Friday, November 09, 2012

The Mathematics of Tax Increases and Job Creation Supports Democratic Argument

IN the recent election, polls showed that more than 60% of voters believe that the Bush era tax cuts on upper income earners should be allowed to expire. The argument put forward against this by the Republicans has always been that increasing the taxes on the upper bracket, would discourage job creation and ultimately hurt the economy. This was the back and forth I saw on the news most of the day Wednesday and Thursday, so I decided to do some number crunching. It turns out even if you don’t care one bit for the Democrats or the President, the math holds water with the Democrats argument. Let me illustrate with some very basic examples. Let’s start with a person who earned 500,000 in yearly income. Under the Democratic proposal pushed by the President, the rate on the lower 250 grand would remain 36% and the rate on the income above that would be 39%. So here is the very basic tax bill before any deductions are added in, which we all know are more plentiful for higher income earners to begin with. Prior to the Bush cuts, the tax bill prededuction on 500,000 would have been 195,000. With the Bush cuts in effect, the bill again before any deductions is now 180,000, a reduction before deductions kick in of 15,000. Using the proposal put forward by President Obama and the Democrats, that tax bill before deductions is now 187,500, or an increase prior to deductions of just 7,500. How much would it cost to hire just 1 worker if they were paid minimum wage, 15,080. IN other words, the cost of hiring just one worker at the absolute cheapest salary that could be paid, with 0 benefits to speak of, would be twice the amount of the proposed tax increase. We all know that most skilled workers are going to earn significantly more than that in a calendar year, assuming we are talking about a full-time 40 hour per week salary. How about the numbers for someone who earned a million dollars in yearly income, again the numbers show that job creation is not impacted one bit. Keep that $15,080 minimum salary in mind for a full-time worker, we all know that in most cases that number is significantly higher. The tax bill prior to deductions on 1,000,000 of income was 395,000 prior to Bush cuts, 360,000 after Bush cuts, and would now become 382,500 with the new proposal, an increase before deductions of 22,500 which would be equal to paying one full-time worker a salary of $1,875 per month with no benefits of any sort in income before their deductions kicked in for typical tax purposes that are on the shoulders of the worker, not the employer. This amount as an hourly wage would come to a fraction below $10.82 per hour. If a person was looking for jobs and what they were finding paid them this salary, they would want to try to get a job with additional benefits, so if the person earning the 1,000,000 income offered those benefits, then their out of pocket costs as the employer would be even higher, again showing that the cost of just this single worker exceeds the tax increase, even more so after they get their tax deductions. How about someone who earned 2,000,000 a year. Prior to Bush, their tax bill before deduction, 780,000, after the bush cuts the figure was 720,000, under the new proposal that figure again before deductions, 772,500, or an increase of 52,500. This increase would be equal to what it would cost to hire only two workers while paying them an annual salary of $26,250 each, which comes to $2,187.50 per month prior to taxes that are put on the shoulder of the worker, this amount full-time hourly would come to a fraction above $12.62. Again, the person seeking work is going to want to try and find a job with extra benefits, so once again this would be a greater cost to the employer and so again, time you add these additional costs per worker and add the tax deductions the employer would get, we are still looking at a tax increase that is equal to the creation of just 1, at most 2 jobs. When you look at those figures and see that the cost of workers is going to be greater than the extra tax increase, especially when you consider that these calculations are done before the deductions that are always taken kick in, and the impact on job creation claim is debunked. Just for grins, , let’s look at 5,000,000 in income, again keeping in mind that these calculations don’t include the many deductions that are taken which would reduce the impact of this increased tax rate for the person considered the employer. Before the Bush cuts, the prededuction tax bill would have been 1,950,000, after the Bush cuts that figure dips to 1,800,000 and under the new proposal they will return to near the Clinton era figure, 1,942,500 to be exact, or an increase of 142,500. How many jobs would 142,500 create, only 5 at an average pay of $28,500 per year, which comes to $2375 per month prior to deductions that are on the workers shoulder, or an hourly wage of a fraction over $13.70 before those same deductions are placed on the worker. Keep in mind too that if you tack on additional benefits that do not come with the salary of the worker, then this means the employer has an even higher cost per worker. So that 5 workers that a 5,000,000 income level employer had becomes more like 2 or 3 if the employer was more generous with benefits and such. So now we are talking a tax increase before deductions on 5,000,000 that would only equal a couple workers with benefits and when you then kick in the deductions the employer takes on that 5,000,000, then the argument can easily be made that the extra taxes paid by someone even at this high income level, would at most equal the creation of 1 or 2 jobs. Put this another way, that for the very basic tax increase to even equal the pay from the employer to equal one low paying job, we would be talking about those individuals who earn at minimum 1,000,000 in yearly income, job creation is a greater cost than the tax increase on any income under this amount, the math tells that story. So when you see these figures, remember these basic truths. That the workers are paid less than the actual figures once government taxes are included that come out of their pocket as the employee. Meanwhile for the employer/job creator, the actual tax increase on the high income will be less than the figures shown because of additional deductions that the person who would be considered the employer gets to take from having such high income and access to deductions that Joe Smith and Jane jones can’t take. This leaves only one very basic conclusion backed up by truth, by hard mathematics, the GOP argument that increasing the taxes on the upper income bracket kills jobs argument does not hold water. In fact, it is a leaking civ. Most small business owners who bring in 300, 500, 700K a year pay more to hire a single worker, than they would in extra taxes under the proposal that has been pushed by the Democrats. We need to make sure that all of our Congressional representatives and Senators see these hard figures. They need to make the correct choice which means ending the Bush era taxes on income over 250K and cutting spending along with it.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Found work around to inaccessible NCAA online video player

I wrote earlier about the completely inaccessible video controls on the web page of the launched player used by the NCAA for the basketball tournament. I found a work around, I go to the RSS feeds list of links to every game feed, on the developers platform page. Of course, anyone who is not a real web savvy blind person would not know to go there, so it does not become a free pass for a horrific interface design. I intend to let this problem be known to the NCAA and I will be sending a letter to the Disability Service staff at every institution so that they may put pressure on content designers.

