Archive for January, 2012

01/31/2012

Housing: What Are “Freddie” & “Fannie?”

FANNIE MAE: CREATED IN 1938 IN GREAT DEPRESSION: The U.S. government enacted the National Housing Act (NHA) in 1934, during the Great Depression, with a goal of making home mortgages more affordable. “Fannie Mae,” the Federal National Mortgage Association (FNMA), was formed under a 1938 amendment.

SECONDARY MORTGAGE MARKET INCREASED LOANS: As local banks had consumers sign Notes and Mortgages, they promptly turned around, and assigned their paperwork to Fannie Mae, in consideration for cash, so they could make even more loans, thereby increasing the level of home ownership. Fannie’s practice of buying mortgages from local lenders became known as the “secondary mortgage market.”

FANNIE WAS PRIVATIZED IN 1968: The Congress changed the nature of Fannie Mae in 1950 from a purely governmental agency, to a “mixed ownership corporation,” by allowing private investors to purchase their common stock. To completely remove Fannie Mae from the federal budget, it was converted in 1968 to a private corporation, with the authority to buy “private mortgages.”

“FREDDIE MAC” WAS FORMED IN 1970: Mortgages backed by government agencies, such as the FHA, VA, and FmHA, fell under the control of a new agency, known as Ginnie Mae, the Government National Mortgage Association. In 1970, it became part of the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (FHLMC), commonly known as “Freddie Mac.”

MORTGAGES STARTED BEING SOLD AS SECURITIES: Private mortgages were sold and assigned to Fannie Mae, while government-backed paper was sent to Freddie Mac. Although Fannie no longer had a government guarantee, they still enjoyed a line of credit from the U.S. Treasury. Fannie and Freddie both started re-selling their mortgages as securities.

FANNIE ASSUMED GREATER RISK UNDER 1992 LAW: The Housing and Community Development Act of 1992, signed into law by President George H. W. Bush, was intended to make financing more affordable for low and moderate income people. While Freddie Mac maintained their traditional high standards, Fannie started taking risks in the sub-prime market in the 1990s.

EASY CREDIT FOR MORTGAGE LOANS: In the past, borrowers had to put up to 20% down and present tax returns and other documents that showed they were credit worthy. Lenders started bypassing traditional qualifying income documentation, and no longer insisted on down-payments.

VARIABLE INTEREST RATES DOOMED NOTES TO FAIL: Notes were drafted for short-term gain, by taking “interest only,” meaning borrowers would never pay off their mortgages. “Variable interest rates” were used instead of “fixed rates,” which allowed monthly payments to be increased at later dates to levels lenders knew, or should have known, borrowers could not afford.

FANNIE AND FREDDIE CONSUMED HALF OF MARKET: Fannie became the largest purchaser of risky mortgages sold by Countrywide Financial. Fannie and Freddie either owned or guaranteed about 5 trillion of debt.

MORTGAGE-BACKED SECURITIES TRADING GREW: Around 2003 and 2004, when evidence of a sub-prime mortgage crisis began to emerge, the market nevertheless continued trading in Mortgage-Backed Securities (MBS).

HIGHER INTEREST RATES LED TO FORECLOSURES: When higher amounts were charged under “adjustable rate mortgages,” borrowers with poor credit ratings, and no money down, simply walked away from properties in what became a foreclosure crisis.

FORECLOSURES CAUSED HOUSING PRICES TO DROP: Foreclosures and an excess housing supply, caused prices to drop, and they have remained down since then, because few now qualify for loans under traditional lending standards requiring down-payments, employment, and good credit ratings.

CONSERVATOR TOOK OVER FREDDIE & FANNIE: Freddie and Fannie were placed under a conservatorship by the Federal Housing Finance Agency in Sep. 2008. Their stocks, trading at less than $1 a share, dropped off the NYSE in 2010. The Federal Reserve has been granting low interest loans to Fannie and Freddie, which are estimated to ultimately cost the federal government between 224 and 360 billion.

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01/30/2012

Gingrich Supporters Show Racism

At a rally today in Sarasota, one day before the Florida primary, as a Gingrich spokesperson encouraged a crowd to send President Obama back to Chicago, they started chanting “Kenya, Kenya, Kenya,” as if Obama could somehow return to a place he had not come from.

Let me spell out a couple of fundamental facts for the benefit of Newt’s illiterate friends, who do not know how to read. I know it is confusing for them, but President Barack Hussein Obama did not, I repeat, did not, come from Kenya. He was born in Hawaii, in 1961. Hawaii was a U.S State when he was born. This means our President was born in the United States, not Kenya. It means he did not come from Kenya.

Normally, educated people simply ignore comments from idiots and other knuckleheads, like those in Newt’s Florida crowd, but on reflection, we should not remain silent. If we say nothing, while slanderous racially-motivated comments are made, we commit the sin of omission, by doing nothing, like those who remained silent as Hitler rose to power in the 193os, in Nazi Germany.

The ignorance and racism motivating the Gingrich crowd deserves push back. No one would have suggested sending President George W. Bush back to England, where his ancestors came from. No one would have chanted in favor of sending President John F. Kennedy to Ireland. No one would have dared suggest sending President Dwight Eisenhower back to Germany, where his family tree can be traced.

This whole Kenya thing is not veiled racism; it’s obvious racism. Next time some fool suggests sending President Obama “back” to Kenya, give them a piece of your mind. If Gingrich supporters choose to remain ignorant, by failing to read, or learning how to read, it is the obligation of the rest of us to use our voices, so they may perhaps hear true facts. We have the obligation to put an end to their defamatory racist slander.

01/29/2012

Republican Debate: Florida (1-26-12)

ROMNEY’S TAXES: Gingrich said Romney owns shares of Goldman Sachs and lives in a world of Swiss and Cayman Island bank accounts. He said he did not “know of any American president who had had a Swiss bank account.” Romney, who all along has said he is a great money manager, said “my investments are not made by me.” They have “for the last 10 years have been in a blind trust, managed by a trustee.” His trustee invests in mutual funds and bonds, he said, and not in stocks. When Gingrich said Romney made a million dollars off of stock in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, Romney denied it. He said his trustee loaned money to Freddie and Fannie and received interest, like from U.S. savings bonds. His trustee diversified investments and reported the money held in Swiss accounts to the U.S. and he paid U.S. taxes on it. Romney repeated he did not inherit money and claimed to have earned it. He said his taxes and charitable contributions took about 40% of his income.

ROMNEY’S PARTY: Gingrich claims Romney voted for Democrat Paul Tsongas in 1992, and when he ran against Kennedy in 1994, he said he was an “independent” who did not want to go back to the Reagan-Bush era. Romney said he never voted for a Democrat when there was a Republican on the ballot.

FOREIGN POLICY: Paul rejects a foreign policy that says we must be the policeman of the world. He opposes nation-building.

PUERTO RICO: Santorum was asked whether Puerto Rico should become a state. He said he believes in “self-determinism” and Puerto Ricans should decide for themselves.

CUBA: Paul said the sanctions against Cuba backfired and caused the Cuban people to rally behind Castro. The Cold War is over, and they are not going to invade us, he said. Romney said he will help the people of Cuba enjoy freedom when Fidel Castro is dead. He thinks Obama has ignored Cuba and Venezuela, and wants more trade with Colombia and Panama. Santorum opposes liberalizing trade or travel with Cuba.

