The Weiner Component #162 – Part 3b: Thoughts About the Republican Party

Official photographic portrait of US President...

In addition to the election of a new President of the United States, 1/3d of the Senate is up for election in November of 2016, plus the entire House of Representatives will also be running for reelection.  The Republicans tend to do better in non-presidential years since at that time lots of Democrats, especially Hispanics, do not bother to vote.  Consequently a light vote tends to benefit the Republicans.  In 2014, for example, the Republicans were able to gain control of the Senate by a very slight majority.  In 2016 they will probably lose that majority and control of the Senate will return to the Democrats.

 

2010 was a non-presidential year and the Republicans gained control of the House of Representatives and a number of state governments.  2010 was also a census year, when the population of the United States was counted, and the House Voter Districts were reset by the State Legislatures, presumably based upon population changes.  Those states under Republican control gerrymandered their Districts to give themselves ultimate control in the House of Representatives by setting up new districts that were light in Democratic votes and heavy in Republican voters.  In 2012, a presidential year, a million and a quarter more votes were cast by Democrats for their candidates running for the House of Representatives but the Republicans still maintained their majority in the House of Representatives.  They still today maintain control of that House of Congress.  It will probably take an additional two to three million more votes by Democrats for control of the House of Representatives to be returned to them.  The probability of that happening, I suspect, is very low unless the Republicans do something extremely stupid like shutting down the Federal Government by not funding it.

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What will probably happen in 2017 is that Hillary Clinton will be elected President of the United States.  The United States Senate will have a Democratic majority, and the House of Representatives will remain in Republican Control, where it has been since 2011.  If that is what happens then essentially gridlock can probably continue with the Congress.  President Hillary Clinton will be able to make some deals with the Republicans in the Federal Legislature, but it will be tit-for-tat, something will have to be traded every time.  The Republicans will be more interested, as they have for the last six and ½ years, in blaming the Democrats for legislative failures than in passing necessary laws.

 

An example of this is the Zika crisis, which the World Health Organization has called “an extraordinary event” and “a global emergency.”  Before the July 4, 2016 Congressional recess, President Obama requested a 1.9 billion Dollar Bill to be used to fight the Zika outbreak. The amount was put together by experts in the field as to what it will take to remove the danger of Zika virus attacks. 

 

The House of Representatives passed, before they left on vacation, a 1.1 billion dollar bill and then left Washington for their 4th of July hiatus which did not end until after Labor Day.  They were attending the National Presidential Conventions in late July and then spent the rest of their time in their home states presumably campaigning. 

 

Their version of the Zika Abatement Bill contained spending cuts in other health programs such as cutting funds for Planned Parenthood, and was 800 million dollars smaller than the amount asked for.  President Obama remarked that the Bill contains too little money and has too many partisan provisions.

 

In the Senate the Bill was filibustered by Democrats who wanted to spend the full 1.9 billion dollars without cutting funds from other programs.  The White House spokesman, Eric Schultz, stated that if the measure does pass the Senate it will be vetoed by the President.

 

The basic Republican position is: Take what we give you or there will be no bill and it will be your fault.  This process had been done with other bills earlier.  After the bill had died because there was no Conference Committee functioning, the House was on vacation; they, the Republicans, will blame the failure on the President and Democrats for what they themselves have not done.  Whether the public will believe them is another question.

 

The Democrats and Republicans have been unable, still by the middle of September, to come up with a compromise bill.  This crisis is now four months old since it first came to the Congress.  The House is still offering its 1.1 billion dollar bill.   The disease which has become more major in terms of becoming an epidemic seems to gradually be growing in the United States in such states as Florida and other Southern states.  One or more cases have come up also in California.

 

The House, as early as the end of May 2016 seemed to be in no hurry to solve the Zika crisis.  Democrats said it was wrong to require spending cuts for a public health crisis while not requiring them for past emergencies such as wildfires and floods.  Republicans said the cuts are innocuous.  More than 2,200 cases had been reported in the U.S. and its territories.  The number is even greater today; and as I understand the problem, Congress still has not passed a compromise bill which both political parties could agree upon.  This problem is currently being left to the states to handle individually.  They do not have the resources to deal with a national, if not international, problem.

 

Congress returned from its July 4th break or vacation on Tuesday, September 6th, the day after Labor Day.  The House of Representatives will have to deal with the Zika crisis, which has increased over the last two months, and also deal with the budget, funding for the Federal Government ends at the end of September.  The House also failed to pass the 12 annual funding bills needed to run the government.  The issue now seems to be passing a partial funding bill and letting the new Congress in January of next year fund the government for the full year.          

