Posts Tagged With: government

GENETIC PREDISPOSITIONS: PART II

When I was young, (yes, electricity had already been discovered and was in general use) there was term often used by newspapers and other media to disparage or otherwise shame certain members of society. That term was “being on the dole” and it came to signify those unfortunates that were having a tough time financially and required governmental assistance to get thru the transactions of day-to-day living. That phrase originated in England in 1917 and was in reference to benefits being “doled” out by the government to generally poor souls that couldn’t otherwise provide for themselves. Since the U.S. at the time, had a hard-core, laissez-faire, capitalistic type of thinking ingrained into most people’s psyches, having to receive government assistance was considered especially shameful. The mark of a slacker, one too lazy or otherwise too indolent to provide for themselves. Indeed, according to newspapers that were published in those days, no criminal’s deeds were as heinous as that of someone “being on the dole.”

With the advent of FDR’s New Deal, however, the use of that term began to lose it’s luster. It turned out that with the creation of Social Security and Medicare legislation, virtually all seniors were eventually “on the dole,” so to speak. More social programs regarding veterans benefits, student loans, housing and other government assistance came into being, so it seemed almost everyone “was on the dole” at some point in their lives, and that inglorious phrase was eventually tossed into the dustbin of history. It was to some degree revived in a new form during the Ronald Reagan administration in the 1980s. The term “welfare queens” suddenly came into existence as racist code to denote single black mothers who were supposedly having babies out of wedlock in order to receive larger government welfare checks. When it was pointed out that the preponderance of welfare payments were being made to white people, that derogatory phrase also faded from the public forum. But the on-going efforts of the fortunate to stigmatize the unfortunate in some shape or manner continues on unabated.

This is kind of a long way around to come to the main point of how genetics is often the determining factor in the way our lives will unfold and the destinies in store for all of us. Some time back I wrote a piece called “Genetic Predispositions” which still receives “views” years later, and I thought I would update the original with additional insights. In the original, I cited some extreme examples of how one’s genes are often the determining factor of the life being led. How, due to genetic malfunction, some fetus brains are bathed in an overdose of serotonin while in the womb. Hence, when these individuals grow into adulthood, they cannot derive pleasure or comfort from those activities that normally satisfy most of us, and thus, are often likely to turn out to be brutish rapists or serial killers to satisfy their lusts. Even when the brain develops normally, genetic make-up is usually the name of the game.

Those whose DNA is formed with a talent for fiscal matters often do the best in our capitalistic society. Bankers, Wall Street brokers, hedge fund managers, entrepreneurs etc. often accomplish the most financially, and are able to lead the most luxurious materialistic lives. Not that such bountiful materialism necessarily translates into lifelong happiness and serenity. Just ask those who knew Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, Michael Jackson or Whitney Houston for starters. All four of whom had not only acquired immense riches, but, also millions of adoring fans and worldwide fame; but still managed to kill themselves at a fairly young age. On the the other hand, those whose DNA thrusts them into the artistic side of human performance usually receive the short end of the stick from a capitalistic oriented society. Very few writers, artists, musicians, etc. receive just compensation for their efforts and often live in poverty throughout their lives. This could also result in early demise. Think Vincent Van Gogh or Edgar Allen Poe, neither of whom caught a break as far as public recognition of their talents while they were still alive, and who also died at an early age

Most of the rest of us are somewhere in the middle, living anywhere from relatively lower middle class, to reasonably comfortable lifestyles, depending on the talent programmed into our DNA. But what I didn’t mention last time are the environmental factors that one grows up with, that also have a huge influence on our future lives, and must be considered along with genes as one of life’s determining forces. An Irish poet put it best when he wrote that “They fuck you up your Mum and Dad; they fuck you up real good.” Those coming from abusive or dysfunctional homes where parents might be alcoholics, druggies, or child molesters, hardly have a chance in life, no matter how strong their genes may be. Some hearty, brave souls do manage to escape an horrendous upbringing, however, and go on to thrive in life.

It the end it virtually all comes down to a matter of genetic inheritance and environmental upbringing. I think, though, that genes are more of the determinant factor. As for me, at this stage of my life, I’m quite content to be “on the dole” and receive my government benefits.

