stored bullion.  Silver coins would maintain a certain amount of precious metal for a while.  Later in the Twentieth Century virtually all nations will go off the gold standard basing the value of the money on the prestige of the particular country. The remaining silver coins became copper sandwiches.  By the beginning of the Twenty-first Century money is, in all cases, devoid of any precious metal or anything else of real value except the credit of the nation issuing it.

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Since 2008, when the United States went through what is generally called today The Great Recession the country has been recovering from what could have easily been The Greatest Depression in its history.  This economic condition had been building rapidly since the presidency of Ronald Reagan in the 1980s, when all government restrictions on trade, many of which were developed by the Roosevelt administration during the Great Depression, had been done away with by the Reagan administration.  The banking industry in the country had a free hand to do whatever they wanted.  And what they wanted was to increase their profits astronomically.

 

The banking industry convinced a large percentage of homeowners to turn their homes into bank accounts by a process of continually taking equity funds out of their homes.  They did this by constantly refinancing their properties.  In the process of doing this the paper value of the homes continually increased.  Presumably people were spending what they believed was their never ending increases.

 

This became rampart from the Reagan administration on.  By 2007 the oncoming crash was apparent but the banking industry was in denial.  At that point mortgage refinancing was raised to 125% of the appraised value of the home.  In 2008 the crash came and the Housing Industry collapsed.  Many of the banking houses were overextended and also at the point of collapse or bankruptcy. 

 

Since the basic financial structure of the entire economy or nation is based upon the banking structure and their functioning the Bush administration in 2008 lent large amounts to the banks.  This, however, was not enough money and the incoming Obama administration had to make more massive loans to the banking houses in order to save them.  The Obama administration also set conditions about massive remunerations to executives which the Bush people had not done.

All of this was in 2008 and 2009.  The trillions of dollars the Federal Government spent at this time saved the country from going into a more massive depression than that of 1929.  In fact we would still be coming out of it if the government had not jumped in. 

 

What emerged instead has been called The Great Recession.  In 2009 the unemployment rate had risen to 7.6%.  By 2010 it had reached 9.8%.  Thereafter it began to fall, reaching 4.6% by November of 2016.

 

In this process millions of people were underwater in their homes, suddenly owing more on the house than it was worth.  The banks, with aid from the government, largely recovered, with some being taken over by other banking houses.  Even with virtually no regulation some of the banking actions were illegal.  No one went to jail.  Instead the banks paid fines, which taken together were in the billions of dollars. The banks eventually repaid their government loans and executive pay rose to new heights.

 

We are still in a recession, with unemployment at the tail end of December 2016 at 4.5%.  For recovery, on the business model to occur, the range of people not working would have to reach 2.5%.  Is that a future possibility with President Donald Trump?  Probably not.  Since the Republican image of creating jobs has nothing to do with current levels of economic understanding.  They believe that jobs are created by doing away with government regulation.  It would seem that by their way of thinking as pollution increases and so do jobs.

The Weiner Component #173 – A Short History of Political Parties

The Republican Party came into existence with the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States in 1860.  It was a combination of different political groups that didn’t agree with the Democratic Party, which was the major political party that existed throughout the entire United States. The other political parties were all reginal.  It should be noted that in this election the Republicans were not on the ballet of any one Southern state.  The election in the Southern States dealt only with the Northern and Southern Democratic Parties.

 

With the exception of the issue of slavery the Republican Party supported business and its growth.  In fact largely so did that of the Democrats with a slight emphasis on agriculture.  This period was the era of business growth in the country.  The Industrial Revolution had begun in Great Britain at the turn of the 19th Century; it spread to Europe by the 1830s; and thereafter moved to the United States where it began slowly speeding-up during the Civil War and then growing even more rapidly in the post war period.

 

Politically the Republicans would stay in power for most of the balance of the 19th Century.  With the death of Lincoln, Andrew Johnson, the Vice-President, would become President.  He was a former Southerner and Democrat who had been elected during Lincoln’s second term when the Republicans had run under the National Union Ticket.  During his presidency the Congress was almost totally Radical Republican and did what they wanted even to the point of unsuccessfully impeaching Johnson.

 

Johnson served out his term, 1865-1869, and was followed by the Republican Union General, Ulysses S. Grant who served two terms, from March 4, 1869 – March 4 1877.  In 1876 the Republican Rutherford B. Hayes stole the Presidential Election from the Democrat Samuel J. Tilden.  Tilden won the popular vote but there were two sets of electoral votes from several states and the Republicans were the ones who prevailed.

 

In 1880 the Republican James A. Garfield was elected President.  He served 200 days in that office and was shot by a dissatisfied office seeker.  His Vice- President, Chester A. Arthur, then became President.  In 1884 the Democrat Grover Cleveland won and four years later in 1888 he lost to the Republican, Benjamin Harrison.  In that election Cleveland won the popular vote but Harrison won the Electoral College vote.  But in 1892 the Democrat Grover Cleveland won his second term.  In 1896 the Republican William McKinley was elected to the presidency. 

 

It was during this post-Civil-War period that the United States began turning into an industrial giant.  And it was during this time that the country underwent the rise of a new class, the plutocrats.  These were essentially the “robber barons” who owned most of the new industries that arose.  They had largely bribed their way through the State and Federal legislatures.  It was a time of intense corruption in all levels of government.  Shortly after this period that the people would get the right to directly elect senators through their votes and the Progressive Movement would take off in an attempt to return the country to its people.

 

As we’ve seen the Republicans, more or less, stayed in power during this time.  But the nation was going through intense growing pains.  It didn’t matter which political party was in charge the country was changing on almost a daily basis and it was impossible to keep up with everything that was going on.  These Presidents did their best; but, I suspect, no one totally understood or could have done what was really necessary with the speed of change.  In many respects the corrupt political machines, both Democratic and Republican, that existed then in the cities served the poor in return for their votes.  There were no government or other services.

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In 1900 the Republican William McKinley was elected to a second term.  His new Vice-President, Theodore Roosevelt, was put into that position to get him out of New York.  Jokingly it was stated that “Teddy,” the former governor of New York, “had taken the veil;” he could no longer bother anyone in government.  At that time the most nonfunctional job in Washington was that of Vice-President.  In the musical satire “Of Thee I Sing,” there is a scene with the Vice-President taking a tour of the White House so he could see what it looked like since he’d never been their otherwise.

 

On September 6, 1901, less than a year after he had begun his second term, William McKinley was shot by an anarchist.  Theodore Roosevelt became the 26th President of the United States.  To the Republican leadership it was “that damn cowboy in the White House.”

 

From the 1890s on until shortly after America’s entrance into World War I the United States went through the Progressive Movement.  It was a time of reform on all levels of society.  Its goals were to eliminate city political machines and their bosses, to bring direct democracy to the people, and to regulate monopolies and corporations through anti-trust laws.  Theodore Roosevelt became known to his admiring public as the Trust-Busting President.

 

The Progressive Movement brought about prohibition, women suffrage, the direct election of senators, and the Federal Reserve Act.  The three presidents who were directly involved with this movement were the Republicans, Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft and the Democrat, Woodrow Wilson. 

 

Roosevelt was President from 1901 to 1908; then he choose Taft to replace him from 1909 to 1912.  In 1912 Roosevelt dissatisfied with Taft decided to run again for the office.  The Republican Party supported Taft.  Roosevelt ran as a third party candidate in the Bull Moose Party.  In this Presidential Contest Roosevelt came in second, Taft was third, and the winner with a little over 40% of the vote was the Democrat, Woodrow Wilson.

 

The Progressive Movement, with these three presidents, ended shortly after the Great War (World War I), with woman suffrage and prohibition, the 18th and 19th Amendments to the Constitution in 1919.

 

At the end of the war the Senate had a Republican majority which refused to ratify the Treaty of Versailles, which ended World War I.  The Republican, Warren Harding, was elected President in 1920.  He signed a separate peace treaty with Germany.  The following two administrations that of Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover were also Republican.  The Secretary of the Treasury for all three administrations was Andrew Mellon, the millionaire industrialist and banker.

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In 1776, Adam Smith, a professor at the University of Edinburgh published a book based upon his lectures entitled, “An Enquiry of the Wealth of nations,” that defined the functions of capitalism.  The work and its theories are still the basis of modern capitalism.  The study was a vigorous attack upon an earlier economic system called mercantilism which defines national wealth as gold and the amount of gold a nation possessed as its wealth.  Smith defined national wealth as the amount of goods and services a nation produced in a set amount of time, a fiscal year.  The motivating force that caused the economy to work was, according to Smith, the invisible hand, the profit motive.

 

The Republicans not only accepted this idea they have been utilizing it ever since.  The only problem is that the unregulated profit motive has continually led to economic disaster.

 

From 1920 to 1929, under three Republican presidents, allowing the market system, the profit motive, to freely function, brought about the country’s collapse into the Great Depression.  Hoover and his Treasury Secretary, Andrew Mellon, the multi-millionaire industrialist and banker, didn’t know what to do.  For over three years of economic decline they kept talking about “prosperity being around the corner.”  They expected the Market to balance itself and prosperity to return.  It didn’t happen.  Conditions went from bad to worse and continued to stay there.  The industrial world foundered in misery.  Some countries like Italy, Germany, and Japan ended up in dictatorships.

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As in had happened in the 1920s, under President Ronald Reagan in the 1980s, the Federal Government did away with all banking regulations.  The Free Market would determine which way the economy would go.  The motivating force for the Free Market was Adam Smith’s “invisible hand;” this was the profit motive.  In 2008 the Housing Market crashed and the major banking houses were on the point of bankruptcy after about 30 years of constant growth.

 

In the 1920s the Stock Market became crazier and crazier.  On Black Tuesday, October 23, 1929 the Stock Market, after a decade of intense growth, collapsed. 

 

The collapse continued.  By 1932 the Gross National Product had dropped 15%, unemployment was down 25%, and farm prices were down 80%.  In many cases it cost the farmer more to raise the crop than the amount for which it could be sold.  The Hoover administration and the Secretary of the Treasury’s constant response was that prosperity was just around the corner.  Hoover did make some attempts to deal with the situation but they were totally inadequate.  Neither he nor Andrew Mellon, the Secretary of the Treasury, were capable of dealing with this situation, the country and its people floundered.

 

What happened, happened on a world basis.  All the industrial nations were affected by the Great Depression.  It was far worse outside of the United States.  In some countries unemployment was far lower than 25% and the level of misery was far greater than in the United States.

