Congress & the Problems of the United States: Are We Getting Our Money’s Worth?

English: Breakdown of political party represen...

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

There are 435 members of the House of Representatives.  Their combined salaries, taken together is $73,950,000 taxpayer dollars per year.  Of these 247 currently are Republicans.  They receive $41,990,000 taxpayer dollars in compensation for serving in the House of Representatives.  Of these 247 House members 40 belong to the Freedom Caucus.  They make up the ultra-conservative far right end of the party.  These people understand compromise as the other side coming to their position; to them anything else in largely unacceptable.

 

On the issue of passing a bill to continue to fund the government the Freedom Caucus, which is made up of Tea Partiers, plus a number of other Republicans had refused to act until funding Planned Parenthood was removed from the bill.  If Planned Parenthood were removed from the bill President Barak Obama stated he would veto the proposed new law.  This brought about the resignation of the Speaker of the House, John Boehner, at the end of September, effective October 31st.  A bill was brought through the Senate and later, the House, continuing the funding of the government through December.  In each case with heavy Democratic participation.  There were not enough Republicans supporting it in either House for the bill to pass without Democratic support.

 

As an aside, the evidence presumably proving Planned Parenthood was guilty of breaking the law in performing abortions and selling fetus tissue for research was highly edited video tapes that were the equivalent of a man entering a house, then in the next scene he or someone entered an apartment, greeted a woman, the camera would switch to an image of a bedroom, and finally the man would exit the house, presumably in the morning.  This was the level of the edited video evidence presented against Planned Parenthood, which the anti-abortion groups took as absolute proof.  In addition some of the video were made by paid actors, hired by an anti-abortion group, discussing the sale of fetus parts.   Planned Parenthood has been investigated numerous times by Congressional Standing Committees and others and has never been legally proven of doing anything illegal.

 

To get back to our primary subject, what we spend on Congress and what we are now getting in return.  If we include the Senate in the cost we are adding an additional $170,000 one hundred times, that’s 17 million dollars.  This does not include the fact that each congressperson in either House has a staff in Washington that can employ up to eighteen permanent members and have an office in their home state.  We are spending well in excess of ½ billion dollars annually upon our law-makers.  For this, especially since they take an oath to uphold the Constitution, we should be able to expect them to do their jobs.  Are they passing laws that help the country develop and prosper?  Are they doing things to lower unemployment?  Is the country moving forward to a better tomorrow?  Are they repaying the taxpayers for electing them to office or are they serving their large contributors who have funded their political campaigns or are many carrying out their own specific agendas?

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My impression is that most, if not all, of the Republicans elected to Congress have no real understanding of what makes up economics; that they think of the Federal Government functioning on the same level as their households, that so much money comes in every month and once that’s gone the government has to borrow money to spend more, and that additional money has to eventually be paid back.  That is how Microeconomics (small economics) works but that is not how the Federal Government works.

 

The Federal Government, all national governments for that matter, operate under the principles of Macroeconomics (Big Economics).  There is today nothing behind the dollar but the word of the National Government; they own the printing presses.  Money has no intrinsic value today; the government can print any amount it wishes.  They do this by legislating the amount that can be printed and the Federal Reserve determines when, if, and how much to release to the banks.  Money to the Federal Government is a tool that is supposed to be used to enhance productivity within the country.  Its expenditure has nothing to do with its taxable income.  The true value or wealth of the country is the goods and services produced within a fiscal year determined in terms of dollars and cents.

 

If the members of Congress do not understand this concept then they are working against the welfare of the nation.  They are not doing what they were elected to do, run the country positively.  What has existed since the House of Representatives achieved a Republican majority in 2011 has essentially been inaction, or when legislation occurred it has been mainly to hamper economic recovery.

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From the year 2008 on the major banks, first in the United States and then throughout most of the Industrial world, were suddenly on the point of collapse.  In the U.S. one trillion dollars of real estate value disappeared virtually overnight.  The major banking houses were suddenly facing ruin, were ready to go under.  They had speculated in real estate from the 1980s on to the point of insanity in late 2008.  Overnight there was massive unemployment; many people’s homes had larger mortgages than they were then worth.  The country was on the brink of a massive depression.  Banking in the U.S. could conceivably diminish to a trickle.

