Archive for May, 2011

05/31/2011

Prisons: The Wrong Place to Privatize

The U.S. Supreme Court (5-4) recently upheld a California Federal District Court ruling that ordered a reduction in the state’s prison population from 156,000 to 126,000, because the conditions were so overcrowded and bad, they violated the Eighth Amendment ban against Cruel and Unusual Punishment.

Although the California-owned prison facilities were designed to hold a maximum of 80,000 prisoners, the state system was operating at about 200% of capacity. In some situations, up to 54 prisoners shared a single toilet. Prisoners were also being denied minimal health care, as medical conditions were untreated, or ignored, and suicidal inmates were held in cage-like booths.

While conditions in California’s facilities were unnecessarily cruel, they were probably not unusual. Throughout the country, other states also have overcrowded substandard conditions.

Most lawyers would agree it is not easy to sue a state government, and it is even more difficult once state functions have been privatized. Unfortunately, the trend towards privatization has been growing. The Republican-controlled Florida legislature recently reduced the State Dept. of Corrections staff by 1,751 workers, and voted to privatize even more of their state prisons.

The worst problem with privatization is the Bill of Rights was created as a check against the conduct of the government. It was not written to control the behavior of private sector actors. Right-wing judges interpret the 8th Amendment ban against Cruel and Unusual Punishment as applicable only to the government.

If the California prison situation had been operated by private contractors, the prisoners’ case would have been much more difficult, since the defense attorneys would have argued the 8th Amendment simply did not apply.

Some government functions should never be privatized. Prisons are one of them. Anyone in the custody of the state must be treated humanely, but there is no guarantee of such treatment, once the state is not involved. States should not delegate the job of incarceration to private sector profiteers, as they would certainly cut financial corners even more than states like California.

Advertisements
05/30/2011

Bosnia War Crime Trials Must Proceed

The Bosnian War (1992-95), a conflict that has never been easy to explain, is finally moving towards closure, with the arrest in Serbia of Bosnian-Serb military leader Ratko Mladic.

When the former Yugoslavia dissolved into six countries, namely: Slovenia, Macedonia, Croatia, Bosnia, Montenegro, and Serbia, some provinces did so in peace, but Bosnia had troubles, because their religions and ethnicities were a Balkanized mix of Bosnian-Muslim, Catholic-Croat, and Orthodox-Serb.

When the Bosnian-Muslims and Bosnian-Croats united to form a Federation, the Bosnian-Serbs set up their own Republika Srpska (RS). This triggered a Civil War (1992-95), during which the Bosnian-Serbs, forcefully removed Bosnian-Croats and Muslims from their homes, in what became known as an ethnic cleansing.

The UN failed to act militarily, because the issue was seen by China and Russia as an internal Yugoslavian affair. The Security Council did however set up the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia to prosecute war crimes (1993).

After the Bosnian-Serbs attacked Sarajevo (1994), and under the lead of Ratko Mladic, slaughtered 8,000 defenseless Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica (1995), President Bill Clinton and other NATO country leaders finally used air power to stop the Serbs.

The Dayton Peace Accords (1995) recognized both the Bosnian Muslim-Croat Federation, and the Bosnian-Serb Republic (RS). The Federation now occupies 51% of Bosnia, while the RS Republic controls the other 49%, each with their own laws.

Since the war ended 16 years ago, the remaining task has been to bring justice to the victims, or their families, by prosecuting and convicting those who committed war crimes. Those commanders who ordered or allowed torture or murder, are individually responsible for breaching the rights of prisoners and civilians, under the Hague and Geneva Conventions.

Although it took 16 years to capture Mladic, there is no Statute of Limitations as to murder. After his extradition to the Netherlands, the judge must give him a few months to prepare for trial, but after that, the court must proceed promptly, as justice delayed is justice denied, and thus far, there has been no justice as to Mladic.

05/27/2011

Constitutional Power To Declare War

Is President Obama breaking the law by engaging in a military conflict in Libya, without first having a formal Declaration of War from Congress? Although the U.S., as a member of NATO, has been using military force in Libya since March 20, 2011, the Congress has not voted to approve or disapprove of the campaign.

The U.S. Constitution clearly gives Congress the power to declare war (Art. I Sec. 8). The President has only the power to act as Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces (Art II, Sec. 2).