 

The government will run out of money by the end of September.  To date no additional spending bills have been passed.  If such a bill is not passed the Republican dominated House will again shut down the government; but this time it will be on an election year.

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There is an election coming up on November 8th.  Every single member of the House of Representatives will be standing for election or reelection.  The current situation is totally absurd.  It would seem that the Republicans care more for making political points than for legislating for the good of the country.

 

During the remaining short period of time the House Republicans are planning votes on several “message bills,” some of which will not even be picked up by the Senate.  They will vote to impeach IRS Commissioner, John Koskinen, over allegations that he obstructed a Congressional Investigation about whether the IRS improperly scrutinized Tea Party groups looking for tax-exempt status.

 

Speaker Paul Ryan wants a vote on some kind of legislation to register GOP opposition to a 400 million dollar payment to Iran.  This is money and interest on funds belonging to Iran that the U.S. Government has held since the late 1980s. 

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What strikes me as fascinating are the conditions under which the Senate and the House of Representatives function.  The length of a year is 365 days.  After being elected to Congress the average salary is $174,000 per year.  The Speaker of the House of Representatives gets $223,000 a year; the majority and minority leaders of both parties get $193,000 per year.  The House has averaged since 2001 139 legislative days a year; that is less than 3 days a week.  In 2013 the New York Times found that the House was in session 942 hours that year, about 18 hours a week.  The House of Representatives calendar for 2016 is 110 legislating days.  Their average time spent in session in 2016 has been three days a week plus lengthy holidays.  They work, generally, from Monday through Wednesday and take a four day weekend plus all holiday breaks.

 

The average salary in the United States is less than half that amount and it includes at least a 40 hour work week.  There is also a very generous retirement plan for Congress that kicks-in after serving one two year term in the House of Representatives.

 

The Founding Fathers did not originally envision political parties.  They expected an educated constituency to elect the smartest people available.  We are far from that point now.  The taxpayers are spending a lot of money for very little.  For the last 5 ½ years it’s been for gridlock in Congress.

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As of Friday, August 26, 2016, 42 new non-travel cases of Zika infections have been discovered.  The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) wants the entire blood supply within the United States, every single blood donation screened for Zika.  It is currently estimated that one out of every ten blood donations in Puerto Rico contains the Zika virus.  The number would also be high in Florida.  But the problem could also exist in any of the other states.  The country could be moving toward a massive epidemic.  It would seem that the House of Representatives is looking to get its way no matter what the cost to the general public.

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The Zika virus disease is a mosquito borne illness.  It is beginning to reach epidemic proportions in some of the states and territories.  The symptoms of Zika are a mild fever, skin rashes, muscle and joint pain, and pink eye or conjunctivitis.   The symptoms normally last from 2 to 7 days and then go away.  The virus remains in the blood stream after the 7 day period.  Zika can produce sever birth defects in pregnant women’s fetuses, such as a small head size, and presumably limited learning ability as well as other physical problems.  This infection can cause microcephaly.

 

While the disease was first discovered in 1947 little is still known about it.  What we do know is that it is transmitted by a specific mosquito and also by sexual intercourse.  Lots of people in the country require occasional blood transfusions which is another way it can be freely transmitted. 

 

On Friday, August 26, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) has recommended that the entire U.S. blood supply be screened for the Zika virus.  One out of every ten people tested in Puerto Rico has come up positive.  A massive epidemic of this disease can effect an entire generation of births and, if nothing else, cost the country trillions in medical care for the infected infants as they mature.

 

These new recommendations apply across the board.  The Red Cross said it will phase in universal testing.  It is currently conducting Zika testing in 5 Southeastern states.  It will now require it throughout the entire United States.

 

Because an infection can be transmitted during sexual intercourse someone who does not have symptoms might spread the virus unknowingly to his or her partner.  Then either of the two might donate blood, further spreading the infection.

 

In February of 2016 the FDA issued its first Zika virus blood screening recommendation in areas with active transmission.  Then, the agency advised screening blood and blood components for the virus or stopping blood collection completely in areas of active transmission.

 

The nation’s first local, non-travel related infection of Zika virus occurred in Puerto Rico in December of 2016.  Shortly after, American Samoa and the US Virgin Islands reported locally transmitted infections.  In July, Florida’s Miami-Dade County reported its own first case of a local mosquito transmitted Zika infection.

