The Weiner Component #145 – The 2016 1.145 Trillion Dollar Funding Bill & the Republican Party

Official portrait of United States House Speak...

Official portrait of United States House Speaker (R-Ohio). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In October of 2015, John Boehner, the former Speaker of the House of Representatives resigned from the House, effective the end of November.  His problem was getting what he considered necessary legislation through the House of Representatives without a government shutdown.  His immediate problem was extending the debt limit, which was then over 18 trillion dollars.  Not extending it would shut down the Federal Government as it would stop all government expenditures beyond a certain point that had almost been reached.

 

The extreme right of the Republican Party wanted to defund Planned Parenthood in return for extending the Debt Limit.  President Barack Obama had stated that if this measure were tied to the bill he would veto it.  By resigning, effective a month later, Boehner removed the House of Representatives from formulating the necessary bill.  The Republican majority leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, proposed a short term bill extending the Debt Limit until early December which the Senate and later the House passed.  The President commented that he would not again sign a short term bill.  The final version of the bill was passed early in December raising the Debt Limit for a period of two years.

 

The next major initial problem of the House of Representatives was finding a new Speaker.  Kevin McCarthy, the House Whip, was in line for a short period of time but he didn’t have the votes.  Eventually Paul Ryan, after initially refusing, ended up being the individual who could muster enough votes to be made the new Speaker.  He accepted after setting special conditions.

 

The next important bill was one to fund the Federal Government.  It had to be passed by December 11, 2015 if the government were not to be shut down for not legally having funds to keep operating.

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Generally, every year Congress has to pass a Bill in order to fund the U.S. Government for the oncoming year or it cannot legally pay its bills.  This Bill has to originate in the House of Representatives which, according to the Constitution, initially begins all money bills.  All that is needed is a one sentence law stating that the Federal Government shall be funded for one or more years.  Since 2011, when the Republicans gained control of the House of Representatives, they have used that Bill as leverage or blackmail to obtain other things that they had wanted by adding endless amendments to the Bill, many at the very last moment.

 

For example on Thursday, 12/11/14, the House of Representatives passed, what was essentially but not really a 1,603 page bipartisan 1.1 trillion dollar spending bill that will allowed the Federal Government to continue to function until September 30, 2015, the end of the fiscal year.  The bill adhered to strict caps negotiated earlier between the White House and the deficit-conscious Republicans.  It is also salted through with GOP proposals which were actually Christmas giveaways to individuals and companies and have nothing to do with the spending budget.  The bill should have been passed months earlier but it was convenient for the GOP to keep it hanging as a potential form of blackmail against President Barack Obama until the last possible moment when it had to be passed or its absence would cause a government shutdown.

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When Ronald Reagan was Governor of California he had a line-item veto over all bills passed by the State Legislature.  He could veto any section or group of sections that he thought was or were inappropriate and sign the document for the rest of the bill to become law.  But as President of the United States he could either sign a bill, veto it, or do nothing for ten days and allow it to become law.  Reagan was not too happy with this limitation but he had to accept it.  It would require an amendment to the Constitution to change this practice.

 

Not only does every bill have to be passed by both the House and Senate but both versions have to be identical.  If a word or punctuation is different, then the two versions are not the same.  Actually what happens is that the bill goes to a Committee of Congressmen dealing with that particular subject, they discuss the bill, usually modify it, and then send it to the legislative house to which they belong with their recommendations.  If it is passed then that version goes to the other legislative body, where it follows the same procedure.  In practically all cases the two versions are at least slightly different.  At that point the bill goes to a Conference Committee made up of members of the two Houses, where a final version is then hammered out.  This goes back to both Houses of Congress and it then has to be voted upon and repassed by the two Houses.  If the bill passes it then goes to the President.  After he signs it the bill becomes law.  This process generally takes at least a number of days.

 

The 1.1 Trillion Dollar Spending Bill was passed by the House of Representatives on Thursday, December 11, 2014.  The Congress was slated to end its session on Friday, December 12th.  This meant that the bill had to be accepted exactly as it was if the government was not to shut down the following week when it ran out of money.  In fact a short a short extension was also passed in case a few more days were needed to pass the bill.

 

Keep in mind that according to the Constitution only the House of Representatives can initiate a money bill since initially they were the only group directly elected by the People, the Senate was originally elected by the State Legislatures. The Founders felt that taxes should be authorized by the direct Representatives of the People so that the People are, in a sense, taxing themselves.

 

Also note that there are no rules about what a bill is supposed to contain.  It can deal with one subject or any number of subjects.  This finance bill dealt with innumerable subjects, most of which had nothing to do with financing the government.

 

Because of the catastrophe caused by a government shutdown President Obama urged the Democratic controlled Senate to pass the bill even though it had numerous amendments that were harmful to individuals or groups within the country.

 

One of these amendments cancelled parts of the Dodd- Frank Act that had been passed in 2010 as a reform measure after the 2008 Bank-caused Real Estate Collapse, to avoid such occurrences in the future and to keep banks from exploiting their depositors and the taxpayers.  Presumably the lobbyists for Citibank wrote the measure and it was secretly inserted the night before the bill came up for a vote in the House of Representatives.  The insertion rolls back regulations that limit banks from using federal deposit insurance to cover high-risk financial investments.  There had been no notice given or debate on this Amendment.  Nancy Pelosi, the minority leader in the House strongly opposed this insertion as did Senator Elizabeth Warren who called upon the Democratic majority in the Senate to oppose the entire bill if this Amendment was left in.

 

Another interesting Amendment was trading land with an Indian tribe.  A sacred mountain containing a burial ground was to be traded for another piece of land.  The sacred mountain was wanted by a company for a copper mine.

 

Another last minute Amendment dealt with campaign finance, it was extended for individuals. It went from contributions of $32,400 to $324,000.  Republicans got a 60 million dollar cut at the EPA (Environment Protection Agency) reducing their workforce to the level they had been at in 1989.

 

Not all Republicans in the House supported the bill. Many of the Tea Party members wanted to defund President Obama’s immigration executive order.  This issue was left out of the House bill.