Advertisements
Categories: A malfunctioning psche, Economics, Health Care, Obamacare, human affairs, politics, Ronald Reagan, the Depression | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

FRANCE CHOOSES SANITY

How come the French were able to act so rationally when it came to their run-off presidential election held yesterday, while the United States behaved so badly in its presidential balloting held last November. How come France, by a two-thirds vote margin, was able to elect the candidate of moderation and common sense instead of the one pushing an agenda of white supremacy, economic supra-nationalism, and favoritism toward Russia’s tyrant Vladimir Putin, while we in the U.S. did just the opposite. Perhaps it’s something in the drinking water; or the outstanding quality of French wines.

In yesterday’s presidential run-off election in France, independent moderate Emmanuel Macron easily defeated National Front far-right candidate Marine Le Pen to win a 5 year term. At age 39 Macron is the youngest president in French history. His campaign rested on reviving France’s sclerotic economy which has been virtually on life-support since almost the end of WWII. France’s unemployment rate is more than double that of the U.S., and its economic productivity and growth rates are less than half of that in this country. Marine Le Pen’s demagoguery regarding those issues, however, never caught fire during the French campaign the way Donald Trump’s demonizing of those matters in the U.S. gave him an unexpected victory. Le Pen promised, if elected, to pull France out of the European Union, renounce the euro in favor of the franc, deny entry to Muslim immigrants fleeing into Europe from the Mid-East, and cozy up to thuggish Vladimir Putin in Russia while dis-engaging from NATO and the EU. Almost an exact female replica of Donald Trump. She called herself a “nationalist” as Trump’s key advisor, Steve Bannon, has described himself. In both cases, the term “nationalist” was code for white supremacist.

Of course, Le Pen was fighting a huge uphill battle to begin with. Her father, Jean Marie Le Pen, who had founded the National Front party in the 1970s, was notoriously bigoted, especially toward Jews. He was a Holocaust denier exhibiting a distinctly fascist profile. Marine tried to scrub off her party’s bigotry, but her whitewash job didn’t work as well with the French electorate as it did here in the U.S. with Trump’s demagoguery. Perhaps the fact that France suffered for five years under the heel of a fascist tyranny until liberated by the Allies a mere 72 years ago might have been a factor. A five year span when virtually every French Jew was rounded up by French quislings and sent to Nazi death camps. In any event, Macron won handily as Hillary Clinton should have done in the U.S. election, except for monumental Democratic incompetence and blunders.

So now, instead of living with a Clinton Administration of moderation and rationality, Americans are forced to cope with the right-wing agenda and hysterics of the Trump follies. Jeff Sessions, the arch-typical white southern bigot from Alabama that Trump made his Attorney-General, wants to deny the growing number of states that have legalized marijuana, the right to do so. He would still have the Feds go after and prosecute marijuana sellers as well as buyers. (Whatever happened to the GOP’s insistence on “states rights.”) And forget about anything resembling civil rights enforcement coming out of the Justice Department. Meanwhile the top priority of the moment for Trump and his Republican Congress is to repeal and replace Obamacare. They shoved such a bill through the House, which is long on repeal and minutely short on replace. So what if the poor that can’t afford health insurance become gravely ill. I guess they should just curl up in a ball and die somewhere, so as not to bother us righteous folk that do have health insurance. Some 20 million people that were able to sign up for Medicaid under Obamacare, as minimal as that is, are now in jeopardy of losing that coverage under the Republican proposed legislation. Supposedly, the GOP plan will be drastically overhauled when the Senate takes it up.

And the beat goes on. Next up on the Trump agenda is income tax overhaul. The proposed legislation is once again distinctly Republican. Heavy tax cuts for the rich, with a few crumbs tossed to the middle and lower classes. Trump in this instance is following Ronald Reagan’s formula of large tax cuts for the upper classes while substantially increasing our military and defense spending. The same formula that started us on the road to the $20 trillion budget deficit this country now so sublimely endures. How does that line go- the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Trump, always the comfortable occupant in his parallel universe of delusional paranoia, recently said words to the effect that a government shut down is needed in this country, and is long overdue. Current appropriations to keep the government running expire on September 30 of this year. Congress must appropriate and the president must sign new legislation to keep the government operating for the new fiscal year starting October 1st. Trump has threatened to veto any new appropriations that don’t contain funds to build his myopically insane border wall with Mexico, or don’t slash funding for agencies that he considers useless such as the National Institutes for Health, or the Environmental Protection Agency and a host of others.