 

With all this occurring and Zika spreading the House of Representatives is in no hurry to solve the problem of nationally fighting the spread of this disease.  Their reaction to what can be a major health issue is pathetic.  It would seem to the Republicans getting their way and making political points is more important than the health and welfare of their constituents.

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This is a potential international problem that the United Nation’s World Health Organization takes very seriously.  Women of child-bearing age throughout the world are affected.  This can result in one or more generations of children growing up abnormally with no real futures, having to be taken care of by their healthier peers throughout the world; and the House of Representatives plays its political games essentially ignoring the issue.  They are basically leaving an international problem to the states and territories within the U.S. to handle by themselves without adequate resources or responsibility.  It would seem that a vote for a Republican legislator is a vote for political gridlock. 

 

President Barack Obama, on Saturday, August 27, issued a call to make the Zika crisis the first item of business that the House of Representatives deals with.  He stated that the various federal agencies dealing with this problem are running out of money.  He stated that, “a fraction of the funding won’t get the job done.  You can’t solve a fraction of a disease.  Our experts know what they’re doing.  They need the resources to do it.”  He further said about the current House bill, “But that’s not a sustainable solution.  And Congress has been on a seven-week recess without doing anything to protect Americans from the Zika virus.”

 

“Every day the Republican leaders in Congress wait to do their job, every day our experts have to wait to get the resources they need,” the President said.  “That has real-life consequences:  Weaker mosquito- control efforts.  Longer wait times to get accurate diagnostic results.  Delayed vaccines.  It puts more Americans at risk.”

 

“We need more Republicans to act … because this is more important than politics.  Republicans in Congress should treat Zika like the threat that it is and make this their first order of business when they come back to Washington after Labor Day.  That means working in a bipartisan way to fully fund our Zika response.”  So far none of this has happened.

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In addition, as of the present, no action has been taken on the hourly wage which remains at $7.25 an hour. And even the Republican National Candidate, Donald Trump, has mentioned raising it from $7.25 an hour to $10.00 an hour.  Also in the Republican Congress there has been no mention of requiring background checks on the purchase of firearms or limiting the size of weapon magazines.  Congress is currently in gridlock.  Will this change after the November Election if the Republicans remain in charge of the House of Representatives?  I suspect not.

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On Saturday, August 27, 2016, President Barack Obama has stepped up the pressure on Congress for Zika

English: Breakdown of political party represen...

English: Breakdown of political party representation in the United States House of Representatives during the 112th Congress. Blue: Democrat Red: Republican This SVG file was originally hand-written. It contains comments suggesting how to amend it to reflect future changes in Congress. Inkscape reads this file as corrupted, thus changes must be made with a text editor or other program and checked with a browser. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

funding.  He has urged legislators “to make this their first order of business” when they return from a seven-week recess after Labor Day.

 

Their second order of business will be to fund the government past the September deadline. 

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Congress will meet for the balance of September and then adjourn for November and then probably meet for another few weeks in December.  What will probably happen is a short term funding bill which will hand the problem over to the new Congress next year.  If the Tea Party Freedom Caucus refuses to go along with the rest of the Republicans in the House of Representatives then the Speaker, Paul Ryan, would be forced to work directly with the Democrats.  This, incidentally, was probably the main reason John Boehner, the former Speaker, was forced to resign.

 

And, of course, the Zika epidemic grows worse daily.

 

What will happen should be interesting, if not tragic.

 

The Weiner Component #146 Part 1 – The Republican Party & the Future

English: Presidents Gerald Ford, Richard Nixon...

English: Presidents Gerald Ford, Richard Nixon, George Herbert Walker Bush, Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter at the dedication of the Reagan Presidential Library (Left to right). Français : De gauche à droite, les présidents américains Gerald Ford, Richard Nixon, George H. W. Bush, Ronald Reagan et Jimmy Carter à la bibliothèque Ronald Reagan Presidential Library (1991) où se trouve une reconstitution du bureau ovale. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Official Portrait of President Ronald Reagan

Official Portrait of President Ronald Reagan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Gerald Ford, official Presidential photo. Fran...

Gerald Ford, official Presidential photo. Français : Gerald Ford, premier portrait officiel du Président américain, (1974). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: US map 1856 shows free and slave stat...

English: US map 1856 shows free and slave states and populations; this is “Reynolds’s Political Map of the United States” (1856) from Library of Congress collectionhttp://lcweb2.loc.gov/ammem/aaohtml/exhibit/aopart3b.html (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Embed from Getty Images

Over most of its history the Republican Party has been essentially a Caucasian male Protestant group.   This was the population that originally made up the American colonies and revolted against British in the late 18th Century, setting up the United States initially along the East coast of the American continent.