 

The various governments, including that of the United States, put high tariff walls around themselves in order to protect what jobs still existed.  This, in turn, made many prices far higher than they should have been.  Living standards hit an all-time low, with many people dying of malnutrition.  People wandered over the country looking for work.  We had the age of the hobo.  Many, and that included those in the government, did not understand what was happening.

 

In 1932, four years after the Great Depression began, the former Democratic governor of New York, Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR), ran for the Presidency of the United States.  The Republicans ran Hoover for a second term.

 

 During this period many of the veterans of the First World War descended upon Washington, D.C.  They had been promised a bonus in the future for serving in the war.  This was the Bonus March.  They demanded it at that time.  The veterans set up a massive camp at the outskirts of the city.  The Federal Government felt it was in no position to pay the bonus early.  President Hoover ordered the commanding general, Douglas MacArthur, to break up the camp but to not harm any of the veterans.  Two men were killed.  This move absolutely destroyed most Republican support that may have still existed in the country.  Roosevelt was overwhelmingly elected President of the United States. He received 57% of the popular vote and carried all but six of the forty-eight states.

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As President Roosevelt offered the country a New Deal.  The term came from poker.  His program consisted of the 3Rs: Relief, Recovery, & Reform.  Relief for the unemployed and the poor, Recovery of the economy to normal levels, and Reform of the financial system to prevent future depressions. 

 

Money at that time was gold and silver.  The Federal Government would pay for this by collecting all the gold coins in circulation, melting them down into bricks of golds, storing the gold in depositories like Fort Knox, and then issuing paper money.  In 1932 a gold coin that weighed an ounce was a twenty dollar gold piece.  The Federal Government bought all the gold mined in the United States at $16 an ounce.  In 1933, after the gold was collected and replaced with paper money its value was legally increased to $32 an ounce.  The Roosevelt administration doubled the money supply.  This would pay for the New Deal.

 

They issued paper money, called Federal Reserve Notes which were then theoretically backed by the gold bricks stored in the government depositories.  No one ever checked to see that the amount of Federal Reserve Notes (paper money) matched the amount of gold in the underground depositories.  The Federal Government could print and issue money as needed, which it did during the New Deal and later during World War II.  In essence the country went off the gold standard in 1933.

 

FDR changed the function of government.  Up to that point, historically, it had run the nation and the people were responsible for themselves.  From 1933 on the Federal Government officially assumed responsibility for the people where they could no longer care for themselves.  Actually the change had been begun during the Progressive Movement, but it was under FDR made into official government policy. 

 

In addition the Federal Government passed laws to regulate industry.  The basic concept was to have a level paying-field for all participants.  It also encouraged unionization of labor.

 

These, in essence, became the major issues between the Democratic and Republican Parties with the Republicans slowly giving in to the Democrats.  After the death of Roosevelt President Harry S. Truman would continue this policy with his Fair Deal.  The next President Dwight David Eisenhower would be a middle-of-the-road Republican building, among other things, a national highway system.

 

Eisenhower was followed by the Democrat, John F. Kennedy, who would serve as President from January 1961 to November 22, 1963 when he was assassinated.  Kennedy was succeeded by his Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson who was elected in his own right in 1964.  These two presidents were responsible for bringing the Federal Government into the Civil Rights Movement, which, in turn, legally enabled Blacks to vote throughout the South and integrated society making all the nation’s citizens equal.  It also turned the South into Republican voting states.

 

Johnson was followed by, Richard M. Nixon, who was also a moderate Republican.  During the middle of his second term he was forced to resign over the Watergate Scandal and was replaced by his Vice-President Gerald Ford.  Ford officially ended the Viet Nam War.  He was replaced by the Democrat, Jimmy Carter.

 

After one term Carter was succeeded in 1981 by the Republican, Ronald Reagan, who would serve for two terms and leave a definite imprint on American politics.  President Reagan implemented sweeping political and economic changes, bringing supply side economics (Reagonomics), lowering taxes in order to spur growth while actually increasing government spending.  He brought about government deregulation of industry and banking and reduced government spending in social programs for the poor and needy.  He massively increased military spending, starting an arms race with the Soviet Union and raised the deficit to over one trillion dollars for the first time.

 

Reagan brought into government the conservative Republican prospective that had first been demonstrated when ultra-conservative Barry Goldwater ran against Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964.  Reagan’s supply side economics was a large tax cut for the wealthy and small tax cuts for everyone else.  The theory being that the rich would invest the new monies into new economic expansion and all sorts of new jobs would be created.  Thus the monies would trickle down to all parts of society.  It never happened. The money was actually invested in old productivity, like the stock market, and produced no new employment.  However to Republicans this was the Conservative Revolution. 

 

Reagan’s military spending brought the National deficit up to over a trillion dollars for the first time.  It also began an arms race with the Soviet Union that would bankrupt them.

 

Reagan was followed by his Vice-President, George H. W. Bush, who had to deal with a Democratic Congress, and ended fighting an unnecessary war against Iraq, Operation Desert Storm, which more than doubled the national deficit.

 

Bush, after one term, was followed by the Democratic President Bill Clinton, who served two terms, from 1993-2001.  Clinton as President reversed or ignored the Reagan economic changes.  During his third year in office, 1994, the House of Representatives acquired for the first time in 40 years a Republican majority.  From 1998 to 2000, the last three years of the Clinton presidency the United States government had a budget surplus and was able to reduce the deficit.

 

Clinton was followed into office by the Republican George W. Bush, who won the electoral vote but not the popular vote.  Like Clinton he served two terms.  He was initially elected in a controversial election, receiving less votes than the Democratic candidate, Al Gore.

 

The September 11, 2001 terrorist attack on the Twin Towers in New York City occurred eight months in his first term as President.  George W. Bush’s response to this was to declare War on Terror and send a military force to Afghanistan in 2001 to take control away from the terrorist organization, Al-Qaeda.  He was successful in doing this but he was not successful in setting up a Democratic government that could maintain control of the country.  After 15 years in Afghanistan we are still there.  Bush also later decided, for personal reasons, to set up a Democracy in Iraq.  Saddam Hussein, the ruler of Iraq, had tried to have his father assassinated.  We are also still in Iraq.  

 

Following Republican policy Bush lowered taxes for the well-to-do and somewhat for the middle class while he massively fought two wars and destabilized the Middle East.  Under Bush the National Debt rose from six trillion dollars to ten trillion dollars.

 

During his presidency he signed into law the Patriot Act, a Partial Abortion Ban Act, and Medicare Prescription Drug Benefits for seniors.  In 2008, his last year as President, the Housing Market crashed and Bush and his Treasury Secretary loaned billions to some banking houses to keep them from going bankrupt. 

 

His presidency has been ranked among the worst by historians in the entire history of the United States.

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In the Election of 2008 the Democrats took both the presidency and both Houses of Congress.  In 2008 the country was on the brink of a Depression that would have made the Great Depression of 1929, which lasted for a little over a decade, look like a weekend affair in comparison.  The new President, Barack Obama, through massive government spending was able to turn it into what has been called The Great Recession.  And, as of early December 2016, unemployment fell to the level it had been at prior to 2007, 4 ½%.

 

During his first two years in office President Obama with the cooperation of a Democratic controlled Congress was able to avoid a massive depression.  He also passed the Affordable Health Care Bill.  From 2011 on he had to deal with a Republican dominated House of Representatives and thereafter was able to gradually continue his economic reform through the use of creative Monetary Policy with the Federal Reserve.  The House forced through some legislation which actually exacerbated what then became called The Great Recession.

 

Barack Obama has been President for two terms.  He will end his tenure on January 20, 2017, when Donald J. Trump becomes the 45th President of the United States.  What the new President-Elect will or will not do is unknown, outside of the fact that he is erratic in his behavior.  His current appointments to his staff and cabinet would indicate that he is moving far to the right.  The appointments indicate also that he is doing the opposite of what he initially proposed, bringing Wall Street and the military into his Cabinet. 

 

As of January 20th the three main parts of the Federal Government will all be Republican dominated, the Presidency and both Houses of Congress.  The Republicans in Congress have been talking about doing away with Obamacare (Affordable Health Care) but if they do that 20 million people would lose their health coverage and numerous millions more would have their young adult children removed from their policies.  In addition those individuals with a prior condition, who the insurance companies were forced to accept, would be dropped from their insurance policies.  The effect of these changes would no doubt cause the Republicans to lose control of both Houses of Congress in 2018. 

 

As I understand the current issue the Republican dominated Congress will do away with Obamacare immediately but the plan will not go into action for three years, not until after the next Congressional Election in 2018.  The Republicans in Congress feel that they can come up with a better replacement over that period of time.

 

Unfortunately the current universal medical plan is an expanded Republican Plan that was developed by a Republican Think-Tank and was first successfully used in Massachusetts when Mitt Romney was governor.  The only alternate plan, which would successfully lower costs, would be a single payer plan run by the government covering everybody in the United States.  In fact it could be successfully financed by an increase in income taxes and no premiums being paid by anyone.    This plan would be unacceptable to the Republicans.  The only basic one that they could in principle support would be Affordable Health Care, which was the Republican plan.  They have opposed it for the last seven years.  2019 should be an interesting year. 

 

And also there is what Donald Trump has promised and will do or try to do.  It is interesting to note that the current Republican dominated Congress does not really trust Donald Trump.  They have only partially funded the Federal Government for a second time this year.  It will have to be funded again in four months during Trump’s presidency.  This action can be used to force him to cooperate with them.

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What should emerge from this article is that the political parties were close together around the 19th Century.  The Democrats emphasized the rural or agricultural areas and the Republicans the urban or business cities.  Other than that the two parties tended to, more or less, cooperate.  The Progressive or Reform Movements that came about from the 1880s to 1920 was a function of men from both political parties.

 

From 1921 on, with the assentation of President Warren Harding we have the modern Republican Party.  Presumably because of scandal Harding died in office and was replaced by his Vice-President, Calvin Coolidge, who was then reelected to serve another term.  It was under these two men that modern Republican principles were developed and continued under the next President, Herbert Hoover.  The forms of government regulation that had been brought about by the Progressive Movement were done away with.  The Free Market was allowed to function unhindered.  This brought about the Great Depression of 1929.

 

Four years later, in 1933, the Democrat FDR became President.  He brought about the New Deal, experimenting with all forms of socialism to put the country back on its feet.  He kept was worked and discarded what didn’t.

 

FDR changed the function of government, making it responsible for the welfare of its people.  This was a new concept excepted in the 20th Century by virtually all the industrial nations.  This concept was actually carried on by both political parties in the United States until the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States.  Will it continue?  There are many who feel strong doubts.  We are at an interesting or frightening point in our history.

