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Archive for the ‘Things That Suck’ Category

Twenty years ago, in Oklahoma City, a truck blew up next to the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building.  168 people were killed in that explosion, including many children who were at a daycare center in the building.  This was, at the time, the worst terrorist attack on American soil.  The terrorist was not a Muslim.  It was a crazed insurrectionist named Timothy McVeigh.

The anniversary of this horrific event passed this past Sunday.  And, hardly anyone noticed.  At the time of the bombing, I was working as a Security Manager and I actually knew people who worked in the building.  One person I knew as injured, and another was killed.  So, this anniversary means something to me.

Yet, as we watch the political landscape change over that 20 years, we are beginning to hear some of the very same words that McVeigh used to justify his bombing.  The problem is that these words are coming from people actually wanting to be President.

Two years before the bombing, McVeigh told a student reporter at the 1993 Waco standoff:

The government is afraid of the guns people have because they have to have control of the people at all times. Once you take away the guns, you can do anything to the people. You give them an inch and they take a mile. I believe we are slowly turning into a socialist government. The government is continually growing bigger and more powerful and the people need to prepare to defend themselves against government control.

Then, in the immediate aftermath of the bombing, National Rifle Association (NRA) CEO Wayne La Pierre tried to justify his own insurrectionist language in a letter he sent to NRA members on Meet the Press.  He wrote in his fundraising letter:

It doesn’t matter to them that the [federal Assault Weapons Ban] gives jack-booted government thugs more power to take away our constitutional rights, break in our doors, seize our guns, destroy our property, and even injure or kill us. Not too long ago, it was unthinkable for federal agents wearing Nazi bucket helmets and black storm trooper uniforms to attack law-abiding citizens.

Just a few days later, former President George H. W. Bush resigned his membership in the NRA.  In his letter he said:

Your broadside against Federal agents deeply offends my own sense of decency and honor; and it offends my concept of service to country. It indirectly slanders a wide array of government law enforcement officials, who are out there, day and night, laying their lives on the line for all of us.

It would be nice to say that things calmed down after all of this.  And, for a time, it seemed to do just that.  But today, we are hearing the same kind of insurrectionist rhetoric from actual Republican Candidates for President of the United States of America.

That crafty Canadian Senator Ted Cruz wrote a fundraising letter to his supporters.  In it he said:

The 2nd Amendment to the Constitution isn’t for just protecting hunting rights, and it’s not only to safeguard your right to target practice. It is a Constitutional right… to serve as the ultimate check against governmental tyranny–for the protection of liberty.

There was very little criticism from Republicans or conservatives about this item.  Senator Lindsey Graham tried to say something, but it was extremely weak criticism at best.  He said “well, we tried that once in South Carolina. I wouldn’t go down that road again. I think an informed electorate is probably a better check than, you know, guns in the streets.”

Graham is looking to run for President himself.  It might appear that he would take a little harsher view of Cruz’s viewpoint on this matter.  But that won’t happen.  Remember Graham bragged about owning an AR-15 so he could shoot people in his neighborhood following a natural disaster.  How is that for Presidential material?

Of course, the crazies need to outdo even Ted Cruz.  Dr. Ben Carson, speaking at the NRA national meeting in Nashville in April said:

As I got a little older and approached the teen years, I saw a lot of guns. They weren’t necessarily carried by people who were law-abiding citizens, either and I remember seeing people lying on the ground with bullet holes waiting to die. I remember both of my older cousins who we lived with were killed and I remember the drug dealers, many of whom we liked because they brought us candy. I remember the days when they would be killed and there was a lot of carnage that I saw. And then as a surgeon, I spent many a night operating on people with gunshot wounds to their heads; and all of that is horrible. But I can tell you something. It is not nearly as horrible as having a population that is defenseless against a group of tyrants who have arms and that’s what we have to always bear in mind in this nation.