These and many, many other examples are the consequences of a Trump versus a Clinton regime in the White House. The consequences of less than a hundred thousand votes going the wrong way in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin. Anyway, congratulations to the French for finally doing the right thing. After the Brexit vote in England, and the Trump victory in the U.S., it seemed like the end of Western civilization as we know it; but France has shown that it doesn’t have to be so. Perhaps we should all move to France.

Categories: A malfunctioning psche, Brexit, Donald Trump, Alan Greenspan, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Ted Cruz, John Kasich, presidential polls,, Economics, Health Care, Obamacare, human affairs, politics | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

THE ACCIDENTAL PRESIDENT

It’s late 2015 and Donald Trump is having a small gathering at his penthouse at Trump Towers in Manhattan. His family is there including his children and grandchildren, as well as some friends and associates his known over the years. The conversation invariably begins to dwell on politics and how the upcoming 2016 primaries are starting earlier and earlier. Suddenly, Donnie Jr. loudly comments that- “You know, Dad, you could take another run at it. It’s not too late to get your name on the ballot for the Iowa caucuses.” “Right,” replies Trump. “Because it worked out so well for me in 2012.” But Donnie Jr. is persistent. “The only reason that went bust was because you let Corey talk into running as a “birther.” (He’s referring to Corey Lewandowski, Trump’s campaign manager in 2012, and the first half of the 2016 campaign.) “That was a losing issue from the beginning. There just wasn’t enough true believers in the Republican base to convince that Obama was secretly born in Kenya. Besides this time, you would be running against Hillary, a much weaker candidate than Obama ever was.”

“This time you can focus on the stuff that has the Republican base all in tizzy,” continues  Donnie Jr. “Like all the Mexican illegals pouring over the border. Most Republicans really hate that. And ISIS terrorism and the flood of Moslems coming into this country as well as Europe are certainly issues to rile people up. Look at the recent attacks in Europe and California. Both of these areas could give you plenty of traction in the primaries.” “I don’t know Dad,” injects Ivanka, speaking for the first time. “Aren’t there like 20 guys running for the nomination. How are you going to stand out from the rest.” “By being different than rest, and politically incorrrect” declares Steve Bannon,” a close associate of Trump over the years, and head of the Alt-Right propaganda outlet called Breitbart News.  “I mean, look who he would be running against. Jeb Bush? Give me a break. Not only has his time come and gone maybe a dozen years ago, but I don’t believe the country is ready for still another Bush in the White House. Ted Cruz? Outside of Texas, his drawing power is diddly-squat. Rubio? Too young and inexperienced. The rest are just political pigmies.”

Trump turned to Melania seated next to him, and said- “You know, the kids pretty much run the business on a day-to-day basis as it is. It’s not like I don’t have the time.” “But you would be out campaigning for about the next year,” she protested. “I’d still make time to come home to you, every now and then,” Trump replied. Melania did not look pleased, but said nothing. Turning to everyone else Trump declared that- “If I did do this, I’m not going to spend a lot of my own money, I’ll tell you that. It will be a like a take it or leave proposition. This is who I am, take it or leave it.” And the rest, as the cliche goes, is history.

Trump entered the Republican primaries with 16 other potential candidates. His ratings alongside the others stood at about 5%. That’s when he decided to be as politically incorrect as possible, as Steve Bannon had advised. He denigrated Senator John McCain’s service to his country when he was captured and held prisoner by the Viet-Cong in the hellish “Hanoi Hilton” for 6 long years. Trump stated that he- “liked people that weren’t captured.” (I’m still trying to figure out in what universe that’s a coherent statement.) When Megyn Kelly, Fox News host, was critical of him during a debate, Trump stated that “she had blood coming out of her whatever.” He said that Mexico was deliberately sending us “their rapists and murderers,” and promised to build a 2000 mile long wall to keep them out. He said he would bar Moslems from entering the country, and would “bomb the shit out of ISIS.” (I’m still waiting on some action concerning that last promise.) But the more outlandish the Trump remarks were, the more his poll numbers shot up. From 5% to about the 35-40% range.

