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 #149 Part 1 – The 2016 Political Presidential Campaign

speaking at CPAC in Washington D.C. on Februar...

speaking at CPAC in Washington D.C. on February 10, 2011. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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The Candidates from both political parties have completed a number of debates and also some TV Town Halls.  The Republican debates have been considered more dramatic by American viewers, so they have had larger audiences. 

 

It is important to keep in mind that only Republicans are voting for Republican candidates and that their debates and current actions are aimed at being chosen as the Republican candidate at the Nominating Convention in late July and conversely only Democrats are voting for their candidates for the same reason.  The debates are a means for each to demonstrate his/her ability and political position.  The public is getting a view of all the candidates so that they can make up their minds about the candidates of both parties.  Only one will emerge from each party and the voters will have a choice as to whom they want to be President over the next four years.

 

For those who like drama, the Republican debates have been more interesting because their leading candidate, Donald Trump, will say almost anything and often does so.  At least he did so in the earlier debates.  In the first one he verbally attacked one of the female reporters who was asking questions.  Apparently he didn’t like her question.  In the other debates he tended to verbally attack the other Republican candidates.  The Democratic debates dealt with issues concerning the nation only and didn’t get as many million people watching them.

                           

The Democratic Town Halls, having different people in the audience asking questions, had both candidates, each using half the time.  The Republican Town Halls have had only one of the possible candidates taking questions from an audience. 

 

On the Saturday, February 20th the Democrats held a Caucus and the Republicans a Debate in South Carolina.  Of the remaining six potential candidates in the Republican debate, Donald Trump was the winner by about ten points.  He had 32.5% if the Republican vote.  Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz were second and third, separated by two tenths of a point, 22.5% and 22.3%.  John Kasich and Jeb Bush were tied for fourth with 7.8% of the vote each and Ben Carson came in last.  Bush suspended his campaign after dropping lower than he had been in his prior debate.  In the Democratic primary Hillary Clinton won 52.7% of the Democratic vote and Bernie Sanders got 47.2%.

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There is an interesting psychological phenomena at work when it comes to choosing the candidates to support in the election.  It seems that there are two kinds of people, one that lives in the right now and one that makes most decisions with an eye toward the future.  The first group is instantly taking satisfaction from immediately solving or seeming to solve a problem.  They will similarly handle all other problems when they come along in the future.  And the second group who deal with everything with an eye to the future. 

 

The first group would be backers of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. These are the protest candidates for the two major political parties, who are the living symbols for the dissatisfied generally silent majorities in both parties, who have been duly voting for their political candidates over the years and getting nothing in return.  To the blue collar, and, I would suspect, in most cases, the gun loving and/or evangelicals, who could never find themselves in a position to vote Democratic, Trump represents their basic attitudes, prejudices, and beliefs.  He will, in their minds, to quote him, “Make America Great Again.” 

 

He also gives them an innate satisfaction when they listen to him because he expresses what they feel and believe.  Presumably he represents smaller government, that is: getting government out of everyone’s lives, and lower taxes.  He is the protest candidate who will lower their taxes, increase the military, beat-up the terrorists, make America feared by every other country on the planet, actually make The U.S. the bully of the world.  His words themselves give these people a sense of satisfaction.

 

In order to solve the illegal immigration problem Trump will also build a high wall separating the United States from Mexico that he says will be paid for by Mexico; deducted from money the United States owes Mexico.  Governments do not lend or give money generally to other countries.  There doesn’t seem to be any evidence that Mexico lent or gave money to the U. S. that the American Government has to return.  If there is an imbalance of trade and Mexicans are selling more to American businesses than Mexican businesses are buying from the U.S. then those are arrangements between Mexican individuals and companies and American individuals and companies.  There is no legal way that our government can seize any of those funds to pay for a border wall, unless suddenly extremely high taxes are placed upon all trade between the two countries,

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A good percentage of the blue collar Republicans and Evangelicals have constantly given their vote to the Republican Party but have not, like the wealthy upper percentile, really gotten anything for their continued allegiance to the party.  Trump is their hero.  He will give them, this silent majority to the right, true justice, make the Republican Party mean something to Blue Collar and Evangelical America.