LATIN AMERICA: Paul opposes dictating to Latin Americans what governments they should have. He said Santorum’s definition of standing up for Latin America means supporting dictators and undermining governments through the use of money. Santorum thinks Iran and the jihadists want to set up training camps in Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela. He opposes Latin American leaders Chavez, Noreiga, and Morales. He accused Obama of hanging our friends out to dry for 3 years in Colombia, and of standing with Chavez and Castro, instead of the people of Honduras. He denied wanting to use force in Latin America.

PALESTINE: All of the Republicans pandered to the Jewish vote in Florida. There is no peace between Israel and Palestine, Romney said, because he believes all Hamas wants to do is eliminate Israel and teach people to kill Jews. He incorrectly believes Palestinians do not want a two-state solution. He found fault with Obama for rightfully castigating Israel for illegally building settlements in Palestine in violation of international law. He showed ignorance on this subject by faulting Obama for suggesting a return to the 1967 borders. In an incredible statement, he said thought it was Obama who “disrespected” Netanyahu, when in fact it was Netanyahu who ungratefully and inappropriately lectured our U.S. President. Gingrich continued to defend his prior ignorant statement that Palestinians are an “invented people,” as he stated a belief that they are Syrian, Lebanese, Egyptian or Jordanian, but not Palestinian. He thinks Obama undermined Israel. He would provoke greater tensions by moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel-Aviv to Jerusalem.

MILITARY: Gingrich promised to make Jacksonville, Florida the home of a nuclear aircraft carrier battle group.

SPACE: Gingrich wants six or seven space launches a day. He reminded us when Kennedy said in May 1961: “We will go to the moon in this decade,” no American had even orbited the earth, and the technology didn’t even exist. He wants to give out prizes like the $25,000 Lindbergh received for flying to Paris. He asked: Does the Washington NASA office just sit around and think about space? 90% of those employed under his space plan would come from the private sector. He would get NASA out of the rocket business. Santorum wants young people involved in math and science, but said promising new space programs, when we are borrowing 40 cents on the dollar, is not responsible. Romney accused Gingrich of pandering, by telling NASA workers what they want to hear. He believes in a vibrant and strong space program, but described Gingrich’s plan to put a permanent colony on the moon, as an “enormous expense.” He would fire someone who wanted to spend a few billion dollars on it. He wants a space program related to commercial products. Paul would vote for only that part of the space program that supports national defense. The only things he would send to the moon are “some politicians.”

TRADE: Paul supports free trade in Latin America, including Cuba. Gingrich said the Jacksonville seaport has to be expanded, because the Panama Canal is being widened.

IMMIGRATION: Santorum wants to enforce the immigration laws we have. We need legal immigration he said, to keep our population growing. The first act of responsible immigrants is to obey our laws, and then continue respecting them. He would use the employer E-verify system to enforce immigration. He speculated illegals steal Social Security numbers (who says they are not paid cash under the table, and use no SS number at all). Gingrich pledged to control the border by Jan. 1, 2014. He would fix the visa system to make it easier to come and go. He wants to make deportation easier. He doubts grandmothers would self-deport and would not enter church sanctuaries to deport those who sought shelter. He said Miami has 94 languages, and wants English as the official one, adding everyone should learn it to get jobs. He denied calling Spanish a ghetto language. Romney said the problem with illegals is they take jobs legal residents would like, put their kids in school districts that can’t afford them, and get free health care, because emergency rooms must provide it. He favors work permits and identification cards, an E-verify system, and severe sanctions against employers who hire illegals, so those unable to find work will self-deport. He would not round up people or deport the 11 million illegally in this country. He said his father was born in Mexico. (Since the Constitution limits the Presidency to “natural born” citizens, how was his father able to run for President in 1967?) Romney wants English as the official language and schools to provide English immersion classes. Paul said resentment towards illegals goes up when the economy is down. Businesses are now looking for workers, but can’t find them. We worry about the Afghan and Pakistan borders too much, Paul said, and not enough about our own.

JOBS: Romney said there is 9.9% unemployment in Florida, but it is really 18%. Lowering corporate taxes would get people back to work, he said.

FINANCE: Paul said the Middle Class is losing their jobs and houses, but Wall Street got bailouts. He wants to bring back the gold standard, since it is mentioned in the Constitution.

HOUSING: Paul said, after the crash, the bad paper should have been auctioned off and sold, and it would have been cleansed by now. The problem was caused by excessive credit and interest rates that were too low for too long. The Community Reinvestment Act is affirmative action, he said, which tells banks to make risky loans. The line of credit from the Fed to Freddie and Fannie should have been cut. Romney said Fannie and Freddie are a big part of the housing crisis. They caused a housing bubble that collapsed, and are still offering mortgages to people who can’t afford them. Santorum wrote a letter in 2006 with 24 Senators warning of a meltdown as they requested reforms of Freddie and Fannie. He said we need to decrease the amount of mortgage that can be financed by Freddie. Gingrich said he told Republicans in July 2008 to deny money to Freddie and Fannie.

ENVIRONMENT: Gingrich said the Everglades Restoration Project must be completed.

HEALTH CARE: Santorum said medical savings accounts would get consumers involved in the cost of health care. He reminded voters that Romney and Gingrich supported the individual mandate, and if they are nominated, the issue will be forfeited to Obama. He claims people in Mass are now opting to be fined, because the cost of health insurance is too high. Paul said health care is a greater priority than going to the moon. Health insurance should be affordable for individuals, he said, so employed or not, they can have it. He claims the cost of medicine went up, because the government distorted that sector of the economy, and pumped money into it. He repeated his unfounded belief that before Medicare and Medicaid, nobody was on the streets without health care. Gingrich said the system that existed in the early 1960s was fundamentally less expensive. Romney said it doesn’t make sense to lose your health insurance if you lose your job. He insisted on personal responsibility in Mass to end free riders. He distinguished his plan from Obama’s, saying the President’s cuts Medicare 500 billion, and raises taxes 500 billion.

BUDGET: After Gingrich repeated his claim he balanced budgets four times in the 1990s, Paul pointed out the National Debt actually went up by a trillion dollars in those years, because money was taken from the Social Security Trust Fund. He said neither Reagan nor Gingrich had balanced budgets, as the National Debt went up. Santorum said we must get our financial house in order.

TAXES: Santorum opposes a 0% capital gains tax, saying guys like Romney wouldn’t pay much at all. He theorized when tax rates increase, the rate of return decreases, leading to investments in non-taxable instruments. He said a 28% top bracket was good enough for Reagan, and is good enough for him. His lower bracket would be 10%. Gingrich was asked why under his tax plan he would let someone like Romney pay nothing, and Gingrich said he wants everyone to pay 15%. Paul favors getting rid of the 16th Amendment, which allows income taxes, and said we also would have to get rid of the warfare and welfare systems.

RELIGION: Romney thinks our nation is based on Judeo-Christian ethics. He would seek the guidance of providence in making critical decisions. When the Founders drafted the Declaration of Independence, he said, they referred to being endowed with certain inalienable rights. Gingrich would seek guidance from God. He thinks there is an aggressive war being fought by secular elites in the news media and in the judiciary, against the Christian religion. Santorum actually believes the Constitution exists “to do one thing: protect God-given rights” and said our rights are “god-given rights and not government-given rights”

01/27/2012

Republican Debate: Florida (1-23-12)

FOREIGN POLICY: Paul said Gingrich would have to change his foreign policy to gain his support. He believes it is not the role of the federal government to be the policeman of the world.