Because Trump’s comments were considered so utterly vile, NBC fired him from their “Celebrity Apprentice” show. Macy’s fired him from being one of their spokespersons. But a large chunk of the Republican base really liked what they heard. Every white supremacist organization from the KKK on down considered Trump “their kind of guy.” The “Bikers of America” flocked to the Cleveland Convention Center to provide the necessary protection and muscle to assure that for the first time in their lives, they would have a kindred spirit occupying the White House. To this day, the large and growing white supremacy movement in the U.S. maintains nothing but adoration for Trump and his cohorts.

Despite his demagogic appeal to white racists and bigots, Trump still would have lost the election had his campaign not suppressed the voter turnout amongst blacks, Latinos and other minorities that normally vote Democratic. As I’ve said many times, elections are often decided more by the people who stay home and fail to vote, then by the numbers that do cast a ballot. The Trump campaign cast Hillary in such a derogatory light, that many voters that would have normally turned out for her were too discouraged to make the effort. Also, of course, if we didn’t have this unfathomable electoral college system, Hillary would be occupying the Oval Office today.

I wrote last time about the upcoming French presidential election (this Sunday), where the female version of Donald Trump is trying to use the same tactics of voter suppression on her opponents base. Marine Le Pen, the candidate of the far right, who hopes to become the new French president, is telling her opponent’s base voters that it’s not worth their effort to come out and cast a ballot on Sunday.  It would be much more pleasant for them to take a liesurly stroll in the park. Interesting to see if that tactic will work a second time.

Categories: A malfunctioning psche, Brexit, Donald Trump, Alan Greenspan, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Ted Cruz, John Kasich, presidential polls,, Economics, Health Care, Obamacare, human affairs, politics, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

THE DIEHARDS

In 1854, British poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson wrote his classic poem, “The Charge of The Light Brigade,” which was based on actual events that occurred during the Crimean War (1854-1856.) The war united Britain, France and Turkey in a very bloody confrontation with Russian expansionist goals in Europe. As you may well know, the history of Europe is replete with centuries of constant warfare. There were often shifting alliances among countries fighting each other. For example, Britain and France engaged in numerous bloody wars over many centuries. But in the Crimean War, Britain and France were united, along with Turkey, in battling Russia. Lord Tennyson’s poem covers a specific event that resulted from a General’s incredibly incompetent and blundering orders to have a British light brigade (which was comprised of about 600 calvary men) charge Russian fortifications over an unprotected, flat terrain.

There was no way this mission could have succeeded and every one of the 637 in the light brigade knew they were being sent on a suicide mission. Yet they were bound by their honor to obey orders. As Tennyson wrote: “Half a league onward, All in the valley of Death, Rode the six hundred.” Other famous lines from the poem are: “Theirs not to reason why, Theirs but to do and die.” Needless to say, the men in the light brigade were slaughtered like cattle, an obvious outcome from the beginning. But representative of a diehard mentality that will bear any price, no matter how hopeless the outcome, in order to achieve its goals. Which brings us to the Government shutdown we all just endured for a couple of weeks. It was the same diehard tea party mentality, that the only way they would allow the Government to stay open and function, was to defund Obamacare. A political suicide mission that failed to accomplish its goal and whose only achievement was giving about 800 thousand federal employees a free, two-week paid vacation. And since the Government was only allowed to re-open on a temporary basis, we get to experience this all over again in January.

So I began wondering who exactly are these tea-party diehards and extremists, that now seem to control most of the Republican Party, especially in the House of Representatives. From what I’ve gleaned, the common thread that runs through tea-party mentality is a virulent hatred of Government. Nothing delights them more than actually seeing the Government being closed for business. So I’ve put together a list of common denominators that one is likely to possess to be in the tea-party movement. Sort like that comedy routine some years back about being a redneck. For example, you know you’re a redneck if you pee against the same tree trunk that your dog does, when out for a walk. So here goes in identification of who is in the tea-party.

You’re likely to be a tea-partier if you’re a fundamentalist, evangelical Christian. Although the New Testament focuses heavily on helping the poor and the sick, evangelicals go bonkers at thought of the Federal Government providing such assistance. I believe this goes back to when the Government sanctioned stuff like legalized abortion, widespread availability of birth-control, gay rights and marriage, removal of religion from public schools, availability of pornography, etc. Nothing good could ever come from any Government that allows such satanic occurrences. So in the evangelical mindset, the Government is the devil’s playground, bent on destroying organized religion. The Government is to be fought tooth and nail in order to preserve their religious freedoms and beliefs.

