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Archive for the ‘Things That Suck’ Category

Let me tell you a little story.  There is a generic drug manufacturer outside Pittsburgh, PA called Mylan.  This company is now facing a hostile takeover bid from an Israeli company Teva.  It seems that Teva has started purchasing Mylan stock.  They have already purchased 5% of Mylan’s outstanding stock.

Mylan is now asking the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to look into the matter.  You see, there is a provision that says when large stock purchases of U.S. companies are made, those purchases must be reviewed by anti-trust authorities.  Sounds reasonable, we don’t want our companies to fall to hostile takeovers by foreigners.

But, there is a problem with the request from Mylan.  You may not recognize the name of the company, but earlier this year, Mylan went ahead with the purchase of a small drug company in the Netherlands.  Once that purchase was completed, Mylan announced that it was changing its corporate citizenship to the Netherlands.

This move from Mylan was so it could reduce its taxes on drugs sold overseas.  In other words, it was a move directed by greed by corporate executives by to avoid paying their fair share of taxes to the country that they are part of.  This procedure is called “inversion.”

Many members of Congress lashed out at the company for their inversion move.  Almost all of the members of Congress who lashed out were Democrats.  Republicans didn’t seem to have any difficulty with the process.  However, that begs the question.  Should a company who claims the U.S. as its corporate headquarters and still declares that the company is from the Netherlands be protected under the very anti-trust laws they themselves have looked to avoid?

In legal terms, Mylan probably has a defensible position.  Since it claims that its principal office remains in Pennsylvania, which makes it a “U.S. issuer” of stock for federal anti-trust purposes.  The optics of this is quite another matter.  The company abandoned its U.S. Citizenship in order to pay less in federal taxes, yet they now want that same federal government to protect them.

I think Rep. Chris Van Hollen (R-MD) summed it up very nicely.  He said:

“Mylan is trying to have its cake and eat it too.  It is an intolerable abuse of a loophole when U.S. corporations pretend they are based overseas in order to get out of paying their fair share and duck their responsibilities to the United States. It’s just plain hypocrisy when one of those same inverted companies claims that it is actually a U.S. company because it needs the special protections U.S. law gives to American companies.”

The FTC should remind Mylan that when it chose to invert to avoid paying taxes, it gave up the privileges given to companies which remain committed to the United States. And Congress needs to act now to close the inversion loophole and fix our broken tax code to reward companies that locate and invest in America.”

At this writing, I have not found a single comment from any Republican on the matter.  We all know how the Republicans, especially conservatives, hate government interference.  In 2008 and 2009 they wanted to let the auto industry in America collapse.  Are they willing to sit by and let Teva carry out its hostile takeover of Mylan?

Would they consider this a case of protecting a U.S. company or one of protecting a Netherlands company?  Where is Mitt Romney saying let Mylan fail?  Why isn’t Fox Business screaming about using tax payers money to defend a foreign company?  As usual, when an instance of something created by these loopholes in our tax code that Republicans all seem to favor arise and makes a mess of things, they remain very quiet.

I am somewhat torn in this matter.  On one hand, I don’t want anything to happen to the jobs that a hostile takeover could reap.  On the other hand, why should our government use our laws to defend a company that no longer wants to be an American Company for lower taxes?

Van Hollen is right.  This company abandoned us.  We have seen other companies abandon us as well.  There will be more companies following suit.  Unless the tax codes are changed and these “inversion” loopholes are closed for good.  How many companies will join Mylan in denouncing their company citizenship if the FTC helps Mylan in the fight?

What would stop other companies from denouncing their company citizenship in favor of lower taxes, knowing the government will still use U.S. laws to defend them?  Part of paying your taxes is getting protection in these kinds of cases.  If you abandon your citizenship so you don’t have to pay your taxes, why should we defend you?

That is the dilemma that our outdated tax code has given us.  We are now faced with the dilemma of using tax payer dollars to basically protect a foreign company, or not.  It will be interesting to see how the FTC responds.  It will be even more interesting to see conservative responses to their decision.

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There is a new budget proposal that Republicans are saying will save the government $4 Billion dollars.  They claim this money should be used for “more important programs” that will benefit the American People.  Oklahoma Rep. Tom Cole said:  “This is a fiscally responsible bill that reduces discretionary spending by nearly $4 billion.  At the same time, by carefully reprioritizing where taxpayer dollars are spent, the bill increases funding for important programs that benefit the American people.”

