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In a recent poll, it was reported that 57 percent of the American People believe in Climate Change and that man has a hand in causing it.  That same poll indicated that the majority of the American People wants Congress to do something about cleaning up our carbon emissions.

Speaker Boehner and Senate Minority Leader McConnell have said time and again that the Republicans only want to listen to the American People.  Congress has listened to the American People.  Not that they intend to act on the people’s wishes if they are in disagreement with the Republican agenda.

On Tuesday, while the Keystone XL Pipeline was going down to defeat in the Senate, Boehner and his Republican cronies were passing a law that would hamper the EPA in doing its mandated job of helping to clean up the environment and protecting public health.  The first law which was passed on Tuesday was framed by Republicans as a play for transparency.

H.R. 1422, which passed 229-191, would shake up the EPA’s Scientific Advisory Board, placing restrictions on those real troublesome scientists and creating room for experts with overt financial ties to the industries affected by EPA regulations.

Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Texas, argued that the board’s current structure is problematic because it  “excludes industry experts, but not officials for environmental advocacy groups.” The inclusion of industry experts, he said, would right this injustice.  Sounds reasonable, but…..

The part the Republicans like best is that the bill forbids scientific experts from participating in “advisory activities” that either directly or indirectly involve their own work.  In other words, experts would be forbidden from sharing their expertise in their own research – which was peer-reviewed.  The Republicans call that a conflict of interest.  But, the inclusion of industry “experts” is not a conflict of interest even though the industry experts are trying to block the EPA from instituting any regulations.

“In other words,” wrote Union of Concerned Scientists director Andrew A. Rosenberg in an editorial for RollCall, “academic scientists who know the most about a subject can’t weigh in, but experts paid by corporations who want to block regulations can.”  The White House has vowed to veto this bill if it ever reaches the President’s desk saying it would “negatively affect the appointment of experts and would weaken the scientific independence and integrity of the SAB.”

This is just the beginning.  There is another bill called “The Secret Science Reform Act” which would prohibit the EPA from proposing, finalizing or disseminating regulations or assessments based upon science that is not transparent or reproducible.”  As the Huffington Post reports:

While the bill’s language would not require the EPA to wait until its research was verified by an outside source to make recommendations, opponents say the bill’s requirements are murky.

“The bill attacks the mainstays of scientific investigation,” wrote Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.) in an email to The Huffington Post. “It would strip away the EPA’s authority to make any rules due to the stringency of the data disclosure requirements.

“The peer review process is the foundation of science inquiry in our society, and is a trusted evaluation of scientific evidence around the world,” he added. “This legislation attempts to dictate how the scientific method is employed,” he added. “The Secret Science Reform Act is an attempt by climate change deniers to stop the EPA from doing its job.”

The irony in all of this is that “industry studies” don’t seem to need the same “transparency” as government-funded studies.  Rep. Randy Weber (R-TX) asked why we think it’s okay to question the industry’s motives, but are more willing to trust government-funded studies, insisting that research with industry ties is a good thing.

Eileen Silbergeld, a professor at Johns Hopkins University, testified that the committee was going after the wrong people. “We need more information, and specifically we need more information disclosure from industry,” Silbergeld added. “I call on them to tear down every wall that hides critically important information that is generated and held by industry.”  There is nothing in this bill that would require industry to “tear down that wall” in industry studies.

Opponents argue that the trio of bills in the House are an attempt by  Republicans to effectively block the EPA from adopting any new rules to protect public health. Or as Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Texas, in an editorial for the Hill said these bills represent “the culmination of one of the most anti-science and anti-health campaigns I’ve witnessed in my 22 years as a member of Congress.”

So, as you can see, the Republicans have listened to the American People.  But, what the American People have failed to realize thus far, is when Boehner and McConnell talk about the American People, they really mean their corporate donors.  Not the American People.  They simply believe that the American People are just too stupid to have a real voice.

When they talk about “small government” what they are really saying is that the American People are small and insignificant so our opinions don’t count!

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The House has passed legislation authorizing the building of the Keystone XL Pipeline.  The Senate is to take up the bill tomorrow.  There is every indication that it will also pass the Senate.  Some Democrats seem to think that if the bill passes, Mary Landau will save her Senate seat.  I don’t share their thought on that.  She is just too far behind to win the election.

