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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

What will happen?  That’s a good question.

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

 

The Weiner Component #137A – John Boehner’s Resignation & the House Republican Party

Planned Parenthood volunteers help bring the f...

Planned Parenthood volunteers help bring the fight for health insurance reform to the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One day after a visit to Congress by the Pope, wherein he spoke to a joint session of the legislature, and, among other things, shook hands with the Speaker of the House of Representatives John Boehner, John Boehner handed in his resignation as Speaker of the House and as a member of Congress, effective October 31, 2015.  He is currently 65 years old, a good time to retire.

 

Boehner had originally been the Republican minority leader in the House of Representatives and became Speaker of the House in 2011 when the Republicans achieved a majority in the House of Representatives.  Over the past five years he has been categorized as one of the worst Speakers in the history of the United States, having no real control over his own party and having to get the support of Democrats in the House in order to pass a good deal of the legislation he espoused.  He is also known for legislation he ignored and never brought up.

 

What has happened over the last decade or so is that The Tea Party has come into existence as a far right arm of the Republican Party.  Many of them have been elected to Congress over the years.  They and the Evangelicals have gotten together and formed the extreme right end of the Republican Party.  Seemingly they control a good percentage of the Republican election funds which they will withhold from any candidate that does not follow the party line, their line of no compromise.  Consequently they have a lot of power in the House of Representatives which they have continually exercised.

 

Speaker Boehner stated, when he was interviewed on television, after he had handed in his resignation, that these far right Republicans know that a large number of their goals are totally unrealistic, that they cannot be achieved, but they insist on them just the same.

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There is an interesting note of irony here.  The original Tea Partiers who operated during the late colonial period of our history were the merchants who ran the General Stores in the colonies of Boston, New York, and several other cities at the time.  Among other items they sold tea, which was the national drink.  The British East India Company brought the tea over and sold it to the colonial merchants.  It was fairly expensive and heavily taxed by the British government.  The colonial merchants did not appreciate the high price of the tea nor the tax so they bought much cheaper smuggled tea.

 

Shortly before the Revolutionary War the British East India Company was at the point of bankruptcy.  Since many members of Parliament owned shares in this company they passed a law lowering both the cost of the tea and the taxes on it.  The official price of this tea, including the taxes placed upon it, was now cheaper than the price of the smuggled tea.  The men who dumped the crates of tea into the harbors of Boston and New York were the merchants who all had a large stock of smuggled tea in their warehouses.  They rubbed red ocher over their bodies and performed the action after dark.

These were the patriots that the modern Tea Partiers have named themselves after.  I sometimes get the feeling that the nomenclature is as apt today as it was in the late 18th Century.

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John Boehner, as Speaker, has operated between their whims and sanity.  He is not a Tea Partier.  He has been forced at times to get Democratic support for some of his bills so he could get them passed.  His job as Speaker has been a very difficult and frustrating one.  How do you lead a group that is essentially marching backwards, sometimes in several different directions at the same time and has no real understanding of government?  They have shut down the government at the cost of many millions of dollars.  They have passed a bill doing away with Affordable Health Care over fifty times that never even once reached the Senate.  Where they have been successful they have passed legislation that has massively increased unemployment during a time of recession, one example would be the sequester law, which is supposed to be an economizing measure, but that is basically choking this nation.

 

The Republicans were threatening to shut the government down again.  The first shut-down was about getting rid of Affordable Health Care; this time it was over the issue of continuing the funding of Planned Parenthood, accusing them of being a national facility for committing abortions.  Even though no federal funds can be used for abortions by any group the Republicans are pushing the fact that since this organization performs abortions it should not be funded.  Planned Parenthood is a women’s and to some extent male medical facility.  Many people who cannot afford medical care receive that there free or for a payment of what they can afford.  Abortions are about 3% of what they do for the poorer women of the United States.  Cancelling this organization by defunding it would strike a heavy blow against the poor and needy of the country.

 

The Republicans present Planned Parenthood as an abortion clinic, period.  It is over this issue that the far right of the Republican Party and the Evangelicals in Congress want to shut down the Federal Government.

 

In fact Carley Fiorina has made an exaggerated and fabricated image of an abortion the cornerstone of her 2016 presidential campaign.  She has sent out robocalls using this message as an appeal and request for funds.  She describes a living born fetus kicking its legs as Planned Parenthood sells its brain for medical research.  The woman, who gave birth to this fetus which was still-born denounced Fiorina for misusing her dead child as an example of a Planned Parenthood action.  Planned Parenthood had nothing to do with the false image that Fiorina supposedly based her statement upon.  It was a blatant fabrication, a lie, and she used the child without getting permission from the mother who has protested over this act.

 

Interestingly the Republicans keep looking to find Planned Parenthood guilty of breaking the law.  There have been four Congressional investigations by a Standing Committee in Congress.  None of them have found any evidence of illegal activity.  As a result of all this Congressional bashing more of the general public have come to support Planned Parenthood.

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With the October 31 resignation of John Boehner this issue of closing down the government of the United States has gone away, at least until December of 2015.  A short term funding bill has gone through the Senate, espoused by the Republican Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, and supported by the Democrats and enough Republicans to end a filibuster by Senator Ted Cruz.  Obviously there can be no filibuster in the House of Representatives and the bill was later brought up there by an unpressured Speaker and passed by the Democrats with a small number of Republicans voting for it.  The issue will not come up again until December when the new Speaker of the House of Representatives will have to again deal with this issue of funding the government.  Will the issue of Planned Parenthood come up again?  Will the Republicans find another excuse to close down the government?  After all the Tea Party tends to find the entire National Government repressive.  They seem to want to hurt it.

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By resigning as Speaker John Boehner, in a manner of speaking, has held up his middle finger to the far right in his party.  He will be in power for a short period of time.  The Tea Partiers can no longer pressure him to do anything.  There will be no immediate government shutdown.  Ted Cruz, who is very brave leading other people to take risks will be ineffective here.  The far right Republicans do not have a majority within their own party in the House.  They cannot elect one of their own as the new Speaker.  And the election for a new Speaker will not take place until November 1, the day after John Boehner is no longer Speaker of the House.