AFGHAN: Romney thinks the War in Afghanistan can be ended, not by talking to the Taliban, but by beating them.

CUBA: Paul opposes a military overthrow of Cuba. We propped up Castro for 40 years, Paul said, by imposing sanctions, which gave him the ability to blame everything on the U.S. He reminded everyone he was drafted in 1962 at the height of the Cold War, but it’s not 1962 anymore and the Cold War is over. We now talk to Russia, China, and Vietnam and have trade with them, so why not Cuba? Romney thinks it is dangerous to open travel with Cuba now, but if Castro died, he would work with a new Cuban leader to move them in an open direction. Gingrich favors aggressively overthrowing the Cuban regime. He accused Obama of being infatuated with the Arab Spring, but ignoring a Cuban Spring. Santorum tried to distinguish Cuba from China, by saying the Cuban island is only 90 miles away. He would continue sanctions against Cuba. He would wait until the Castro brothers died. He believes jihadists and Iranians are excited to establish a platform 90 miles off our coast in Cuba, Venezuela, or Nicaragua.

IRAN: Paul does not think Iran will close the Straits of Hormuz, because they need them open as much as we do. He said it is our blockade that would make Iran close the Straits. A blockade is the act of war, he said, and closing the Straits would be retaliation. Americans certainly do not want a hot war in Iran right now. He asked, what would we do if someone blockaded the Gulf of Mexico? Romney said we need opens seas and if Iran shut down the Straits of Hormuz, it would be an act of war. Gingrich said America has no appetite for war, but we didn’t have one when Pearl Harbor was bombed or the World Trade Center was destroyed either. He accused Obama of cancelling a military exercise with Israel, so as not to be provocative. Santorum said Obama does not see the threat Iran poses, not just to Israel, but the entire world. He argued they held hostages, attacked our ships and embassies, and made improvised explosive devices (IEDs) to harm our troops.

MILITARY: Romney believes we are shrinking our Navy. He again repeated the ridiculous assertion that it is now smaller than at any time since 1917. He wants to increase shipbuilding from 9 ships a year to 15. He wants a carrier in the Gulf. We need to be so strong, he said, so they could never defeat us.

SPACE: Romney thinks space exploration should be a priority for science and military development. Gingrich wants a series of space stations built. He wants to offer prizes for going into orbit.

ENGLISH LANGUAGE: Gingrich was asked: Why is it alright to court votes using Spanish TV ads, but not ok for government to serve people using it? Gingrich said there are 86 languages in Miami-Dade County, and 200 in Chicago. We need a central language to unify the country. Romney said Mass allowed teachers to teach in their native languages, and students ended up not speaking English very well. He pushed English language emersion. People must learn English, he said, to be successful in the U.S. Paul said for national business, we need one language, but states should be allowed to accommodate local needs.

IMMIGRATION: Gingrich favors allowing aliens to earn citizenship through military service. Romney favors self-deportation, which is what he thinks they will do if they do not have proper employment documents. Santorum said people are returning home now, because there are no jobs. He speculates they steal Social Security numbers to get work. Someone who came here illegally, he said, is continually breaking our laws. If you want to come to America, respect our laws, Santorum said.

JOBS: Romney again claimed to help create thousands of jobs at Staples, Bright Horizons, the Sports Authority, and Steel Dynamics. Gingrich was asked why the Bush tax cuts have not created jobs. He speculated things would have been worse.

OLYMPICS: Someone please tell Romney to stop mentioning his work on the Olympics, as if it was some great achievement. Who cares if he was in charge of the Olympics? It’s not important.

VULTURE CAPITALISM: Santorum said there is constructive capitalism and destructive capitalism.

FINANCE: Santorum asked Romney and Gingrich why they supported the Wall Street bailout if they believe in capitalism. Why not let destructive capitalism work, he asked? He said financial institutions should have been allowed to go bankrupt. Why prop them up through government? Romney said the derivatives market was not being regulated. Gingrich said Dodd-Frank allowed the biggest banks to get even bigger. He said regulators are walking into banks and telling them not to lend money.

FED: To placate Ron Paul, Gingrich discussed the formation of a commission to bring back the gold standard.

AGRICULTURAL SUBSIDIES: Gingrich was asked if he would do away with subsidies for the sugar industry, and get rid of import quotas that protect them. He said the industry was real good at protecting themselves. Romney would eliminate subsidies and let the markets work properly.

ENERGY: Santorum was asked if off-shore oil drilling was worth it. He believes it is essential to build the Keystone Pipeline and gain oil from domestic sources. Pipelines are safer than off-shore.

ENVIRONMENT: Paul would continue federal financing to protect the Everglades. Santorum said Romney believed in global warming enough to sign a cap on CO2 emissions in Mass.

HOUSING: Paul said interest rates were kept too low for too long. He said he introduced legislation 10 years before the bubble burst to end the line of credit to Freddie and Fannie. The Community Reinvestment Act forced banks to make even more risky loans. Our policy has been to try to keep home prices up, but they should be allowed to fall. We have to liquidate the debt, Paul said. They should have gone bankrupt, and the bad debt would have been wiped off the books. As long as we keep the debt on the books, we are not going to grow. Gingrich told Republicans in July 2008 to deny Freddie Mac any money, because they needed reform. Romney accused Gingrich of failing to speak out against what Freddie Mac was doing. Santorum was asked about the 40% of homeowners in Florida whose homes are underwater and the 53% whose homes are worth less today than before the crisis. He was asked if it was too easy to own a home. He said the Democrats fought a reform of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. He said we have to let capitalism work and allow banks to realize their losses. He would allow homeowners a tax deduction for their losses. Romney thinks Dodd-Frank makes it harder for banks to renegotiate mortgages and is killing the residential home market.

LOBBYING: Romney said Gingrich was paid 1.6 million by the chief lobbyist of Freddie Mac to influence Congress. He received $25,000 per month, or $300,000 a year, for services for Freddie Mac. Gingrich said he was paid for consulting, not lobbying. Romney reminded Gingrich he first said he was paid to be a historian. Gingrich said his share for three offices was $35,000. Romney said Gingrich spent 15 years on K Street influence peddling. Romney reminded viewers 84 ethics charges were filed against Gingrich and 88% of the Republicans in the House voted to reprimand him, causing him to resign in disgrace in 1998.

HEALTH CARE: Gingrich said he always favored a stronger Medicare program and favored Medicare Part D. The government would not pay for insulin, but they would cover kidney dialysis. They would not pay for Lipitor, but would cover open heart surgery. It was a terrible way to run Medicare, he said. Santorum said Romney’s health care plan in Mass was the basis for Obamacare, and Gingrich supported the individual mandate for 20 years. Romney said his health care plan, chosen by the people in Mass, is the one the Constitution allows us to have. He then said he opposes a federal mandate.

BUDGET: Gingrich thinks he balanced four federal budgets in the 1990s. He apparently forgot that they came about because Bill Clinton was President, and a democratically controlled Senate voted, without any Republican support, to make it happen.

TAXES: Romney said he paid a lot of taxes and not a penny more than required. He wants to eliminate taxes on interest, dividends and capital gains for those earning less than $200,000. He wants the highest corporate income tax lowered to 25%.  Gingrich called his 15% flat tax proposal a “Romney Tax.” He wants everyone to pay the level paid by Romney. In an inconsistent way, he said he would lower capital gains taxes to zero. Romney responded saying his tax liability would have been zero in that case. Romney refused to follow his father’s example of releasing 12 years of tax returns.