 

Trump’s election seems to indicate a return to the policies of the 1920s.  Could we be facing the possibility of a return to the Depression of 1929 or to the Housing Debacle of 2008, to the potential of a far greater depression than that of 1929?  It is a distinct possibility considering Republican control of the Presidency and the Congress.  And, of course, there are Trump’s attitudes and his appointment to important government jobs.  Republicans seem to have a short historic memory!

The Weiner Component #154 – President Obama & the Republican Party

Official photographic portrait of US President...

Traditionally the Republicans stand for smaller government and the Democrats for a system responsible for the welfare of it citizens.  This means that the Republicans want more individual freedom and choice for the citizens, including the right to starve or go without proper medical care through a lack of funds.  The Democrats are more socially responsible and feel a need to take care of those who cannot take care of themselves.

 

Perhaps one of the most ardent Republicans was President Ronald Reagan who continually talked about “government being the problem.”  He voiced a desire for less government but left Washington at the end of his two terms in office with a far larger government than that with which he had begun eight years earlier.

 

In line with their desire to lower federal costs and weaken or do away with Obamacare, which was based upon a Republican model, the Republicans have recently won a pyrrhic victory against the 2010 law, Affordable Health Care.  Around May 12, 2016 a Federal Judge, initially appointed by a Republican President, found the practice of the Federal Government of helping to subsidize premium payments for those who cannot afford to make them, illegal since it was not specifically mentioned in the law.  The 38 page decision by the judge who reasoned that since the law did not specifically state this practice, the act of doing so was illegal.  The judge, however, did not put her decision into immediate operation.  Instead she allowed the practice to continue until after her decision is appealed.  Way to go Republicans, attempting to balance the budget on the backs of the poor who may lose their medical coverage!

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Watching the progress of Congress by both the Republicans and the Democrats one gets the impression that nothing ever gets done.  No necessary laws ever get passed.  The House of Representatives has given itself a 110 day legislating year; they are working a three day week, not including holidays.  The Senate will meet for a somewhat longer period.

 

The two political parties began the preliminary process of choosing their presidential candidates early in 2016.  In the Republican state preliminary elections and caucuses the initial debate between the possible candidates dealt with how bad the present administration is and how a Republican president would make the country great again.  It’s as though nothing has happened since 2009 when Barack Obama was elected to the presidency.  It would seem, according to the Republican candidates that there is no history behind the present campaign.  This, of course, is not true.  The history has been ignored or edited, particularly by the Republican Party.

 

The Great Recession, which could easily have been the Greatest Depression in our history, began under the reign of the Republican President, George W. Bush toward the end of 2008, his last year as president.  He took some action but mainly left the problem for the next President, Barack Obama.

 

During his first two years in office, 2009 and 2010, President Obama changed a potential massive depression into a recession, restored the major banking houses in the United States and the automobile industry from bankruptcy by massive government loans and signed the Affordable Health Care Bill into law.

 

At the time both the House of Representatives and the Senate had Democratic majorities.  In the 2010 Midterm Election a large number of Democrats did not bother to vote and the Republicans achieved a majority in the House of Representatives, actually killing any chance for further reform since the Republican philosophy of government tends to be the opposite of that of the Democrats .  In addition since 2010 was a Census Year, the Republicans gerrymandered the states where they controlled the governorships and the legislatures making it easier for them to keep control of the House of Representatives.  In the 2012 Presidential Election the Democrats cast a million-and-a-quarter more votes were cast for Democratic candidates than for the Republican members of the House of Representatives but the Republicans still retained control of the House.  The same thing is likely to happen in the 2016 Presidential Election.

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In the 2016 Primary Elections the Republicans are quite vociferous in stating what President Obama didn’t do.  What they don’t state is that most of the things he is blamed for not doing are functions of Congress.  Congress passes the laws in the United States.  The President can sign or veto a law.  If he vetoes a law Congress can still pass it with a 2/3 majority in both Houses.

 

Basically the current Congress, which has a Republican majority in both Houses, has done virtually nothing since they achieved a Republican majority in 2014 or since the Republicans won control of the House of Representatives in 2011.  Today we have the Tea Party which is an extremely conservative section of the conservative Republican Party that is totally against Big Government and sees all economics as Micro, small economics.  Unfortunately they represent a number of seats in the House and Senate.

 

Economists today understand depressions and recessions and how to properly deal with them.  Economics exists upon two major levels: one is called Microeconomics, which deals with household finances, city, state, and business funding.  The other is Macroeconomics which deals with the Federal Government, which owns the printing presses that print and issue money.  They are two totally different entities.  Except the Republicans do not understand or accept the concept of Macroeconomics.

 

Money today has nothing behind it except the word of the government that printed it.  There is no gold or other precious metal that today stands behind any currency.  The amount in circulation is supposed to be regulated so that there is enough to easily carry out all the business functions within the nation and between nations.  Unfortunately this does not always happen and inflation or deflation can occur.  In the United States the Federal Reserve controls the amount of cash in circulation.  In most other nations there is generally a National Bank that does this.  This process is Macroeconomics.

 

The National Debt, of which the Federal Government owns over 50% of its own debt and will, at times, use it to control the amount of currency in circulation.  This was done recently by the former Chairman of the Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke, for over a two year period adding 85 billion dollars a month to the National Cash Flow.  It was gradually ended by the current Chairperson, Janet Yellen.

 

The members of the Republican Party do not appreciate or understand any of this.  From statements made by various Congressional members of the Tea Party and other Republicans their understanding of economics is based upon raising a family, Microeconomics.  They see everything in those terms.  One has an income, taxes, and one can spend it.  If an individual or country wants to spend more he has to borrow money which, in turn, has to be paid back with interest.

 

That seems to be the limit of their understanding.  It can lead to recessions and depressions.  Donald Trump has added another level to this misunderstanding.  He seems to think the government can renege on part of its debt as he has done in business with three bankruptcies.   Statements like that can destroy the value of the dollar, particularly if he were to be elected president.

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To say that the Republicans have done nothing is to give them positive credit.  Instead they were able to get through the Budget Control Act of 2011 which began on March 1, 2013.  This was the sequester, automatic cuts across the board on all government programs with the exception of Social Security, Medicaid, federal pensions, and veteran’s benefits.  These would cover all other military and discretionary programs every year until the year 2021.  Medicare rates were reduced 2%.  Sequestration also resulted in unpaid time off to many federal government workers, this was known as furloughs.

 

These cuts during a recession tended to shrink the economy and slow recovery.  Interestingly by 2015 the military was complaining that with the sequester cuts their effectiveness was significantly decreasing.  From that time on Congress tended to pass yearly bills ignoring the effects of sequestration upon the military.

 

Also in 2013 the House of Representatives, with hefty leadership by Senator Ted Cruz who is not even a member of the House, shut down the Federal Government from October 1st through the 16th.  Government operations resumed on October 17, 2013.  800,000 government employees were indefinitely furloughed.  1.3 million other government employees were required to report for work without a known payment date.  The Republican led House wanted to defund the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.  They attached this to the Government Funding Bill.  The Democratic led Senate removed it from their version of the Bill before they passed it.  The Conference Committee, which consisted of representatives from both Houses of Congress, reached an impasse.  The cost of this shutdown is estimated at $20 billion.  So much for Republican frugalness!

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It should be noted that our understanding of economics has come a long way since 1929 and the Great Depression.  We understand the root causes for the economic waves that bring about these changes and we understand how to deal with them when they occur to lessen or mitigate their effects upon society.  But in order to do this we need both the President and Congress acting together as a cooperating unit.  This we have not had since 2011.

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By 2008 the Real Estate Hedge Fund industry crashed in the United States.  Properties like individual homes dropped almost overnight to a fraction of their inflated values.  Millions of people, who had been encouraged by the financial institutions to use their homes like bank accounts by continually remortgaging them, were suddenly underwater on their loans, owing more on the property than it was then worth.  Employment also phenomenally decreased.  Most banking houses were over-extended and on the point of bankruptcy.  The Bush Administration in its last year in office lent public funds to some of the banks to keep them afloat.

 

In 2009 and 2010 there were both a Democratic President and a Democratic Congress.  The massive depression that would have been greater than that of 1929 was avoided by further public loans to the banking industry.  Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care or Obamacare, which incidentally was based upon a Republican plan, came into existence.  It was passed strictly on a party basis; no Republican voted for it in either House of Congress.  The American auto industry was also saved from bankruptcy by public loans.  Incidentally it should be noted that all these loans were eventually repaid with interest.

 

From 2011 on the Republicans achieved a majority in the House of Representatives.  Thereafter no bill was passed by the House that would lessen what was then the Great Recession.  In fact the bills passed by the House tended to exacerbate the unemployment by not only shrinking the Federal Government but also curtailing the amounts of monies that went to the individual states, forcing them to reduce            some of their programs and lessoning their levels of employment.

 

Mitch McConnell, the then minority leader in the Senate, stated that the Republican goal was to make Barack Obama a one term president.  The Republican attitude from that time on was to support absolutely nothing that President Obama supported.  Economic conditions in the country became secondary next to this goal.  The House Republicans did nothing that might reflect positively upon President Obama.  When he proposed a bill to create jobs by improving the outdated infrastructure of the U.S. the bill never even came to the floor of the House of Representatives for consideration; it was totally ignored.

 

President Obama continued to attempt to work with the Republicans for the next two years with no success.  By 2012, when he ran for a second term, it would seem that he understood that there was no cooperating with the Republicans.

 

President Obama and the Chairman of the Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke, were able to use Creative Monetary Policy to improve economic conditions in the country.  The Federal Reserve added $85 billion a month for over two years to the National Cash Flow.  They did this by spending $45 billion a month buying up mortgage paper and also by purchasing back $40 billion in government bonds monthly for over two years.  The program was finally reduced by 10 billion a month until it was completely withdrawn.

 

The effect of this action was to buy back millions of pieces of mortgages in all fifty states, each one of which had been split into hundreds of pieces.  In essence these properties belonged to no one, as no one owned over 50% of the mortgages.  Without this action by the Federal Reserve these properties would have been lingering throughout the economy for the next decade or more before they were sold for back property taxes by the local governments.  This act gave the people who had not walked away from their underwater properties and still lived in these homes the ability to continue living in them without the possibility of foreclosure.  There was no way the government could have matched up all the pieces of all the properties in all 50 states to claim ownership of any of them.  Generally the money that would have been used in paying off the loans was spent in the overall economy creating more employment.  It was a giveaway by the Federal Government which was probably more than returned in local, state, and federal taxes.