 

First in 2008, when this madness, brought about by the large banks, both commercial and investment banks occurred, George W. Bush and his Treasury Secretary, Hank Paulson, made massive loans to the banking houses; then this was continued by President Barak Obama in 2009.  Some investment and commercial banks were allowed to go under, their loans and deposits taken over by other big banking houses; but most were saved with additional loans.  (If you’re interested in the specifics of what happened Ben Bernanke the former chairman of the Federal Reserve, has just published a book dealing with all of this.)

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What have the Republicans achieved?  In 2011, through a process known as gerrymandering, favorably setting up voting districts in states they controlled politically, based upon the party registration of the voters, they were able to gain control of the House of Representatives, and they have kept it ever since.  In the Senate they gained control in 2014.  They could conceivably lose it in 2016 when 1/3d of the Senate will run for reelection.

 

The Republican prospective in dealing with the Real Estate Disaster has been to ignore it.  Mitt Romney, when he ran as the Republican Candidate in 2012, spoke about doing away with the banking reform bills passed after the 2008 Crash.  It seems that one of his goals was to bring America back to where it was before the 2008 Disaster.  Fortunately he didn’t get elected or we might be back to the Crash now with the major banking houses again destroying the economy.

 

Since they gained control of the House of Representatives in 2011 the Republicans in the House of Representatives and, for that matter, also in the Senate have strictly followed a policy of Microeconomics (small economics), attempting to run the country as they each run their own households.  The result of this from 2011 on has been to exacerbate the recession, costing additional hundreds of thousands of jobs lost throughout the United States in the federal and state governments and in the general population from monies not spent by these unemployed former government employees.  They have done everything possible to worsen the overall situation.  Luckily the President and the Federal Reserve, despite the Republican actions, have been able to generally put the country well in the direction of economic reform.  The cost of this has been a 53% increase in the National Debt spent by President Barak Obama during his first six years in office.  This included an economic stimulus package, both cutting taxes and extending unemployment benefits to avoid another Great Depression.  He has also increased defense spending and brought about the Parent Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare).

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The National Debt is now 18.4 trillion dollars.  If we go back to the Republican Presidency of Ronald Reagan we get a good idea of why it is so high now.  When Reagan became President in 1981 the National Debt was just under one trillion dollars.  His great fear was that the Soviet Union was militarily ahead of the United States.  He wanted to militarily catch up to them and possibly get ahead of them.  In eight years he added 1.86 trillion dollars, over 100% to the 998 billion debt level bringing it up to well over 2 trillion dollars.

 

In point of fact we actually were well ahead of the Soviet Union in our military preparedness.  The Soviet Union bankrupted itself trying to keep up with the United States.  The problem with the U.S. was that the leadership instinctively knew how well armed the Soviets were and that the contrary information that the government intelligence agencies could provide was supposedly inaccurate and ignored.

 

Under George H.W. Bush, through faulty or stupid use of diplomats, the President of Iraq, Saddam Hussein, got the impression that he could invade Kuwait and the United States would ignore the incident.  After the invasion we had operation Desert Storm.  This war could have been avoided with proper use of diplomacy.  Bush Sr. added 1.554 trillion dollars to the National Debt, an addition 54% in just 4 years as president.

 

Interestingly, I would suspect in reprisal, Saddam Hussein attempted to have George H.W.  Bush assassinated.  The attempt failed.  But apparently his oldest son never forgot this fact.

 

The National Debt increased under Bill Clinton but during the last year of his second term he not only balanced the budget he also reduced the Debt slightly.

 

Shortly after George W. Bush became President he got the U.S. involved in two wars: one in Afghanistan as a result of the destruction of the Twin Towers in New York City and another one in Iraq because, I would suspect, to get even with Saddam Hussein for attempting to kill his “daddy.”  The intelligence agencies in the U.S. felt, I understand, that the “weapons of mass destruction” theory or belief was pure fantasy.  Bush Jr. in eight years added 5.849 trillion to the National Debt increasing the National Debt 101% during his eight year period as president.  A good part of this money was spent fighting a pointless war which destabilized the Middle East and brought into existence such groups as ISIS and what seems hopeless confusion and endless civil war that we are stuck with today in the Middle East.