LIFE SUPPORT/DEATH: Santorum was asked if government should get involved in disputes like the 2005 case between the spouse of Terri Shaivo and her parents over removing feeding tubes. Non-lawyer Santorum admitted he asked a “federal” judge to get involved, when such situations are almost always ruled upon in state courts. Non-lawyer Gingrich also argued in favor of federal court intervention, where it clearly does not belong.  Paul correctly said the decision should be made at the state level.

01/26/2012

U.S. States: Having Fun with U.S. Map

ALASKA SHOULD BE SOLD TO CANADA: When Russia sold Alaska to the U.S. in 1867, the only reason Canada didn’t submit a bid was they were not an independent state until later that year. It would make sense now for the U.S. to sell Alaska to Canada, since it was a mistake to make it a state in the first place, as the area is physically separated from the continental 48 by over 1,500 miles, and it’s largely frozen tundra. The only string attached to the deal would be a condition that Canada also take Sarah Palin. While many Canadians would strongly object, seeing it as a deal breaker, they do have schools where she could perhaps learn something, and if they were just too scared about giving her citizenship, they could always require her to take a naturalization test. Any bets on whether Sarah would pass?

(Note: while Hawaii could revert to the independent status it had before we seized it by force, their weather is really too nice to let it go, so let’s not discuss any change of status for the islands).

CALIFORNIA SHOULD BECOME TWO STATES: If we give up Alaska, we need to add a state to get back to 50. California is not only big, ranging 770 miles from north to south, but it also has 38 million people, the largest population of any U.S. State. It should become two states, North California, and South California, split at its geographical center, North Fork, located just north of Fresno. The Constitution allows states to split into two, provided the legislature of the state and the U.S. Congress both consent. See Art. 4, Sec 3 (1) There is precedent, as Maine was severed from Massachusetts, and West Virginia was taken from Virginia.

TEXAS WOULD AGREE TO DUMP ALASKA & DIVIDE CA: Texans should go along with a comprehensive plan to get rid of Alaska, since the Lone Star state would then return to being first in size. The splitting of California into two, would send Texas into first place in population.

TEXAS WAS SUPPOSED TO SPLIT INTO FIVE STATES: To become first in size and population, Texas needs to give up something. When Texas was admitted to the union in 1845, it was granted the right to divide itself into five states. The Joint Resolution annexing Texas, which was approved by Congress on March 1, 1845, and signed by President Polk on Dec. 29, 1845, provides in part: “New states of convenient size, not exceeding four in number, in addition to said State of Texas, and having sufficient population, may hereafter, by the consent of said state, be formed out of the territory thereof, which shall be entitled to admission under the provisions of the Federal Constitution. Since Texas never broke up as envisioned, parts of it should now be given to New Mexico and Oklahoma. It is 529 miles from El Paso, Texas, in the southwest, located under New Mexico, to the capital at Austin, Texas. From Amarillo, Texas, due west of Oklahoma, in the northwest, it is 495 miles to Austin.

TEXAS SHOULD DEED EL PASO SW TO NEW MEXICO: Texas should just draw a line due south along the east border of New Mexico, and deed all lands west of it to New Mexico. They don’t need El Paso anyway, and by transferring more Rick Perry types into New Mexico, that state has a better chance of turning red in elections. This deal would need to be made with the devil, to make up for losing Alaska, and the creation of two Californias.

TEXAS DEEDS THE PANHANDLE AREA TO OKLAHOMA: Texas should also give up the Amarillo area, south of the panhandle, to Oklahoma. Oklahoma really does not need or want to be shaped like a panhandle anyway, because most people now use microwaves, and frying pans are becoming obsolete. Soon, no one will even know what the word “panhandle” means. It is far better for Oklahoma to get rid of a panhandle shape now, by drawing a line due west along their south border to New Mexico.

FLORIDA SHOULD DEED NW COAST TO ALABAMA: Since splitting California into two would move Florida up from third to second largest in population, they would have to give up something to make it happen. Florida spans from Miami in the southeast, north-westerly, along the Gulf of Mexico, to Pensacola, and almost to Mississippi, 700 miles away. The northwest part of Florida blocks most of what would otherwise be Alabama’s gulf coast. The Ellicott-Dunbar Line, along the 31st parallel, divides Alabama, to the north, and Florida to the south. It was drawn in 1795, under a treaty between the U.S. and Spain. As Alabama became a state in 1819, and Florida joined the union in 1845, the boundary continued. To open up more of Alabama to the gulf coast and the world, because frankly their Senators are generally very slow people who need to get out much more, Florida should deed 200 miles of their western gulf coast to Alabama.

MARYLAND SHOULD DEED LAND TO WEST VIRGINIA: Maryland’s northwestern Appalachian Plateau, Ridge and Valley Region, virtually in West Virginia, and connected to the rest of Maryland by just a 1.9 mile mountain strip at Hancock, should be deeded to West Virginia. Why does Maryland have this little sliver of land on the west side of the Appalachian Mountains, when the rest of the state is on the east side of the range? Just deed it to West Virginia already. Get rid of it.

MARYLAND SHOULD RECLAIM WASHINGTON DC: Since Maryland is going to give land to West Virginia, they need to get something in return, to make the deal happen. Although the 23rd Amendment gave the residents of Washington DC the right to vote for President, they still have no Senator or voting member in the House, and to put an end to their legitimate complaints about lacking representation, the district should be deeded to Maryland. The U.S. Constitution, Art. I, Sec 8 (17), gave Congress exclusive jurisdiction over the seat of the U.S. government, in a district not to exceed 10 square miles. Although the district was created in 1791, when Virginia and Maryland gave lands to the federal city, Virginia took their 31 square miles back in 1847, and it would appear Maryland would also has the right to retake their 69 miles, and they should do so. They should make DC a federal enclave.

MICHIGAN DEEDS UPPER PENINSULA TO WISCONSIN: It is 467 miles from Ironwood Michigan, at the Hurley, Wisconsin border on far western end of the Upper Peninsula (UP), to Lansing, the capital of the state, in Lower Michigan. A new line should be drawn from the northernmost end of Door County, Wisconsin, at Washington Island, due north to Lake Superior, such that all Michigan land due north of Wisconsin, is deeded to Wisconsin. The people of the UP, affectionately known as “youppers,” tried to form their own state 40 years ago, but lacked a sufficient population base to get serious consideration. They clearly feel very disconnected from Lower Michigan, and rightly so. Let’s give this slice of Michigan to Wisconsin.

01/25/2012

Obama: 2012 State of Union Speech

IRAQ: For the first time in 9 years, President Obama said, no Americans are fighting in Iraq. He welcomed home the last troops in Dec. 2011, but made the highly questionable comment they made the U.S. safer and more respected around the world.

BIN LADEN: Obama noted Osama bin Laden is dead, and no longer a threat to the U.S. He said most al Qaeda’s top lieutenants are defeated, and those who remain are scrambling.

QADDAFI: Obama reminded us that Libya’s Col. Qaddafi, a long-time dictator, who had U.S. blood on his hands, is also dead.