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With the upcoming Presidential Election the Republicans are blaming President Obama and the Democrats for not doing anything to run the country properly.  They seem to have forgotten the Real Estate Crash of 2008 which took off during the Reagan Administration and continued from there until the 2008 crash.  They seem to have forgotten President George W. Bush’s unnecessary war with Iraq which destabilized the Middle East and began the situation which exists there at present.  Actually they have forgotten everything negative that can be attributed to them.  And all of these things have been blamed upon President Obama and the Democrats.

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The actual Presidential Election should be interesting.  If Donald Trump is elected president he has practically promised to get rid of ISIS quickly and make America Great Again.  He seems to feel that he can solve all major international problems, whether he understands them or not, within the first 100 days or less.

 

If Hillary Clinton is elected and she has a Democratic Congress she can be expected to move successfully in the direction of solving many of America’s domestic and international problems.  If, however, the House of Representatives retains its Republican majority then the country will probably experience the same gridlock it has under President Barack Obama.

The Weiner Component #147 Part 2 – Money & the Federal Reserve

English: Paul Volcker, former head of the Fede...

English: Paul Volcker, former head of the Federal Reserve Board . (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Unfortunately economics is not an exact science and different economists can hold different views about what should be done.   However there are basic principles that all economists adhere to and the overwhelming majority of economists do believe in the use of both Fiscal and Monetary Policy.  Many, if not most, Republicans do not believe in either of these processes.  Fiscal Policy has to do with Congress passing laws that enhance employment throughout the country.  This is extremely important at present because the overall unemployment rate is 5% and the country’s infrastructure is still well into the 20th Century; it desperately needs upgrading and modernizing.  Monetary Policy consists of the controls exercised by the Federal Reserve, essentially regulating the amount of currency in the National Cash Flow, its flow through the overall economy, and the use of money throughout the economy.  Many Republicans equally oppose this agency.

 

Basically one of the major difference between the Republicans and the Democrats is their positions upon these two uses of economics.  The Democrats believe in the overall principles of economics and using its tools while the Republicans do not.  They hold that an unfettered Free Market will make all the proper decisions within the society.  Their solution to recessions or depressions is to lower taxes for the rich, limit any kind of regulation and let the economy take off with this new financial investment.  This Supply Side Economics was first advocated by the Ronald Reagan Administration.  It didn’t work then and it isn’t going to work now.  Point of fact, it was this type of behavior that brought about the Bankers Depression of 1907, the Great Depression of 1929, and the Real Estate Crash of 2008.

 

But the Republicans seem to be oblivious to the past, particularly their own errors in the past; they are only interested in the near future and substantially ignore what has happened and their own mistakes, always proposing to do the same things again.  For example: not too long ago, Jeb Bush vowed to cut taxes for the very wealthy and for corporations when he became president.  He would reduce the top income tax bracket from 39.6% to 28% and corporate taxes from 35% down to 20%.  This would mean that those not in the upper 5 or so percent would be paying a higher percentage of their incomes in taxes.  His rationale, I assume, would be the application of Supply Side Economics which didn’t work earlier or ever.  The theory being that by lowering taxes for the rich the Federal Government would take in more tax revenue.  So much for reasonable thinking!

 

Of course Jeb Bush claims to have been a phenomenal success as the former governor of Florida.  He seems to have forgotten or ignores some of the disreputable things he did as governor.

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In 1964 Lynden B. Johnson, after finishing the late President John F. Kennedy’s term in office, won the Presidency on his own in 1964, running against Republican Conservative Barry Goldwater.  In his prior two years in office he had pushed through his “Great Society” legislation, extending, among other things, Civil Rights, the Voting Rights Act, Medicare, Medicaid, and his “War on Poverty,” that helped millions of Americans rise above the poverty level.

 

But Johnson also, it would seem, had an ego problem.  He saw himself as the most powerful man on earth.  He apparently decided that he would have the United States subdue North Viet Nam and make the country into a democratic democracy through the use of U.S. military power.  In 1964 he escalated involvement in Viet Nam, bringing military involvement from 16,000 advisors in non-combat roles in 1963 to 550,000 mostly military combatants by early 1968.  Unfortunately he was wrong; even with the use of American military might, he was unable to subdue the Viet Cong.

 

What Johnson attempted was what was generally referred to as a policy of “Guns and Butter.”   The Federal Government would continue its’ domestic policies within the country and at the same time fight and supply a major war.  It meant that the productivity and costs of what was going on within the United States would continue unabated while the additional costs, manpower, and productivity of a major military action would be added to this.  Johnson would supposedly finance this with a small temporary addition to everyone’s income tax.

 

The result of this great increase in productivity and manpower was the beginnings of an inflationary spiral that would continue to escalate gradually, for that and other reasons, and not be ended until the early 1980s with major disruptions throughout the U.S. economy.  In essence the competition between the non-war effort and the war effort for the production of goods and services would begin and continue the inflationary spiral.

 

During the time Jimmy Carter was President, from 1977 to 1981, the inflation rate had reached just under 14.8%, interest rates went up to 18%, and unemployment had risen to just under 10%.  Paul Volcker, as chairman of the Federal Reserve, attempted to stringently drop the interest rate.  He did this by raising it, making money too expensive to borrow.  A number of small businessmen complained strongly to President Carter that they were being forced into bankruptcy by this practice.  President Carter had Volcker back-off.  And the situation continued.

 

The next President, Ronald Reagan, allowed Volcker to carry out this policy.  There was a lot of ensuing misery throughout the United States.  President Reagan got on national television and told people that if there were no jobs in their area then they should go to where there were jobs.  He provided no other information.  Large numbers of individuals packed their cars and their families and took off, following rumors.  For a while there were all sorts of elderly vehicles going from city to city, their occupants looking for work.  Temporary agencies did well at this time.  It took around two years for the inflation rate to drop down to a low single digit, where it has remained since then.  The increase in homelessness that resulted from this is still with us.

 

What, in effect, happened was that the price of borrowing money became too expensive for many companies.  Higher interest rates brought about higher inflation, which in turn brought about a recession.  Multitudes of these smaller businesses that needed short term loans to keep operating could not afford the cost of these loans and went under increasing unemployment during President Ronald Reagan’s first two years in office.  A lesser demand for financial borrowing brought down the cost of loans significantly.    It would drop to a low single digit number, where it has generally stayed since that time.

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Shortly before withdrawing from the 2016 Republican Presidential race Rand Paul, one of the potentially Republican candidates, publically stated that he didn’t trust banks, particularly the biggest bank in the United States, the Federal Reserve.  He obviously considers them on the same basis as the commercial banks and the credit unions that deal directly with the public.  He doesn’t understand that the Federal Reserve is the banks’ bank and to a certain extent controls all the banks that deal directly with the public.  The FED controls all the money in the United States and generally how all the other banks do business.  Its purpose is to have the nation function at its highest level of efficiency and its major tool is the currency that the country uses.  This is Monetary Policy;

 

It’s obvious that Paul and the majority of the elected Republicans and probably some of the Democratic Congressmen could use and should be required to take at least a short course on Macroeconomics.  It would seem that being elected to public office does not require any specific knowledge.  Our Founding Fathers emphasized public education, believing that an educated person would elect the best possible people to public office.  It would seem that they were wrong; many people tend to vote more with their feelings than with their brains.

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The functions of the Federal Reserve can and have strongly affected the condition of the country.  If we briefly examine how the FED worked over the last forty years we get an image of this and also see some of the fallacies of their dealing with the welfare of the nation.  As we’ve seen Lynden Johnson’s enhanced police action in Viet Nam began an inflation spiral that eventually required drastic action to end it in the early 1980s.  Johnson underestimated the productive abilities of the United States to supply both “Guns & Butter” during his term as president in 1964 to 1968 and the result was a gradual growth of inflation for the American public over a sixteen or so year period to require drastic economic actions.

 

In 1979 then President Jimmy Carter appointed Paul Volcker to be Chairman of the Federal Reserve.  He would hold that office for eight years under Presidents Carter and Reagan.  Previously Volcker had been President of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, one of the FED’s twelve regional banks.

 

We’ve considered his actions against the inflationary spiral.  Under his leadership the FED limited the growth of the National Cash Flow, limiting the money supply and increasing short term interest rates.  At the cost of a heavy recession in the early 1980s he was able to end a high two digit recession and bring about what turned out to be a prolonged period of economic growth.

 

Volcker was succeeded by Alan Greenspan, a conservative economist, who was appointed by President Ronald Reagan.  He chaired the FED from August 1987 to January 31, 2006 for four, four year terms, sixteen years.  Among other things he was criticized by Democrats for wanting to privatize Social Security.  The Republicans held him in awe.

 

President Reagan, who believed totally in Adam Smith’s late 18th Century concept of the Free Market, unfettered capitalism, chose a fellow conservative, economist Alan Greenspan, who shared his views on economics.  It was during this period that the banks were totally deregulated and given the freedom to act as they saw fit.  And it was during the Reagan administration that government regulation of industry was essentially done away with.   The banking institutions, whose deposits were insured by the Federal Government, were now free to act as they saw fit.  Their motivation being Adam Smith’s “invisible hand,” profit.

 

It was during the Reagan years that the mortgage crisis really began.  Prior to this time mortgages were split into a small number of pieces, each held by a separate individual, but now the concept of fractionalization of mortgages into a hundred or more pieces began.  The banks discovered that they could split mortgages into a hundred or more pieces, with a separate hedge fund owner for each piece.  Basically they sold the pieces to investors but maintained control of mortgages, charging fees for every service they performed.  In addition all the banks set up their own agency to keep control of all the property dealings throughout the United States.

 

Traditionally all the property dealings were recorded in the cities and counties where the property was located.  But this was too slow a process for the financial institutions.  They created their own single record keeping institution to keep tabs on all the mortgaging and refinancing throughout the fifty states.  This bank-owned company had so much to do that their error factor was phenomenally high.  Their records became an unfathomable mess.  In essence when it came to foreclosing on a property for nonpayment it was eventually discovered that no one owned enough of the property to foreclose.

 

Throughout the country people were encouraged to continually refinance their homes taking their ever-rising equity out of the properties that were continually going up in value.  Virtually everyone who wanted to could continually take money out of their homes which kept increasing in value.  The banks meanwhile making billions in fees while continually maintaining control of the properties.

 

What was happening from the 1980s on was that the National Cash Flow, the amount of money within the economy, was increasing exponentially.  There was a constant need for money, for all kinds of economic expansion and the banks, for a price, were supplying these funds.