 

In both the House and Senate the bill required the votes of both Democrats and Republicans to pass.  In the House 162 Republicans and 57 Democrats voted for the bill.  139 Democrats and 67 Republicans were against the spending bill.  In the Senate there were 31 Democrats, 24 Republicans, and 1 Independent who voted for the bill and 21 Democrats, 18 Republicans, and 1 Independent who were against it.  In both Houses of Congress it required the votes of both major political parties in order to pass.

 

Interestingly the far right and the far left both opposed this bill, both for different reasons.  On the far right, Ted Cruz wanted a section added that would limit or eradicate President Obama’s executive order dealing with illegal immigrants whose children had been born in the United States.  And on the far left, the Congressmen wanted to remove many of the giveaways that had nothing to do with the spending bill.

 

Cruz, in a procedural vote extended the Senatorial Session into the weekend.  He did not get his Amendment to the bill passed.  Harry Reed, the majority leader in the Senate, used the additional time to get a large number of Obama appointees approved beginning with the Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek Murthy, who had been opposed by the NRA because he had suggested earlier that guns were a disease since they killed a large number of people.  By the end of the session, Tuesday, December 15th, the Senate had approved a total of 69 controversial presidential appointments.

 

The Senate passed the Spending Bill on Saturday and President Obama quietly signed it on Tuesday.  Congress adjourned around midnight of Tuesday, December 16th and the new Congress, which would have Republican majorities in both Houses, met in January of the next year, after the holidays.

 

It is interesting to note that all that is required for the government to keep functioning is a one sentence bill that states that the Federal Government shall be properly funded for the fiscal year.  The 1,603 page bill detailing all the expenditures over the fiscal year was ridiculous.  In this bill every item that was to be funded had to be mentioned in detail.  For example: Vice President, Joe Biden’s and other top officials in the government’s salaries were frozen.  There was no automatic raise for them that was put into law several years earlier but the members of Congress  got their cost of living raise, raising their pay to over $140,000 each.

 

What happened originally was that several years earlier Congress had voted itself a raise.  The press got hold of the news and published it.  People were indignant over Congress giving itself an increase in salary when everyone else was hurting financially.  There was a protest and the increase was rescinded.  Thereafter Congress quietly passed a law making pay increases for Congress and government officials automatic.  From then on there was no protest or even public knowledge that this was occurring.  In 2014 Congress has voted through its 1,603 page bill not to freeze its own salary but to do so to the Vice President and other high government officials in the Administration.  How petty could they get?

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In December of 2015 the Federal Government funding situation was far different from what it had been a year earlier.  For one thing there was a major Presidential Election coming up in a little less than a year.  A government shutdown at this point could have dire consequences for the Republicans in the election if they were blamed for it.  Also the people had had enough of the shenanigans that the Republican House of Representatives had pulled since 2011 when they took control of the House of Representatives.  The President and the Democrats in both Houses of Congress were not about to go along with what the Republicans had pulled the preceding year. And they would need Congressional Democratic votes to pass any spending bill in both Houses of Congress.

 

The 2015 omnibus bill, 2,200 pages long, incorporated legislation from twelve subcommittees and was the work of nearly a year.  There had been months of negotiations between the two major parties.  The bill passed in the House with 316 positive votes to 113 negative ones.  150 Republicans supported the measure and 95 opposed it.  50 members did not vote.  Among the Democrats, 166 voted for the legislation, 18 voted against it.

 

On both extremes there were Congressmen who thought the bill did not go far enough or that it went too far in the wrong direction.  Many conservatives felt it overspent, didn’t go far enough blocking abortions and Syrian refugees from coming to the U.S.  Liberals felt that the bill did nothing to address the debt crisis in Puerto Rico, did not positively enough effect environmental concerns, and that it lifted a 40 year ban on exporting domestic oil export.

 

The bill funds the United States Government through September of 2016, nine months.  The probability is that another bill will be easily passed at that time to fund the government at least until the end of 2016.  The country will be too close to the 2016 Presidential Election for any games to be tried at that time.

 

But if a Democrat wins the 2016 Presidential Election and the Republicans retain control of the House of Representatives, the December 2016 Government Financing Bill should prove very interesting.  Who the next President will be will not be known until the November 2016 Presidential Election is over.

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This omnibus bill will be noted for what it left out, rather than for what it included.  There is no mention of Planned Parenthood or of the Syrian refugee crisis; nor of numerous other things that were important to both political parties.  Speaker Ryan promised the Democrats that the House would deal with the Puerto Rico Debt Crisis in March; that brought a number of Democrats into line to support the bill.  Ryan also spread-out the decision making process so that many members of Congress felt that they owned parts of the bill.

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Nancy Pelosi, the minority leader, was asked why the Democrats hadn’t pushed harder.  Her answer was, “I don’t think they would have passed it.”  The implications are that both the Democrats and the Republicans had each gone as far as they could in working out this compromise piece of legislation.  As a result of the negotiations neither side could claim victory or defeat.  Both had squeezed the other side as hard as they could.  President Obama praised the Republicans for doing what Congress has done so well in the past, compromising to the point of hammering out a bill both sides could live with.

 

The Democrats considered the permanent reauthorization of the 9/11 Health legislation a major win.  As a result of the 9/11 destruction of the Twin Towers in New York City a large number of the rescuers had breathed in toxic dust and, those who had not since died from resulting cancer and other maladies, still had expensive medical needs.  Reauthorizing this medical coverage would help a large number of people.  Lifting the 40 year ban on oil drilled in the U.S. being sold outside it continental borders was called by Ryan a big win.  Republicans also were able to block proposed bans on weapon purchases by people on federal terrorist lists and also federally funded research on gun violence.

 

Perhaps the most important thing that the bill did was to do away with the automatic Sequester cuts for 2015.  These cuts, which would have automatically gone into effect early in 2016, would have seriously hurt government efficiency for both defense and non-defense programs, across the board.  The military budget was actually increased above what it had been the prior year.  And this was also true for a number of other programs.  The White House was touting tax breaks for the wind and solar programs.  In all there were $680 billion in tax cuts for both businesses and individuals.  But sequestration is still there and will automatically come into being at the end of 2016 unless new legislation is passed then to stop or end it.

