Election Woes

Confusing Voters

We are 18 days out from the 2018 midterm election with Democrats and Republicans locked in a desperate struggle to control the Legislative branch of our Federal government. Things start to get very confusing for voters right about now. The Democrats might be turning into Socialists. The Republicans are now claiming that they are the protectors of health care in America, although they voted at least 60 times to overturn the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). We are apparently thick as thieves with Saudi Arabia right now and may be inclined to ignore the assassination of journalists by other dictatorships or “illiberal democracies” if we have advantageous economic arrangements with these nations. Apparently sword dances are also very helpful in this regard. Voter suppression is rampant because Democrats encourage voter fraud (what?). Democrats are a violent mob paid to resist by a Jewish billionaire (George Soros). And thousands of immigrants are on the way to violate our southern border and create mayhem. If all of this is true I say how could 45 allow our nation to get in such bad shape?

Health Care

Ask yourself, who is likely to offer Americans the best health care for the least amount of money, the Democrats or the Republicans? Well, first there is the evidence available for all voters to see in the various health plans that have been offered during the Obama administration and the Trump administration. Obama’s plan was demonized by Republicans for allowing “death panels” to decide who lives and who die (which never came to pass), and was declared unconstitutional by courts that skew to the right because of the individual mandate (you cannot force Americans to buy something or pay a penalty for not buying it even if it would accomplish a larger goal of bringing down the cost of health care for everyone). The Republicans ripped all the teeth out of the ACA and backed the private health insurers (so unfair to billionaires, who are considered sacred even if they are making enormous profits from people’s pain, because they provide jobs and have generous lobbyists). Red states proved their bona fides to the party by refusing the Medicaid expansion, making their poorest citizens do without to keep a greedy party in power. And yet the ACA still worked pretty well and it has provided health care for millions of Americans who never had it.

We also saw what was on offer from Republicans in the Better Care plan which was in no way better than the ACA, and would cause millions to lose coverage. The “skinny repeal” was not their finest hour either. Republicans know insurance companies do not want to cover preexisting condition without being paid big bucks (and who will pay those big bucks, government or individuals). Since all Republicans really care about is the bottom line and backing corporations/businesses, they are trying to help out the insurance companies, not the American people. We have also been learning that almost anything can be classified as a preexisting condition. And yet I hear Republicans telling voters in commercial after commercial that it is Democrats who plan to take away coverage of preexisting conditions and, incidentally, also end Medicare.

Democrats Will End Medicare (what?)

Their claim is based on a cynical argument about linguistics, I guess. They argue that if everyone has “single-payer” health insurance then seniors will lose their Medicare and coverage for preexisting conditions will prove either skimpy or outrageously expensive. Of course if we call “single-payer” Medicare-for-all their argument falls apart. Republicans think that Americans will accept a “catastrophic coverage fund” that people contribute to separately from their health care plan. That will mean that health care only covers people who are healthy. People who are sick will be covered by the catastrophic plan if there is enough money in it. I am guessing that limits will be set on how much help people can expect from this catastrophic plan and then they will be on the hook for the balance, which still may be enough to wipe out their personal finances.

Why Democrats Should Have the Con in 2018 (and beyond)

Does your head hurt? Mine does. But I am not fooled by Republican obfuscation ( in plain language; lies, truth twisting). I know that in the matter of health care the Democrats need to have the con. I don’t care if Republicans keep referring to the idea of single-payer health care as socialism. A label will not kill you; inadequate health care, or health care that excludes because it is too expensive will put many people’s lives or lifestyles at risk. Republicans do not like the government to contribute to any programs that benefit citizens. They truly believe this is not the province of government. However, as world populations increase and climate change (which is real) affects things like food supplies and clean water and rising rates of disease, the government (our taxes) may need to contribute more to our comfort and protection rather than less.

Republicans are Bipartisan (what?)

As for the nonsense in some ads that claims our Republican representatives in Congress are bipartisan it is all I can do not to throw something weighty at my TV. There are many people in America and in my community who believe that these claims are accurate. If you followed the votes on Countable or listened to any news channel other than Fox or the local channels now owned by Sinclair then you know the facts. Once in a while, when Republicans had enough votes to pass legislation without requiring everyone to vote yes they excused some congress people in contested districts to allow them to vote no so they could later claim to be bipartisan. But voting with Trump 90% of the time is hardly a valid claim to bipartisanship. In this case this is just lying. Aren’t we sick of such blatant lying? Is bald-faced lying more honest than less-obvious lying? Can lying come out of a President’s mouth and be classified as “just a game”?