 

While Obama increased the Debt another 53%, 6.167 trillion dollars, during his first six years in office he did so to keep the country from falling into a deep depression, which had been gradually brought about by doing away with banking restriction laws that had been passed from 1933 on, during the years of the Reagan Presidency.  Reagan and his group apparently believed in a Free Market economy; with all economic decisions being made by the actions of the market.  He allowed the big banking houses, with no Government controls to create a maelstrom.

 

Despite all the Microeconomic moves of the Republican House of Representatives during the first six years of the Obama Presidency he has largely worked the nation toward economic recovery.  Had the Republicans understood basic economics the country could now be undergoing a period of full employment with a much higher tax base that might even be high enough to start reducing the National Debt.

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Other questions loom up here: What exactly is the National Debt?  How does it affect the nation?

 

According to a member of the Freedom Caucus who was interviewed on MSNBC he would vote for Paul Ryan as the new Speaker of the House of Representatives when the current one, John Boehner, leaves at the end of October 2015 if he would acknowledge the seriousness of the National Debt, over 18 trillion dollars, and work to reduce it rather than allow the country to continue to move toward bankruptcy.

 

This seems to be a basic value of most Republicans.  They don’t acknowledge that their party was mainly responsible in raising the National Debt to where it is today.  They seem to blame it on the Democrats and want to reduce Federal Government nonessential spending, particularly spending on the poor and aged.

 

This attitude keeps the country on the edge of disaster seemingly going from legislative crisis to legislative crisis.  The Debt Limit bill that was passed with strong Democratic help after the Speaker, John Boehner resigned from the House of Representatives.  In it Congress had to raise the current Debt Limit or face default by legally running out of money with which to pay its bills.  The Treasury Department had stated that Congress must raise the debt limit beyond 18.1 trillion dollars or not be able to meet all its bills by November 3, 2015.  That crisis was resolved in both Houses of Congress with help from the Democrats.  Also in both Houses of Congress funding the Federal Government will come up again in December.  Will Planned Parenthood again create a crisis there?

 

Former Speaker Boehner was able to get such a bill raising the National Debt through Congress before his Speakership ended and only with Democratic help.  The same holds true with the Senate.  The bill was for two years.  President Obama had stated that he will veto any short term bills.

 

The National Debt consists of two parts, one public and one private.  The public part of the Debt is owned in various ways by the Federal Government and is held by the Federal Reserve and such entities as Social Security that currently holds probably over 3 trillion dollars’ worth of these securities, Medicare, the Federal Savings and Loan Corporation Resolution Fund, as well as a number of other government agencies.  These debts held by governmental accounts represent cumulative surpluses, including interest earnings of these accounts.  In 2012 there were at least two direct transfers of 89 billion dollars from the FED to the Treasury that constituted interest paid on the National Debt.

 

The Federal Government admits to owning 40% of its own debt.  The probability is that it is more like 50% or 60% of the money it owes.  For example, besides massive unemployment and the loss of value of the dollar in the 2008 Real Estate Crash there was an intense mortgage problem: since a very large percentage of the mortgages issued had been broken up into microscopic size and the pieces issued by innumerable Hedge Funds into countless securities, the question that arose was who owned all that mortgage paper?

 

At first the bank computers generated documents and most of the banks foreclosed upon homes they did not own.  After this was discovered the banks stopped the foreclosures.  Then the question arose: Who did own these properties?  The answer was no one.  Each property could have been divided into hundreds of pieces, each issued to a different Hedge Fund.  It should have taken twenty of more years to straighten out this mess.  The housing industry, both old and newly constructed homes, would have been in a state of practical nonexistence.  Many older homes whose mortgages were far above their actual value had been deserted by their former owners and stayed empty, and construction companies would have found it nearly impossible to fund their projects.