 

During the late 19th and early 20th Century there were large migrations from Eastern Europe.  Asians, Chinese and Japanese initially could not become citizens of the United States, but their children, who were born in the U.S., were citizens.  Earlier there had been a large initially unwelcome migration of Irish Catholics caused by the Great Potato Famine in Ireland.  In the early 20th Century laws were passed setting quotas for people coming from different countries.  These quota systems are largely with us today.

 

We never seem to reach the quotas allowable for Western or Northern Europe but for Eastern Europe and other areas of the world like the Middle East and Central and South America there are waiting periods, after one gets in line, that in some instances could take a decade or more.

 

Since the last 40 years of the 20th Century the demographics of the United States has been changing.  Because of assorted wars in which the U.S. has been involved in the post-World War II Period in Asia, in the Middle East, and in other areas, large numbers of these peoples have come to the United States from the rest of the world.  These movements, are still continuing.  They have and are continuing to change the demographics in the U.S.  It is no longer a Wasp nation, a white Anglo-Saxon-Protestant nation.  Today there are growing numbers of other ethnic and so-called racial groups.  In fact the original Caucasian Protestant population is now a large minority among other large minorities and the Republicans make up about 19% of that population.  They are a minority among other minorities.

 

Generally in the present the Republican Party is made up of mostly the economic upper 1% of the population.  These are the wealthy who form the executives of most of the large corporations in the U.S. plus others who have intense wealth.  They have largely benefited from Republican leadership in Congress.

 

There is also a large independent-loving blue collar group who, with the evangelicals form the voting base of the party.  There would also be a percentage of white collars members, many of whom see themselves eventually joining the upper 1%.

 

Unfortunately for a good percentage of the blue collar base, particularly the independent, gun-loving ones, outside of freely owning their weapons, they have gotten nothing from the Republican leadership in Congress, particularly since 2011,  when the Republicans assumed leadership in the House of Representatives.  These currently are most of the people who support Donald Trump for President.

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With the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854 advocating popular sovereignty, in which one of the two newly entering states would supposedly be free and the other a slave state, the Whig Party split into two groups: the Conscience Whigs repudiated slavery and the Cotton Whigs were for slavery.  The first group joined the Free-Soil Party.  They were joined by the American Party and the remnants of the Know-Nothings Party which had become popular for a short period, calling for restrictions on the foreign born.

 

At this time, 1854, the Republican Party also began. It was able to run its first Presidential Election in 1860, attaining 40% of the popular vote and the election of Abraham Lincoln as President.  The majority party, the Democratic Party, had split into two parts, one Northern and one Southern.  The Southern section supported slavery and the Northern part tended to be neutral on this issue.

 

The new Republican Party was a combination of different political groups.  They were mainly the Northern and Northwestern Whig Party, the Conscience Whigs.  The Southern Whig Party, the Cotton Whigs, ran their own candidate in the South.  The Northern Whigs consisted of pro-business supporters who did not agree with the Democrats; abolitionists that strongly opposed slavery; and other small groups like the remnants of the Know Nothing Party.

 

In essence during 1860, there were two separate elections: one in the North and one in the South.  The Northern candidates did not run in the South and the Southern candidates were not on the Northern ballots.

 

The new Republican Party had grown from the ranks of the Free-Soilers, the Anti-Slavery Whigs, and the Anti-Nebraska Democrats.  They were in opposition to the extension of slavery anywhere within the territories of the United States.

 

Since the majority of the population occupied the North and Northwest the new Republican Party won with 40% of the vote.  As we’ve seen none of the political parties were on the ballots in all of the states.  There were no Republican votes cast in any of the Southern states.  The Southern Democrats had no ballots cast in the newer Northwestern states and in many of the other older Northern states.  The other Democrats had no votes cast in the other Southern states.  The election was actually two separate elections.  When the ballots were counted Lincoln had received 40% of the popular vote.  This translated to 180 electoral votes.  The other three candidates together had a total of 123 electoral votes.

 

This was the first Republican National Election.  Henceforth it would be them and the Democrats; the other political parties and the issue of slavery would disappear after the Civil War.  In 1876, with the election of Republican, Rutherford Hayes as President, the Southern states would lose the Northern army of Reconstruction or occupation and would come back into the Union as independent states and the country would move forward as a single unit.  The South reentered the Union as Democratic voting states.  Around the middle of the 20th Century with the emergence of the Civil Rights Movement the South would change its political allegiance to the Republican Party.  Outside of the slavery issue the Republican Party was always the Party of business and of the well-to-do owning classes, which it is still today.  It has always been conservative, against any kind of major change within the society, and conservative in its outlook.