Blind Fans Denied NCAA Online Game Experience

Blind fans are apparently again realizing why they do not matter to major Internet designers.

I am on the site located at www.ncaa.com/mmod, the player should launch and give you a choice of games to watch or listen to. Do we get that, holy hell no! Instead, we get a player that has no clickable links, just a stream of one game, Florida and BYU at this hour. All the controls that were accessible in past years, now are completely USELESS for the blind who require a screen reader to navigate. A call to the NCAA garnered just an oppology for what is a gross and unbelievable example of piss poor web design. Will designers EVER, EVER, EVER remember that there are blind people who are more than web capable if given the God damn opportunity to use the tools!

Sunday, January 31, 2010

If We Want it, We Must be Willing to Pay

Many in our Christian dominated society love to use the term sacrifice, how we must be willing to sacrifice ourselves and our worldly needs to benefit our neighbors and society, doing so in the name of God.  I contend that many people don't want to sacrifice, unless they are a personal beneficiary.

 

I've written before about how tired so many Americans, me included are of the constant partisan bickering that is going on in our nation.  Now some of you will say the President is just as guilty of being this, others and I'm included among them, give him credit for trying to talk to the other side, though many in his own party are just as worthy and deserving of being charged and found guilty of this act.  But if you stop and think about it, look at how much of our political culture, our corporate culture, is an outgrowth of what we have become as a society.

 

Most of our political leaders at the national level have been in office or in some related position for 20 to 35 years, many of them have been holding positions of power since at least the beginning of the Clinton years, and others go back to the Nixon, Ford, and Carter administrations.  All of these individuals, grew up in the '50's to 70's, times when America was growing and expanding at huge rates in terms of economic and corporate and yes, military power.  Now, those who are in positions of power and in our corporate and economic sphere are often those who came out of the me, me, And Me America that began exploding when I was a kid.  They are a reflection after all of the good and yes the very bad that our society is.

 

Everyone wants to slam big business for doing anything to maximize profits, even at great risks to the economy and at the expense of cutting thousands and thousands of jobs.  But how many of us on Main Street are not just as guilty, all be it on a much smaller scale.  Sure no one wants to pay taxes, but stop and think about something, if no one paid taxes, how would our government function?  Our government, like any other company, agency, or family must generate money streams that flow into it, otherwise it cannot in a fiscal way be able to function long term and stay in the black.  A company stays in the black when it offers a good or service that is reliable, that is in demand, and that is above all else, viewed as something that earns the public trust.  Agencies like the Red Cross, United Way, countless church groups, and community charities must rely on public gifts and sometimes gifts from government and corporate grants, again based on a public trust.  They must be trusted to provide a service that helps the less fortunate, while doing so in a way that insures us that all possible money sent through donations is paid forward in the effort of rebuilding and improving our communities at a local, state, and at times national level.

 

We as individuals have revenue coming in as well, often it is through money we get as compensation for work that we have done, for a job in government, a company, or a charity group, or if we are able too, we own our own small businesses and do as I described above like any other company.

 

The government though, is not in the business for the most part, of providing goods and services, it is in the business of maintaining the things we need every day to function as a democracy, roads, schools, hospitals, and it does so in partnership with companies that are for profit and with those agencies that are not for profit.  But it also does things that no one else can, it provides the security we need, military, police, and other civil defense for example, it regulates how various systems are operated such as our telecommunications and it provides financial assistance to those who cannot work for any number of reasons.

 

Yet we in society have a huge, huge problem and this infection is festering all over our landscape.  Corporate leaders cannot be comfortable with just turning a good profit, they want to squeeze everything they can to get a maximized profit that goes to the leaders at the very top, while cutting workers, cutting benefits such as health coverage, and forcing workers to go well beyond 40 hours without additional compensation each week.  Our political leaders, seemingly at all levels now, want their cake while they eat it at the same time.  I'll pick on Congress for a minute, a leader in Texas screams about a project in new York that is WASTEFUL spending of the tax payers money, yet bring that same project to Texas, and oh my what a wonderful thing we have going here, what a wonderful government investment this is.  What was a great project for the representative from New York is now wasteful spending, but only because his or her district does not benefit or put more bluntly, his or her re-election chances are in danger because of the loss of or gain of a project and the impact of local jobs and investment.  A good political leader could have years ago looked at something and honestly said if it was a good idea or not, even if the project was in his or her own back yard.  But today, it's all about me, me, me, I want it if I can benefit, but by damn don't let anyone else have such luxury.

