The Weiner Component #97 – Legislative Gridlock: The Non-Functioning of the United States Congress

Traditionally over the 200 and some year old history of the United States there have been two major political parties; sometimes for a short period of time there has been a third or even a fourth one. There has even been two very short periods when there was only one political party.   Interestingly the founding fathers never visualized such a thing.

These political parties have served as a check upon each other, sometimes working together and sometimes against each other. Their purpose has been to further the growth of the United States.

Today we are facing a strange situation, two major political parties, but so far apart on the political spectrum that they cannot even communicate one with the other.

The Republicans are controlled by the far right element (the Tea Party) and by the evangelicals, people who believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible. To them compromise consists of the other side giving in. Recently one of their members in the House of Representatives stated on conservative talk radio about there being a “War Against Whites” by the President, Blacks, and all other minorities. Even the conservative woman who was hosting the program was shocked by the statement.

It would seem that once a member of the far right gets elected to political office he becomes directly inspired by God. Without any awareness of economics or how the Federal Government works he has instant inspiration on what should or shouldn’t be done. Innately he knows he is right and everyone else is wrong. His idea of compromise is having the other side, generally the Democrats, accept his position.

How do you reason with a person like this? He will see a doctor and largely follow his directions but he is anti-scientific, knowing the scientists are wrong about most of their discoveries. He is also anti-intellectual, knowing what is right; reason and logic to him are instruments of the devil, used to trick honest people.

An example of scientific knowledge would be the beliefs of former Congressman, Todd Akin who believed that rape cannot lead to pregnancy. He stated that the body of a raped woman shut down during the act and she couldn’t conceive. Then following his fallacious reasoning: any woman who became pregnant during a forced sexual encounter had not been legitimately raped. Or one can follow the beliefs of another former Congressman, Richard Murdock, who knew that in a case of rape in which the woman conceived, God wanted her to have the child. To me and I suspect to a large percentage of the population, it is rather presumptuous for anyone to deliver direct messages from God.

The modern day far-right Republicans, or for that matter it would seem, the entire Republican Party seem to hold to these levels of non-intellectualism. The current House of Representatives and filibustering Senate, the 112th Congress, has done less to serve the needs of the country than any other Congress in the history of the United States.

If one looks at the placards held up by many members of the Tea Party, one of their major statements deals with the concept of the less government the better. One of their major goals since 2011, when they gained control of the House of Representatives, has been to shrink the Federal Government. And in this they have been largely successful. They are very good at not taking action on needed problems like bringing the early 20th Century infrastructure into the 21st Century, unemployment, the immigration problem, the young refugee dilemma, and climate change, to name just some of the problems this country needs that Congress should fix. Incidentally this also includes filibustering necessary presidential appointments like ambassadors to Russia and other important nations that do not presently have ambassadors.

If the House of Representatives were to authorize the President to utilize fiscal policy; that is, just begin the process of modernizing the infrastructure of the United States, we would end the unemployment problem throughout the country and stop having emergences whenever a part of the system fails. This happened recently in Los Angeles where a hundred year old system of underground water pipes collapsed causing extensive damage. We also faced a situation in the winter of 2013-2014 where extreme cold froze coal reserves so that they could not be used to generate electricity over part of the central United States. Luckily they were able to shift power from other parts of the grid. They may not be that lucky next time.

According to the majority of economists this country could reach a high level of prosperity for practically all of its population throughout the 21st Century. The poor could earn enough to live properly, the middle class could grow and increase their level of prosperity, and the rich could get richer. All it would take for this to happen is for Congress, particularly the House of Representatives to properly exercise their responsibilities. Will this occur? That depends upon the Midterm Election of 2014. If the Republicans maintain control of the House and they maintain 41 or more votes in the Senate the gridlock will remain for at least two more years. It will take an overwhelming majority of Districts voting for the Democratic candidates and a small number of additional Democratic Senators for the legislature to be able to pass progressive laws that would turn this country around.

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In 1944 Franklin Delano Roosevelt was elected for the fourth time as President of the United States. Within a year he was dead and Harry S. Truman, his Vice-President, had succeeded him as the 33rd President of the United States. In 1948 Truman ran for the presidency on his own. He was perceived by many as a loser. The Republican candidate, Thomas E. Dewey, was expected by all the experts and pole-takers to easily beat Truman. Many Republicans announced that they expected to do away with most of the remnants of the New Deal shortly after the election.