 

The way it looks at present is that the next Speaker will be Kevin McCarthy, the current majority leader.  He was first elected to the House in 2008, became majority leader in 2014 when Eric Cantor lost the election to a far right member of the Tea Party.  Politically McCarthy comes from an overwhelming Republican District in Bakersfield, California.  While not a Tea Party member he has signed a pledge sponsored by Americans for Prosperity promising not to vote against any climate change legislation that would raise taxes on affected companies. McCarthy is pro-life.  He has voted against Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care.  During his eight years in the House there are no real bills he has originated.  Where does he stand in relation to the Tea Party?  If he’s elected we’ll find out in November of this year.

 

A strange thing about Kevin McCarthy is that he occasionally has a problem in a public speech expressing a coherent sentence.  He also mispronounces words adding letters to them and his sentences sometimes become a flow of words that are meaningless to everyone, possibly except for himself.  In addition from what he’s said he feels that the House Minority Leader, Nancy Pelosi, always looks at him contemptibly.  Many members of the far right feel he is too liberal to be their Speaker.

 

Recently [n a moment of exultation Kevin McCarthy, while being interviewed on Fox News, without being asked, proudly stated that Hillary Clinton’s popularity numbers had been very high but after testifying four times before a Standing Committee on Benghazi her popularity dropped considerably.  He implied strongly and happily that these appearances lowered her popularity significantly.  There is also a fifth Benghazi hearing coming up since the prior four have not been able to place any blame on her.  He confirmed what the Democrats had been saying since they started that these hearings are politically motivated.  Of course McCarthy tried to step back from what he said a day or two afterward.

 

In one sense this is very sad because these four hearings are estimated to have cost the American taxpayers about four million dollars.  This is a strange way for a political party that prides itself upon reducing government spending to spend four million dollars to achieve a so-called political point.  If he is elected Speaker of the House of Representatives it should be interesting if not strange.  His tenure may be very short.

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John Boehner is currently a free agent.  No one can bring any pressure upon him.  He has stated that there will be no government shut down.  If he wished to do so he could deal with the problem of immigration that this country has been facing and ignoring for a number of years.  There are other legislative items that need to be dealt with.   He would have the Democratic votes and probably enough Republican votes to pass almost any bill.  If he does this what the Senate will do is an open question, but McConnell might very well go along with him.  McConnell has stated that the Republican majority will show the country that it can govern.

 

For the first time since his election as Speaker of the House of     Representatives John Boehner is a free agent.  No one can now bring pressure or make demands on him.  He has about a month left to serve in this position and then he is retired from the House.  At the age of 65 he can go back to Ohio and actually retire if he so desires since he currently is estimated as having a net worth of about five million dollars and a generous retirement program from Congress, having served in the House since 1991, 24 years.

 

Instead, if he so desires, he can serve one or another large corporation as a lobbyist and earn additional millions of dollars.  Eric Cantor, when he lost the 2014 election to a more reactionary Tea Partier and was no longer Majority Leader of the Republican’s in the House, took a highly lucrative position earning over a million dollars a year.  Boehner can do the same thing.  The problem here is that once he takes the job he has to follow orders and he is lobbying for the interests of a large corporation.  This is not necessarily a good thing; it somehow resembles selling your soul for money.

 

On the other hand John Boehner can offer his services to a low dollar entity like the Catholic Bishops or to a people oriented enterprise like the movement to end violence against women.  There are many such organizations that would love to have his help as a Washington lobbyist.  He could get a great deal of fulfillment working for one or even several of these.

 

Besides keeping the government functioning how does Boehner’s retirement affect the House of Representatives?  First off many House Tea Partiers consider it a victory for themselves because he was never one of them.  He has occasionally played golf with President Obama, who they consider the enemy.  But the new Speaker will not be a Tea Partier; they don’t have enough votes for that.  Will they be able to control the new Speaker?  Will they be able to shut the government down in December of this year?  Presumably the Congressional Tea Partiers in the Senate would also like to get rid of Mitch McConnell, force him to resign from the Senate.  Among some conservatives there is a “Ditch Mitch” campaign.   Will they be able to do any of this?  If they were somehow to succeed in carrying out their nefarious agenda what will happen?  Those are interesting questions.

 

In my estimation if they were to succeed in any of this, particularly in a Presidential Election year they would probably discredit themselves, particularly the House of Representatives, before the voting public and could conceivably, even with gerrymandered voting districts and some suppressions of the vote, end up with a Democratic majority in the House of Representatives.  John Boehner may have started a roller-coaster going with ever-increasing speed downhill for the Tea Party.  We will see where it ends.

Official portrait of United States House Speak...

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

The Weiner Component #62 – Just Us (Justice in America)

 

The concept and practice of Justice in America is an interesting one.  It means different things to different groups within the society.  To the middle class Caucasian it is an expression of equal protection under the law of the land.  To the upper echelon of large corporations it means fines for illegal business activities and no jail time for the perpetrators.  To the lower classes it engenders a certain amount of hassle by the authorities, like “Stop and Search” in New York.  To the top few percent of our society it generally means forgiveness for most illegal activities caused by “illness.”

To Blacks, however, the concept of justice means “Just Us.”  They, the black minority, consider themselves more the victims of the system than its beneficiaries.  The statement denotes that the practice of justice falls much heavier on the Black population than on any other group within the society; that most of the criminals serving time within the prisons are Black in a society with a much larger white majority, many of whom have the same bad habits as the Black incarcerated minority.  It is an indication of an unfair or prejudiced society where the Black minority has essentially second class status.

