Posts Tagged With: presidential election

THE WAY THINGS OUGHT TO BE

People have told me that I focus too heavily on all the corrupt and dysfunctional behavior in our society and the world at-large, and not enough on finding solutions to all the myriad of problems I’ve identified. Of course, in almost all instances, the solutions lie in applying a rational, common sense approach toward resolving these issues. But rationality and common sense are often too much to ask of people mired in delusional wastelands, or caught up in the philosophy  of opposing any meaningful change in their lives, or in society as a whole. The way it’s always been has to be the way it always will be, without exception. Life is so much more uncomplicated if we just follow the old traditions, no matter how non-sensical they may be. In any event, I thought I would offer up some solutions to what seem to be intractable deficiencies in the way we go about spending the few short years we have on this planet.

Lets start with the presidency. No matter how corrupt and dysfunctional you may view politics in this country, there is no denying that the President of the United States is the single most powerful person in the world. This is true whether you love or hate politics, or whether you make the sign of the cross to ward of being involved in the political system, as one would try to ward off a vampire attack. The President is the ultimate leader, not only for this country, but for the entire world population. It would, therefore, seem prudent that the process for choosing this person would be well-thought out and highly rational. Instead, just the opposite is true. We have a system for presidential candidate selection that would make any third-world, banana republic blush in shame. First of all, we have essentially a 2 party system that has been hopelessly compromised because of special interest groups. The Republican Party caters to the agenda of religious fanatics, (they call them evangelicals in this country. Sounds so much better than looney-tunes, bible-thumpers.) Also to big money interests in business and on Wall Street. While the Democratic Party is beholden to labor organizations like the teachers unions, and to environmental extremists. These groups represent supposedly the base of each party, and are never to be offended, especially in an election year. There are some third party candidates; but they never seem to garner any traction, and usually wind up getting less than 1% of the vote. And sadly, a third party, beholden to no special interest group, is just what this country needs.

Next comes the party selection process. This would appear to be crucial since one of the two people selected by each party will wind up being, as I’ve said, the most powerful person on the planet. Unfortunately, the selection process has turned out to be a farce almost beyond description. Each party has, what are called primaries, with the earliest one being in January for an election that won’t take place until early November. The small state of New Hampshire used to hold the first primary in February; but then, the even smaller state of Iowa decided to jump the gun. Iowa holds what is called a caucus in January so it can be the first one diving into the political swimming pool. A caucus is where a tiny fraction of the state’s population meets in somebody’s house, or perhaps a school room, and votes on their preference for their party’s nomination. It’s considered a lot if 1 or 2% of the state’s populace bothers to vote in the caucus. Nevertheless, it gives the winning candidate a leg up for winning future primaries and caucuses, at least as far as the media is concerned. Next comes the New Hampshire primary, where also a small number of people turn out to actually cast ballots in an election booth. If a certain candidate wins both the Iowa caucus and the New Hampshire primary, they’ve garnered huge momentum going into the rest of the primaries, at least as far as the media is concerned. As a result, it’s often likely that that each party’s nominee has the nomination just about locked up before any of the larger states such as New York, California, or Texas hold their own primaries. How irrational.

The sane way would be to have national primary day in late June or early July, whereby all states would vote in either party’s primary on the same day. And instead of being held on a Tuesday, when most people have to be on the job, hold the vote on a weekend when most people are off, or don’t have school. Wouldn’t that be a lot more logical. You might even get better quality candidates this way. But one can almost hear the howls of protest should such a plan be proposed. Especially from people in Iowa and New Hampshire who would lose their special shining spotlight in the primary process. Can’t have this new-fangled thing called sanity entering our political system.

While we’re at it, lets change the time of the actual presidential election to perhaps early October. When the November timeframe was specified in the Constitution, the U.S. was almost exclusively an agricultural society. Our framers believed that by early November, all the crops would have been harvested on American farms, and farmers would no longer have the chores of bringing their produce to market. Today, only 1% of the population is engaged in agriculture. Isn’t it time to change election day to a period when mild weather prevails. We only get about a 60% turn out for a presidential election and far less in a non-presidential election year. Really  bad weather often arrives by early November, at least in Northern states, which further inhibits voter turn out. Wouldn’t it make more sense to have elections in September or early October when there is generally good weather, and have them on a weekend, when people don’t have the excuse for not voting because they had to go to work. I believe you would see much larger voter turn outs. So what are the chances of seeing these rational, common sense reforms being enacted into reality. Probably, between zero and minus zero.

I had planned to write about other major areas of American and world-wide dysfunctional practices that could be changed by simple, common-sense ideas, but I feel my energy level beginning to wane at this point. It’s that senior thing again.