You’re likely to be a tea-partier if you believe that the poor, the sick and the elderly that receive Government assistance are nothing but slackers. They’re either lazy, indolent, dumb, or inept, or a combination of all of these. They’re the 47% that receive Government handouts, that Mitt Romney talked about when he thought all the cameras had been shut off. I wonder if he still ascribes his election loss to those “on the dole” as they used to say. In these tea-party minds, the income taxes they pay are all going into the pockets of those too lazy to work. Their taxes are never spent on the military or counter-intelligence efforts, but go strictly to those with their hands out. Therefore, the tea-partier hates the Government in general and the IRS in particular, and bitterly resents forking over the tax money he’s forced to pay.

You’re likely a tea-partier if you’re paranoia has reached through the stratosphere, and you feel the Government is out to destroy your life or kill you altogether. Or perhaps throw you into one of those large concentration camps the Government is building somewhere in Indiana to house political dissidents. You know the Government is reading all your emails and tweets, so if you erred in emailing your recipe to Grandma for chicken-pot-pie your life is as good as over. And where does all this paranoia come from? Try listening to the Rush Limbaughs or Glen Becks of so-called “talk radio.” They claim to have millions of listeners all tuning in for their daily dose of paranoia or Barack Obama vitriol. The same is true if you watch Fox News on TV.

Your likely to be a tea-partier if believe that America should become a shrinking violet in foreign affairs instead of leader of the free world. Of course, in that regard, right-wing wackos have teamed up with left-wing looney-tuners to bring about this current state of affairs. It’s one of the reasons that the mid-east is crumbling into chaos before our very eyes. One of the reasons that a terrorist state like Iran is about to cross the finish line in building nuclear weaponry.

I could go on but I believe you get the picture. I haven’t even talked about Ted Cruz, the unofficial tea-party leader and crusader in Congress. Or his evangelical father who runs a fundamentalist church. But my endurance is waning, so I guess I’ll save all that for another posting. It’s that senior thing again.

 

 

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

CAPITOL FISCAL FOLLIES

In 1907, a young man in Chicago named Florenz Ziegfeld decided that his career path would be that of a show business producer. He started with a light and inexpensive song and dance revue, for the summer season in Chicago, with emphasis on holding costs down, since he had little capital to begin with. But not even Ziegfeld could have imagined the the momentous impact his creation would experience. It was a huge hit from the beginning, and soon Ziegfeld would attach his name to what became as the “Ziegfeld Follies.” As he acquired more money the show became a more lavish and opulent spectacle. By the 1920s, this extravaganza was the smash hit of Broadway. But what really made the “Ziegfeld Follies” such a mammoth event were its showgirls, a collection of eager dancers and chorus-line singers all wearing dazzling costumes. Ziegfeld advertised them as the most beautiful girls in the world. Many huge show biz stars, such as Barbara Stanwyck, Paulette Goddard, Gypsy Rose Lee, Josephine Baker, and Marilyn Miller got their career-starts in the “Ziegfeld Follies.” The show finally had to shut down in 1931 as the icy tentacles of the Great Depression were beginning to wrap themselves around the American economy and start plunging it into the deep freeze.

This is sort of a long way around to observing that the fiscal follies currently going on in our nation’s capitol, far exceed the extravaganzas put on by Flo Ziegfeld. Especially as it pertains to the theater of the absurd. As good a showman as Ziegfeld was, he couldn’t match the looney-tunes, dysfunctional antics currently underway in the U.S. Congress, even as we speak, (or write, as the case may be.) Two events explain this fascinating kerfuffle. The first is that the Government’s fiscal year ends September 30, a week from now. The Constitution has words to the effect that the Government cannot spend a farthing (or a nickel if you prefer) unless the funds are appropriated by an act of Congress. So far, Congress has appropriated nothing for the new fiscal year, about to start on October 1. The primary hold-up is in the House, where Republicans have a majority and are refusing to pass fiscal 2014 appropriations  unless all funding for Obamacare, (the President’s signature universal healthcare legislation) is stripped from the appropriations bill. Of course, it’s pure fantasy that the Democratic majority in the Senate, or the President, will agree to such shenanigans and extortion. But House Republicans are adamant that no new funding will occur unless resources for Obamacare are deleted. Even if it means shutting down the Government with all its ensuing consequences. Like military and civilian Government personnel, contractors and debt-holders not getting paid. Like no new food stamps, or housing assistance or other benefits to the sick or poor being issued. You know, fun stuff like that.