Recently there was an incident between a Black Woman who was driving her family of five children about six miles above the posted speed limit.  The police officer had her pull over, get out of her vehicle, walked her to the back of her car, and asked her to hold out her arms and lean against the automobile.  She refused, presumably feeling that she was about to be handcuffed and arrested; and according to her testimony refused fearing for the safety of her five children.  She got back into the car while the officer kept ordering her out of the car.  He went ballistic and used his stick to break the front passenger window and had drawn his revolver.  As her car sped away another officer, who had arrived on the scene, fired three bullets at the vehicle, presumably aimed at the tires.  Remember this is an unarmed Black woman with five young children in an automobile.  A few miles down the road in town she stopped the car.  The police ordered her and her children to lie face down on the sidewalk next to the vehicle and arrested this Black lady.

Over my lifetime, more than once, I have been stopped by an officer of the law for speeding.  I have never been asked to get out of my car.  I have only been asked for my driver’s license and proof of insurance.  The policeman has always been courteous as he wrote out a speeding ticket.  But then I was never a threat to him for I have been a middle-aged to elderly Caucasian.

There was an incident not too long ago where a Black woman, who had been in some sort of auto accident, went to a nearby house to ask for help.  She needed to use the telephone.  The white woman, who at the time was alone in the house, shot her, presumably in fear of an assault.

There is always the case of Trevon Martin, who was stalked by George Zimmerman, in the housing tract where he was staying, after returning from a 7/11 retail outlet and then shot.  Would Zimmerman have been found not guilty by the jury that tried him if he were black and the person he shot was white?  I think not.

A short while ago a Congressman of Florida’s 19th District, Trey Radel, a member of the Tea Party, was arrested for the use of narcotics.  He purchased $250 worth of cocaine from an undercover law enforcement officer.  After being convicted of drug abuse Radel publically apologized to his two year old son, his wife, his parents, to his fellow members in the House of Representatives, to his constituents, to the State of Florida, and to the country at large.  He stated that he was taking a leave of absence, with pay, from Congress to deal with his illness.  His fellow Republicans in the House approved and supported his decision.  They did not ask him to resign because he had broken the law.  However the chairman of the State Republican Party called for the U.S. Representative to step down.  About a month later he did resign; but, as far as I understand, he is recovering in a sanitarium not in jail and has not lost any of his civil rights.

If he had been Black and had been caught doing this would he have been forgiven in any way for his illegal act and allowed to go into a medical facility.  How many Blacks are currently serving a prison term for possession of a small amount of drugs or are out in society but they have lost their civil rights for this same act?  One can easily understand why Blacks call the system: Just Us.

Incidentally this is also the man who voted along with his party members in the House of Representatives to have all food stamp recipients tested for narcotics use.  And would have those who otherwise qualified, that came up positive, disqualified from being able to receive food stamps for themselves and their families.

On Saturday, December 21, 2013, the Los Angeles Times published an article in is LATEXTRA section entitled, “Defying racial stereotype.”  The article explained that “a national survey finds that Black fathers are at least as involved with their kids as other men in similar living situations.”  I found the article atrocious and myself angry.  It seemed obvious that fathers are fathers.  Some are irresponsible and abusive to their families; others are the opposite, caring and thoughtful. What ethnicity has to do with this issue is nonsense.  A percentage of irresponsible parents would exist in every ethnic group.  In fact since there are more Caucasians in the society their group would have the largest number of non-caring fathers.  The racial stereotype is trite.  The fact that the LA Times felt a need to publish such an article made me angry.  At what level of maturity do they consider the majority of the public?

The Constitution of the United States originally had a 3/5th clause that had slaves counted for purposed of representation and taxes as being 3/5th of a white man.  This compromise was insisted upon by the Southern States.  The 13th Amendment to the Constitution, which was added in 1865, legally freed the slaves and ended this compromise.

The Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s presumable ended segregation.  But emotionally have the Blacks been freed?  Are they the equal of everyone else in the society?  Does justice in the United States still mean to Blacks “Just Us?”  Are the prisons in the nation largely crowded by Blacks who have committed victimless crimes against themselves?  Do police, who want to up their arrest records, find it easier to arrest Blacks than Whites, even though the same percentage of both groups equally commit the victimless crimes?

While the Three-Fifths Compromise disappeared with the Civil War its major idea of Blacks being 3/5 of a white person psychologically persists today lessening the rights of Blacks before the law.  They are fully justified in designating “justice” as “Just Us.”

What is an interesting note or irony here is that the Caucasians are no longer the majority within the country.  The demographics have changed.  We are now a nation made up of multi-minorities with our citizenry coming from all over the world, not just Western and Eastern Europe.

The Tea Party, among the Republicans, seems to be making a last stand of protest for the former white majority.  They are currently controlling the entire Republican Party and the House of Representatives.  With the current demographics how long can this last?  We have a Midterm Election coming up in 2014.

 

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The Weiner Component #51 – Bigotry & Hate

What is believed to be the nature of God?  In the Old Testament He can be a vengeful deity issuing punishment for disobedience or sin unto the fifth generation.  In the New Testament he is generally a God of love, compassion, empathy, capable of total forgiveness and understanding human foibles.  In fact his level of compassion was so

Governor Rick Perry of Texas speaking at the R...

great that the early Catholic Church developed the principle of “free will.”  Even though God is all knowing, His empathy and love of mankind is so great that He would have trouble condemning anyone to purgatory or hell.  Since this was so the individual by his choices in life, his free will, determines where he will go in the next world.

It would seem to me that it is the Old Testament Deity that is the God of the early Puritans, and for that matter, of many of the Tea Partiers, particularly among their leadership.  Theirs is an all-knowing, vengeful, unforgiving Deity who freely punishes those who do not follow him faithfully.  He seems more a God of vengeance than a God of love.

Of course this is my perception based upon what I have read and heard on news broadcasts about the Tea Party.  I know it’s not the religious interpretation of most of the evangelical, fundamentalist sects since I have dealt with many people belonging to these groups over my lifetime and found that their interpretation of God generally is one of Love and Caring.

Wilbur Daniel Steele (1886 – 1970) wrote novels, plays, and was most famous for his short stories.  In 1951 he published a book of short stories titled “Full Cargo.”  In it was a novelette or long short story named “Man and Boy,” which dealt with the life of an individual who was raised in a strict fundamentalist home.  It was located somewhere in the Midwest.  I don’t remember if it was the northern or southern Midwest.