 

By the Federal Reserve stepping into this problem and dealing with it they were able to largely resolve it in a period of just a few years.  I would guess that the price of resolving this problem cost the Federal Government well over ½ trillion dollars.  What the FED bought was trillions of fractional pieces of mortgage paper that the banks had created over a thirty year period.  Sorting them out would have been unbelievably expensive and probably totally impracticable.

 

Using imaginative monetary policy Ben Bernanke, the Chairman of the Federal Reserve, over a period of several years, solved this problem by pumping billions of dollars into the economy.  For a period of well over two years.  The Fed pumped 85 billion dollars into the economy monthly.  Forty billion bought back Government loans and Forty-five billion bought mortgage paper from all 50 states, literally trillions of mortgage pieces each month.   What happened to all this mortgage paper?  The probability is nothing.  It would have been prohibitive to sort all these microscopic pieces of mortgages.  An even then it would have required over 50% of the pieces for any action to be legally taken against the homeowner.  The banks had been in such a rush to continually refinance these properties that record keeping became farcical.

 

I would suspect that after two or three years most, if not all, of the deserted homes were sold for back unpaid taxes.  As for the people who stayed in their homes and couldn’t afford the continued payments, they probably waited for foreclosure that never came.  These people could no longer legally deduct their home interest from their income taxes but they still had quite a bit of extra income which they freely spent adding to the National Cash Flow, and encouraging more employment, within the United States.

 

The private section of the National Debt, the forty billion spent monthly, is money previously borrowed for short to long periods of time by the Federal Government from individuals, both in the United States and foreign countries, by foreign nations, and by numerous other entities.  By this action the Federal Government both allowed long term purchasers of this government paper to purchase long term paper at higher rates of interest and cash them out almost at will.  This process allowed the Federal Government to add all this money to the National Cash Flow continuously for this period.

 

The amount of money available to the public grew at an expediential rate.  Interestingly there was no inflationary increase with all these billions of dollars added to public spending.  Instead this Creative Monetary Policy of the Federal Reserve largely solved the bank mortgage disaster of 2008, made more cash available for economic growth, and moved the nation well into the direction of economic recovery by 2015 from the Real Estate Disaster.

 

It is also well to keep in mind that pretty much the same result could have been achieved, probably at a lower cost, by Congress passing fiscal policy as was requested by President Obama during the third year of his presidency, 2011.  This bill and others that could have been passed later would also have modernized much of our infrastructure and moved this country into the 21st Century.  But the Republicans in Congress have done nothing to really help the country or the bulk of its population.  If anything they have been penny wise and dollar stupid.

 

If the question were raised: Have we as a nation gotten our money’s worth from the ½ billion or so we spend to keep Congress functioning?  The answer is definitely negative.  In fact the situation seems to continually get worse.  With the retirement of the current Speaker of the House of Representatives will the new Speaker, Paul Ryan, be able to get positive legislation passed?  Being a very conservative Republican will he want to do this?

 

The question is currently up in the air.  The Republicans have 247 representatives out of 435.  But 40 of them belong to the Freedom Caucus.  The majority of them presumably support Ryan.  But they are far more conservative than the very conservative 207 other conservative Republicans.  In order to elect a new Speaker 218 affirmative votes were needed.  Ryan was willing to be Speaker if the Freedom Caucus  backed him as Speaker.  The majority of them have voted for him.  What will happen?

 

Meanwhile what about the bill funding the government that has to be passed before the middle of December?  The Treasury will not be able to legally pay the Governments bills unless the funding bill is passed by December of 2015.  It has been kicked down the road for three months.  If the Republicans insist that funding Planned Parenthood be removed from the bill President Obama will veto it.  Also if it is again a short term bill the President will also veto it. What will Ryan do?  What will he want to do?  It was Ryan who originally proposed using the leverage of necessary bills to force its agenda upon the President.

The Weiner Component #139B – Paul Ryan as the New Speaker of the House of Representatives

With the retirement of John Boehner, brought about by the Tea Party or otherwise, Paul Ryan will be the new Speaker of the House of Representatives.  At his election on October 29, 2015 he received a majority of Republican votes to become Speaker.