And since the NRA meeting became a Republican presidential campaign event, Ted Nugent just had to get into the act as well.  Nugent is the wacko who is a NRA Board Member and had once mused about shooting Senator Harry Reid claiming our “government has turned on us.”  But to be certain his message was clear, he went on to say:

Go forth into that quiet night and let our government know we want separation of powers. Tell them to be the watchdogs our Founding Fathers wanted them to be, not to be a united force against the citizens. So take this good [guns] and use it against the bad and the ugly. It’s a target rich environment. If it was duck season, there’d be so many ducks, you could just close your eyes and shoot ’em. Don’t close your eyes and don’t shoot just yet, but plow forward and demand accountability … So now let’s take all that good and crush the bad and the ugly, when we identify the gun-grabbers and freedom-haters.

If this all sounds familiar, it is because it is.  Go to any of the fascist groups website, and you will find very similar language there.  It is almost like Ted Cruz is getting his material from one of these fringe hate groups.

While we are at it, something that isn’t being talked about very much is the fact that an anti-government group called “The Oath Keepers” have gathered at the Sugar Pine Mine in Oregon to provoke another standoff with Bureau of Land Management (BLM) agents attempting to temporarily shut it down due to the violation of federal regulations.

Or, do you remember the T-Shirt that Timothy McVeigh was wearing on the day he blew up the government building in Oklahoma City?  He got the shirt at a gun show.  It had a picture of President Abraham Lincoln on the front with the words “SIC SEMPER TYRANNIS [THUS ALWAYS TO TYRANTS].” On the back, it featured an excerpt of a quote from Thomas Jefferson: “THE TREE OF LIBERTY MUST BE REFRESHED FROM TIME TO TIME WITH THE BLOOD OF PATRIOTS AND TYRANTS.”

It is sickening enough to me that 20 years after we buried 168 people who were victims of that horrific terrorist act, we are hearing the same rhetoric as Timothy McVeigh used.  The real troubling part is that this rhetoric is not just coming from fringe elements, but from our Republican Politicians who wish to be President!  If they are so comfortable using insurrectionist language to get elected, what kind of country would they usher in if elected?

But, it is a very bad omen that indicates just how tight of a grip the NRA has on the Republican Party.  If the NRA and presidential candidates like Cruz and Carson keep spouting such nonsense, how long will it be before the next Timothy McVeigh takes another shot at the government and kills hundreds of people?

Twenty years ago I wept for the loss of people I knew in Oklahoma City.  Six years later I wept again over the loss of friends I lost during the 9/11 attack.  To me, there is no difference between these two terrorist attacks.  Except that today, some people running for President scream about the second, but seem to support the first.  The first is even more frightening to me because it was carried out by a citizen of our country.  It is harder to stop people like McVeigh than a foreign terrorist.

I just hope that as a nation we find the strength to slap these insurrectionists down and shut them up.  If not……

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The Republican Party seems to be putting together quite a show for the 2016 Presidential Elections.  Many people are calling it a “clown show.”  I suppose that is one way to look at it.  However, I am not going to be talking about it being a “clown show” because the outcome is far too important for that.  Rather, I think it is time we hold these people to the fire about how they plan to rebuild the middle-class in this country.

Because of my military service, I have lived in many parts of this country.  I have seen the good and the bad.  Yet I have always been an optimist about America and just how far we can progress as a people and nation.  The only problem is that I have slipped in my optimism in the last several years.  Not because I don’t believe in the American people and the American worker, but because the Republican Party has been on a mission to destroy everything that I thought was America.

In New Hampshire this past weekend, about 20 Republicans showed up to espouse why they should be considered presidential material.  We heard the usual talking points.  We heard all about how the government is trying to take our guns away.  We heard all about how evil same-sex marriage is.  We even heard that Social Security is a bane on society and should be radically changed.