AFGHANISTAN: Obama said the Taliban’s momentum has been broken. We are winding down the War in Afghanistan, as 10,000 troops already came home, and 23,000 will return this summer.

IRAN: Obama said a world that was once divided on how to deal with Iran’s nuclear program is now united as one, through diplomacy. Iran now faces crippling sanctions and the pressure will not relent. We are determined to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. He said he took “no options off the table to achieve that goal.” A peaceful solution is still possible, he noted.

ISRAEL: Obama said we have an ironclad commitment to Israel’s security–the closest military cooperation in our history.

VETERANS: Obama said he increased annual VA spending every year as President.

TRADE: Obama said it is now getting more expensive to do business in China. Master Lock’s unionized plant in Milwaukee is now running at full capacity and they brought jobs home. He signed trade agreements that gave U.S. firms new customers in Panama, Colombia and South Korea. He filed twice as many trade lawsuits against China, as Bush did. He said it is unfair when subsidies are given to foreign manufacturers, and created a Trade Enforcement Unit to investigate unfair trade by China.

IMMIGRATION: Obama said we have more boots on the ground than ever before and fewer illegal crossings. We should take on illegal immigration, he said, but believes we need comprehensive immigration reform. We should not expel young illegal aliens, he said, who staff our labs, start new businesses, and defend this country. We should give them a chance to earn citizenship.

JOBS: Obama reminded us 4 million lost their jobs in 2008, in the six months before he took office, and another 4 million were laid off before his policies took effect. Businesses have created more than 3 million jobs in the last 22 months and 600,000 will come from the natural gas industry, by the end of the decade.

MANUFACTURING: Obama wants a new generation of high-tech manufacturing. Long before this recession, he said, jobs started leaving our shores. Manufacturing is now creating jobs for the first time since the late 1990s. Our blueprint for jobs includes manufacturing and we should not return to outsourcing.

AUTO: The auto industry, Obama inherited, was on the verge of bankruptcy, but he refused to let it die. Now, GM is once again the world’s number one automaker, Chrysler has grown, and Ford is investing billions in U.S. plants. The industry has now added 160,000 jobs, and we will soon be selling U.S. cars in Korea.

TRANSPORTATION: Obama noted we have crumbling roads and bridges. He noted we built the Golden Gate Bridge during the Great Depression and the Interstate highway system after WWII.

ENERGY: Obama wants us to control our own energy, so we need not depend on the world. During the past 3 years, he said, millions of new acres, including 75% of offshore oil and gas reserves, have opened for oil and gas exploration. Obama noted the development of natural gas from shale rock. Our oil production, he said, is now at its highest production level in 8 years, and we now rely less on foreign oil than at any time in the past 16 years. He said we cannot cede wind, solar, or battery industries to China or Germany. We are poised to become a leading manufacturer of high-tech batteries. Our century-long subsidization and taxpayer giveaway to oil should be ended. He instead wants clean energy tax credits. We should also help manufacturers eliminate energy waste by upgrading buildings.

FINANCE: Obama said he imposed new rules to hold Wall Street accountable, and will not return to the days when they governed themselves. He announced financial institutions are not going to be bailed out ever again. He told mortgage lenders, payday lenders, and credit card companies, the days of deceptive practices are over, and he asked Congress for greater penalties for fraud.

HOUSING: Obama reminded us the housing market collapsed in 2008, because regulators looked the other way, as mortgages were sold to people who could not afford them, by lenders who knew it. This is why we need regulations to prevent financial fraud. We should not wait for the housing market to bottom out before providing relief, but homeowners should be allowed to save on their mortgages now, through refinancing at lower rates.

HEALTH: Obama will not return to the days when health insurance companies could deny coverage or cancel policies. He reminded Republicans that his new health care law relies on the private insurance market, not a government program.

EDUCATION: Obama wants to lead the world in education. Although states have already raised standards for teaching and learning, he asked them to require students remain in high school until they graduate, or turn 18. We should reward the best teachers and should stop teaching to a test. To help 2 million Americans who need new job skills, businesses should work with community colleges to design courses. He said every family should be able to afford college, and universities have to keep their costs under control. He warned them: “If you can’t stop tuition from going up, the funding you get from taxpayers will go down.” Obama wants to stop interest rates on student loans from doubling in July. He would extend tuition tax credits, and double the number of work-study jobs. He asked Congress not to gut federally financed university labs, researching cancer and computer chips.

DEFICIT: Obama said together we cut 2 trillion from the deficit.

TAXES: Obama wants everyone to pay their fair share of taxes. The tax code must be changed so wealthy persons like Congressional members pay their fair share in taxes. 98% of all Americans make under $250,000 per year. 25% of all millionaires pay taxes at a lower rate than millions of middle class households. Warren Buffett pays a lower rate than his secretary. If a person makes more than 1 million a year, you should pay no less than 30%. Folks at the top, he said, have seen their incomes rise like never before, but for most workers, paychecks have not been growing, and their debts are piling up. He asked Congress to extend the payroll tax cut for working Americans.

CORPORATE TAXES: Every multinational corporation should pay a basic minimum tax. Companies should not get tax breaks for moving jobs overseas or be allowed a “moving expense” for outsourcing. We need to change a tax law that hits U.S. corporations with one of the highest tax rates in the world. Manufacturers in America should receive a tax cut. He noted we now provide tax credits to companies that hire veterans, and suggested tax relief for small businesses that raise wages and create good jobs. We need incentives so they relocate in communities that have been hit hard by factories that left town.

WOMEN: Although there is already a federal law that requires equal pay for equal work, Obama said “women should earn equal pay for equal work.”

CAMPAIGN FINANCE: Obama would do something about the corrosive influence of money in politics and called for an end to perpetual campaigns of mutual destruction.

APPOINTMENTS: Obama wants up or down votes on judicial and public service nominations held within 90 days.

AGENCIES: Obama ordered every federal agency to eliminate rules that make no sense.

01/24/2012

Income Tax: All Sources Need Same Rate

Mitt Romney, who disclosed an income of 22 million in 2010, and lawfully paid only 14% in federal taxes, has on the campaign trail repeatedly championed the cause of the upper 1%, by advocating an end all taxes on interest, dividends, and capital gains, which coincidentally were his primary sources of income. If he becomes the Republican nominee, President Obama must fight back for the 99%, by subjecting “all” sources of income to the same 15%, 28%, 33%, and 35% tax rates, applied to ordinary earned income.

Obama must make the case that Romney, who did nothing illegal, should never have been granted a 15% rate in the first place, but should have paid 35% on his investments, and if he had, the government would have collected 7.7 million in taxes from him, instead of just 3 million, and “poor Mitt” would have netted only 14.3 million of new money in 2010, instead of 19 million.

We need to remember that when the 16th Amendment (1913) was ratified nearly 100 years ago, the income tax was intended to tax only the rich. Its original purpose was to collect income from “all” sources, as it stated: “Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived….” Current tax law, consistent with the 16th Amendment, still defines “gross income” as “all income from whatever source derived.” It includes “earned income” from wages, as well as “unearned income” from: 1) Interest; 2) Dividends; 3) Capital Gains; and 4) Rents.

While “earned income,” that is, money which comes from actually getting up in the morning and punching the clock at a typical workplace, is taxed for single people at 25% on sums between $34,501 and $83,601, “unearned income,” made by those who can sip a casual cup coffee while reading the Wall Street Journal at the Polo Club, enjoy a much lower 15% rate. While working people must also pay a 7.65% “payroll tax” to the Social Security retirement and Medicare trust funds, Romney-types, who live off the work of others, contribute nothing to those programs.