 

Allan Greenspan, as Chairman of the Federal Reserve, essentially sat back and enjoyed this growing prosperity.  He basked in his treatment by Congress.  There was a need for an increase of money in the National Cash Flow on a rational level but Greenspan and his Board of Directors ignored this.  I imagine they felt that if something was going well, don’t change it.  But conditions weren’t really going well, the country was moving toward 2007 when it became obvious the Real Estate Market was headed for a crash.  This was met by denial at the banks.  Many of them raised the amount of money they would lend on a property to 125% of its appraised value.  The crash came in late 2008, toward the end of President George W. Bush’s last year in office.  By then Alan Greenspan had retired as Chairman of the Federal Reserve and been replaced by Ben Bernanke.

 

The easy money policies of the FED and the tax cuts during Greenspan’s chairmanship, which increased the National Debt, have been suggested as a leading cause of the sub-prime mortgage crisis.  Greenspan served for sixteen years.  He resigned on January 31, 2006.  Was he aware at that time of what the future held?  An interesting question, which will never be answered.

 

Ben Bernanke was appointed by George W. Bush on February 1, 2006 as Chairman of the Federal Reserve.  He started as a registered Republican and had been chairman of President Bush’s Council of Economic Advisers.  He was reappointed by President Barack Obama in 2010.  Under his guidance the country went through the Real Estate Crash in late 2008.  Working with President Obama and by the use of Creative Monetary Policy, the two were able to pull the country out of a disaster that could have been greater than the Great Depression of 1929.

 

In his 2015 book Bernanke asserted that it was only through the novel efforts of the FED, cooperating with other agencies of both the U.S. and of foreign governments that they were able to prevent an economic catastrophe far greater than the Great Depression.

 

It is interesting to note that the U.S. House of Representatives, from 2011 on, after the Republicans gained control of that body, not only did no pass any legislation to alleviate the economic crisis but they did push through bills that intensified the effects of the conditions of the sub-prime mortgage crisis by increasing unemployment.

 

Bernanke requested numerous times, both formerly and informedly, to Congress that it pass Fiscal Policy Bills, but was ignored to the point that the subject wasn’t even brought up in the House of Representatives.  This meant that any action to divert a major depression had to be taken by both the President and by the Federal Reserve.  President Obama bailed out the banks and the auto industry and, where possible, used his power of executive privilege.  For his part Bernanke after gradually lowering the interest rate the FED charged banks to 0 to encourage the banks to lend money; he came up with Creative Monetary Policy.  Meanwhile the FED continually added sums of money to the National Cash Flow.  They did this by having the FED in open market operations sell less bonds than they cashed out when they became due.

 

There were two major problems facing the nation at this time.  One was the need for more currency available throughout the economy.  It was first believed that the banks would start again financing mortgages and refinancing homes; but that didn’t happen.  Suddenly the banks were very restrictive in the way they used their funds.  It seemed almost as though the banks got burned by mortgages and didn’t want to deal with them again.  Suddenly the banks had become very stingy with their funds.

 

The second problem dealt with the millions of fractionalized mortgages.  Initially the different banks generated papers from their computers and foreclosed upon multitudes of properties that they didn’t own.  These were homes that they administered for the assorted Hedge Funds.  Initially the courts assumed that the banks would not do anything dishonest.  If fact a number of attorney’s were disbarred for stating that the banks were dishonest.  Eventually the truth came out and the different banking houses paid heavy fines and stopped their foreclosures.  Every major banking house was included in this process and eventually, taken together, the banks paid well over a trillion dollars in fines.

 

The problem was that it was almost, if not totally impossible, to put together 50.1% of many of these mortgages.  Basically no one owned the mortgages for a large percentage of these properties.  In many cases the property values had dropped far below the current debt value of the homes and the former owners had walked away from their properties leaving them vacant.  It was a major disaster that left to itself would take well over one or two decades to straighten out.

 

The major question here was: Who owned what?  These conditions virtually destroyed the housing industry.  Builders could not borrow the funds to build new homes.  And a good percentage of the older homes were so tied up that they couldn’t be sold or bought.  The effect of this was to reduce employment to every industry that was effected by new and older homes and properties.

 

What Chairman Ben Bernanke came up with was his creative Monetary Policy.  Every month for a period of well over two years, ending in 2015 the Federal Reserve spent 85 billion dollars a month.  Forty-five billion was spent on the fractionalized mortgage paper and forty billion dollars was added to the National Cash Flow.  In 2015 the expenditures were reduced 10 billion dollars a month, five billion in mortgages and five billion to the National Cash Flow.

 

By the time Bernanke’s tenure in office had ended as of February of 2014 and Janet Yellen had become the new Chairperson in charge of the Federal Reserve.  It was she who gradually ended the bond buying.  It should also be noted that the Housing Crisis is essentially over.  There is new construction and older homes are selling.  AS of February 2016 all the employment that goes along with this is now in place.  The unemployment level in the United States is down to 4.9%.  Its lowest level since the Real Estate Crash of 2008.

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This blog began with the concept that economics is not an exact science.  Using hinder sight it is easy to pick out the major trends of the last few decades but living through that period and being able to make specific recommendations as to what was needed is not always that easy.  Alan Greenspan was the FED chairman for 16 years, and according to his theories he did what was necessary to keep the country functioning properly.  But he missed the greatest problem during that period and allowed the banks endlessly and with no restrictions, to add money to the economy, bringing about a crisis that could easily have been worse than the Great Depression of 1929.

 

Ben Bernanke was the right economist at the right time to be chairman of the Federal Reserve; but despite the fact that the Republican led House of Representatives absolutely refused to go cooperate with him, he and President Obama were able to mitigate, what has been called, The Great Recession and avoid a Greater Depression than that of 1929.

 

On February 3, 2014 Ben Bernanke completed his second term of four years as Chairman of the Federal Reserve.  The new chairperson was Janet L. Yellen.  She was appointed on that same date and had served as Vice Chair from 2010 to 2014.  Prior to that she was CEO of the Federal Reserve Band of San Francisco and had been Chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisers under President Bill Clinton.  Also she was the first Democrat appointed to that office.  Ms. Yellen is credited with the ability to connect economic theory to everyday life, actually to connect abstract theory to concrete living.

 

Yellen was the one who reduced the $85 billion that was added to the economy monthly by $10 billion, $5 billion from mortgage paper and $5 billion from being added to the National Cash Flow, until 0 was reached in each account.  At that point Ms. Yellen made conditional statements that these accounts could be reopened if the need arose.

 

Presumably she had agreed with Bernanke that the time was right for these changes.  The mortgage crisis was essentially resolved, the amount of currency flowing through the economy was adequate, and inflation was low, by the beginning of 2016 it had dropped to slightly below 1%.  The issue of what to do next seems to have been raising the prime lending rate, which had been at 0% for a number of years since 2008.

 

Janet Yellen had been cautiously putting this off and then toward the end of 2015 the FED raised the discount rate ¼ of 1%.  The discount rate is what the Federal Reserve charges banks for monies borrowed from it.  This establishes the base for what banks charge the public and pay the public for money that the public deposits in them.  The banks translated this increase into a 2 to 3% increase in the interest they would charge on many long term loans.

 

There is an interesting note of irony here.  The monies that the banks lend out and from which they essentially make their profits is all the deposits made by the general public, many of whom have their pay checks automatically deposited into their accounts.  This was the basis of the monies loaned out prior to the 2008 Real Estate Crash which was also insured by the FDIC (Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation).  If these banks has gone under then the Federal Government would have been responsible for replacing all these funds up to ½ a million dollars per account.

 

Prior to the FED raising the discount rate the banks paid most of their depositors 1/10th of 1% interest for their deposits.  The overall interest that the general public received on their bank deposit accounts was under $10.00 a year, too small an amount upon which to even pay income taxes.  That translates into 1 cent in interest for every 10 dollars held by the bank for one year.

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Janet Yellen, the new Chairperson of the Federal Reserve, now has to bring the country back to prosperity, which would be full employment; but there currently are multi-forces pushing the country in different directions at the same time.  All this seems to begin with the international drop in oil prices from over $100 dollars a barrel of oil to what is currently under $30 a barrel.  What has happened with oil is that there are new methods of searching for it and the amount discovered has greatly increased the available supply.  (There are other economic costs.  Fracking tends to increase the possibilities of earthquakes by destabilizing the soil.)

 

This drop in oil prices has economically hurt many of the countries which depend upon their oil revenue to maintain their levels of prosperity.  Some examples would be Venezuela, Mexico, Brazil, Algeria Ecuador, and Egypt.  As the price of oil goes down so do their overall standards of living.  And many of these nations in order to make up the difference pump more oil, which, in turn, lowers the price per barrel even further.  While the lower price of oil noticeably lowers the inflation within many nations it also upsets the balance of trade between nations.

 

Another problem is that the dollar, despite nearly 19 trillion dollars of National Debt is currently considered the strongest currency in the world today.  Within the last few years it has slowly increased in value against all other currencies.  This means that American exports are increasing in price in other countries while their exports become less expensive in the U. S.  This, in turn, hurts American exports, which decrease, and causes the balance of trade to tilt in the direction of the other countries trading with the U.S.

 

Apparently the Japanese Government is now selling bonds within its country with a negative interest rate.  This means that for every $100 borrowed the borrower pays back less than the original amount when the debt becomes due.  China is apparently thinking along those lines with its Central Bank’s discount rate.  They want to bring their overall productivity back up to 8%.  For most countries 2 to 4% is considered a positive growth rate.

 

Within the last few months the Stock Market has gone down well over 100 points, with each point being one dollar in value.  That is the extent that many stocks have decreased in value.  Usually that indicates an oncoming major recession or depression.  What is causing the current drop?

 

Yet gradual economic growth is still occurring in the United States.  Real Estate construction is slowly still improving.  Inflation is very low.  Ultimately the United States uses 22% of the world’s productivity.  The inflation rate is in February of 2016 is 7/10ths of 1%.

 

The basic question is: What should the FED do?  Raise the discount rate another ¼ of 1%?  Leave things as they are?  What?  It would seem to be a major dilemma.  I would currently hate to have to make the decision.

 

On Wednesday, February 10, 2016, Janet L. Yellen, the Chair of the Federal Reserve Board gave her semi-annual report to the standing House Financial Services Committee on the economic condition of the nation and what the actions of the FED will or will not be.

The Weiner Component: Part 2 – Taxes & the Republican Party

English: Federal income tax amounts in the Uni...

English: Federal income tax amounts in the United States, based on average pretax household income (2003). The primary source of the information is the Congressional Budget Office’s publication titled, “Historical Effective Tax Rates.” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: Plot of top bracket from U.S. Federal...

English: Plot of top bracket from U.S. Federal Marginal Income Tax Rates for 1913 to 2009. Data are from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Income_tax_in_the_United_States#History_of_progressivity_in_federal_income_tax (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

No one will argue that the Federal Tax System (the income tax) is fair and doesn’t need reform.  The problem is that both the Republicans and the Democrats come at it from totally different perspectives and cannot even begin to come to any sort of agreement about what should be done.

