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The conservative movement in the U.S. is always crying that the debt is too high and we “cannot burden our children with this killer debt.”  There is some truth to this rant, but the fix they are offering is worse than the sickness.  One of the biggest ways that conservatives want to fix the debt isn’t by increasing revenue, it is to eliminate pensions.

Yes, that is right, they want to eliminate your pension.  If you had a private pension in the past, it was conservatives who killed it.  How did they do that?  They passed laws that allowed for those pension funds to be raided by the companies who offered them in the first place.

See private pension funds were actually over-funded.  Meaning there was more than enough money to pay for future pensions.  But, conservatives figured that was money would be best used by the companies.  As a result, the companies were able to raid the pensions “excesses” and use it to run their companies.  This resulted in the death of private pensions.  As a result, contributed 401Ks were invented.

The biggest winners in the 401K plans are the financial institutions.  They rape your pension by charging exorbitant fees everytime you decide to take some of that money out.  As a matter of fact, they charge huge fees for everything.  As a result, you don’t get the full benefit of your “contributions” because the financial institutes get a huge chunk of it.

Today the rally cry is over government pensions.  The conservatives are crying that we cannot “afford” these pensions.  You always hear the Republicans even crying that Social Security is going to run out of money.  What they fail to tell you is that they are the reason that Social Security can run out of money.

See, Social Security was not supposed to be used by the Federal Government to run the government.  The Social Security accounts were supposed to be separate and not touched by the government for anything but Social Security.  That was just too big of a pot for Republicans, and they changed the law.  Now Social security is part of the general budget.

Likewise, states raided pension funds for their employees.  Instead of making the contributions to these funds, they diverted the money to other uses.  They failed to live up to their end of the bargain in the name of “lower taxes” and pension funds around the country are falling short of funds.

In order to keep up the attack on government employees and pension funds in general, they tell you that they want to change them for “future” enrollees.  Meaning your children will not have the same type of pensions you may have.

As a result of this decades long attack on pensions, Americans are living longer due to healthier living styles and better health care, but living in their retirement poorer.  It is only going to get worse.  When you hear Republicans talk about pension funds, especially government employee pensions funds that are just “too expensive,” just remember the only winners in changing them will be the same financial institutes that are raping your 401K plans today.

If you want to kill off pensions and Social Security for your children, by all means, vote Republican.  You might want to think about that first.  By continuing to believe these conservatives and their desire to kill future pensions, you are going to be relegating your children to poverty when they want to retire.

People work hard all of their lives.  In exchange for their work, they expect to retire in some financial security.  As we have seen, you are expected to die off before you actually get your money.  It is time to stop listening to conservatives about pensions and the economy.  They don’t have any answers that will benefit you.  They don’t even try to benefit you.

The American economic ship for the middle-class is sinking.  The Republican plan is to rearrange the deck chairs.  Mainly to take your chair away and give it to First Class passengers.

 

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Fiscal Conservatives want you to believe that the Government, whether it be Federal, State, County, City, or local should be small.  They want you to believe that if any of these governments would just cut taxes to the bone, economic prosperity is right around the corner for everyone.

They have been telling us this for at least 30 years.  Ronald Reagan tried it at the Federal level.  His regular rant was that Government wasn’t able to fix the problem because government was the problem.  He ushered in huge tax cuts, mostly for the wealthy so that their money would be invested and “trickle down” to the rest of us.  It never happened.

At the same time, Reagan began boosting the Defense budget by billions of dollars.  The end result was a recession right in the middle of George H.W. Bush’s first term as President.  You remember George H.W. Bush, he was Reagan’s Vice President and believed in the same nonsense.  As a result, the deficit grew hugely, a recession hit the country, and Bill Clinton defeated Bush in the 1992 elections.

But, Conservatives said not to worry.  Everything will turn around if we just stick to the plan outlined by Reagan.  30 years later, we are seeing the biggest income inequality since the turn of the century, the 19th to 20th century that is.  We are facing huge deficits brought on by two wars and a catastrophic economic disaster in 2008 caused by deregulating the financial industry.  Yet, conservatives still tell us that if we just cut taxes for the wealthy even more, things will turn around.

This fantasy has been playing out in Kansas for several years now.  And, the result is even worse than it was at the Federal level under Reagan.  Kansas is bleeding money.  Its deficit has grown and the only way Gov. Brownback wants to balance the budget is on the backs of the poor.