 

Of course all this rests on the proposition that we were great before, forgetting the fact that U.S. foreign policy under George W. Bush was a joke to most of the world.  The United States invaded Iraq because of a lie pushed by Bush and his administration.  The U.S. was then able to bribe some of the smaller nations with massive aid contributions to join into a sort of wartime coalition to look for “weapons of mass destruction,” which never existed.  The Bush White House, while serving as sheriff of the Middle East destabilized the entire region and through its actions indirectly helped establish the growth of the terrorist organizations like ISIS.

 

Bernie Sanders, the Democratic Socialist who is registered as an Independent but caucuses with the Democrats, is the other left extreme of Donald Trump.  Trump is on the far reactionary right while Bernie Sanders is on the far radical left.  They are both appealing to people, who are in the main, are either disgusted with Washington politics that seems to promise everything during elections and deliver nothing during the course of the elected term.  Both candidates are promising the world if elected. 

 

Sanders is promising free education through college and free medical coverage for everyone as a right.  He says he will pay for these by taxing Wall Street for speculative spending.  What is speculative spending?  I suppose it’s any investment, buying or selling stock or property.  That would certainly raise the price of every stock or property bought or sold. 

 

In both the Scandinavian countries and the rest of Europe the population gets free medical care by paying heavier taxes than we do in the United States.  The public shares in the paying of the “free” medical care with increased taxes. 

 

The same can be said for public education which goes from kindergarten through college, if the student is qualified.  In the United States education is a right that everyone has through high school.  While there are public colleges and universities they still have a cost factor for the participant.  In Europe education is free but it has to be earned.  A student moves from level to level by continually proving his/her capability to function on a higher level.  If a student cannot pass the examinations they are shunted to vocational training and an exit from the school system.  This also is paid for by increased taxes shared by all the taxpayers.

 

My feeling is that most people actually agree with Bernie Sanders.  The model he is using is Scandinavian Socialism which also exists in most European and successful Asian countries.  Even Hillary Clinton likes what Bernie is representing.  But is it real in the United States?  Can he do it if he is elected President without massively raising taxes?  Most Americans are complaining that the current tax system is too high.  For that matter is what Donald Trump says he is going to do real? 

 

First off: What is the power of the President?  If elected can he decree free education or universal medical care?  Or, for that matter, a great wall between the United States and Mexico?

 

The answer to all of these changes is NO.  The President is the elected Chief Administrator of the laws passed by Congress and himself.  His major function is to carry out the laws and keep the country functioning.  He can issue Executive Orders; but these are not laws.  His legislative powers are almost nonexistent.  The President can recommend and negotiate with Congress or veto a bill; but that is the full extent of his legislative powers.

 

Bernie Sanders has called for a Populist Revolution.  Donald Trump has not.  Unless the one who gets elected has an overwhelming majority in both Houses of Congress, well over 50% in the House and a super majority of 60 or more Senators he will be extremely frustrated in office, feeling he is totally unable to bring about or, for that matter, even begin his program. 

 

In fact the probability is that regardless of who is elected as President the House of Representatives will, in all probability, have a slight Republican majority because of gerrymandering, having the voting districts set up in the states to benefit one particular political party.  This was done in 2010 by the Republicans and will not be redone until 2020 when the next population census occurs.  In the 2014 Midterm Election for the House of Representatives 1¼ million addition votes were cast for Democratic candidates, over what the Republicans received, but the Republicans still maintained the majority in the House.

 

The Senate will probably end up in 2016 with a slight Democratic majority, since i/3d of the Senate will be up for reelection.   The Senators are elected by all the voters of each state.  Since the Democrats are the majority party the Senate will probably be returned to Democratic control by a slight majority.  And there is a very high probability that Congress will again be gridlocked from 2017 through 2020.  The only candidate who might get some legislation through, and that by constant “horse trading” is Hillary Rodham Clinton.  The next four years are not going to be a fun time!

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It has been my observation that there is one very important point that everyone seems to ignore in every major election.  How many people were fourteen to just short of eighteen during the prior Presidential Election four years earlier?  The number has to be, in this country of over 350 million people, somewhere in the millions.  These youngsters come to the election generally with a certain amount of disgust.  They’ve heard their parents, relatives, and others continually complain about deadlock in Washington, D.C. and gridlock when it comes to passing necessary laws.  And, of course, the loud complaints by the Republicans about the Democrats.  They may have learned about the principles of government in high school; but the country doesn’t seem to be operating that way.  To them someone like Bernie Sanders would be a living symbol of hope.  Watching him at his televised rallies one sees a lot of young faces wanting a positive future.