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Does this legislation denote a new feeling of friendliness between the two political parties?  I think not.  What it demonstrates is a wide division between both Democrats and Republicans.  It took nearly a year to come up with this 2,200 page detailed bill and make it acceptable to both political parties.  Neither party was strong enough to push any of this legislation through on its own; it required a joint effort to pass it.

 

If anything it denotes the great distance between our political parties.  Speaker Ryan has recently commented that the House will soon take up defunding Obamacare. That will mean that this bill will have been passed over 50 times without once being taken up in the Senate.  Considering that the House will officially only meet for 110 days in 2016 that is spending a lot of time upon a bill that will go nowhere.  Ryan stated that, outside of the increasing number of people signing up for the service, the bill is a failure.  Interestingly outside of his statement he offered no evidence other than his word.

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The December 11th deadline for this bill to pass was extended one week to Friday, December 18.  Directly after the bill was passed in the House of Representatives it was sent to the Senate where it was passed.  From there it was sent to the President, who signed it with positive remarks for the compromise legislation.  Obviously the Government shutdown was avoided.

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It should be noted that on Wednesday, December 6th the    House of Representatives, under Speaker Paul Ryan’s leadership, passed a bill for the 62d time defunding Obamacare and stripping Planned Parenthood of Federal Funding.  The bill was passed in the Senate last year through a special provision that avoided a filibuster in the Senate and was sent to the President for the first time.  On Friday, December 8, two days later, it was vetoed by the President, who stated that the Affordable Health Care Act had helped millions of Americans who couldn’t otherwise afford Health Care.  Republicans do not have the votes to override the veto.  Still they claimed victory, claiming that they had passed a repeal bill and that they are keeping a promise to voters in an election year.  They stated that they are capable of repealing the law if a Republican wins in the November election.  I wonder if that’s true if Donald Trump were to become the next president.

 

Of course they would still have to keep control of both Houses of Congress.  2016 promises to be a colorful year in Congress.  We may go beyond gridlock.  This should be particularly true with the House working a three day week and taking a four day weekend and all holidays.

Official photographic portrait of US President...

Official photographic portrait of US President Barack Obama (born 4 August 1961; assumed office 20 January 2009) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Weiner Component #135 – The Republicans & the First Primary Debate

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)

Recently the first Primary Republican Debate of the ten leading Republican potential candidates in the upcoming 2016 Presidential Election ended.

 

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

It was supposed to consist of the ten most popular Republican candidates out of the 17 attempting to run for the presidency.  The top ten were chosen based upon the last five national poles.  But the fifth pole tied the percentage of the 10th and 11th candidates, making the number chosen eleven.  Consequently Fox News, who ran the debate, skipped the 5th pole and used a 6th pole that did not have a tie in the last place and ended up with ten potential candidates.

 

Fox News, the official new arm of the Republican Party, devised the format of the debate that was not really a debate.  It consisted of questions addressed to specifically candidates.  And these questions were not always friendly, particularly many of those aimed at Donald Trump who was the most popular of all the candidates.

 

Probably because of intense outside pressure, Fox held a separate session for the losing or less popular seven candidates earlier in the day.  They treated them obliquely with contempt, using a large empty stadium and calling them by their first names as the Fox commentators asked them questions.  It was going along with popular pressure in a put-down fashion.

 

It should also be noted that Fox News sold the candidates a lot of advertising space for the candidates to make themselves popular among national Republicans.  Because Republicans watch Fox News nationally this was the only way the candidates could sell themselves to the general Republican public.  Fox devised the method and certainly profited from it.  Interestingly the one exception here was Donald Trump.  He apparently was known to everybody and needed no additional publicity.

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The main event in the evening, which was probably watched by more people than any other broadcast in the history of television was hardly a debate.  It featured three of Fox’s leading commentators asking specific questions and quickly moving on to another participant with another question.  All the speakers seemed well prepared and their answers, even though generally dealing with the topic of the question, did not really answer it.  There was only one  instance of a follow-up question and the answer given still did not reply to that specific question.

 

The leading Republican candidate for the presidency in terms of being the most popular among Republicans was Donald Trump.  I suspect the overall assumption among the millions of TV watchers was that he would blow his cool at some point and verbally erupt at someone or something.    The closest he came to that was with one of the Fox commentators, Megan Kelly, when she asked him about some of the negative statements he has made about woman.

 

The candidates attempted to define themselves and denounce President Obama and the Democratic Party.  President Obama was denounced as a week and failed president who essentially did everything wrong and bowed to the Iranians in giving them everything they wanted in order to become the leader of terrorism around the world, giving Iran the money to finance this process and allowing them to develop in order to become an atomic bomb nation.  And all these positive statements were made, I got the impression, without even bothering to read a draft of the 100 plus page agreement.  Most of these candidates practically or directly guaranteed we would go to war with Iran if one of them was elected.

 

It seemed as though the forthcoming election was all about them, the individual Republican candidates, and not about the disaster they could bring about if elected.  Most practically stated that they would straighten out all the world’s problems.  Their implied method was that they would do this by the use of military force if necessary.  They seemed to also not know that the United States is one of six nations that negotiated the treaty with Iran over a two year period, that if the U.S. rejects the agreement it will likely be the only one of the six nations on the United Nations Security Council to do so.

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Basically what was heard in the debate was demagoguery.  They, the Republicans, have taken no responsibility for any of their past actions and blame everything on President Obama and the Democrats.  My response to all this is: Get real!

 

Mostly by implication and sometimes directly, the ten hopeful Republican candidates for the 2016 Presidential Race blamed President Obama for virtually everything wrong in the society today..  It was as though the Republicans have done nothing to bring about the problems or conditions that exist today.  They would do away with Affordable Health Care (Obamacare) and the Dodd-Frank banking reforms that came about after the 2008 economic crash, or anything else.  I suspect if the weather was inclement it would have been Obama’s fault.

 

The Dodd-Frank Banking Reform Law was a washed down version (Washed down because of intense bank lobbying.) of what a finance committee, headed by Paul Volker, a former Federal Reserve Chairman, had proposed in order to do away with the causes that had brought about the economic disaster of 2008 which could have sent the nation into a depression far deeper than the Great Depression of 1929.  Today many banking executives feel economically inhibited by some of the few things they can no longer legally do and would like a totally free hand again.