 

We want everything we can get for free in this country without paying for it.  Take this example, I'm listening to a basketball game in about 1989, the Houston Rockets need one more basket to give all fans in the arena a free Big Mack.  The Rockets have the ball and a chance to get the magical basket, but they made a mistake and did not have a chance to take advantage of the opportunity.  Never mind that they were well on their way to a victory with 40 seconds to go in the game, the fans were booing because they might not get a free burger.  I managed to hear someone in the background saying, "these people pay 40 dollars a ticket and they want a free Big Mack".  The problem of course, goes much, much deeper than that.  We want our schools upgraded, roads fixed, all the security we can get in this post 9-11 world, better parks, improved social welfare services, but we want our taxes cut.  Now think about it, what breeds that kind of thinking, it comes from a society that spends its way into debt, deep into debt, with no real thought of what it can do to eventually pay down that debt long term.  We all focus on what we can get out of it today, tomorrow, but we don't think about the cost to ourselves and our society 10, 20, 30 years from now.

 

So back to our political situation for a minute, all the Republicans want to freeze spending across the board, so you stop funding things that improve your society, like health, education, and just focus on defense?  I call BS on that, because you will only continue to put our society in further decline.  But I have to call BS on the Democrats too, you say you want to maintain these important socially necessary programs, but you are going to cut taxes on 95% of the population?  The hard reality that we must face as a nation is that we will have to give up something.  We either give up the things we have come to rely on as a society, our public schools, hospitals, roads, and so much more, or we have to pay higher taxes to the government to maintain them or we pay something that no one here in Texas likes, higher tolls to private outfits that may not even be based in the United States. 

 

In Texas, we have a classic demonstration of the point I am making here.  There is a lot of bitching taking place about the efforts to build a lot of privately funded toll roads, but if we are to build new roads and update those that are breaking from years of neglect, we have to get the money somewhere and if it means no tolls, then it means higher taxes.  No tolls, no taxes, no roads people, it is that simple.

 

So when we think of the debt, it is easy for someone to say that I am worried about our long term debt, I am just as concerned about where we are heading as a nation.  But I don't believe that just stopping spending will fix this problem, frankly we have been in debt my entire life.  Sure the truth is we had a year to year budget surplus at the end of the Clinton years, but it has been four decades, since we had a true surplus.

 

Again, we as a society cannot expect our government to control spending and revenue when we can't do it ourselves.  We as a society are over a trillion dollars in debt, all that because we had to have the latest and greatest even if we could not afford it.  Want that latest and greatest gadget, hot new pair of shoes; charge it all on a credit card.  Who benefits, just the big banks, that's who benefits.  So many in our society end up at the maximum and more because we just charge everything that we don't have the money on hand to purchase.  So how can we blame our government for spending money it does not have coming in, when so many of us are doing the same thing day, after day, after day.  Sure some spending of this sort is not by our choosing, I can relate myself.  While in grad school, I had a cancer scare, bills that came as a result of surgery and treatment left me owing over 6 grand and I had to pay that using a combo of credit cards and student loan money.  The rest was covered by Medicare that I had as a blind person who had been out of work for more than 2 years, if not for that I would have been like so many others in this nation.  But we will save health care for another time.  Ultimately if we want to fix this problem, our companies have to pay more salary to our employees, the jobs they fill must not be filled in another country but here at home.  The higher income and greater amount of working citizens puts more money into the economy, more money into government, and yes allows government to take in more money through NECESSARY increases in tax revenue.

 

At the state level, this is already being felt in harsh ways.  People can be critical of the stimulus package, but it did help keep jobs and help state budgets in the short-term.  Yes in the long term, we will have to pay that money back one way or another, though the following examples show just how difficult the situation has become. 

 

State governments, which cannot print money to get themselves out of this mess, are hurting seriously.  In a 2009 report, the National Conference of State Legislatures reported that 36 states would have budget gaps that would have to be resolved in fiscal year 2010.  Some states are now looking at tax increases and deep cuts of programs to solve the current crisis. The report showed Puerto Rico and 18 states over budget for Medicaid, 4 states over budget for education, and many states over budget for criminal corrections programs.  But do we want to really bite the bullet as a society; are we really ready to give up some of our personal luxury to make our situation better, particularly when economic conditions get better?

 

Sure, we did not bring the high security concerns to our shores, a gang of murderous terrorist did that on September 11, but these were men who were well financed, with money gained from oil trading, that our government did with the nation of Saudi Arabia, home of 15 of these high jackers.  So while we certainly had nothing to do with what was brought to our shores, our need as a nation for goods that were in large part purchased from a nation that does not have our trust, allowed for the financing of the worst day in our modern history?  If we invest in wind power, nuclear power, clean coal, and truly want to build the heck out of those hydrogen cars so we can get off the oil standard, then suddenly we are in the dominant position and we can tell the Saudi's to shove it elsewhere.  But who in this nation wants to give up the huge income they make off oil?  Again, all about what is in it for me, me, me, not the betterment of our society.  The war that resulted in Afghanistan costs a lot of dollars, necessary dollars, but we cut taxes rather than increased them to pay for the war.  That's like buying a new Hummer after your income has been reduced from $3500 per month to $2000.  When you have to spend more money, realistically you need to try to come up with more income.  Add the Iraq war, the situation just becomes that much more clearly.

 

Politically, it is all about what is in it for me, me, and me.  I want everything I can to get to look great and if I can't get all 100% of what I want, screw you, I won't deal with you at all, that's what our political situation has become and a huge number of officials in BOTH PARTIES are at fault.  No one knows how to share anymore if you think about it on a very elementary level, now every kid has his or her own toys, used too you had to share.  Another aspect of sharing is being able to compromise, come to a workable agreement to benefit everyone or at least a large majority of the people.  That is a lost art in today's political world.