 

The same can be said for President Barack Obama back in 2008 when he first ran for the presidency.  His slogan was: “It’s time for a change.”  But Barack Obama inherited the beginnings of a major depression from George W. Bush.  He spent his first two years in office avoiding a depression that would have been greater than the Great Depression of 1929 and he helped pass a universal type health law, the Affordable Health Care Law.  Two year later in 2010 the Republicans gained control of the House of Representatives and Congress would function from 2011 on in a state of gridlock with nothing positive happening.  The young voters and minorities stayed at home on election days because they had not seen the change they wanted.  Changes had occurred that saved the country but they had been largely invisible.  The Republicans stayed in control of the House of Representatives.  The Senate in 2014 was also taken over by the Republicans because people did not vote and there was some Republican suppression of the vote.

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The noted economist, Paul Klugman, called Sander’s view of the changes he wants to bring about “fantasy economics.”  I strongly suspect that Sanders was shocked or amazed at the reception he got for his bid for the presidency.  He was used to being a voice of protest in the Congress for a large number of years.  He no doubt expected to be a Democratic Socialist protest candidate.  With the reception his campaign has and is receiving he talks about a Revolution that he’ll bring about.  By “Revolution” Bernie Sanders means that the majority of the people will verbally rise up and force their legislators to pass the laws he is talking about.

 

If 74 year old Bernie Sanders were to be elected President of the United States he would spend four years in total frustration because no part of his program will happen with a Republican controlled House of Representatives.  Probably very little would happen with a fully controlled Democratic Congress. 

 

Change occurs slowly.  Public colleges were essentially free when I went to one of them in the 1950s.  Since then life has become more expensive and complicated.  I remember my parents in the 1940s taking their children to the doctor when they were sick and paying for the visits and for the prescriptions.  They spent far less providing medical care for themselves and three children than I spend now at Kaiser with full Medicare.  And that does not include what we spend on my wife who also has full Medicare.

 

The House of Representatives will probably remain Republican because of gerrymandering and the Senate may return to Democratic control.  Twenty-four Republican Senators will be standing an election.  Many of them are in swing states which could go either way.  This would be particularly true if the Republicans gain bad publicity by impeding the functioning of the government by not holding  hearings for the vacancy on the Supreme Court or doing some other outlandish things.

 

Essentially for four years Sanders will face Congressional gridlock.  If he survives the four years in which he will be largely helpless to bring about any kind of change then he will be 79 at the end of his term in office.  If anything conditions may well get worse that they are now.  And 79 is longer than most people live, particularly men.

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Looking at the current five remaining Republican candidates, that’s five out of the original twelve or so.  Bush is gone; he has suspended his campaign after spending 70 million dollars.  Mainly that leaves Donald Trump, Marco Rubio, and Ted Cruz.  Of the remaining two, John Kasich may be looking forward to a possible Vice-Presidency and Ben Carson seems to be along for the ride.  I understand he is also selling an autobiography and doing book signings along the way. 

 

Chris Mathews called the Thursday night, February 25, Debate a meeting of “The Three Stodges.”  Trump, Cruz, and Rubio spent most of their time verbally attacking one another.  Usually two of them were talking at the same time and most of what they said was incomprehensible; it’s difficult to understand what’s being said when two people are continually talking loudly at the same time.  They gave an outstanding performance of how a President should not act.

 

Both Rubio and Cruz are Tea Party Republicans.  Strange to say Trump seems to be the most liberal among the three who are now considered serious candidates.  Both Trump and Cruz are considered unacceptable to the Party leadership but the Party has no mechanism to get rid of them, at least not until the Party Convention.  Some Republican Party leaders have said that if Trump becomes President it would be a total disaster and that it could destroy the Republican Party.

 

Both Ohio Governor John Kasich and Dr. Ben Carson were also in the Debate but they did not have much to say.  Of the five, Kasich appeared mostly as a President should, but he ranked only at 9 plus percent among the Republican voters of Texas.

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As a sort of footnote it is worth observing what the Republicans in Congress are doing about the public protest of their actions over the last six years.  Many of the Blue Collar Republicans are supporting Donald Trump to demonstrate their betrayal by the Republican Congress.  The Republican leadership objects to him.  The least the Republican led Congress can do is to hold hearing concerning their needs and wants.  But instead they are doing nothing, essentially ignoring the protest and objecting to Trump.  It is business as usual, expecting to get reelected and continue representing the upper 1% of the country. 