 

While most of the participants in the so-called debate stated that they would do away with the Affordable Health Car Law, which incidentally has greatly reduced the rate of medical costs by slowing down the rate of medical cost increases, only one of them, Donald Trump, seemed to have a plan for its replacement.  He would, he said, make the insurance companies for its plan members function on a national instead of state level and for those who could not afford to buy insurance he implied obliquely that he would have the government provide a single payer plan for them.  Would he be able to do this if elected?  An interesting question.  Especially if Congress retained its Republican majorities in both Houses.

 

Of the faults of Obama as a failed president, one by implication was the National Debt.  After all aren’t the Republicans the party that espouses a balanced budget?

 

Since 1980, when Ronald Reagan was elected to the presidency, the Republicans controlled the presidency for 20 years and the Democrats for 15.  The country had Reagan for 8 years, Daddy Bush for 4 years, and Bush Jr. for 8 years.  The two Democratic presidents were Clinton and Obama, each for 8 years.

 

Reagan started with a National Debt of $1 trillion and raised it to $2.8 trillion, almost tripling it.  Ever since President John F. Kennedy had lowered taxes during his administration and the government had then collected far more in revenue than it had before the decrease in taxes other presidents had unsuccessfully attempted to do the same thing.  Reagan cut taxes, especially for the well-to-do and upped government spending, particularly military spending.  He believed, wrongly, that the Soviet Union was far ahead of us militarily and that we had to catch up and get ahead.  He introduced the concept of “star wars” and other science fiction type concepts which our scientists were supposed to develop.

 

What President Reagan inadvertently did was to force the U.S.S.R. to militarily keep up with the United States and that brought them to the edge of bankruptcy and to the fall of the Soviet Union.

 

But what Reagan did for the United States was to almost triple the National Debt to $2.8 trillion.   George H.W. Bush with his inept diplomacy actually encouraged Iraq’s Saddam Hussein to invade Kuwait and then he organized operation Desert Storm to liberate them.  This and his other actions cost the U.S. Government an additional $1.55 trillion.  Bush Jr. by engaging in two military operations (wars), one totally unnecessary, added another $6.1 trillion to the National Debt bringing it to $11.8 trillion.  And at the same time President George W. Bush also lowered taxes, particularly for the rich.  In fact today anyone earning over $400,000 a year pays no taxes on any amount over $400,000.  Welfare for the very well-to-do.

 

What has happened is that taxes for the upper 1% has been gradually cut in half or more and the ever increasing deficit has been used to force cuts in services for the middle class and the poor while the middle class with gradual inflation has found its income tax bill increasing.  Currently the Sequester, a law that automatically makes cuts across the board yearly unless Congress passes a bill stopping a part of it like certain cuts to the military for that year is enacted, is slowly decreasing funding for most programs including the military that is now at the lowest point of readiness than it has been for many years.  So far these cuts, which the Republicans insist on having, have been largely invisible.  At some time, probably around the end of this current year or at the most next year, many of them will become blatantly visible and the blame game will begin between the two political parties, with the Republicans, who have brought it about, screaming the loudest.

 

Under President Bill Clinton the deficit actually decreased slightly.  President Barak Obama inherited a heavy recession from Bush Jr. and had to spend quite a bit to avert a greater economic decline than the Great Depression. Among other things he bailed out the banks, who by their irresponsible behavior had brought this negative economic condition about, and the auto industry.  And, with phenomenal negative interference from 2011 on by the Republican majority in the House of Representatives, President Obama has brought the economy back from the Republican induced total disaster.  In this process he has increased the deficit but he may end his last year in office with a surplus paying down a small percentage of the Republican induced debt.

 

Taken together the three Republican presidents over their 20 year tenure raised the National Debt 13.5 trillion dollars and left the nation on the edge of a greater depression than that of 1929 which persisted for over ten years.  Electing a Republican president will probably mean another war in the Middle East with Iran.  That will make three separate wars being fought there and the national deficit will shoot up even more.

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In the various questions and answers discussed during the debate, with one exception, the economy was not mentioned.  Jed Bush stated that he can achieve 4% economic growth over his 8 year tenure as President and create 19 million new jobs.  He would do this by simplifying the tax code, repealing the 2010 Health Care Law, reducing regulations on the oil and gas industries and putting people in the country illegally on the legal jobs tax rolls.  While Climate change was not mentioned Jed Bush’s proposal would worsen the conditions that bring it about.  Student loan debt and affordable college were also not mentioned.  Gun violence in the United States was also ignored.

 

In terms of the War on Women, Scott Walker was against all abortions: rape, incest, and even where birth could terminate the life of the mother.  He felt that the medical profession, in every case, could save her life.  Mike Huckabee wants a Constitutional Amendment giving the fetus full protection before the law from conception on.  Apparently the question of choice for women is nonexistent.  Marco Rubio wants no exceptions for abortions in cases of rape or incest.  These men know absolutely what is right for all women; but they will not have the government share in the responsibility for raising or providing for any of these women or children.

 

The solution to illegal immigration was Donald Trump’s plan to build a wall between Mexico and the United States and have Mexico pay for it.  Apparently he doesn’t understand that a goodly percent of illegals come from all over the world including Canada.  Technically he would need fences on all areas where the United States borders on another country as well as a careful check upon all visitors to the country and how long they are legally allowed to stay in the U.S.

 

Among the ten candidates none stood out as a dynamic leader.  If anything some of their comments tended to insult a large part of their audience.  Donald Trump kept rationalizing about the disadvantages of being “politically correct,” as if it were some sort of disease.  He justified his verbal abuse of women by naming one.

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As I’ve stated, what was most significant was what was not mentioned, global warming was one example.  Bush, if he were to become president, could do away with the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency).  That could create jobs because adding the additional pollution to the United States and the world would probably create a multitude of new jobs.

 

What came to my mind as I watched the performance was the phrase “Myth & Reality?”  These people were prefabricating and defining conditions that did not exist.  They were creating a situation where verbally everyone would live “live happily ever after” if one of them were elected to the presidency.  Well some people just like them had been elected to the presidency in the past and many people, both Americans and those we were fighting, died or were maimed for life and the National Debt rose like a hot-air balloon.  What we must remember is that they are pandering to the extreme right of the Republican Party in order to be chosen as the Republican candidate in the primary elections.  Whoever gets chosen will still have to defeat the Democratic candidate in the general election.  Are they purposely lying or stating nonsense?  Or do they actually believe the myths they are espousing?  That’s an interesting question.