 

We have become a society of get rich quick and take all the risks to do so.  The housing bubble, yeah that was a Wall Street problem, but how many people on main Street were guilty of buying a home that was way more than they could realistically afford, buying so much home that they could afford to put nothing in the home much less landscape the damn thing.  How about those who bought homes thinking they could buy them cheap, repair them and invest a ton of money, then flip them for thousands of dollars profit.  Sure some benefited, but others were burned right into financial ruin.

 

The next big target, according to a report on CNN a few days ago, oil and gold.  So many people bought on pure speculation and ran up the price of these commodities, so they are now overvalued and it is expected that the price could come tumbling down.  So once again, people who had a lot of soft money built up in things that had a soft value on them, will fall harshly and a lot of money will be lost by those who played by the rules, at the expense of the many who were driven not by investment for the long term, but by deep greed for today.  The housing bubble in very specific terms was this, people buy more than they can afford, banks value the loans they held assuming they would be paid in full when they should have known a good number would default, and those assumed full paybacks lead to investment in other things that they thought they would have money for, rather than backing them with hard cash.  When the loans were not being paid back, the money they thought they would have was not there and the dominoes fell just like that.

 

We have a major problem in society in that we can't be honest with ourselves, much less those around us.  It is time we get back to basics, we must be willing to pay for the things we want, which means we pay for what we can with cash, and we begin limiting the use of credit cards as much as possible.  We move our money from big banks to local community banks and credit unions.  We must be willing to pay a bit more to the government or other agencies to upgrade and build those things we must have as a society for the future, our educational, transportation, and health care systems among them.  We must learn to work together, to come to agreement on steps forward that make common sense, not political or short term financial sense.  Frankly, we must stop thinking about what we get today, and we must start thinking about what we will not have tomorrow if our current behavior continues.  But I am not confident that we will be able to achieve this goal, because for too long, we have raised a culture based on instant gratification, instant results, win now, with no concern for what might be done to the future for ourselves and our children.  In 30 years, those of us who are here may only have to look in the mirror, for the blame will be with each and every one of us, for allowing greed, short term thinking, and pure selfishness to govern every aspect of our society, culturally, economically, and politically.

 

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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Obama Stratogy, Crooks bug Attempt to Bug Senate Office, Random observations

    I'm fighting a nasty cough and stuffyness, the remains of a difficult cold this afternoon.  I'm unable to sleep, so watching the news and wanted to share some reactions on a couple points, as well as some random observations.
 
I wanted to focus some on the Obama strategy or as I feel more and more apt to ask, what strategy.
 
Now again, in fairness, I'll disclose right away that I lean more toward the Democrats politically, so keep that in mind as you read.
 
When Abeam ran the 2008 campaign, he was on message constantly, reduce the presence in Iraq, move the military focus to Afghanistan, work to slow the rate of job loss and create new jobs, among other things.  But while the future President focused on the fact he wanted health care reform, and many people both liberal and conservative agree we need it, it was not put out as the #1 objective.
 
Where the administration went off course horribly in two areas could ultimately have the damaging affect of swinging the Congress Republican and in my view, perhaps even threatening his Presidency.
 
First, President Obama has left all of the legislating to Congress, his administration is not trying to set an agenda, but rather trying to be the great teacher in the classroom that some how brings a super majority of the classmates, this instance the congress and the Senate specifically, into some sort of agreement on general policy that would reform health care.  But the administration clearly miscalculated when it tried and tried to win support from Republicans, who have been largely united in opposing anything he wanted done that they just can't stomach.  Now in fairness to Republicans, Democrats did the same to George W. Bush, they just did not do it with as much victor and the GOP found ways around these road blocks to at least enact some legislation.  sure it might not have been as good as they wanted it, but they still used those maneuvers, often the reconciliation process.  The Democrats could have and should have done the same, once they gave the GOP the opportunity to vote and the guys in red said no!  But they have not, they have tried over and over to create this super majority and filibuster proof 60 vote level for everything they wanted.
 
Here is the problem for the blue team, they never really had this mythical 60 vote number to begin with and wasted months of time and the nations patience.  After all, the Dems did not officially get #60 until late June when the Minnesota race was finally decided and if it had not been for a scandal flipping Alaska to blue when Ted Stephen's had to leave office, then we would have never, never seen 60 and the entire story of Scott Brown winning in Massachusetts, would have been just that, a major story confined mainly to Massachusetts.  but because the Democrats leadership and like it or not Obama must carry that mantle since he is in affect the party leader, he has been part of the problem by this hyperbolic focus on 60 votes and in particularly 60 for health care.
 
I thought bringing David Plouff back into the fold was a good move, but his words to pass health care no matter what, made me go, wait a second, the public does not like the bill as it is written.  the public dissatisfaction is not one of we like the Republican idea more, it is largely that they hate the Democratic proposal.
 
First, mandates are something Obama originally opposed, now the bill has mandates that we all buy insurance.  But do we get a choice in who we buy it from, hell no!  That is not health care change we can believe in.  He spoke so much about changing the culture in Washington, but not only can he not change it, his administration has helped to maintain the culture by being anything but transparent.  sorry Barack, but taking CSPAN out of the room during the recent health care debate was a very bush league idea.
 
Now Obama is talking about cutting budgets, but how many people in this nation want the budget cut when we need more jobs?  The hard reality that I think many Americans must face, is that if we want all these things from our government, we must pay for them.  That means we cut taxes now, reduce payroll tax, create jobs that can get going now, not 1, 3, or 4 years from now.  Once we get job numbers back in to a better light, then you look at raising some taxes, but not until we see a clear path that unemployment is on the right path.  We do need to cut wasteful spending, but education is certainly one area we don't need to cut, yet reports today say just that.
 