Prior to the election President Truman recalled Congress, which had adjourned earlier, to a special session in order to pass legislation that he felt was badly needed by the country. The returning Congress did essentially nothing; and President Truman named them “The Do Nothing Congress.” He and the Democrats ran their campaign against the “Do Nothing Congress.”

The presidential election of 1948 is considered by many historians as the greatest election upset in American history. Just about every prediction and poll indicated that the incumbent President, Harry S. Truman, would be defeated by the Republican candidate, Thomas E. Dewey. Truman won. Both Houses of Congress acquired Democratic majorities.

While the 2014 Election is not a presidential one, it still represents a similar opportunity to the 1948 Election. In fact, the 2014 Congress has passed far less bills than that of the 1948 Congress. If the President and the Democrats in both Houses of Congress were to propose a series of needed reform legislation in September when the vacationing Republicans return to Congress and continually verbally challenge the Republicans they could get similar results with 1948. However shortly after returning from their September vacation and doing almost nothing, except authorize the President to bomb ISIS in Iraq and Syria, the House voted to take another break until after the November election.

One of the major problems faced by this Congress was the fact that the President and the Democrats in Congress proposed legislation and then when it was filibustered in the Senate and not even considered in the House. Also the Republicans never ceased verbally attacking both the President and the Democrats largely for problems they themselves caused.

What the Republican House of Representatives has done in September, when their members returned to Congress, was to again take up the issue of Benghazi for the fourth or fifth time in order to again attempt to discredit President Barak Obama and Hillary Clinton. This led nowhere and did nothing. They ignored issues like war against ISIS, but did approve bombing ISIS in Iraq and Syria. They are now busy, back on vacation, trying to get reelected so that for two more years they can continue the gridlock and blame it on President Obama and the Democrats. The Republicans approved the first step in a war against a terrorist group but avoided approving a declaration of war.

The country is currently in a sad state. We are engaged in the first stage of a war without Congressional approval, the infrastructure of the United States is continually getting older and less efficient and there are enumerable social and economic problems that need to be resolved. The inept Republican members of the House and Senate are campaigning to get reelected. The country is in deep trouble.

 

The Weiner Component #91 – The 2016 Presidential Election

Breakdown of political party representation in...

After the 2014 Midterm Election in November the country will gear up for the 2016 Presidential Election. It will probably go for the full two years after the 2014 one.

The outcome will be important in many respects. One Supreme Court Justice is already over 80 year old, three others will become 80 during this period, two others are currently 76 and one is 78. Two of these judges were appointed by Republican Presidents and two were appointed by Democratic Presidents. Currently most decisions are passed by a 5 to 4 vote. Two of the above justices are conservative and two are liberal. The next president could change that balance for years to come.

Depending upon the results of the 2014 Election the House of Representatives, even with the gerrymandering, could have a Democratic majority. It would only take twenty some additional seats to change the dominant party. The Senate, which currently has a Democratic majority, needs a super-majority to avoid bills being filibustered, a majority of 60 votes. It will probably take the next two elections to bring this about since only 1/3 of the Senate is elected at any one time. There is also a risk of the Republicans being able to seize control of that body.

If the majority of the people vote their interests and not their prejudices the Democrats should gain control of the House and work toward a supper-majority in the Senate.

The two major political parties are currently not only radically different they are also polarized into extreme positions totally separating them, in fact the two cannot even really communicate.

The Republicans hold a reactionary position to the far right. They have all signed a position paper swearing not to raise taxes or change any subsidies that go to many corporations, including the oil industry that received subsidies during World War II to encourage them to explore for oil. Today they are making billions in profits and still have the tax subsidies.

Surreptitiously they did raise taxes once by voting with the Democrats to place a so-called-fee, actually a tax upon the purchase of all airline tickets. This is an added cost to all these tickets that will collect billions of dollars yearly from all the people who use airplanes for transportation. Grover Norquist, the man who had all elected Republicans sign the no tax raising pledge, agreed on this.

The basic position of the Republicans is the less government the better, decrease the size of the Federal Government, reduce taxes for the upper few percent of the population and allow profits to tinkle down to the middle and lower classes.