 

In any case what is needed is reality.  If that so-called debate is the best they can do then it becomes everyone’s duty to vote against all or any of those self-important candidates, particularly if they want to see their version of changes within our society.

 

 

The 1.1Trillion Dollar Spending Bill

On Thursday, 12/11/14 the House of Representatives passed, what was essentially but not completely a 1,603 page bipartisan 1.1 trillion dollar spending bill that will allows the Federal Government to continue to function until September 30, 2015, the end of the fiscal year. The bill adheres to strict caps negotiated earlier between the White House and the deficit-conscious Republicans. It is also salted through with GOP proposals which are actually Christmas giveaways to individuals and companies and have nothing to do with the spending budget. The bill should have been passed months earlier but it was convenient for the GOP to keep it hanging as a potential form of blackmail against President Barak Obama until the last possible moment when it had to be passed or its absence would cause a government shutdown.

When Ronald Reagan was governor of California he had a line-item veto over all bills passed by the State Legislature. He could veto any section or group of sections that he thought was or were inappropriate and sign the document for the rest of the bill to become law.  But as President of the United States he could either sign a bill, veto it, or do nothing for ten days and allow it to become law. Reagan was not too happy with this limitation but he had to accept it. It would require an amendment to the Constitution to change this practice.

Not only does every bill have to be passed by both the House and Senate but both versions have to be identical. If a word or punctuation is different, then the two versions are not the same. Actually what happens is that the bill goes to a Committee of Congressmen dealing with that particular subject, they discuss the bill, usually modify it, and then send it to the legislative to which they belong with their recommendations. If it is passed then that version goes to the other legislative body, where it follows the same procedure. In practically all cases the two versions are at least slightly different. At that point the bill goes to a Conference Committee made up of members of the two Houses where a final version is then hammered out. This goes back to both Houses of Congress and it then has to be voted upon and repasses by the two Houses. If the bill passes it then goes to the President. After he signs it the bill becomes law. This process generally takes a number of days.

The 1.1 Trillion Dollar Spending Bill was passed by the House of Representatives on Thursday, December 11. The Congress was slated to end its session on Friday, December 12th. This meant that the bill had to be accepted exactly as it was if the government was not to shut down the following week when it ran out of money. In fact a short a short extension was also passed in case a few more days were needed to pass the bill.

Keep in mind that according to the Constitution only the House of Representatives can initiate a money bill since initially they were the only group directly elected by the People. The Founders felt that taxes should be authorized by the direct representatives of the People so that the People are, in a sense, taxing themselves.

Also note that there are no rules about what a bill is supposed to contain. It can deal with one subject or any number of subjects. This finance bill dealt with innumerable subjects, many of which had nothing to do with financing the government.

Because of the catastrophe caused by a government shutdown President Obama urged the Senate to pass the bill even though it had numerous amendments that were harmful to individuals or groups within the country.

One of these amendments cancelled a section of the Dodd Frank Act that had been passed in 2010 as a reform measure after the 2008 Bank-Real Estate Collapse to avoid such occurrences in the future and to keep banks from exploiting their depositors and the taxpayers. Presumably the lobbyists for Citibank wrote the measure and it was secretly inserted the night before the bill came up for a vote in the House of Representatives. The insertion rolls back regulations that limit banks from using federal deposit insurance to cover high-risk financial investments. There had been no notice given or debate on this Amendment. Nancy Pelosi, the minority leader in the House, strongly opposed this insertion as did Senator Elizabeth Warren who called upon the Democratic majority in the Senate to oppose the entire bill if this Amendment was left in.

Another interesting Amendment was trading land with an Indian tribe. A sacred mountain containing a burial ground was to be traded for another piece of land. The sacred mountain was wanted by a company for a copper mine.

Another last minute Amendment dealt with campaign finance, it was extended for individuals. It went from $32,400 to $324,000. Republicans got a 60 million dollar cut at the EPA (Environment Protection Agency) reducing their workforce to the level they had been at in 1989.

Not all Republicans in the House supported the bill. Many of the Tea Party wanted to defund President Obama’s immigration executive order. This issue was left out of the House bill.

In both the House and Senate the bill required the votes of both Democrats and Republicans to pass. In the House 162 Republicans and 57 Democrats voted for the bill. 139 Democrats and 67 Republicans were against the spending bill. In the Senate there were 31 Democrats, 24 Republicans, and 1 Independent who voted for the bill and 21 Democrats, 18 Republicans, and 1 Independent who were against it. In both Houses of Congress it required the votes of both major political parties in order to pass.

Interestingly the far right and the far left both opposed this bill, both for different reasons. On the far right, Ted Cruz wanted a section added that would limit or eradicate President Obama’s executive order dealing with illegal immigrants whose children had been born in the United States. And on the far left, the Congressmen wanted to remove many of the giveaways that had nothing to do with the spending bill. Cruz, in a procedural vote extended the Senatorial Session into the weekend. He did not get his Amendment to the bill passed. Harry Reed, the majority leader in the Senate, used the additional time to get a large number of Obama appointees approved beginning with the Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek Murthy, who had been opposed by the NRA because he had suggested earlier that guns were a disease since they killed a large number of people. By the end of the session, Tuesday, December 15th, the Senate had approved a total of 69 controversial presidential appointments.

The Senate passed the Spending Bill on Saturday and President Obama quietly signed it on Tuesday. Congress adjourned around midnight of Tuesday, December 16th and the new Congress, which will have Republican majorities in both Houses, will meet in January of next year, after the holidays.

It is interesting to note that all that is required for the government to keep functioning is a one sentence bill that states that the Federal Government shall be properly funded for the fiscal year. The 1,603 page bill detailing all the expenditures over the fiscal year is ridiculous. In this bill every item that is to be funded has to be mentioned in detail. For example: Vice President, Joe Biden’s and other top officials in the government’s salaries are frozen. There is no automatic raise for them that was put into law several years earlier but the members of Congress will get their cost of living raise, raising the pay to over $140,000 each.