Which Party Actually Serves We the People?

Democrats may not be able to deliver on their promise of “single-payer” health care right away, or family leave, or guaranteed employment programs that cover people when jobs are scarce, but they will govern in such a way as to begin to move our federal government in directions that offer more to we the people and that stop pandering to the wealthiest among us. I really have nothing against wealth but I have a real problem with stacking the deck, with the rich legislating in favor of the rich, and with hoarding. Do people not hear the vastly overconfident Mitch McConnell daring to talk about cutting Medicare and Social Security right before an important midterm election? Doesn’t it get you riled up enough to vote this old man right out of his position at the head of the majority in the Senate. Vote in a new majority, get a new majority leader and end the drumbeat against programs we pay for.

Don’t let these ads confuse you. Vote anyway. Vote wisely.

Graphic: From a Google Image Search, Phys.org

Economies, Governments and Societies

I don’t know about you but these times, for me, seem to turn my thoughts to the issues of economies and governments. Is an economy and a government enough to make a society, or are there other necessary components? Does Capitalism only work when it is unfettered by regulations? Does a laissez-faire approach to Capitalism offer the best economic returns? What happens to the economy when the government deliberately tries to create a free market climate or a tax structure that subsidizes private enterprise?

Are societies mostly about economics? Can societies that distribute wealth somewhat equally survive? How much social support should be part of a government, of a society? Does having a class of very poor people unsupported by any kind of social safety net tend to weigh a culture down, or does this have little effect?

Is Democratic Socialism a way to a more equitable distribution of  wealth? Are there successful socialistic countries around the globe? How much socialism do we already have in our government? Would it be useful (help delay the demise of our democracy) to alter the democratic socialism/capitalism ratio in our culture?

When economies get too unequal what happens? Will the distribution eventually right itself? Will a nation surrender to authoritarianism to hold onto wealth at the top? Will there be a revolution? Do you agree that Democrats and Republicans seem to be at odds right now about what is of key importance to American success?

It seems that Republicans want to sideline the Federal government and let the states take the lead (this has been a refrain on the right for almost the entire life of our democracy/republic). It also seems that Republicans feel that economics is the essential factor in a culture. They want the government to back away from economic rules and regulations and controls over what are intended to be private enterprises.

 

Republicans do not want social safety net supports to be handled by our Federal government. The Constitution gives the Federal government powers over the military and foreign relations. All other rights, Republicans say are reserved to the states and we have strayed from that separation of powers. If Social Security and Medicare money were not taken from American paychecks those programs would already be gone. They may soon be gone anyway, or privatized.

Republicans have a Constitutional point, but we need to also ask if we are to refer only to our original documents or also to the body of law and tradition which subsequent generations have added? Are these laws and rules part of our documents now or should they all be stripped away until we get back to a kind of minimalism. Does minimalism apply when the population of our nation has exploded since the days of our founders?

Our American economy has always been a sort of amalgamation of capitalism, socialism and even libertarianism, but with capitalism in the lead. Do we want to revise this and have socialism lead, or libertarianism? Is the socialism we are talking about only about how much social support to give to American citizens as workers and dependents, or are we talking about government ownership of industry (beyond health care, senior support, disability support, help to the poor, help to farmers, supports for workers)?

Multiple Coal Fossil Fuel Power Plant Smokestacks Emit Carbon Dioxide Pollution

Should our government own utilities? Should they continue to have a say in energy decisions, and decisions about clean water? What are the repercussions if the government gives up all control over these matters? Which brings us to environmental pollution and climate change. What happens to the environment in a laissez-faire system where businesses can dispose of their waste streams as they please, use any kind of energy they please, discharge as much smoke as they wish without mitigating chemicals harmful to humans; where businesses can force government to allow them to take over land that is set aside as public land?

Will this kind of freedom make a better America? Will it make a better world? Will it make America tons of money? Who will pocket that money? Haven’t we already been here? It seems that we would be better served by thinking these issues through together as opposed to retreating to ideological camps. The past is over; it is the future that is at stake.

