Archive for May, 2012

05/31/2012

Auto Loans: Romney Tries to Hitch Ride

It was funny earlier this month when Gov. Romney tried to take credit for the auto industry bailout that saved Chrysler and GM from a certain Chapter 7 bankruptcy, by providing federal loans in a depressed economy where no money whatsoever was available from private sector banks. I mean it was not just odd that Romney would say what he did, in that sense of the word funny, but truly funny to the point where we couldn’t stop laughing, as we listened to Romney say he supported the auto industry bailout, all along.

Romney must really think we are stupid. As painful as it was, I had watched all 20 Republican debates, just to listen to what the right-wingers were saying. All of their candidates, including Romney, repeatedly stated an opposition to the loans that saved Chrysler and GM. They had no concern for the countless number of jobs that would have been lost, not only at those companies, but at the component part factories that also would have closed.

In the debates, Romney said he would have let Chrysler and GM go bankrupt. (6-13-11) Funds should not have been used to bail out GM and Chrysler, he argued. (10-11-11). The auto bailout was wrong, he insisted, as he opposed the transfer of GM to the UAW, and Chrysler to Fiat. (11-9-11) As the debates dragged on, Romney often repeated his talking points that the government should not have loaned money to GM or Chrysler, and again insisted they should have been allowed to go bankrupt. (12-8-11)

It was only when Romney approached the Michigan primary that he started campaigning differently. Then he said: “No way would we allow the auto industry in America to totally implode and disappear.” (2-22-12). It’s interesting how he changed his tune so quickly. Santorum correctly pointed out Romney was not a principled person, because he favored the Wall Street bailout, but opposed any aid for the Detroit auto workers. (2-22-12)

The truth is Obama inherited an auto industry that 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 Obama said we will soon be selling U.S. cars in Korea. (1-25-12)

Hopefully, Michigan, Ohio and Indiana will not forget the truth of where Romney stood in their hour of need. Obama deserves credit for saving not only two of our most important auto factories, but also their component part suppliers. And Romney, the next time you totally contradict yourself, which we have come to learn is on a fairly regular basis, please at least try to come up with a lie that is much more plausible. After all, the debates were videotaped.

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05/30/2012

Jobs: Republicans Deserve No Credit

It always amusing when Republicans like Wisconsin Gov. Walker take credit for job increases, as if they personally interviewed the unemployed, one by one, and told them they were hired. While Democrats have historically helped those out of work by creating public sector jobs, Republicans don’t even budget enough money to meet the current government payroll, and they certainly are not entitled to take credit for any new government employment.

As to the private sector, governments can only indirectly stimulate economic activity through Fiscal Policies, which increase government spending. Since Republicans again routinely vote against job stimulus bills, they cannot legitimately take credit for any employment the government may trigger in the private sector.

When politicians like Republican Gov. Perry claim they added 1 million new jobs in Texas, they try to take credit for something they did not do, since they added no public sector jobs, and stimulated no private employment, through state budgeting.

While Gov. Romney argued jobs are established in the private sector, and not in Washington, he repeatedly failed to explain his theory that only those who understand “how the economy works” can create employment. The truth is merely understanding “how the economy works” is not a formula for job creation. Slogans like: “to create jobs, you have to have had one,” sound great, but insult our intelligence, since they explain nothing.

What is funny is when politicians like Romney, Perry, Huntsman, Bachmann, Ron Paul, Gingrich, and all the others, repeat the standard Republican talking points that jobs can be created by eliminating regulation, lowering taxes, and repealing Health Care.

Just how would the elimination of regulations create jobs? Have you ever thought about it? The right wing repeatedly makes this argument, but nobody pauses to think about what they are saying? If we repealed food safety rules made by the Food and Drug Administration, our health would be endangered for sure, but how would that create jobs, except perhaps in emergency rooms? If we eliminated air safety rules promulgated by the Federal Aviation Administration, we may have more plane crashes, but explain the job creation theory, because the connection is not at all obvious.

Lowering taxes to create jobs is another interesting theory. President George W. Bush tried it in a big way, as he dramatically cut taxes for the wealthy, and what happened? 4 million lost their jobs in 2008, in the six months before President Obama took office. Bush’s cuts sounded good to the wealthy, but if the policy had worked for all of us, the rich would have used their new wealth to invest in job creation, but they obviously did not do that.

How would the repeal of the new Health Care law increase jobs? If the nation will be adding health coverage for 40 million people, one need not be a rocket scientist to understand that a countless number of jobs will necessarily be created to take care of them. The right wing theory that repealing the law would somehow add jobs is totally baseless and illogical.

While Republicans pay lip service to unemployment, saying it is a tragedy that affects millions, they avoid direct solutions like public works hiring projects, and oppose government stimulus plans. Reducing taxes for the rich, eliminating unspecific regulations, and making other reforms not even remotely related to jobs, is no answer. The very least the right wingers and Republicans could do is avoid taking credit for jobs, since they certainly have no right to claim credit for them.

