Archive for September, 2011

09/14/2011

Voter Photo ID: Unconstitutional Poll Tax

The Republican-controlled Wisconsin State House and Senate passed a voter photo ID requirement bill this year, signed into law by Gov. Walker, which should be challenged in court, because it creates a condition for voting, by requiring citizens to pay fees to the state for a Drivers License, or to a county clerk for a certified birth certificate, or to federal authorities for a valid passport, all in violation of the 24th Amendment, which outlawed poll taxes.

The 24th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution provides: “The right of citizens of the United States to vote in any primary or other election…shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State by reason of failure to pay any poll tax or other tax.”

Since there was no measurable voter fraud problem in Wisconsin that would have had any effect whatsoever on the outcome of any race, the only purpose of the new statute was to suppress voter turnout, by solving a problem that did not exist.  The real purpose of the new law is to deter young people, who do not have Drivers Licenses, from voting. Since not all young citizens are in college, they may not have a substitute form of photo identification.

While a Drivers License is needed in a rural area where there is no other way to get around, in cities like Milwaukee, people can move about on buses, and a car is not essential. Some, who once had Drivers Licenses, may have lost them due to misdemeanor traffic offenses that led to suspension or revocation. Since they committed no felony, they still have a right to vote. Older citizens, who stopped driving for physical reasons, may not have a DL.

Forcing citizens to purchase Drivers Licenses from the state, as a condition for voting is a tax in violation of the 24th Amendment. Although an alternate photo ID for election purposes may be requested from the Dept. of Transportation (DOT), payments to the government are also required to obtain necessary paperwork.

The Wis. DOT website requires five separate types of proof for an alternate ID. Its says: “when applying, it will be necessary to provide: 1) “Proof of name and date of birth;” 2) “Proof of Identity;” 3) “Proof of Wisconsin Residency;” 4) “Proof of U.S. Citizenship,” and 5) Proof of a Social Security number.

To prove step one, “name and date of birth,” one must present a certified U.S. birth certificate, valid passport, or certificate of naturalization. If they were born in the U.S., they would have no naturalization papers. If they have an outdated passport, they can’t use it. They would have to pay a tax to the federal government to obtain a valid passport. While most have a copy of their birth certificate, a certified copy is required from the county and state of birth, again requiring fees to local clerks.

Assuming an applicant jumped through all of the various hoops, they still do not receive an alternate ID on the spot, as is the case with Drivers Licenses, where people have their photos taken, and are given a license a few minutes later. The DOT unnecessarily puts non-DL applicants in a separate class, by making them wait to receive their cards. The DOT site says: “original ID cards are mailed to applicants.” Why not just give them their ID cards on the spot? Can you spell voter suppression?

The new Wisconsin voter photo ID law unnecessarily creates financial barriers to voting, which violate the 24th Amendment and for this reason the law should be declared unconstitutional.

09/13/2011

Republican Debate Tampa (9-12-11)

Since the Republicans debated less than a week ago, CNN hyped up this one by introducing the candidates like starting players in a sporting event, and a woman sang the National Anthem, as if a game was about to start. If tax dollars could have been wasted on flying jets overhead, they would have done that too. But the big opening did not save the debate from becoming the usual bashing of President Obama, filled with generalized political philosophy.

FOREIGN POLICY: Ron Paul said he was tired of all the militarism and waste associated with it. We have 900 bases around the globe in 130 nations, he said, and we cannot be the world’s policeman. It angers foreigners, Paul said, when we occupy their lands. Santorum accused Paul of blaming 911 on the U.S., while the former Senator seriously thought the hijackers only wanted to kill us because we stood for freedom. Paul had to educate Santorum, saying we were attacked on 911, because we had troops in Saudi Arabia, and allowed the Palestinians to be harmed, comments that triggered boos from an obviously uninformed audience. Perry declared it is time to bring the troops home, but contradicted himself saying, we needed to maintain a presence. Huntsman said it’s time to get out of Afghanistan. Gingrich was concerned with North Korea, trade with China, Iran, and a civil war in Mexico.