In 2012, Gov. Brownback along with his voodoo-economics smarty pants Art Laffer planned to “save” Kansas from all of this economic mess.  They set about and slashed income tax rates across the board, especially deep cuts for top earners, and elimination of taxes on small businesses.  It was supposed to spur economic growth in Kansas never seen before!

Brownback said at an April 2012 economic conference that the tax cuts would be “like shooting adrenaline into the heart of growing the economy.” Laffer wrote in September 2012 “Cutting taxes can have a near immediate and permanent impact which is why we have advised Oklahoma, Kansas, and other states to cut their income tax rates if they want the most effective immediate and lasting boost to their states’ economies.”

In 2014 Brownback started preaching patience for his plan.  If there was such a great adrenaline shot into the heart of Kansas’ economy, why preach patience?  Because it never happened.  Kansas actually began lagging behind other states in job growth.  The state started bleeding money because it didn’t have the revenue to keep up with budget demands.  It started slashing budgets for education and other social services agencies.  He told CBN in October 2014 that his “tax policy takes some time for it to work.”

Even Laffer started changing his rhetoric.  At the start of all of this economic miracle growth he’d guaranteed an “immediate and lasting” economic boost.  By January 2015 he urged Kansans to wait. “You have to view this over 10 years,” he told the Kansas City Star. “It will work in Kansas.”

But will it really work in Kansas?  The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a non-partisan organization points out in their just released economic projections that personal incomes in Kansas will grow more slowly than the national average through 2017. “Serious academic literature typically finds little relationship between a state’s tax levels and its economic performance,” CBPP notes. “So there’s no reason to think that the tax cuts will cause Kansas’ economy to boom in the future.”

It is safe to say that the Brownback/Laffer tax scheme has failed to live up to its promises.  Though it has been great at redistributing wealth to the top of the income ladder, while, at the same time, screwing over the people at the bottom. While the rich soaked up the lion’s share of the tax windfall, the poorest Kansas families actually saw their tax burden tick up a bit.

The real problem is that this scheme in Kansas was supposed to be the Republican Party’s testing ground for voodoo economics.  This is the plan that the Republicans want to unleash on the rest of America.  It has been their economic policy for over 30 years.

Every Republican Candidate for the Presidency in 2016 adhere to this failed economic scheme.  For that matter, every Republican candidate for any office adheres to this failed economic scheme.  The funny thing is that none of these candidates are using Kansas’ scheme as proof of their plan working.  Probably because it is failing!  If it had worked, you know they would be saying they have the magic bullet for economic growth.  They would just say “look at Kansas” for proof.

Well, I say that when you look at all of the candidates for office, regardless of what office they are running for, just remember their failed voodoo economic policies in Kansas.  If you vote for the current Republicans, you will likely turn up in Kansas.

Maybe the Democrats should use a new slogan.  When it comes to prove Republican economic policies are a failure, just “Remember Kansas!”

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I have had many reactions to my writing about inclusion.  I have been told that only Muslims are terrorists and that we can’t come up with any proof that Christians are terrorists.  Well, they are out there, but no one wants you to know about them.  Especially Fox News.

There is a small town outside of Hancock, NY known as Islamberg.  It is gathering of American Muslims, mostly black who left other areas of New York because of prejudice against them.  What they did not expect was to be the target of an horrendous attack by so-called “Christians.”

Robert Doggart, 63 is a man who lives in Tennessee.  As a matter of fact, he ran a failed campaign for Congress on far right-wing ideology.  I guess he decided that a town called Islamberg was a threat to his way of life.  He was captured on a wiretapped phone planning to go with his friends to Islamberg to burn down the mosque, school and cafeteria.  He also said they planned to shoot anyone from the community who planned to stop them.

“Our small group will soon be faced with the fight of our lives. We will offer those lives as collateral to prove our commitment to our God,” Doggart said in a Facebook post, according to court documents. “We shall be Warriors who will inflict horrible numbers of casualties upon the enemies of our Nation and World Peace.”

Doggart was arrested April 10 by the FBI on charges that he solicited others to violate civil rights, attempted to damage religious property because of the religious character of the property and made threats through interstate communication.  He pleaded guilty to the charge of  interstate communication of threats.  A judge is still to accept the plea agreement and pronounce a sentence.