That all sounds great.  Except, there is a major problem with Cole’s statement, and the proposal being put forth.  This “savings” will be at the expense of 4.7 million low-income people who rely on Title X for their preventative health services.  What it essentially does is kill Title X by taking away all of its funding.

Title X became official in 1970, under that great Republican Richard Nixon.  It helps connect these 4.7 million Americans to things like pap smears, cancer screenings, STD tests, birth control and counseling about how to space out pregnancies and plan for the families they want.  Title X was instituted for women who are not eligible for Medicaid and cannot afford to see a doctor.

In many cases, the services they receive at Title X clinics are literally life-saving.  “For many of these women and men, a Title X-funded health center is their only access point to the health system and the only health care they receive all year,” Clare Coleman, president & CEO of the National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association, said in a statement on the proposal.

But, in their current fever of denying poor people the Republicans on the Labor, Health and Human Services subcommittee say this is “discretionary” spending that the country can do without.  Besides including language to eliminate the Affordable Care Act, the language they put in this proposal is outright dreadful.  They added language that would eliminate Title X funding unless the program meets a certain ideological (read: abstinence-focused) criteria:

None of the funds appropriated in this Act may be made available to any entity under title X of the PHS Act unless the applicant for the award certifies to the Secretary that it encourages family participation in the decision of minors to seek family planning services and that it provides counseling to minors on how to resist attempts to coerce minors into engaging in sexual activities.

But just to make sure you have no control over your health care, they added other wording that allows your school or boss to determine which forms of contraception or other health care procedure you can be covered under because they man they may not like them:

Notwithstanding any other provision of this title, no provision of this title (and no amendment made by any such provision) shall… require a sponsor (or, in the case of health insurance coverage offered to students through an institution of higher education, the institution of higher education offering such coverage) to sponsor, purchase, or provide any health benefits coverage or group health plan that includes coverage of an abortion or other item or service to which such sponsor or institution, respectively, has a moral or religious objection, or prevent an issuer from offering or issuing to such sponsor or institution, respectively, health insurance coverage that excludes such item or service.

The other thing that these Republicans have failed to recognize, is the financial benefits to the government, especially state governments that eliminating Title X funding will have.  According to the Guttmacher Institute, each dollar invested in Title X saves $3.80 in Medicaid expenses related to pregnancy and childbirth.  In other words, this $4 Billion spent each year results in a return of over $12 Billion.

Another Guttmacher analysis found that the services provided by Kansas’ Title X clinics in 2010 helped save the state more than $61,000,000 in public funds. “That accounts for savings from reduced maternity and birth-related costs, along with reduced costs related to miscarriage and abortion and savings related to [sexually transmitted infection] screening and cervical cancer prevention services,” according to the report.

In other words, it could easily be argued that Title X funding contributes to “family values” that Republicans are always claiming to support.  Yet, they are very willing to eliminate the program all together.  One can only ask, why?  Is it because they have an aversion to helping low-income women?  Is it because they are more interested in saving money than lives?  Or, is it simply they want to control your life?

I have said before I believe they simply want to control your life!  There is no other explanation for these constant attacks against programs like Title X.  Or, allowing your boss to decide what type of health care you are allowed to have under their plains.  Or, allowing your boss to decide if you actually need birth control, and what forms they are willing to let you use.

Low-income people will be hurt dramatically by these proposed cuts.  It is almost like the Republicans, led by Rep. Cole are setting up their own “death squads” when it comes to health care.  If you deny people access to preventative medicine, they are more likely to die form something that could have been prevented.

This is just another case of those “god fearing, good Christians” denying those in need the services they require.  How very Christ-like of them.

 

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Ever since Sam Brownback became Governor of Kansas the media has called it a “Tea Party Experiment” that was supposed to show just how great everything would be if taxes were slashed.  The “experiment” so far has failed miserably.  The State Budget is in crisis.  School funding is being slashed.  And, the most important part of the Tea Party Experiment, job creation, is lagging everyone.

But, if have been watching closely, there is more to this “experiment” than meets the eye.  I am beginning to wonder if fascism isn’t what is really behind Brownback’s agenda.  Rather than face up to the failed policies he has instituted, he would rather “bully” and “threaten” other branches of government.  This has been directed towards the judicial branch.