SOCIAL SECURITY: Ron Paul said Social Security retirement funds should not have been used to fight wars. Social Security is an essential program, Romney said, and taking funds from it for other purposes was criminal. Perry said it must be saved for seniors and transformed for future recipients, even though in his book he wrote it should not be a federal program. Cain wants young workers to have options. Bachmann said Medicare is bankrupt and retirement must be reformed. Gingrich said more than 70 billion of Medicare is paid to crooks, no changes should be made as to seniors, but young workers need a right to choose. Santorum said older voters just want truth. Huntsman claimed to have the answers.

PRESCRIPTION DRUGS: As to prescription drugs, Perry and Romney would not repeal the program which was started under George Bush. Paul said we first need other reforms, like stopping wars overseas. Bachmann said we cannot provide everything for everybody.

HEALTH CARE: Romney tried to distinguish the Massachusetts plan from the federal approach. He said patients do not know how much their care costs, and showed how out-of-touch he is with average people, as he advocated co-insurance payments, which most Americans unfortunately already have. When the candidates were asked if they want people with no health insurance to die, physician Ron Paul said no one was turned away when he was a doctor, as churches took care of them. Bachmann said we should not force people to buy insurance. Cain wanted Obamacare repealed, saying we need market reforms.

UNEMPLOYMENT & JOBS: Regarding employment, Huntsman said it is a tragedy affecting millions, and we need to create jobs through regulatory reform, repealing Obamacare, changes in the tax code, energy independence, and an end to corporate welfare. Romney put the audience to sleep as he rattled off seven things he would do as to taxes, trade, energy, the budget, and so on. Perry claimed Obama created zero jobs, and he should not spend money we do not have. Perry claimed to have created jobs in Texas, while the nation lost them. He thinks people will risk capital and create jobs, if regulations and taxes were lowered. Bachmann thinks more free trade will create jobs. Gingrich correctly said most jobs are created by the American people and not the government. Paul said we are wasting money overseas, noting it cost 1 billion to build an embassy in Baghdad. Huntsman claimed to have had the best managed state as he said we must create an environment favorable to business.

IMMIGRATION: Texas Gov. Perry, whose state has a 1,200 mile Mexican border, said the federal government must secure it, but it is not realistic to maintain a wall from Brownsville to El Paso. Perry, who opposes amnesty and the Dream Act, had to defend his decision to allow illegal aliens to receive in-state tuition, as the Tea Party audience booed. He said he wanted them in college instead of doing nothing on welfare. Former Utah Gov. Huntsman would secure the border, but gave Drivers Licenses to illegal aliens. Romney said build a fence, but enforce the law and give no tuition breaks or Drivers Licenses to illegal aliens. Santorum wants more fences and security, more legal immigration, and English spoken by everyone. Although Bachmann wants aliens to learn English and History, no one suggested she learn history. Huntsman said Homeland Security needed to be fixed.

FEDERAL RESERVE: Cain apparently served on the Kansas City Federal Reserve and said we need to focus on sound money. Bachmann would not re-appoint the Fed chair, saying he should not use his unlimited power to make loans to private businesses and foreign countries. Perry said we need a strong dollar and the Fed should not be used to cover up bad federal policies. Romney wants a strong currency, Fed oversight, but he did not want Congress in charge of the currency.

TAXES: Cain would throw out the entire tax code and replace it with a flat 9% tax on businesses and sales. Santorum would attract manufacturing by relieving taxes on new manufacturers. When a young man asked how much of his paycheck he should be allowed to keep, Huntsman said the tax brackets should be 8%, 14%, and 22%. Gingrich wants people to keep more of what they earn, saying GE paid no taxes whatsoever. Romney actually thought he would help the Middle Class by eliminating taxes on dividends, interest, and capital gains.

ENERGY: Cain said energy independence requires the EPA to get out of the way. He would appoint those abused by the agency.

TORT REFORM: Perry showed deep hatred of trial lawyers, as he thought tort reform would actually make a difference federally. Cain wanted the loser of lawsuits to pay the winner’s costs, not realizing the insurance industry routinely opposes such proposals.

EXECUTIVE ORDERS: Paul said Executive Orders are only appropriate when moving troops and they should never be used to legislate. Perry admitted he used an Executive Order in Texas to require a vaccine, and he should have run it by the legislature. Bachmann accused him of issuing the order, because he received campaign contributions from a drug company. She and Santorum both said government should never force people to have vaccines.

09/12/2011

911: Are We Still Missing The Boat?