Do you notice anything funny here?  He was charged with soliciting other to violate civil rights, attempt to damage religious property and made threats through interstate communication.  Where are the charges for soliciting others to commit an act of terrorism?

Another funny thing here.  This story was never given a press release.  That is why you probably have never heard about it.  None of the major news outlets have had a single word about this case on the evening news.  Fox News who is convinced that terrorism will signal the death of us all, has said not one word about it either.

Why hasn’t Sean Hannity or Bill O’Reilly screamed at the top to their lungs about this terrorist plot to kill Americans?  Where is their outrage that the government isn’t charging these people with terrorism?  You won’t hear them say a single word because these “terrorists” are white Christians.

Of course others at Fox have called Islamberg a “terrorist training camp.”  No one who lives anywhere near the place believes that stupidity.  The town is actually peaceful.  But, anything called Islamberg MUST be a terrorist training camp.

“It’s kind of perplexing to us,” local Police Chief Craig Dumont said on New York’s AM 970. “All this recent media attention in regard to potential terrorist training camps and things that are going on there. We don’t see it. We just don’t find any of that to be valid at this time. … There are no active threats that we are aware of at this time.”

Do you really believe that if a Muslim did this kind of action the media wouldn’t be screaming about it being a terrorist act?  Of course it would, and Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity would be screaming the loudest.  Here is a case of a white so-called Christian planning to take a militia group with a cache of arms to a small town to commit a terrorist act, and no one seems to know about it.  Fascinating!

“Doggart is an example of the results of unchecked and rampant Islamophobia which has spread lies for years about our peaceful community,” the organization’s public relations director, Mathew Gardner, said in a statement. “This man plotted to mercilessly kill us, kill our children, and blow up our mosque and our school. We have sound reason to believe he has already visited our other locations around the U.S. What other murderous plans do he and his private militia have and where are his accomplices?”

“All would agree, if a Muslim did this, the perpetrator would be immediately identified as a terrorist then prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. The examples are numerous,” Gardner said. “Therefore, we call on all branches of justice to see to it that this man is prosecuted for planning a heinous hate crime and terrorist act.”

That is still the unanswered question.  Where are his accomplices?  Why haven’t they been charged yet with any crimes.  To date, only Doggart has been charged.  He wasn’t planning on going alone.

This case brings up another point.  Why is it that no press statement or release was given over this incident?  Why has it been kept so secret by the Judicial System.  I am happy the FBI was able to head off this terrorist attack, but why did they keep it all so quiet?

Yes, Christian Terrorists are alive and well in the U.S.  The problem is we can’t see them because when they are busted, law enforcement won’t tell us what happened.  They won’t let it out that another Christian terrorist has been caught planning to kill American Citizens simply because they are Muslim.

Tell me again how the only terrorists are followers of Islam.

 

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Big Government or Small Government.  That has been a political question for generations.  It even goes way back to the very founding of our country.  Do we want a strong big government, or do we want a weak small government?  The Republican Party has been screaming for a weak small government for decades.

According to the Republican Party, big government is hurting our nation.  It spends too much money, regulates way too much and tells people how they must live their lives.  This argument is nothing new, it has been going on for a very long time.

In that least state of Texas, this has been a raging battle cry for at least a half century or more.  But, that least state of Texas doesn’t really believe in what they are screaming about.  That has become apparent in their anti-abortion measures, voter ID laws, and now anti-fracking bans.

Not long ago the small city of Denton Texas was facing an invasion of oil companies looking to use fracking to extract oil from the massive Barnett Shale of which Denton, TX sits on the edge.  Denton passed a fracking ban in their city.  They cited its potential impact on public health and their property values.

Fracking has been in the headlines a lot.  There are reports that say fracking causes minor earthquakes, it pollutes ground water and the air.  Denton wanted to head off any health problems fracking in their backyard would potentially cause.

Being in the least state of Texas, that sounds perfectly reasonable.  The City had determined it does not want fracking in its city, Texans believe in a weak small government philosophy, so what could possibly go wrong?  Well, the state legislature said NO!

The state legislature passed a ban on anti-fracking bans.  That’s right.  The least state of Texas decided that they know better than those pesky city governments and said that no city, county, town, or anyone else for that matter has the right to say no to fracking.