They are kept in line by the fact that political funding is essentially controlled by the extreme reactionary section of their party. If a Republican congressman does not hue to the party discipline and vote along the desired lines he will not get funding during his next election. The Republicans in Congress like their jobs.

The Democrats are liberal, on the left of the political spectrum. They would have the well-to-do pay their fair share of taxes and close all tax loopholes. They see the Federal Government as being responsible for the welfare of all the citizens in the United States and would use fiscal policy to lower unemployment and upgrade the infrastructure of the country, bringing it from the mid-20th Century into the 21st Century. In addition they would work to solve the problem of immigration which the Republicans have ignored, work to end the Republican War on Women. To them the government is the agency that is supposed to solve the problems that individuals can’t in this complex society solve for themselves.

We will see in November of 2014 what the voters perceive and what choices they make by how the majority votes and whether they do or do not vote.

After the 2014 Election there is the 2016 Presidential Election coming up. Who will the candidates be? At present the Democratic favorite is Hillary Clinton. She has just published a book, “Hard Choices,” which details her four year tenure as Secretary of State. She is appearing on a large number of both television and radio programs as a guest, generally dealing with whether or not she will run for the presidency in 2016, and keeping all her options open. The probability is that she will be the Democratic candidate.

For the Republicans the choice is not so clear. There are some far right candidates that might appeal to the Tea Party like Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, or Rand Paul but their appeal to the overall American citizenry is highly questionable. Presumably waiting in the wings is Mitt Romney who was defined as a lousy candidate in 2012. He seems to be the best the Republicans have now. I’m sure others will emerge after the 2014 Elections.

The 2016 Presidential Election is going to be a very important election as it will mark the pattern the country will follow for the next decade or more. What the American people decide then they will have to live with for a long time. Hopefully we will have a positive result and the Democrats will emerge with the presidency and control of both Houses of Congress.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Republican Elephant & Democratic Donkey - 3D Icons

 

The Weiner Component #68 – The Democratic & Republican Parties

When I think of the Democratic & Republican Parties I get very angry.  The Democrats constitute the majority political party by membership in the United States.  In the 2012 Election they cast far more votes than the Republicans, even with the assorted attempts in many states to limit their voting.  They elected the President, had the majority in the Senate, and cast 1.4 million more votes for the election of Democrats in the House of Representatives.  But through gerrymandering in 2010 and restricting the vote in the various states where they controlled both the governor’s office and the legislative body the Republicans were able to gain and keep control of the House of Representatives.  They did this by controlling the electoral districts in the various states where they have a majority.  Here the minority party has been able to dictate to the majority.  And not only have they dictated they have also set the agenda for what needs or should be done in the nation.  And the Democrats have quietly allowed them to do this most of this.

If we look at the legislation that has come out of the House of Representatives since 2011, when the Republicans gained control, there is not one bill that has helped the country recover from the Banking-Real Estate Debacle of 2008.  Most of the bills that have become law since that time have actually shrunk the Federal Government and helped exacerbate the unemployment problem.  It’s taken creative Monetary Policy by the Federal Reserve to bring about a partial recovery from the 2008 Debacle.  But who are the Republicans blaming for the current level of unemployment?  It is the President who cannot administer laws that Congress doesn’t pass.  And the Democrats have quietly let them get away with this blame game.

The Democrats seem docile when it comes to verbally fighting the Republicans.  Whether it’s good manners or reasonableness or just plain inability is a good question.  The Republicans really hold a minority position on most of what they advocate, even though most of the voting population opposes them, but they have taken the position that they are correct and the Democrats have let them.  Is it some sort of fear of direct confrontation?

Basically what the far right and the evangelicals believe would have been realistic in the late 18th Century when people in this country were free to go west, build their own homes and provide their own food.  Society has becoming far more complicated with the government’s position also changing.  People can no longer provide for all their own needs.  They have become interdependent.  Among its other purposes government exists to provide people with services and protections they can no longer provide for themselves.  The Republicans legislators, led by the far right do not see this as one of the nation’s responsibilities.  They have passed or failed to pass legislation needed for whole sections within the country.

Examining their position one gets the impression that they are mean and insensitive, punishing those that cannot properly provide for themselves or their families.  This is a good example of the traditional Protestant Ethic, where God rewards the deserving with success and punishes the sinners with economic failure.  I would think we had grown beyond that nonsense.