Congress last passed a formal Declaration of War in WWII, when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor (1941). During the Vietnam War, the issue was hotly debated, because, young men were dying in a far away land, but Congress had not declared war. They instead passed a Gulf of Tonkin Resolution on Aug. 6, 1964, which gave President Johnson authority to use all necessary force.

When President Nixon expanded the war into Cambodia and Senators learned he had conducted a secret bombing campaign, the Congress passed the War Powers Act (1973), to stop the Executive Branch from engaging in unauthorized conflict. Under the law, the President is allowed to engage in military conflict without Congressional authority, only where there is an attack against the U.S., and only for a limited period of 60 days.

With respect to Libya, there was no attack on the U.S. and since the 60 days expired on May 20th, the Commander-in-Chief is violating the War Powers Act and Art I Sec. 8 of the Constitution.

The remedy lies in the Republican-controlled House. They clearly have the power to pass a law saying the President shall not engage in military action in Libya. If the President vetoed it, they could override, with a 66% vote. Since the House also controls all revenue bills (Art I, Sec. 7), and no money can be taken from the Treasury, except by appropriation made by law (Art I, Sec 9), the Congress clearly has the authority to defund the Libyan conflict.

As the North African war continues, and we move closer to the 2012 election, it should be remembered House Republicans tacitly approved of the Libyan fight. If the war goes bad and Republicans complain, they should be asked why they did not end it.

05/26/2011

Israel’s Netanyahu Offers Little Hope

If I was a Palestinian, this is what I would have heard, as Israeli Prime Minister Ben Netanyahu addressed the U.S. Congress.

He said Israel will not vacate the occupied territories by returning to the 1967 lines. “The border will be different than the one that existed on June 4, 1967.”

He said certain occupied areas will be annexed by Israel. “650,000 Israelis, who live beyond the 1967 lines, reside in neighborhoods and suburbs of Jerusalem and Greater Tel Aviv. These areas, as well as other places of critical and national importance, will be incorporated into the final borders of Israel.”

He told the Palestinian refugees, who had been driven from their homes, that there will be no right to return, and they will have to reside somewhere other than within Israel itself. “The Palestinian refugee problem will be resolved outside the borders of Israel.”

He told the Palestinians, and the entire Islamic faith, the City of Jerusalem will never again be divided between Jews and Muslims, as it once was. “Jerusalem must never again be divided. Jerusalem must remain the united capital of Israel.”

He told the people of Gaza, Israel will never work with their elected leaders, people they chose in free, fair, and open elections.

He told the UN, a body to which Israel owes its very existence, and an organization that includes every nation on earth, that Israel will not accept a UN remedy. “The Palestinian attempt to impose a settlement through the UN will not bring peace.”

As he stated his uncompromising positions, he acknowledged it “would be difficult for the Palestinians,” and then also said, we must “find a way to forge a lasting peace with the Palestinians.”

To his credit, Netanyahu said: “The Palestinians…should enjoy a national life of dignity as a free, viable and independent people in their own state…I publically committed to a solution of two states for two peoples: A Palestinian state, alongside the Jewish state.”

Although he said “I am willing to make painful compromises to achieve this historic peace,” and later repeated: “I will be prepared to make a far reaching compromise,” the part of the speech he left out was what, if any, compromises he would actually make.

The problem with Netanyahu, and the Orthodox Likud Party, is their reliance on the Old Testament, instead of the UN Charter, and modern international law. He resorted to the Bible: “in Judea and Samaria, the Jewish people are not foreign occupiers…This is the land of our forefathers, the land of Israel…Abraham…No distortion of history can deny the four thousand year-old bond, between the Jewish people and the Jewish land.”

Netanyahu’s 4,000-year claim to the occupied territories, based on who was there first, has no basis. Even if Abraham had led the Jews to Canaan in 1900 BC, the Canaanites were already there, since they arrived in 3000 BC. Today, the land would belong to the Arab descendants of Canaanites, who were there 5,000 years ago. Oh, by the way, if we are going to start using this type of logic, then Florida belongs to the Seminoles, the Iroquois own New York, and Texas has to be turned over to the Apache Indians.

Netanyahu failed to mention in his speech that after the Jewish Kingdom was established (1006 BC), many others subsequently conquered and occupied the area, including the Assyrians, Babylonians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Muslim Arabs (since 7th Century), and Turks (1516-1918). The modern Jewish state, which is what we are talking about, did not come into existence until 1948.