On the 10th Anniversary of Sept. 11, while the broadcast media repeatedly showed videos of planes crashing into buildings, along with survivor interviews and memorials, they failed once again to seriously examine why 911 happened in the first place.

Americans have no trouble recalling 911. They are painfully aware of the airport and government security measures implemented since then, and know international communications and finance are now under surveillance.

What they still do not know, however, because no one has explained it to them, is why 20, mostly Saudi Arabians, hijacked four airplanes on Sep. 11, 2001, and set out to crash them into buildings, for the purpose of killing as many us as possible.

Until we learn what motivated the attackers, we will never understand the enemy, or eliminate the threat they pose. While the Transportation Security Agency (TSA) may take some small security measures at home, they will never make us completely safe, since they do not address the root causes of the problem.

So what was it that bothered the 911 attackers so much that they were willing to become kamikaze pilots? The answer begins with our one-sided bi-partisan U.S. foreign policy that blindly supports Israel, and angers many Palestinians, Arabs, and Muslims.

Americans would be safer at home if we stopped supplying Israel with weapons that end up killing Palestinians. We would be safer if our Navy abandoned the Mediterranean and Persian Gulf. We would be safer if we withdrew all of our ground forces from Iraq, Afghanistan, and other locations in the Mideast and Persian Gulf.

Since the special interests that finance our political campaigns are not going to support candidates willing to withdraw from the Mideast, the U.S. is not going to stop angering the nations of Islam. Consequently, more enemies will unintentionally be recruited, and more will eventually succeed in doing harm to us.

Once we understand every event has a cause, and know why Sep. 11 occurred, we can eliminate the factors that led to it, and only then return to a secure environment, free of the fear of another 911.

09/09/2011

American Jobs Act: Pass It Now

President Obama proposed the American Jobs Act last night to put people back to work in: 1) construction: rebuilding roads, bridges, school buildings, homes and railroads; 2) education: by hiring teachers to train engineers; 3) manufacturing: by increasing exports made in the USA; 4) finance: by restructuring home loans at 4% rates; and 5) in health care: by reforming Medicare.

Obama said our economy has eroded over several decades into a crisis, and it now millions of Americans are out of work. Congress needs to stop conducting a political circus, he said, and advocated several steps they could take right now to fix the economy.

CONSTRUCTION: Obama wants construction crews hired to rebuild roads and bridges, tasks requiring bulldozers and asphalt trucks. Millions of unemployed construction workers could build airports and faster railroads. Carpenters could repair and modernize 35,000 schools, by fixing roofs and windows. They could install science labs, and Internet facilities. Obama advocated putting them to work rehabilitating homes. Next summer, disadvantaged youth could work, presumably as helpers.

CUT RED TAPE: Obama suggested cutting any red tape that gets in the way. He has but two criteria: 1) How badly is the project needed? 2) How much good would it do for the economy? We should have no more rules and regulations than health, safety and security require, he said. He rejected any idea of ending collective bargaining rights, saying we need not be in a race to the bottom.

EDUCATION: He wants to put thousands of teachers back to work in the classroom. We need to train 10,000 engineers a year.

MANUFACTURING: He would expand manufacturing jobs by signing trade deals with Panama, Colombia, and South Korea, so Americans could market more goods abroad. We need to sell more American-made goods around the world, he said. The next generation of manufacturing needs take place here in America.

FINANCE: Obama wants to generate work in the finance sector at savings and loans, and at banks, by helping homeowners refinance their mortgage loans at 4% interest rates. This would create savings, and generate spending, and stimulate the economy.

HEALTH CARE: He wants to keep people busy in the health care industry by making additional changes to Medicare and Medicaid.

OFFSET BY MEDICARE CUTS: The President said his plan would be offset by budget cuts, and it need not add to the deficit. We must make additional cuts to Medicare and Medicaid, he said, because their spending is unsustainable.

OFFSET BY TAXING RICH: Obama said we need to eliminate loopholes, deductions, and tax breaks for millionaires.

OFFSET BY ENDING CORPORATE LOOPHOLES: Obama said the Tax Code could be reformed so big corporations paid their fair share. Do we really need oil company loopholes?

TAX BREAKS FOR NEW HIRES: The President suggested tax advantages for companies that invest and create jobs in America. He would give tax breaks to companies who hire new workers, or raise wages. Companies will get a $4,000 tax credit if they hire someone who has spent more than six months looking for a job.