 

The 44 year old Ryan has been in Congress since 1999.  He is from Wisconsin’s First District and became Chairman of the House Ways & Means Committee in early January of 2015.  Prior to that he was Chairman of the House Budget Committee, from January 3, 2011 to January 3, 2015.

 

From what I understand he was not anxious to have this position since it has traditionally been a dead-ended one.  Historically no one has gone on from it to become President of the United States.  It would seem that since Ryan ran in 2012 as Mitt Romney’s Vice Presidential candidate he has been looking toward eventually running for the presidency.

 

Next to the Speaker the Chairman of the Ways & Means Committee is the most powerful position in the House as that Committee both makes the committee choices and writes the agenda for all the meetings of the House of Representatives.

 

Ryan did not originally want the Speakership because up until this point it has been an almost impossible job.  The Republicans in the House of Representatives, all 247 of them, meet as a single caucus generally before the entire House meets to conduct actual business.  But in addition to this the Republicans also meet in three smaller specific caucuses.  On the ultra-right are 30 Tea Party members, the Freedom Caucus, who have generally voted on all issues exactly the same.  Then there is the far-right Republican Caucus and finally the extreme-right caucus.

 

Up until Wednesday, October 28, 2015 the Speaker of the House could never depend on the Freedom Caucus and some of the other members of the overall Republican Caucus to put through necessary legislation.  On some occasions he even had to negotiate with Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic Minority Leader, in order to get necessary legislation passed.  This situation had existed since the 2011 Congressional session when he was first elected Speaker.

 

This behavior of dealing with Democrats to a large number of Republican members on the far right, like the Freedom Caucus, has been a betrayal of Republican principles.  In addition the former Speaker, John Boehner, once played a game of golf with President Barak Obama.  This was an unforgivable sin to the members of the Freedom Caucus.

 

In order to not shut down the Federal Government former Speaker Boehner in late September resigned, effective the end of October, and got a bill passed with Democratic help that funded the Government through December.  Apparently he felt he had to do this in order to not shut down the Federal Government by having the Republicans refuse to fund it over the issue of funding Planned Parenthood.

 

On Wednesday, October 28, 2015 former Speaker Boehner, after negotiating with the leaders of the Senate and the President, got another bill through the House raising the Debt Limit for the next two years.  Without this new bill the Federal Government would not have been able to spend money after November 3, 2015.

 

Ryan’s major upcoming task will be to pass legislation through the House of Representatives that would allow the Federal Government to pay its bills after the middle of December.  I would assume that this bill is one of the conditions of Paul Ryan accepting the Speakership.  However a large number of Republicans are dedicated to the idea of doing away with the subsidy to Planned Parenthood.  They might still insist on this in December.

 

President Obama has stated that if this is done he will veto the bill and there are not enough Republicans in either House to override his veto.  He has also stated that he will veto any future short term solution to this problem.  Even with promises from his caucus of all the Republicans this bill will apparently be the new Speaker’s big test.  If he needs Democratic help to get the bill passed Paul Ryan will continue his speakership on the same level as John Boehner suffered through.

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With Boehner’s resignation and Kevin McCarthy, the Republican Whip not being able to get the votes needed, Paul Ryan seemed to be the only member of the House of Representatives who might be able to secure a large enough majority of Republican support to get elected.  He apparently didn’t really want the job but was probably later convinced that no one else could get enough votes to be elected Speaker.  And with no Speaker the House of Representatives couldn’t meet.

 

In the end Ryan set conditions under which he would accept the position.  It would seem that the Freedom Caucus and others also had conditions.  All these were negotiated leading to, among other things, rule changes in running the House of Representatives.  One apparent rule was that nothing would be brought to the floor of the House that did not have a majority of Republican support.  Another was that Ryan would spend his weekends with his family instead of raising money for the Republican Party.  There was also a rule, propagated by the Freedom Caucus, allowing an individual lawmaker to force a vote ousting the speaker at any time.  Obviously there were other changes that we will learn about later on.