The Republicans are trying to use the argument that the Keystone XL Pipeline will create 42,000 jobs.  They are banking on that number to sway the American people into supporting their push for it.  However, as usual, they are not telling you everything.

Here is a little background.  The Keystone XL pipeline is to transport Tar Sands Oil from Canada to the Gulf Coast.  There it will be refined by American Oil Companies and then shipped overseas, mostly to China.  Tar Sands Oil is the dirtiest form of oil there is.  The carbon emissions from such oil is almost two to three times that of normal oil.

Additionally, since this oil is to be shipped overseas, there will be no savings at the pump for Americans when they go to fill up their tanks.  Plus, with the price oil dropping sharply recently, it has become almost too expensive to even refine this oil.  There are additional steps necessary to refine Tar Sands Oil than regular oil.

Finally, the route of the Keystone XL pipeline goes over the largest fresh water aquifer in the United States.  This aquifer is under several states in the Midwest.  Even though the proponents say the pipeline will use the most sophisticated oil leak detection systems, they will not say that the pipeline won’t leak.  As a matter of fact, the rest of their pipeline has had several leaks over the years.

The problem with this pipeline leaking is that it is possible for the oil to seep into the aquifer.  That would pollute drinking water for millions of people in the heartland of our country.  It will also pollute the water used to help grow our crops in times of low rainfall.  That means your food would be contaminated as well.

Then there are the people whose land the pipeline will cross who oppose the it.  They don’t want their land used to build this pipeline.  The agreements they are being forced to sign puts a lot of the responsibility for anything going wrong on them.  If they don’t sign the agreement, eminent domain will be used to take the land anyway.  That means our government is going to take private land away from people for the benefit of a foreign country.  How can the Republicans, who espouse to protect property owners, even remotely justify that?

If the pipeline leaks and it seeps into the aquifer, there is no current method of cleaning up the aquifer.  That means the water will be contaminated for generations if not forever.  The Republicans think the risk of polluting the largest aquifer in the U.S. is worth it because of the number of jobs they claim the project will produce.

Unfortunately for them, their numbers are definitely skewed.  Look, I don’t know how many temporary construction jobs will be created to build the pipeline.  By temporary I mean one to two years.  Their number of 42,000 may be right.  But, based on the information from the Canadian Oil company who wants this pipeline, the maximum number of permanent jobs to be created in the U.S is 30.  Before anyone starts yelling about those “new” jobs at the refineries, there won’t be any.  The U.S. oil refineries are already at maximum capacity.  No new jobs will be created at them with this pipeline.

I don’t think that number justifies the risks involved with the pipeline.  Especially when you consider that this oil will have no impact on our ability to save money by transporting it across our land.  As I said, it is all intended to be sent overseas.  Therefore, it will do nothing to reduce our gas prices or our heating oil prices.

In effect, what will really happen, is that we will be saddled with all of the risk and a Canadian oil company will gain all of the financial benefits.  I don’t have anything against Canadians.  But I don’t believe we should be their gutter for their dirty oil without getting any major benefits from it.

The Keystone XL pipeline has plenty of risks.  But, it really doesn’t give us any benefits.  Even capitalists who really look at the benefits to risk equation will clearly see that the risks outweigh the benefits.  That makes this project a bad deal.

If the Republicans really want to help the job market with real long-lasting jobs, they should pass the Transportation and Infrastructure Bill.  That bill will create millions of good paying jobs that will last at least 20 years.  And, we get all of the benefits from such a bill.  Our roads, rail system, dams, electrical grid, and much more will be upgraded and become safer for years to come.

Of course, Republicans don’t want to do that because it was introduced by President Obama.  Screw the millions of Americans who need the jobs such a bill would produce.  The Canadian Pipeline with no benefits, very few permanent jobs and all the risks to us is far more important to them than you are.  I wonder why?

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I spent the last few days just kind of relaxing and escaping in fantasy.  Friday was a total blowout since my wife had some dental work done.  Everything is fine, but we spent a lot of time at dentist offices getting her fixed up.  Getting old can be a bitch sometimes.  This may sound weird, but I usually take my comedy escapes watching shows on TV like “Ancient Aliens” and “Finding Bigfoot”.

