Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

It is July 7, 2015 and Congress has returned to session from their Fourth of July break.  There are a lot of things that need to be done before October.  Now, to some that may seem a long way away.  But since Congress isn’t known for working at breakneck speed, that is really not far away.

However, the Highway and Transportation Fund is about to run out of money a whole lot faster.  As you may have known, I took a trip back to Chicago over the weekend to help celebrate my mother’s 90th birthday.  I drove through 5 states each way.  Let me tell you, the roads in the country are getting worse and worse, and nothing is really being done about it.

When I was driving on the Interstate System, I must admit that I had smoother rides on board ship in 15 foot seas than I had on the Interstate.  The roads are in terrible shape.  Yes, there were some major construction in certain areas, but most of this construction was more in line with “patch” work rather than repaving work.

The CBO has estimated that above the gas tax revenue, it will take about $100 billion to fund a six-year transportation funding bill.  The gas tax is currently at 18.4 cents per gallon.  It has been there since 1993.  With more fuel-efficient vehicles on the road, the gas tax is falling far short of the money needed to properly fund transportation.

There has been a push to raise the gas tax, but naturally, Republicans have ruled that out completely.  But, there is another way to help this funding as well as other funding.  The President has proposed something called “repatriation.”  This calls for taxing corporate overseas profits at a 14-percent rate to raise money to supplement collections from the gas tax. The proposal is part of a six-year, $478 billion that Obama has proposed and has largely been ignored thus far by lawmakers.

Some Republicans are open to the idea.  However, they want a lower rate, and they want these corporations to be on a “voluntary” basis.  Most sane people think that is ludicrous, but that is what Republicans want.

Additionally, there is a huge fight going on over the budget for 2016.  That budget must be passed by October 1, or there will be ANOTHER government shutdown.  The stumbling block on the budget is sequestration.  On the Defense side, the Republicans have approved $38 billion and put it in what is basically a “war” fund so they can get around the 2011 sequestration laws.  Yet, they are firmly against raising the sequestration levels for anything but Defense and are going ahead with drastically cutting just about everything else.

“Democrats must decide whether they support our troops or not,” said Kevin Smith, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), focusing on the defense bill. “In a time of grave threats to our nation, Democrats are denying funding for our troops, their families, and the nation’s veterans in order to extract more government spending on Washington bureaucracies like the IRS and the EPA. They are putting their political interests ahead of the most important priority we have –- protecting our nation –- and that is unconscionable.”

That is a total farce.  See, the President had proposed raising the Defense Budget in his proposal.  All the Republicans did was ignore every other department of government and use a gimmick in order to get to the President’s numbers.  The Democrats on the other hand are not against the Defense numbers, they simply want to hold negotiations with Republicans on other items including getting rid of the sequestration hurdle.

When sequester was first established there were agreements on reducing the deficit.  And, as a result, the deficit is lower than it has been in years.  Please don’t confuse deficit and debt as the Republicans want you to.  The deficit is what would be added each year.  By reducing or eliminating the deficit, the debt would not rise anymore.

Of course, one way to reduce the deficit is to raise taxes, especially on the 1%.  That, of course is kryptonite to Republicans and they will never agree to it.  The other is to eliminate the overseas profit loophole and the ability of companies to claim a foreign country as their corporate nationality even though their headquarters is right here in the U.S.  I don’t know why Republicans are fighting this, but they are.

So, if nothing is done about the transportation funding, it will run out of money on July 31.  All of those construction jobs on the interstate, and elsewhere, will come to a stop.  Plus, if Republicans and Democrats cannot agree on a budget, we will face another government shutdown.  All Democrats want is to negotiate.  For some unexplained reason, the Republicans have refused to even talk.

I guess this is what happens when a major political party decides that everything is based on “my way or shutdown.”  What a lovely way to govern.

Read Full Post »

When Congress returns this week, the budget battles will begin anew.  Looming over these discussions is the Budget Control Act also known as sequester.  The Republican controlled Congress has always figured out a way to avoid this requirement in the Defense Budget, but they are loath to use similar measures for domestic spending.

Last year, they passed a bill called Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act.  This Act was supposed to provide adult education and job training.  The Republicans called it a great bill helping Americans to compete better in the global economy.