We did not hear a single word about how the Republican Party plans to restore our middle-class.  I would guess that is because the Republican Party isn’t interested in restoring our middle-class.  As a matter of fact, I firmly believe that the Republican Party wants to eliminate the middle-class from our society.

Since taking over both Houses of Congress, the Republicans have passed not one meaningful piece of legislation targeting the restoration of the middle-class.  And, make no mistake about it, the middle-class is shrinking.  It has been under attack at least since 1981 when Ronald Reagan took office.

The Republican Party, at least in my opinion, is directly responsible for the loss of our middle-class.  They have passed laws that favor the rich and punish everyone else.  They constantly talk about “balancing the budget” and then put forth budget proposals that give huge tax cuts to the rich and take away the social safety net from those who desperately need it.  They want to severely cut food stamps, WIC, and even education.

They have fought tooth-and-nail against raising the minimum wage.  They claim that raising the minimum wage will ruin our economy by cutting jobs.  Yet, in areas where the minimum wage was raised the economy is doing better than areas in the same region that have not raised it.

In fighting the Affordable Care Act, Republicans claimed that the “government will get between you and your doctor.”  Yet, it is the Insurance companies that are between you and your doctor.  Not the government.  They tried to claim that there would be “death panels” that would let our seniors die.  Yet, it was insurance companies that decided, and still decide, which treatment you will be covered to receive.  Their answer to the ACA is to go back to the way it was and just let the insurance companies decide who lives and dies by determining how much they will pay for your health care, and/or cut you off completely.

Republicans have waged a massive war against unions.  Many Republican controlled states have passed what they call “Right to Work” laws, which have really become “Right to Work for Less” laws.  Every state that has these “Right to Work” laws lag behind in wages to states that have strong unions.

It was unions that brought up wages in the 20th Century.  It was unions that created the 40 hour work week.  It was unions that created a safer work-place and helped get OSHA into existence.  When we had strong unions, the income inequality shrunk.  Workers were able to negotiate a better wage deal for themselves and rightfully share in the profits created by their labor.

One of the very first things Reagan did was fire all of the Air Traffic Controllers who went on strike in the 1980s.  That signaled the open warfare against unions, and Republicans have fought it with a vengeance ever since.  They don’t want workers to get a fair share of the profits.  They don’t care if workers are injured on the job.  A while ago, I wrote about how they are trying to do away with worker’s compensation as we know it.

Republicans complain that too many people are on things like Food Stamps, WIC, and Medicaid.  Yet, they do nothing to force those conglomerate corporations who are putting these people on these programs by not paying them a livable wage.  It is no secret that companies like Wal-Mart, McDonalds, Burger King, Big Lots, and a host of others are bilking the American taxpayer trillions of dollars every year by paying so little to their workers that they have no recourse but to apply to the Federal Government for help.

And what do the Republicans want to do to “punish” these corporate welches?  They want to give them tax cuts.  So, not only will they continue to supplement their profits on the backs of the American taxpayer, they will not even have to pay their fair share of taxes.

If you own a small business, Republicans are doing their best to put you out of business.  They are not interested in “saving small business” they are interested in eliminating the competition for their corporate donors.  You are paying for their employees.  By forcing their employees onto Federal Programs, you are subsidizing these corporations.

Local communities are very willing to give huge tax breaks to the likes of Wal-Mart in order to get them to put a store in town.  Once that happens, Main Street starts emptying out.  Look at small towns across America and you will see more “For Lease” signs in store fronts on Main Street than “Open For Business” signs.  Why?  Because these large corporations come in with their huge tax breaks, low wages, and slash prices just long enough to put their small business competition out of business.

Many of us still remember the Soda Shops.  We remember the small electronics store that not only sold televisions, but fixed them as well.  We remember department stores that were owned locally.  We remember the locally owned corner drug store and grocery store.  Where have they all gone?