 

When he announced his candidacy for the Speaker’s job Ryan said he wanted endorsements from all three Republican Caucuses.  This should guarantee he will emerge as the unity candidate of the House Republicans.  He doesn’t want to risk being in the middle of the intraparty unrest under which former Speaker Boehner lived in since 2011.  The Tea Party, Freedom Caucus, fell short of a formal endorsement since that would have required 80% agreement.  The group was not able to achieve this level, but Ryan accepted their majority vote as a show of Republican unity.

 

What will happen?  That’s a good question.

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It is important to remember that Paul Ryan, when he ran with Mitt Romney as his Vice Presidential candidate, was considered by many to be the most conservative Vice Presidential candidate to run for that office since the turn of the 20th Century.

 

Originally he was a follower of Ayn Rand, who in her few books, particularly in “Atlas Shrugged,” advocated extreme individualism with the masses being an unfeeling horde.  He grew up with these beliefs, to the point of making his staff read her books.  This persisted from his teen years, when he discovered her writing, until April 2012 when he was criticized by the Georgetown University faculty.  At that time, being a good Catholic he rejected her philosophy as being “atheistic.”  He called the reports of his advocating Rand’s perspective an “urban legend,” (Whatever that means.) and stated that he was strongly influenced by his Roman Catholic faith and by the writings of St. Thomas Aquinas.

 

There are numerous other instances where Paul Ryan suddenly totally changed his position.  It seems that his attitudes were flexible, changing with the needs of the time.  It would appear that in August 2012, soon after Romney choose him as his VP, that the Tea Party wanted a nominee other than Romney.  It had gotten one of its ideological heroes in second place.

 

Ryan voted for the two Bush tax cuts in 2001 and in 2003.  He supported the 2003 bill that created the Medicare Part D, prescription drug benefit and the $700 billion bank bailout.  He was one of the 32 Republicans in the House to vote for the auto industry bailout.  In the past conservative commentators have criticized Ryan for deficit causing policies during the George W. Bush administration.

 

Paul Ryan existence became public knowledge over his financial plans or Ryan budgets.  His proposals outlined negative changes to entitlement spending that, among other things, would replace Medicare with a voucher program for those under the age of 55.  This 2008 bill never made it out of committee.  In 2009 he introduced a bill that in addition to his earlier one would impose a five year freeze on all discretionary spending.  It would also allow taxpayers, if they so choose, to opt out of the Federal Income Tax system and pay a flat 10% income tax on adjusted gross incomes up to $100,000 for couples and $50,000 for singles.  Any earnings above this amount would be taxed at 25%.  The bill was rejected in the Democratic controlled House by a vote of 293 to 137, with 18 Republicans in opposition.

 

In 2010 he released a modified version of his earlier bills.  He has released spending bills just about every year.  All of them cut entitlement spending and will supposedly balance the Federal Budget in about a decade.  In 2015 the same pattern is followed with even deeper entitlement cuts.  The overall evaluation is that his budget proposals would increase middle-class taxes while cutting taxes for the upper percentile of the population.  In terms of balancing the budget in ten years they are all wishful thinking.

 

It is worth noting that the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has been highly critical of Ryan’s budget proposals, stating that they would shift income to the wealthy while increasing poverty and inequality.

 

Ryan in 2004 and 2005 got the Bush administration to propose privatization of Social Security.  He’s a supporter of private school vouchers.  In 2011 Ryan supported using the federal debt ceiling as leverage to reduce Federal spending.

 

Paul Ryan has described himself as being “as pro-life as a person gets.”  He has co-sponsored 18 bills in the Congress that restrict abortions.  He believes that all abortions should be illegal, including those resulting from rape or incest, and he only makes an exception in cases where the woman’s life is at risk.

 

Ryan has recommended that Medicaid be converted into block grants with the Federal Government’s share of the cost being cut by $800 billion over the next ten years.  Medicaid is administered by the individual states under a strong level of Federal control.  The problem with a blanket block grant is that there is no control over how the state will use the money.  Block grants in the past have often been used for other purposes than for what they were issued.

 

In his 1998 campaign for the House of Representatives Ryan expressed his willingness to allow states to criminally prosecute women who have abortions.  He would let each state decide on the extent of the penalties.