As a result, the ban on fracking in Denton, TX is no longer valid.  The oil companies are free to frack anywhere they wish, in the state of Texas.  Texas is not the only state to pass such laws.  Outlawing fracking bans are not new.  Many states have done so.

But, Texas is the loudest screamer about “small government” as a necessary thing.  Yet, when they don’t like what a “small government” like a city does, they apparently are all for the state to step in and say NO!  I am against fracking.  I believe it does far more harm than good.  But, this is not about fracking or not fracking.  This is about honesty in the public debate about small or big government.

As usual, the Republicans in the least state of Texas say they demand a small government.  Yet they are very willing to wield the Big Government stick anytime a city decides what is best for them, and that goes against what the state wants.  I say that goes totally against their argument for a small government.

The next time you hear a Republican talk about the government being too big, just remember those people in Denton, TX who went against the Big Government in Texas.  What better way to showcase Republican hypocrisy than this law banning local fracking bans.

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It has happened bit by bit.  We have seen little breaks in the seams of our fabric.  As time has gone by, we have more and more of our liberties taken away from us.  We have seen NSA spying on our phone conversations and gathering huge amounts of data on everyone.  We have seen anti-abortion activists place huge burdens on the process that in many states it is almost impossible to even get to a doctor that performs abortions.

We have seen the anti-LGBT movement start calling discrimination a “religious liberty” so they can discriminate against LGBT marriages simply because they “don’t believe in it.”  We have seen public education under attack and have seen their budgets slashed to the bare bones.  This even includes higher education budgets at our state universities.

We have seen attacks on pay equality.  Women are expected to do the same job as a man and get paid less for their labors.  We have seen attacks on contraception measures designed so women can choose when to have a family.

We have seen attacks on the poor.  Welfare cuts, SNAP cuts, WIC cuts, even cuts to the agencies that are supposed to protect us from bad foods and drugs.  There has been a constant attack on the less wealthy, blacks, Latinos, gays, and women for over 30 years.

At the same time, we have seen the top 1% wage earners get richer all the while claiming they are the ones under attack.  They claim they pay too much in taxes when in fact, their percentage of income going to taxes are lower than the people who work for them.

Some say this is a “conservative movement” that has gained traction.  They claim that people would not vote for politicians who are forcing these issues on the American people if they did not agree with them.  I say it is something far different, and far more insidious than that.  It is a marriage between Conservative Christians and what is quickly becoming the American Aristocracy!

It is no coincidence that the Conservative Christian movement gained strength at the same time the American Aristocracy began to become more of a reality.  In fact, it is the American Aristocrats that are actually funding the Conservative Christian movement.  That funding does not come because the Aristocrats actually believe in all of that guff.  It is because they want to use Conservative Christians to gain power, and nothing more than that.

When our country was founded over 200 years ago, the world was made up of kingdoms.  Our own “mother country” was a kingdom.  These kingdoms were left over relics of the “dark ages” when it was determined that “God ordained” certain people to be kings and lords.

The simple act of being born into a certain family proved that God had ordained you to become the king.  That fact proved that God had ordained you to be a lord with life and death powers over your serfs.  Religion backed this notion.  They told their followers that it was their duty to follow their ruler because he was “ordained by God.”

Our founding fathers believed this to be nonsense.  They believed that who was governing was up to the people who were being governed.  They turned away from the “God ordained” leaders and set up a government meant to be run by the very people who are to be governed.

The “separation of church and state” in our First Amendment was to insure there would be no “God ordained” leader in America.  They went even further to ensure that no Aristocracy was able to rise in America.  In England, the “old families” owned most of the country’s property and money, and still do.  They made up their own rules.  The founding fathers decided that was not good for the country.

As a result, they established the “estate tax” in America.  By placing a high tax on inherited wealth, they planned to make sure that Aristocrats could not wield so much power.  In their opinion, being born to a rich family did not make you “ordained by God” to be rich for the rest of your life.  You had to earn your own way.

And it all worked for over 200 years.  Yes, there were a lot of hiccups along the way.  But by and large, the non-aristocratic government they established worked.  Then came along Ronald Reagan in 1980.  Ronald Reagan did not see why it was so bad to let an aristocracy rise in America.

He wrapped his message in what was to be known as “trickle-down economics.”  He said that if the really rich were given huge tax breaks, they would invest in business.  He said that if the estate tax was cut, or better yet, eliminated, these rich brats would invest in business.  Of course it never happened that way.