How to move forward, govern as  if you have a majority, force the Republicans to vote.  if they all vote no, no,  no over and over, then you see what they stand for.  Put in a bill that deals with a small piece of health reform, say cutting off the insurance policy of using preexisting conditions, force everyone to vote on that.  Any political leader, no matter their party stripes, would have to answer hard questions if they were that bluntly in bed with the insurance industry.  Governing should be about the rule of the majority, simply force a vote on everything, if they filibuster, then and only then can they be called for obstruction.  You can't call the minority party the party of no or the party of obstruction when they can genuinely claim that they never had to actually filibuster.
 
Now, on to the news today that four men were busted for trying to potentially bug the telephone system of a Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu specifically.  If four plane Joe's had that kind of access to our government, just who else is out there that could be trying to do worse that could gain some sort of access?  I find it troubling that regular citizens like me can't get the attention of Congress, yet someone who is a film maker and known for under handed tactics could actually get right into the office of the senator.  We really do have this security thing down well, for the billions of dollars we spend on it don't we.
 
Finally, some random thoughts and observations.  Super Bowl LXIV, I like the Colts, but I'm so rooting for the Saints when the big game kicks off February 7.  I don't drink, but I'd almost think of having a hurricane just to honor the people of New Orleans if they win.
 
 
I saw on the news where Haiti supplies for relief are largely being left in large storage facilities because it is not safe to distribute them to the people in horrible need of food.  Memo to the people down there if anyone is reading this, don't make people sign up for food, fill out forms, and all sorts of other western bureaucratic crap when they have mostly gone with out food for 14 damn days!  SERIOUSLY?  Where in God's name has common sense gone.  if I had ten thousand people on the street who were homeless and hungry because their entire area had just been destroyed, I'm simply giving them each a proportion of food, forget the damn forms already!  Anyone know what the literacy rate is in that poor nation to begin with?  Hents, nothing like what it is here in the US, the UK, France, or Canada.
 
lastly, a weather nerd note; it was revealed today that the highest wind gust on earth is no longer here in the US at Mount Washington, New Hampshire.  The new record is on a small Island off Australia during the 1996 Cyclone Olivia, 253 miles per hour the wind blew on that faithful day.
 
 
 

Thursday, January 21, 2010

American Political System in Need of an Avalanche

Given the state of affairs in our nation today, should anyone be surprised that many Americans are unhappy with their political leaders? Why do we as citizens constantly send back to higher office those same people who are yet part of an institution that constantly receives approval ratings of less than 30%? This and a lot more has been on my mind of late and so it's time for a reality check, time for everyone to take a deep breath, and really think for themselves. Is that really a lost concept in this nation, that everyone only follows the lead of the person who yells the most from the fringe right wing and screams the most from the ultra left? To me, the answer for the majority of our citizens to that question is a resounding no way! This is not a commentary that favors Democrats (I'll freely admit that I was an Obama delegate at the local county level in 2008 as I ethically feel I should disclose). This commentary does not favor Republicans, it does not favor those who game the system. This is a commentary that will hopefully have everyone thinking and while not necessarily in agreement on specific issues, it will create agreement that the fundamentals of our system are due for a massive overhaul. Mix that reality in with a potential earth shattering ruling by the Supreme Court today, and you have more than ever a need for this nation's citizenry to stand up and actually take stock in what is being done in the name of our government.

Sure our nation is still a great example of what true democracy can mean in the world where such a concept is so foreign to many. In theory, anyone has the opportunity to make it big in the United States, anyone in theory can for better or worse, make choices that will help them down a path of success or failure or in many cases, both.

Having said this, there are things that many Americans myself among them, find very troubling if not outright disgusting.

First, let's examine the true roots of modern political problems in our nation, the two political corporations known as the Republican and Democratic parties. Want to know why so much is proclaimed as good policy and then never gets done, look no further. Today more than ever, the minority in a spirit of revenge, a spirit of hoping the majority can be branded a failure, in the name to reclaim and consume power, uses arcane institutional design to affect this upon a nation that seems in the view of many, powerless against these forces. It's the Republicans crying for up or down votes when Democrats as the minority during the Bush years could filibuster on and on until the Republicans gave in and did not proceed to a vote. It's the Republicans doing the same today to Democrats as a push for health care legislation loomed throughout the past six months, yet a group in the minority effectively held up the business of government, all in the name of party loyalty.

George Washington had much to say in his farewell about the real danger of political parties. The following paragraphs are excerpts from his speech, which were republished online by Yale University.

"In contemplating the causes which may disturb our Union, it occurs as matter of serious concern that any ground should have been furnished for characterizing parties by geographical discriminations, Northern and Southern, Atlantic and Western; whence designing men may endeavor to excite a belief that there is a real difference of local interests and views. One of the expedients of party to acquire influence within particular districts is to misrepresent the opinions and aims of other districts. You cannot shield yourselves too much against the jealousies and heartburnings which spring from these misrepresentations; they tend to render alien to each other those who ought to be bound together by fraternal affection." Later in the speech, Washington adds the following as he focused more in detail on this issue. "

I have already intimated to you the danger of parties in the State, with particular reference to the founding of them on geographical discriminations. Let me now take a more comprehensive view, and warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the spirit of party generally.