 

The Republicans are supposed to be the party of balanced budgets.  They have systematically held to two major positions: a balanced budget and not increasing the tax rate for the rich or for large corporations; in fact for a large number of years every incoming Republican to the House or Senate has sworn an oath/pledge in writing to Grover Norquist, a lobbyist with no direct connection to the Federal Government that he or she will not raise taxes.  They have also verbally and dramatically supported raising the rate of expenditure for the military with cuts to entitlement programs.

 

Yet the last three Republican Presidents, starting with Ronald Reagan and the two Bush’s, father and son, through military preparedness and wars have raised the National Deficit from one trillion dollars to over thirteen trillion dollars and, in addition, the last Republican President, George W. Bush, left the country at the end of his term in office at the very edge of a major depression.  Avoiding this potential Great Depression caused the next President, Barak Obama, in 2009 to have to spend a far greater amount than was taken in in taxes over most of his two terms to avoid economic calamity and to continue the two wars that Bush propagated, bringing the current deficit up to over seventeen trillion dollars.  Finally, toward the end of 2015, the administration may be able to reduce slightly the deficit.

 

The Republican majorities in Congress are still “Penny wise and dollar stupid,” refusing to spend money on fiscal policy which would both help leave the remnants of the 2008 recession behind us, improve the needed outdated early 20th Century infrastructure of the United States and significantly lower the current rate of unemployment.  They have since 2011, when they gained control of the House of Representatives, refused to pass any spending bills that would upgrade any of the needed infrastructure of the United States, like hundred year old bridges.

 

Their aim seems to be to lower taxes for the upper few percent of the earners, who they call the “job creators,” and increasing the taxes for the middle and lower classes.  In this process, regretfully, they have been fairly successful.  The middle class has been since 1980 decreasing in percentage of the population and the lower class has been growing, to a point where homelessness can be seen today in almost any major city in the U.S.  In fact poverty is at a higher rate today than it’s been in years and is continuing to increase.

 

Since the Republicans cannot get the Democrats in Congress to openly go along with tax cuts for the wealthy and paying for this with large cuts in entitlement programs they have in 2013 passed the sequester law, which automatically makes cuts across the board in government spending.  Most of these automatic cuts seem to be invisible but when one become openly harmful to the economy a law can quickly be passed funding it.  Such was the case with the air controllers at the airports throughout the U.S.   Such was not the case in terms of the U.S. military; they are currently in the worst state of preparedness they have been in decades.  It’s as though the Republicans in Congress are saying one thing, getting the nation ready for war with Iran when they completely take over the government after the next election and at the same time, assuming that they will not have to pay for the war or anything else.  Their actions and intent verge on idiocy and irresponsibility or on a total inability to deal with the real world.

 

One of their major actions during the last thirty-five years has been to systematically reduce taxes for the very wealthy and gradually increase it or make up for the increasing deficit by increasing the tax base for the middle and lower classes.  Some of this has been done by indexing income taxes; that is, with natural inflation incomes rise while purchasing power stays the same or decreases.  This throws many members of the middle class into higher tax categories because their incomes increase but their standard of living actually decreases.

 

Many or most Republicans legislators probably are not even aware that this is happening because it has been going on for over three decades.  Most, if not all of them, have come into office in Congress well after this process has been begun and have just continued it.  If we look at the pattern of taxation over the last fifty years this is one aspect that we can easily see.

 

The major responsibility for all these changes rests with the Republicans, their major contributors and the lobbies working for these people.  And the Supreme Court, in recent years, has expedited this process by defining contributions to political parties as just another form of “free speech guaranteed by the First Amendment to the Constitution.”

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First off, taxes are either progressive: everyone pays according to their ability to pay, or they are regressive: everyone pays equally, which means the rich pay a smaller percentage of their incomes on these taxes than the middle or lower classes.  In essence the lower one’s income the higher a percentage of his income would be paid on these taxes.  Examples of this kind of tax would be a sales tax or an excise tax.  Everyone pays these equally.

 

An example of a progressive tax would be the Federal or State income taxes.  They are progressive up to a point, that is up to a little over 400,000 dollars.  Up to this amount the percentage of the tax is gradually increased as incomes becomes larger.  After the maximum, a little over 400,000 dollars is reached the income tax becomes regressive in that the percentage paid becomes fixed no matter how great the income is over this amount.

 

An individual earning ten or twenty million a year or more would continue paying the same percentage as someone who has only earned 400,000 dollars a year.  In point of fact the higher his income the lower the percentage that individual pays in taxes.

 

Virtually all other taxes, which are touted as being fair because everyone pays the same amount, are regressive.  The wealthier one is, the lower that tax is in terms of a percentage of his income.

 

If we look at the 2014 Income tax schedule there are four categories for taxpayers: (1) Single, (2) Married Filing Jointly, (3) Married Filing  Separately, & (4) Head of Household.

 

Using Schedule Y-1: Married Filing Jointly as our example one sees the sequence of taxes for 1914.  For earning up to $18.150 there is no income tax.  For a couple earning between $18,150 and $73,800 the tax is $10,162 + 15% over $18,150.  For earning of $73,800 to $148,850 the tax is $10,162 + 25% of the amount over $73,800. If a family earns between $148,850 and $226,850 the tax is $28,925 + 28% over $148,850.  For between $226,850 and $405,100 the tax is $50,765 +33% over $226,850.  If they earn between $405,100 and $457,600 the tax is $$109,587.50 + 39%.  At $457,600 up they pay $127,962.50 + 39.6% no matter how much they earn.

The amounts are slightly less for a single person and roughly half for a married taxpayer filing separately.

 

In essence everyone pays increasing amounts for each category until they reach their total income after legal deductions.  This would be true for those earning over $457,600, except that after that amount they would pay $127,962.50 + 39.5% of their income.  If they earn a million it would be that amount and would remain the same with earnings of a billion or more.

 

Note that anyone earning any amount over $457,600 pays that same percentage whether his income is one million or over a billion dollars.  While this may seem like a lot of money still in comparison to the percentage of their incomes which most taxpayers have to pay who are under the $450,000 benefit it can be a very much smaller percentage of their yearly incomes.  In the case of someone like the Koch Brothers, who are estimated to have at least a $100 billion each, it can be well under ten percent of their yearly incomes.

 

Mitt Romney, in 2012 when he was running for the presidency, released one year’s tax percentage.  It was 11 or 12%.  No one earning less than $400,000 a year pays that small a percentage of their income

 

If we look at the taxes in 1980, the last year of Jimmy Carter’s presidency, the percentage in income paid in income taxes were graduated up to an income of one million dollars.  The more one earned the higher the percentage he paid in income taxes.  At $100,000 the tax was 27.3%.  At $200,000 it was 33.1%.  At $500,000 it was 40%.  Up to $1,000,000 it was 44.6%.  And over $1,000,000 it was 47.9% of the yearly income.  The income tax became regressive on earnings well over the million dollar mark.  But it was still a fairer income tax than that of 2014.

 

From 1932 to 1935 the percentage of income taxes for those earning one million or more was 63%.  It rose to 94% from 1944 – 1945 and then gradually declined to 92% by 1952 – 1953.  By 2013 for those earning $450,000+ the rate of taxation became 39.6%.

 

In 1981 Ronald Reagan became President of the United States.  From that point on the maximum percentage seemed to flow toward 39.6% for those earning $457,600 or more.  This amount was fixed, under the guise of tax reform, during the Obama Administration.  The Republicans who then held a majority in the House and were able to freely filibuster in the Senate absolutely refused to go over that amount.  It was that or nothing.

 

With the oncoming 2016 election this issue hangs in the air again.  A Republican majority currently exists in both Houses of Congress.  If a Republican president is elected then the tax reform will be enacted for the upper few percent of earners in the country.  The rich will keep more of their incomes and the middle and lower classes will get far less than they currently have.  It will truly be Government of the Rich, for the Rich, and by the Rich.  All entitlement programs for the poor and general public will diminish considerably.

 

In fact in one of his speeches Jed Bush has promised to lower taxes for the upper few percentage of the earning population.  His justification is that this will increase employment in the U.S. because these are the people who create jobs.  Historically this has never happened.  But Bush Jr. presumes he knows best.

 

If, on the other hand, the Democrats were to win both Congress and the Presidency then we could see genuine reform of our income tax system.  But the probability is that 2016 will give the country another Democratic President and the House of Representatives will maintain, through gerrymandering, a Republican majority.  The Democrats will still not have a super-majority in the Senate, so it will again be open to filibustering.  There will still be no way for real tax reform.  However we can hope for miracles.

Distribution of U.S. federal taxes for 2000 as...

Distribution of U.S. federal taxes for 2000 as a percentage of income among the family income quintiles. Source: Department of the Treasury, Office of Tax Analysis Working Paper #85, “U.S. Treasury Distributional Methodology” by Julie-Anne Cronin (September 1999)- also available here (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Weiner Component #118 – Republicans & Democrats

(I’m averaging about 250 to 350 comments each day. Among these I get numerous requests for information. Most of these are answered in The Weiner Component #114  – Responding to Your Enquires.)

Will Rogers, in a lecture he gave sometime in the 1920s, said something to the effect of “All Congressmen”, and I’m sure he included the President, Calvin Coolidge, in that group, “are like small children carrying hammers in a china shop. You just hope they will not do too much damage.”

In the case of George W. Bush his “hope” did not work. Bush naively and stupidly got the country involved with an invasion of Iraq believing that he and Vice President Dick Chaney could turn the country into a small version of the Democratic United States. The failure of this idea and the cost in human lives, both of American soldiers and Iraqis, and the billions of dollars wasted in this pointless search for “weapons of mass destruction” was inexcusable. What Bush accomplished was to destroy the balance of power in the Middle East and stir up terrorism and civil wars which still exist today.

To the best of my knowledge he has never admitted responsibility for his actions. In a manner of speaking he destroyed the china shop Will Rogers was talking about. The irony of the situation is that the Democratic candidate for the presidency in the 2000 Election got a much higher popular vote than the Republican, Bush, but problems developed with the ballot in Florida where his brother was governor and in addition the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court invalidated the problem making Bush the President Elect.

In the 2008 Election, if John McCain had won the presidency instead of Barak Obama the probability is that this country would have fallen into a depression deeper than that of 1929 and that we would still be fighting in Iraq and have full forces in Afghanistan. Bin Laden would still be alive planning new atrocities for Al-Qaida to carry out. We might even have gone to war with Iran. Affordable Health Care (Obama Care) would never have happened and on an overall basis the country would be going through a period of great misery for a very large percentage of the population. He might have saved the banks that generated the Real Estate Crisis by continuing the bailout that the Bush Administration had begun but he would never have done so for the auto industry.