Senate Republicans also refuse to miss out on these entertaining follies. Senators, led by the four horse of the tea-party apocalypse, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Mike Lee, and Rand Paul, whom I’ve written about before, are also threatening to filibuster any appropriations bill that contains funding for Obamacare. Please do not disturb the ivory tower of self-delusion these four choose to dwell in. So here we are, one-week away from a total Government shutdown, with all its disastrous consequences, that could very well send our fragile economy into a devastating tailspin. But as these follies gather momentum, they do make for excellent theater of the absurd. It should be pointed out, however, that we are the only country in the world, from first to fourth rate, that is willing to shut their Government down over budgetary battles. Not even the weakest or poorest banana republic would entertain such thoughts.

If, by some miracle we can avoid a a Government-shutdown through lack of appropriations legislation; shortly thereafter comes the debt-ceiling fiasco, as Congress lurches from one phony crises to another. The debt-ceiling, unlike the appropriations process, is nowhere mentioned in the Constitution. Instead, in a fit of self-imposed masochism, Congress enacted legislation saying the Government cannot exceed an arbitrary debt-ceiling without Congressional approval. We are estimated to bump up against the current debt-ceiling around mid-October. Since we are borrowing about 40 cents out of every dollar we spend, it would seem rather imperative that Congress raise the debt-ceiling. If not, the Government once again shuts down. And once again, Congressional Republicans are holding the Government hostage, by refusing to raise the debt-ceiling unless all funding for Obamacare is erased. Since the Mafia has made blackmail and extortion so profitable, Republicans, I assume, figure, why not employ these same tactics.

Now we all know that Republican vitriol and hatred directed against Barack Obama, is almost legendary. To deprive the GOP out of 2 presidential election victories is unforgivable in most tea-party and Republican circles. To say nothing of the race issue that I won’t get into at this time. So what better way to seek revenge than depriving Obama of his signature legislated achievement. Plus they know that if Obamacare, flawed though it may be, is allowed to function for 2-3 years, it will become as popular as Medicare or Social Security. Then even the tea-party lunatics will not be able to advocate for its dissolution.

One other factor is in play. There is a whole group of far-far right-wing looney-tuners that would really like to see the Government shut down. The Rush Limbaugh/ Glen Beck/ Sean Hannity types with their millions of followers are practically frothing at the mouth, or drooling all over themselves, in anticipation of a Government shutdown. Instead of visions of sugar plums, such anarchists thrill at visions of such an event. Even Flo Ziegfeld, as good a showman as he was, would have hard time producing theater follies to match the current ongoing antics in our nation’s capitol.

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

DELUSION AND DYSFUNCTION

The thing to realize about the American psyche, as we begin 2013, is that once a benefit has been delivered to the populace, it’s extremely difficult to retract that benefit. Perhaps this is true for all the world’s populations, but it seems especially true in the U.S. And the fear of losing that delivered benefit, will cause the masses to react in great anger and frustration, which then will result in highly dysfunctional and injurious behavior. It’s a provable fact that actions taken out of fear, anger, or paranoia will inevitably result in some very bad decisions. And so it is with the never ending, and forever ongoing charade known as the fiscal cliff. As it stands at the time I’m writing this piece, the Senate has passed the legislation to get us off the fiscal cliff; but now the House is posturing about how bad a deal it is, and many members have threatened to vote no on the Senate bill, which means we will go over the cliff. My guess is that the House will screw around with this today and tomorrow, and then, protesting the entire time, will wind up passing the Senate bill just as the clock is running out.