This spirit, unfortunately, is inseparable from our nature, having its root in the strongest passions of the human mind. It exists under different shapes in all governments, more or less stifled, controlled, or repressed; but, in those of the popular form, it is seen in its greatest rankness, and is truly their worst enemy.

The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries which result gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of public liberty.

Without looking forward to an extremity of this kind (which nevertheless ought not to be entirely out of sight), the common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it.

It serves always to distract the public councils and enfeeble the public administration. It agitates the community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms, kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection. It opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which finds a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passions. Thus the policy and the will of one country are subjected to the policy and will of another.

There is an opinion that parties in free countries are useful checks upon the administration of the government and serve to keep alive the spirit of liberty. This within certain limits is probably true; and in governments of a monarchical cast, patriotism may look with indulgence, if not with favor, upon the spirit of party. But in those of the popular character, in governments purely elective, it is a spirit not to be encouraged. From their natural tendency, it is certain there will always be enough of that spirit for every salutary purpose. And there being constant danger of excess, the effort ought to be by force of public opinion, to mitigate and assuage it. A fire not to be quenched, it demands a uniform vigilance to prevent its bursting into a flame, lest, instead of warming, it should consume."

yet look at what we have today, a system in place where you can almost for sure predict with a great deal of certain accuracy, how every single member of our Congress and to a lesser extent our state legislators will vote, based solely on the D or R by their particular sir name. When our politics has evolved into such bitter acrimony between two highly funded and institutionally recognized bodies of corporate like power, it clearly shows us that Washington was dead on in his assessment when he spoke the above words 213 years ago.

Of course the problem does not only rest with political parties and the party line voting we see regularly from almost every member of both major parties, it also lies with the heavy interest of the powerful with access to money and cash. Today more than ever, special interest groups who are for and against every major and minor piece of legislation dot the landscape. Are they there to truly represent the people, the people who are supposed to be governed by one another in a truly democratic way, not really. But then if we had true discussion about ideas in this nation, we would not have just a Democratic version and a Republican version, we would have 435 Representatives and 100 Senators who would each have various views and manners in mind with which to address the issues of the day. True discourse would be about give and take, it would be about finding those areas on which a common ground already existed, then crafting policy that would be a compromise that fit the needs of most citizens. Take the health care debates, we did not see a variety of Democratic ideas and Republican ideas, we saw one party that wanted to take one route and another minority party in this case that simply planned to take no route other than to vote no, no, and no again. We saw lots of deal making behind the walls of Congress, special deals to buy votes where by one state would get benefits way outweighing those offered to the other 49 brother and sister states of the union. The American people are therefore not going to take kindly to such deals being crafted, especially when a lot of what American citizens wanted based on poll after poll, was completely ignored or devalued simply based on what the Congressman felt was important for their own political careers and party unity.

We hear over and over again, that it is time for an end to politics as usual in Washington; we heard it when Reagan took office, then Bush, Clinton, the second Bush, and now Obama. We hear it from every famous name in politics, yet at the end of the day, nothing changes. In 2008, we heard that certain companies in this nation were "too big to fail". Has anyone stopped and asked the hard question, is our Congress "too big to fail"? I think many might argue strongly that it has failed long ago and the bailout needed is for the American people to consider some meaningful constitutional amendments.

What would some of these amendments potentially deal with? They could address the Presidential veto, where by the executive branch could sign off on parts of legislative policy it supported and vetoes those things it finds out of step, requiring the Congress to find better solutions. Take the health care bill, most members of Congress would certainly support areas of legislation that ended the practice of denying coverage for those who had preexisting health conditions, supported too would be rules that prevented insurance companies from cutting benefits to someone who fell seriously ill. Other areas would be looked at with more or less favor, but nonetheless the congress could have passed the legislation and the President could go line by line picking that which was agreeable and blocking that which was not. The Constitution could further govern rules of the Senate, outlawing filibusters for example and thus bringing to an end the complete gridlock that has held our nation hostage. consider that to avoid such gridlock, there must be 60 or more votes in the Senate, such a majority has not existed since Water Gate and this rule of the minority has become very prolific the last 15 years as we have come to our party line politics.

Amendments too could be put in place setting term limits, say two full Senate terms, five full house terms, or a combined total of 16 years in Congress. Of course passing such an amendment would require action by the various political leaders in Congress, so this is not likely. States could on their own craft such policies; some already have them in place, which could lead to a ground swell nationally. We the people could pass an amendment banning political parties, but again that would require a very long and sustained effort that could take decades. One need only look though at how limited ballot access is to someone who is a true independent and not bound to the true party line views of the big players in modern US political discourse.

We the people though have to take some blame for the state of affairs today. We want government to do so much, provide good education, health care, security, just to name three common modern themes. Yet we want to cut taxes more and more every year and anyone who dare raise tax levels is looked at as a political relic. If we keep running our government this way, we will never get the debt under control, but then how can we when such deficit spending is the way of American culture and life? Why have so many jobs been lost you ask, well look at what we want in our consumer driven world, cheap, cheap, cheap. We don't want to pay the money necessary to buy materials made by American workers, so to maximize corporate profit and keep consumer costs down, the companies have their goods produced in nations like China, Mexico, Guatemala, Vietnam, among others. We want high quality for dirt cheap and we are unwilling to pay for it. We want great schools, yet we will block a tax bill that would have built new and needed schools, while at the same time voting to build a new stadium for the football team that is supposed to be educated to modern standards in outdated schools with outdated equipment. It as if we want to drive the car, but we don't want to provide the necessary means that it takes for the car to travel the road safely and efficiently.