I don’t find them comical because of their beliefs in their topics.  I find them comical because they talk like they are quoting facts instead of ideas or theories.  According to the Ancient Aliens people, ancient man was just too dumb to build things like the pyramids, sphinx, or those grand temples.  They had to have help from ET.  Without the technical help from ET, none of the ancient wonders would have been built.  This isn’t their opinion, they actually want you to believe that it is fact.  They even trot out people who claim that “modern building technology can’t be as precise as these buildings” so it had to be built by superior intellectual ETs.

According to them, it is ancient man’s “misinterpretation” of space ships and ET that explains man’s belief in gods.  One episode even explained that the dinosaurs were killed of by ET in order to make human existence possible.  It seems that ET brought their fighters in to just blast the dinosaurs off the face of the planet so we could evolve.

In Finding Bigfoot, they go into communities to make sure that everyone who claims that they have seen Bigfoot are proven right.  Of course in the entire run of the show, they have never uncovered proof of Bigfoot’s existence, like a body or DNA, yet they talk like they are experts in Bigfoot’s behavior.  One aspect that always makes me laugh is that the vast majority of the sightings have taken place during the daytime.  Yet, they are certain that Bigfoot is a nocturnal hunter and they conduct their searches at night.  Apparently, Bigfoot loves to eat deer, beaver, goats, sheep, geese, etc.

During my viewing time watching Finding Bigfoot, I was struck by something.  The experts seemed to smoothly change their explanations of Bigfoot’s behavior depending on which story they were listening to.  That, unfortunately, reminded me of conservative news shows and talk shows.  These Bigfoot researchers were as adept at changing facts as Fox News is at changing facts of the news item to suit their purpose.  That got me thinking.

Prior to the mid-term elections, Fox News and conservative talk radio were full of ISIS and Ebola threat stories.  Both of these were talked about as the “end of the world was coming” because of them.  The object was to scare the hell out of anyone who watches Fox News to get them to vote Republican.  Funny thing, since the election both of these terrible apocalyptic events haven’t been mentioned very much if at all.  Today’s Fox News website doesn’t have a single Ebola or ISIS threat story.

That is the biggest problem with conservative news outlets and the Republican Party.  They are not interested in telling the American People what their policies are.  They already know that the majority of the people oppose their policies.  So, in order to keep winning elections, they have fallen back on “scare them to death” propaganda.  Since it is our basic nature to become afraid, they use that psychology to scare enough people to vote against their interests.

Their co-plotter in all of this is the Conservative Christian Cult.  Let’s face facts.  The Conservative Christian Cult is anything but Christian.  This is not a knock against Christians.  This is calling out the Cult for what it is.  Basically, the Conservative Christian Cult is a totalitarian dictatorship that bullies its followers with fear.  They tell their followers that if they “stray from the path”, their path, that they are doomed to hell.  They tell people that if you are not wealthy, it is because you do not deserve to be wealthy.  You either don’t have the right desire to become wealthy, or you have been guilty of something that means God won’t give you riches.

I realize that is a simplification of their teaching, but that basically is the gist.  That is why you hear things like it is “God’s will” whenever something happens, good or bad.  The Cult makes it seem like every rich person is rich because God favors them.  Therefore, the rest of us should stop whining about income inequality and glorify God’s will.  So what if your employer doesn’t pay you enough to make ends meet.  That is right of the rich person to dictate what you are worth.  God gave them that right.

I earlier stated that the Cult is anything but Christian.  You can tell that just by listening to their rhetoric about how the poor is lazy.  How homosexuals are a scourge of evil.  How scientists are vehemently anti-Christian.  All of which are total fabrications beget from power-hungry thugs who are no more interested in spreading the Christian beliefs than a Celtic Pagan is.  All they are interested in is reaping the big donations and living the good life while their followers live near the poverty line.  That is why they mostly quote the Old Testament instead of the New Testament.  Don’t really preach about what Jesus taught.  After all, he was more of a socialist than a capitalist.

The problem is that so-called progressives don’t seem to want to engage against these fanatical power grubbing thugs.  They don’t seem to understand that you must fight these quacks by calling them out.  Progressives are just as religious as anyone else.  But, they seem to be afraid to fight back using religious beliefs against Cult’s false religious teachings.  It should not be a risk to show that the Cults religious teachings are not Christian.  Simply evoking the same empathy that Jesus taught would be helpful.  But, for some reason, progressives won’t go into that battle.