The rich, who do not need to work, make most of their money from the following sources:

1) “Interest Income” from state and local municipal bonds has a 0% tax rate and is totally exempt from federal taxes.

2) “Dividends” on stocks held for minimum periods are “qualified” and taxed as long-term capital gains, at just 15%.

3) “Capital Gains,” realized from selling investments, held more than a year, are long-term capital gains, taxed at the low 15% rate.

4) “Rental Income,” received by those who can afford to invest in apartments or office buildings, is usually reduced by interest and depreciation expenses, significantly lowering tax liabilities.

Romney argues people like him cannot pay the 35% rate, because that would kill jobs. If he paid 7.7 million in taxes instead of 3 million, jobs would go away, he argues. But why does it matter if he nets 19 or 14.3 million in one year? The truth is: it doesn’t.

Romney, not only wants direct tax cuts on investments, he would lower corporate income taxes from 35% to 25%, triggering even more “qualified dividends” to be issued to him at the 15% rate.

Romney would also help big banks, and hurt local governments by cutting taxes on interest to 0%. Wealthy investors would shift deposits from tax-free state and local municipal bonds to bank accounts, causing more budget problems for local governments.

Romney thinks reducing taxes on interest, dividends and capital gains will help the Middle Class on their investments, but he fails to realize that clearly half of all Americans have absolutely no investments whatsoever–no pensions, stocks, bonds–nothing.

Romney also legally earned far more than his personal tax returns reveal. It would be shocking if he has no Irrevocable Trusts, which file separate returns. The press should ask about them. He should also be pressed to release “multiple years,” as he promised, and perhaps 12, for as his father said in 1967, when he made his taxes public, “one year could be a fluke, perhaps done for show.”

Mitt, who admitted he didn’t grow up poor, is not our man, as he lacks the background to be President. He is consistently out-of-touch with normal people. While “poor Mitt” would bet Gov. Perry $10,000 over the content of his book, most regular people would not have wagered more than $10. Sorry, Mitt, you just cannot relate. We don’t want you as President. You would be appreciated much more if you just made money and paid 35% in taxes.

While the government desperately needs taxes to shore up annual deficits and the National Debt, regular Americans are perhaps now slowly realizing that lowering taxes on the rich, really means increases for all else, since someone has to pay for government.

01/23/2012

Justice Gableman: A Question of Ethics

The failure of Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman to disqualify himself in cases argued by a law firm that allegedly provided free legal services to him, ostensibly under a contingent fee contract, is troubling, since it raises several ethics questions.

Although the public may not know it, all Wis. lawyers and judges are regulated under a state Code of Professional Responsibility.

When Justice Gableman first ran for the Supreme Court in 2008, as a lawyer and aspiring judge, he had an ethical duty to conduct his campaign a dignified manner, and to avoid making willful misrepresentations, or false charges against his opponent.

Now, new ethics questions have arisen, not only as to the receipt of legal services by the Justice, without payment, but also as to his failure to disclose the arrangement to all counsel, when his lawyer appeared, and to disqualify himself from ruling on those matters.

Although the public once again may not know it, all lawyers are under an ethical duty to defend judges against unwarranted charges, in order to protect the integrity of the legal system. But there is also a corresponding duty to improve the legal system, by helping the public select judges. To help the public decide the fate of Justice Gableman, it is necessary to discuss his ethical issues.

When lawyers accept cases, they have an ethical duty to explain the fee arrangement, which must be reduced to writing, when it is contingent upon the outcome. Contingent fees are payable as a percentage from any final settlement, or judgment. They cannot be used in criminal cases, custody matters, or in other disputes, where the client can pay a reasonable fixed fee. They are not to be used where the client seeks action from the government.

The canons of ethics instruct lawyers not to use public positions to obtain special advantages. Although lawyers may contribute to judicial election campaigns, they may not otherwise give or lend any item of value to a judge, except as permitted by the Canon of Judicial Ethics. Judges are not to accept gifts from anyone, certainly not someone likely to appear in front of them in court.

Lawyers are to promote public confidence in the legal system Judges in particular are to maintain high personal standards, by promoting confidence in the judiciary.

When a Supreme Court Justice looks out into his courtroom and sees an attorney who gave him legal services, free of charge, at the very least, he should turn to opposing counsel, and advise him of that fact, and if there is even the slightest “appearance of impropriety,” the justice should disqualify himself from the case.

Justice Gableman, when you kicked off your 2008 campaign, and disclosed you graduated from Hamline University School of Law in 1993, where I had studied in the 1970s, a part of me was happy, because you were the first Hamline Law grad to run for the Wisconsin Supreme Court. But you lost ground when you started running questionable ads against Justice Butler in 2008, and now you disappointed fellow alumni even further, due to your ethics.

What you may not realize, Justice Gableman, is ethics is the very reason Hamline Law School came into being. While the undergraduate college at Hamline is the oldest in Minnesota, dating back to 1854, the law school first opened in 1972, when a group of young professors, from some of the most prominent law schools in America, joined forces with a few retired judges, and formed a faculty willing to help a rag-tag group of students, who had survived the Civil Rights and Vietnam era, earn law degrees, so they could change the world, starting with Watergate ethics.

I still have my Hamline Law School bulletin from the 1970s, which indentifies ethics as a required course. I am sure, Justice Gableman, the topic was still taught two decades later, when you attended. I know Hamline also used the same ethics textbook as the UW-Madison Law School, and it mentions the “avoidance of even the appearance of impropriety.” I further know, in the 1970s already, Hamline had intelligent professors, who had studied at Harvard, NYU, Michigan, Duke, Rutgers, UCLA, Minnesota, Boston College, and Wisconsin, and so it’s no excuse for you, Justice Gableman, to argue your professors were not up to speed.

Perhaps most disappointing, Justice Gableman, is you let down those Hamline alumni who considered ethics their primary concern, as they represented unpopular clients, and provided legal services to the poor and working classes, over the past 40 years.

01/20/2012

Republican Debate: S Carolina (1-19-12)

MILITARY: Paul, who served along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border in the 1960s when he was in the Air Force, would cut overseas military spending. He asked why we have troops in Korea, 59 years after the Korean War ended; or in Japan and Germany, 67 years since WWII. We subsidize those countries, he said. Why are we in Afghanistan now for 10 years, and fighting so many undeclared wars?  He argued it is making us bankrupt. Romney thinks we have an aging Navy and Air Force, and it is wrong to balance the budget on the back of the military. He wants a military so strong no one would even think of testing it.

VETERANS: Paul receives twice as much support from veterans than all the others combined, he said. Santorum would continue the multitude of veteran’s preferences.

SOVIET UNION: Gingrich harbors the delusional belief he and Reagan were somehow responsible for Gorbachev’s unilateral decision to dissolve the Soviet Union.

TRADE: Romney wants to crack down on China, since he thinks they cheat with unfair trade. Santorum was asked about Apple Computers, an American company with 40,000 employed here, and 500,000 in China. He would cut to zero corporate income taxes for companies who manufacture in the U.S. Paul tried to explain the consumer benefits from cheaper products made in China. He said a $100 computer instead of one $1,000 is a benefit, but the audience reaction fell flat. He mentioned foreign auto companies still make money assembling cars in America.