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Up until 1964, when Barry Goldwater lost the election to Lyndon B, Johnson, the Republican Party had both liberal and conservative elements, the two political parties tended to be close to one another.  After that the Republicans tended to move farther and farther to the right.  Even as late as 1977, when Democratic candidate Jimmy Carter became President he was more conservative than a small percentage of the Republicans.  In 1974, when Nelson Rockefeller was appointed Vice President by President Gerald Ford, the Republican Vice President was more liberal than the later President, Jimmy Carter.

 

The two group’s philosophies ran into one another and compromise between the two political parties was relatively simple.  But after the Reagan Presidency the majority of the Republicans had moved much farther to the right and the Democrats to the left.  The first group became more reactionary and the other more radical.  Total philosophical separation had begun to set in.  This would continue and increase bringing the country to where it is now, at polarization.

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In order to understand the difference between the Republicans and the Democrats one needs to draw a horizontal line across a blank sheet of paper.  Mark the center of the line.  On the right side of the line would be the Republicans and on the left, the Democrats.  As one proceeds to the far left the people become more radical, on the right the further you go they become more reactionary.  At either end either end of the line they are extreme. Radical on the left and reactionary on the right.

 

_______Democrats__________|_____Republicans__________

 

No so long ago in our history the two lines overlapped.  Now they are widely separated.   This all began in the 1964 Presidential Election when Barry Goldwater ran against Lyndon B. Johnson and lost by a large amount.  Goldwater carried six states and Johnson won 44.

 

Goldwater had been the leader of the Conservative Movement.  During the campaign he alienated the liberal section of the Republican Party.  He was an opponent of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, arguing that it took rights away from the states.  When Communist China became a member of the United Nations in 1971 he wanted the United States to give-up its membership in that organization.  Goldwater criticized Johnson’s Administration for being soft on Communism and failing in Vietnam.  During his campaign he wanted a tougher blockade against Cuba and increased military action in Northern Vietnam to cut off supplies from China.  He indicated that he might use a nuclear bomb against North Vietnam.  On the domestic front Goldwater called for substantial cuts in social programs and he wanted social security to become optional.  He believed that the Tennessee Valley Authority should be sold to the private sector.  His political slogan was, “In Your Heart, You Know He’s Right”

 

It was at this time that Ronald Reagan entered politics with his “A Time for Choosing” speech.  He would run for the governorship of California two year later, largely on a Goldwater type platform and win.

 

These doctrines, those of the far right, were worked through the Republican Party until they dominated it.  Reagan would be elected President in 1980 and serve until 1988.  He would with some modification carry through Goldwater’s philosophy.  Currently all the potential Republican Presidential candidates are reflections of Barry Goldwater.

 

The Republican Party itself as it currently exists reminds me of the old Communist Party.  Everyone follows the Party-Line, there is no individuality.  I get the impression that the far right controls most, if not all, of the political contributions and they are spent only on proper followers of the party-line.

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The Democrats tend to be liberal; the Republicans, conservative.  Since the 1932 Presidential Election the Democrats have assumed a responsibility for those who cannot care for themselves while the Republicans hold to a position of individual responsibility.

 

Since that time many Republican presidents have also had the Democratic concept.  Dwight David Eisenhower (1953 – 1961), the first Republican president since Roosevelt’s election in 1932 considered himself a Moderate Republican.  As President he built a Federal Highway System across the United States, the Interstate Highway System; continued FDR’s New Deal agencies and expanded Social Security.  Nixon (1969- 1974), as the next elected Republican President, experimented with Price and Wage Controls during a period of rapid inflation; was the first chief executive to enforce desegregation in Southern schools; established the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Clean Air Act of 1970, and made state run insurance policies available to all with income based premiums and cost sharing.

 

The next Republican President was Ronald Reagan, who served from 1981 to 1989.  He was the first far right Republican to run the United States.  Reagan, as we’ve seen, first entered politics in 1964 supporting Barry Goldwater.  In 1966 he was elected governor of California.  He successfully ran for the presidency in 1980 and served two terms.  Reagan applied Supply Side Economics (Reaganomics), a theory developed in the 1970s and disregarded after the Reagan Administration for not really working.  It held that economic growth is enhanced by investing in capital and lowering barriers on the production of goods and services; if excess goods were produced, it was believed prices would come down so they could be consumed (sold or supplied).  It sounds good but it has never worked.