What happened originally was that several years ago Congress voted itself a raise. The press got hold of the news and published it. People were indignant over Congress giving itself an increase in salary when everyone else was hurting financially. There was a protest and the increase was rescinded. Thereafter Congress passed a law making pay increases for Congress and government officials automatic. From then on there was no protest or even public knowledge that this was occurring. In 2014 Congress has voted through its 1603 page bill not to freeze its own salary but to do so to the Vice President and other high government officials in the Administration. How petty can they get?

Further the bill once again bans funding for abortions. It doesn’t provide any new funding for the health-care law and maintains the current levels for Medicare. The Department of Homeland Security is cut by 336 million dollars in funding. There is an additional 85.2 billion dollars for military operations in Afghanistan, a 2 billion dollar cut from 2013 due to ongoing troop reductions. The bill includes 10.8 billion dollars for Customs and Border Protection. 6.55 billion dollars are set aside for disaster funding. There is 224 million less for embassy security, maintenance and construction than was spent in 2013. The Democrats successfully blocked attempts to limit the EPA, but its budget was somewhat cut. The bill bans the Obama Administration from transferring detainees from the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba to facilities within the United States. There are several issues regarding weapon control. The bill prohibits any funding that requires that federal contractors disclose campaign contributions. There is a boost for Head start and preschool programs. The bill contains 2.8 billion dollars for detention programs operated by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The bill bars funding to enforce new light bulb standards for lower wattage usage. Military and civilian government employees pay is increased by one percent. They agreed to restore a cut in the cost-of-living adjustments to the pensions of disabled working-aged veterans. The bill bars postal officials from ending Saturday mail deliveries. It provides 157 million dollars for the Pentagon’s sexual assault prevention programs. There is 5.3 billion dollars for weather reporting. 5.6 billion dollars is provided for school lunches for about 32.1 million eligible schoolchildren.

This is just the flavor of what the bill contains; there is, of course, much more in 1,603 pages.

With his family by his side, Barack Obama is s...

With his family by his side, Barack Obama is sworn in as the 44th president of the United States by Chief Justice of the United States John G. Roberts, Jr. in Washington, D.C., Jan. 20, 2009. More than 5,000 men and women in uniform are providing military ceremonial support to the presidential inauguration, a tradition dating back to George Washington’s 1789 inauguration. VIRIN: 090120-F-3961R-919 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Weiner Component #82 – The Non-Intellectual Far Right Republicans

President George Bush introduces the Joint Res...

President George Bush introduces the Joint Resolution to Authorize the Use of United States Armed Forces Against Iraq, October 2, 2002. The resolution was passed by both houses of Congress and signed into law two weeks later. White House photo by Paul Morse. Image obtained from http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2002/10/images/20021002-7_d-iraq10022002-th-1-515h.html. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Michelle Bachmann and several other non-intellectual far right Republicans recently stated that the attack upon the American Embassy at Benghazi two years ago was God’s punishment on the United States for not properly acting in international affairs. I wonder if this will be the finding of the new Republican sponsored committee that is going to again investigate the attack upon Benghazi for the fourth time.

I understand that anyone can speak to God; it’s called praying. But I didn’t know that God was a “Tea Party” type Republican; and that he would verbally respond to special members of the Republican far-right; or that He would directly punish this nation by arbitrarily allowing ambassadors to be killed.

It is also interesting to see when God directly responds not only does he talk to Bachmann and other members of the far right he also talks to other Republicans like George Bush Jr. According to what ex-President Bush told us in a public speech his “Higher Father” told him to attack Iraq in order to take out the “weapons of mass destruction” that President Saddam Hussein was hiding in that country.

George W. Bush actually was the second United States president to whom God had spoken. The first was William McKinley, who in December 10, 1898, as a result of the Spanish American War which the U.S. won.  In the Peace Treaty with Spain the United States paid them twenty million dollars for the entire Philippine Islands. The only area we had directly conquered was Manila but we wanted to colonize all the islands so we paid for them. It took an additional number of years of fighting to pacify the Philippines; and that was for a relatively short period of time. The Philippines gained full independence directly after World War II.

Why are the Republicans investigating the attack and murder of four Americans for the fourth time two years after the incident at Benghazi? Can it be because there’s a midterm election coming up in November of 2014 and they need an issue on which to go after the Democrats? Their attempt to go after them and get rid of Affordable Health Care (Obamacare) seems to have died as an issue, particularly with over 8 million citizens enrolling. Also could this be an attempt to discredit Hillary Clinton, who was Secretary of State at the time and may well be running for president in 2016. Or could it be an attempt to raise money for the oncoming elections. Could it be a combinations of these causes?

Benghazi has been investigated front wise, side wise, and diagonally. There has been no new information. Is this a political game they’re playing because they have nothing else and feel they have to go after the Democrats?

This whole issue strikes me as innocuous. We have a number of issues in the recent past that should have been investigated but were ignored. Could it be that the political party in power was the one who committed these illegal acts?

The Iran Contra Scandal toward the end of the Reagan Administration could have sent the ex-president and his entire cabinet, including his vice president, George W. H. Bush, to jail for blatantly breaking the law by illegally selling arms to terrorists in Iran in order to raise money for American-backed terrorists trying to take over Nicaragua, a country that the President did not like, but with which we were not at war.

Still under President Reagan we also mined Nicaragua’s major harbor and bombed Libya, another country we were not happy with but also not at war with.
The first George Bush got the U.S. involved in a war with Iraq in order to rescue Kuwait from an Iraqi invasion. The second George Bush got the country into two wars, one in Iraq and one in Afghanistan over the destruction of the Twin Towers in New York City. In addition while fighting these he lowered income taxes for the people of the United States and vastly raised the national debt.

After the Real Estate Debacle toward the end of 2008, the last year George W, Bush was in office the country faced a depression greater than that of 1929. President Barak Obama was able to avoid it despite the continued efforts of the Republicans to bring it about. From 2011 on, when they gained control of the House of Representatives.  The

Republicans have continually worked to shrink the economy and bring about a major depression. This was avoided by the Federal Reserve and their creative policies, which countered the actions of the Republicans in Congress.