Israel needs a new leader who has his head is in the 21st Century, and who respects the rule of international law. Once they find such a person, only then may there be a hope for a real and lasting Israeli-Palestinian peace.

05/25/2011

Palestinian State Must Be Contiguous

To create a lasting peace for Israel, any new Palestinian state must be established as a single territorial unit, meaning the borders must be contiguous. The two parts of Palestine (Gaza and West Bank) must have land-based link, which must be clearly included in any “land swaps” that will define the ultimate borders.

The Palestinian Corridor should be from Beit Hanoun, in the Gaza Strip (northeast), to Dura, in the West Bank (southwest). It should include a high-speed rail link, with no stops in between, so Israel will have no security reason to stop or interrupt service. The corridor should include a 2-lane highway on each side of railway.

The world has previously made the mistake of physically dividing peoples and nations, in situations that have led to war.

Britain made a mistake when they created Pakistan, by locating the western part on one side of India, and the eastern half, 900 miles away, on the other side (1947). The distance between the two parts made Pakistan unmanageable, and caused East Pakistan to secede. Although an independent state of Bangladesh emerged, it was not until after Britain’s error first took the lives of millions in the Pakistan Civil War and Indo-Pakistan War (1971).

The allies made a mistake after WWI (1919), when they separated East Prussia from the rest of Germany, and transferred to Poland some German-speaking territories, near the Danzig Corridor. The lack of a sovereign connection between the two parts of Germany gave hardliners like Hitler a platform, upon which to rationalize an invasion of Poland in WWII, in which millions died.

The allies again made an error after WWII (1945), when they divided Berlin, located entirely in the Soviet Zone, into four sectors, occupied by the U.S., Britain, France, and Russia (1945). The only way the U.S., Britain or France could access their parts of Berlin, was to travel through the Russian Sector. When the Soviets cut off the highway to Berlin (1948), war was narrowly avoided, as the U.S. landed one supply plane with food every minute, for 318 days straight, to finally break the blockade.

It would be a mistake to create a new Palestinian state with Gaza and the West Bank physically separated by Israel. To prevent future roadblocks and conflict, any peace agreement must make the two parts contiguous, by creating a permanent and irrevocable easement between them, known as the Palestinian Corridor.

05/24/2011

Arab-Israeli 1967 War In Review

The 1967 Arab-Israeli War started as Israel launched a surprise attack against Egypt, Syria, and Jordan. Israel swept through the Gaza Strip and Sinai Peninsula, and on to the Suez Canal, where they broke a blockade by Egypt, in the Gulf of Aqaba, and at the Port of Elath. Following the war, Israel occupied the Sinai (Egypt), the Golan Heights (Syria), East Jerusalem, and the West Bank (Jordan). Up to 250,000 Palestinians became refugees.

Israel was censured by the UN Assembly (99-0, 20 abstentions). The UN Security Council found the taking of land by force illegal, and ordered a “withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict” (Res. 242, 1967). The U.S. also asked Israel to withdraw, and barred the use of U.S. economic aid in the occupied areas. The Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) was founded by Yasir Arafat to resist Israel.

Israel ignored the UN, the U.S., the PLO, and international law, and started re-settling Jewish families in Arab Jerusalem, known as the Old City. The UN warned against changing the legal status of Jerusalem by conquest (Res. 252, 1968). They reminded Israel it is illegal under international law to expropriate land, or forcibly remove civilians (Res. 298, 1971). In a 14-0 vote, the Security Council directed Israel to return occupied East Jerusalem (1971).

Israel instead defiantly proceeded with 44 new settlements in the occupied territories, all started since 1967. 15 were in the Golan Heights, 15 in the West Bank, and 14 in Sinai and Gaza (1972).

Things changed in 1972 following a bombing raid, when the U.S. vetoed a Security Council Resolution censuring Israel. Since then, the U.S. vetoed another 40 odd resolutions critical of Israel. This explains why the Arabs and Muslims dislike U.S. foreign policy.

The Arabs tried to take back the occupied territories in the 1973 Arab-Israeli War, but failed, mainly because Israel had superior firepower, supplied by the U.S. The UN nevertheless continued to demand an Israeli withdrawal (Res. 344, 1973).