CUT INDIVIDUAL TAXES: Obama proposed cutting in half payroll taxes for working Americans. Families would get a $1,500 tax cut next year, under his plan, again to stimulate the economy.

MUST ACT NOW: Although the next Presidential election is 14 months away, Obama said the people do not have the luxury of waiting that long and they need help now. He asked Congress to pass his plan right away, saying: “Doing nothing is not an option.”

09/08/2011

Republican Debate California (9-7-11)

One year and two months before the 2012 election, Republicans gathered to attack President Obama again in yet another debate.

FOREIGN POLICY: Huntsman said bring the troops home so we can do nation-building here. Perry complimented Obama for keeping Guantanamo open and executing Bin Laden. Bachmann felt it was wrong for Obama to tell Israel to return to the 1967 borders. She opposed the Libyan operation, saying no American interest was involved, and we did not know the rebels. She wanted to disarm a potential Iranian nuclear threat. Santorum opposed isolationism and wants the U.S. to become a force for good.

JOBS: Although Republicans usually say the private sector and not the government creates them, Perry took credit for 1 million new ones in Texas. Romney also claimed he made new jobs, by understanding how the economy works in the private sector.

IMMIGRATION: Perry said the El Paso border was unsafe and federal border security support was needed. Romney wanted no amnesty, a fence, agents to secure it, and an elimination of the magnet caused by employers who hire illegal aliens. Gingrich wanted everyone, including Americans, to learn English and U.S. History. Bachmann said immigration worked through the 1950s, before the rules changed. Cain wants the federal immigration issue to be given to the states. Huntsman said two of his seven children were from India and China, and he saw the issue through their eyes. He wants legal immigration fixed. Paul said states should not be forced to provide benefits for illegal aliens.

BUDGET & FEDERAL RESERVE: Perry wants a Balanced Budget Amendment, saying the Keynesian approach is dead.  Romney said the Fed pumped too much money into the economy. Gingrich would fire Fed chair tomorrow and audit the agency.

TAXES: Cain came up with a wild proposal to increase sales taxes to 9%, even though it’s regressive and disproportionate as to the poor. He was questioned about a corporation that earned 14 billion, but paid no taxes. Hunstman would make no tax pledge Romney said all should pay taxes and wanted dividends tax free.

RETIREMENT: Romney said we must save Social Security, not abolish it. Perry said it was a Ponzi Scheme, wrong from the very beginning, and it needed change. It’s a lie, he said, to tell young people they will receive benefits some day. Cain wanted to set up private accounts with personal names on them.

HEALTH CARE: Romney said those without insurance simply went to emergency rooms, forcing taxpayers to pay. He promised waivers from the new law to states who wanted them. Perry was asked why 25% in Texas had no health insurance and ranked dead last. People don’t want mandates, he said, as he suggested Medicare block grants for the states. Bachmann claimed “Obamacare” regulations (which haven’t taken effect yet), are “killing jobs.” She said the law took over one-sixth of the economy and hard work is needed to repeal it. Cain said insurance mandates are unconstitutional. Gingrinch said they all want to repeal the law. Huntsman, out in front of the curve, asked how they would solve the issue once the existing law was repealed.

ENERGY POLICY: Romney suggested developing oil, gas and nuclear power. Huntsman said gas prices are determined in the market and government cannot dictate them. The true cost of gas, he said, includes government spending to keep the Persian Gulf sea lanes open. Bachmann said a gallon of gas was $1.79 when Obama took office and we needed energy jobs in America. She was asked to explain her suggestion to drill in the Everglades. Gingrich would drill in Alaska. Perry thought climate change was not science.

FEMA: Paul said it didn’t exist before 1979. He would let private airlines take over the TSA.

EDUCATION: Gingrich would give Pell Grants to kindergarten through 12th grade. Huntsman said Republicans cannot be anti-science. On poverty, Santorum said he reduced it through welfare reform, and wanted to eliminate the dependency culture.

DEATH PENALTY: Perry received great applause from the partisan audience as he said Americans support capital punishment, and he slept well after executing more prisoners than any other state.

As to their fitness to serve, Huntsman, a former governor and ambassador, said he served 4 presidents: Reagan, Bush I, Bush II and Obama, and only he would be able to attract independents.