And if Mitt Romney had been elected President in 2012, as he had so avidly wished, then the United States would probably have continued full scale war in Afghanistan and currently be at war with Iran. Affordable Health Care (Obama Care) would today in early 2015 be in the process of just holding out by being filibustered in the Senate by the Democratic minority. In addition his economic policies would most likely follow the principle of the less government the better. This would lead us in the direction of a recession with an increase in unemployment. The decrease in government regulations that he promised in his 2012 campaign would bring the country back to or below the state that existed before the 2008 Economic Debacle with the Market running the country businesswise and profit wise. Most economic decisions would be made by the marketplace.

In foreign affairs remember that Mitt Romney visited Europe for three days during his 2012 campaign. It initially had to do with an equestrian activity with which his wife was involved; a dancing horse contest. Within the first twenty-four hours Romney publically stated something that turned every British newspaper in the country against him. One London paper called him a twit. Other dailies were equally as unenthusiastic about him. He did not rate quite as low in the other two countries he visited, but in each he generated a negative image of himself. With this level of non-achievement just think of how he would have done as America’s chief diplomat. It would have been an unmitigated disaster.

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Of the two major political parties that exist in the United States today the Democrats constitute the majority or largest political party. They were first organized by Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the U.S., whose object was to get himself elected President. He saw himself as representing the small, independent (Yeoman) farmer, as opposed to the Federalist Party which represented the seaboard city business interests. The Federalists ceased to exist after the War of 1812; they supporting the wrong side in the war.

The Republican Party came into existence for the Election of 1860. They sprang from the Whig Party and numerous other small groups including the Abolitionists. The Republicans won the Election of 1860 with about 43% of the vote. The Democrats had split into two parties, a Northern and Southern Democratic Political Party, each running its own string of candidates. Neither had as many votes as the Republicans.

Abraham Lincoln was elected President with under 50% of the vote. In fact he did not even appear on the ballots of any Southern state. When Lincoln ran for a second term it was under the guise of the Union Party, with a Southern Democrat from Tennessee Andrew Johnson, as his Vice-Presidential candidate.

Outside of the issue of slavery the Republicans have always represented the business interests, while the Democrats, following Jefferson, have always held the welfare of the general population as primary. During most of the history of this country the two parties have generally cooperated. In fact up until relatively recently most people in Europe and Asia saw both political parties as two sides of the same entity. During the Cold War Era many, if not most Russians did not understand our criticism of their being a one party state since the United States, in their view, was also a one party state.

The polarization of the two political parties began early in the 21st Century with the emergence of the Tea Party onto the political scene. They and the evangelicals somehow gained control of the finances within the Republican Party and have been able to force their will over all Republican Party members, making them hue to what seems to be the party line, which among other things is limiting free medical decisions for women.

It’s questionable as to whether this will continue or to what extent it will continue in the 2015-2016 Congress. Assorted splits are occurring within the Republican Party. As to cooperation with the Congressional Democrats that is also questionable. We could end up with total gridlock with some compromises occurring on nonpolitical issues.

It is interesting to note that on March 9, 2015 forty-seven Republican senators sent a letter to the religious head in Iran stating that any agreement signed with President Obama will last just through his current term as president; that they will take over the White House in 2016 and the new Republican president will invalidate the agreement. They also stated that they expect to be in control for a long period of time and that they will not sign any future agreement. It seems that the 47 Republican Senators are now undertaking foreign policy agreements; that they are attempting to undercut the President with their own foreign policy. This is something new. It has never happened before in the entire history of the United States. This unprecedented act itself may be illegal. It will be interesting to see what happens.

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As a result of the lowest voter turnout in years in the Midterm Election of 2014 the Republicans have a majority in both Houses of Congress. However to get a bill passed in the Senate they need a super-majority, and sixty votes to avert a filibuster. There are 54 Republican Senators and 44 Democrats and 2 Independents. This means they need the cooperation of a number of Democrats to pass any legislation that the Democrats generally oppose. They also need a 2/3 majority in both Houses of Congress to override any Presidential veto.

It should be interesting, if not tragic, seeing what happens over the next two years.

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Years ago Will Rogers said: “I don’t belong to a political party. I’m a Democrat.” In essence that sums up the Democratic Party, It stands for everyone else who’s not a Republican. They place less emphasis on business and attempt to give the common man an honest deal. With so broad a field of representation the Democrats in Congress seem to have a problem verbalizing many of their objectives or accomplishments.

The Republicans do not have this problem. Actually they seem to come to conclusions before the facts are in and also many times by constant repetition feel their conclusions are true without any factual evidence, repetition of a statement makes it true in their estimation.

As a result of this, and for other reasons, we now have in the United States a fairly large number of people who have grown disgusted with both political parties. They have become Independents. The result is that they don’t give any impute to pre-election ballots, allowing a not true picture to emerge during and after the elections. In addition a large number of these people as well as many Democrats don’t vote in midterm elections, but only in Presidential ones.

Minority groups, particularly Hispanics, have been strongly affected by non-action or negative action being taken upon immigration reform. They stayed away by droves in the 2014 Midterm Election. What they did was to inadvertently reinforce the political party that most opposes them.

Perhaps the major reason for the disinterest and disgust in the United States about politics and political parties is: What do the political parties do?  As we’ve seen it takes a lot of time and effort to understand what is or is not being done by Congress, particularly since the Democrats are relatively quiet about their successes and failures. Most people are too busy to try to concentrate on Congressional actions. This is particularly true with the confusion generated by the different news media, both liberal and conservative. Generally many people consider both political parties equally inept.

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One of the major problems concerned with politics in the U.S. today is the price of running for office and of remaining in office. In addition the Supreme Court has decided that the spending of money in political campaigns is an expression of free speech as stated in the first amendment of the Bill of Rights. Consequentially they have allowed almost unlimited contributions in any kind of political contest. This does not only affect Congress but also state and municipal government elections.

Imagine a contribution of $300 million such as the Koch brothers seemingly are willing to spend in a Presidential Election or $100 million that Sheldon Adelson did spend on the Republican candidate in the 2012 Presidential Election. What influence would that give these individuals over the President and Congress?

Everything involved with political campaigns cost money, much more money than most candidates have or are willing to spend. This includes signs, buttons, radio and television time and productions or personal communications with constituents to mention just some of the costs. We can also add that their staffs and all the commuting they do during an election is quite expensive

All of this gives large donors in particular unlimited access to their candidates and to the candidates, if they are elected, an affinity to want to satisfy their large contributor’s needs and desires. All this, of course, are not bribes but putting useful measures up as laws, or so we are told.

For example the Koch brothers have been pushing in Kansas, laws that limit or forbad the use of natural sources like light or wind to produce green energy. They earn much of their money from the use of oil. Sheldon Adelson, who owns casinos in Las Vegas, wants laws that forbid the use of the internet for gambling.

Whether you agree or disagree with these men’s actions the question remains: How do candidates remain honest? When does a contribution become a bribe?

If we look at the Pharmaceutical Industry, specific medicines cost more in the United States than in any other nations. It is less expensive to have your prescriptions filled in Canada or Mexico, or for that matter in any European country, than it is at your local pharmacy. And this includes the price of shipping it to you. How can this be? You get the exact same medicines, manufactured by the same company in all cases. The answer, of course, is that Congressional laws fix the price in the United States but all other countries have contracts with the drug companies lowering the cost of these same pharmaceuticals.

It’s interesting to note that these companies are one of the major contributors to political parties, particularly to the Republican Party. Most medicines, particularly new ones fresh out on the medical market have high prices that are fixed by law and their price cannot be legally reduced in the United States.

The Republicans tend to loudly disbelieve in climate change; in fact it is illegal to mention that term on any official document in the state of Florida. Companies run by the Koch brothers make multi-millions each year selling and transporting oil and oil products. They are adamantly against the concept of climate change and their millions strongly fund the Republican Party. It is convenient if you are a practicing Republican to not believe in climate change.

There are innumerable other examples of this type of behavior. Isn’t it time that simple principles of funding were established for all elections. In both state and federal elections, radio and television stations can by law be required to grant a certain amount of free time as a public service. Legally limits can be set for all different kinds of elections. Government services can be set up for a fixed amount of written material and TV commercials keeping an even amount for each candidate so that the playing field is the same for all candidates depending upon what office they are after. Limits can also be set as to how much can be spent on each type of election. Even though this would take a Constitutional amendment contributions can again be limited. It is time to take all elections out of the hands of the millionaires and the billionaires. It is time for fairness for all Americans in elections.

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

English: Seal of the President of the United States Español: Escudo del Presidente de los Estados Unidos Македонски: Печат на Претседателот на Соединетите Американски Држави. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

The Weiner Component #99 – Stealing the Vote

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Weiner Component #88 – The Democrats & the Republicans

Republican Elephant & Democratic Donkey - 3D Icons

Toward the end of May 2014 there was an article in the L. A. Times entitled “Number of American Liberals surges, poll says.” The article dealt with pole changes in the way people consider themselves. It concluded that there was a significant change in the way people think of themselves, with a large number moving to the political left in their consideration of themselves. Is this valid? What does it mean for the country?

Barak Obama was reelected to the presidency on November 6, 2012 by a vote of 322 electoral votes to 206 for Mitt Romney or 65,455,010 popular votes to 60,771,703 for the Republican candidate. He clearly won not only the electoral vote but also the popular one.

In the Senate 33 seats were decided, 1/3 of the Senate was up for election. Democrats had 23 seats up for election, including 2 independents who caucus with the Democrats. Republicans had 10 seats up for election. The Democrats retained majority control of the Senate and picked up two additional seats. Obviously, while the Senate did not have a Democratic super-majority it still had an overwhelming majority.

For the House of Representatives this was the first congressional election using the congressional districts that were apportioned in the 2010 Census by Republican majorities in many state legislatures. Elections were held for the 435 seats in the U.S. Congressional Districts. Elections were also held for the delegates from the District of Columbia and the 5 U.S. territories. Although House Democrats won a plurality of the popular vote (48.3% to 46.9%) House Republicans were still able to retain the majority of elected delegates in the House. They achieved 234 seats against 201 for the Democrats.

The Republicans were able to win because of gerrymandering even though the Democrats across the United States cast over 25,000 more votes for members of their political party. To stop Republican filibustering the Senate Democrats need a 60 vote supermajority which they do not have. The Senate rules on filibustering presidential appointments were changed because the Republicans virtually refused to approve appointments of Democratic judges for Appellate and lower federal courts. There have been no bills dealing with fiscal policy which would create jobs and possibly improve the infrastructure of the country.