Most went out of business because they couldn’t compete against the giants and their huge tax breaks and government subsidized wages.  Many went out of business because factories shut down and shipped the work overseas where the company could pay twenty-five cents an hour in sweatshops.  And, the Republicans gave those out-sourcing, American job wreckers a tax cut!

In the early twentieth century, we saw unions fighting for worker’s rights.  Unfortunately, we saw riots and even killings during these fights.  But, when the unions won the battle, the middle-class took off in a big way.  People actually began to earn a livable wage.  Health insurance was included in their packages.  Safety at the workplace began to get better.  In a word, there would be no middle-class today if it were not for the unions then.

We have not seen the all-out war against the American Working Class for almost 100 years.  Until now.  There is definitely a huge difference between the two parties.  The Republicans have become the party of the 1%, and they are very boastful about it, too.

In the last 30 or 40 years, the Republican Party has abandoned the American Dream for everyone.  They now prefer to only allow it for the very few.  They keep talking about how we should “buckle under” and work hard to get ahead.  How we can only gain prosperity through hard work and dedication.  Yet, they want to abolish inheritance tax on the rich so their children don’t have to pay any taxes on the billions they inherit without having to work for it.

If you are a one-percenter, you can look forward to huge benefits from the Republican Party.  If you are one of the 99% of America, you can look forward to paying for those huge benefits to the one-percent.  If you are a small business owner, you can look forward to continuing to subsidize your large competitors.  Every single Republican Candidate favors these policies.  That includes every candidate at the federal, state, and local levels.

So, you see, I cannot consider the side-show in New Hampshire as a “Clown Show.”  The stakes for the average person on the street are way too high for levity.  Rather, I consider what took place in New Hampshire as the opening salvo’s in the “War On The Working Class!”  The only question is are you ready to fight back?

In the 1992 Presidential Election, Bill Clinton said “it is the economy, stupid.”  It is still the economy today.  We have two choices in the next two years.  We can elect the party that wants to eliminate small business and the middle-class, or one that will fight for them.  In case you haven’t noticed, the economy always seems to do better with a Democrat in office than when a Republican is in office.  That should tell you something!

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This has been going on seemingly forever.  Banks and other “financial” businesses seem to keep getting away with criminal behavior, because the Federal Government does nothing about it.  It is time for this to stop!

After the 2008 economic meltdown, caused almost entirely by rip-off artists in the banking and financial industries, no one went to jail.  Why?  Because the agencies that are supposed to protect us from these predators, are simply waiting for an offer to join them and make millions of dollars ripping us off.  That is why!

The Department of Education is supposedly in its final review of Navient.  Navient Corp. is an education loan giant.  The company got caught intentionally overcharging about 60,000 active-duty troops on federal and private student loans over nearly a decade.

The company, which neither admitted nor denied wrongdoing, agreed to pay $60 million to troops as part of its settlement with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and the Department of Justice.  It was after this agreement that the Department of Education started its own investigation.

The American Legion, last month, accused the Department of Education of favoring its loan contractors over service members. “The department seems to be doing everything possible to undermine the Justice Department and the CFPB, and they’re doing a hell of a job,” Steve Gonzalez, an assistant director in the Legion’s veterans employment and education division, said at the time.

This doesn’t start or end with the Department of Education either.  Federal banking regulators planned to publicly accuse the company of violating the Service Members Civil Relief Act until after Navient warned its investors.  This is more about protecting investors than it is about protecting the public.

That is what is wrong with our economic system today.  And, if you think that campaign financing laws contribute to these problems, you are probably correct.  The whole system is stacked against those who need the help.  It seems okay to bilk millions of people using predatory housing loans.

It seems okay to bilk millions of people who just wand an education using predatory student loans, even if those students are military personnel.  It seems okay to overcharge interest on credit cards.  It seems perfectly okay for these institutions to do whatever they want as long as they contribute to someone’s campaign.