In 1978, Israeli Prime Minister Begin proved a withdrawal to the 1967 borders could be accomplished. During the Egyptian-Israeli peace process, Egyptian leader Sadat insisted on an Israel withdraw from the occupied Sinai. After Prime Minister Begin, Sadat, and President Carter, signed the Egyptian-Israeli Peace Treaty (1979), Israeli soldiers and civilians withdrew, and peace has existed along the Sinai border ever since.

But the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, Golan Heights, and Jerusalem, remained occupied. The UN criticized settlements in the occupied areas, saying they violated the rights of civilians, under the Geneva Convention (Res. 446, 452, 1979, Res. 465, 1980).

When Israeli law was imposed upon Syrians in the occupied Golan Heights, the UN declared the act null and void, citing the Geneva Convention (Res 497, 1981).

In 1985, Arafat said the PLO would accept the Jewish state’s right to exist, if Israel would withdraw to the 1967 borders. The UN again called for a withdrawal, but Israel refused (Res. 592, 1986).

The UN deplored the killing of Palestinians in Jerusalem, and other occupied areas, in violation of the Geneva Convention (Res. 605, 1987). They also ordered Israel to stop deporting Palestinians (Res. 636, 641, ’89; Res. 694, ’91; Res. 726, 799, ‘92).

Another break came in 1994, when Israeli Prime Minister Rabin proved peace was possible, as he and President Clinton reached a agreement with Jordan (1994). After Rabin was assassinated by an Israeli extremist (1995), Benjamin Netanyahu and his right-wing Likud Party came to power, and the peace process stalled, as Netanyahu lifted a ban on new settlements (1996).

Israel later built a Wall in and around occupied Jerusalem, which the International Court of Justice said was a de facto annexation, in violation civilian rights, under the Geneva Conventions. (2004).

When Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, it appeared that more progress was being made, but peace didn’t really have a chance, since Israel closed off all land, sea, or air access to the Gaza Strip, and denied Palestinians of a right to exist with their own leaders.

When President Obama suggested a withdrawal to the 1967 border in the West Bank, Netanyahu rudely lectured him, saying the 1967 line is indefensible. The truth is the current border is indefensible, as it has led to nothing but conflict for 44 years. Netanyahu’s fear-based approach will never work. Once the Palestinians no longer have a reason to be angry about an illegal occupation, only then may Israel enjoy peace and security. Since Netanyahu is unwilling to use the 1967 line, it’s time for a new Israeli leader, preferably one who listens more, and lectures less.

05/23/2011

Obama’s Historic Mideast Speech

President Obama delivered a historic speech on May 19, 2011, in which he first addressed the two wars President Bush started, by saying 100,000 troops have already returned from Iraq, and U.S. soldiers and will soon be coming home from Afghanistan.

Obama next referred to the peaceful changes in Tunisia and Egypt, during the Arab Spring, and the ongoing revolts in Libya, Syria, Yemen, and Bahrain. He reaffirmed U.S. support for self-determination, the freedoms of speech and religion, peaceful assembly, equality for men and women, and voting rights. He said journalists must be respected, and an open Internet access must be allowed, since legitimate democracy needs an informed citizenry.

Obama condemned Libya’s Col. Qaddafi for launching a war against his own people; advised Syria’s Assad to stop shooting at demonstrators; and asked President Saleh of Yemen to follow through on his commitment to transfer power.

While Obama reasserted a U.S. commitment to Bahraini security, he boldly admonished the royal family for using brute force, making mass arrests of Shiites, and for destroying their Mosques. He told them to release political prisoners and engage in dialogue.

Finally, Obama showed great courage, as he suggested that Israel stop building illegal settlements, and end their longstanding occupation of Palestine, by withdrawing to the pre-1967 borders.

In his historic speech, Obama lamented: “The world looks at a conflict that has grinded on and on, and sees nothing but stalemate…The international community is tired of an endless process that never produces an outcome… The status quo is unsustainable, and Israel too must act boldly to advance a lasting peace…Endless delay won’t make the problem go away.”

Obama told Israel and the world, the Palestinians have suffered “the humiliation of occupation,” and have not lived “in a nation of their own…The Palestinian people must have the right to govern themselves, and reach their full potential, in a sovereign and contiguous state.” Obama noted “Israeli settlement activity continues,” as he bravely suggested the coordination of a “full and phased withdrawal of Israeli military forces…”

Obama simultaneously warned the Palestinians they will never realize independence by denying the right of Israel to exist, as he said: “Our commitment to Israel’s security is unshakeable.”