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 #140A – Congress: How it Works & Doesn’t Work

English: First page of Constitution of the Uni...

According to the United States Constitution, Article I: the legislative, law making power, is given to a bicameral, law-making, Congress that consists of two Houses: the Senate and the House of Representatives.  Only they have the power to make laws that have to be identical when passed by both Houses of Congress and then signed by the President.

 

Originally the House was directly elected by the people and the Senate, which was supposed to represent the states, was elected by the legislatures of each individual state.  In 1913 this was changed by the 17th Amendment to the Constitution which had the people of each state directly elect the Senators, making them directly responsible to all the people of their respective states.

 

In the Constitution all financial bills have to originate in the House of Representatives.  This was put in so that the direct representatives of the people who paid the taxes could feel responsible for all government expenditures.  Even though the 17th Amendment changed this the power still rests with the House as the new Speaker of the House of Representatives recently stated in an interview.

 

House members serve for a two year term and then have to be reelected for another two year term.  Senators are elected for a six year period and can then stand for reelection if they so desire.  All members in both Houses are currently paid $170,000 a year for their services.

 

Today the number of legislators in the House of Representatives is fixed at 435.  Every ten years an enumeration of the population is taken and the seats are reassigned to the election districts within the states based upon increases in and/or population changes which may then redefine the election districts both in number and size within the individual states.  This was last done in 2010 and those states that had Republican legislator majorities redrew their districts in terms of their political favor by blatantly gerrymandering.  In fact in the 2012 Election over a million and ¼ more Democrats voted nationally for House Representatives but the Republicans emerged with majority representation in the House of Representatives because of favoring their party in creating the allowable number of election districts within their states.  Currently there are 247 Republicans in the House and 188 Democrats.  Each of the smaller states, even if their entire population is below the count for representatives in the larger states ate entitled to at least one representative in the House.  There are also six non-voting members representing Washington, D.C and most of the territories belonging to the United States.

 

In the Senate there are 100 members representing the fifty states.  The number of senators can be increased if additional states are added to the union.  As stated the Senators today represent the people of the entire state they come from and are elected by the entire voting population of each individual state.

 

One of the basic concepts of our country is the concept of compromise.  Without this ability our founding fathers would never have been able to bring forth the Constitution.  A document that established a government between the 13 states that were both free and slave, large and small, based with beliefs and basic values that were literally miles apart.  The current Congress seems to have lost that ability.  In fact if the current congressmen had to write a constitution today they would be unable to do it and the country would end up at best as a group of small federations.

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What always struck me as a basic concept of our form of government was best stated in a quote from Benjamin Franklin, which he wrote in all seriousness.  “In free governments the rulers are the servants and the people their superiors and sovereigns.  For the former therefore to return among the later was not to degrade but to promote them.”   Somehow this concept has become lost, particularly to many of the current Republicans in both Houses of Congress.

 

All of our members of Congress, according to Article VI of the Constitution take an oath, upon becoming a member of Congress, to uphold the Constitution.  Somehow, of late, I get the impression that many of our legislators have either forgotten or never understood this concept.  I also get the feeling that in the minds of many of our Republican legislators that the people’s function is merely to keep them in office so that they can force their will or agendas upon the nation.  And if these hard-core Republicans cannot get what they want then what exists is total gridlock, which is what seems to exist in the House of Representatives at the current time.

 

To the Tea Partiers among the Republicans in the House of Represenatives the country will function their way or not at all.  The fact that they and possibly their constituents constitute a minority of the population is immaterial.  Even though a Democratic Republic is supposed to be ruled by the will of the majority of the population they believe absolutely that they are right and everyone else is wrong or misinformed.  This is all very reminiscent of the old Communist Party where all the members had to follow the party line, or be expelled from the party.  In their hearts these people, the Freedom Caucus in the House of Representatives, the 40 hard-liners know what is right for the American People and they will have their way or nothing will happen in Congress.

 

John Boehner, the Republican Speaker of the House, has resigned both as Speaker and as a member of the House, effective October 31st.  His immediate replacement, Kevin McCarthy, the House Whip has withdrawn as a candidate for the Speakership.  He did not have the votes within his own party.  The one other possible replacement, Paul Ryan, has initially turned down the offer of assuming that role.  Presumably the price of taking it was to support numerous positions that he found unacceptable.  Boehner said he will stay in office until a replacement is found.  After a little over a week of negotiating and also being cajoled Paul Ryan accepted the Speakership.  He got the support of most of the Tea Party and the majority of the other Republican House Congressmen.