 

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GREAT EXPECTATIONS

No, this isn’t a piece on the classic masterpiece written by Charles Dickens in the 19th century, although a discussion of that novel would certainly be a worthy topic. Instead, I’m writing about new-found Republican optimism following last week’s acclaimed performance by Mitt Romney at the first Presidential debate. He came charging out-of-the-gate with just the right amount of strong aggressiveness mixed with smiling friendliness to win plaudits from both Republicans and Democrats alike. President Obama, on the other hand, appeared weak and indecisive, as if he believed the latest polls showing him in the lead in key states, and felt as long as he didn’t commit any major gaffes, he could just coast along until election day. But as any football team can tell you, trying to just sit on a lead and let the clock run out is often a recipe for disaster. So Obama’s poor performance may well cost him the presidency as the most recent polls show Romney surging into the lead. Couple a very probable Romney win with the strong possibility that the GOP will also capture control of the Senate and House, and I thought it might be fun, if you want to call it that, to see what an all Republican-run Government might look like come next January.

Let’s start with the comment made last week by a Republican Congressman from Georgia. He said that everyone who believed in Darwin’s Theory of Evolution was either going straight to hell, or deserved to be sent to hell. He further stated that the Earth was only 9000 years old, and anyone who believed otherwise was going, again, to you know where. I guess those dinosaurs that roamed the planet 65 million years ago only thought they were on planet Earth. They must have been in an entirely different galaxy altogether. While I can’t find the words to describe the grandiose stupidity of such remarks, the most troubling aspect is number of citizens and voters who believe such delusional thinking. The tens or hundreds of thousands of voters that elected this guy to Congress in the first place. Or the fact that numerous polls show a majority of the populace does not believe in Evolution, even though one visit to any museum of natural history in any major city, would prove to them otherwise. But I guess people who prefer to live in a state of delusion, especially religious delusion, are not big museum goers.

In any event, His Mittness has focused on the poor job market and our huge deficit spending as his main targets to address when entering the Oval Office, so let’s see what would happen come January. In the debate, Romney stated that he would eliminate Government assistance to the Public Broadcasting System and Planned Parenthood. The total Government subsidy to these 2 organizations is about $2.5 million out of an annual budget of $3.8 trillion and an accumulated deficit of $16 trillion. It would be like scooping a glass of water out of the ocean in order to reduce the sea level. So why does Romney even mention these 2 examples? Because PBS is perceived as being favorable toward liberals (even though they’re not) while Planned Parenthood, of course, performs the unforgivable sin of allowing abortions. If PPS favored the  conservative cause, the GOP would want to shower it with funding. On the other hand, His Mittness has stated that he wants to sharply increase Defense spending, i.e. buy more ships, planes, missiles, etc., and significantly increase troop strength. He’s talking about increasing the Defense budget, which already stands at over $700 billion annually, anywhere from another $100-$200 billion a year, but hasn’t said where he would get the additional funding. Oh I know. He could obtain the extra cash from  Big Bird’s nest egg. Romney has publicly stated that he want’s to cut income taxes by 20%, increase Defense spending by $1-2 trillion over 10 years, and yet magically balance the budget. He would follow the same formula that Ronald Reagan used in the 1980’s. Only Reagan’s actions led to a 300 percent increase in our accumulated deficit. These are all crucial points that Obama could have made but didn’t, as he snoozed his way through the debate.

The supposedly rotten economy is Romney’s other big selling point. Except it’s not quite as rotten as it has been made out to be. The vast majority of Americans are working in their preferred jobs. The stock market has been on a steady surge upward. The unemployment rate is higher than the preferred norm by about 2 percent, but it’s getting better. If some of the 15-20 million jobs that American companies have shipped overseas were brought brought back to the U.S., the unemployment numbers would be so low that there would be dancing in the streets. The real estate market, which was the main culprit behind the entire economic downturn in the first place, is still in poor shape. But real estate prices had become so over-inflated, and banks and mortgage companies had acquired so much worthless paper, that it will take years for the market to make a reasonable recovery. This is true no matter who had been elected President. Also true is that whether it’s Obama or Romney in the White House next year, the economy will continue to steadily improve, regardless of the President’s actions. Further points that the Democrat’s could have, but didn’t make.

One last thing. To show the incredible level of Democratic political ineptness and incompetence, one needs to look no further than the very blue state of Conn. There is a Senate race this year that pits the Democratic candidate against a Republican woman whose primary qualification is that she is or was co-owner of the Worldwide Wrestling Federation. This she be a no-brainer win for the Democrat in this, as I’ve said, very blue state. Yet the latest polls show the GOP WWF owner to be winning. If the Dems lose that race, it’s very likely they will lose control of the Senate. When it comes to political competence or smarts, the GOP is like the N.Y. Yankees playing, not a triple A minor league team, but a double A team, for the World Series. It’s a miracle that the Dems ever win any important race. I can only chalk it up to how rotten the Republican agenda is.

 

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THE BETTER SALESMAN

So all the conventions and hoopla are over and the race for President has started in earnest. Watching the rapt attention that convention delegates gave to their leaders’ speeches, one could see the adoration of the true believers that I’ve written about previously, and the blind trust they had that their guy, if elected, will truly transform life on this planet, and make it so much better for all of us. Now the race for the the White House goes into full throttle, and in the end it will likely be the better salesman who also has the most cash, that winds up sitting in the oval office. The one that can more effectively sell his visions and promises for America’s future, most of which, of course, will never come true. And by the way, is everyone enjoying those mean-spirited and nasty TV commercials blasting away at the other side with at least 95% fiction. They’re only going to increase in volume and viciousness over the next 8 weeks. In any event, I thought it would be useful to summarize what each party has politically accomplished over the years to improve our society, so that we don’t have to rely on those fictitious ads in deciding who to vote for. Lets start with the Democrats.