Yes, some will tell me how banks like Wells Fargo, and Citi Group paid huge penalties after they got caught.  But their profits from their illegal schemes were far bigger than the fines they paid.  And, they are gearing up to do it all over again with Republicans trying to defang regulations, again!

When are these criminals going to have to start paying for their crimes with jail time?  It appears never!  Even when you get caught ripping off active duty military personnel, you don’t go to jail.

Herbert Hoover once said “the business of America is business.”  That infamous quote came just before the Great Depression.  Today, thanks to deregulation happy Republicans, that quote is “the business of American businesses is to rip-off the population.”

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We have heard all the comparisons that the Republican Party led by their radical Tea Party Movement make about the President being similar to Hitler.  They are usually written off as lunatics, which they are.  However, they have also been quietly working behind the scenes to give us an example of what fascism in America may look like.  That window has opened quite wide in Wisconsin.

For a little background.  In Wisconsin, Justices for the State Supreme Court are elected.  The Chief Justice is not appointed, per se, but gains that title by seniority.  There have also been laws on the books in Wisconsin that explicitly defines when a jurist must recuse himself/herself from a case.  One example is when a group contributes to the campaign of the jurist, and a case involving that group comes before the court.  The jurist must be recused and not involved in the case.

This has led Wisconsin in becoming known for its fairness and jurisprudence.  Keeping potential conflicts of interest away from the courts has served Wisconsin extremely well in the past.  But, all that is changing with Governor Scott Walker.

As you may know, there has been an ongoing investigation into Scott Walkers campaign to fight off his recall a few years ago.  The complaint is that his campaign and Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce (WMC), among others directly coordinated in the campaign.  That is a violation of the law, even for conservatives.

There has been a case working its way through the courts that would stop the investigation.  If Walker’s campaign and these groups did violate the law, that wouldn’t make Walker’s presidential run very effective.  The case will come before the Wisconsin Supreme Court soon.

So, not wanting to take a chance of the investigation going forward and putting Walker in a bad light, he has quietly worked to change the law about the Supreme Court.  And, he is diligently working to make sure that the current Chief Justice, Shirley Abrahamson is removed as the Chief Justice before the case gets to the court.

How is this possible?  One of the first rules for conservatives is to make sure than any referendums or amendment to the constitution is put to the vote during times when no one is paying attention and you can expect low turn-out.  For example, most of the state amendments that banned same-sex marriage were passed in off-year elections when turn-out is traditionally low.

These types of laws or changes are never placed on the ballot during a Presidential election because turn-out is high and people actually pay attention.  One such period just came and went in Wisconsin.  On Tuesday, there was a “spring election ballot.”  Walker and his allies added a referendum that changed the way the state’s Supreme Court got its Chief Justice.

This referendum says that the Chief Justice will now have to be voted on by the court members.  The court in Wisconsin has shifted to a conservative majority, and Chief Justice Abrahamson is considered as a liberal.  This conservative shift is mostly a result of groups like WMC having poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into these elections.  That means she is sure to be voted out as Chief Justice.  She is suing over this change, and we will have to wait to see what happens on that.

However, not wanting to wait, Walker and his pals are trying to get her off the court completely.  She is 81 and they are trying to get a mandatory retirement age of 75 passed.  Remember, Justices on the Wisconsin Supreme Court are elected.  Abrahamson was just re-elected to another four-year term.  Walker doesn’t like that, so he wants her out and is willing to change whatever law he can to ensure it happens.

If you think that is fun, the conservative majority on the court lowered the court’s conflict-of-interest standards. They approved changes in requirements for when justices must “recuse” themselves — that is, decline to participate in a case. Now special interests can appear before judges to whom they’ve made campaign contributions — and they can give money to judges even as those judges are presiding over cases to which the donors are parties.

Which brings up the investigation into Walker’s campaign practices.  A majority of the justices received big campaign contributions from Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce.  However, since they changed the rules on conflict-of-interests, they can now sit in and help decide whether or not the investigation can proceed.

