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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The Weiner Component #79 – A Letter to Elizabeth Warren

 

English: Elizabeth Warren speaking at March 29...

English: Elizabeth Warren speaking at March 29, 2010, at the Women in Finance symposium. Warren was part of a five-woman panel discussion. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On Tuesday, April 22, 2014, Senator Elizabeth Warren appeared on two television programs, the Rachel Maddow Show and with Jon Steward on Comedy Central. She was promoting her new book, A Fighting Chance, and in approximately fifteen minute interviews explained her position in the Senate and the meaning of her book, which, from what I understand, deals with the great financial burdens the Federal Government places upon those youngsters with their college loans, charging them extensive interest when they pay them off over goodly periods of time. She concentrated upon the unfairness of this.

(As a footnote it is interesting to remember that the reason the college loan interest rates are so high is because the Republican dominated House of Representatives refused pass a bill to lower them. Both the Democratic majority in the Senate and the President wanted to lower the rates.)

I sent the following letter to Senator Elizabeth Warren.

April 28, 2014

Dear Senator Warren:

I felt a need to communicate with you for two reasons:

First to tell you how much I enjoyed watching you on the two Tuesday broadcasts stating your position and promoting your new book. My son-in-law, who was present for the Maddow interview, said he would vote for you for president.

My second, and more important reason, was your position on education and student debt. This obviously was one of the main purposes of your new publication. I particularly appreciated your point about paying $15 a semester as an undergraduate and comparing that amount with the current costs of a college education.

If we go back to the 1950s and 60s many cities and states valued an educated citizenry and were willing to pay for it from a far smaller GDP than we have today. The Federal Government in 1945 also inaugurated the GI Bill which allowed a large number of returning veterans to go back to school and eventually graduate from college. At that time the country on all levels put money behind its words.

Today, with an irrational distribution of the national income, the majority of college students, with help from their parents, do not have the funds available to go to college. The Federal Government has allowed them to borrow the money with usurious rates of interest. This puts the student after graduation in a position where most of their newly earned income is devoted to paying back debt for a large number of years. They cannot really get on with their lives, living the American dream, instead they are debt encumbered.

The overall effect of this upon the society is also very negative. This process impedes economic growth. These graduates cannot afford to buy houses, decent auto-mobiles, or what is needed for middle-class living. A large

Percentage of their earnings go back to the government limiting economic growth in the economy. Money spent in the general society is re-spent a number of times generating six to eight times the initial amount while money used to pay off debt remains at the initial level. In addition these students will live for years in this fashion.

In your comments you spoke of lowering student debt by new legislation and you also stated that the funds spent for any purpose have to be made up. You suggested closing tax loopholes. While this would be worthwhile it is not really necessary. The two items are not interdependent or are they in any way related. One can be done without the other. For example a massive rebuilding of the infrastructure of the United States does not require new taxes. In fact if it were done it would generate, after an initial increased expenditure, a great deal of new wealth and probably lower the national debt below its present level.

Historically, the only time the country spends freely without any concern to debt is during time of war. Where did all the money expended during World War II come from? The Government created it and the nation became more prosperous. How was the Government able to pay for the GI Bill after the end of the Second World War and the Marshall Plan in 1948 that brought Europe out of the decay caused by W.W.II? We can also consider George Bush’s two wars in Afghanistan and Iraq or, for that matter, the Korean and Viet Nam Police Actions.

These were done by the government simply creating the funds needed. The money was not the wealth; it was and is the productivity. The goods and services brought about by the expenditure of these funds is the real wealth. It would be the new and refurbished bridges and roads, the new electric grids and structures that would bring the country into the 21st Century. All this would increase the wealth of the United States and its people. Fiscal policy expenditures would actually decrease the dollar value of the national debt. It would act similar to the Kennedy tax cut which substantially increased the GDP.

A bill that would begin this process would be one that forgave most of the student debt. One, for example, that wiped out the student debt of all students who graduated with a C or better average or who completed training for some specific occupation. The money these individuals would spend over the years becoming and being part of the middle-class or better would more than pay for the small amount of the GDP the government would have spent on their educations.

Sincerely,

Bernard Weiner

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The Weiner Component #70 – Intentions of the Framers of the Constitution

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

One of the major objects, if not the major object, of the framers of the Constitution was to create a government of the majority with protections for the minorities.  A true Democracy is supposed to express the will of the majority.  The major reason for education in our society was to create a population capable of reasoning and therefore able to elect the best people capable of representing them.

Today instead the object of government as applied by the far right and the evangelicals is to create a government where they, the minority, rule and set the standards for the majority.  Through the use of seemingly endless amounts of money in advertising, gerrymandering, and outright prefabrication they have been able sway elections to give themselves the power to impede necessary reforms and cause untold misery in the nation.