 

The Freedom Caucus, which seems to hold the balance of power among the Republican House members, were thrilled at presumably getting rid of Boehner.  If they did achieve this it was a pyrrhic victory.  They may have gotten him to resign but now Ryan is the new Speaker and in order to get him to accept the position most of the House Republicans have sworn allegiance to him.  This includes the majority of the Freedom Caucus but not the entire group.

 

There was also a move at the end September to “Ditch Mitch.”  Many far right Republican Senate members do not consider him aggressive enough to run the Republican Party in the Senate.  Louisiana Governor and Presidential Candidate Bobby Jindal has called upon Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to resign.  They want someone who will stand up to the President and take some risks.  McConnell has too much support from Republicans in the Senate to be in any danger in terms of being forced out of the Senate.

 

The frustration for these hard-liners seems to be that they, the Republicans, have the majority in both Houses of Congress but their particular group doesn’t have the votes to stop legislation if it is also supported in both Houses of Congress.  The fact that this situation exists in Congress would indicate the epitome of dysfunctionality.

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The basic question, in terms of Congress, comes down to: What is the main purpose of the Government?  And the answer to that question, most simply stated is answered in the preamble to the Constitution:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

This is what the members of Congress have taken an oath to do.  Is this what they, particularly the Republicans in the House of Representatives and the Senate, are doing?

 

Currently the House of Representatives has a new Speaker as its presiding officer.  There are currently 247 Republicans in the House and 188 Democrats.  The majority party has easily elected a new speaker if all the Republicans vote for whoever is running for that position.  But on the far right of the conservative party is the Freedom Coalition.  These are the 40 ultra-conservative hardline Tea Partiers.  To them the rest of the Republican Party is not far enough to the right.  Presumably they will not support anyone who will go against their agenda.  They want to get rid of Affordable Health Care and defund Planned Parenthood.  I suspect many of them may also be racial bigots.    I imagine this feeling goes beyond this specific group to many other Republicans in Congress.  Has any of this changed with the election of Paul Ryan?

 

If 40 votes are subtracted from the 247 currently elected Republicans they do not have enough votes to pass legislation if the 40 and the 188 elected Democrats do not support their move.  Basically what this means is that the Speaker of the House and the Senate Majority Leader both have to get the support of the majority of Democrats in order to pass bills that a percentage of their party will not support.

 

John Boehner has faced this situation since becoming Speaker of the House in 2011 and Mitch McConnell will face this situation for the next fourteen months.  Will Paul Ryan have to face this same situation?  The Republicans may have the majority in both Houses but it will take a coalition of both political parties to run the country.  This has to be the ultimate irony and could well lead to the formation of a new national political party after the 2016 elections.

 

The nation is now at the point of crisis.  Legislative actions will have to be taken or the functioning of the government could be forced to cease.  The Debt Limit Crisis has been averted by negotiations between the President, the Senate Republican leadership and the former Speaker, John Boehner, raising the Debt limit for the next two years.

 

There is also funding the Federal Government.  This could stop the Federal Government if Congress does not pass a bill by December.  John Boehner was able to avoid a Federal Government shutdown by resigning as Speaker and quitting the House effective October 31.  But that pushed the deadline from September to December.  It will again be reached in December of 2015.

 

This major problems still must be dealt with this year but there are numerous others that will be coming up early in January of 2016 like the automatic cuts of about 5% across the board on federal and discretionary spending if Congress does not act to stop some or all of this spending.  That is sequestration, which stays in existence until 2023.

 

This does not count infrastructure problems like hundred or more year old bridges, some of which seem to be ready to collapse at some near future point or intercontinental train tracks which are having innumerable accidents particularly oil tankers that are jumping tracks and burning for days on end, causing massive evacuations from the deadly toxic smoke of towns and large sections of cities.  This country is filled with infrastructure that was built in the first half of the Twentieth Century or earlier which needs to be replaced and/or modernized to meet the needs of today’s population.

 

There are also an obscene number of people being shot every day by people who, for mental reasons, should never be allowed to purchase guns.  We can follow the advice of Presidential candidate Jeb Bush who after the shooting of innocent students at a college said, “Stuff happens.”  A week later, after another similar shooting, he kept his mouth shut.  I expected him to say, “Stuff still happens.”  Mentally disturbed people should not have easy access to weapons.  Somehow, even with the NRA, Congress needs to deal with this problem.  It is time we stopped leading the industrial nations of the world in gun homicides.

