Sunday, October 4, 2015

America's Dysfunctional Government - Who's to Blame?

Many insist that both major political parties are equally to blame for America’s dysfunctional government. Some use this as justification for supporting the presidential campaigns of Donald Trump, Ben Carson or Carly Fiorina, who they view as non-politicians and outsiders.  However, if you study the history of the contributions and ideology of the major political parties the truth becomes clear.

The Democratic Party, while far from perfect, has consistently represented the interests of the majority of Americans. It is the party responsible for the implementation of Medicare and Social Security, which Republicans to this day are committed to dismantling. It is the party that stands for equal rights (and pay) for all regardless of race, sex (or sexual orientation) and religion. It is the party that supports raising the minimum wage to ensure all Americans receive a living wage for their labor. It is the party that, like all civilized nations, believes healthcare is a human right not an unaffordable expense. 

The Republican Party, on the other hand, has tirelessly battled to free corporations from government regulation and for reducing taxes for the wealthy. It is the party waging a never-ending war against labor unions and raising the minimum wage as wages stagnant and the once strong middle class morphs the working poor. It is the party committed to eliminating all social programs designed to protect the poorest among us. It is the party that denies the science of climate change in order to allow industry to continue to foul the earth’s air, land and sea. The Republican Party is also the party that most often advocates replacing the secular government established by the nation’s Founding Fathers with a Christian theocracy.

When conservative politicians and pundits are not directing their hateful soundbites at the poor (lazy), blacks (thugs), Muslims (terrorists), homosexuals (sinners) and illegal immigrants (criminals), they are ranting about the ineptitude of the federal government. They decry government interference in the "free market" and would put an end to the critically important role of government in protecting investors, consumers, workers and the environment from corporations concerned only about profits and the disgracefully excessive compensation awarded to their executives. If the Republican Party has its way, America’s democratic form of government will eventually be replaced with oligarchy. 

There are major differences in the platforms of the two major political parties. It is critical for the future of this nation that the majority of Americans understand this. The Republican Party today is truly the party of "No". No good can come to the majority of Americans when it holds the reigns of government.

Background Checks--Really????

As the carnage continues, politicians attempting to make it look like they care call for stronger background checks and treatment for the mentally ill. I wonder how they can even propose this as a solution with a straight face.

Background checks wouldn't have saved the children and teachers at Sandyhook. The shooter's mother bought the guns and would have had no problem passing a background check. The shooter in Oregon last week acquired the guns legally. The vast majority of others who have turned guns on members of their family, friends, innocent strangers or  themselves have no history of past violence and could easily pass a background check.

There is a cliche that guns don't kill people; people kill people.  In truth, it is the increasing availability of guns that kills people. As long as people are allowed to keep guns, including handguns and weapons of mass destruction like assault rifles and high capacity clips, the death count will continue to mount.

The fallacy that increased background checks is the solution is a myth.  Guns are stolen in break-ins by criminals. Legally acquired guns are used by angry friends or family members. Unsecured guns in homes result in the death of far too many curious children. Guns often result in disputes quickly escalating from verbal confrontations or fist fights to fatal shootings. Suicides also increase when a gun is readily at hand.

The only thing that will reduce gun violence is less guns.  Other more civilized countries understand this, but these nations place a higher value on human life. After all, America is the country that is still debating whether the poor have a right to healthcare. 

Sunday, February 15, 2015

God Save America from the GOP

The GOP controlled Congress is wasting no time doling out benefits to business. In spite of the "myth" that they are the fiscally responsible party, the reality is most Republicans have no problem increasing the deficit if it will benefit business or the wealthy. It is funding for Healthcare, Social Security, Education and other social programs directly benefiting the people that the GOP is anxious to slash. They can also be expected to cut funding for the government agencies charged with protecting our food supply, financial markets and the environment.  

It is inconceivable, that after doing everything possible to obstruct the workings of the United States Government for the past six years, the American people awarded them a majority in both Houses of Congress. Sadly, the following votes, although predictable, clearly demonstrate what the people of this nation can expect. 