09/07/2011

Religulous By Bill Maher: Worth Viewing

Bill Maher’s movie Religulous was on last night, and as expected it was funny, but also a serious political commentary on religion.

Maher had a Jewish mother and Catholic father, who sent him to a parochial school, when the church was going through the great questioning and change of the 1960s. Like millions, Bill quit the church, as it failed to answer his basic questions. He is now an Agnostic, who freely admits he has absolutely no idea why he exists.

Religion can be broken down into two groups, the supernatural school, and those who do good things on earth. Maher left alone those who feed the poor, take care of the sick, and educate the illiterate. He instead unleashed his fury on the supernatural.

MARY: Bill mocked the idea Mary was impregnated by a Holy Ghost, and had an Immaculate Conception.

JESUS: He questioned what we know about Jesus, first mentioned in Gospels written hundreds of years after he died, by men who never met him. He reminded us there are no eye-witness accounts of his life. He asked why god’s only son would voluntarily go on a “suicide mission.”

BIBLE: Bill made fun of fictitious or exaggerated Biblical stories, like the tale of Jonah, who lived inside a whale for three days. Creation was also said to be obviously incorrect, since scientists proved the earth is far more than 5,000 years old.

OTHER HOLY BOOKS: The story of Christ, Maher noted, appears to have been plagiarized, as it is oddly the same as Krishna of India, the Persian Mithra, and an Egyptian god.

EVOLUTION Bill asked how anyone could believe the Bible’s account of Creation, since all credible scientists agree man evolved from the ape. Even Pope John Paul accepted evolution.

GOD: If there is a good god: Why would he have allowed the Holocaust? Bill said the notion of a god is as ridiculous as Santa.

PRAYER: Maher challenges those who communicate with an Almighty. The idea Moses talked to god on a mountain through a burning bush is crazy. Many who hear god’s voice just before a homicide are mentally ill. The Lord is not really speaking to them. If you pray for rain, and it happens, it is coincidence, Maher said.

DEVIL: If god is all powerful, why doesn’t he destroy the devil?

HEAVEN/HELL: We don’t know what happens when we die. Why believe in a theory that suggests you may roast in hell?

BELIEFS: Why is faith good? He questioned those certain of their beliefs. People have religion, because they were born into it; they have always had it. Why do they not question the existence of god? Why do they refuse to discuss religion in an intelligent way?

SCIENCE: Bill said religion is not based on science, as it came about during an era when people thought the world was flat. While the scriptures were written between 2,000 BC and 200 AD, modern science has only been around the past 500 years.

FEAR: The movie showed many believed based on nothing more than unfounded fears. Several asked Bill: What if you are wrong? It is this fear of being wrong that keeps them within the flock.

POLITICS: The biggest problem is mixing religion and politics. Maher criticized conservatives who pander to religion in debates, or while campaigning. He worries about preachers who say it’s time for God’s people to vote. He fears those who want a Christian nation, even though Ben Franklin, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson had serious doubts about organized religion. Maher laments the fact that non-believers, who constitute 16% of the public, and form a substantial minority, are largely ignored.

10 COMMANDMENTS: Except for “do not steal” and “do not kill,” Maher challenged the usefulness of the 10 Commandments.

GAYS: Bill attacked the treatment of gays in the Old Testament. He doubts a good god, who made them gay in the first place, would hate his own creation. Jesus never spoke of gays at all, he said. There is no reason for Christians to be hostile towards them.

CAUSE OF WAR: The biggest problem is the destruction and death ravaged upon human kind over the years in the name of religion. He concludes religion is an irrational danger, and we need to either grow up, or risk death in another religious war.

09/06/2011

Draft Is No Answer To Contractor Army

President Bush’s privatization of the military through the use of independent contractors led to cost-control failures and billions in waste, fraud, and abuse, and though his cost-prohibitive Contractor Army must now come to an end, the alternative is not a military draft; the answer is to withdraw from our foreign wars.

The military draft, last used durnig the Vietnam War, came under increasing attack, between 1965 and 1973, as monthly quotas escalated, and many argued the Selective Service was unfair.

Of the millions who came of age during the war, whether in college or not, 32% did not serve, because they were 4-F, which meant physically or mentally unfit. Married men, and those with children, also avoided conscription. The burden of military service fell largely upon those who were single and physically-fit.