 

There are other problems, including everyday things, like fiscal policy, the War against ISIS, the other crises in the Middle East, China, and Russia that require participation by Congress.  None of this is being dealt with by Congress.  They seem to be getting paid $170,000 each for taking vacations and leaving the country to go its own way without their participation.  In fact the House of Representatives will meet for 111 days in 2016.  No work week for them exceeds three days.  Most of the fighting going on by the U.S. Military has never been authorized by the Congress.  The Constitution clearly makes them the arbiters of war and peace.  Congress has left these decisions completely in the hands of the President.  They have refused to take any action.

 

In essence Congress is dysfunctional.  Speaker, Paul Ryan, in his acceptance speech has defined Congress as broken.  He says he will start anew.  But Speaker Ryan is himself not far to the left of the Freedom Caucus.   Will there be positive changes or will the House fall back into non-functionality?  Will the House shut down the Government again?   The political future should be interesting.

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 #45 – The Tea Party

The Tea Party pretends to be a populist party ...

The Tea Party pretends to be a populist party but that is misleading, for it was created with a few thousand “true believers” financed by the rich and powerful within the Republican party, This is exactly what happened in Germany in the 30s; Fascism. (Photo credit: Wonderlane)

   

The Tea Party Element of the Republican Party in the House of Representatives on Tuesday, October 1, 2012, was able to shut down parts of the United States Government by refusing to pass a bill to continue funding the government.  They would only pass the bill, which they received from the Senate, if Affordable Health Care (Obama Care) were de-funded.   Neither the Senate nor the President would go along with this, calling it a form of blackmail.  The Affordable Health Care law was due to go into large-scale operation on the next day.  The bill had passed both houses in Congress and been signed by the President in 2010.  The law, on October 2, 2013 received an enormous response from people in the country who had not been able to afford medical insurance prior to that time. 

We should note that no bill had been passed funding the government for the fiscal year of 2014.  Many months’ earlier two different bills had been passed in both the House and Senate.  These two bills were different and had to be reconciled into one bill and then again passed by both Houses.  There had been eighteen requests from the Senate to meet in Conference Committee for this purpose.  Speaker Boehner had ignored all of these requests.  Consequently there was no new budget to fund the government after September 30th.  Was this a plan by the House of Representative Republicans to bring about a crisis so they could certainly kill legislation they did not like through the use of blackmail?

It seemed that the Tea Party Group would have its way or it would shut down the government, which it did.  This group, when they left the House shortly after midnight on October 2, seemed to be in a state of ecstasy, with extremely wide grins and happy body language.  Michele Bachmann looked like a young bride the morning after the first night with her husband.  I understand a number of them also reeked of alcohol.  Many of the Tea Party members had boasted for as long as six months prior to being elected that they would shut the government down.  And they now had accomplished their purpose.  Somehow I get the impression that the Tea Party’s main objective was not to do away with Affordable Health Care but to punish the government and indirectly a large percentage of the American Public.  It seems that they see the government as the enemy and want to somehow defeat it. 

One of the more dramatic effects of this government shut down was to freeze payments to wives and parents whose husbands or children were killed fighting in Afghanistan.  We are currently at war.  These people, and there are well over a dozen of them, are supposed to receive large cash payments for travel and funerals for their loved ones.  No payments have been made to any of them since the government shut down.

Interestingly, while all this was happening I remembered the original late Eighteen Century Boston Tea Party, which is usually studied in Elementary School.  The version in the youngster’s textbooks is not exactly accurate.  It’s presented as a great patriotic act, which it was not.

The British East India Company, which was owned in part by many members of the British Government, was in dire financial trouble.  Britain passed a law that would allow them to sell their tea in the American Colonies, even with taxes charged, at a deep discount. 

The American Colonists earlier had avoided paying any taxes on imports by smuggling tea and numerous other products into the colonies.  In fact smuggling was a way of life in the American Colonies.  But with the deep discount the British tea, even with a tax, would be far less expensive than the smuggled tea.  As far as the British were concerned they were getting the British East India Company out of financial difficulties and doing the colonies a favor, charging much less for tea there than in Great Britain.