This year they plan to rewrite the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.  This bill also includes things like the Pell Grants and other plans to improve educating our children.  It is actually being dubbed the “Every Child Achieves” bill.  According to the CBO the new plan would cost about $23.9 billion in the 2016 budget.

That is where the rub is coming.  Because of the BCA and the Republicans refusal, so far, to negotiate how to get around it for domestic spending like they did for the Defense Budget, that money will not be available.  Just as an example, Republicans talked about how the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act would help protect American Workers during the TPP negotiations.  Yet, their appropriations bills are cutting about $350 Million dollars from the program.

The CBO estimates for ESA mentioned above is about $900 Million ABOVE 2015 budget.  Yet the appropriations bills in Congress are cutting, not adding money here, too.  Excluding Pell Grants, the Senate budget is set to cut $1.32 Billion from the Department of Education.  The House version cuts a whopping $2.4 billion.  With programs like the Striving Readers program being completely wiped out.

As we get further and further into the 2016 campaign season, you will hear Republicans talk all about all of the wonderful training and educational bills they passed.  However, you will not hear them talk about how they gutted the financing for these wonderful training programs making them totally useless.

The President and Democrats have been calling for a joint committee to hash out ways to help domestic spending as much as defense spending.  Republicans have refused to even have these talks.  They always claim that defending the country is the top priority.  However, without any domestic spending on essential things like education and infrastructure, there soon won’t be anything to defend.

This Republican Congress is looking like it will join the House the last two sessions as the least productive and most hurtful Congress in our history.  It is really funny to me how the party that claims to want to help the economy always finds a way to hurt it instead.  In the last 20 years or so, the Republicans have passed a slew of bills without paying for them.

That is not just crazy, it is insane.  More importantly, it is flagrant dishonesty to the American People.  I guess integrity is one of those stupid liberal words meant to make conservatives look bad.  All of this wrangling just to keep the taxes for the 1% lower than yours.  Nice.

Read Full Post »

This weekend, we celebrate the 4th of July holiday.  As for myself, I am back in Chicago celebrating my mother’s 90th birthday as well.  Everyone is looking forward to the bar-b-que and spending time with family and friends.  There will be parades, fireworks, and fun times at home or the beach.  The “traditional” Fourth of July celebrations.

During the city or town’s celebrations, there will be “tributes” to the “heroes” who have defended our freedoms.  There will be thousands of “thank you for your service” to veterans.  That will all be very nice.  However, we will all forget those veterans who won’t be standing in line at the parade.

It is estimated that approximately 4 million veterans are homeless.  Unemployment for veterans is still extremely high.  Many veterans who are not homeless are in need of other assistance like SNAP.  Things are very dire for too many of our veterans.

In the meantime, thousands of wounded veterans are struggling getting the help they need.  Physically and mentally shattered veterans are simply struggling to get through the day.  Yes, the VA is struggling to keep up, and they are getting help from non-profit organizations.  The question is why should these non-profits even be necessary?

Earlier this week, O’Reilly did a segment trying to shame homeless people living in Grand Central station.  While they did a marvelous job in their shaming, never once did they as “are you a veteran?”  Policies that are being introduced by the new congress will do very little to help the plight of veterans.  Rather, most will hurt veterans even more.

I know that the tributes and other sayings this weekend being made across the country are genuine.  I know that Americans in general are appreciative of our service to our country.  But, with holidays like the Fourth of July and Veterans Day and Flag day, too many make their tributes, feel good about themselves, and then move on with their lives.  That is just the way life is.  I am not condemning anyone.

However, I would like it if just once, people would think about the plight of too many of our veterans.  I would like to see that on Monday, members of Congress would be flooded with calls, email, and regular  mail asking each member what they plan to do to ease the plight of so many of our veterans.

The next time you talk about veterans being “heroes” please remember, “heroes” are not supposed to be thrown to the trash heap of society when their service is done.  They should be given the help they need to rejoin society.  All of us have not been able to do that.  Many of my brothers and sisters are languishing in the shadows.  It is time for our country’s people to fight for our veterans.  They deserve nothing less.

Anyway, have yourself a great holiday weekend.  I hope you all find happiness in whatever you do this weekend.  Enjoy your family and friends.  I know I will.