We in America want a quick fix, but there is no such thing as a quick fix. When we don't get what we want from the political leaders of the two parties, we do an abrupt change of course 2, 4, 6 years later, then when we are not immediately satisfied, we change course again before anything can even be tested. Now I realize many reading this do not follow sports, but you cannot take a team with no all star talent, and turn it into a team with six all stars in one season. Put another way, you do not conquer the great Mount Everest in one day by jumping to the summit; it is a gradual, long, and yes tedious process with snags along the way. But in our modern instant gratification society, we have no clue what patience is, no clue about how long it takes to some times change the direction of the massive ship known as American government and corporate institutions. So we have contributed to the modern epidemic of gridlock that simply festers itself day after day in this nation.

Then there is the ruling today by the Supreme Court, a ruling that now let's any corporate outfit contribute endless sums of money to those political leaders that support their own corporate interests. So as of tonight, we the people have even less access to our political leadership than do the major companies and special interest groups. So just what will it take for us to take back our nation and our politics?

I am not advocating revolution here, but if we the people want to truly send a message to our political establishment, we must bite the bullet, swallow very hard, and truly decide if we want to stay with our current leaders, or replace those who have been around too long, with new ideas and fresh political blood. We must be willing to give third party types a chance, no matter if they are Green, Tea Party, or other views. We must be willing even if we have always voted Democrat to consider doing otherwise, same goes for those who have always voted Republican. Scott Brown won Massachusetts for this very reason. We must be willing to hold leaders to their word and we must force as best we can, efforts to craft limits on how long an individual can hold public office in this nation.

Our current President, as much as I respect him for his personality, needs to rethink how he is leading and rather than trying to go for big massive pieces of legislation, go for the incremental reforms that will get solid support. Then force members of both parties to take tough votes on major social issues as F.D.R. did in the 1930's.

America after all is founded on a society that welcomes and values all ideas, all viewpoints, and all theories of how to get things done and solve big problems. Yet we have allowed ourselves to become defined in a dualistic yes or no series of choices like some cheaply made 500 question survey. We need a discourse that encourages a true multiplicity of viewpoints, one that cannot boil our views down into 5 second sound bites, and instead forces long drawn out discussions. We need to be able to write essays about our various approaches to governing and social issues and we should all be able to express those views independent from threats of internal party leadership that constricts and strangles the life out of well meaning policy construction. We must bring to an end, the idea that it is OK to simply divide and conquer this nations electorate, and realize that many people want to be viewed as more complex and able to offer many variations on how we fix those things that are in need of major repair in our nation, from our schools, to our health care, and yes too our political systems as well.

The question, will we ever provide the force necessary to create that avalanche that forever changes the landscape?

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Saturday, September 27, 2008

Random Thoughts, the Blogger is Back

After a long absence, I have returned and intend to blog when time permits. I may not post daily, but please subscribe and look for regular updates about things in my life, comments about the events of the day, and so much more.

Today's blog will be a bit long, so happy reading.

Briefly about your blogger, I am a 35 year old single male in San Marcos, Texas. I have no kids and have never been married, though I would very much hope to have a family with someone wonderful one of these days. More on my view of what makes a woman great below.

I'm blind and a current graduate student. After some frustration in the world of job cuts and companies who would not allow me to have the necessary technological access to be hired, I went to grad school and love it dearly. I'm getting a masters in counseling and student affairs in higher education, my first goal upon graduation in August of 2009 is to hopefully land an entry level academic advising position in a junior college or university.

Now back to my comment about women, it is more a social commentary if you think about it. How often do we base so much of what we think of an individual simply on looks. He or she is too short, too thin, too fat, too tall. IF it is not about the physical size, it is based on racial or ethnic things that frankly don't make anyone more or less of a person. Now obviously we are going to be attracted based on other things that can greatly influence how a relationship works, religious views, politics, things of that sort, but when will we start appreciating what we are as people and stop dividing everyone based on all sorts of things that don't truly matter in the end?

I've always wondered what the following social experiment might be like. You take 25 men and 25 women, they are unable to see one another at first, all they have are written essays and audio clips of the different parties discussing what matter to them individually in life. After the men pick their top 3 women, and likewise on the female side, then you show them photos and ask for the same ranking, you would demonstrate just how different the results can be based on just looks. Take it even further, looking at a group of same sex men or women, and I am guessing that maybe the same thing happens. But the blind blogger always is intellectually curious, but imagine how many young students from junior high to college would feel better about who they were, if they did not feel so judged based on things totally out of their control in some respects.

That all said, one can only guess what I look for: that is right, someone smart, warm, someone who puts other people first and looks out for the greater good of others. Someone who knows that it cannot be all about you and only you.

Now I move on to current affairs, no I will not write three pages on each topic, just some brief comments.

Amazing how even now our political leaders cannot agree on some compromise that works out our financial issues. Now I will admit that my support is to Obama, but no matter how you look at what many in the political world say, what most common sense thinkers like me believe is the following. first, something has to be done, but it cannot be a bail out of Wall Street. It must be done in a way like what was done with the Savings and Loan troubles of 20 years ago when I was in my freshmen year of High School, yes I remember those days because I was one teen age boy who spent an hour with news radio every morning and again in the afternoon before getting into sports or something else for the evening. Second, the CEO's who pulled this stunt should never get compensation and Mr. McCain would be wise not to talk out of both sides of his mouth, when he proclaims similar statements as that I am proposing, yet claims Carly Fiorina was a model CEO. Taking a 40 plus million dollar package for doing a bad job and causing enough people to lose their jobs that you could fill the Dallas American Airlines Center and leave no empty seats certainly is not my idea of a job well done. would Mark Cuban who owns the Dallas Mavericks that call that same arena home, view someone a corporate success if they were forced out of one of his organizations, I have severe doubts.