At the same time, the Conservative Christian movement began to gain traction.  Their preachers went to the pulpit every Sunday claiming that we should all be thankful to the very wealthy because they made our miserable lives possible with jobs.  They preached that these wealthy people should not have to pay any estate taxes because God had blessed them by putting them in their family at birth.

They also preached that not blindly following these “leaders” of industry, we would be guilty of disobeying God.  Since these people were all blessed by God with their wealth, we must follow their lead or face eternal doom after we die.  It all sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

During the “Dark Ages” these lords and kings didn’t give a damn about the poor.  They did nothing to ensure their lives got better.  Instead, they relied on keeping them uneducated and poor.  That was the best way to keep control.  And, since these “lords” were ordained by God, it was not a sin to kill off their serfs if they didn’t obey the lords.

Today we see similar comparisons to those times.  We are told that the wealthy control our lives.  They are the ones who should determine “fair wages” because they are th ones with the money.  Since they were “blessed by God” we don’t have any right to fight them.

Furthermore, if you don’t make a living wage, you are on your own.  Well, that is what they want things to be like.  That is why they are continuously slashing budget items associated with the “social safety net.”  If you are poor, it is because God wants you poor.”  So, just shut up and do as you are told.

Conservative Christians and the Aristocracy are behind the cutting of education funding.  They are terrified of an educated population.  Just like the “Dark Ages” if the people are kept uneducated, they won’t be able to think for themselves and realize that this is all nonsense.

The Conservative Christians preachers are telling you all of this because it the Aristocracy that is funding their churches and allowing them to live in luxury.  But you shouldn’t worry.  According to their philosophy if you suffer in this life you are sure to have it better in the next.  That does a lot to help feed your children now.

That is what this is really all about.  People like the Koch Brothers and the Walton Family are only interested in power over the minions of the world.  They are not alone either.  You can find these vultures around almost every corner.  You can especially find them behind most conservative politicians and all of the Conservative Christian politicians.

Democracy is hard.  People actually have to pay attention to what is happening around them in order to make an informed decision on who to vote for or against.  Having more than a fourth grade education helps too.

The Conservative Christians and the new Aristocracy have teamed up to deny you your freedoms.  They have wrapped themselves up in religion to scare the shit out of believers.  They don’t want educated people.  They don’t want unions.  They don’t want equal rights.  They want an aristocracy in America because they believe themselves to be that aristocracy.

The elections next year will have a direct impact on which direction we go.  Will we return to our democracy or will we allow the American Aristocracy to rise even farther.   If they win we will see Christianity as the “official” religion of the nation.  More freedoms will be stripped, and we will become no better than the serfs of the Dark Ages.  That is not what our founding fathers envisioned for America.

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We are in the middle of the budget process.  The Republican Controlled Congress has their blueprint for where the budget should grow and where it should be cut.  As I wrote yesterday, Congress, or at least House Republicans, want to cut the Amtrak budget by one-fifth.

As usual, I heard from some conservatives that all I want to do is spend money.  That is not true.  But, I do want to spend money on things that will actually help the economy, our safety, and our people.  So, let our conservative friends digest these ideas for budget cuts, and/or laws that will make it all happen.

First on the list is subsidies for gas and oil companies.  I have never understood why a company like Exxon/Mobile who makes about $20 Billion per year in Profits needs subsidies.  But I will allow that maybe they do.  However, I propose that all subsidies to gas and oil companies be cut by 60%.  I don’t know the exact figures of what the government allows for these subsidies, but I do know it is in the billions of dollars.  The saved subsidy monies could be put into the Transportation Maintenance fund which is about to run out.

Second on the list is farm subsidies.  I am not talking about taking away subsidies for family farms.  We would need to put a maximum on the amount of acreage to determine who gets and who doesn’t get farm subsidies.  For example, we could limit farm subsidies to about 100 acres.  I don’t know, but I believe it would protect all of the family farms.  Yet, it would eliminate all of the “corporate farms.”  Family farmers need the subsidies in order to survive against gigantic corporate farm operations.  But, I don’t see  a need for corporate farm operations receiving subsidies.

Third on the list is Transportation and Corporate Taxes.  Today, every person who spends money at the pump pays a transportation tax.  There is also a large cry from the right to cut Corporate Taxes.  The tax we pay at the pump is where the government gets its money for repairing our road infrastructure.  However, by driving more fuel-efficient vehicles, that fund isn’t doing as well as before.