The main feature of the fiscal cliff that has so many people anxious, is the expiration of the Bush tax cuts, which will cause all tax payers to fork over more of their income to the government. This is the part now, where taking away a benefit, once delivered, becomes nearly impossible. If the Bush tax cuts are allowed to expire, tax rates would revert back to where during the 8 Clinton years in the 1990s. At that point in time, tax rates had been significantly reduced during the Reagan years in the 1980s. It’s true that after Bill Clinton became President in 1993, he did managed to squeeze through a small increase in the rates Ronald Reagan managed to get Congress to lower. But even with that increase, tax rates were considerably lower than they had been in all the time since World War II. At one point during and after the war, the top marginal tax rate was 91%, versus the 35% that exists today. Also, if Al Gore had been allowed to take the Presidency that he won in 2000 (don’t get me started on that one), there never would have been the Bush tax cuts, and all of us would still be paying the same amount of taxes that were in force since early in Bill Clinton’s presidency. Rates that everybody became used to, and were generally not a big deal. But people did get the benefit for about the last 10 years of keeping more of their income; and I’ve said, a benefit once given, is nearly impossible to retract.

Now here’s where the fun part, i.e., delusion and dysfunction kicks in. Everyone knows that we, as a country, are producing mind-boggling budget deficits every year, well north of a trillion dollars annually. Nearly everyone agrees that those deficits are unsustainable, and they need to significantly shrink. The common sense approach toward reducing deficits would seem to be in cutting spending and increasing revenue.  On increasing the revenue side, Obama and the Democrats have a modest proposal to increase the marginal tax rate by 4.6% on couples earning more than $250,000 a year, which constitute about 2% of the richest people out of our 310 million population. (You can do the math as to how many people would be affected.) However, tea party Republicans acted as if they were stricken with rabies, by frothing at the mouth at the thought of raising anybody’s taxes, including the rich and super-rich. The bill just passed by the Senate supposedly represents a compromise whereby the 4.6% marginal increase would apply to couples making $450,000 annually, maybe 1-1.5% of the super fortunate among us. House Republicans, in full delusional mode, are saying even that’s too much and are threatening to scuttle the whole deal.

On the expenditure side, it’s the Congressional Democrats that have hijacked the cloak of delusion from Republicans, by pretending that fixes aren’t needed to reign in Social Security and Medicare costs. Those 2 benefits for seniors are literally bankrupting the country, and pretending that nothing should be done to reform those programs reaches new heights in the arena of delusion. Especially since the fixes needed are relatively simple. All it takes is increasing the eligibility age of those programs from 65 to 67, and then eventually to 70. Applying the Social Security and Medicare taxes on all income would also help. Raising the eligibility ages on both programs would be entirely justified since longevity ages have significantly increased since the passage of their legislation. Social Security was enacted in the 1930s, when living to the age of 65 was a big deal. Today the longevity rate for most Americans is approaching 80.

In the end, it’s not so much the dysfunctional behavior of government representatives, as it is the incredibly dysfunctional action of the populace that voted for such a highly partisan and divided government in the first place. Even if, by some miracle, we avoid going over the fiscal cliff, more trauma will ensue as the year unfolds. The debt ceiling will have to be raised shortly, and most Republicans are opposed to raising it unless substantial spending cuts are made, cuts that are opposed by most Democrats. If the debt ceiling is not raised, then large chunks of the government will have to be shut down and shuttered. We are the only country in the world that voluntarily shuts down its government due to partisan bickering. Appropriations bills will have to be passed, again with vigorous partisan divide on on both sides of the aisle. And the President and Congress will constantly be at each other’s throats due to the extreme polarization and poisoned political atmosphere that currently exists.

As I said at the outset, fear, anger and paranoia will almost invariably lead to bad decision-making, and that’s exactly what has happened in both the political and social arenas. And now we have to live with the consequences of that bad decision-making for at least the next 2 years. Happy new-year everyone.

 

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

OVER THE FISCAL CLIFF WE GO

By now you should have all heard about the “fiscal cliff” and how we are about to plunge over it, if Congress does not act by around Christmastime. Lots of luck with that. The fiscal cliff came into being in August 2011. The voters, in their infinite wisdom during the November 2010 elections, elected  a Democratic majority in the Senate, but a Republican majority in the House of Representatives. Most of the newly elected House members were Tea Party stalwarts, with a supposed mandate to sharply reduce Government spending by cutting the budget. Then, in July of 2011, a piece of legislative idiocy known as the debt-ceiling had to be raised in order for the Government to go on functioning. The debt-ceiling, which is not stipulated anywhere in the Constitution, mandates that the Government cannot borrow anymore money above an amount previously designated by Congress, unless Congress passes a new law designating an increased amount of debt. I know that this is utter nonsense that attempts to appeal to voters who otherwise are not paying attention to the machinations of the way things get done in Washington, but this nonsense is codified in statute.