Read Full Post »

The Supreme Court ruled that the independent redistricting commission in Arizona was legal.  The legislature, led by Republicans challenged it because they felt that it took away too many “safe districts” to “toss-up.”  They claimed that it was only the legislature’s responsibility to draw up redistricting.

The court ruled basically the legislature could be interpreted as the “people” or “electorate.”  So we have a beginning.  Other states have independent commissions as well, but the legislature has much more power in the process than in Arizona.  But they aren’t really working all that well either.

There are a lot of problems when considering redistricting.  One is to make sure that minorities are properly represented.  However, the real problem is that there is too much emphasis on “safe districts.”  That, after all is what gerrymandering is all about.  Once a party takes power, they want to make sure they keep power.

The real answer to some, if not most of our political problems is to make sure there are very few “safe” districts.  We need to have a lot more “toss-up” districts in every state. That will actually make politicians to actually “stand for” something and not just against something because the majority of the district is against it.

Some will say that getting rid of Citizens United is needed, too.  But, if handled properly, Citizens United will collapse under its own weight.  So, here is my proposal.

In every state, each of the two political parties would get about 25% of the districts as “safe.”  That would mean the other 50% of the districts would be “toss-up.”  Wouldn’t it be nice to see politicians earning your vote rather than expecting it simply because you are democratic or republican?

As far as the United Citizens thing goes, if we make 50% of all districts in the U.S. “toss-up” it would make it more difficult for groups like them to actually buy an election.   The money needed to buy an election in every “toss-up” district would be huge even for them.

Yes, this plan is probably over-simple.  But it should be the starting point in any redistricting that any state undertakes.  In order for this to work the way it is supposed to, the “legislature” would need to be taken out of the process.  I don’t think either party would like that, but too bad.

The Supreme Court opened the door to make this plan possible.  Now it is up to each of us to make our states to follow through with it.  More competition for office is what we need not less.  I have never believed in “safe districts” and I never will.  I want the fool to “earn” my vote.  Now is the time to make that possible.


Read Full Post »

In the last week the Supreme Court has ruled in favor of the Affordable Care Act, Same-sex marriage, and Independent Redistricting Committees in states like Arizona.  It has also ruled against clean air and struck down the new EPA rules against coal-fired power plants.  I guess they figure since you are now eligible for health insurance, it doesn’t matter if the air you breath is trying to kill you.

What I am waiting for now, is the upcoming attack on the middle-class in favor of profits that is looming just around the corner.  I have written about this before, but the President is finally going to try to do something about a problem that has been years in the making.

In all of the labor laws in this country there are rules that deal with overtime pay.    The situation is that if you are an hourly wage earner, you are eligible for overtime pay when you work more than 40 hours per week.  However, if you are a “salaried” worker, you are not automatically eligible for overtime pay.

Under the current rules, if you earn more than $23,660 per year, you are not eligible for overtime pay, regardless of how many hours you actually work.  The side-show to this is that if a company decides that people who are making more than 23,660 are “white-collar” they can put them on salary and thus avoid paying the overtime.  Regardless of what work they are actually doing.

This problem has really reared its ugly head in the retail business.  Many retail businesses call people managers whose primary job is stocking shelves.  Since they pay them, say $30,000 per year, they are not required to pay these people overtime.  Even when a lot of these people are forced to work up to 80 hours per week.

This overtime rule was changed under George W. Bush to the current threshold of $32.660 per year.  It was the only time since 1975 that the rule had been changed.  In 1975 the rule protected up to 60% of the workforce.  Today, the rule protects about 8% of the workforce.

The President is poised to change the limit of earnings up to $50,440 per year.  That is almost double what it is today.  That means up to 40% of the workforce would be protected and able to earn overtime pay for their extra hours.  There are some basic realities of the current economic upturn.

The first reality is that the top 1% earners are gaining 95% of the economic growth.  The second reality is that middle-class pay has stagnated.  For that matter, middle-class pay has been stagnant for over 30 years while the top 1% income has grown over 300%.

This rule change will not fix our ills.  But it is a step in the right direction.  It is something that will actually help the middle-class.  That is why there will be trouble.  See, once the President announces his plan, it must go through a “public hearing” period.  Everyone on both sides of the issue will have a chance to voice their concerns about the rule.