The Corporate Tax is said to be too high.  There has been many calls to reduce the Corporate Tax to 25%.  I could go along with that as long as there is something that includes corporations paying their fair share of the Transportation Tax.  Most companies do not have their own truck fleet.  They use contractors.  Yet, it is their products that are being shipped by truck thus causing damage to our roadways.

So, I propose that maybe the Corporate Tax be cut.  We can then add a 3% Transportation Tax on corporations who use contract trucking companies to ship their products.  Again, that money should be put into the Transportation maintenance pool.  If a corporation does not ship products, they wouldn’t have to pay this tax.  In order to protect small businesses, we could also put a limit on either tonnage that is shipped, or on the profits of the company.  Since the government pays for our roadways, it is only fair that corporations pay a fair share in maintaining this portion of our infrastructure.

Fourth on the list is government subsidies to large retailer and food chains.  We would need a secondary law to enforce this part, but it would save the government billions of dollars.  It comes in two parts.  The first part is to require all large chains like Wal-Mart, McDonalds, Burger King, Big Lots, etc. to provide health insurance to all of their employees regardless of whether or not they are full-time or part-time.  This health insurance would not cost the employee anything in terms of premiums.

Again, in order to protect small businesses, we could place a limit on the number of employees or on their annual income.  For example, we could limit the free insurance to anyone who is paid less than $30,000 per year.  That way only the needy actually gets these free benefits.  By forcing these companies to provide health insurance, we would reduce the Medicaid rolls by millions of people.  It is estimated that each of these companies receives approximately $1.5 Billion per year in profit subsidies by forcing their employees to apply for Medicaid.

These profit subsidies also hurt these companies competition.  So, it is obvious that allowing companies to “dump” their employees into Medicaid, we are providing profit subsidies to them and allowing unfair business practices against their competition.

The second part of this is to require these companies to pay back the government up to 60% of all social safety net expenditures like SNAP and WIC.  Again, these companies receive up to $1 Billion per year, according to reports, in profit subsidies by allowing their employees to get needed assistance from the government for food and living expenses due to their low wages.

This alone would cut over $40 Billion from the SNAP program, which seems to be the Republican’s favorite number for cuts to SNAP.  Again, this policy would only affect companies who are using government programs to subsidize their profits.  If a company paid their employees a livable wage, they wouldn’t have to worry about paying the government back.

The fifth item helps the electric grid.  Homeowners should be allowed to deduct the entire cost of converting their homes to “green energy.”  For example, if a homeowner desires to install solar panels on their house and thus take their home off of the electric grid, the entire cost for this conversation should be deducted from their taxes on year one.

The more homes that are “off the grid” helps the electric grid by reducing demand.  Thus ensuring more energy for those companies and homes that decide to stay on the grid.  It would also make it less strenuous during peak times, especially in the summer when air conditioners are running full blast.

These are just five ideas that would help reduce the deficit, ensure infrastructure safety, and most likely grow the economy.  All things the Republicans claim to stand for.   They are also things that will help protect small businesses, like Republicans claim they want to do.

So Mr. Boehner and Mr. McConnell, I eagerly anticipate seeing you introduce these measures in your next budget process.  It is good for the country.  It is good for Americans.  It is good for your party.  Unless of course you are more worried about campaign contributions than the American people.  Needless to say, I won’t be holding my breath until you do.

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The death toll is rising.  We are seeing more and more Americans die when all of these deaths can be prevented.  We are also seeing huge amounts of money being wasted repairing damages from a very preventable crisis.  I am not talking about the riots in Baltimore, Ferguson, and other places.  I am talking about the very sorry state of our infrastructure.

On Tuesday an Amtrak train derailed near Philadelphia.  At least seven people died in that crash and several others were seriously injured.  Initial reports indicate that the train was speeding at approximately 106 MPH in a 50 MPH zone.  However, there is a system called “positive train control” (PTC) that automatically slows or even halts trains that are moving too fast or heading into a danger zone. Under current law, the rail industry must adopt the technology by the end of this year.

The section of track where this crash took place is not equipped with this system.  If the PTC had been installed, the train would have automatically been slowed down by the system.  Meaning this crash would not have happened.