 

President Reagan encouraged tax reduction to spur economic growth, control of the money supply to curb inflation, economic deregulation and reduction in government spending, which didn’t happen, as his administration raised the deficit to over a trillion dollars for the first time.  He did not believe in government regulation and, among other things, totally deregulated the banking industry.  This would slowly lead to the 2008 banking-caused Real Estate Crash and near depression.  He fought public sector labor by firing all traffic controllers when they went on strike.  He bombed Libya and mined the main harbor of Nicaragua, two countries with whom we were not at war and ended his administration with the illegal Iran-Contra Affair.  He was the first of the far right presidents.

 

The next two Republican Presidents were the Bushes, father and son.  While they were not to the far right they were both well to the right of center.  (For more comments on the Bush Presidencies read The Weiner Component #125 – The Bush Presidencies.)

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Democrats typically support a broad range of social services; many in the area of helping those who cannot, for one reason or another, provide adequately for themselves, making us all our brother’s keepers.  Republican policy is based upon self-reliance, more freedom for individuals, and a limited interference by government.  People are more responsible for themselves and their families.  Among other things they have the freedom to starve.

 

The Republicans also advocate a dominant foreign policy based upon a strong military.  Consequently their conservative far right is pro-religion, anti-bureaucracy, pro-business, pro-military, and pro-personal responsibility.  They see big government as wasteful and an obstacle to getting things done.  Ultimately they are pro-Darwinistic, believing in survival of the fittest.

 

Democrats tend to favor an active societal role for government in society and believe that such involvement can improve the quality of all the people’s lives and achieve greater opportunity and equality for all.  For example the Affordable Health Care Act can eventually gain health benefits for all.  But ultimately to the Republicans it means that it is unfair because they are helping to pay for other people’s medical care.

 

Republicans favor a more limited role for government and believe that reliance on the private sector can improve economic productivity and achieve the more important goals of freedom and self-reliance.  They are still for Supply-Side Economics.  To them environmental regulations and discrimination laws (regulations) impede economic growth.  They oppose laws that limit pollution because they increase the cost of pollution.  Ultimately Republicans lean toward individual freedoms and rights while to Democrats equality and social responsibility are more important.

 

Interestingly if you’ve read the novels of Paul Ryan’s former mentor, Ann Rand, who as a good Catholic he dropped when it was discovered that she was an atheist.  Society is divided into the elite and the mob.  The Republicans, especially the leadership and the well to do, are the elite and the Democrats support the masses or the mob.  This thinking goes back to Friedrich Nietzsche and the mid-19th Century.

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Up until the 2,200 page Federal Government funding bill that was passed at the end of 2015 the Republicans have been dominated by the far right of their political party which saw compromise as having the other side come to their position.  The choice here was to pass an actual political compromise or shut down the government.  It took nearly a year to effect this compromise.  The bill could never have passed without Democratic votes in both Houses of Congress.  In order to not shut down the Federal Government the Republicans had to legitimately compromise with the Democrats.

 

What the country, in disgust, has essentially seen since 2011, when the Republicans took over control of the House of Representatives, was gridlock in Congress.  The Affordable Health Care Act, which was initially passed in 2010 by a Democratic Congress, has been voted out of existence by the House 62 times since 2011.

 

At the end of 2015 there was true compromise, a bill to fund the government and avoid a government shut-down.  However, early in 2016 the House passed a bill, which the Senate has passed the prior year, defunding both Affordable Health Care and Planned Parenthood.  The Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives, Paul Ryan, announced that even though the bill would be vetoed by the President, it had passed in the Republican dominated Senate earlier in 2015.  Even though there were not enough votes to pass it over the veto when it was returned to both Houses of Congress, it was still declared a victory for the Republicans because it showed the American public what will happen in 2017 if they elect a Republican President.  He further stated that the House agenda in 2016, all 110 days it would meet, will be to pass bills that the President will veto but will state the Republican position and show the Public what will happen if they elect a Republican President.

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None of the Republican group running for the presidency strikes me as being charismatic or capable of leading the nation.  What will happen is that the Republican House will function for its three day week, be paid over $140 thousand for the three day weeks it works while attempting to embarrass the President by forcing him to issue constant vetoes.  The current one, passed the second week in January 16 will be his tenth veto in seven years.  These bills will largely disgust the Democrats and the country at large by accomplishing very little if anything.  The Republican Congress will pass well beyond gridlock for the year 2016.