While Republicans are scaring the hell out of people with fantasy instead of facts, progressives are not poking holes in their arguments.  While the Cult is scaring their followers with eternal damnation, progressives are not pointing out that their policies are more Christian than the Cult’s.  In order to win the battle, you must at least be willing to engage in it.

Conservatism is by definition backwards looking.  The late Conservative William F. Buckley once said that a “true conservative stands in front of the march of time and yells, STOP!”  If you talk to most Americans, you will discover that is not the philosophy they want the country to follow.  They want the country to move forward with the march of time.

Man is a natural creature.  We have basic instincts.  One of the biggest instinct is survival.  That comes from our instinct of fear.  Republicans, their media outlets, and the Cult have mastered the art of playing to our fear.  They try to make us afraid of everything.  Those “others” who are trying to take your job away.  Those “others” who are trying to kill you.  Those “others” who are trying to spread infectious diseases.  Those “others” who are trying to destroy your marriage by marrying the person they love regardless of sex.  And, progressives let them get away with it.

So, as I sat watching my comedy relief shows over the weekend, I realized that the biggest difference between the experts on these shows and the conservative media, is that these experts actually believe what they are selling.  Compared to the conservative media which changes stories when they can stir up more fear.  Both play to man’s natural instincts.  Unfortunately, too many people don’t see the comic relief in conservative media as they may in Ancient Aliens.  I guess that is because Ancient Aliens and Finding Bigfoot don’t try to scare people and that, at least to me, makes them more factual.

 

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As my readers know, I rarely tell people what to do.  I have offered suggestions on why it is important to vote this mid-term and what I envision would happen if the ultra-conservatives win the Senate.  There are several extremely close races that will determine the outcome of the elections, and the direction that ultra-conservatives will try to move the country.  Naturally, if the ultra-conservatives win the Senate, they will yell that it was a “mandate” against everything Obama.  If they don’t win the Senate, they will find something like “voter fraud” to express why they didn’t win.

Our free speech guaranties have made it very possible for us, as normal people, to either express happiness over our political outcomes, or to bitch about them.  It is our right to bitch about things.  We have worked hard to ensure that these rights exist.  Our service members have fought wars to ensure our right to bitch whenever we want.

The problem has become that too many people don’t bother to vote, and then bitch about the outcome.  They use the tired excuse of “they are all alike, so why bother.”  The last several elections have proven beyond reasonable doubt that “they are NOT all alike.”  There are vast differences between the two political parties.

Those differences and the policies that will surely come from the winner, will have a major impact on our country, our economy, and our people.  When I say our people, I mean YOU!  That is something that you really need to think about when you decide to vote or not tomorrow.  Mid-term elections are generally low turnout events.  People think that just because the President isn’t being determined, it really doesn’t matter as much.  But, it matters just as much as if the President was being decided.

The mid-terms this year will determine who runs Congress.  How Congress behaves and what laws they will try to impose on us is the big item that needs to be thought about.  The one item that I noticed is that this mid-term election has resulted in more money being spent on the races than any race in our history.  Over $4 Billion Dollars has been spent on this election.  Since about 75% of it has come from ultra-conservative groups and billionaires, they must see the importance of this mid-term election.

The winner will have an upper hand in determining everything from economics, education, environment, foreign policy, gender issues, heath, immigration, religious beliefs, and a host of other freedoms and policies.  At the State level, the elections will determine a host of things from abortion to voting rights, and everything in between.  That is why the ultra-conservatives are spending so much money on these elections.

So, it comes down to whether or not you vote.  You have the right to vote as they say.  But, more importantly, you have a DUTY to vote.  Throughout my life I have heard all the talk about how “freedom isn’t free” and that our service members “pay for our freedom”.  Well, the one thing that civilians in this country has a duty to perform is to VOTE!

Naturally, I prefer that people vote for progressive policies and candidates.  However, what is more important is that you actually vote.  Voting is a way to let our representatives know whether or not we agree with their policies.  Large turnouts can give one party a mandate to put into place their ideas.  On the other hand, a low turnout doesn’t give either party any kind of mandate.  It doesn’t even allow either party to realistically know if their policies are favored by the majority of the public.

Therefore, it is imperative that every registered voter cast a ballot.  The winner will say that the silence of the majority of voters is a backing of their ideas.  It is not.  The only way to show backing or opposition to ideas is to vote.  If you don’t vote, you lose your right to bitch.  You may still have that constitutional right to bitch, but in essence you have given up your right to bitch.  In order to be heard, you must exercise your duty and vote.  If you don’t, just shut up!