IMMIGRATION: Gingrich would control the border and if needed, move half of the 23,000 who work for Homeland Security to Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico. He would: 1) enforce English as an official language; 2) modernize visas; 3) make it easier to deport; 4) allow guest worker programs; 5) impose enormous sanctions against businesses that hire illegals; 6) have local boards review residency permit applications for those here 25 years; and 7) drop federal lawsuits against South Carolina, Alabama and Arizona. Romney said immigration is a simple matter of forcing employers to check a data base. Those illegally here need to go home, and apply for citizenship, like everyone else. No one should gain an advantage by coming here illegally. Santorum said if you want to become an American, the first thing you have to do is respect our laws. Someone who has been here 25 years, he said, has been breaking the law 25 years, and probably stole someone’s Social Security number. Paul does not believe those who hire should be forced to become policemen, as border guards and the federal government have that job. There should be no federal mandate that forces states to provide medical or educational needs, Paul said. Instead of protecting borders in Afghanistan, Paul said, we should use those resources at home.

VULTURE CAPITALISM: Santorum wants capitalism that works for everybody, including working men and women. Gingrich argued Romney’s Bain Capital leveraged a company in South Carolina and left it with debt. Romney claimed he created 120,000 jobs at four places, and only 10,000 lost their jobs. He said a lot of people benefitted, as profits went to pension funds, charities, and a wide variety of institutions.

JOBS: Santorum wants a Republican Party that talks about putting back to work the men and women who built this country. Paul said the solution is for the government to get out of the way, by reducing regulations, and dropping taxes to zero. The country has to liquidate their debt, Paul said. Regarding jobs, Gingrich would repeal Dodd-Frank, as he thinks it is killing small banks. He would develop natural gas and overhaul the Corps of Engineers.

LABOR: Romney thinks Obama is stacking the NLRB with labor stooges. Santorum pledged to sign a national right-to-work law.

MANUFACTURING: Romney claimed GM was given to the UAW. Santorum noted manufacturing dropped from 21% to 9%, because it costs our companies, excluding labor, 20% more than our top nine trading partners, to do business in America.

ENERGY: Romney wants to use our resources to become energy secure. He complained the 500 million dollar solar energy loan to Solyndra was a waste, as Obama’s rejected the Keystone Pipeline.

ENTITLEMENTS: Santorum believes all Obama wants to do is give people food stamps and Medicaid. He heard Iowa was being fined, because they didn’t sign up enough people for Medicaid. Romney thinks Obama wants to create a European style social welfare state.

HEALTH CARE: Santorum claimed he consistently favored health savings accounts. He accused Romney of promoting a Mass plan, which was not based on the free market. Over half the new people buying health insurance in Mass, he said, were fully subsidized by the state. He also accused Gingrich of supporting an individual mandate for over 10 years, from the 1990s through 2008. As to Gingrich’s idea to make everyone post a $150,000 bond, if they did not buy insurance, Santorum asked how many in the audience could post $150,000. Romney said he would go for a complete repeal of Obamacare. People should be able to take their own insurance with them as they go from job to job, he said. He denied setting up a government-run health care system, since they bought insurance from private companies. He accused Obama of creating a 2,700 page, tax-increasing, Medicare-cutting, monster. He would return health care to the states, and get the government out of Medicaid. Gingrich said to repeal it, a Republican House and Senate must be elected. He claimed to have led the charge against Hillarycare and help write the Health Savings Accounts law. He admitted he was wrong for supporting a mandate. Paul, who apparently did not practice medicine in poor areas, thinks health care “worked rather well” before the government got involved in the 1960s with Medicare and Medicaid. He remembers a fictional world, where “there was nobody on the streets suffering with no medical care.” He accused Santorum of expanding government with the unfunded Prescription Drug law.

BUDGET: Gingrich erroneously took total credit for the 4 years when President Clinton and a Democratic majority in the Senate balanced the federal budget.

TAXES: Santorum would cut the corporate income tax rate to zero. Gingrich opposed President Bush Sr. when he raised taxes, despite a pledge not to do so.

TAX RETURNS: Gingrich put his 2011 tax returns online, showing he paid 31% of 3 million in income taxes. Romney said, over jeers, he would disclose his tax return for this year, when it is due in April, and probably for other years too. He thinks disclose would only serve the purpose of allowing people to attack his financial success. He lied as he added: “I didn’t inherit money from my parents.” He claimed he pays a lot in taxes. When he was asked if he would follow his father’s lead in 1967 and release 12 years of tax returns, because only one year could be a fluke, perhaps done for show., Mitt said just “maybe” and “I don’t know how many years I’ll release.” As the audience jeered him, he then said he would release “multiple” years. Santorum, whose tax rate is higher than Romney’s 15%, said he keeps his records on his laptop, and would release them when he gets home. Paul said he would be embarrassed to disclose his tax returns, because they show so little, but added Congressional financial statements show everything a person might need to know, and he has no conflicts of interest, since he doesn’t even talk to lobbyists.

FREE SPEECH: A question arose regarding the Stop Online Piracy Act, which pits anti-censorship groups against those who say movies and other property are being pirated. Gingrich said the degree of pre-emptive censorship in the law is unacceptable. He though people could use Copyright and Patent protections to sue infringers. Romney argued we should more narrowly go after offshore pirates. Paul said Republicans have been on the wrong side of this issue, as he joined Democrats to oppose it. Santorum opposed the law, but added the Internet is not a zone where people can trample on the rights of others, as property must be respected.

MARRIAGE: The hypocrite Gingrich, who went after President Clinton with a vengeance when he had an affair with Monica Lewinsky, was appalled, as he denounced the media for having the audacity to ask him questions about his affair, while married to his second wife. He described it as a vicious attack of the sort that makes it hard to find descent people to run for public office, and harder still to govern. He then distracted everyone by coming up with the preposterous diversion that he was tired of the media protecting Obama by attacking Republicans.

ABORTION: Romney said he was pro-life, and it was the Mass Supreme Court that made abortion available under his health care law. Planned Parenthood was not mentioned in his law, he said. Gingrich claimed a pro-life voting record of 98.6%. Dr. Paul was taught pregnant women are two patients. Santorum said Paul’s right to life record was only 50%. Paul said abortion should be handled by states, where murder and violent crimes are dealt with.

01/19/2012

Republican Debate: S. Carolina (1-16-12)

DEFENSE SPENDING: When Ron Paul was asked if his policies would eliminate military jobs in South Carolina, he said he wants to cut spending overseas. Spending 1 billion on an embassy in Iraq, he said, is not defense, it is waste. He would follow Eisenhower’s admonition about the military-industrial complex, as he said, we don’t need 900 bases in 130 countries. Romney wants a military so strong no one would test it. He apparently believes our navy is now smaller than it was in 1917, and our air force is smaller than it was in 1947. (Does he really think this?)

FOREIGN POLICY: We should declare war before getting into one, Paul lectured. We no longer declare war. We now use the doctrine of “pre-emptive war” to start them. We don’ t even have enemies. We bomb countries and then wonder why they get upset with us. Paul was booed as he said we wouldn’t like it if other countries did to us, what we do to them. Paul was also booed when he said we should follow the Golden Rule in foreign policy.