If you are looking for the icing on the cake, the conservative majority decided that there will be no oral arguments. The justices will meet and decide in secret.  Okay conservatives, how is that for transparency!

In a recent report, the Huffington Post said:

As he ramps up for a potential presidential run in 2016, Walker is using his executive budget to take control of judicial salaries; disband the independent council that advises all branches of state government on court practice and procedure; and weaken the Wisconsin Judicial Commission, the state body charged with investigating judicial ethics violations and recommending discipline.

So, as you can see Scott Walker is laying the ground work for what fascism will look like in America.  You have to be honest here.  Any executive who erodes the powers of the courts is creating a fascist state.  The best way to stay in power and establish your dictatorship is to eliminate the separation of powers in government.

That is exactly what Scott Walker and his cronies are doing in Wisconsin.  If there was anyone in this country that can be realistically compared to Hitler, I think Scott Walker is the man.  Remember, he wants to be president, and people like the Koch Brothers and WMC are willing to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to make that happen.

If his nightmare of being president should ever come true, I hope we will be able to say more than “well, democracy was nice while it lasted.”

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The junior Senator from Arkansas is at it again.  The other day, he claimed that we don’t have to go to war with Iran, we simply have to drop a few bombs on Iran.  He seems to think that if the U.S. decides to bomb another country, that isn’t war.  That is a remarkably stupid thing to say.

According to Cotton:

Even if military action were required – and we certainly should have kept the credible threat of military force on the table, it always improves diplomacy – the president is trying to make you think it would be 150,000 heavy mechanized troops on the ground in the Middle East again as we saw in Iraq. That’s simply not the case.

It would be something more along the lines of what President Clinton did in December 1998 during Operation Desert Fox. Several days of air and naval bombing against Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction facilities for exactly the same kind of behavior, for interfering with weapons inspectors and for disobeying Security Council resolutions. All we’re asking is that the president simply be as tough in the protection of America’s national security interests as Bill Clinton was.

There is a major difference between what Bill Clinton did and what we are talking about right now.  Bill Clinton had military forces in the area because the Kuwaiti War made sure we kept troops in the area.  Then there is the fact that we told the Iraqis that they would face more military involvement if they did not comply with the treaty signed.  It included a “no fly” zone in southern Iraq.

But, in Iran, we have no real reason to bomb them.  We have not fought a way with Iran.  We have no legal standing to “drop a few bombs” on Iran.  And, as we already know from Bill Clinton’s bombings, they didn’t achieve anything.

The right-wing isn’t interested in bombing Iran’s nuclear facilities.  They are interested in a “regime change” in Iran.  They want to overthrow the current government.  We did that once in Iran back in the 1950s.  The CIA masterminded a plot to overthrow the democratically elected government of Iran because the right-wing thought it was leaning too much towards the Soviet Union than to us.

After the government was overthrown, the Shah was placed back on the throne by Eisenhower’s administration.  That set up a right-wing dictatorship that terrorized its own people.  As all dictatorships do.  The result was the eventual overthrow of the Shah of Iran.  How well did that work out?  Why not ask one of the couple of hundred embassy workers who were taken hostage for over a year.

We already know that at least some of Iran’s nuclear program is underground.  It would be very hard to destroy those facilities.  Additionally, if we begin to bomb Iran, it will only result in Iran being more stealthy in their pursuit for a nuclear weapon.  If what they are currently saying is true that they are only interested in peaceful nuclear energy, bombing them will certainly make them want a bomb.

Once that happens, how do we know what activities they are involved in, and how do we stop it?  We have to invade just like we did in Iraq.  I guess then Cotton will say we will really be at war.  It doesn’t take ground troops to be at war.  When you start bombing a sovereign nation, you are committing an act of war.