In past articles I laid out my opinions about why I have voted progressive.  I believe that is the only way to keep our freedoms and grow our economy and society.  I don’t care if you agree with me or not.  I only want you to go to the polls and vote.  If you don’t, I don’t want to hear any complaints from you about any future policies that you disagree with.

Everyone lately want to ‘Thank a Vet.”  If you really want to thank us veterans, GO TO THE POLLS AND VOTE!  That is really “thanking the vets”.  Otherwise, just shut up.

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So far, the Ebola Virus has only come up in urban areas.  On the surface it may not seem like it, but that is really a good thing.  If Ebola should raise its ugly head in rural America, I am afraid that a whole lot of people will die because of it.  Over at Fox News, the hysteria machine is in full swing.  They are complaining that Ebola is a terrible threat to us all.  Of course, they are pointing their finger at the present administration.

One thing they are not talking about at Fox News, or anywhere else for that matter, is the danger that faces Rural America should Ebola ever show up there.  You see, hundreds of hospitals in Rural America are closing their doors.  They are shutting down their services to areas where there isn’t a big choice of medical treatment to begin with.  Republicans in those areas are blaming “Obamacare” for the closures.  They are partly correct.

The major reason Rural America is losing their hospitals is because these same Republicans have refused to expand Medicaid in their states.  This refusal is in the face of not having to pay for the expansion for the first three years, and then only picking up ten percent of the costs after that.  This refusal to expand Medicaid has resulted in millions of people going without health insurance.

As a result, a lot of hospitals, especially in Rural America have had to treat uninsured people pro bono.  Meaning they don’t get any money for treating the poor.  This has resulted in hospitals across the country, especially in Rural America, to lose money.  As a result, they have no choice but to shutter their hospitals.

There are many places in rural areas where people need to drive up to 150 miles to get to a hospital.  On top of that, most rural hospitals are not equipped to handle infectious diseases like Ebola.  That means if Ebola creeps into Rural America, the treatment of the patients is questionable at best.  Plus, since they are not equipped to handle such cases, there is a real possibility of the virus spreading due to lack of proper equipment and protocols.

What has been the Republican response to this very potential disaster?  Nothing!  The real terrible thing about this, is that their strongest base lives in Rural America.  Yet they are doing nothing about it.  The normal government agencies that could help Rural America are having a harder time helping because of all of the budget cuts that the Republicans have placed on them.

Furthermore, since many of Rural America are the people who have been most affected by the refusal to expand Medicaid in Red States, they are much more hesitant to go to the hospital if they should get a sudden rise in temperature, which is one of the first indicators that you may have Ebola.  That means that they won’t drive the 150 miles to get to a hospital because they can’t afford the treatment.

If a major outbreak of Ebola should break out in the U.S., the Republicans who refused to expand Medicaid will be mostly responsible for it.  These fear mongers are very willing to tell America that we face elimination from the virus, yet they are very willing to allow millions of their constituents to be exposed due to lack of health care.

Lack of affordable health care has always been a major contributor to the spread of infectious diseases.  Because of political barbarity, millions of Americans still lack affordable health care.  That has resulted in the closing of hundreds of hospitals, the lack of ability to prepare for such infectious disease outbreaks, and the very lives of people they are supposed to represent.

That is not just bad politics.  It is criminal!

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As you are well aware, the Republicans are in a tizzy over Ebola.  They are putting the blame on the President, naturally, and if you watch or read anything from Fox News, the country is facing doom and gloom.  I even have to admit that when the President told the country that it was “unlikely” that the Ebola Virus would reach America, I was flabbergasted.  With a world economy, easy transportation from one continent to another, it was only a matter of time before it reached our shores, just like other infectious diseases before.

One man has died in Texas from the disease.  There is some controversy over how he was treated when he went to the hospital with symptoms.  Thomas Eric Duncan was the first person to develop Ebola in America.  Four other people are also being treated in American Hospitals.  Duncan is the one man in Texas who died from the disease.  He’s also the only patient who was uninsured. He turned up in a Dallas emergency room, informed the staff he was from Liberia, and was sent home with antibiotics.