The Chamber of Commerce has already spoken about the new rule.  Randy Johnson, senior vice president of Labor, Immigration and Employee Benefits calling the rule “another example of the administration being completely divorced from reality and adding more burdens to employers and expecting them to just absorb the impact.”

Business groups are not alone in their already opposition.  You can bet conservatives in Congress will also weigh in on the new rule as well.  As a matter of fact, the House Education and the Workforce subcommittee held a hearing largely devoted to excoriating the overtime rule, sight unseen.  Republican Rep. Tim Walberg, the subcommittee chairman, pledged to oppose any overtime proposal that “goes too far” or that would “inflict harm on the nation’s workplaces.”

Of course, Walberg never said what he meant about that phrase of “goes too far” or “inflict harm on the nation’s workplaces.”  I am willing to bet that he is talking about how this rule might cut into profits of the shareholders.  That is the usual argument they come up with.  I am also sure that John Boehner will trot out his “this rule is a job killer” attack.  He really needs to get a new tape for that phrase.  It is really worn out.

I am predicting that conservatives will start drumming the “economic doom” argument they always haul out from under the bed whenever something that would actually help employees is proposed.  You will hear how it is a “job killer.”  You will hear how it is a “train wreck” for the American economy.  You will hear how it is a “redistributing wealth” gambit.

What you will never hear from the conservatives in Congress is how this will help millions of Americans live more comfortably.  You will never hear from conservatives in Congress how these workers deserve fair pay for an honest day’s work.  That is not how their capitalism works.  Their capitalism works by enslaving the employees at extremely low wages and make more money for the shareholders.

I think it is time to get the BS suites out of the closet.  This is more than likely going to get very ugly.  Even if this rule gets made policy, you can be sure that the conservatives will run, not walk, down to the courts to get it overturned.  So, don’t hold your breath waiting for the rule to take effect.  Republicans will be sure to delay it as long as they can.   Delaying things for the working people is about all they are good at!

Read Full Post »

“Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever!”

George Wallace 1963 Inaugural Address

Today, it is 2015.  We should be well beyond this bigoted phrase.  However, we have not passed beyond the world of bigotry and hate.  Government officials in Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi, among others, have taken up this mantra.  The only difference is that they are now wrapping themselves in the hatred of religion.  Or, I should probably say they are wrapping themselves in the false Religion of Hate!

Friday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage was constitutionally protected in all 50 states.  Even before this decision, the Religion of Hate was busy passing laws that would deny same-sex couples the right to marry and/or get services from private business to celebrate their marriages.

This Religion of Hate came to us under the so-called “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” laws they passed.  According to these laws, if you wish to discriminate against same-sex couples, all you have to do is say “I have a deeply held religious belief” against them.  That makes everything perfectly legal for you to discriminate against anyone you wish.

During the Civil Rights era, we heard the same stupid arguments about segregation that we are hearing now about same-sex marriage.  It was “God’s Will” that the races be separated.  They used that wonderful phrase from the bible that said “each shall seek their own.”  It was nothing more than Religion of Hate and it was endorsed by many politicians like George Wallace.

The Attorney General of Texas has openly said that county clerks in his state do not have to issue marriage certificates to same-sex couples if they don’t want to.  They are being allowed to break their Oath of Office with his blessing.  He even said there are hundreds of lawyers who are willing to defend these oath breakers, many pro-bono.  How nice.  The Attorney General of Texas, Ken Paxton, has just joined the long list of bigots in political power like George Wallace.

Presidential Candidate Mike Huckabee has said that clerks should “resist” this ruling.  He is calling for “civil disobedience” by pubic officials because he believes the court “overstepped” its bounds and “created a civil right that does not exist.”

First, the court did not “create” anything.  This ruling came about because someone challenged the same-sex marriage ban in their state as being unconstitutional.  They argued that these bans denied them “equal protection under the law.”  The court simply agreed with their argument and said that the laws banning same-sex marriage were unconstitutional.

Second, there was nothing in the Supreme Court’s ruling that said that ONLY same-sex marriages were protected.  They did not ban heterosexual marriages.  They did not say that a Roman Catholic Priest MUST marry a same-sex couple.  This was a ruling that declared same-sex civil marriages have the same legal rights as heterosexual marriages.