05/24/2012

Dodd-Frank: What Did The Law Include?

After the crash of 2008, the Democratic Party, led by President Obama, passed the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform & Consumer Protection Act of 2010, and even though all Republicans, including Gov. Romney, instinctively denounced it during the Republican debates (2011-2012), perhaps it would be wise to first examine its many sub-titles, before passing judgment.

CONSUMER PROTECTION FROM BANKS: Title X of Dodd-Frank created a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), which can regulate banks, payday lenders, and other financial institutions. Its job is to protect consumers from abusive financial practices by promoting transparency and fairness as to mortgages, credit cards, student loans, and other financial natters.

MORTGAGES REMOVE PREDATORY PRACTICES: Title XIV of Dodd-Frank outlaws predatory lending by reforming mortgages. It requires loan originators to make a good faith effort to verify that consumers reasonably have the ability to repay their loans, when considering 2nd mortgages, insurance, assessments, and taxes. Points and fees are now limited to 3% of the loan.

INVESTOR PROTECTION: Title IX helps those who invest in stocks, bonds, and securities. It protects stockholders from being ripped off by those managing corporations, by requiring the disclosure of all CEO compensation. It makes Credit Reporting Agencies, such as Moody’s and Standard and Poors, provide accurate reports as to the financial condition of businesses. It gives the SEC the authority to impose greater fiduciary duties on securities brokers and dealers. It also addresses the sale of asset-backed securities and creates an office of the Investor Advocate.

FINANCIAL STABILITY IS GOAL: One explicit purpose of the law was to promote financial stability by ending bailouts for entities “too big to fail.” To better monitor the financial markets Title I of Dodd-Frank created: 1) Financial Stability Oversight Council; and 2) Office of Financial Research.

LAW COORDINATES FEDERAL AGENCIES: Dodd-Frank brings together representatives of: 1) Treasury; 2) Federal Reserve; 3) Currency; 4) Consumer Protection;  5) SEC; 6) FDIC; 7) Commodities; 8) Housing Finance; and 9) Credit Union Board.

LIQUIDATIONS INCLUDE INSURANCE AND NON-BANKS: The existing ability to liquidate banks was broadened to include insurance companies and non-bank financial entities. It allows for the orderly winding down of bankrupt firms.

BANKS CAN NO LONGER ENGAGE IN SPECULATION: The Volker Rule prohibits banks from engaging in proprietary trading.

HEDGE FUNDS AND VENTURE CAPITAL REGULATION: The law now regulates hedge funds and private equity funds. Investment advisors, hedge funds, and private equity firms now have to register with the SEC.

DEFAULT SWAPS AND DERIVATIVES REGULATION: Dodd-Frank brought the sale of derivatives out into the open, by requiring that they be traded on the exchanges.

INSURANCE REGULATION: The law allows the monitoring of the insurance industry.

LAW REQUIRES MONEY BE PAID BACK: Dodd-Frank reduced the amounts available under the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) (2008) and the Housing and Economic Recovery Act (2008) and restricted the use of federal funds.

Dodd-Frank provided protection to consumers, credit card users, mortgage borrowers, and investors, and it gave the government more power to regulate the financial sector, so as to provide greater stability for all of us. The knee-jerk objection to the law by Republicans like Romney simply shows how out of touch he is with real people, and how much he is in bed with Wall Street.

05/23/2012

Bank Bailouts: Were They Needed?

As the banks crashed in 2008, George Bush’s government took action to bail them out, and his emergency measures continued under President Obama in 2009, and beyond, as both parties, at least tacitly, approved of the efforts.

During the Republican primary debates in 2011 and 2012, all of the conservatives criticized the bank bailouts, including Congresswoman Bachmann who categorically opposed all government loans. Congressman Ron Paul said he would not give any assistance to any private firm. He mocked the bailouts saying: “They thought the world would end, if we did not bail out the banks.” He was concerned, because he said the Fed even sent five billion overseas to bail out foreign banks.

Gov. Huntsman opposed the bailouts, arguing we spent trillions, and have nothing to show for it. Sen. Santorum opposed the bank rescue, noting he would have done nothing about the meltdown. He said the financial institutions should have been allowed to go bankrupt. Why prop them up through government, he asked? Santorum asked Gov. Romney why he supported the Wall Street bank bailouts, if he believed in capitalism. Why not let destructive capitalism work, he asked?

Gov. Romney felt President Bush had to take action to keep all banks from closing, but characteristically contradicted himself, saying: “I didn’t want to save Wall Street banks.” Romney also said if Europe had a financial crisis, he wouldn’t give a blank check, or go over there to save their banks, but then he contradicted himself again, saying he would take action, if all of the economies of the entire world were collapsing, because we would need to prevent a contagion from affecting U.S. banks.