Now being uninsured in Texas is nothing new.  Over 1.5 million Texans do not have any insurance since the wonderful governor, Rick Perry, refused to accept “free” Medicaid money to expand coverage in his state.  When he returned to the hospital Duncan was admitted.  He was even given an experimental drug, even though it was late.  But, he never received a blood transfusion from someone who had recovered from Ebola.  A very necessary part of the Ebola treatment.  See, the transfusion helps build immunity to the disease and helps fight it.  Duncan is the only patient who did not receive the transfusion.

“The real elephant in the room is, the man was black, he had no insurance, and therefore he was basically turned away,” Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price, who is African-American, told the Los Angeles Times. The hospital, for its part, denies it treated Duncan differently than insured patients.

Then there is Youngor Jallah, the woman who got Duncan to the hospital when his symptoms worsened.   She says she doesn’t have Medicaid or any health insurance either.  Presumably she’s being monitored by health officials and will be treated if she becomes symptomatic, but she’s not certain. “It’s my worry … that I will be treated the same way” as Duncan, Jallah told the Los Angeles Times.

So how is Texas prepared to handle public health emergencies?  “We don’t really have a unifying construct for public health in Texas that’s comprehensive,” Dr. Eduardo Sanchez, the former commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services, told the Texas Tribune.  Between 2008 and 2013, 36 percent of local health departments in Texas had to lay off staff due to budget cuts between 2008 and 2013.  It would appear they are not ready to handle public health emergencies.

But this problem goes way beyond Texas.  The two agencies who do the most work on public health and fighting infectious diseases are the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH).  They have had their budgets cut severely in the last few years.  The sequester cuts brought on by the Republicans, cut $1.55 billion from the budget of the National Institutes of Health, took another $300 million from the Center for Disease Control, slashed global health programs by $411 million and USAID by $289 million. The budgets drawn up by Rep. Paul Ryan and passed by the House GOP would have deepened those cuts significantly. The CDC’s budget has been cut $600 million since 2010.

“I have to tell you honestly it’s been a significant impact on us,” the NIH’s Anthony Fauci told a Senate subcommittee last week. “It has both in an acute and a chronic, insidious way eroded our ability to respond in the way that I and my colleagues would like to see us be able to respond to these emerging threats.”

This little fact isn’t being talked about in the Republican Hysteria Machine.  The agencies who do the most to protect America from infectious diseases have had their budgets cut drastically.  I don’t know how this will affect the overall containment of Ebola in America, but it certainly won’t help.

As usual, the Republicans have caused problems in protecting the public health of Americans.  Now that there is a real potential threat to that public health, they are crying about not being ready to fight it.  It is very typical of their strategy.  Cut everything that affects real people like public health.  Then when something goes wrong, blame everyone but yourselves.

The President is asking for $1 billion dollars in reprogramming money to help fight the disease in Africa, the place of origin.  He plans to build health centers and train people on the ground.  The natural theory is that if you stop it in the place of origin, it won’t spread much farther.  But, of course that isn’t good enough for Republicans.  As a matter of fact, Senator Vitter from Louisiana is violently opposed to the plan.  Why?  Because it focuses on “Africa.”

Writing to the members of the Senate Appropriations and Armed Services Committees, Vitter urged, “I ask you to oppose fully allowing the additional $1 billion in reprogramming requests until previously requested additional information is available for members of Congress to be fully briefed.” Vitter went on to assail the White House plan because, he wrote, it “focuses on Africa, and largely ignores our own borders.”

Most of the people reporting on Vitter’s letter have not focused on the wording.  Notice that he says “largely ignores our own borders.”  He doesn’t say it largely ignores our own country or our own people!  Sorry, maybe I do have a warped view of the Republicans right now, but that seems significant to me.  Nor does he ask that that money be instead transferred back to the CDC and NIH.  I wonder why.

Back when the battle raged over the ACA, many Republicans cried about what they called “death panels” being introduced into the bill.  Obviously it was a lie.  But, at the time I sarcastically wrote that the bill didn’t need a “death panel” since the Republican Party already had taken on that mantra.  Once you look at all of the facts, and listen to all of the hysteria being produced by the Republicans and their right-wing nuts, you can draw your own conclusions about the real “death panels.”

