If you are concerned about the present and future of government in America you need to take time to watch the 60 Minute interview with convicted DC lobbyist, Jack Abramoff. The unfettered influence of lobbyists on the United States Congress is absolutely incredible. Most Americans already believe that congress is corrupt. If Abramoff is to be believed, and I don’t know why he wouldn’t be about this issue, the influence of the rich and powerful is far beyond what they most cynical and skeptic already believes to be true. For example, Abramoff claims he and his staff had significant influence on at least 100 members of the US House of Representatives and felt they weren’t being successful enough.
Seems like every cycle of the news brings new revelations of just how ill-prepared so many GOP presidential candidates are. The US Constitution only requires a person to be a natural-born citizen, lived fourteen years in the US and be 35-years old. But, while these are the legal prerequisites there exist others that are far more demanding.
One of my basic requirements is that my candidate has to be well-educated. That demands they be extremely knowledgeable of American and World History, advanced economic systems, Constitutional law, foreign affairs, policy, and diplomacy. Presidents have lots of people around them to offer advice and can’t be expected to know everything. But, they must bring to the job a deep and broad foundation Continue reading There’s More to Being President Than Being Old Enough!→
Owned and operated by the St. Petersburg Times, PolitiFact is one of the best of the fact-finding sites. To graphically illustrate the degree of truth they use both a textual explanation of the issue along with a visual “truth-o-meter.” Here’s just one of the claims they’ve recently looked into.
Medicare monthly premiums will go up to $104.20 in 2012 and $247.00 in 2014 due to “provisions incorporated in the Obamacare legislation, purposely delayed so as not to ‘confuse’ the 2012 re-election campaigns.”
As shown so many times, the source of this claim is found in one of those frequent emails that go ballistic on the Internet and because it shows up black and white in ones email box, it must be true. Well, as usual, it’s not. PolitiFact in this case issued a “liar, liar, pants on fire” meter indicating just how false the claim is. If you want to read the entire explanation about the facts of this claim, click HERE.
I and many others have been critical of the historical accuracy of several in this year’s crop of GOP candidates. Everyone makes the occasional gaff but Michelle Bachmann obviously grew up studying different history and geography textbooks than most of us did. She may not be the front-runner in the polls but she is certainly a contender for having made the most unsupportable claims about American History. In an article titled The World According to Michelle Bachmann, the Daily Beast does a little fact checking into some of the candidate’s claims.
To begin with, flip-flopping is as old as humankind. Repeatedly every person has opened their mouth and said something they later retracted, altered, or denied. If you get really good at it you’ve met the main qualification for being elected to public office. But, if you reach the absolute heights of flip-flopping you may end up with your own talk-radio program or hour-long news/commentary show on a cable news channel. At either level, though, you are given license to talk about the flip-flopping of others while ignoring your own flip-flopping.
In 2004 the GOP was all over John Kerry for supposed flip-flopping on issues like the war in Iraq, tax cuts, medical marijuana, gay marriage, welfare reform and NAFTA. The Republican Party even produced actual pairs of John Kerry Flip-Flops to hand out as campaign memorabilia.
In the 2008 presidential campaign both Obama and McClain often accused each other of flip-flopping on the issues and in 2010 McCain was all over himself trying to save his Senate seat from Arizona. The great “maverick” became the great, I’m whatever it takes to win your vote, candidate. Matter of fact, after all the I’m now for/I’m now against gyrations since 2008, McCain still hasn’t been able to settle down with a stable position regarding several issues. He’s been all over the place about exercising American military power in the world. One moment he’s demanding Continue reading 2011-12 Season for Flip-Flopping is Now Open→
I recently wrote a piece decrying the lack of interest Americans are showing about our prolonged involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan. While America continues to keep up a military capability that exceeds the combined total of all the world’s nations Hillary Clinton made a speech this week in which she stated that in today’s world, economic power is more important than military. And ironically, as America’s economic power is weakening we continue spending excessively on our military.
Just think how much we could grow our economic influence and presence in the world if we were spending the bulk of our military budget and collective nation building/war costs on furthering education, technical research, and economic development here at home. Instead, we are squandering our blood and treasure Continue reading We Are Shooting Ourselves in the Foot With Our Own Military→
David Brooks is a columnist for the New York Times and regarding fiscal matters I often am in agreement with him. In his latest column he is arguing that the 1% at the top of the food chain is not the real problem. He contends that if the government took away all their wealth the national debt could only be reduced by 2%. He believes the current Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement is not focusing on the true causes of our economic woes by focusing on the top 1%.
I can agree with much of what Brooks argues. And, to an extent, I agree that the causes go far beyond the 1%. But, the one thing that OWS is helping bring to attention is the enormous political and economic power wielded by what that 1% represents. It represents the major share holders in the largest corporations in both this nation and the world. They have the means, and have used it, to corrupt or bend our Continue reading It’s Not the Wealth, It’s the Influence It Buys→
There is an old saying, “Be careful what you wish for, you may get it”. That phrase came to mind as I read an article on the Occupy Wall Street protests now under way in New York and other cities. I couldn’t help but think about how some of the original Tea Party protestors were angry about a government that didn’t seem to listen to the people. A system that no longer even put up a pretense of being responsive to anyone other than big money special interests. Even if they weren’t sure exactly how it had happened, people knew that over the years, something had gone wrong and they wanted it fixed. We may be seeing the beginnings of a similar movement with the Occupy Wall Street protests.