This country has major problems. We still have 6 plus percent unemployment; there is an immigration problem with the illegals present in the United States. The infrastructure throughout the nation is old, outdated, and faulty. A good percentage of the bridges are over fifty years old; some may not be far from collapsing; one has already drop

George W. Bush

Cover of George W. Bush

ped cars into the river. The power grid is inadequate in terms of any emergency.

What is the Republican House of Representatives spending its time doing? Investigating Benghazi for the fourth or fifth time. Trying to blame President Obama and Hillary Clinton for an act by a crazy terrorist group.

It should be noted that it was the Republicans in both the House and Senate, in order to save money that had earlier reduced the budget for guard duty at all the embassies. Would this action have made difference? That’s unknown. We may be lucky there was only one such incident at an embassy on foreign soil.

They make lots of crazy sense. The country is bleeding and the Republicans are playing political games, trying to collect money and earn points for their side. Do they care about the nation or are they interested in just gaining political control of it?

Why do we have these idiot and irresponsible statements from these idiot people? The country needs sane and purposeful legislation.

 

The Weiner Component #17 – Medicare, Social Security, & the National Debt

Benefit Security Card .. HALF of the U.S live ...

Initially, when Medicare first came into existence in 1965, during the Administration of President Lyndon Baines Johnson, it was part of Social Security.  During the early part of his first Administration President Ronald Reagan fixed Social Security by raising the rates paid by both the employees and employers.  Social Security did not have a problem funding the people it covered at the time but it was felt that this change would allow the system to operate well into the future.  The new funding completely covered both Social Security and Medicare.

In 1988, the last year of the Second Reagan Administration, Medicare was separated from Social Security; and thereafter funded separately.  Social Security continued to be funded at its current rate: 4.2% of incomes up to $110,100 paid by the workers with 6.2% contributed by the employer.  The self-employed pay 10.4% of their incomes.  No adjustment was made to lower the funding now that Medicare was a separately funded entity.  Medicare was funded independently by a 2.9% payroll tax, both workers and employers each paying 1.45%.  Taken together each employee pays, directly or indirectly, 13.3% of their incomes.

Question: When the Republican Congressmen talk about fixing Social Security are they talking about reducing its rates to bring it in line with the amount it pays out or are they talking about taking the excess funds such as the 2 ½ plus trillion dollars that the government has borrowed from social Security and put into the National Debt; or are they considering reducing the payments to the recipients of Social Security and keeping the excess still being paid into it?

In point of fact, Social Security has nothing to do with the National Debt except that part which is owed to it.  One reasonable way to fix Medicare today would be to reduce Social Security by one or more percent and increase the payment to Medicare by that same amount.  Any other argument at this time is based in ignorance of the actual situation.  Are the members of Congress who are proposing these changes being devious and dishonest or are they just ignorant of the actual situation?  If the answer is ignorance then they and their staffs, which cost the taxpayer well over a million dollars a year, are ill equipped to serve as Representatives of the American people, if they are being devious and dishonest then they do not belong in Congress but rather should be incarcerated.

The National Debt is another interesting subject.  Is it real?  If not what is it?  The Federal Government admits to holding 40% of the National debt.  By my reckoning the figure is more like 70%. The Chairman of the Federal Reserve recently announced that the Fed is buying 400 billion dollars worth of real estate paper a month and 450 billion dollars worth of bonds each similar period..

Can an entity owe itself money?  The answer legally is No.  It can be argued that agencies within the government and the Federal Reserve hold most of the debt and that it will someday have to be paid back.  But isn’t all that that sophistry?

Obviously there is a National Debt, but it is far less than what it is officially stated as being.  If we deduct the percentage of the National Debt that the Federal Government holds through it agencies and otherwise the actual Debt is less than 5 trillion dollars.  That is far more manageable than $16 trillion.  Of course that is by my calculation and includes all the Monetary Policy applied during the Obama Administration.  If we just take the 40% the Federal Government acknowledges it owns then the figure is slightly under $10 billion.

In either case what we have to keep in mind is that the Federal Government controls the flow of currency in the economy and that there is nothing behind the dollar except the National Debt.  Money as used by the Federal Government in Macroeconomics is a tool that is supposed to engender growth and health within the economy.

Up to this point the Federal Reserve has been utilizing Monetary Policy in both regular and imaginative ways to try to bring about recovery from the 2008 Real Estate Debacle.  It has been successful in helping to turn the economy around and bring about partial recovery.  In order to bring about total economic recovery all that has to be done is to apply Fiscal Policy by both Houses of Congress and the President.  This would increase the so-called National Debt but it would generate a large volume of new productivity and new wealth, and, in all probability, lower the Debt in a short period of time.

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The Weiner Component #12 – Money Makes The World Go Round

money

In the Broadway musical “Cabaret” there is a song that the Master of Ceremonies sings called, “Money Makes The World Go Round.”  The musical number emphasizes the importance of money in pre-Nazi Germany.  Did it really?  Is this concept true?

When World War Two broke out in 1939 the European nations at first paid for their purchases from the United States in paper currency, then in gold bullion.  After the Allied nations had run out of money the Roosevelt Administration came up with the idea of “Lend Lease,” which actually was a way of freely supplying these nations with war materials.  Where did the U.S. get the money to pay for these goods and services?  They printed it.  The effect was to get the country out of the last dregs of the Great Depression and help stop the Nazi advance.  After December 1941 the U.S. became directly involved in W.W.II and “Lend Lease” continued.  We became the “Arsenal of Democracy,” supplying the needs of all the nations fighting Germany, Japan, and Italy.  How did the U.S. pay for this?  Simple.  They printed the money.

Did the European and Asian nations we helped ever pay us back for the value of the goods they had gotten from us in the war?  The answer, of course, is not in money but in helping to defeat the Axis Powers.

What was the result of W.W.II?  The U.S. and all the nations involved emerged after the war as more prosperous than they had been before the fighting.

Could the war have been avoided?  The answer is, yes; if the nations involved had been able to accept the reality of the money supply.