One popular myth was that all college students were completely exempt from the draft. While it is true they received “2-S” deferments in the early years, as long as they studied full-time and maintained good grades, 56% served after their deferments expired, a number that compares favorably to the non-college-bound group, from which only 46% joined the military.

When President Nixon arrived, college 2-S deferment were eliminated and local draft boards were replaced by a military draft lottery that exempted no one. The 1st lottery, on Dec. 1, 1969, for men born from 1944 to 1950, led to 162,746 draftees in 1970. A 2nd lottery, on July 1, 1970, for those born in 1951, took 94,092 in 1971. A 3rd lottery, on Aug. 5, 1971, for men born in 1952, summoned 49,514 in 1972. A 4th lottery, on Feb. 2, 1972, for those born in 1953, called hundreds more before the U.S. withdrew from Vietnam in 1973, and Congress ended the draft.

The real problem with the draft was not the exemption of the unfit, or the grant of deferments to fathers, married men, or college students; it was the denial of liberty to draftees. It was the further insult of giving them only a relatively small sum in combat pay to engage in the most hideous of acts. If market forces had determined their pay in Vietnam, the cost would have been just a prohibitive as it is today, under the Contractor Army created by George W. Bush.

The answer to the problem of the extremely expensive Contractor Army in Afghanistan and Iraq is not to return to conscription, for if draftees received market rates, they too would have to be paid what the Contractor Army now takes, and the U.S. would still be on the verge of bankruptcy. The answer is not to force young men into service for a pittance; it is to end our foreign entanglements.

09/05/2011

Labor Day Laws Deserve Support Of All

Before the Industrial Revolution, small farmers and their helpers negotiated face-to-face over conditions of employment, but as factories opened in cites, people took jobs with big companies, where terms were dictated by bosses, on a take it or leave it basis.

To respond to the one-sidedness of big business, American labor unions started to organize around 1850. The Knights of Labor formed in 1869. With a growing national labor movement, the U.S. Labor Dept. was created in 1884.

The deadly Haymarket Riot broke out in Chicago in 1886 when the police broke up a union meeting. Workers in Pennsylvania died at a steel mill strike in 1892. The Pullman Railroad Union strike ended violently in 1894, as federal troops used weapons.

More than 1.75 million children under the age of 16 were working in U.S. factories in 1908. 25% of the cotton mills in the South employed children, 200,000 of whom were under the age of 12.

When the Stock Market crashed in 1929, the Great Depression gave momentum to unions, as the political tide turned, and pro-labor legislation finally passed in Washington, DC in the 1930s.

Labor’s first objective was to stop the courts and police from breaking up strikes. The Norris-LaGuardia Act (1932) prohibited federal judges from issuing injunctions against unions, while non-violent strikes, or labor disputes, were in progress. Contracts in which employees had to agree not to join a union were outlawed.

The Wagner Act (NLRA) (1935) was next, as it made it illegal for management to interfere with union organizing, and protected the right to strike. If a majority of workers voted for union representation, they became the exclusive bargaining agent for all. Management had to engage in good faith collective bargaining with unions, and had to at least talk about wages, overtime pay, seniority, hours, discipline, terminations, insurance, and other topics. The National Labor Relations Board enforced labor laws. If a collective bargaining contract defined the hiring of strikebreakers as an unfair labor practice, striking workers had a right to return to their jobs, after the strike ended.

The Social Security Act (1935) created a federal retirement program, where employees paid .062 of each check into the Retirement Trust Fund and employers contributed matching sums.

The Federal Unemployment Tax Act (1935) required employers to pay unemployment taxes to the federal government, as states also collected taxes to be used when employees were laid off.

The Fair Labor Standards Act (1938) set minimum wages and overtime rates. It required time and a half for employees who worked more than 40 hours a week.

The Republican Taft-Hartley Act (1947), required unions to also bargain in good faith, and outlawed closed shops, which made union membership a condition of employment. Although union shops, where workers had to join a union after they were employed, were not barred, states were allowed to pass so-called right to work laws that gave employees the ability to avoid union dues, by making union shops illegal at the state level. Anti-union right-to-work laws now exist in many states.

The Landrum-Griffin Act (1959) established democratic procedures such as secret ballots for union elections and required unions to report on how union dues were spent.

The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) (1970) created safer workplace conditions.