The Republican Party has been vociferously attacking Affordable Health Care (Obama Care) since they were able to gain control of the House of Representatives in 2011.  With the upcoming Midterm Election in November of 2014 the leadership of the Party has promised to make that a major issue, destroying Obama Care.

In a March Special Election in Florida, in an overwhelmingly Republican District, the Republican candidate just barely won the election.  Interestingly he treated his victory as one in which he totally trashed the Democratic candidate and the overall bulk of the population in his District voted to get rid of Obama Care.  The reasoning by the candidate and the party seems to be fallacious.  Presumably the new basis of the November Election in 2014 will be to elect Republicans so they can do away with Obama Care.

This seems to be in the opinion of many of that group a way to regain control of Congress.  The concept is fascinating since the entire concept of Obama Care was originally developed by the Heritage Foundation, a Republican Think Tank, and initially set up in Massachusetts under Republican Governor Mitt Romney.  It would seem that the reason for attacking Obama Care is to gain political power In Washington, D.C.

Interestingly, if we take the different parts of Obama Care and discuss them with the general public we find that they like the parts.  For example, keeping a child on their parents medical plan until he or she is 26 if the youngster is going to college, insurance companies not being able to reject people because of a prior condition, overall lower insurance rates for most people, no maximum limit in terms of what the insurance company has to spend on any condition, etc., etc.  But then if you ask them what they think about Obama Care the answer is that they don’t like it.

What seems to have happened is that the Republican prefabrications, like death panels and other nonsensical statements, which the Republicans have repeated over and over again, have, more or less, taken hold.  A good percentage of the people do not associate Affordable Health Care with the benefits it’s so far provided.  It can also be stated that the Democrats have not provided enough positive information to the public compared to the Republicans who have given redundantly endless negative statements.

In addition to using Obama Care as a means of gaining political power the wealthy Republicans like the billionaire Libertarian Koch Brothers have begun, through groups they fund, utilizing television and other forms of advertising as early as March for the oncoming November Election.  The probability is that billions will be spent on the Midterm Election.  And most of this money will be spent by the Republicans attempting to buy power by trying to gain control of the Senate and keeping control of the House of Representatives.  This is also true for state elections.

Will they gain control?  An interesting question!  We’ll have to wait and see.  Can the American voter be bought by propaganda and go against his/her own economic interests?

If the Republicans are successful the country will have total gridlock for 2015 and 2016.  They will not have a supermajority in the Senate and the Democrats will do what they, the Republicans, have done from 2009 on, filibuster the bills they are against and the President will veto the bills he is against.  They might try to impeach him as they did President Clinton; but, I suspect, they will have a problem doing so.  Of course they might be able to push through some strange laws, that the President would consider unconstitutional and break, as they did in 1868 with President Andrew Johnson.  But that did not effectively work then even with supermajorities in both Houses of Congress.

If the Republicans were to gain control of Congress in 2015 they would have to find positive reasons for running the country and they would also have to be able to work with the President.  At this point none of this seems possible.  All they have done since 2011 has been to impede all programs for which Obama could claim credit.  They haven’t been for anything except lowering taxes for corporations and the upper 1%.  The Republicans have done an outstanding job of keeping the country in a recession, attacking woman’s rights, and limiting benefits in entitlement programs for the poor and needy.  Paul Ryan, for example, has defined sloth as a racial thing.  It will be interesting to see what happens.

 

 

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The Weiner Component #65 – Dysfunctional Government

A dysfunctional family is one that is perennially in chaos.  Nothing ever gets done; no issue is ever solved; nothing is ever accomplished.  A dysfunctional government works or doesn’t work on the same basis.  Its lawmakers are incapable of accomplishing anything, at least anything that the nation really needs.

Is that the situation that exists in Washington, D.C.?  The answer to that question is obviously, yes.  But is the answer that simple?  Are both political parties equally responsible or is the true villain just one of the particular political parties?

Toward the end of the last year of the reign of George W. Bush as President of the United States the economy collapsed.  Because of the activities of the major banks the country was facing a catastrophe greater than that of 1929.  Bush and his Secretary of the Treasury, Paulson, did an emergency bank bailout of the big Financial Institutions whose greed and irresponsibility had caused the situation.

In 2008 Barak Obama was elected President on a platform of: “It’s Time for a Change.”  Through the use of both Fiscal and Monetary policy he was able to avert a major breakdown of the economy.  In addition he bailed out the auto industry.  The country had a recession with major unemployment but it never reached a real depression.  The Obama Administration also passed a universal Affordable Health Care Bill, which, had been initially suggested by the Horizon Institute, a Conservative Republican Think Tank and earlier put into operation in the State of Massachusetts by a Republican governor, Mitt Romney.