While the banks survived thanks to the bailouts, we have no way of knowing for sure what would have happened if the government had done nothing. At the very least, several major institutions would have closed their doors, and it is likely the entire economy would have sustained major seizures. Instead of 10% out of work, the country may have confronted a 25% unemployment rate, and people would have been asking why no intervention was taken.

In retrospect, the bank bailouts were appropriate to get the big institutions through their perilous moment, provided the loans extended by the government are now fully repaid, with interest.

Since the big banks were “too big to fail,” the government made the correct decision to save them, but now that the crisis has ended, it’s time to break them up, under new antitrust laws, so if we face a similar situations in the future, we will be able to let much smaller downsized institutions simply go under.

05/21/2012

Currency: No Return to Gold Standard

During the Republican debates, Congressman Ron Paul went off the deep end as to the currency, advocating a return to the “gold standard.” As Newt Gingrich suggested forming a commission to look into bringing it back, Herman Cain argued the nation needed to focus on the “sound money” virtues of gold and silver.

None of these Republicans however could possibly have been serious about the currency. While there are potential problems in the uncontrolled printing of money, based on nothing more than a faith in the strength of the Federal Reserve, returning to gold or silver to back up the currency, is certainly no answer.

The principle problem with gold and silver is their quantities are finite, and as the population grows faster than the metal supply, money becomes scarce, adversely affecting economic expansion.

During the Presidency of Andrew Jackson, the population grew at a rate far greater than the available precious metal supply, causing many to advocate paper money. Jackson, however, was hostile to the idea, and insisted on remaining with gold and silver. When he ordered federal agents to accept only gold or silver for the sale of public lands, banks were already down to only 1 gold dollar in reserve, for every 10 paper dollars, and his 1836 decree triggered an inflationary spike in prices and interest rates, and caused the value of the dollar to drop.

The inadequate supply of currency arose again when President Lincoln had to circulate paper Greenbacks to pay for the Civil War. Since the Treasury had been selling gold to anyone who wanted to buy it, by the time Grant took office in 1869, the money supply was depleted. When Congress proposed a bill to add a paper currency, Grant vetoed it, triggering the Panic of 1873. The Greenback Party (1874-89) emerged to push for a paper currency.

While President Hayes continued to allow the exchange of gold coins for the paper Greenbacks issued during the Civil War, he wanted more silver and paper money, but there was not enough gold to back it up, so he vetoed a bill that would have required the Treasury to coin certain quantities of silver each month.

The mint finally started increasing the supply of silver coins, under the Silver Act of 1893, signed into law by President Harrison. As the price for silver fell, currency manipulators quickly exchanged it for gold, and drained our gold reserves.

A Special Session of Congress was called to repeal the Silver Act as soon as President Cleveland took office in 1893, but he refused to abandon the gold standard, and gold reserves continued falling, leading to the Financial Panic of 1893, and a farm depression.

When William Jennings Bryant proposed the free coinage of silver, President William McKinley again played it safe by defending the gold standard. He signed the Gold Standard Act of 1900, strictly limiting paper money redemption to gold.

It was not until 1934, during the Great Depression, and the administration of Franklin Roosevelt, when we finally moved off the gold standard, by replacing it with the full faith and credit of the Federal Reserve Bank. The final nail in the gold standard coffin came in 1971, when Republican Richard Nixon completely cancelled the right to convert dollars to gold.

The gold standard is dead. It died 78 years ago. While there is a risk of printing too much paper money at the Federal Reserve, the solution is not to return to gold, the answer is to intelligently monitor the quantity of paper currency printed, and insure that the value of the Dollar is not diminished in the process.

05/18/2012

Underwater Mortgages: Need “Demand”

When the housing market crashed in 2008, somewhere between 25% and 53% of all homeowners in America, (depending on their geographic region), realized their homes were “underwater,” because they suddenly owed more to the banks on their mortgage balances, than their properties were worth.

The crash was in part caused by “adjustable rate mortgages” that increased to unsustainable levels, causing so many homeowners to default, they triggered a foreclosure crisis. Since the problem was blamed on “easy credit,” tighter rules were implemented, forcing lenders to accept only very creditworthy borrowers, who could start their mortgage schedules with much higher down payments.

As a consequence of resetting the deck, people who were formerly qualified to buy, could no longer do so. The led to a reduction in housing “demand,” at a time when the “supply” on the market was greater than ever, due to all the foreclosures. So we ended up with more houses for sale, but far fewer potential buyers.

In the years to come, underwater homeowners will not get back into the black, until the value of housing market increases to pre-crash levels. The value of homes will not rise, until the quantity of buyers becomes greater than the number of sellers. It is basic economics: “price” rises when “demand” exceeds “supply.”