The boy grew up within the bounds of a very strict fundamentalist religion that was absolutistic in its approach to the world.  All religious beliefs had to be exactly as was stated within the religious dogma.  Any deviation meant eventual hells-fire and eternal damnation.

The boy was never comfortable within his faith.  He was bright and very capable.  Eventually he went on to college and there as he gained new knowledge he began to go through extreme headaches that felt as though there was a narrow steel ban tightly wound  around his head.

What was apparently happening was that his strict religious training was coming into conflict with his new knowledge of man and the world.  Eventually he went through a catharsis in which he realized that his religious upbringing had taught him total intolerance, that the statement, “God is Love” really meant that “GOD IS HATE,” unless one was a strict adherent to his particular faith.  With that realization the steel band seem to snap and dissipate.  His headaches disappeared and they never returned.  He could thereafter function as a healthy human being.

I remember one evening about thirty years ago or so, during a break from a night class I was teaching, having a conversation with a colleague.  We taught at different schools during the day and met at rare occasions in the evenings.  He, like the character in the above short story had originally come to California from somewhere in the Midwest and he also talked about feeling like a steel band was tightly encompassing his head during his early working years.  He had been brought up in a very righteous fundamentalist Christian household.  What bothered him, he said, was their religious position; they were right in their beliefs or knowledge and everyone else was wrong.  They, the true believers, were all going to heaven as members of God’s elect and everyone else was going to hell.

At some point, well after he was thirty years old, he went through a sudden catharsis.  It came to him that when his religious teachers had taught him that God was Love, they had actually meant that God was Hate – intolerant, forbearing, insisting that everything be done as his followers believed; that they were totally intolerant of what anyone else believed if it differed from their interpretation.  When he understood that, he said, it was as though the steel band broke and a heavy weight was lifted from his back, and life became worth living.  He felt that since then he had been a loving, caring Christian, happy both in his life and his religious faith; that he had a loving, caring creator and a fulfilling family life.

Isn’t the Tea Party’s position the same as my former colleague’s forbearers?  Aren’t they intolerant of anyone who doesn’t bend to their beliefs or prejudices?  Isn’t their idea of compromise having the other side give in to their absolute truth?  Is it gall, bigotry, hypocrisy or just plain insensitivity to the rest of the world that makes them what they are?

History is an interpretation of the facts that make up the past, they give meaning and purpose to what has happened and what is.  History begins a second ago and goes infinitely into the past.  In Medieval Europe there were chroniclers who recorded the happenings of the times; but even they inadvertently applied meanings to some of the events.  I believe it was the Republican legislature of the state of Texas that passed a bill which Governor Rick Perry signed into law that forbade teaching critical thinking in the public schools, only facts and truth were henceforth to be taught.  Critical thinking, applying meaning to the facts of history and existence was/is considered bad by the Republicans.  It seems they deal only in revealed truth, which they determine.  This gives them a monopoly in deciding what is or should be.  This would also make them masters at creating invisible steel bands around the heads of whole generations of people!

 

In the thick of the street festival, some demo...

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The Weiner Component #49 – The Tea Party: Hypocrisy, Intolerance, & Extortion

English: Sarah Palin at the Americans for Pros...

On Wednesday, October 1, 2013, Darrel Issa, the California Tea Party Republican, who chairs the House Oversight & Government Reform Committee, was addressing the Executive Park Ranger, who heads all the National Parks in the nation, at a committee meeting. He asked him why the Parks had been closed during the Government Shutdown. Several Democrats on the Committee responded negatively to Issa’s comments. One held up a hand mirror and said something to the effect of: “If you want to see who shut down the Parks look at me.” Issa’s statement at the end of the questioning was that the head of the National Park Service should resign over his handling of the government shutdowns of the public national parks.

It’s an interesting behavior pattern. Blaming someone else for what you helped bring about. It shows Issa to be as sensitive as a boulder rolling down a mountainside. Is it gall, hypocrisy, or just insensitivity to the rest of the world? Does Darrel Issa feel that his view of the world is the right one and that everyone who holds a contrary view is wrong and should change their prospective to match his? Is he the perfect representative of the Tea Party?

Ted Cruz, Michelle Bachmann, Sara Palin, and other prominent Tea Party Republicans were in shock, several days earlier when they usurped a veteran’s meeting at the new World War II Veteran’s Memorial in Washington, D.C., to protest both the fact that it was closed during the Government Shut Down and that the Obama Administration had done this. The fact that Cruz and the Republican House of Representatives led the charge for the Government Shut Down was beside the point. It’s amazing how these people can set up a negative situation and then blame the Government for what they themselves have done. It’s like, with a straight face, claiming that white is really black and black is really white. They are arrogant with no sense of shame for their own inappropriate behavior.

The Tea Party’s actions are reminiscent of the functioning of the old Communist Party. The member or adherents of that group were so sure they were right in their beliefs and that everyone else was wrong that anything they did to advance their cause was acceptable, even to robbery, murder, or even blatantly sacrificing the lives of any number of people. Their cause was the ultimate cause; the next step in the inevitable flow of history, to them the destiny of mankind. It justified any behavior that enhanced its cause.

The old Communist Party of the late Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries are gone now and so are their doctrines, all casualties of historic change. Russia (the old Soviet Union). China (The People’s Republic), and Vietnam like the United States, Great Britton, Germany, and France are all combinations of both Socialism and Capitalism.

This historic change will also happen to The Tea Party, they will, like the Know Nothing Party of the 1840s and 1850 eventually become casualties of history. But before they disappear they can cause all sorts of havoc to the current generation. Up until the end of the possible government default they, a small minority of elected government legislators, had achieved control of the Republican Party moving it to the far reactionary right. They have done this by essentially controlling the money contributions that the politicians need to stay in office and by threatening their fellow Republicans with having more extreme candidates run against them in the primaries when they came up for reelection. This mode has been successful, first in shutting down the government by not passing an acceptable budget, and then up until the day of the default when the Speaker of the House brought up a Senate Bill that would extend the debt ceiling and reopen the government, created great negative problems for the Government. While the Tea Party members voted against this measure both the Democrats and moderate Republicans passed the bill and almost immediately it became law.