Whether you are talking about the U.S. Constitution or any State Constitution, there are definite separation of powers in government.  There is an Executive Branch, Legislative Branch, and Judicial Branch.  It is the responsibility for the Legislative Branch to pass laws.  It is the responsibility of the Executive Branch to enforce those laws.  It is the responsibility of the Judicial Branch to protect against abuse of powers and ensure the Constitution is followed by these laws.

That is all under attack in Kansas.  Seems the Governor of Kansas doesn’t think the Judicial Branch is “smart enough” to exist.  Especially if that Judicial Branch goes against what this Governor wants.  He has a rubber-stamp Legislature, so he is secure there.  But, you can see right now what happens if a branch of government doesn’t agree with him.

The battle lines were drawn in 2014.  The State Supreme Court ruled that the disparity between school funding in rich and poor districts violated the state constitution. The justices ordered the legislature to fix the problem.  Naturally, that didn’t sit well with the Governor.

Rather than “fixing” the problem, the Legislature passed what is called the Administrative Law.  That law stripped the supreme court of its authority to appoint local chief judges and set district court budgets. (Instead, district court judges—who are often quite conservative—were allowed to elect their own chief judge.)

This led to people realizing that the Administrative Law was an effort to scare the courts and a warning.  See, in the initial ruling, the court stopped short of declaring the school system as a whole was constitutionally underfunded.   They did say that “one day” they would answer that question.  Problem is, if the court rules that the school system is constitutionally underfunded, Kansas would need to raise taxes to fix the problem.

Pace makers in the Legislature stopped for a while.  The response was basically typical.  Whoah pardner!  Raise Taxes in a Tea Party Paradise?  You have got to be kidding me?  Why should we be forced to properly fund the school system?  Those brats don’t understand just how great they have it!

The Administrative Law was a first shot across the bow of the State Supreme Court to NOT rule in favor of better school funding.  And, just in case the court didn’t get the message, Brownback and his rubber-stamp Legislature threatened the court with political “reform” if they didn’t fall in line.

Now, the court is deciding if it should strike down the Administrative Law as well.  This law fundamentally changes the Constitution, and is thereby most likely unconstitutional as well.  But, Brownback isn’t sitting by waiting for a decision.  He is firing off the next salvo in the war against the Judicial Branch.

On Thursday, he signed a bill that threatens the entire state’s judiciary with destruction if it rules against a law he favors.  What the law declares is if the supreme court strikes down the administrative law, the entire state judiciary will lose its funding. Brownback and the legislature are essentially bullying the judiciary: Uphold our law or cease to exist.

As you can see, Kansas has failed as the great “Tea Party Experiment” and has turned into the great “Fascist Experiment” instead.  Or, rather that is the real intent behind the Tea Party.  Here you have a state where the Judiciary is attempting to ensure the Governor and Legislature uphold their basic constitutional duties.  In response the Governor and Legislature are trying to destroy the court.  That is extortion, not democracy.

We have seen this scene played out before in places like Germany, Iraq, Iran, and many South American countries.  This is nothing less than fascism.  When the courts are willing to stand up to the “leader” it is changed or destroyed.  Now it is being attempted in that great Tea Party State of Kansas.  Draw your own conclusions!

 

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If you have been listening to the Republican Presidential Candidates lately, and you are younger than Scott Walker, you should be very worried about your retirement.  Republicans are constantly attacking retirement.  They won’t openly say they want to gut the programs, but that is exactly what they want to do.

These are simple facts.  The two most popular Federal Government Programs are Social Security and Medicare.  So, why do the Republican Presidential Candidates hate them so much?  Why is it every time one of them opens their mouth, cuts to Social Security and Medicare are at the top of their hit list?

If you haven’t heard, Scott Walker recently said that Social Security should be “reformed” for everyone who is younger than, well, Scott Walker.  “We’ll talk about reform,” Walker said, “but only for those — I was born on November 2, 1967 — for anybody older than me, we’re not touching social security.”  No, they just want to make sure your children and grandchildren will never be able to retire.

As you already know, “reform” is a euphemism for cuts.  Anytime a Republican says we need to “reform” Social Security, they really mean we need to cut benefits.

In April, Walker laid out his plan, well, he laid out his usual fear-mongering about Social Security instead of actually talking about a real plan.   “Absent significant reforms,” said Walker, “these programs will go bankrupt and the people who have paid into them will be left out in the cold.”

The first part of this lie is that Social Security was supposed to be a separate fund that did not count towards the total Federal Budget.  It was supposed to remain separate so it could remain viable.  The Republicans put the Social Security Fund under the whole Federal Budget and constantly raid it.