Even though they were not the majority the Republicans were able to hamper virtually all legislation that President Obama attempted to get passed and forced him to act by executive order. Then they threatened to sue him for acting as every president before him since George Washington has acted. Interestingly the current Congress holds the record over the entire history of the United States for passing the smallest number of bills. They seem to have an innate ability to both ignore and exacerbate all problems in the nation; and the ability to verbally blame everything, much of which they cause, upon the president.

The 2012 Election was the first one to be impacted by the Supreme Court’s Citizen United decision: Citizen’s United v. Federal Election Commission. The United States Supreme Court held that the First Amendment prohibits the government from restricting political independent expenditures by corporations, associations, or labor unions. The case is extremely controversial for increasing the influence of money in elections in contrast to other developed nations that have limits imposed on all election spending. Can money freely spent buy elections? The answer is probably No; but can excessive spending strongly influence elections? The answer is not necessarily negative.

Some of the other issues in the 2014 Midterm Election are being carried over from 2012 and earlier. Immigration reform stands out brightly polarizing sections and cities within the United States. The issue thousands of children, with and without their mothers, coming into the United States and surrendering to the Border Patrol. Are these illegal immigrants or refugees fleeing from disorder and possible destruction? They are overwhelming border facilities and the courts. The Republicans in Congress seem to be refusing to pass legislation that would help expedite and solve this problem. The President has called for legislation; but so far all that has happened is that the Republicans are postulating. They want a solution but they don’t want to spend any money. This issue may be strongly present in November when the midterm election occurs.

Another carry-over issue(s) is rape, pregnancy, and abortion, as well as the overall war on women. The far-right tea-party leaders of the Republican Party and their evangelical cohorts do not seem to be able to trust women to make sexual decisions affecting their own future lives. These people want to legislate how women must behave.

The Republicans in the House are again, for the fifth or sixth time, investigating what happened in Benghazi. They want to beat up President Obama, Hillary Clinton, and the members of the State Department. Somehow one item that has been overlooked in all these Republican investigations is the fact that the Benghazi and other attacks against Americans were largely engendered by the release of a You Tube trailer advertising the controversial film “Innocence of Muslims,” which was considered blasphemous throughout the Muslim world. The Republicans felt that the Consulate should have been better guarded; even though they cut the Consulate protection budgets earlier in the year. The current investigation is also being used as a means of soliciting contributions for the November Election.

Attempts were made to restrict voting in states controlled by the Republicans, particularly in district with high minority and youth voting. How successful they were is not known. In Florida some people had to wait in line for eight hours in order to vote in 2012. People had their names arbitrarily removed from the voter roles as having moved or died and could not vote. All sorts of devices were used to limit non-Republican voters. New games will be played in the 2014 election to limit the vote. We will see how successful they are.

Some Primary Elections have been held or are about to be held for the 2014 election. The Republican Minority Leader, Eric Cantor, ran against a Tea Party unknown, David Brat. Before the results came out the question was: By how much would Cantor win? The results, however, shocked Republicans throughout the Party. Brat won on a campaign of Cantor presumably favoring immigration reform because he had presumably discussed this at some point with President Obama. Ultimately to the Tea Party Cantor was too liberal.

What will the results of this be? I suspect it’s moved the Party much farther to the right. Republicans at this point are afraid to even mention the term immigration, except that they are against it. And all of this with the refugee problem or crisis along the southern border of the country. President Obama has asked Congress to allocate 3.6 billion dollars so he can reasonably solve the problem. If the Republican legislators support this they are presumably going against their base? If they refuse to act on this issue they are exacerbating the problem. This is a perfect instance of being caught on the horns of a dilemma; you lose if you do and you lose if you don’t.

Mitch McConnell, the senate minority leader defeated his farther-right Tea Party challenger but he is currently running 4 points behind his Democratic opponent, Alison Lundergan Grimes. In fact his approval rating in the state of Kentucky is below that of President Obama. He is still avidly opposing Affordable Health Care, woman’s rights, and immigration reform.

Virtually anything can happen in this election. If the Republicans were to gain control of the Senate and keep control of the House of Representatives virtually nothing would happen over the next two years. If the Democrats could get 60 votes in the Senate and control of the House then the country would go through a period of intense reform and economic growth. The choice, of course, is up to the voters, many of whom don’t know they have a choice.

 

Breakdown of political party representation in...
Breakdown of political party representation in the United States Senate during the 112th Congress. Blue: Democrat Red: Republican Light Blue: Independent (caucused with Democrats) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

The Weiner Component #55 – The Republican Party & Women

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The major problem in this nation since the Real Estate Debacle of 2008 has been creating enough jobs for all the people in this country who want to be properly employed, to bring the unemployment level from about 7 point something% to 2 ½ to 3-½%.  Instead the Republican Party has had another agenda; they have gone after women, their health choices and their medical facilities.  The excuse being that as good Christians they want to end abortions in the United States.

Shortly before the Elections of 2012 Todd Akin, a Republican who had served in the House of Representatives from 2001 as the candidate from Missouri’s 2nd Congressional District, while being interviewed during a radio broadcast spoke about “legitimate rape,” implying that there were two kinds of rape, one being legitimate and the other obviously being illegitimate.  He also stated that women who were “legitimately” raped could not conceive, that their bodies automatically shut down.  Consequently any woman who conceived from rape was “illegitimately” assaulted and that is why she conceived.  This was a medical conclusion not shared by the medical profession or any other scientists in the world.  This stupid statement may have been the major cause of his loosing his election and bemoaning the fact that he could no longer afford to make his mortgage payments.

Richard Mourdock came out with an even worse comment prior to the Senatorial Election of 2012 that he also lost.  He stated that God wants raped women to have and raise the child conceived in an act of abject violence.  One would wonder how God communicated this piece of information to Mourdock.

Interestingly Mourdock was State Treasurer of the State of Indiana from 2007 to 2012.  During his second term in this position he misplaced $526 million in wrong bank accounts.  Local government agencies that depended upon this money were forced   to cut services and lay off personnel due to lack of funds.  The balance was eventually located but auditors spent quite a bit of time afterwards looking into state finances to see if additional monies were mishandled.

In the Texas legislature in 2014 Jodie Laubenberg explained to Texas and the world at large that the police had rape kits that cleaned women out and made it impossible for them to have conceived after an incident of rape.  On the basis of that startling fact it was all right to close down existing abortion clinics in the state and limit the number of health facilities available to poor women.  The rape kit is used incidentally to take samples proving that the act of mayhem had occurred; it consists of a package of envelopes for holding the trace evidence.

From where do these people get their scientific knowledge?  Yet these are people in state and Federal legislatures.  These are also some of the people responsible in creating the laws by which this country functions.

Jodie Laubenberg is also responsible for the bill SB5, passed in the Second Special Session of the Texas legislature, which limited abortions to the first twenty weeks after conception and closed most of the few remaining women’s centers in the state that provided free or inexpensive medical care to poor women and also, when necessary, performed abortions.  She is a strong advocate of all birth conceptions being carried to full term even in cases of rape, incest, or the health of the mother being a major issue.

She has served in the Texas House since 2003 and with two Republican colleagues introduced the bill into the first special session.  This bill was introduced into the special session because it would require a simple majority there rather than the 2/3 vote needed in regular session.  Wendy Davis, a Democratic legislator, filibustered the bill for almost twelve hours and the session ended before it could be passed.  Governor Rick Perry called another special session and the bill was passed there.

Ms. Laubenberg is a strong advocate for all pregnancies to be carried to term but in 2007 she proposed an amendment to an appropriations bill that would require expectant mothers to wait three months before receiving prenatal care under the state’s Children Health Insurance Program.  Her comment as to why she did it was: “But they’re not born yet.”  In 2007 Laubenberg voted against a bill that would expand children’s health care that received over 88% support from a Republican dominated legislature.  Yet even with these laws Texas has nearly one million children without health care insurance.  Most of these fetuses upon birth will enter a life of abject misery for themselves and their parent(s).

While these are only three cases of Republicans who have loudly verbalized their positions they exemplify where the party stands both on the state and Federal levels.  Virtually all the states where the governors are Republican and the legislatures have a Republican majority have passed similar laws, generally in a secretive fashion, even attaching the abortion section to totally unrelated bills at the last minute so they cannot even be debated.  It is interesting to note that all these laws are similar.  Are they copying one another or is a central conservative group supplying the legislation?   I would suspect the later is true.

In any event, what about the problem of increasing employment in these or other states?  What have these legislators done?  They have actually exacerbated the problem by shrinking state employment and lessened the number of government jobs and then boasted about their accomplishments.  Are they not only insensitive to women and their health needs but also economically ignorant of the effects of their actions?  It would seem that a percentage of the people elected to the state and Federal legislatures are not only anti-government but are working to limit or destroy the welfare of a goodly percentage of the American people.

In the Federal sequester, where the cuts in spending are visible, they have been adjusted so that no one directly sees the shrinkage of government services; the totally invisible programs like nutrition for infants and children of the poor, or “meals on wheels” or any other program which would help “Romney’s 47 percent” have all been invisible, not publicly seen.  All this non-visibility will disappear when the Federal fiscal year ends.  In addition, in the House of Representatives does not act to change the law the sequester will be going into its second year.  There will be deeper cuts as more furloughs are added to much of government employment.

In point of fact the Republicans are not making war on all women but just upon the group Mitt Romney calls the part within the bottom 47 percent, the poor women of this country, who cannot afford proper medical care and who need the female medical centers that also give abortions when necessary.  These are organizations like Planned Parenthood.

Any middle class or richer woman can afford to go where these facilities exist, either in states where the Democratic Party controls either the governorship or the legislature or out of the country where these medical procedures are performed.  For example Jodie Laubenberg could easily afford to do either of these but the poorer woman in Texas living on a minimum wage or a salary slightly above that is stuck where she is living, just barely surviving.  Why have Todd “legitimate rape” Akin or Richard “God wants you to have the baby conceived during rape” Mourdock and most of the rest of the Republican Party hold to this position?  Do they consider themselves moral parents of these women and are punishing them for engaging in sexual behavior or do they think that since these women as a group do not vote that they can push them around freely?

It would seem that the Republican Party is on the one hand trying to create a government of the rich, by the rich, and for the rich, and on the other hand attempting, for what they consider moral reasons, to severely limit the rights and health of women, treating them as second-class citizens.

We might also ask all these legislators: Where are the jobs they were supposed to create?

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