No one lost any civil rights in this case.  No one has suffered any harm in this case.  No one has been allowed to “attack” Christians in this case.  To the contrary, all this case did was ensure same-sex couples have the same civil rights as everyone else.

But, when you subscribe to the Religion of Hate, you are expected to deny civil rights to those terrible “others.”  You are expected to be able to deny dignity to people of religions that do not subscribe to the Religion of Hate.  You are expected to claim that you are the ones under attack even though you have not been affected at all.

There have been a lot of instances of hate in our country.  We have endured the evil of slavery.  We have endured the evil of the Jim Crow laws.  We have endured bigotry against Catholics, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, and Buddhists.  We have seen the Religion of Hate preached from church pulpits and state houses and even the halls of Congress.

The real unfortunate part of this narrative, is that the Republican Party has endorsed this Religion of Hate.  Where are the other Republicans bashing their right-wing nuts?  Where are the complaints from other Republicans that these members of the Religion of Hate are not speaking for the party?  You don’t hear any of that because the party as a whole has endorsed, and placed its political future, with the Religion of Hate.

The Religion of Hate says that marriage was defined by God as between one man and one woman.  A few weeks ago, I saw a church sign at an Episcopal Church, I don’t remember where it was located, that read:

There are thousands of Christians that are homosexual.  Get over it!  God

We need to see more signs like that one.

All of this hate speech from people like Paxton, Cruz, Gohmert, Huckabee, Jindal, and the rest of the so-called “Christian Right” only proves how un-Christian these nuts are.  They do not subscribe to the religion of Christianity.  They do not subscribe to any religion that teaches tolerance and love.  No, they are the new purveyors of the Religion of Hate.

Even non-believers know that Jesus taught love.  He taught tolerance.  He taught not to judge others.  His was a religion of peace, tolerance, and love.  Three things that were basically unheard of at the time.  That is why I can say absolutely that Conservative Christians are NOT Christians at all.

They are simply bigots, racists, and haters.  They are nothing more, and nothing less.  That is the religion they want to force on everyone else.  As the song said:

Go ahead and hate your neighbor.  Go ahead and cheat a friend.  Do it in the name of heaven.  You can justify it in the end.  There won’t be any trumpets blowing, come the judgment day.

Is there anything more evil than the Conservative Christian’s “Religion of Hate?”

Read Full Post »

All I can say is this has been some week.  We have seen everything from the sublime to the horrific.  We have seen mass murder by a white supremacist in Charleston, SC.  We have seen terrorist attacks in France, Tunisia and other places in the world.  We hear that “abstinence only advocate” Bristol Palin is still unmarried yet pregnant again.  We have seen the Supreme Court rule against conservatives in the Affordable Care Act.  And now, we see the Supreme Court rule that same-sex marriage is constitutionally protected.

I don’t know how to classify this week.  It has been a tragedy for sure.  But, it has also produced groundbreaking rulings from the Supreme Court.  There is so much to talk about, it is hard to pick and choose which topic should make it today.

I have decided that the wacko reaction to the Supreme Court’s ruling in the same-sex case merits the most ink right now.  Not because the other items are not important, they are, but because I have not seen so much hate and bigotry openly spouted from conservative mouths since the 60s.  In his descent, Scalia said to “ask a hippie.”  I openly admit that I am a hippie.

If Scalia were to ask my opinion, I would say that he does not understand just what the Constitution of the United States is about.  The Constitution is not, and never was, intended to use religious beliefs to create the “law of the land.”  He also said this decision was a blow against democracy.  However, he misses the point that the Supreme Court was established for the sole purpose of determining which laws are and are not constitutional.

It has always been the duty of the Supreme Court to state which laws are unconstitutional when they turn out to be prejudicial against minorities.  Democracy, in order to work properly, needs “checks and balances” to ensure equal treatment under the law for everyone and not just those whom a majority believe deserves those protections.

This ruling by the Supreme Court has done exactly that.  It has decided that banning same-sex marriages denies equal protection under the law for a specific minority in this country.  That is unconstitutional!  I might suggest that Scalia take some refresher courses in Constitutional Law.