Various far right groups like the Heritage Foundation threatened primary runoffs against any Republicans who supported this bill. This means so far that there should be runoffs in the primaries against the majority of Republican Senators who are running for office in 2014 and the House of Representative members who supported the bill.

The 2014 Midterm Election will be very interesting and important. Particularly since the question of the Debt Ceiling will come up again in February of 2014. Hopefully by then the country will have a new budget to finance the running of the Government. Ted Cruz, among others, has threatened a Government Default. Many of the current Tea Partiers are very angry over losing the current battle over this twenty-four billion dollar fiasco. Will the far right and the Tea Party have the clout to bring about another twenty-four billion dollar crisis?

To date Tea Party control of the Republican Party has lasted three years. The Heritage Foundation and other far right organizations will have to spend billions of dollars to get their way in the primary races. They will again have to spend that much money in the actual elections against Democratic candidates. Will their contributors be that generous, particularly since the banks and other corporate contributors lost a lot of money in the first Government Shut Down and the near-default by the Federal Government.

Meanwhile the public is going to be subjected to all sorts of rhetoric about what the Tea Party will and will not do. They will be regaled with hypocrisy and intolerance.

Refusing to deal with the budget and bringing the country to the edge of default over the Debt Ceiling cost the government of the United States twenty-four billion dollars and about 250,000 jobs. This does not count other losses in industry and consumption, which could bring the lost amount to over a trillion dollars. I haven’t heard anyone in the Tea Party taking responsibility for these actions. In fact the Tea Party members in the House of Representatives all voted against raising the debt limit and funding the government. Do they even understand what they are doing? Are these the actions of a group claiming to want to reduce Government spending and increase employment? They seem to want to bend the government to their will by any means. They would destroy the state if they can’t get their way and their means of enforcing their will is blatant extortion. They feel they are that right and everyone else is that wrong. They are very much like the old Communist Party.

English: US Representative Michele Bachmann (R...

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The Weiner Component #48 – The Last Harrah

Imperceptibly within the lifetime of most Tea Party and Republican Legislators on both State and Federal levels the demographics of the United States has changed.  We are no longer a WASP nation: White, Anglo Saxon, and Protestant nation.  There are Catholics, Jews, Moslems, Hindus, Taoists, Confucianists, Latinos, Indians (from both India and the U.S.), and innumerable other groups and sects present in this country now.  The whites are a minority among other minorities and the demographics keep changing with the non-white population being the most prolific.  Aren’t the Republicans and the Tea Party, knowingly or not knowingly, currently making a last stand for the former WASP majority?

During the Presidential Election of 1800 the Federalist incumbent, John Adams, ran against the Democratic Republican, Thomas Jefferson.  It was a dirty election with all sorts of outlandish statements being made.  Jefferson won.  The Federalists were never again able to mount another Presidential election.  In 1812 they disappeared when they backed the wrong side, the British, in the War of 1812.

Is something like that going on now?  Are the Republicans making a last stand?  In Virginia, which is holding a gubernatorial election shortly, in addition to other methods, the Republican controlled government has purged voter registration lists of many supposedly non-legal mostly Democratic voters.  When local registration officials complained that some of the names were on the list in error and wanted to wait until after the election to go over the lists they were told to proceed immediately.  The official who is purging the lists is also the Tea Party Republican who is running for the governorship.

There are innumerable other purges being planned or in operation for the 2014 Midterm Election.  Most of these are a year away and are being dealt with by lawsuits.  Other methods are also being used to reduce the Democratic vote in Republican dominated states in the area of registration and access to the poles.  There seems to be a concerted effort to reduce the number of Democratic voters in red states.  Will they be successful?  That’s an interesting question!

In the Debt Ceiling Crisis the Republicans were continually pushing the envelope.  The far right Heritage Foundation on Tuesday, the day before the Debt Ceiling was to be reached, had ordered the Republicans in the House to vote against any compromise that the Senate Republicans might work out with the Senate Democrats, threatening to back more reactionary Tea Party Republicans in the 2014 Election.  They were pushing any Republican House member who would defy them for faulting on the Debt Ceiling.  This was a move that would not only cost the government and taxpayers many additional billions of dollars, it would also destroy the credibility of the United States both nationally and internationally, a move that would hurt the country for years to come.  This goes beyond spite; it is punishing every citizen because they will not follow the will of the far right.

Presumably most Republicans within the states that have legislative majorities have closed down most women’s medical facilities that provide health care and also some abortions, generally to poor women.  They are adamant about wanting every child possible born.  One the other hand, on both State and Federal levels, these same Republicans are adamant in reducing food stamp and child and infant nutrition programs.  They want all the children born but they will not assume any responsibility for helping to feed or care for them after birth.  This includes children conceived in rape or incest.  They are perfectly willing to have these youngsters grow up in abject poverty without adequate nutrition.

Somehow this seems to be more than a right to life problem.  It would also be a dominance situation.  Since the majority of these legislators are old white males this would be a way of legislating against women and putting them in their place, well below that of the male.

To what extent are these moves by Congress and the red state legislatures affecting the American voting public?  And that would affect those red states like Utah where Federal jobs predominate and where much more money comes from Washington than the state sends there in taxes.  Even those states, which were heavily gerrymandered in 2010 and where the Republicans feel sure of electing their candidates to the House of Representatives, could be turned purple or blue if they are too abused by the Tea Party in Congress.  Most of their people may have voted their prejudices in the past but empty pockets that cannot pay for the needs of the individuals and their families have a way of changing minds.  This is also true of the rights of women.  How much abuse can they take before they rebel with their votes?