AFGHAN: Paul wants to bring our troops home. His support is from military personnel, sick and tired of war. We are not leaving Afghanistan, even though 80% of America wants out. When Paul was in the Air Force (1962-68), he served in the Afghan-Pakistan region, and remembers the Taliban were our allies, when we opposed the Russian intervention. He warned us not to mix the Taliban, who oppose foreign intervention, with al Qaeda, who seek to kill us. Romney would not negotiate with the Taliban, because he thinks they declared war on us. He said Obama’s announcement of a withdrawal, weakened our ability to negotiate.

IRAQ: Paul said we are still in Iraq. Romney believes incorrectly we “had to” go to war “in the case of Iraq.”

IRAN: Paul said regarding Iran, they are building up for another war we don’t need.

PAKISTAN: Paul believes we have a flawed Pakistan policy.

SYRIA: Santorum said Syria is a threat to Israel. He wants to bring about the removal of Assad, but opposes U.S. intervention.

TURKEY: Perry, who lived in Turkey while in the Air Force in the 1970s, made the ridiculous and stupid argument they have been taken over by Islamic terrorists. He said their membership in NATO should be re-evaluated, and their foreign aid should go to zero. He lumped Turkey in the same category with Iran and Syria, even though these countries are vastly different.

RULE OF LAW: Paul denied he opposed the operation that killed Osama bin Laden. He in fact voted for the authority to go after him, following 911. He asked: What is so bad about capturing people? We captured Saddam Hussein, tried him, and hung him. Adolf Eichmann was also captured, given a trial, and executed. Why didn’t we try to get information from bin Laden? Gingrich said we need to just kill America’s enemies, not capture them. Romney also said the right thing for Osama bin Laden was a bullet in the head. He said we have a right to detain al Qaeda in prison, as enemy combatants, and deny them due process of law. Paul said the Patriot Act eliminated the 4th Amendment. The Defense Appropriation Act allows us to take citizens under suspicion, and hold them indefinitely, without a lawyer, or the right of habeas corpus. 260 al Qaeda have been tried and convicted Paul said, and we don’t need to give up on the judicial system. Perry said terrorists who cut off heads and hang contractors from bridges, commit despicable acts, not the Marines who urinated on corpses.

IMMIGRATION: Romney opposes favoritism or special routes to citizenship. We have to stop the flood of illegal immigration, he said. Perry would secure the borders.

JOBS: Gingrich claims he and Reagan created 16 million jobs and he and Bill Clinton added another 11 million. He wants to find ways to help the poor learn how to get a job and someday own it.

UNEMPLOYMENT: Santorum thinks it’s wrong for the federal government to uproot state unemployment programs by extending benefits. Gingrich would connect UC to job training.

LABOR: Santorum admitted voting against a right-to-work law, saying he is from a non-right-to-work state. Perry claimed the NLRB is telling South Carolina, a right to work state, what to do.

FINANCE: Perry advocates repealing the Dodd-Frank financial regulations. Romney vowed if Europe has a financial crisis, he won’t give a blank check or go over there to save their banks.

VULTURE CAPITALISM: Gingrich asked Romney to respond to questions about taking money out of companies, walking off with profits, and letting them go bankrupt. Bain invested in over 100 companies, Romney said. Four created 120,000 jobs, while others lost jobs. He said Staples, Bright Horizons, the Sports Authority and a steel company in Indiana added 120,000 jobs. He was asked about American Pad and Paper, which after being purchased for 5 million, borrowed money, took 100 million in profit, and then went bankrupt. Romney said people who lost jobs were offered new ones in other plants. Perry accused Romney of picking a company apart in Georgetown, SC and causing people to lose jobs. Romney said the SC steel mill closed down, because of dumping from abroad.

ENERGY: Romney would take advantage of our natural resources and would use oil, coal, gas, and nuclear.

HOUSING: Perry thinks the federal government via Freddie and Fannie should get out of the housing market.

SOCIAL SECURITY: Romney would make no changes for those 55 or older, but he would add a year or two to the retirement age. Gingrich said Chile has a system that yields 2 to 3 times the government payment. He would make all Americans investors.

HEALTH: Romney wants a premium support program for Medicare. He would send Medicaid back to the states. He would repeal Obamacare.

BUDGET: Romney claimed to have balanced the Mass. budget every year. Perry wants a Balanced Budget Amendment.

TAXES: Romney claimed to have reduced taxes 19 times in Mass. He said tax rates are too high. He would reduce the top rate from 35% to 25% and eliminate taxes on interest, dividends and capital gains. When asked if he would release his tax returns, he said he had not planned on it, but maybe in April, if he becomes the nominee. Perry said the highest federal income tax rate should be 7%. He would have a flat tax of 20%, but would allow home mortgage, local taxes, and charitable deductions. He would get rid of capital gains taxes. Santorum wants just a 10% and a 28% rate. He would cut corporate taxes from 35% to 17.5%. Manufacturing would be treated differently, because they are in competition with the rest of the world. Gingrich wants a flat tax rate of 15%. Paul would reduce income taxes to zero.

DISCRIMINATION IN LEGAL SYSTEM: Paul said blacks are imprisoned at a rate four times greater than whites for victimless drug-related offenses.

VOTING RIGHTS: Santorum asked Romney if X-felons who have done their time should be allowed to vote. When Romney said he didn’t think former felons should be allowed to vote, Santorum reminded him that Mass allowed even those who still on probation or parole to vote, and asked Romeny why he did not try to change that law. Perry said South Carolina is at war with the federal government over their voter ID law.

CAMPAIGN ADS: Romney hoped super-PACs would run accurate ads. He favors getting rid of campaign finance laws. He wants campaigns to run their own ads, and take responsibility for them. He said he could not talk to Super-PACs running his ads.

EDUCATION: Gingrich said No Child Left Behind is a failure, as teachers teach to the test. He would eliminate Dept. of Education

ENTITLEMENTS: Romney thinks Obama is making the U.S. an entitlement society, another European social welfare state.

POVERTY/FOOD STAMPS: Santorum believes three things are need to avoid poverty: a job, high school diploma, and marriage before having children. He claims Obama no longer promotes marriage as a way of avoiding poverty. Gingrich claims 185 different federal bureaucracies deal with low income Americans. He thinks Obama wants to maximize dependency. He called him “the best food stamp president in American history.” When he was asked if it was insulting to suggest black kids should work as school janitors, and blacks should demand jobs, not food stamps, he said no, to wild applause from a white audience of prejudiced South Carolina Republicans. He believes NY pays their janitors an absurd amount of money. The crowd booed Juan Williams as he asked Gingrich if he was belittling racial minorities about a lack of a work ethic, and by saying Obama was a food stamp president. Gingrich said more people than ever went on food stamps during the past three years of the Obama administration.

RELIGION: Perry thinks Obama is at war against organized religion. He claimed the Catholic Church cannot receive federal funds, because of their position on abortion.

GAYS: Romney said he supports equal rights regardless of sexual orientation, but he has always opposed gay marriage.

GUNS: Gingrich accused Romney of signing a ban on assault weapons and of increasing fees on gun owners by 400%.  Romney said the Mass law was supported by both sides. Santorum said his support for trigger locks and background checks was backed by the NRA. He banned lawsuits against gun manufacturers, where injuries were sustained despite proper use of a firearm. Paul said we should not have national tort law, since these issues should be dealt with by the states. Santorum said lawsuits would have gone forward in liberal states, if there was not a national ban.

ABORTION: Gingrich opposes abortion and China’s one-child policy.