The other real danger in Cotton’s use of bombing is where does it end?  If America bombs Iran, what will their response be?  Will they bomb Israel?  Will they bomb Saudi Arabia?  Iran’s military is quite formidable.  They are within reach of many countries in the Mideast.  If they are bombed, what is stopping them from doing the same thing to someone else?

If they do bomb another country, like Israel, that would mean war across the board.  What will stop Russia and China from backing Iran?  If they do, would Russia invade the Ukraine?  Would Russia invade western Europe?  Would China invade Japan?  What about North Korea?  We know they have nuclear weapons, will they turn them on South Korea once we are engaged elsewhere?

The “Letter to Iran” that Tom Cotton authored and was signed by 47 Republican senators was bad enough.  But his comment about bombing Iran has rightly taken him out of the right to take part in any discussion on the Iran deal or anything else for that mater.  Being so reckless as to not consider the reactions of others in this matter, which could lead to another global war, is so irresponsible that he needs to be censored.

The deal being worked on may still fall apart.  It may become necessary for other drastic measures.  But, unfortunately, there are too many other idiots in Congress who think the same way as Cotton.  They are actively trying to sabotage the deal before it is even struck.  That says more about their willingness to go to war than their claim to be defending our national security.

Sorry, but these are very dangerous times, and too many of our elected officials are actually fanning the flames of war.  For the sake of our children, and the world, let us hope that calmer heads prevail.

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We all like the word compromise when it comes to legislation.  Anytime a bill is introduced, the member sponsoring the bill loves to talk about how this bill has bipartisan support.  In theory, that is a good thing, right?  Well, not always.  Sometimes this bipartisan support is something that actually hurts Americans or, at the very least, rewards corporations for cheating in the first place.

There is just one bill that is making its way through the Congress right now.  That bill would offer a “Tax Holiday” to corporations who have been hiding money offshore so they don’t have to pay any taxes on it.  This is not the first time such a “Tax Holiday” has been introduced or passed either.

In 2004 a similar “Tax Holiday” was offered to corporations who have cheated on their taxes.  Amazingly, it was called “The American Job Creation Act.”  As with most “job creation” bills it failed miserably because there were no teeth in the bill to ensure jobs were actually being created.

At that time, it was estimated that about a half-trillion dollars were sitting in offshore accounts.  The purpose was to offer a reduced tax bill, like 5.5% instead of the 35% they should have paid, to bring that money back to the U.S. and create jobs.  However, that money did not go into research, factories, jobs, or anything else.   It was used by companies to buy back stocks to drive the price of those stocks because CEO compensation includes stock options.

As a matter of fact, rather than creating new jobs, it is estimated that the biggest companies who brought money back actually laid off over 600,000 jobs in the two years following that “Tax Holiday.”  As a result, not only were there no new jobs, many people lost their jobs, and the government lost revenue.

Now they are at it again.  It is estimated that approximately $2.1 Trillion is kept in offshore accounts.  This money was profits that companies made in the U.S. but was placed in countries like the Cayman Islands or Ireland where there is very low corporate taxes or none at all.

The funny thing, if you want to call it that, is that most of this money is actually in U.S. banks overseas.  You know, banks like Citi Corp.  Meaning the companies have direct access to that money right here in the U.S. even though they don’t pay any taxes on it.  This $2.1 Trillion breaks out to be about $90 Billion per year in lost revenues to the government.

Money that could be spent on infrastructure.  We already know that transportation infrastructure is broken and nothing has been done for years about it.  $90 Billion per year would not only pay for that infrastructure, but many others too.  This would also create about 1.8 million jobs across the country that were good paying, middle-class jobs.

This “Tax Holiday” isn’t intended to help small businesses.  It isn’t intended to help the average American.  It is designed to help large corporations who have basically cheated on their taxes for years.  Rather than changing the laws that allow these loopholes in the first place, Congress is now willing to create another bogus “Tax Holiday” and claim it is “bipartisan.”