So, if any of you haven’t fallen asleep yet, I’ll plow on with more explanation of how Congress functions on the taxpayers dime. Thus, back in July 2011, if the debt-ceiling wasn’t going to be raised on Government spending, where 40 cents out of every dollar spent had to be borrowed, it would have meant that major components of the Government would have to be shut down, and Federal employes sent home with no paycheck. It would have meant missed social security or medicare payments, as well as failure to pay Defense and other Government contractors. It would have meant that if you had payed for a trip to any of our national parks, such as Yellowstone or Yosemite, (over 300 million people visit our national parks every year) you were out-of-luck since park personnel would have been sent home, and the parks closed. You get the picture. But catastrophic or not, House Republicans vowed they would not go along with raising the debt-ceiling unless the Obama administration agreed to drastic cuts in Federal spending to begin January 2013, as well as renewal of the Bush tax cuts through the end of 2012. Otherwise the Government would be shuttered, starting August 2, 2011. Just before midnight on August 1, Obama caved, and agreed to all the Republican demands, and the Government was allowed to stay in business through the end of 2012.

By now, those of you that haven’t fallen asleep are probably propping open your eyelids with toothpicks, but, hey, I didn’t make the rules whereby the Government functions in all its splendor. So now we are in December 2012 and the “fiscal cliff” which sounds a lot better than “congressional stupidity” is about to befall us in just a few weeks. If the Administration and Congress can’t come to an agreement, the Bush tax cuts expire, and taxes go up for nearly everyone. This will be noticed immediately in reduced paychecks due to increased tax withholding. Automatic budget cuts will take effect, including a $50 billion annual cut in Defense spending. This has a lot of  Republicans all upset, since spending on military hardware and troops is the holy grail for conservatives. As if the Defense budget was funded by the money tree that grows in the Pentagon courtyard. Small Defense contractors, heavily concentrated in the Washington DC suburbs of Northern Virginia and Maryland, are claiming that they will have to close their businesses should these Defense cuts be allowed to take place. Other non-Defense contractors are also claiming they will have to reduce payrolls or shutter their companies, causing more unemployment and further weakening an already tepid economy. And so it goes, on and on.

President Obama is willing to reinstate the Bush tax cuts for all Americans, except the wealthiest 2% of the population. For them, (couples earning over $250,000) the marginal tax rates would go up 4.6% on earnings after $250,000. Which is where they were during the Clinton years. Yet Republicans are absolutely not willing to accept 98% of the loaf. They are insisting that it has to be either the entire 100% of the loaf, or no bread at all. After all, doesn’t everyone know that a small marginal tax increase on the richest 2% of Americans will cause an irreparable breach in the very space-time fabric of the universe. A breach that can never be healed and will eventually cause the universe to crumble into a heap of ashes. That, in effect is the Republican position on income taxes, and they’re not budging from it.

The Republicans also want to overhaul social security and medicare to lower their costs, both of which are unquestionably breaking the budget. In this instance, it’s the Republicans that are facing up to reality, and the Democrats that are being irrationally stubborn in refusing to come forward with reform plans that are clearly necessary for those 2 giant entitlement programs. Raising the eligibility age for both programs to 67, and eventually to 70, would make them solvent overnight. And such action would be completely justified because the life span of Americans has significantly increased since these programs were enacted. So there you have it- the GOP won’t budge on on a tax increase for the rich, and the Democrats are just as stubborn on reforming social security and medicare. If both parties hold to their positions we go over the fiscal cliff come January.

Awhile back I wrote a piece on the failures and dysfunctions of democracy, and democratic forms of government in general. I pointed out that Winston Churchill had said that democracy was the worst form of government, (except for all the others that have ever been tried.) And now with this extreme polarization among the ruling parties in this country, dysfunction has never been more clearly highlighted. I believe that members of both parties become highly agitated just at the thought of having to compromise with the other side. Thus, we appear to be stalemated. My feeling is, that at the last minute, some sort of agreement will be reached preventing our plunge over the fiscal cliff. Or not.

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.