Before the tea could be landed from the three ships that brought it to the colonies a group of men who coated their skin with red ocher to make them look like Indians attacked the three ships and dumped the cargos of tea into Boston harbor.  These men, it turned out, were the merchants who sold the smuggled tea in the colony.  They were mainly protecting their own financial interests.

The British were flabbergasted; they closed down the harbor of Boston, and insisted that the people of the city pay for the tea, $25,000.  The harbor would remain closed to all shipping until the tea was paid for.  At this point it became a patriotic issue not to pay for the tea, which a number of merchants were willing but afraid to do for fear that they might be attacked by the Sons of Liberty.

These were the great patriots that the modern day Tea Party has modeled itself after.  And interestingly have created a similar stalemate in the United States; this time largely closing down the government and furloughing hundreds of thousands of government employees with no salaries, plus stopping numerous necessary programs for the poor, aged, children and military personnel.  In essence almost all of the government agencies are functioning with skeleton crews.  This seems to be the great achievement of the modern day Tea Party.

By looking at their actions one get the impression that to them the Federal Government is the villain and they want to weaken it, to beat it up.  Unfortunately we are stuck with this situation until the next midterm election that will not come until November of 2014.  The House of Representatives has done nothing for the last two plus years except to exacerbate the 2008 Recession.  Luckily the Federal Reserve has been very innovative and creative in applying Monetary Policy and has slowly been able to move the country in the direction of recovery.  The current situation, if it lasts, could push us back into recession or worse.  The Tea Party, which has seemingly taken over the Republican Party, is doing a good job of beating up the United States.

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The issue becomes more devastating when one considers that the Tea Party members of the House of Representatives form about 20 to 25 percent of the Republicans there.  They have seized control of the party and rule it firmly.  The Speaker of the House, John Boehner, was reelected as Speaker in 2012 by a Republican majority of three votes.  If two Republicans in the House were to change their votes he could be dropped like a hot potato from his position.  Boehner, it seems, has become a mindless extension of the Tea Party.

The irony of the situation is what’s really needed is a budget for the fiscal year of 2014.  A bill to this effect that should have been passed months earlier in both Houses of Congress and signed by the President and would have solved the problem without any crises; but the House of Representatives refused to participate in the process.  Thus it has brought about a National crisis.  The irony of this situation is that if a bill were to be passed ending this issue it would only affect the country until the end of December when there would be a new budget crisis over funding the government for the new year.  Another crisis!  Another opportunity for blackmail!

In addition to this it is estimated that on October 16th the Debt Ceiling will be reached and Congress will have to raise it or default on its debts.  This action will not only affect the credit of the United States it could bring about a deep recession or depression, far deeper than that of 1929, and also affect other nations pushing them into recession.   All of this being brought about by a minority of Tea Party Republicans among the Republicans in the House of Representatives!  We are in a strange state of being!

Someone on TV has stated that the Republicans in the House of Representatives are no longer chosen by the people.  Instead they choose their constituents who, in turn, elect them.  The midterm Election of 2010, when the Republicans won a majority in the House and in a number of state legislatures and governorships, was a census year in which the states set new boundaries for the election of members of the House, depending upon the census count.  By fancy gerrymandering the Republicans reset the election boundaries to give themselves the greatest advantage in any election.  They maintained the majority of representatives in the House even though the House Democrats received 1.4 million more votes than the Republicans in the 2012 Election.  The number of people in each of the Districts varied tremendously.  Some votes count more than others.  Presumably this guarantees that the Republicans will maintain control of the House of Representatives.  And also this makes the primary elections in these districts more important than the actual elections.  The more liberal elements among the Republicans in the House are constantly threatened that if they do not hue to the party line, vote the way the Tea Party wants, they will have more conservative Republicans run against them in the primaries for their next election. 

In addition the ultimate irony of all of this is that there is nothing behind the U.S. dollar but the word of the government.  In fact this is true of all currencies now.  American money is valued and accepted throughout this planet.  All the government has to do is issue more currency to quickly solve this problem.  But the Tea Party, whose minds are still in the 18th Century, is in a position to not let this happen.  In their ignorance or spite they could bring about a world depression!  They have the power but not the intelligence to run the government.

In the 2012 Election, despite their gerrymandering, some Republicans lost their seats in the House to Democrats.  If this happens again the Democrats could regain control of the House of Representatives.  Obviously it would take more than a 1.4 million majority voting for members of the House.

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