The Farm Bill that was recently passed after a long period of negotiation between the legislators from both political parties gives subsidies to some millionaire farmers as well as crop insurance to them and other lesser food producers, and cuts back considerably on needed food-stamp programs to the needy, who are generally food insecure.  An interesting bit of irony here is that the Republicans are also decreasing the size of the farmers market by doing this.

Also around Christmas of 2013 the Republicans in the House have refused to extend unemployment benefits to the long term unemployed even though the bill was passed in the Senate.  The same bit of irony exists here.

As the war in Afghanistan ends Paul Ryan, for example, denounced President Obama’s proposed cut back on the military and defense spending, even though in Ryan’s earlier written budget proposal the military cutback was greater than the one in Obama’s recommendation.  Are the Republicans still against everything President Obama supports just for the sake of being against it?

If this is true, what are the Republicans after with their approach?  What seems to emerge is the simple issue of power.  They want control of both Houses of Congress and of the Presidency.  If they were to achieve this goal, then what will happen?  I don’t think that they really know or that they have thought that far ahead.

If we look at the Republican positions, especially from 2011 on, what emerges would take us right back to the 2008 Banking Debacle.  They would continue to shrink government, taking hundreds of thousands to millions of jobs away from people.  The shrinkage in incomes would force the states to act in a similar fashion because a good part of their incomes from taxes would disappear.  Congress would lower taxes for the large corporation and the rich because they are “the job creators;” but there would be no increase in employment, quite the opposite would occur.  The GDP would shrink and become a fraction of what it is today.  And the country would fall into a very deep depression.  But the Republicans would be in charge, just as they were in 1929.

But, of course, if this were to happen the Republicans would take action to try to avoid the crisis.  They might do what Bush did in 2008.  In addition to bailing out the banks he gave every tax-paying citizen in the United States up to $600 as a tax bonus, hopping they would all spend it and add money to the GDP.  Obama in 2009, in addition to continuing the bank bailout and saving the American Auto Industry, gave every taxpayer an additional $250 tax bonus.

Neither of these actions brought the economy back to where it had been before the 2008 Crash.  Obama also insisted that the bank executives stop paying themselves bonuses out of the bailout money.  This caused the CEO of the Bank of America to complain loudly and other bank executives to complain quietly.  It also encouraged them to pay off their loans as soon as possible so they could bring back their bonuses.

This action will not stop the depression, just as it did not bring recovery in 2008 or 2009.  It will, if anything, help bring about a period of economic confusion.  There will be unbelievable misery for a goodly percentage of the population, many of whom would have voted their prejudices rather than their interests.

Will this situation come about?  Probably not.  But blatant power does seem to be the goal of the Republicans.  And it seems to be power for its own sake.  The Republican have no constructive plan for the benefit of the country.  They just deal in platitudes.

 

The Weiner Component #43-The Republican Party & the American People

Traditionally, with only two major political parties in the Unit

Republicans

Republicans (Photo credit: Jed Sheehan)

ed States, each has served as a check upon the other.  Over a good part of its history this country has had two major functioning political parties that have had slightly different emphasis.  Each has kept the other honest.  Unfortunately that situation no longer exists. 

If one draws a horizontal line across this page and puts a mark in the center, everything to the right of that mark can be called conservative and everything to the left of the mark could be called liberal.  The farther one goes away from center the more liberal or conservative he/she becomes.  At some distant point far from center the extreme right becomes reactionary and the extreme left becomes radical.  In point of fact in the center of the line there have been conservatives who have crossed over to the left side of the mark like Nelson Rockefeller and liberals like Jimmy Carter who were to the right of the mark.

What has happened since the 2008 Election is that the Tea-Party group and the extreme evangelicals have been able to take over the leadership of the Republican Party and moved it to the far right, to the reactionary position.  This has, in turn, forced all Democrats to move slightly to the left of their former positions.  The result has been to polarize the positions of both parties, with the Republicans being too far to the right to even consider a compromise with the Democrats.  In fact it’s as though the two groups speak radically different languages and cannot even begin to comprehend the other.

Still one would think that the results of the Election of 2012 would be a wake-up call for the Republican Party.  They lost the Presidential Election by about five million votes and also lost seats in both the House and Senate.  They did fairly well in the “red” states and retained the majority in the House of Representatives even though a million more votes were cast for Democrats nationally.  They were able to maintain those district and state majorities by gerrymandering state election districts.