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If you are planning to drive somewhere over the 4th of July weekend, you will probably hit road construction on your drive.  Back in Chicago when I was younger, we had a saying that there were only two seasons.  Winter and Construction.  It seemed everytime you wanted to get on a major highway, there was some road construction that snarled traffic.

Bur, we also know that road construction is necessary.  In order to keep our infrastructure running, we need to repair and/or replace outdated roads and bridges.  Currently there are over 100,000 jobs going on where workers are paving roads and rebuilding bridges and modernizing our transit systems.  These projects translate to about 700,000 jobs across the country.

However, if you are also planning to drive somewhere over the Labor Day weekend, you will probably see the exact same road construction you see this weekend.  As a matter of fact, if Congress doesn’t do something soon, all road construction could come to a halt by the end of September.  The Federal Funds for these projects are running out.  Congress knows they are running out.  But, as usual, they took a vacation instead of doing something about it.

All of this work is a combination of the Federal Government and the States teaming up to pay for the construction.  The Federal Government gives States a very large chunk of the money needed to repair our transportation systems.  The Federal Fund is paid for by the 18.7 cents per gallon tax we all pay at the pump.  The problem is that with the poor condition of our roads, these costs are rising while the fund remains static.  Money is still coming in, but not fast enough.  The gas tax hasn’t been raised for over 20 years but the costs for construction have kept going up.

There is a current projected shortfall of about $8 Billion this year.  The Administration says that if nothing is done by August 1, an approximate 28% cut of all Federal Funding for these projects will have to be made.  If nothing is done by September 1, more and deeper cuts will have to be made.  At the end of September, if nothing is done, all money will stop because the government’s authority to spend money on transportation will expire.

As a result, up to 700,000 jobs are in the hands of Congress.  With the track record of the House of Representatives, that is a very frightening idea to me.

In fairness, there have been a number of proposals to help fix this problem.  The obvious one is to raise the gas tax at the pump.  That would ensure more money going into the fund.  But, in an election year, that hardly seems to be a likely solution.  Especially with the Republicans arguing against every possible rise in taxes of any kind.

The President has offered a solution that would close loopholes in the tax code, and use that money for the transportation fund.  The Republicans naturally rejected that idea.  I wonder if they had to throw up in the bathroom before taking to the mikes.  The Republican solution is, naturally, to cut spending in other programs, like the social safety net, to pay for the road construction.  As usual, they want the poor to pay for everything.

One plan even proposed to pay for the increases in transportation by shutting down the mail service on Saturdays.  Something Rep. Issa has wanted to do for a long time.  Actually he wants the Post Office to go away totally.  Republican Senators rejected this idea and it died quickly.  A real problem I see with this proposal is that the Post Office doesn’t get any money from the government.  It is run like a private company.

There was a plan to raise the tax on large trucks.  The thinking goes that large trucks cause a lot of the road damage, so they could pay a bit more.  However, because it used the word “tax”, Republicans killed it very quickly.

So, here we sit.  30 days away from the first necessary cuts to Federal Grants to States to make our roads and bridges safer, and Congress is in recess, again!  Some claim that this will get solved in time.  I am not so sure.  I don’t believe it will get solved because the Republicans are adamant against any form of tax increase.  They want to cut from social safety nets in order to pay for it.  Another reason I don’t think it will get done is because Republicans have proven time-and-again that they don’t care about the jobs of us “little people”.  They seem perfectly willing to let 700,000 people lose their jobs.  Jobs by the way, that are good paying middle-class jobs.

Both sides of the aisle have to work on this issue.  The Democrats have floated several solutions to the problem just to be shut down by the Republicans.  Republicans haven’t really offered anything except the shut down Saturday mail service plan.  From what I could find in my research on this, not one idea has come from the House Republicans.  All of the problem solving is taking place in the Senate.

But then, what is the harm in shutting down transportation construction?  It isn’t like we need those 700,000 jobs.  It isn’t like we need good roads to get our products to market.  It isn’t like we need safe bridges for our citizens to drive across.  The worse we allow our infrastructure to get, the more jobs we will lose.  Thereby allowing employers to offer $3.00 per hour for labor in order to “attract foreign investment”.  Or, as the mantra of the super rich goes, “screw the people, I got mine!”

So, when September and October rolls around and you are still driving on that stripped pavement on the highway, just drop a little thank you note to John Boehner and the Republicans.  You will probably have to send it to their district office address.  They will probably be on break again.

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