Secondly, there is a very easy fix to ensure Social Security won’t go bust.  Eliminate the cap on the taxes paid into Social Security.  Currently, you pay taxes on wages up to $118,500.  Anything you make above that number is not taxed by Social Security.  Meaning if you make less than that sum, you are paying a far higher percentage of your income to Social Security than someone making about $1 million dollars.

By eliminating this cap, Social Security would be fully funded for generations.  But, since Republicans consider that a “tax increase on the wealthy” you won’t hear them even mention it in their speeches.  No, instead of pissing off their financial backers, who hate the idea, they would rather raise the retirement age to 70.  They don’t consider that a cut in benefits.  But, as the Center for Economic Policy and Research has noted, boosting the retirement age is a benefit cut, no matter how it’s spun.

If you stretch out the time a person needs to work until they can collect Social Security, that is a cut.  Besides, how can we expect hard laborers to work until they are 70?  Have you ever tried laying brick for a living?  There are thousands of jobs where people suffer tremendous physical breakdowns due to the rigors of their job.  Yet, Republicans want to make them keep working until they are 70.

Walker isn’t alone either.

The wonderful Canadian Senator Ted Cruz has called Social Security a “Ponzi scheme.”  He has proposed an increase in the retirement age and other types of benefit cuts.  He also wants to privatize the program.  The only reason for “privatizing” the program is to put more money in the pockets of his financial banking buddies.  By privatizing Social Security, they will be able to get more money through those exorbitant fees they already charge for IRAs and 401Ks.

Then there is Senator Marco Rubio who also thinks it would be a good idea to raise the retirement age and impose other cuts, saying that younger generations must accept “that our Social Security and our Medicare is still going to be the best in the world, but it’s going to look different than our parents’ Social Security and their Medicare.”

About that “best in the world” part: It isn’t true. Social Security’s benefits are already close to the bottom when compared to those of other developed countries, and will fare even worse if the Republicans’ cuts are imposed.  Fact is, if you worked and retired in a European Nation, you are far better off than retiring here.

Jeb Bush also says he wants to push the retirement age back to 69 or 70.

Chris Christie has proposed increasing the minimum retirement age as well — from 62 to 64.  Christie’s plan would reduce Social Security benefits for seniors making more than $80,000 per year and eliminate them altogether for those who make more than $200,000 per year.

Christie’s plan may sound plausible, but the savings to Social Security under it are minimal.  They will have no real bearing the saving the program,   Christie’s proposal is nothing more than sleight of hand, meant to distract us from a better alternative: Asking the wealthy to pay the same percentage in payroll taxes as other Americans.

It is a very simple math problem.  You cannot exempt people from paying the same percentage in payroll taxes and expect to have enough revenue to keep Social Security going.  Millionaires retirement income will not be affected by any of these proposals.  Only the rest of us will be affected.  All the while we keep paying more of our income to payroll taxes than millionaires do.  Republicans call that fair!

Then there is the constant attack on Medicare.  Republicans hate Medicare.  They want to eliminate Medicare as we know it.  Every year the Republicans in the House have voted to reduce Medicare’s budget and replace it with a “voucher system.”  This “voucher system” would force you to purchase insurance on the open market.  They would give you a “voucher” for most of the costs, but you will have to come up with the rest yourself.

Under private insurance plans, deductibles would go up.  Out-of-pocket expenses would go up.  And, profits for insurance companies would skyrocket because of all of these “new” policy holders.  You can also bet that as insurance policy costs go up, that “voucher” you get won’t increase enough to keep up with costs.

There is one way that we can help Medicare expenses.  Let Medicare negotiate prices with Big Pharma.  What you say?  Doesn’t Medicare already negotiate with Big Pharma?  Nope!  When the prescription part of Medicare was passed, they wouldn’t give Medicare the right to negotiate prices for those prescriptions.  We wouldn’t want to do anything that would reduce the perverse increased profit motives in U.S. health care, would we?

Now, you may say that Americans need to save more for their retirement.  That could be argued as a fair point, except for one thing.  Wages for the middle-class has stagnated for over 40 years.  The chances are you are making less money than your parents were when taking into consideration cost-of-living increases.  How are you going to be able to save?