In the 2010 Midterm Election the Republicans under Tea Party leadership became the majority party in the House of Representatives.  Apparently there hadn’t been enough “change” during President Obama’s first two years in office!

The Republican caucus in both Houses of Congress had earlier decided the Obama would be a one term president.  Mitch McConnell, the Republican minority leader in the Senate had announced this publically.  They would support nothing that President Obama proposed.  In fact, they would oppose everything he would favor.  Government functionality would cease.  From 2011 on the House of Representatives would not pass any bill that supported any program that Obama or the Democrats favored and that they would oppose any bill that had been passed during his first two years in office.

The House repealed Affordable Health Care (Obama Care) over forty times.  The repeals went nowhere because the Senate had a Democratic majority and the majority leader would not take up the bill which was already law.

In 2011 President Obama came out with a plan to put America back to work by both extending and modernizing the infrastructure of the United States.  This would probably have reduced unemployment to about 3 1/2 percent, increased the GDP significantly, and substantially increased the tax base of both the Federal Government and the states.  The Republican majority and the Speaker of the House of Representatives completely ignored these plans.  The House of Representatives from 2011 on has done absolutely nothing in any way to create jobs for the unemployed.  By their actions they have sought to reduce government employment and have actually added to the unemployment problem.

In 2012 the House of Representatives met in formal session 125 days, in 2013 it was 121 days, and in 2014 it will be for 120 days.  Some Republican legislator made a comment about what will they do in all that time.  The members of Congress receive 174 thousand dollars a year, plus an office and a fully paid staff.  The get an allowance for an office in their home districts.  I would love to work 120 days out of 365 for that pay and do as much as the House Republican legislators!

In 2013, late at night, the Republicans changed the rules in the House of Representatives so that only bills favored by the majority party could be brought up for a debate or vote on the floor of the House.  If a bill favored by the Democrats and a small number of Republicans came up, the Speaker of the House did not have to call for a vote on that bill, even if the majority favored it.  The only bills that needed to be brought up were those favored by the majority of the Republicans in the House.

In the Senate the Republican minority can filibuster both bills and Presidential appointments of judgeships and appointments of assorted department heads.  The position of the Director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, & Firearms was only recently filled after being vacant for six to eight years.  The NRA wanted this job left vacant.  The post was filled after Harry Reed, the majority leader, threatened to change the rules and end filibustering most Presidential appointments.

In mid-November, over the issue of three judgeships, in which the Republicans refused to allow a vote to be taken because they did not want Obama to fill three vacancies in the second highest court in the U.S., the Senate by a simple majority changed the rules and disallowed filibustering in most presidential appointments.

In 2012 the closest the Republicans came to a compromise was the Sequester, which automatically dropped government spending across the board on all levels except Congressional salaries that automatically rose every year.  These, cut down military spending and innumerable entitlement programs for the poor: meals on wheels and infant nutrition to name only two.  In 2013 they shut down the government, refused to raise the debt ceiling, and cost the country about 24 billion dollars and around 250,000 jobs.  If they had had their way and gotten everything they wanted the country would currently be in a deep depression with unemployment up well over 25 percent.  Their version of running the government is not only to not spend money but also to massively reduce the size of the Federal Government.

Even though the public cast 1.4 million more votes for the House Democrats in 2012, by gerrymandering in the census year, 2010, the Republicans still got a majority in the House.  The country will need an overwhelming majority in 2014 to beat them.

 

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

There is a note of irony that helps explain this dysfunction.  Since the Republicans have determined to oppose everything that President Obama supports they have gone against some policies that initially were their own.  The reason for this, as we have seen, was to make Obama a one term president.  When they failed in 2012 they still adhered to these policies.

 

Affordable Health Care will help keep a number of people alive who would otherwise have died earlier because they could not afford to see a doctor until it was an emergency.  Many children will now get prenatal care.  The insurance companies, even with more restrictions on what they can do, will get a tremendous increase in business.  Yet the Republicans continue to denounce this law using mostly general platitudes.  They offer nothing except the argument that it’s no good, that it will harm the society and kill jobs.

We are probably the only industrial nation in the world today that doesn’t have universal medical care for its citizens.  Our original system of medical care is faulty, inefficient, and overly expensive.  The Republicans offer no alternative except that Obama Care is no good.  Really spiteful reasoning!

We can again ask ourselves: Why is Congress dysfunctional?  The answer is because of Congressional Republican acts or lack of any action since 2011 when they gained control of the House of Representatives.  The 2014 Midterm Election will determine what direction this country takes.  If the Republicans retain the majority in the House we can look forward to two more years of economic disaster.  The American People will have to choose in 2014.  Hopefully the majority will understand their choices.  Unfortunately we have to wait another year before there’s any hope of a functioning government.