To be fair about this, this technology is new, and needed to be built from the ground up.  The Association of American Railroads has said it wants PTC in place but blames logistical challenges like acquiring radio frequencies and placing transmitter towers for the delay.

“This is not off-the-shelf technology; it has had to be developed from scratch,” said Ed Greenberg, spokesman for the trade group.

Installing radio towers and other hardware at congested rail junctions, like the site of the Philadelphia accident, poses unique challenges, according to former and current officials.

As a result, delays in implementation have been requested.  In March, the Senate Commerce Committee voted to extend the deadline for implementing PTC until at least 2020. The bill will now go to the Senate floor.

Then on Wednesday, Republicans in the House voted to chop about a fifth of Amtrak’s budget, less than a day after the deadly train crash.  On Wednesday evening, National Transportation Safety Board member Robert Sumwalt told reporters:

“Based on what we know right now, we feel that had such a system been installed in this section of track, this accident would not have occurred.”

Sumwalt, who is leading the crash probe, spoke hours after the House Appropriations Committee voted down a Democratic amendment that would have offered $825 million for PTC.

Republicans say the cuts are necessary to stay under the spending cuts put in place four years ago.  And, they argue that if there is to be more money in the transportation bill, it would have to be offset somewhere else.  Yet, Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-Pa.), whose district includes parts of Philadelphia, noted that the House voted just last month to repeal the estate tax, with no offsets for the $260 billion the Treasury would lose over next 10 years. “I think we should be wiser than that,” he said.

This issue is about a lot more than Amtrak and this tragic accident.  It is about priorities that the Republican Party gets wrong every time there is a “budget” vote of any kind in Congress.  Back in about 2004, a group of engineers rated our country’s infrastructure for safety.  They gave it a grade of “D”.

We have seen major highway bridges fall down killing people.  We see our highways overly congested and strewn with huge pot holes and other structural flaws causing traffic accidents and damage to vehicles.  Our electrical grid is antiquated and just waiting for another chance to cause another huge blackout somewhere.  Our rail system is about 30 years behind the rest of the world.  Our airports are old and runways are becoming more and more unsafe.

We are relying on old pipes to provide our drinking water.  There have been huge pipe breaks causing street flooding and other damage, including killing people.  Not to mention the health dangers it will cause in the near future.  And, Congress is doing nothing about this situation.

As part of the economic recovery plan the President proposed a bill called the Transportation and Infrastructure Bill.  This bill would have provided money to fix our infrastructure problems.  It would have created millions of good paying jobs that would last at least 20 years.  And, more importantly, it may have been the tool needed to keep this latest train accident from happening.

But, as usual, the Republican controlled House would not even bring the bill up for debate, much less a vote.  They said it would “cost too much.”  Since that time, there have been at least seven high-profile train accidents involving not only Amtrak, but oil trains.  We have had more bridges collapse.  The list goes on.

If fixing our infrastructure is too expensive, how can cutting taxes be less expensive?  If creating good paying jobs that will last a generation is too expensive, how can repealing the estate tax be less expensive?

Some may ask if we need to offset the budget somewhere else to stay within the “guidelines” how come the Department of Defense is getting a huge increase in its budget without the offset?  The vote the other day on this transportation bill shows where the offset is.  Safety of our general public does not compete very well with the Defense Budget.

The Republicans are always talking about reducing the debt.  They are always talking about keeping spending under control.  They claim that things like the social safety net, transportation, safety, and infrastructure are sucking the budget dry.  Yet, they keep trying to reduce revenues that flow into the government coffers.

According to them, it is better to cut $260 Billion dollars from the government coffers by repealing a tax that only affects less than 1% of the population than to ensure safe travel.  They continue to argue that corporate taxes need to be cut all the while letting our infrastructure that supports these corporations fall apart.

They fail to understand that more people working at good paying jobs will increase revenues due to those people paying more taxes.  They fail to understand that they are taking a country that once was the envy of the world in terms of infrastructure and making it no better than a third world country.

The Republican Party has pushed the same failed fiscal policies for over 30 years.  In the meantime, our bridges are collapsing, our drinking water is in danger, our food quality is in danger, our electric grid is falling further behind demand, and people are dying.  All in the holy name of “tax cuts.”

Maybe that is why our economy has done better under Democratic control than Republican control over the last 50 years!  Unless Republicans wake up to the damage they have done to our country, more people will die because of our crumbling infrastructure.

 

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