I do agree with the Republicans who say this cannot be on the back of tax payers alone, but I disagree by letting corporate money and less regulation as the ultimate solution, we are already in that game and the results have been gut rentching losses. What you do in my humble view, is offer a phased in government assistance package, but the companies must allow the people to be part of the ownership, thus the people would get their money back when companies were solvent and back in black. There also must be regulation, lots of it, clearly not all business people are bad, but those with all the power in some cases let it go to their head, and everyone has now become a burn victim of the mess.

Maybe the ultimate oversight is a national board, which is made up of representatives from all sectors, government, for profit business, nonprofit organizations, and others. Clearly anyone in power can abuse it, all three of these sectors have had massive financial scandals in recent past, so it only makes sense to have a checks and balance system where all have equal say.

ON a more dramatic note, let's talk some baseball. Two days are left in the season, and here we are again with major drama that is now the norm at the close of the baseball season. The Wild Card has brought amazing races and memorable finishes.

Let's briefly review the history of it all before I talk about what is coming up later this weekend. IN 1995, the last day of the regular season saw the Astros win at Chicago, a Colorado win at home over San Francisco gave the third year Rockies the NL Wild Card, otherwise they would have hosted Houston in a one game playoff the next day. That next day, Seattle and the then California Angels did have a one game playoff to decide the AL West, Seattle won in a romp and saved their franchise from a likely move. OH and remember what we learned during that game, yeah their was some trial in Los Angeles which had a verdict that would be announced the next morning.

In 1996, the race for the NL Wild Card and NL West went down to the final Saturday, with the Dodgers and Padres getting the two playoff births and Montreal on the outside looking in. IN 1997, we had no late drama, the Giants got the final slot in the NL West the final Friday night 11 years ago. But in 1998, those Giants came back from the dead only to lose a one game playoff to the Cubs. Had the Mets won, a three way tie would have existed. IN 1999, we almost had another three way, but an Astros win gave them the central, while a Mets and Reds pair of victories sent those two into another Monday playoff. Had Houston lost, in those days the Mets would have got in as a Wild Card, because Houston and Cincinnati would have played for the Central and the loser would have been a half game behind the Mets. This almost happened in 2000, but wins on the final day by Oakland and Seattle kept Cleveland on the outside looking in.

IN 2001 and 2002, the drama was not so high, final births would locked in on Friday and a Houston win at St. Louis the final Sunday gave Houston the Central and the Cardinals the Wild Card on tiebreakers in '01.

IN 2003, a crazy race with many teams in the NL was decided on the final Saturday when the Cubs edged out Houston for the NL Central. IN 2004, the Angels and Dodgers won division titles on the final Saturday, sending the Athletics and Cubs packing, the Giants would miss out when Houston claimed the wild Card the final Sunday. Houston repeated it's final day Wild Card Claim holding off the Phillies in 2005, while Boston and the Yankees kept Cleveland on the outside in the AL.

IN 2006, Houston came up short at the end of the regular season and Detroit blew the division and settled for the Wild Card, the White Sox were left watching at home as the Twins got in. Then came 2007, yeah that season that ended a year ago. Going into the final day, there could have been a 4-way tie in the NL that involved the NL East and Wild Card positions, but as it turned out, the Phillies beat the Nationals, the Mets lost to the Marlins, giving the Phil's the NL East and we were left with a Mets total disaster. Sound scary, the same thing could end up resulting today or Sunday, and the Mets and Phil's are both at home and again playing those same teams. The Brewers last year were this close to losing a Saturday game to San Diego and the Padres would have been the Wild Card, then next thing you know, they win both that game and the final game on Sunday. The Rockies just kept on winning, which set up that most memorable Monday night baseball game in Denver, the 13 inning classic that saw the Rockies do the unthinkable against the second best closer in baseball history, some guy named Trevor Hoffman.

Now here we are again, the Mets, Phills, and Brewers could end up in a 3-way tie that required the Eastern division playoff, then the loser playing the Brewers on Tuesday for the Wild Card, a rule change put in after the near controversy of the 1999 and 2000 results. Of course it could all end today in the NL, if the Brewers and Phillies both win and the Mets choke again. Philly needs just a win in the final two days and they are Eastern champs, the Brewers control the destiny to the Wild Card. OH but there is more, the AL Central. The Twins are in first, but have the same number of losses as the White Sox, and with two days to go, if the Sox end up on Sunday with one more or one less loss than Minnesota, Chicago has to play a makeup game with Detroit Monday. If that result moves the Sox into a tie with Minnesota, then they play a playoff game with one another on Tuesday. The Sox could very well be in the position of having to win what would effectively become two playoff games at home, before they even could think about opening the playoffs in Tampa.

Stay tuned, because we could yet have lots of extra drama after the ballparks close the scheduled final day of the regular season on Sunday.

If that was not enough, we have a threat of a hurricane in the northeastern US. Let's see where Kyle ends up before it is all said and done.

Plenty of things to keep one busy this weekend, and OH I have not even mentioned the reading I have to do next week for Wednesday and Thursday classes. You have to love it!

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