One of the biggest arguments is that the states should “define” marriage.  That may sound good, but there are federal issues at stake as well.  Remember, same-sex couples who have not been recognized or allowed to marry in those states that banned it are not protected when their partner dies.  Even if the will of the partner states the other is to inherit everything, the federal government can only give spousal relief and deductions to the Estate Tax if they are legally recognized as being married.  This goes for Social Security benefits as well.

A lot of this started because a woman sued because she was required to pay huge estate taxes when her partner died.  They were legally married, but the state they lived in did not recognize that marriage.  Therefore, the survivor was liable for Estate Taxes in the thousands of dollars.

Another factor deals with visitation and legal representation for terminally ill patients.  Same-sex couples in states that banned same-sex marriage were denied these rights by hospitals.  Even when a living will said the person’s partner could make a call on when to terminate life-support, if the state did not recognize that same-sex marriage, that right was taken away from the partner.

As a result, allowing states to define marriage, takes away these legal protections from same-sex couples.  That is not only wrong, it is unconstitutional.  That is one of the things this court ruling is about.

But, Scalia is just the tip of the iceberg.  The rest of the right-wing are all on oxygen bottles right now.  Their hysteria is liable to cause arteries to explode all across Conservative America.  America’s Crazy Uncle Louie Gohmert even says this ruling will cause our country to suffer major attacks because “God will remove his protective hand from America.”

I don’t believe in God’s wrath, but using his own words, maybe Crazy Uncle Louis should be asking if the flooding, drought, and other natural disasters in his own state may be because God is mad at Texas for being so bigoted towards their fellow humans.   Texas leads the nation in uninsured, restrictive voting rights, anti-Latino legislation, anti-immigrant policies, anti-women issues, and lots more.  Maybe Crazy Uncle Louie should be asking God’s forgiveness for his intolerance and using God’s name to justify it!

The list of crazies goes on.  The Canadian Senator Ted Cruz thinks we should elect the Supreme Court justices.  Mike Huckabee thinks we are on the road to a “Banana Republic.”  And Scott Walker is still trying to figure out a way to get around this ruling and ban same-sex marriages in Wisconsin.

The arguments these lunatics put forth are simply idiotic.  They claim that same-sex marriage is an attack on “traditional marriage.”  Just how it is an attack they never say.  We have had same-sex marriages for several years in some states, and I still haven’t heard of a single case where a “traditional marriage” couple got a divorce simply because two gays got married together.

Mike Huckabee even went so far as to say that this ruling is a “slap in the face to traditional married couples.”  Well, I am in a “traditional marriage” and have been for decades.  I do not feel like I have been slapped in the face.  Nor do I feel threatened because same-sex couples want to get married.

The biggest argument against same-sex marriage is always based in religious beliefs.  Crazy Uncle Louie says that one man and one women marriages are “biblical.”  So is polygamy.  How many wives did King Saul have?  Which “biblical” marriage is Crazy Uncle Louie in favor of allowing?

All of this is nonsense of course.  None of these arguments or sound-bites have any real meaning or reason why same-sex marriages should be banned.  All this ruling has really done is unloose the bigotry and hatred these people really hold for fellow human beings.

It has allowed the true bigots in government to show their true colors.  And, I am sure that it will get worse.  You will see more states pass things like “opt out” laws that allow government employees to discriminate against same-sex marriage by refusing to issue a marriage license based on “religious grounds.”

As I have written before, this ruling is proving just how tyrannical the conservative movement in this country really is.  They are not interested in the Constitution.  They are not interested in the rule of law.  They are only interested in controlling everyone else’s lives.  They want the power to say what is and isn’t legal.  They want the power to say who can and cannot be married.  They want the power to dictate how we each are to live our lives.

They are not interested in democracy.  They are not interested in anything except their own power.  Remember, this court has a conservative majority.  Yet, when the court handed down it’s ruling, the first thing out of conservative mouths is that this court is “making laws.”  No, they are not making laws.  They are determining which laws are and/or are not constitutional.  In other words, they did their job.

But, in case you haven’t noticed.  The really scary part about all of this hysteria is that it is coming from every single Republican Presidential hopeful.  And, if you think their bigotry won’t affect you, think again.  Bigotry is never satisfied.  You may be their next target.


Read Full Post »

Older Posts »


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 394 other followers