  • Keystone Pipeline - The House passed the bill granting approval of the Keystone XL Pipeline permitting a Canadian company to ship tar sand crude from Alberta to refineries in Texas, the Midwest and Gulf Coast
  • House Republicans rejected a Democratic sponsored motion that would have required the Keystone XL Pipeline to pay into the government's Oil Spill Liability Trust.
  • The House approved a GOP-drafted bill (HR 644) giving permanent status to tax deductions for businesses donating food to food banks. The allowable deduction was raised from 10% to 15%, The bill is not funded and is estimated to add $2.2 billion to the national debt through 2025.
  • The House rejected a Democratic motion that would deny benefits under HR 644 to any company that reincorporates overseas to avoid US taxes, a process known as inversion.
  • The House passed a GOP-drafted bill (HR-636) giving permanent status to accelerated depreciation rules applicable to small and mid-sized businesses. Since the bill is unfunded, it is estimated to add $77 billion to the federal deficits through 2025.
  • The House rejected a Democratic proposal that would have limited the depreciation breaks under HR-636 to one year and required their costs to be offset elsewhere in the budget.
Since the days of President Eisenhower, this country has not fared well under Republican presidents. Let's hope President Obama can keep this Congress in check for the next two years and that the majority of the people regain their senses before the next election. 

Friday, January 9, 2015

Terrorism Feeds on Hatred and Persecution

Are Christians really going to declare war on Islam? When Muslim extremists commit terrorist acts, a cry goes up for vengeance against all followers of Islam. Why doesn't a similar cry go up against Christianity when Christians commit acts of terror like Sandyhook, Columbine, or Oklahoma City? I've heard no one suggest that all Christians must be held accountable for the horrific crimes against humanity that occurred during The Holocaust.

It is not only unfair to paint all followers of Islam with the "terrorist" brush, it's downright stupid. Nearly 25% of the world's population are Muslims. Does it really make sense to declare war on almost 2 billion people? Wouldn't it be wiser to find out the reasons young Muslims in so many countries around the globe are responding to the recruitment efforts of organizations like Al-Qaeda and ISIS?

All that can come from the hatred growing like cancer in the hearts and minds of Christians, Jews, and others for Muslims is more death and destruction.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Where is the Conservative Alternative to the Affordable Healthcare Act?

While many are condemning Democrats for voting for the Affordable Health Care Act, they are far less critical of Republicans who openly refused to support any version of healthcare reform in order to prevent granting President Obama a “win”.  They were even unwilling to endorse provisions that they themselves had proposed in the past.  Sadly, even after the Act became law and millions enrolled, instead of getting to work to improve it, they repeatedly voted for its appeal. 

It is incredibly sad when those elected to serve the people of this country are willing to put the health of so many Americans at risk and jeopardize their financial security should a major illness or injury strike. Healthcare should not be reduced to a political issue or a financial issue. If other countries can provide healthcare to their people, why can't the United States of America? 

Much good has come from passage of the Affordable Health Care Act, including eliminating exclusions for preexisting conditions, enhancement of preventive care benefits, improved oversight of healthcare insurers and the availability of government subsidies for those who cannot afford to purchase insurance.

In my view, the focus should not be on Democrats voting for passage of the Affordable Health Care Act in spite of its complexity and imperfections. The focus should be on how the United States can catch up with the rest of the world by ensuring all citizens have access to affordable healthcare.  If Republicans have a better plan on now to do this, it’s long past time for them to present it to the American people and work as hard as President Obama did to get it passed. 

