The Weiner Component #118 – Republicans & Democrats

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Weiner Component #80 – The VA (Veteran’s Administration)

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: John McCain official photo portrait.

English: John McCain official photo portrait. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The United States Department of Veteran Affairs is responsible for all areas that concern veterans of the United States. It is the most comprehensive system of assistance for veterans in the world, providing patient care and federal benefits to veterans and their dependents. It covers a myriad of different operations: home loans and insurance, medical treatment and care, burial and memorial benefits, education and vocational training, vocational rehabilitation and employment, life insurance and military pensions and career counseling. It also has a history of problems during its existence.

In the Saturday, May 31, 2014, issue of the L.A. Times there was an article whose title is “Audit finds VA’s goals unattainable.” Basically if we look at a history of the VA we find there is a history of slop that has caused the death of numerous veterans and careless infection for many others. We find instances of incompetence. For example in 1986 the VA’s Inspector General’s office found 93 physicians working for the agency had sanctions against their medical licenses, including suspensions and revocations. In some instances improper sterilization of equipment resulted in infections of hepatitis. There have also been deaths because of delays in diagnosis and treatment, these taking well over a year or longer.

Have similar situations happened in civilian facilities? The answer is probably, yes; but to a lesser degree. The difference is that one can sue there but not in a VA hospital.

Because of greater demand for services than the facility can supply many of the VA hospitals have kept secret lists of clients, not on their computers, so that it looked like there was no waiting period and their executives could receive bonuses for what looked like efficiency, which in some cases ran as high as $33,000 a year.

What is the problem to cause all this? The answers should be obvious. Despite the amounts of funding allocated to the VA it is far from enough and basically the Veteran’s Administration is too big and varied an agency to be run by one man.

While the VA is very expensive to run it has traditionally been underfunded. For example in the 21st Century from 2001 on there have been numerous instances when the GOP in the Senate and after 2011 in the House when the Republicans got a majority there, have either filibustered or voted down any proposed increase in its medical facilities. The comments made in 2014 were that the government could not afford the expenditure with the current deficit. This was a comment made by Senator Rand Paul among others. Of course when it comes to medical plans Congress has given itself one of the best in the world, cost was never a factor here.

From what I understand the VA Hospital’s staffs can be either civilian or military, or a combination of the two. The personnel, both doctors and other medical staff, get the same training as in civilian facilities. The VA is very proud that their rates of pay are market competitive with medical civilian pay. Ostensively there is no difference between the two. If the GOP has supported the expansion of VA medical facilities would it have changed the current situation? The answer is yes, but it would not have solved the problem. Since the beginning of this century the country has been involved in two long wars. One in Afghanistan and one in Iraq. Millions of military personnel have been involved. The VA had long waiting periods before these wars. With no additional facilities the waiting period for any kind of treatment has in some areas been extended to well over a year. It will take a massive number of new facilities to resolve this problem; and it will take a large expenditure of time to build and staff these medical hospitals.

Congress, particularly the Republicans, wants this problem solved immediately with no additional expenditure of funds. Somehow the GOP is arguing out of both side of its mouth at the same time. They want an expensive problem solved but they don’t want it to cost anything. It’s like wanting to buy a new car with no down payment and no monthly installments. Good luck!

How can this problem be immediately resolved? The answer was given by President Obama. Let the veterans apply to public medical facilities if the VA ones are full. Will this solve the problem? That depends upon the facilities available in their area of the country and the amount of money the VA has available.

Probably sooner than later the VA will run out of money to pay the private doctors to attend to veteran’s medical problems. Congress, the Republicans, will have to appropriate more funds to pay for this. Will they do so? That’s an interesting question.

Both Bernie Sanders, the independent senator from Vermont who caucuses with the Democrats, and maverick Republican senator, John McCain have come out with a bipartisan solution to the VA medical crisis. Currently eighteen veterans have died while waiting for medical appointments in Phoenix. A bill cosponsored by these two men is supposed to come to the floor of the Senate the week of June 9, 2014. The bill, if passed, would allow veterans more access to private doctors, give the VA authority to open 28 additional clinics, hire more doctors and nurses, and fire poor performing staff.

Will this solve the problem? Not immediately. The bill has to pass through a Republican dominated House of Representatives and then be signed by the President in order to become law. Will this bill pass the Senate without filibustering? An interesting question! Will John Boehner, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, even bring the bill up for debate and a vote? I can’t even begin to guess what will happen in Congress this coming week and beyond.

And then, if we assume the bill is passed and immediately signed by the President, it will still take a while to come into complete functioning. While funds can immediately be released to take care of veterans needing medical help it will still take a while for the 28 additional clinics to be built and staffed. It will probably be well over a year.

In Aurora, Colorado in August 2009 the government began what was supposed to be the largest VA Clinic in the United States. The structure was supposed to be done in 2013. Today the project is less than half done and is projected to be completed in 2017. It’s cost, that was originally 600 million dollars, is now projected to be one billion dollars.

And then the question arises, are there enough private doctors and medical facilities to immediately treat all the veterans that need medical help?

Of course if the bill fails the argument will remain the same: the government cannot afford it. In essence the Republicans will continue talking out of both sides of their mouths; they will be running investigations as to why the VA is not servicing its members while refusing to pay for this servicing. It will continue to be the epitome of hypocrisy; but they will do it with a straight face, asking soldiers to give their all to their country, but then refusing to help them when they are hurt.

In essence even with this bill we are putting a large bandage over the problem. Solving the problem would require doing a “total needs assessment,” determining the full extent of the medical facilities needed to handle all the VA medical problems and then supplying them. This will take time.

The next problem that then arises is, are there enough doctors and nurses available to fill all these new facilities? The answer to that question is probably not. We need and will continue to need an ever-growing amount of doctors and nurses. Not only for the VA but also for the general public. One estimate I’ve heard is 500,000 doctors for the general public. We could need as many again for the VA. We are talking about the next decade of two.

How can this problem be resolved? A first step would be to allow members of the medical profession in other countries to easily and effortlessly emigrate to the U.S. That would not solve the problem but it would lessen it. The other solution would be for the federal government to set up innumerable scholarship programs that allow a massive increase in medical personnel.

Right now it is inordinately expensive for a student to become a doctor. He/She has to go through numerous levels of education, paying endless amounts of tuition with no immediate return. If the government were to remove this pay factor and allow those capable and willing to go through the process they could easily get the number of doctors and nurses that the society needs. In addition they could require them to serve in a given area for a small number of years in return from what they received. It would be expensive but it would solve the problem for both the VA and the general society.

 

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