When Franklin Roosevelt took office in 1933 the great depression was in full swing, and the unemployment rate topped 25%. Tens of millions of people had just about lost all hope for a better future, or that anyone could help them, least of all, their Government. Roosevelt quickly ushered in the New Deal, which marked the first time in our history that a Government stated objective would be to play an active role regarding the economic welfare of its citizens. The New Deal created the Civilian Conservation Corps and the Works Progress Administration which together put millions of unemployed back to work and receiving a paycheck. Also created was Social Security, which for the first time established a federal pension system for the elderly. Other accomplishments of the New Deal were laws establishing the rights of workers to legally form unions and strike if necessary; unemployment insurance so people out-of-work wouldn’t necessarily starve or become homeless; workman’s compensation for employees injured on the job; the creation of the Securities and Exchange Commission to oversee Wall Street stock and bond trading which led to the depression in the first place through excessive speculation, and much more. Perhaps Roosevelt’s greatest accomplishment, however, was the establishment of a decisive federal role in the welfare and economy of our country.

Fast forward now to 1961 when John Kennedy took office. Though Kennedy’s term was tragically cut short by his assassination, he began the long march toward equality for all Americans, and especially black people who were denied basic civil rights, mostly in the South. Segregation laws throughout the South were increasingly being challenged, sometimes violently, as some civil rights protestors lost their lives during demonstrations. Blacks were often denied the right to vote through most of the South, and JFK pushed for a voting rights law which came to fruition in 1964 under Lyndon Johnson, after Kennedy lost his life in November 1963. (Interestingly, southern states justified their racial and voting rights discrimination laws on the basis of “states rights,” i.e., the federal government had no constitutional right to interfere with how individuals states governed their citizens. Not unlike tea party members of today screaming that the federal government has no role in the welfare of the people. Only the states do. As the old adage goes: the more things change, the more they stay the same.) As I mentioned LBJ brought the voting rights bill to success in 1964, and for the first time, blacks were able to vote in large numbers. Once that occurred, formal segregation, or Jim Crow laws began to crumble, and blacks throughout the country, after a hundred years of semi-slavery since the end of the Civil War, began to enjoy the freedom of equality.

LBJ’s accomplishments didn’t end with passage of the voting rights act. Working with a largely Democratic Congress, he was able to enact two major health care laws, Medicare for the elderly, and Medicaid for the poor. Also established were food stamps for the poor, which currently puts food on the table for over 45 million Americans. Even the most rabid anti-government types are fearful of advocating reversal of these acts. Unfortunately, LBJ allowed us to get hopelessly bogged down in the quagmire of the Viet-Nam war, which greatly tarnished his reputation and destroyed his chances for re-election. Jimmy Carter’s presidency has largely been maligned because the economy was in poor shape at the time. But he did manage to get Israel and Egypt to make peace, which has had huge consequences for the Mid-East until this day. Bill Clinton gave us the best 8 years of peace and prosperity in my lifetime. Barack Obama in his first term, has given us universal health care (if it survives the Republican onslaught) and greater financial oversight over the banking business. However the economy remains in poor shape.

Now lets see what the Republicans have given us. Basically it can be summed up thusly- tax cuts for the rich, trickle down economics, anti-abortion, anti-gay-rights, and anti-gun control laws. So why is the GOP commanding at least half, if not more, of the vote, and is within striking distance of taking over the White House and Congress, in a few weeks. I believe the reasons can be summed up in two words: redistribution and evangelicalism. On the financial side the Republicans appeal to people’s basic greed and fear of being taken advantage of. Many Republicans view the Government as a vast redistribution point, where a person’s hard earned income is taken away in taxes and given to those who receive any form of Government assistance. After all, the thinking goes, anyone receiving welfare, food stamps, unemployment checks, etc., has to be either lazy or stupid or both. Ronald Reagan called them “welfare queens” and made huge political profit as a result. Newt Gingrich has called Barack Obama the food stamp President. Never mind that Defense, interest on the debt, Social Security and Medicare take up 85% of the Government’s budget. In the minds of average Republicans, their tax money all goes to those that refuse to take care of themselves, and Republicans are perpetually irate over that.

The other half of Republican successes come from religious fanatics, better known as evangelicals. They interpret both the old and new testaments literally, (regardless of the huge number of contradictions), and hence, their fiercely anti-abortion and anti-gay rights stances. In a country where more than half the population denies the existence of evolution, the GOP has found a rich mine-field of religious fanatics to enlist in their cause. Financial greed and selfishness, coupled with bible thumpers and holy rollers, and the GOP believes it has a winning combination for this year’s election. And why shouldn’t they. It has frequently worked for them in the past. Given that the economy is still in poor shape, it may very well work for them once again.

 

 

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