In terms of a National Presidential Election the Republicans seem to have forgotten that President Barak Obama won the 2012 Election with well over a four million vote majority and that the House of Representatives got a Republican majority with one million four hundred thousand less votes than the Democrats received.  Is the Midterm Election of 2014 going to be different?  If anything with all the additional abuse, which has been heaped upon all the additional people, the Democratic vote should be greater than in 2012.  It will probably be great enough for the Democrats to take control of the House of Representatives.

In regards to the Presidential Election of 2016 we may have a repeat of the 1964 election where Barry Goldwater ran against Lyndon Baines Johnson.  Goldwater was the Republican candidate.  He came from the extreme reactionary right of the party.  He received 22% of the vote.  Most moderate Republicans voted for Johnson.  In 2016 people will also have within recent memory the fact of what the far right Republicans have cost them in terms of jobs, money, and unnecessary misery.  In addition the majority of the voters will come from the minority groups that have been either directly or indirectly attacked by the Tea Party and other far right reactionaries.  Whoever the candidate is, Ted Cruz or Rand Paul or another reactionary he will probably receive less than the 22% that Goldwater got in 1964.

The country was saved from defaulting on its debt and received further funding during the last hour of the last day by the actions of the Senate where all the Democrats and a majority of the Republicans voted for it.  In the House of Representatives the majority of the Republicans voted for default but all the Democrats and about 1/4th of the Republicans majority supported it.  The near default cost the Government and the taxpayers approximately twenty-four billion dollars in monies that will mostly be added to the National Debt and, it is estimated, about 240,000 jobs.

Both funding the government and debt default will be coming up again early next year.  The House Republican Tea Partiers have threatened to go to the limit again if they do not get their way.

Do the Tea Party and evangelicals still control the party and the House of Representatives?  If they do attempt this what are their or, for that matter, Republican chances of getting reelected in 2014 at the Midterm Election?  Even if they don’t bring about another disaster early next year what are their election chances in November of 2014.

Are we currently witnessing the Last Harrah of the Republican Party?  It is very possible.

English: Breakdown of political party represen...

 

 

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The Weiner Component #47 – The Tea Party & The Debt Ceiling

  

English: The holders of the United States nati...

English: The holders of the United States national debt as of December 2008. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On October 17th the United States Government will reach its authorized Debt Ceiling unless the House of Representatives passes the bill raising it.  According to the analysis released Tuesday by the Bipartisan Policy Center the Federal Government will be unable to pay its bills and face default as early as October 22 and no later than November 1.  

The Treasury Secretary warned Congress that the 16.7 trillion dollar debt limit must be raised by October 17th or the Federal Government will face default.  At that point the Treasury would have to depend on cash on hand, about 30 billion, and incoming revenues to pay its bills on any given day.  Unfortunately all its multi-thousands of bills are paid by computers that can’t be reprogrammed to pay selectively or partially.

According to some Tea Party members of the House of Representatives this problem is no big deal.  These people’s knowledge of government and economics is non-existent.  They have said that they don’t trust economists who all have different opinions.  One member stated that his knowledge of economics is based upon the fact that he raised a family.  Rand Paul said that the Federal Government has so much money coming in it doesn’t have to worry about having enough funds to pay its bills.  Others have stated that this change won’t even be noticed.  Another’s statement was that the default would stabilize international finances.  Of course all these individuals offered no proof for their inspired statements.

The economic awareness or sophistication of the people in the Tea Party is non-existent; they function by “common sense” based upon limited experience with no awareness of what they don’t know or understand.  I am reminded of the man who didn’t believe in or trust doctors.  His wife came out with a cancerous growth on her neck. His experience with illness had to do with occasional headaches and for these he took three to four aspirins each time he had one.  Since his wife’s problem was more serious than a headache he gave her six to eight aspirins to solve her medical problem.  No doubt she died of cancer.

If the default problem were a burning house and what to do about it then their solution would be to pour gasoline on the flames in order to put out the fire; that way it would burn out faster.  They have a strange solution to a problem that they themselves have created.  Basically they would destroy the economy if they can’t get their way.  And what is their way?  They want to get rid of the Affordable Health Care Law, reduce entitlement programs, reduce taxes for the upper few percentage of the population and force other unpopular programs down the throat of the American public.  Since they can’t do this by taking over the presidency and Congress the will do it by extortion, the House will force the rest of the government to do what it wants.  And in trying to achieve this nefarious goal they are wasting billions of dollars and disrupting not only he United States but also all the other industrial societies that use the dollar as a basis of value.

There has never been a Debt Default before in the entire history of the United States.  We can only guess what will happen.  The guesses go from a complete disruption to a total breakdown of the economy, far worse than the Great Depression of 1929 affected the world.  We are talking about ever-growing massive unemployment, disruption and possible destruction of all VA programs, crashing financial markets, virtually destroying a major part of the national economy, plus disrupting Europe and Asia.  This is what the Tea Party seemingly is willing to bring about if they don’t get their way.  This is extortion greater than any ever committed by any criminal.

If we ignore everything above then not increasing the Debt Limit will freeze the Federal Reserve’s ability to use Monetary Policy.  The Fed has been adding 85 billion dollars monthly to the National Cash Flow.  This has been going on for well over a year.  The increased flow of currency has allowed for most economic growth since 2011.  That also includes the housing recovery.  There has been no fiscal policy, spending by Congress to increase employment.  Stopping this flow of currency will cause immediate stoppage of all recovery.  The economy will instead begin a process of ever-growing shrinkage with an ever-increasing level of unemployment.

Will Barak Obama allow this to happen?  I don’t see how he can.  If the Republicans refuse to give in unless they get their way then he is left with two choices: (1) He can give the Tea Party Republicans what they demand and set a precedent for extortion, or (2) He can invoke Section 4 of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, which states:

“The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment Of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing Insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned.”

The next sentence states essentially that the United States shall not be held responsible for paying for the freed slaves and the last section gives Congress the power to enforce this Amendment by proper legislation.

Can the President then authorize paying the public debt or does only Congress retain this power?  It’s an interesting question that in the end can only be answered by the Supreme Court.  And their decision, depending upon the makeup of the Court, could go either way and even be reversed by a future Court. 