Saturday, October 25, 2014

America's Broken Government: Good, Bad and Ugly Choices for Voters

There was a time when the two party system, although imperfect, worked reasonably well in this country. This may have been because the leaders of both parties had some respect for each other and were willing to compromise for the good of the nation. When one party became too powerful, the American people tended to vote them out thus allowing the pendulum to shift from the right to the left and back again. As a result, the country remained fairly close to the center on the political spectrum. When times got tough, Democrats came up with social programs like Social Security and Medicare or put people to work on the government payroll. When things improved, Republicans stepped in pledging to lower taxes, encourage the creation of private sector jobs and kick the freeloaders off the public payroll.
Unfortunately, it's long past time to admit what is obvious to the rest of the world. America's government is broken. The two party system isn't working. It no longer cares what is true or false, right or wrong or even what is good for the American people. All that matters is holding onto political power and shutting the minority party out of the governing process. The people tolerate this because they have become convinced by the media that the members of the other party are evil, greedy, uninformed, corrupt or just plain stupid. Contributing further to the destruction of our Republic is the incredible amount of money required to fund political campaigns. It is evident to everyone but the United States Supreme Court that those campaign donations come with an extremely high price tag. 
As the November elections draw near, where do voters turn for the information required to make an informed decision at the polls? Hopefully not the media. Both conservative and liberal pundits spin every issue; cloaking it in their ideological prejudices and far too often deliberately lying to the public. Politicians will say anything if they believe it will appeal to the base. This makes it impossible to know where they stand on the issues or if they possess the courage to cross party lines and vote their conscience. Campaign ads are so hateful and misleading, they're painful to watch. It's not surprising many people are either voting strictly along party lines or choosing to stay away from the polls.
Blind party loyalty is dangerous, particulariy when there is so much disparity in the platforms of America's major political parties. The GOP insists the federal government, labor unions, and millions of Americans unwilling to take responsibility for themselves are the enemy. They claim most problems in this country can be solved by lowering taxes, relaxing government oversight of corporate America, keeping government out of the lives of American citizens (with the exception of a woman's right to choose and same-sex marriage), disbanding social welfare programs, deporting illegal immigrants, securing our border with Mexico, privatizing public institutions and injecting Christian principles into our secular government. The Democrats look to the federal government for solutions. As the creators of Medicare and Social Security, they are less willing to cut funding for public assistance and social welfare programs. Democrats are also more likely to invoke the power of the federal government in preventing discrimination, guarding the public against corporate exploitation, safeguarding the environment and defending civil rights. Although sometimes referred to as the "tax and spend" party, the real difference isn't that they spend more than Republicans or care less about the deficit. It's their spending priorities are different. Their tax policy supports tax cuts for the middle class but calls for increases in the tax rates for the wealthy. 
Pollsters predict the November election will be an overwhelming victory for the GOP. If true, there will be tough times ahead for the growing number of Americans living below the poverty level, labor unions and those who have benefited from the Affordable Health Care Act. It will also be a setback for those concerned about climate change or a women's right to choose. It will, however, be a good day for those who believe opportunity still exists for anyone with the will to succeed, social programs such as food stamps and housing assistance create dependency, voting is a privilege not a right and the price tag for ensuring all Americans have access to health care is too high.
Both parties have something to offer the American people. Unfortunately, the mentality in Washington these days is winner take all. The GOP gaining control of the Senate will not result in a new spirit of cooperation and the battle the GOP has waged against President Obama will accelerate. Meanwhile, liberal pundits will shout to the heavens that wealthy conservative donors bought the election aided by Voter ID legislation sponsored by Republican Governors.

Is it any wonder that rest of the world shakes their heads in wonder at what the American political system has become?

Monday, September 1, 2014

Seems Like Celebrating the American Worker is no Longer in Fashion

Labor Day was created to celebrate the efforts of American Workers. With income inequality growing at an alarming rate, collective bargaining under attack and increasing number of workers paid less than a living wage, there isn't that much for American labor to celebrate. The following Harold Meyerson column points out how corporate behavior has changed over the past few decades and the devastating impact these changes have had on the American worker and, in turn, the destruction of the Middle Class. Definitely worth reading.

Harold Meyerson: The Rosetta Stone of America's economic decline : Ct