From 1933 on, first the United States and then gradually the rest of the industrial nations took gold out of their money while maintaining the fiction that there was a gold supply behind the dollar, pound, lira, or whatever.  In 1933, the Roosevelt Administration collected all the gold coins from its citizens.  This had been the money supply up to that point; they melted it down into large blocks and buried it in places like Fort Knox.  Gold certificates were issued which, supposedly, maintained the value of the money.  This was a fiction.  There was no way anyone could get gold for his money.  We were, on a practical basis, off the gold standard.  The United States doubled its money supply by raising the value of gold from $16 dollars an ounce to $32 an ounce.  Among other things this paid for Roosevelt’s New Deal.  It helped lessen the ordeals of the Great Depression but did not end its effects in the U.S. where the money supply had dropped to less than one fifth of where it had been before the crash.  The effects of W.W.II brought the money supply well beyond where it had ever been before the Great Depression.  There had never been enough gold available to maintain that level of the money supply.  The Federal Government was then on a paper economy, with the paper being freely issued.

After W.W.II the government spent hundreds of millions of dollars on the GI Bill, sending a whole generation of veterans either to college or funding them in new business areas.  A few years later the Secretary of State came out with the European Recovery Act, The Marshall Plan, which helped war torn nations recover from the effects of W.W.II.  We spent 71/2 billion dollars on that.  It was a checkbook to these nations that allowed them to spend the money mostly in the United States buying the goods and materials they needed to recover from the war.  Where did all this money come from?  Obviously the government printed and issued it.

President Ronald Reagan, who believed that the Soviet Union was better armed than the United States and started a massive arms build-up in the U.S., which included, among many other things, his “Star Wars” program, where we would be able to shoot and explode oncoming missiles from outer space, raised the debt ceiling eleven times during his two administrations.  He even threatened to veto every bill coming out of Congress if they did not pass bills raising the debt limits.  Of course we can always congratulate Reagan on his adeptness in bankrupting the Soviet Union when they tried to keep up with us in the armaments race.

Again, where did all this money come from?  It simply came into existence when Congress passed its continual new debt ceilings, which were then signed by the president into law.

How did we pay for all these jumps in funding?  The economies grew and they just became part of the natural flow of money through the economy, the jumps in money were absorbed by the economic growth and rising standards of living within the society.  In essence we grew out of our debt and it became non-noticeable.

Toward the end of 2008 there was an economic implosion of the money supply in most of the industrial nations.  This began in the United States with the Real Estate Crash that threatened to totally decimate the money supply within the nation.  Virtually all the major banks were on the point of collapse.  If they had been allowed to crash then the money supply within the country would have been reduced to a slow dribble.  There would have been a resulting depression that would have made the one in 1929 look like a weekend disruption.  Unemployment would have probably dropped to at least fifty percent; every industry would have been affected; the amount of business failures would have been unimaginable.  The entire economy would have come to a halt.

Presidents Bush and later President Obama poured multibillions of dollars into the banks and the economy.  The depression was averted; the rapid falling rate of unemployment was gradually reversed and slowly rose from that point on.  It has remained high but is still slowly contracting.  Will the country eventually be able to create enough jobs to satisfy everyone who wants to work?  An interesting question!  Only the future will determine an answer to that question.

If we go back to the title of this article we can ask, does money make the world go round?  And obviously since it is the means of exchange the answer is, yes.

What does this mean?  In order to live in our sophisticated societies we must have a mean of exchange for the goods and services we need and desire.  And that is money.  It is in the form of a different currency for each individual nation.  It is printed on paper and has no real intrinsic value except that attributed to it by the government of each particular nation and what it can be traded for in other nations.

Gold and silver coins could be used as an international means of exchange; but they are both too expensive and there certainly are not enough of either metal to supply the exchange needs of all the nations on this planet.  Consequently every nation is stuck with paper currency, which has no real value except that assigned to it.

Money then is the tool that allows for all exchanges of goods and services.  It is issued in each nation by the government of that particular country.  The amount in immediate circulation is determined by various forces within each society, which in most cases do not really work together.  These are the central government, the financial institutions, people, companies, and institutions using credit.  In the United States it was the banks issuing credit based upon real estate until 2008 that allowed for a phenomenal expansion of the national money supply.

The point here is that it was “bank created valueless money” that allowed for industrial expansion in that nation for over thirty years.  Money is “the tail that waves the dog.”  The overall public sees it as being the true object of value.  Wealth, in reality is the goods and services produced; money allows them to be exchanged from producers to consumers.

In essence money does make the world go round.  Its shortage in a society causes recession, unemployment, and hard times for the bulk of the population.  The market for goods and services disappears because people cannot afford to buy what they need and want.  An excess of it in circulation brings about rapid inflation because not enough goods and services can be produced to equal the money supply.  Again intense human hardship will occur as prices soar and currency rapidly decreases in value.

What is the answer to these problems?  There has to be a more realistic distribution of the money supply and the government has to have much more control of the amount of money, at any one time, in circulation.

Another important factor to consider is that the amount of goods and services produced is dependent upon them being consumed, used.  Consumption of goods and services are as important as the production of those items.  In order to have and maintain full employment and full production people must have enough money to buy and consume those goods and services produced.

This can be engendered in either of two ways.

(1) An inordinately fair system of taxation that allows for a fair distribution of the national income without any privileged groups within the society.

(2) By developing both a negative income tax and an honest graduated income tax the Federal Government would set a minimum level of income for every man, woman, and child within the country.  If the person or family unit did not earn that amount then it would be supplied by the Federal Government.  Income taxes would begin at a reasonable level above that amount for everyone on a graduated level with the percentage of the tax rising as individual incomes rise.

This process would most fairly distribute the national income and allow for the highest level of productivity and consumption.  It would also benefit every segment of society by enlarging the Gross Domestic Product to its possible maximum for each fiscal year.  The upper one percent would earn, even with this system of taxation, greater profits than they are currently since the GDP would be considerably larger.  There would be no poverty or homelessness in the nation.  Everyone would have a better attitude toward themselves and everyone else.  The National Debt would shrink and eventually disappear.  Priorities could be aimed toward scientific research and clean energy.  Everyone would be secure and be able to make real choices for themselves.  That would be both real freedom and a decent minimum standard of living for everyone in the nation..

And best of all the Federal Government would control the money supply, which makes the world go round.  It could keep it going at a successful rate.

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