A recent study shows that about 37% of Americans today make $30,000 per year or less.  How can these people save when they are living paycheck-to-paycheck?  No, Americans cannot put away for retirement like our fathers and mothers did in the past.  Our economic system just won’t allow for it.

All polls indicate that the “base” of the Republican Party are elderly.  So why do the Republicans hate the elderly so much?  Worse, when are these “elderly” going to wake up to the fact that the two programs they love the most are constantly under attack by the very party they seem to support?

The answer to the first question is that the financial backers of the Republican Party hate Social Security and Medicare.  These people are far more important to them than those poor “old farts” they expect to vote for them.  So they lie.  They say that if these programs aren’t “reformed” these “old farts” are going to suffer.

I am an “old fart” and I care about hurting my children and grandchildren.  Republicans say the national debt is a huge burden on our children and grandchildren.  Yet, they are prepared to ensure our children and grandchildren live in object poverty when it is time to retire.  Or, never be able to retire at all.  Why is that not a “huge burden” on our children and grandchildren?

The Republican Party is very open about its war on women, gays, poor, etc.  They are very covert about their war on the elderly.  They know that if this hatred for the elderly comes out, they will lose the biggest part of their “base.”  We need to make sure the elderly are aware of this scam.  Then, maybe they will jump ship and we will see real progress for our country.

 

 

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I had a terrible choice last night.  What to watch on TV.  The Blackhawks played in game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals.  The White Sox were playing the Texas Rangers.  The Duggars were on Fox News.  It took me all of five seconds to make up my mind.  The Blackhawks and White Sox were far more interesting than the Duggars.  But, I do write about politics and other things, so I recorded the interview and watched it later.

I have to admit one thing.  About one-quarter of the way through the interview, I had to go throw up!  The amount of stupidity and ignorance that came from the mouths of these two “parents” was too much to take.  Honestly, I couldn’t watch the whole thing in one sitting.  I felt like I was sitting in a torture chamber being questioned by Dick Cheney.

Here sat two people sitting in their lovely house, which is being paid for by Discovery by the way, trying to justify why they refused to report their child molesting son to proper authorities.  What was it they said?  “As parents we are not legally mandated to report our son for molestation.”  WHAT?  So, lets talk about the idea that parents are MORALLY obligated to report the crime.  Especially when one of the victims didn’t live in the house!

They also talked about how Josh was not a pedophile.  Michelle said “Pedophiles are adults who molest children.  Josh was only 15 at the time so he is not a pedophile.”  Again, maybe in the strict interpretation of the law that is true, morally, he is definitely a pedophile!

The excuses, the “explanations” and the hypocrisy was on full display during the interview.  Remember, these are people who have spread damaging and false claims about other people, all in the name of “their faith.”  Michelle gave a robocall about transgender people really being pedophiles who just want to get into a woman’s locker room.  They have fought against equal rights for the LGBT community.  All the while harboring a child molester.

To top things off, none of this is their fault, of course.  It is the fault of that nasty “liberal media” who has attacked them over the revelations.  It is the fault of those demons who released the records to the public about this tragic incident.  According to them, their daughters have “suffered more from the publicity” than they did from being molested by their brother.

Then the non-shocker came out.  This is all because we non-believers have “an axe to grind against true believers.”  Actually, they followed the Fox News talking points to the letter.  Hell, they even trotted out two of their daughters to cry on camera and “defend” their brother for molesting them.  Rupert Murdoch must have been smiling from ear-to-ear on that one.

This interview was a disgusting, vile, shameful act by the Duggars.  Kelly Meghan was just as guilty.  She asked some tough questions, but let them slide with their inane answers.  She never followed up with another tough question.  She merely sat there and allowed them to shun responsibility for their failures.

This was a real dog-and-pony show intended to save their miserable Reality TV show.  “I don’t know if the rest of our family should be punished for the act of one of our children,” he said. “Whether they film us or not, we’re going to live life and continue to spread God’s word.”  That quote provided the real intent for this “interview” on Fox News.  Save their pathetic TV show.

I haven’t talked about these idiots very much because I despise everything they stand for.  They are against every single so-called Christian principle I have ever heard about.  They hate based on whether or not you are willing to follow their very limited view of the bible.  They despise everyone who doesn’t believe that women should be subordinate to men.  They claim to be preachers of God’s Word.  But, they obviously don’t bother to follow it themselves.

I promise, this will be the last time you hear about the Duggars here.  I refuse to give them any more time or ink.  Sorry, but I need to go throw up again!

 

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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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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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