Then we have the issue of who the workers will be. If everyone is equal where do you get an underclass to do menial jobs.? We used to have waves of immigrants who would do whatever works was necessary to survive. They were happy to have work and the freedom to climb the economic and then the social ladder. But when our newest immigrant groups tended to be nonwhite, as in the case of many South Americans and almost all Africans, and when they tended to be from religious traditions that were neither Christian nor Jewish, some Americans objected to having them here at all. They did not want to lift them up by opening our social safety net to immigrants, both to those here through proper channels and those here without permission. How much of this can be blamed on fewer dollars for the 99%?

Now we have to consider who will do the jobs that require physical labor? Who will serve the wealthy? Are people being encouraged to forego an education to make sure there is an underclass to serve richer Americans? If we only want highly educated and/or trained individuals from European nations to immigrate to America how does that help us fill jobs that pay less. Even though some people do not agree with paying unskilled workers more, without influxes of new workers will hourly wages eventually have to rise? Will robots be ready to fill the gaps? How does a robot clean a public restroom? I guess it could happen.

How much does it hurt our nation to treat migrants and refugees badly? Is it another trap that can weigh down a nation? How much does it affect the way we are viewed around the world? Does it make us appear strong or just inhumane and fearful? Right now it puts us in the company of other authoritarian nations.

Do we really want to be a nation that puts anyone who comes to our shores asking for asylum in jail (detention)? Will putting children in jail (detention) even with their parents turn out to be a positive approach? It is easy to believe that with a some cooperative brainstorming by people in the field we could produce a better plan than the one we are seeing now. Do we really want to continue to believe that skin color has any relevance whatsoever in terms of talents or intelligence or value as a human being?

One more consideration – are humans so flawed that they cannot create a balanced society (government and economy) that is difficult for people with bad impulses to destroy? Is it wrong to make laws to curb our worst behaviors, our exploitative behaviors? Will lassez-faire capitalism always be easily skewed by human tendencies towards selfishness, entitlement, and greed?

So much of our current political divide swings between the ways people answer these questions. We are called upon in this election and the ones in the near future to make these choices. I believe it is clear what you get if you vote for Republicans and what you get if you vote for Democrats. I only wish we could have informative conversations about these matters that did not send us back to our separate corners. Even if we can’t solve these weighty issues by November we need to vote.

Photo credits:  From Google Image Searches – Profulus, Understanding Society, Fortune, UPI.com, BBC, Digital Synopsis

How To Spend the People’s Money

If the American people don’t like the way their tax
money is being spent (and it seems they do not) then they need to be specific.
What expenditures have to go and what ones stay? Our money is in the government
“pot”. If you don’t let elected representatives know how you want our money
spent then Washington will slurp it up and it will be spent on things those
with wealth and power consider important. (I am not talking about the current CROMNIBUS bill because there is no time to offer our opinions on this measure and we will have to trust representatives we don’t really trust.)
Americans really need to think about what expenses make sense to us. Do you
really want to do away with welfare, with Medicaid? What about the disabled
(the actual disabled as opposed to the fake disabled)? What about Grandma or
Grandpa? What about your own retirement? Do you want Social Security cut? Would
you get rid of the Affordable Care Act and go back to the old ways including no
coverage for preexisting conditions? Do you think we should close tax
loopholes that benefit the wealthy and corporations, or do you think that will
destroy the American economy? Have you let anyone in government know your
preferences (in writing)? Do you vote?
We have no Department of Job Creation so we can’t
put our money there. You may believe that government does not create jobs, but
the government can pass laws that make it more likely that jobs will be
created. In fact we keep data on whether job creation goes up or down under a
given administration.  Is the only way to
create jobs to keep sending profits and tax breaks and subsidies up the power
ladder and then wait for those at the top to generate prosperity for all by
creating lots of well paid jobs? That has not been working very well lately. The
money has been hanging out at the top and piling up there.
To me it looks like the place to put our tax dollars
right now is into preschool and higher education. We need programs to help
people pay down their ridiculous student loan debts. People are still paying for college when they retire. We need to subsidize
expenses for college students. We need free colleges and free training
programs. I know, nothing is free in America, but we won’t have to keep higher
education free forever, just until we end poverty, and many experts believe that we could end poverty in America.
The United States budget is big and clunky and does
not rearrange itself easily to meet new demands as they crop up in our society.
Without pressure from citizens and clear guidelines about how the budget needs
to be revamped attempts at change create the kinds of polarity we are caught in
right now. The needs of the wealthy, the power brokers are at odds with those
of the average American. They want to hoard wealth and power because they
believe their wealth could easily slip away in the current economic climate.
We, the people, need seed money to end the employment drought that is making
opportunities sparse, that is ruining any feelings we had that finances for
ourselves and our families would remain stable, and that prosperity for all
would afford us comfort and even a bit of luxury now and then. We want our
security back and we want everyone to share in the benefits of a flourishing
middle class.