So, as you can see, bipartisan support isn’t always a good thing for the American people.  Sometimes it is just another handout to big corporations who control the purse strings of campaign funds.  Both parties are guilty of pandering to these corporations.

So, as you fill out your tax forms, if not already done, remember you are being ripped off.  Not because your taxes are necessarily too high, but because companies who are making billions of dollars in profits in the U.S. are able to hide their profits offshore and not pay any taxes on them.

The next time a bridge collapses, or a water main breaks, just remember that $90 Billion per year is being denied our government to use to fix these problems and Congress seems happy to let it happen.  Bet they will be willing to raise your gas tax to pay for it though.

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Kansas has a real problem.  It doesn’t have enough money for its budget.  The major reason for this budgetary shortfall is that they cut taxes dramatically, especially on the wealthy and corporations.  The plan was to “encourage” new businesses to flock to Kansas because of their favorable tax codes.

In the four years since, the plan hasn’t worked.  Kansas lags behind the rest of the Midwest in job creation.  Its debt has grown, and the only way the governor has to help reduce the debt is to cut spending on education and social services.  In short, the Conservative Utopia they hoped to create in Kansas, so far, has turned out to be a nightmare.  It even is one of the leading states in the region of people leaving!

So, to place the blame for all of this where I rightly belongs, Kansas has passed a bill that would be considered humorous, if it didn’t hurt so many people.  They actually passed a law that prohibits spending welfare checks and/or food stamps on cruise ships!

It is hard to imagine welfare recipients flocking to cruise ships for vacation when a family of three in a high-paying, more urban county in Kansas receives $429 a month; a rural family gets $386 a month.  On top of this, there is no evidence, and not one of the proponents of the bill have made any argument that welfare money going to cruise ships is a problem.  In fact, it doesn’t exist.

But, the ban on cruise ships is just the tip of the iceberg.  There are other things in the bill that make it even harder to survive on this paltry amount of money.  The new law awaiting Governor Sam Brownback’s signature also prohibits a long list of activities including shopping at jewelry stores, lingerie shops, video arcades, theme parks and even swimming pools.

There is also a provision that bans TANF recipients from withdrawing more than $25 per day from an ATM machine.  But, since most ATM machines do not work in $5 increments, that means you are restricted to $20 per day.  Oh, plus the 85 cents TANF charges and the $2 fee the ATM machine charges.

So, why is it so immediately necessary to pass such a law?  The only answer can be to revive the Ronald Reagan “Welfare Queen” stereotype that got him elected.  The only reason Kansas needs to revivie this is because their Conservative Utopia is failing and they need a “fall guy.”  Who better to blame than the so-called “Welfare Queen” spending all her money on a cruise ship?

“This is not about a real problem, this is not a public policy decision,” says Liz Schott, of the Center on Policy and Budget Priorities. “This is all about politics and creating a wrong impression that public welfare recipients can’t spend their money wisely.”

Kansas isn’t alone in this either.  In Missouri, a Republican state legislator has introduced legislation that would ban “cookies, chips, energy drinks, soft drinks, seafood or steak.”  I always believed that seafood and/or steak, in moderation was good for your nutrition.  But, Republicans seem to think that TANF recipients don’t deserve food that is good for you.

Many if not most TANF recipients are “unbanked,” and without a checking account, how will they take out enough money to pay their rent?  It would appear that this law is not based on any understanding of the daily reality of making ends meet on these inadequate benefits.

But Brownback and the Kansas Republican lawmakers don’t really care about these people’s lives.  They needed a scapegoat and welfare recipients and TANF recipients are perfect for the job.  Instead of focusing on their failed policies, they are looking to distract the issue to a target they know will be easy fodder.

Brownback and his Republican cronies need to fix the problems they created in Kansas and not look to lay blame on others.  But then, this just proves Republican “supply side” economics only slows down the economy and bankrupts the budget.  But don’t worry, you can always blame those on welfare and TANF.  All in the name of catering to your donor base.

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