 

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

Traditionally, with only two major political parties in the Unit

Republicans

Republicans (Photo credit: Jed Sheehan)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Weiner Component #32 – Are The Republicans Their Own Worst Enemies?

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  English: Breakdown of political party represen...

The basic position of the Republicans in Congress is that the National Debt is out of control, being currently over sixteen trillion dollars, and that it must be reduced.  The current Ryan Plan is their general roadmap to achieving this objective.  They have generally ignored the 2008 Recession, the effects of which still exist and the massive problem of unemployment.  What they want to do is cut discretionary spending, this includes Social Security and Medicare, reduce the size and costs of government, raise military spending, not raise any taxes, this includes not cutting any subsidies, and reduce taxes on those earning  four hundred thousand dollars or more a year.  With the income from this they want to overbalance the National Budget, spend less that is taken in and thus help reduce the debt.  This to the Republicans will bring about prosperity in the United States. 

What would be the effects if they were able to achieve this?  The consumer base for purchasing goods and services would be decreased considerably lowering overall demand for much of what is produced and bringing about a shrinkage in productivity and a substantial increase in unemployment.  The money taken out of the economy would have a multiplier effect, beginning a cycle of economic shrinkage that would cause an ever-growing level of misery for a goodly percentage of the population.  Money, the National incomes, would have been moved upward to the upper few percent of the population leaving and ever decreasing amount for the lower echelons of our society and allowing far more to be stored, probably outside the country, because there would be far less worth investing into in the United States.  The level of economic misery among a goodly percentage of the population would continue to grow.  This is what the Republicans would achieve if they could successfully bring about their Congressional aims.

Because the Republicans have not successfully been able to achieve this we are currently dealing with a dysfunctional Congress.  The Republicans, with control of the House of Representatives and a filibustering Senate, have been successful in not allowing any fiscal (job creating) bills. 

The Federal Reserve, which is separate and not under the control of Congress, has continually and very creatively added money to the economy helping to bring about a slow recovery through monetary policy.  Government, on both state and Federal levels, has continually shrunk lowering both tax revenues and services but the private level has very gradually grown and continues to grow.  It has more or less offset a part of the public shrinkage. 

Today corporate profits are up; industries profits are continually growing, Ford Motors is currently in the process of expanding one of its plants and hiring two thousands additional workers to expand its truck-building capacity; CEOs and upper echelon executives salaries are growing exponentially but unemployment is still at a 7.6% level; many people are doing without.  The GDP is currently growing at the slow level of 2 1/2%.  Population, according to the Senses Population Clock is growing at the rate of one person every eleven seconds; that is 3,063,273 people per year.  The GDP has to grow enough to accommodate over three million additional people each year before any real growth can occur.

A large percentage of these increased profits are moving to the upper few percent of our society.  This money is not being invested in any form of economic growth because the money available to the consumer base is actually decreasing, continuingly lowering the base for consumer consumption.  Overall demand is decreasing because there is less and less money available for the purchase of goods and services.  The upper echelon is storing its ever-growing incomes, probably a goodly percent of it overseas where it can accrue a better rate of interest and be largely except from domestic taxes.  While consumption is up for the upper middle class and above, it is decreasing for the rest of the population.

While all this is going on the Republicans in the House of Representatives and in the filibustering Senate are working vigorously to shrink the government by reducing its expenditures.  They consider the National Debt, most of which Republican Administrations have created since 1981, too high and obscene.  They have all become, since Barak Oboma was elected president, fiscal conservatives.  Consequently they are attempting to limit government expenditures by decreasing Federal expenses.  The result of this is for the Federal Government to gradually employ less people and shrink the economic base, making less money available in the GDP.

It is difficult to understand the thinking of the Republican leaders.  Are they more interested in achieving control of Congress and the Presidency than in the welfare of the country, than in following their oath to the Constitution, in having a Democratic President fail even at the cost of large-scale human misery?  If they follow the logic of their thinking through to its conclusion it leads to endless austerity, intense economic shrinkage, recession and depression.  And while this is going on the military will grow and the upper echelon of society will become phenomenally richer with taxes that run the country being paid by the ever-shrinking resources of the bottom rung of society.  The nation would end up with privation, starvation, and probably violence.

Is this the Republican objective or don’t they understand that everything in the economy effects everything else, that seemingly minor changes can lead eventually to horrible disasters.

It would seem that the Republicans are their own worst enemies.  Their so-called reforms could eventually lead to ultimate chaos.

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