Make your decisions about how you think our tax
dollars should be spent and then speak up and tell your representatives in Congress. That is why we elect them. If you don’t go on record with your viewpoint then someone will surely make these decisions for you, and
your might find that your interests are lost in the void left by your disengagement or inaction. It’s a democracy. If the people don’t run it there are many volunteers who will subvert it.
By Nancy Brisson

Voting – A Moral Imperative

Greece was a democracy. Rome was a republic (also a form of democracy) which gave the vote to citizens of Rome. Even India is noted for having an early democratic form of government. Then democracy disappeared from the face of the earth for centuries. There were kings, there were queens, there were emperors and pharaohs, chieftains and popes. Almost every nation had one form of authoritarian government or another. People, ordinary people like you and me, were subjects. Our ruler may have been enlightened or frightening, greedy or benevolent; it did not matter what the nature of the ruler was, subjects had to do as they were told. Lots of people languished in prisons without ever being charged with a crime. Even subjects caught for crimes that seem relatively minor today were sometimes hung or severely punished. Life was hard and people longed for freedom. They longed for dignity. They longed to have an opportunity to be prosperous.
Sometimes we have to remember the past to realize how lucky we are to live in a free and enlightened nation like America in the 21st century. We take our freedoms for granted. We are upset when our government seems to withdraw or limit any of our freedoms. People are angry with the number of new laws that are passed to keep us safe from ourselves, rules about restraints in vehicles, rules about foods, rules about smoking and drinking, and rules about texting and talking on the phone in the car.  Where will it end we ask?
We must admit, however, that there are certain rights that are fiercely defended even in these “nanny state” days. We still zealously defend our right to free speech, even though we would sometimes prefer not to honor the same right for others. Our government does not usually arrest us for our opinions unless there is a perceived threat of violent action in there somewhere. We strongly defend our right to bear arms and so far our government has bent over backwards to keep even assault weapons generally available in response to the hue and cry of gun proponents.
The one right we do not defend quite as strongly is our right to vote. Even though this is a right that is not enjoyed by people in many places around the globe we find reasons to avoid voting. We say we are frustrated that nothing ever changes. We say that our one small vote can’t really make a difference. We argue that the Electoral College really elects the president, that this is anti-American and elitist and therefore we refuse to vote in protest. Even worse, we just can’t be bothered. Our forefathers allowed only property owners to vote. As recently as the 1950’s some Americans were not allowed to vote or were subjected to such strict voter poll requirements that they found it impossible to qualify to vote. Republicans are passing laws in a number of states this year, in 2012, that require things like a photo ID to vote, things which are difficult for some Americans to get because of costs or transportation needs, or lack of a birth certificate (which is often lost).
With voter rights once again being challenged, this time in the name of “voter fraud”, it is more important than ever to vote. If you don’t exercise your right to vote (a right people are dying for) then you have no right to complain about our government. It is not just your right to vote in a democracy; it is your hard-won duty to exercise your right to vote. It would be wrong to suggest that people just winning their voting rights through demonstrations and even wars are winning something that is not worth having once it is won. It is essential to vote, especially in this year when America is choosing whether it wants to be a business (Republicans) or whether our America will fulfill our social agenda in the context of balanced budgets (Democrats). This year our election involves a real choice and it is a very close election.
Vote! Voting is a privilege that is not shared by all the peoples around the world. If you are lucky enough to live in a nation where you can vote in a legitimate election then you really need to exercise your right to vote. Vote! Don’t forget; don’t be too busy; don’t be too disillusioned; don’t let them stop you with voter ID laws. Vote! (But only once, please.) No matter who tries to influence your vote and no matter how hard they try, you cannot be forced to vote for a particular person. You still get to choose who you want to vote for. Vote!