But if Congress is irresponsible does the President really have a choice?  He swore an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States.  He assumed responsibility for the welfare of the nation.  For him to allow this to happen would be breaking his oath.

Currently and each day increasingly there is greater pressure on the Tea Party and other Republicans in the House of Representatives to end the Debt Ceiling and provide a budget for the United States, to again fund the government.  Currently the Tea Party group within the House is reluctant to do this but the more moderate Republicans seemingly are willing.  If the Speaker, John Boehner would bring a clean bill on both of these issues up before the House then, with Democratic support, it should easily pass.  Up to this point he has not been willing to do this.  Doing so will probably cost him the speaker-ship of the House of Representatives.

And when both the Debt Ceiling and the budget problems are resolved there is still the Sequester.

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The Tea Party Group is actually living in the wrong century.  They would have been happy and well adjusted in the late 18th Century, around the time of the American Revolution.  Government then was far away and bothered you very little except for taxes.  Many of the people living then considered taxes a gift that they gave to the government.  The people were very independent, building their own houses, clearing their fields, raising their own food, making their own furniture, running their own stills, bringing meat to the table by the use of their muskets.  They were an independent lot, standing tall, and proud of it.

The problem with the Tea Party is that they are now living in the 21st Century where everyone is interdependent upon everyone else.  The muskets have become automatic weapons capable of firing over 100 rounds a minute and there are specialists to do all the other tasks.  People are crowded in society and function best through endless compromise.  The Tea Partiers see compromise as a sign of weakness.  Real men don’t compromise; they push until they get their way.

Unfortunately for them the group that financially backed the Tea Party, the billionaires like the Koch Brothers and the large corporations are withdrawing their support, which means their money contributions.  I imagine these people thought they could control the Tea Partiers and have just discovered that they created Frankenstein Monsters that are out to destroy the country if they can’t get their own way.

What I suspect we will be seeing in the near future is an inept Tea Party breaking away from the Republican Party and forming its own third party.  They will then be like the No Nothing Party of the 1840s and 1850s, appearing noisily for a decade or two and then disappearing.  Their influence will wane to nothing as time passes.

tea party

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The Weiner Component #46 – The Tea Party & the Government Shut Down

  What is the purpose of having a government?  The quickest answer comes from The American Declaration of Independence: that governments are “instituted” to provide “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness,” and that they derive “their just powers from the consent of the governed,” which is majority rule.  The Constitution begins with the phase “We the People…” One could say looking at the history of this nation that the purpose of the Government of the United States was/is to serve the people, to provide for their welfare and safety.

I believe it was Benjamin Franklin who first came out with the statement that “In free governments the rulers are the servants and the people their superiors and sovereigns.  For the former therefore to return among the later is not to degrade but to promote them.”

Somehow it seems that the Tea Party members of the Republican Party elected to Congress have missed or never learned these points.  They, a distinct minority even among the Republicans in the House of Representatives, are attempting to enforce their will on the majority.  Largely because of controlling party finances and Election Districts they have been successful within the House of Representatives in enforcing their party line.  They have ignored the voice of the people in the 2012 Election and by using ignoble means have tried to force the Senate and the President to do what they want.  Is this how government is supposed to work in a democracy?

It would seem to these members of the Tea Party that they are right and everyone else is wrong.  Essentially the moderate Republicans have given up on not funding the Government but the reactionary Republicans are stiill insisting upon geting their way and are still successful.  They have largely cherry picked some areas of the government to fund.  They are now in the process of created the Debt Ceiling; that is refusing to raise the debt limit so that the Government can pay its bills.  The Debt Ceiling should be reached by October 16.  If it is the Federal Government will no longer be able to borrow money and will begin to default upon many of its bills..

It is interesting to note that the President and his Administration cannot spend money that has not been appropriated by Congress.  What the Tea Party Republicans in the House are threatening to do is to not pay bills that they have authorized through laws.  The House then is going to refuse to pay its own bills.   Try that as a homeowner and see what happens.

The Speaker of the House of Representatives, John Boehner, has stated, with a strong note of frustration in his voice, that the President has refused to negotiate with him.  President Obama has continually said that he is willing to negotiate, after the budget and debt crises’ are dealt with, that he will not do so with a gun held to the head of the American people.

The concept of negotiating issues is one in which both sides hold positions on a specific issue and then eventually come to some sort of compromise.  For example: labor and management will argue salaries; labor wants as big an increase as it can get and management wants to pay as little as possible.  If the demands are realistic they will end somewhere toward the center.  They are dealing with a single issue. 

The Republicans in the House wanted to negotiate continued funding of the government in return for defunding Affordable Health Care and later for delaying registration of new insured for an additional year.  What has Affordable Health Care got to do with funding the government?  What Boehner wanted was not negotiations but leverage to get what the House could not achieve by legitimate means, passing a bill and having it taken up by the Senate and signed by the President.  This is extortion and spite.  It is actually saying, Do it my way or I’ll stop you from functioning.

In terms of the Debt Ceiling the Republican hope to use their leverage to achieve various nefarious goals, such as the Keystone oil pipeline between Canada and the United States.  The Canadians have large mush fields (mud, small stones, and oil) from which the oil can be extracted.  The material is highly toxic and leaks in the pipeline could poison sections of the water table and rivers from which parts of the United States draws its fresh water for both people and agriculture.  The profits from this venture are phenomenal for the people who would own the pipeline.  These individuals not only have the materials in place but they have also begun laying the pipe and they are major contributors to the Republican Party.

The pipeline instead of going south through the entire United States could have gone west, in Canada, to the Pacific Ocean but short stretches of the line in Canada have a history of leaks and the Canadian Government is not allowing a major much pipeline through Canada.

During the Italian Renaissance, when a Cathedral was built the architect stood inside the building when the scaffolding was taken down.  If he had miscalculated in his design he would make no more mistakes, the collapsing building would kill him.  Are the architects of the Keystone oil pipeline willing to do the same thing?  Are they willing to put their lives and fortunes on the line?  I think not.  They are willing to pay fines that would in the end represent a small percentage of the damage they would do and walk away with their profits as happened in the British Petroleum oil spil in the Gulfl.