Obama correctly concluded a lasting peace will involve two states, Israel, as a Jewish state, and Palestine, as the homeland for the Palestinians. This is almost exactly what the UN has been saying for 44 years: “The borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines, with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states.”

During the past 44 years of violence, Israel has illegally occupied Palestine, and it’s about time a strong American President directly suggested giving peace a chance by retreating to the 1967 borders. It is not only the right solution, it’s the only one that has a chance.

05/20/2011

Immigration: Over 200 Years Of Laws

Immigration, a hot issue in some states, is a debate that has gone on since the founding of the nation, and before the Congress and President address another law, perhaps it’s time to quickly review of the ups and downs of the previous efforts.

Let’s start with the Constitution. The score here is one right, and one wrong. The founders got it right when they made immigration a federal issue, by delegating to the Congress the power over naturalization and citizenship (Art. 1, Sec 8). It would have been a mistake if every state had been permitted to write their own laws.

The founders, however, got the idea of citizenship wrong, when they counted only 3/5ths of the slaves, and initially limited immigration to free white persons (1790).

Congress got it right, by requiring immigrants to live in the U.S. for 5 years before citizenship (1795). They then got it wrong, when they extended the residency requirement to 14 years (1798), but then corrected that error by returning to 5 years (1802).

The Congress got it right in the mid-1800s, when they ignored the Protestant-Americans of the Know Nothing Party, who wanted to exclude Irish immigrants, because they were Catholic.

After the Civil War, the people got it right, as they ratified the 14th Amendment that made all persons born or naturalized in the U.S. citizens of the U.S., and the state where they reside. Citizenship by birth, regardless of parental nationality, was the right thing to do.

The Congress got it wrong when they passed several laws that excluded Chinese and other Asians based on race (1875-92).

Congress got it right when they required some knowledge of the English language, as a condition of citizenship (1906). An English reading test also seemed reasonable (1917). Learning the common language, and some civics, is not too much to ask of a citizen.

Congress got it wrong after WWI, when they closed the door to newcomers, by establishing quotas that limited immigration to small numbers, based on the nationalities of those already in the U.S. (1921-24). Ironically, the Republican exclusion of cheap foreign labor helped Democrats and organized labor, by giving existing workers plenty of jobs, and greater bargaining power.

America got it right again after WWII, when millions of homeless and orphaned “displaced persons” were received from Europe.

Congress got it wrong in the McCarthy Era (1952) as they deported suspected subversives, and kept blacklisted people out of the U.S., like future Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau.

Congress got it right in 1965, when they abolished the 1924 nationality quotas, and focused instead on the work skills of immigrants, regardless of their country of origin.

Congress got it right in 1986, as they enacted sanctions against employers who were hiring illegal immigrants, but got it wrong when they gave amnesty to three million illegal aliens, as this had the effect of encouraging even more to enter the U.S. illegally.

Congress got it right in 1990, when they increased the annual number of legal immigrants, from 500,000 to 700,000.

Congress got it right in 1996, when welfare and immigration reform made illegal immigrants ineligible for most forms of federal assistance, including many types of Social Security.

From this immigration history, we have learned that these laws must be written at the federal level, and not by state governments. They should never reject people on the basis of race or religion. They should allow those with useful work skills to enter, as the U.S. needs a steady flow of immigrants to insure a gradual rise in population. They need to cap the annual number of immigrants, so existing unemployed citizens do not have to compete against too much cheap labor. They need to enforce employer sanctions, and destroy the underground economy, so all contribute to the income tax and Social Security. They need to establish an immigration policy that requires newcomers to read and write English, know the basics of civics, and pay their fair share into the system.

05/19/2011

Housing: Basic Supply and Demand

The news reported the ongoing lack of progress in the building construction industry. The problem is easy to understand, when applying basic supply and demand economics.

The supply of housing increased due to foreclosures. Buildings that a few years ago would have been owner-occupied are empty now, because of defaults on mortgage notes. One cause of the problem was the easing of regulation, and the promotion of adjustable-rate mortgages (ARM) that allow payments to be increased during the life of the loan. In the old days, fixed-rate mortgages were the norm, and borrowers made monthly payments, without worrying about increases.