It is still too early to tell, but the similarities are striking. Both groups started as a way to give a voice to those that felt they weren’t being heard by their elected representatives. They both attract a wide array of personalities, some that are unable to articulate exactly what they are angry about and thus are easy to dismiss as being Continue reading Tea Party & Occupy Wall Street Protestors Share Common Concern→
Michael Moore is a paragon of liberalism in America while Bill O’Reilly is a paragon of conservatism. You know what they have in common? They both require full-time, twenty-four/seven, professional security services to keep them safe from the crazies running around in America.
This observation comes from having recently read a Newsweek article about Moore’s need to hire former Navy Seals as body guards and a second article about O’Reilly’s new book on American History. The author of that article mentioned he and O’Reilly being accompanied by armed security guards as they went to lunch.
It is quite possible that O’Reilly has interviewed Moore face to face. If such a meeting has taken place I’m sure it did would not have required the presence of armed body guards. It is quite possible for two persons of greatly differing views to discuss their differences without resorting to Jerry Springer style physical brouhahas. Barack Obama and George W. Bush have demonstrated many times that they being in the same room with each other doesn’t require bouncers Continue reading Crazies to the Left of Me, Crazies to the Right→
So you think you’re middle-class. I’ve already written several pieces about America’s disappearing middle-class but many Americans still cling to the notion that they remain in the middle-class. I’ve done a little homework and I’m beginning to wonder if many of those who think they are/were in the middle ever actually were.
Ask yourself these questions:
Is my family’s gross income close to $50,000 annually?
Is my family’s income secure? Can we count on it being there tomorrow and many tomorrows in the future?
Do we own our own home or are able to meet the mortgage payments with little difficulty?
Is the neighborhood we live in safe?
Do we own at least one dependable vehicle?
Are we able to save enough for our children’s college tuition?
Are we able to save enough for retirement?
Do we have enough disposable income for a few frills?
A single income family in 1970 had more discretionary income than a dual income family in the 2000s. By the way, the average 1970s family didn’t earn over $40k and the average today does not earn $75k.
If you’re having trouble answering these questions in the affirmative you’re probably not middle-class. If you’ve never been able to answer yes to these questions then you’ve most likely never been middle-class. According to an ABC News poll in 2010, “45 percent of Americans define themselves as middle class (very similar to a CNN poll that year). They earned about $55,000 a year, compared with about $95,000 for those who defined themselves as above the middle class…” How one sees perceives their situation is often quite different than reality. The anorexic looks in the mirror and sees a fat person.
I recently wrote about the shrinking Shrinking American middle-class and since that piece appeared the word on the street hasn’t gotten better. According to the Wall Street Journal and Salon.com major manufacturers of consumer products are “bifurcating” their product lines. In simple terms, they are restructuring their marketing in ways to appeal to two different markets separated by income. In this case, the true middle and upper classes and the growing lower middle-class and poor.
For generations Proctor and Gamble marketed its consumer product line to the growing middle-class in America. Today, however, P&G is an example of a company becoming more aware of the divide in incomes and that yesterday’s middle-class are seeking more affordable alternatives. Accordingly, the company is developing Continue reading Our Fading Middle-Class, More Proof!→
Saudi Arabia is one of the strictest theocracies in the world, especially towards women. Women aren’t permitted to appear in public unless fully covered and without a male escort. At the moment they can’t vote or run for public office. They are not permitted to drive a car and one of the few moments of freedom permitted is the occasional trip to a women’s only shopping mall. Of course, one must be wealthy enough to hire transportation and the money to afford what’s being offered in these places.
For the first decade of the 21st century the Republican party controlled the Presidency for eight straight years and both houses of the Congress for most of that time. Given that, how can GOP leader, Paul Ryan, come before the nation and claim Obama’s policies are creating class warfare?
America today is a nation divided many ways but especially about who gets the big piece of the pie. As I and others have stated before, one-percent of the people have over forty-percent of the nation’s wealth. Much of that disparity results from tax cuts, tax rates, tax policy, and neglected tax regulation fostered during the eight years of George W. Bush.
You may remember the end of John Steinbeck’s stage adaptation of, Of Mice and Men. After accidentally killing a young woman, Lennie escapes from the men hunting him and hides near a small river, waiting for George to come and save him. George arrives, but understanding that he can no longer protect Lennie, he makes the difficult decision to shoot him. He kills Lennie so that he will be saved from the cruelty of his pursuers.
It’s a difficult ending for a modern audience. Killing a developmentally disabled man is complicated enough, but adding the fact that the killer is his best friend and caregiver makes an already hard to grasp ending that much more complex. Every time I teach the play the discussion concerning the moral and ethical dilemma presented by the ending consumes most of the available class time.
But last week I was confronted by a response that I had never heard. When I asked for opinions on what the Steinbeck was trying to say to us through the ending one normally quiet freshman offered his unique thoughts. With some surprising degree of confidence this student said that George killed Lennie because he wanted his freedom. George was tired of taking care of Lennie and now he could spend his money on whatever he wanted.
We all remember when Joe Wilson, Republican from South Carolina’s 2nd district, shouted “You lie” during President Obama’s 2009 health care address to Congress. And now, at a recent jobs summit in Inglewood, California, Maxine Waters, Democrat from California’s 35Th district, said “the Tea Party can go straight to hell”. Is this the way Americans want their congressmen and women to act?
Surely this type of uncivil behavior would result in the offending congressmen getting booted out of office. Not exactly, Maxine Waters carried her district by a 79% margin and Joe Wilson carried his by 54% in the 2010 elections. Unfortunately, these congressmen represent districts of homogenous views and generally are elected year after year, as long as they don’t commit a felony. Continue reading Gerrymandering – Recipe for Uncivil Behavior in the Beltway→