What we have with the Republicans, particularly the Tea Party Republicans is an inability to deal with reality.  They would like to cut Medicare, Social Security, food stamps to the needy, as well as other government programs which effect the poor and most Americans while maintaining and possibly increasing subsidy programs for the well-to-do.  Presumably they want to decrease both spending and the size of government.  But in refusing to fund the government they are wasting numerous millions of dollars a day plus adversely affecting the economy.  About 800,000 government workers were furloughed.  These people will not have paychecks to pay their rent or mortgages, or the other items by which they need to live.  The people who are dependent upon these government workers will have to do without their needed services.  Instead of being economical, as the Tea Party claims it is, it is extending government debt and hurting both the functioning of the government and the economy.  The damage is needless and stupid.

In addition there is still the sequester that is hurting all government programs by automatically reducing their budgets.

The House Republicans have stated that when the government closure is over they will fully pay all the furloughed workers.  Where is the so-called savings?  What are they

doing?  Do they know?

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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 #13 – Agricultural Parities, Pushing The Envelope

Michelle Bachman speaking.

Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, one of the darlings of the Tea Party, who believes in the Free Market and massively reducing Federal Government regulation, not too many years ago wrote at least two letters to the National Government thanking them for keeping the price of pork high.  She and her husband were involved in running her stepfather’s pork farm during his period of illness.

This is one example of pushing the envelope.  The government maintains price parity on a large number of agricultural commodities.  The object here is to protect the particular item so that falling prices will not cause its producers to go bankrupt.  Since pork is a good part of many people’s diets it is important to keep it on the market at a reasonable price.  Thus the government sets a minimum price on pork and will buy up all the excess pork on the market to maintain this price. This is price parity.  The government maintains a relatively high price for pork so the farmer can continue to produce the product.  If the government ends up with massive amounts of excess pork it will destroy it rather than let the price fall below its parity price.  The pork has to be destroyed because if the Federal Government were to give it away that could force the price of pork to drop below the cost level of producing pork.

This practice goes back to the Great Depression.  The Hoover Administration bought up the surplus cotton crop one year and ended up being stuck with tons of cotton that were later destroyed.  They burned it.  During the Roosevelt Administration many farmers found that it cost more to produce their crops than they could be sold for.  This resulted in milk being poured on the sides of roads and other crops being left to rot in the fields while the people in the cities went hungry.

The concept of parity seemed to make sense.  If the farmers could be guaranteed a reasonable profit for their labor and the use of their land then everyone would be better off.

In this way the concept of “parity” was born.  The Federal Government would guarantee a minimum price level for assorted agricultural products so that the farmers could produce these products for market without fear of bankruptcy   The theory seemed valid and worked during the Great Depression.  But, in time, if there is a price guarantee then any number of people could go into the business of producing these food commodities and no matter how much is produced they could be sure of a market and a profit.  Agriculture became big business.

In 1945, after World War II, the European countries began producing their own food products.  The U.S, farmers no longer had the world as their market.  They had pretty much fed the Allied Nations during the war.  Now, suddenly, they began to have terrible surpluses.  Earlier, after World War I the price of American foodstuffs dropped like a rock falling down a mountain.  The American farmers never really recovered until the outbreak of World War II.

The United States Government began using parity at this time.  One example was wheat.  After World War II the U.S. government bought up all the surplus wheat produced in the nation, waiting for a propitious time when there might be a shortage.  This never happened.  The surplus was stored in the decommissioned Liberty Ships that were birthed in various ports throughout the United States.  When the hulls of these ships were filled with wheat and the surplus continued coming in, tugboats hauled these vessels out to sea.  By using hoses and air pressure the hulls were emptied with the wheat being shot out into the ocean; the empty ships were hauled back to their former ports, where the whole process was repeated again and again.  This was the government supposedly on a practical basis, going against the Free Market.  It may have been practical after World War II but is price parity practical today?

The concept of the Free Market, as enumerated by Adam Smith in his 1776 work, Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, developed the modern concept of the Free Market. It specifically pushes government out of any interference with the production of any goods and services.  According to Smith all types of production are brought about by demand.  If there is a demand for any particular product entrepreneurs or farmers will produce the food item or commodity.  These producers are motivated by what he called “the invisible hand,” profit.  Demand, which engenders profit, will bring about a need for supply.  Initially, when limited amounts of any product are available the price will be high.  As more and more producers come into the field and supply increases the price will drop.  Eventually the price could drop to below the cost of production for many of the producers, then the least efficient farmers, producers, entrepreneurs will be forced out of the market.  The more component ones will continue to produce the product for a profit. The final result is that at some point equilibrium will be reached.  The most efficient producers will continue to function, getting a reasonable profit for their product or commodity and the consumer will get the item at the best or lowest possible price.  Under no conditions is the government to interfere in the process because that would disrupt the balance.  This is how the Free Market is supposed to function.

In the case of pork, parity artificially raises the price of the meat.  Too much is produced, and much of it at higher than necessary prices.  Government interference protects the inefficient producers and floods the market with overly expensive products.  The concepts of the Free Market and price efficiency are ignored.

In times of crisis or during extreme economic downturns the concept of “parity” has been necessary.  But once started it seems to go on forever.  What happens is that large-scale producers can and do jump into the market and begin producing on a very large scale, the particular product.  Theirs is a no lose proposition for the pork farmer.  Currently the taxpayer through the Federal Government is spending well over twenty billion dollars a year on this practice.  They are paying for the benefit of keeping the price of their daily food items high.

What I find interesting and ironic is that the Republican Party and particularly its Tea Party component, which strongly supports the idea of the less government the better, is adamant against dropping any of these costs.  And, I understand that upward of eighty percent of these parity payments go to large agricultural corporations that run their farms as major industries.  I would suspect that many of these concerns are regular contributors to politicians and political campaigns.

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