The demand for purchasing homes simultaneously declined, as fewer people now qualify for mortgages. In the old days, a potential buyer needed a substantial down-payment, which generally stopped them from simply walking away upon default. The easing of regulation allowed the financially unqualified to buy, and as they defaulted, they simply stopped paying, and allowed the bank to foreclosure without trying to redeem, since they had no skin in the game. During the period of easy credit, too many buyers entered the market, and now that they no longer qualify for loans, due to a return to traditional lending standards, such as the requirement of a down-payment, there are too few qualified people available to purchase too many buildings.

With the supply of homes exceeding the number of qualified buyers on the demand side, prices have dropped, or at best stayed flat. This is simple economics. So until the oversupply of homes is removed from the equation, there will not be any real growth in the construction industry. Only when new construction is no longer competing against the oversupply of existing foreclosed properties, will the situation improve.

The flat-line growth in the value of homes has also affected those who could bring cash to the table, or who could qualify for loans. This is true despite the availability of relatively low interest rates. In my case, for example, we moved from Wisconsin to Florida 2½ years ago and intended to buy, but as we examined the market, several factors caused us to continue renting for the time being.

First, housing values are not increasing, and in some areas they are actually declining. If after just a few years, we wanted to sell again, any sale, after paying the sales agent, would result in a loss.

Second, the cost of Florida condo generally includes relatively large monthly dues, twice as much as one would pay in the Midwest. It appears a lot of profit-taking is built into them that could be cut out. Dues are like taxes, as they cannot be recouped.

Third, the cost of insurance in Pinellas County is too high, based largely on unfounded fears of a direct hit by a hurricane. Once again, these payments are not recoverable in any future resale.

Fourth, since wealthy Floridians enjoy no state income tax, much of the burden of running local government is based on a relatively high real estate tax, which is not offset by state revenue-sharing.

Fifth, when looking for a condo, one has to consider the number of neighboring tenant-occupied or vacant units in foreclosure, since owner-occupied units are generally better maintained. In this regard, the number of foreclosed units was a factor.

To comfortably buy, purchasers need to know their investment is more likely to grow than decline; the dues, insurance and real estate taxes must be minimal; and the vast majority of the units in any condo project must be financially above water. Given the current situation, at least for now, we will continue renting.

05/18/2011

National Debt: Lower It The Left Way

Rational people have always believed that except in extraordinary circumstances, taxes must cover spending. We lost our way when President Reagan and the supply-siders made taxes a dirty word, and introduced voodoo economics. Things worsened as Reagan’s disciples, like the light-weight President Bush II, increased the policy of borrowing-and-spending, to where debt is out of control.

When President Eisenhower served (1953-61), the debt increased just 8.2% in 8 years, from 266 to 288 billion. During the Kennedy and Johnson terms (1961-69), it rose only 22.5%, from 288 to 353 billion. In the Nixon-Ford years (1969-77), national debt climbed 97%, from 353 to 698 billion. Democratic President Carter (1977-81) slowed the growth rate to 43%, from 698 to 997 billion.

Things really changed when President Reagan (1981-89) and his supply-side Republicans arrived. Reagan was able to fool voters into believing the budget could be balanced through simultaneous tax cuts and spending increases, but as he gave taxes away, the debt shot up a whopping 186%, from 997 billion to 2.8 trillion.

Republican President Bush I next increased the debt another 57%, from 2.8 to 4.4 trillion, before Democrat President Bill Clinton, allowed only a more modest rise of 32%, from 4.4 to 5.8 trillion.

The country then suffered through another major dose of borrow-and-spend, as Bush II gave away prescription drugs, and started two wars, without raising any taxes. Debt went up a staggering 105%, as Bush II more than doubled it, from 5.8 to 11.9 trillion.

While national debt was modestly increased by Democrats Kennedy-Johnson (22.5%), Carter (43%), and Clinton (32%), the amount added by the latter-day Republicans is unsustainable, as Nixon-Ford brought it up 97%, movie star Reagan used his credit card to add 186%, and Bush II borrowed to increase it by 105%.

While deficit spending has been the norm for a long time, and both parties deserve some blame, it is time to recognize that the budget-balancing Republicans of my father’s generation left the building with Eisenhower, long ago. The time for tax breaks is over. We have to attack the debt the right way, which is to say, we have to do it the left’s way, by electing fiscal Democrats.