 

And I wonder if Ryan and the Republicans will feel that all this will happen if Donald Trump becomes their presidential candidate?

 

 

 

 

The Weiner Component #116 – The U.S. & the Federal Reserve

In 1935, Cret designed the Seal of the Board o...

English: Janet Yellen being sworn in by Fed Ch...

English: Janet Yellen being sworn in by Fed Chair Ben Bernanke (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By Friday January 9, 1915, the Federal Reserve had turned over $98.7 billion to the Treasury for the year 2014. In 2013 it was $79.6 billion and in 2012 it was $88.4 billion. All of this was the interest on the National Debt bonds, much of which the Federal Reserve had purchased since 2009.

In 2008, the last year of the Bush Administration, the country faced the explosion of the Real Estate Bubble that had been gradually building over the prior thirty years. The big banks had been going crazy with denial in 2007 with their abuses when the oncoming failure became obvious. In essence every dollar in circulation suddenly dropped in value to about a dime. The Obama Administration did two major things in 2009 and 2010. They were able to avoid through rapid action an economic crash potentially larger than the Great Depression of 1929 and they passed Affordable Health Care (Obamacare). In 2010 the country elected a Republican majority in the House of Representatives and thereafter nothing was done by the House to alleviate conditions caused by the Real Estate Bust. In fact Congress passed laws to exacerbate the negative conditions.

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It should be noted that the Federal Government has two major tools to deal with downturns in the economy. One, used by the Federal Reserve, is Monetary Policy and the other, used by Congress and the President, is Fiscal Policy. This is Macroeconomics.

Fiscal Policy has to do with Congress passing bills that add money to the economy. Keep in mind that all currency has nothing behind it other than the word of the National Government. All money is now a means of exchanging something of value for something else of value, goods and services for goods and services.

In 2011 or 2012 President Obama proposed a bill that would create jobs by updating the infrastructure of the United States. The electric grid across the U.S. is well over fifty years old, much of it predating World War II, and parts of it are in constant danger of breaking down. It has not dealt with the changes in demography or increases in population that have occurred over that period. The country has come close to power outages because of cold weather conditions or for other reasons. Many of the bridges throughout the nation are also well over fifty years old. A number have collapsed; many are still waiting to be refurbished.  Also many schools, some of which were built over one hundred years ago, also need refurbishing or replacement throughout the country. Many of the sewers in cities are well over one hundred years old; a few have collapsed in parts.

All of these and many other projects will have to be done at some point in the future. Maintenance is required to keep all aspects of society properly functioning. From 2011 on the House of Representatives with its Republican majority has tended to squeeze the society, downsizing government and adding to unemployment, in fact at one point it closed down the Federal Government by refusing to fund it. The present is an ideal time to do a lot of these fiscal projects as interest rates are at just barely above 0.

Monetary Policy is a tool of the Federal Reserve. It can be used to increase or decrease the amount of money in circulation. Ordinarily the Fed adjusts the money flow in the economy by increasing or decreasing the amount of money it borrows through the sale of bonds. What happens is decided by the rate or non-rate of inflation. The Fed is always cashing out and selling bonds. There are short term, medium term, and long term bonds, lasting from a few months to a number of years. The rate of sale is determined by the level in interest paid on these bonds. The higher the interest the greater the sale and the lower the interest the less the sale. These interest rates are determined by the level of inflation in the country. The higher the inflation the higher the interest. Here money is taken out of the national cash flow so that there is less available to be spent, thus gradually forcing down the rate of inflation. If the opposite is true then the Fed will sell less bonds than it cashes out and continually add currency to the national cash flow.

With no help from Congress during a period of recession or depression the Fed under the chairmanship of Ben Bernanke had to be quite innovative to pull the nation out of the Real Estate Debacle. This was done by the Fed buying $85 billion worth of bonds each month for well over two years: $45 billion in mortgage paper and $40 billion in government bonds. The effect of these two actions was to add well over a trillion dollars to the national cash flow per year; and also to essentially resolve the big banks activity in splitting up individual mortgages into well over one hundred parts. By my estimate it would have taken well over twenty years to straighten out the housing mess if the Fed had left it alone. The Fed did it in a relatively short time by buying most of the pieces. We again have new construction and older houses are being resold.