The Republican success in the Election of 2010, which was a census year requiring rebalancing the numbers of candidates, gave them the authority to gerrymander the state election districts heavily in their favor.  This they did and have been able to maintain control in the House even though more people voted for Democrats.  What has happened to the concept of each vote being equal?

The major Republican goal up until the Election of 2012 was to make Obama a one-term president.  Among others the Republican minority leader in the Senate publically announced this numerous times.  During the 2008 to 2012 term the Republicans supported nothing that the President favored, even if it initially had been their idea.  Not one economic jobs bill whose success might allow the President to look good, was passed and, in many cases, not even brought to the floor of the House or Senate to be voted upon.  In fact the Republicans in the Federal Government and in the states concentrated upon medical and social legislation, attempting to destroy the Affordable Health Care Bill (Obama Care).  The House has now passed forty-one separate bills doing away with this law.  None of these repetitive bills were ever taken up by the Senate and if they had been the President would have vetoed them.  The effect of these bills has been to encourage many of their reactionary constituents.  They have also wasted a lot of legislative time.  They only met in the House of Representatives 120 days in 2012 and will meet 125 times by the end of 2013.

Much of the state legislation (and this was also taken up and passed in the House of Representatives) where the Republicans controlled both the governorship and the legislature had to do with limiting abortion, women’s contraceptive and health rights, emotional issues.  These bills have gotten more and more reactionary attempting to, and in many cases being successful in closing state woman’s care centers that also performed abortions.  Many Republicans want all pregnancies carried to term, ever in cases of incest or rape, even in case where the woman’s life may be endangered by the pregnancy.  Seemingly in rape it becomes the woman or child’s, where a minor is involved, fault for being present when the perpetrator committed the act and subsequently it is their financial and moral responsibility to raise the child even against their will.

In 1964, when Lyndon Baines Johnson first ran for the presidency as the Democratic candidate, his Republican opponent was Barry Goldwater.  Goldwater was the candidate of the far right, the reactionary and evangelical Republicans.  His slogan during the campaign was: “In your heart you know he’s right.”  The inference of this statement being that logic and factional information had nothing to do with the election.  It was what you felt that counted.  He received 22% of the vote, which represented the population of the far right.  Forty-two years later, in the mid-term election of 2010 the far right attained a majority in the House of Representatives and in a number of state elections.  Through the patient use of money and propaganda they had largely achieved their goal of taking over the control of the Republican Party.  The country had not necessarily changed that much in its basic attitudes but the Far Right has successfully seized control of some of the engines of government.  One factor that seemed to help was that the President of the United States was now a black man.  After the Presidential Election of 2012 the Republicans continued to act as if the election had not taken place.

Two functioning political parties in the United States that essentially speak the same language would help the political situation and be easily able to solve most economic problems facing the country.  They could also serve as a check on each other.  We do not currently have that.  Will we ever reach that point again?  That’s an interesting question.

We will be facing another midterm election in 2014.  Currently the Republicans are, on a state level where they have control of both the legislature and the governorship, pushing forward their anti-woman, limiting female health by shutting down those facilities and essentially closing down all abortion facilities in those states, and their anti-middle class agenda, no job creation or needed infrastructure improvement.  On the Federal level, while the Republicans cannot pass any of their heinous legislation, they can stop any positive legislation by filibustering in the Senate or refusing to even vote on any of these bills in the House where they have the majority.  Currently they are opposing a realistic immigration policy because they feel these people will vote Democratic when they become citizens.  In essence the Republicans seem to be supporting a white, male government of the rich, financed by the rich, and for the rich.

It has even reached a state where many Republicans in the states where they have legislative control are opposing some of the positions held by their own party in Washington, D.C.  What will happen in the midterm election of 2014 will determine the immediate future of this country.  Will the majority of the people vote these people out of office or will they stay at home, not vote, and allow the Republican leaders to plow ahead?  It becomes an interesting question whether the people will vote in their own interests or against them.  We have approximately a little over a year to find out.  Unfortunately, outside of state protesting, until that time, the Republicans will be successfully pushing their agendas.

A graph labeled "Figure 109," and fo...

A graph labeled “Figure 109,” and found on page 126. It shows the percentage of Democrats and Republicans who belong to labor unions. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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