The Employment Retirement Security Act (ERISA) (1974) arose from pension abuse, where payments disappeared as it was time to collect. The law vested pensions by making them the property of the worker, which meant they could not be taken away.

The COBRA Act (1985) gave terminated workers 60 days to continue group health insurance plans, provided they paid the premiums. The Health Insurance Portability & Accountability Act (HIPPA) (1996) improved portability and continuity by requiring health insurance companies to renew group policies, if requested.

All of these laws improved life for millions of laborers and helped create a Middle Class. On Labor Day, all should remember they were enacted for good reasons and still deserve the ongoing support of all, including the most recent crowd of right-wing Republicans who would repeal them, if they could.

09/02/2011

Military Privatization Led to Great Waste

The Commission on Wartime Contracting concluded that at least 31 billion, and possibly as much as 60 billion appropriated by Congress for the American wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, over the past 10 years, was lost to contract waste, fraud, and abuse.

Unlike previous conflicts, where the U.S. used uniformed military units, with strict chains of command, and established budgetary procedures, President George W. Bush instead employed independent contractors to privatize operations in the field, resulting in massive cost-control failures. He avoided expanding the armed forces, because a draft would have been needed to fill their ranks, which would have turned Americans against his wars.

Now, the U.S. wastes billions on private security companies in situations where military personnel could have been used. Contractors now represent more than half of the U.S. presence in Iraq and Afghanistan. The number of contract employees used by the Defense Dept., State Dept., and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) exceeds 260,000. 46,000 Americans and 214,000 Iraqi and Afghan nationals are employed. In some areas, independent contractors outnumber the U.S. troops in the field.

The basic problem with the use of so many private contractors is mismanagement. As the number of contractors increased, but the size of the agencies charged with overseeing them remained flat, the ability to manage budgets deteriorated. Government agencies simply lack the staff to manage the greater number of contractors.

It does not take a rocket scientist to know that private contractors are going to soak the government for every dollar they can take, and someone needs to stop them from ripping us off. The problem is the profit motive is not being offset by taxpayer watchdogs. In the rush to war, there was a lack of competitive bidding, and once contracts were awarded, it was just too easy to renew them.

Much of the waste, fraud, and abuse, stems from contractors doing too much. There was poor planning before Bush started his wars, and the U.S. did not understand the needs of the host countries, or their long-term development goals. Many projects were ill-conceived, and are now abandoned, or not maintained.

The Commission reported: “poor planning, management, and oversight of contracts, led to massive waste.” They recommend a phase out of the private contractors. It is time to dismember Bush’s Contractor Army. It is simply too expensive as compared to the military, whose soldiers and Marines have fixed pay grades.

09/01/2011

Overpaid CEOs Spells Mismanagement

A story in the Wis. State Journal on Aug. 28 entitled: “Hospital Leaders Pay Too High?” said: 1) the orthopedics chair at the UW Medical Foundation receives just over $1 million annually; 2) the CEO of the UW Medical Foundation is paid $708,963; 3) the UW Hospital CEO enjoys a salary of $689,585; and 4) the Dean of the UW Medical School earns $539,389. Eight others were listed who received similar compensation packages.

High paid positions generally mean there is something seriously wrong with management. With private corporations, it causes shareholders and/or consumers to unfairly subsidize the large pay. With government, taxpayers foot the bill.

Under normal economic conditions, wages are set in the market, in accordance with supply and demand curves. Wages go up where the demand for workers cannot be met by the existing supply. Wages remain flat, or go down, where the supply of available workers exceeds the demand.

Since the supply of available qualified candidates for most executive positions, like Chief Executive Officer (CEO), generally exceeds demand, there is usually no economic reason to pay such large salaries. The problem is Human Resources either sets the qualifications unnecessarily high, or they fail to seriously negotiate compensation. They are not trying to pay the least.

If Human Resources narrowed the field to five or so qualified candidates, and then confidentially asked each what salary they would be willing to accept, they could then start bidding down to find the market price. If someone wanted $500,000, but there was another equally qualified candidate willing to work for $400,000, and yet another willing to serve for $300,000, substantial sums could be saved by the shareholders and/or taxpayers.

It is hard to imagine a qualified person cannot be found at less than $1 million dollars, no matter what the job description. What high pay means is market forces are not being utilized, funds are being squandered, and ironically the organization in question needs a new Chief Executive Officer, because it is mismanaged.