What is interesting to note here is that 40 billion was utilized on traditional monetary policy while 45 billion dollars was used to purchase mortgage paper from the assorted hedge funds which each owned fractional pieces of mortgages in each of their funds that had been very sloppily catalogued. For the Fed to collect or foreclose on any of these properties it would have to set up a table of all the homes on which it held mortgages within the 50 states and gradually build up its portfolio to the point where it owned over fifty percent of each particular mortgage. The cost of setting up this information bank would have been prohibitive even for the Federal government. The probability is that the Fed did nothing with this paper and a percentage of the population ended up living in their homes for nothing, in essence the government forgave these loans.

Of course the people living in these houses still had to pay property tax. If they did not the municipality would eventually foreclose on the property and sell it for back taxes. These people would suddenly have a lot of disposable income, which many of them spent freely, and they could not claim any home interest payments on their income taxes. This, in turn, added billions of dollars circulating in the National Cash Flow throughout the country.

The practice of adding money to the economy was ended in October of 2014. Janet Yellen, the new Fed chair left the ending of the policy tentative. It could be started up again if the need arose.

Interest rates had also been dropped to a fraction of one percent, practically giving the banks free money from all the savers and checking accounts which they could lend out at a decent rate of interest. Currently the Fed is considering when to raise interest rates. Meanwhile most of the larger banks have announced large profits for 2014.

What is interesting here is that the Federal Reserve used part of the National Debt as a means of positively controlling the amount within and the flow of national currency. They actually increased over time the flow of money by trillions of dollars and, in this way, diminished the effects of the Real Estate Debacle caused recession.

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What Bernanke did was to use part of the National Debt as a means of getting the country out of a serious recession. Since Congress would not act he used the Debt itself as the tool by which a large percentage of recovery was gradually brought about.

The National Debt is divided into two parts: public debt which the government owns and private debt which is held by private countries and by individuals. For example the two largest holders of U.S. debt are China which as of November 2014 held 1.25 trillion and Japan had 1.24 trillion.

All foreign holdings at that time were 6.11 trillion dollars. It should be noted that the National Debt currently is 18 plus trillion dollars. Who owns the balance? Private individuals and companies within the United States and elsewhere would hold at least another trillion dollars. The balance would then be held by the U.S. government and its agencies. For example Social Security has well over 2 1/2 trillion in government debt. All this means that the Federal Government holds well over 50 percent of its own debt and pays the interest on that debt to the U.S. Treasury.

It should be noted that Treasury securities are seen as one of the world’s safest investments. This has been the situation in the world and will, in all probability, remain so.

The 114 Congress, which recently met for the first time and has a Republican majority in both Houses, shows no indication that it is even slightly interested in fiscal policy. While unemployment is down to 5 plus percent for the first time in the nation since the 2008 Debacle it still could be a lot lower with fiscal policy.

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Another factor of importance here is population; it is always gradually increasing. According to the Census Bureau’s Population Clock: there is one birth every 8 seconds, one death every 12 seconds, and one international migration every 33 seconds. The result of all this is a net gain of one person every 16 seconds.

That is an increase in the population of the United States of 3.75 people per minute, 225 per hour, 5,400 persons per day, and 1,965,600 people per year, if we count each month as 30 days and do not allow for each leap year. The current overall number of people in the country is in excess of 350 million people.

Most of these new settlers will reside along either of the coastal areas. In order for standards of living to not decrease with this additional population the GDP (Gross Domestic Product) has to increase one or two points yearly. If it stays at exactly the same point or decreases slightly then the overall standard of living has dropped for the bulk of Americans.

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What will happen with this new Congress should be interesting and economically uninspiring. From now until July 2016 when the Republicans hold their Presidential Convention there will be a lot of jockeying for the lead position in the Republican Party. The major issues like immigration, fiscal policy, job creation, plus whatever else comes up will be largely ignored. They will try forms of blackmail with the President in order to achieve some of their goals. This will be done by attaching riders that he will not approve of to necessary bills. That means that President Obama will probably have to veto the necessary legislation causing all sorts of economic and other problems. The question there is who will take the blame for causing all these disasters?

The Republicans will certainly not be creating any new jobs. Janet Yellen, the current chair of the Federal Reserve may have to restart the program of buying bonds for economic recovery to continue since the Republicans will be doing their dandiest to constrict the economy and inadvertently increase unemployment. What will probably occur between the present and the next presidential election is two years that the future historians will in all likelihood essentially ignore.

Description: Newspaper clipping USA, Woodrow W...

Description: Newspaper clipping USA, Woodrow Wilson signs creation of the Federal Reserve. Source: Date: 24 December 1913 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)