 

In 2009 he cosponsored the Sanctity of Life Act, which would provide that fertilized eggs ”shall have all the legal and Constitutional attributes and privileges of personhood” and would have given Congress, …the authority to protect the lives of all human beings residing in its respective jurisdictions.”

 

Ryan has voted against continued federal aid for Planned Parenthood and Title X family planning programs.  The partial funding of these programs were originally signed into law by the Republican President, Richard M. Nixon.  Ryan supported legislation that would impose criminal penalties for doctors who perform partial birth abortions.  He opposed the government paying for over the counter emergency contraceptive pills.  He also opposed same sex marriage and had supported a constitutional amendment that would ban it.

 

Paul Ryan has supported the rights of gun owners and opposed stricter gun control measures.  He voted against a bill for stronger background checks and is for purchases at gun shows.

 

Originally Ryan supported legislation that would have allowed some illegal immigrants to apply for temporary guest worker status.  This included a bill that would provide a pathway to permanent residence status.  More recently Ryan has adopted a firm anti-amnesty enforcement stance on illegal immigration.  He voted against the Dream Act which was a bill that would provide conditional permanent residency to illegal immigrants who were brought to the United States as children if they mainly attend college or serve in the military.

 

Ryan does not believe in climate change; he accuses climatologists of using “statistical tricks to distort their findings and intentionally mislead the public on the issue of climate change.”  He has criticized the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) classification of carbon dioxide as a pollutant.  Ryan also supports a ten year $40 billion tax break for the petroleum industry and has proposed cutting funding for renewable energy research and subsidies.

 

He has made recommendations to enact cuts to welfare, child care, Pell grants, and several other federal assistance programs like food stamps and housing aid.  His argument being that these program serve as an incentive for the poor not having to work.

 

In 2001 and 2004 he voted to end the embargo in Cuba.  Later Ryan reversed his position and since 2007 he has voted for maintaining the embargo.  He called Obama’s 2009 “reset” of relations with Russia as “appeasement.

 

He voted for sequestration in 2013, across the board cuts in almost all government programs, because President Obama and the Democrats would voluntarily refuse to cut discretionary (nonmilitary) programs.  This is a ten year program that automatically make significant cuts every year unless Congress passes specific legislation to stop some of it.

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This is the new Speaker of the House of Representatives, the man who has replaced former Speaker John Boehner.  He was overwhelmingly elected to his new position.  He received 238 out of 247 Republican votes.   Nine Republicans, apparently from the Freedom Caucus, did not vote for him; they apparently felt he was not conservative enough.  Ryan needed 218 votes to be elected.  If he can maintain that majority he will not need Democratic help to get legislation through.

 

The question arises as to how he will lead.  He’s been a bit of a chameleon in the past, sometimes changing his position to adhere to the party line.   If he continues in this mode there will be another Federal Government Shutdown before the 2016 Presidential Election.  But if he acts more moderately will he retain the overall support of all his fellow Republicans in the House?  Which position will he adhere to?

 

In December he still has to fund the Federal Government.  At the beginning of January the remaining sequestration cuts automatically go into effect unless Congress passes a bill(s) and the President signs it/them.  The military aspect of the problem has been solved with the current bill that squeaked through Congress at the end of September that raised the Debt Limit for two years and also funded the military.

 

Paul Ryan, the 54th House Speaker, in his acceptance speech, stated that: “Let’s be frank.  The House is broken.  We are not solving problems.  We are adding to them.  And I am not interested in laying blame.  We are not settling scores.  We are wiping the slate clean.”

 

“If there were ever a time for us to step up, this would be that time.  The cynics will scoff and say it’s not possible.  But you better believe we are going to try.  We will not duck the tough issues.”

 

Will any other needed legislation come into being?  Since the midterm Election of 2014, when the Republicans gained a slight majority in the Senate (54 Republicans to 44 Democrats and 2 Independents) the Republican dominated Congress has accomplished almost nothing.

The new debt ceiling bill was passed by Boehner with heavy Democratic support, thus “cleaning the barn” in Boehner’s words.  If Ryan has to also use the Democrats he will alienate a lot of Republican House members.  It should be interesting and possibly depressing to find out what will happen!