Since the “supply” of available housing is fixed and finite, the variable that needs adjustment is “demand.” The government needs to trigger more “demand” to bring about a rising tide as to all home values. Today, there are millions who would love to own a home, and could make their monthly payments, but they lack a sufficient down payment, and do not qualify under the new rules.

While stimulating the building of new homes may put people back to work in the construction industry, it does nothing to lessen the oversupply of already existing homes, or to increase the existing weak demand for them.

Gov. Romney said slowing down the foreclosure process, buying up troubled homes, or giving thousands of dollars towards the purchase of a new home, won’t solve the problem. He predicted home prices won’t return, until the market works. His answer is for the government to do nothing, and just hope pre-crash values return, after a decade or so of relatively sluggish sales.

Congressman Paul basically advocated full speed ahead with the foreclosure process, as he said housing debts must be liquidated, as they are only prolonging the agony. If the bad paper had been auctioned and sold, it would have been cleansed by now, he said. As to the bailouts, Paul lamented, if money was to be given out, it should have gone to those who lost mortgages, not the banks.

Putting more money in the hands of buyers is what is needed, so more people can accumulate the down payments they need. This is how the housing market will return. But this can only happen through higher earnings. As long as Romney proposes nothing to help Middle Class people earn more, the housing market will remain flat, and the homes now underwater, will simply remain that way for a long time to come.

05/17/2012

Banking: How the System Evolved

With the Crash of 2008 and the melt down of our big financial institutions, questions have arisen as to how U.S. Banking evolved into what it is today.

While the Constitution did not expressly delegate the power to establish a federal bank, it clearly authorized Congress to coin money and to regulate its value. The Congress was also given the authority to make all laws “necessary and proper” to carry out those functions. In addition to a mint, George Washington opened the First Bank of the U.S. in 1791, which continued for 20 years, until their charter expired in 1811 due to non-renewal.

After the War of 1812, converting state bank notes into gold and silver became such a problem, Congress and James Madison were prompted into creating a 2nd Bank of the United States, in 1816. Andrew Jackson criticized it, saying it concentrated funds in the east, and limited local western banks from lending to farmers.

When Jackson became President, he was presented with a bill in 1832 to extend the charter of the 2nd U.S. Bank, but he vetoed it, arguing it was unconstitutional. He directed his Treasury Secretary to move all federal funds from the U.S. Bank into state banks, but his Treasury Secretary and his successor both refused, before the third in line finally carried out Jackson’s order.

As Jackson left office in 1837, newly-elected Martin Van Buren inherited the nation’s first serious depression. The crash came 36 days after he was sworn-in, as nearly every bank in the country closed. Van Buren tried to create a more stable system in 1840 by moving all federal funds from private banks into a U.S. Treasury.

As soon as President Tyler took over in 1841, he quickly reversed Van Buren’s policy, and vetoed two bills sponsored by Sen. Henry Clay to revive the U.S. Bank. President Polk, who followed Tyler in 1845, returned to Van Buren’s policy of keeping federal funds in the U.S. Treasury.

Before the Civil War, President Buchanan presided over an economic panic that witnessed the failure of several banks, and the volatility later continued, with additional panics under Grant in 1873, and Cleveland in 1893.

President Wilson signed the Federal Reserve Act in 1913, which created a new more stable system, by establishing 12 Federal Reserve Banks, charged with regulating the money supply, making loans to private banks, and by monitoring their reserves.

As President Franklin Roosevelt inherited the Great Depression, depositors started withdrawing their money from banks in 1933, triggering a panic that caused 5,000 of them to go out of business, the day before he was inaugurated. The new President promptly closed all banks, declared a Bank Holiday, and signed an Emergency Banking Act (1933) that established the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) to make deposits safe by providing insurance for them. Congress also passed the Glass-Stiegel Act (1933) to take banks out of stock market speculation.

Ronald Reagan ushered in a new era of right-wing deregulation, during which he pushed the repeal of financial sector rules. As the conservatives beat the dumb louder and louder, they pressured moderates like Bill Clinton to repeal of the depression-era Glass-Stiegel Act. For eight years under George W. Bush, his minions looked the other way, as speculators took over the financial sector, and led us into the Crash of 2008.

To correct the problems caused by deregulation, President Obama signed the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, as a first step in re-regulating the financial sector. That is how we got to where we are, but we are not there yet, and we have a ways to go to fully stabilize the system.

05/16/2012

Antitrust: Tougher Simpler Laws Needed

The problem of banks “too big to fail” was addressed in the Republican Presidential debates, as Gov. Huntsmann argued they set the nation up for a long-term disaster. He noted six banks control 9.4 trillion dollars, or 60 to 65% of GDP, with implicit taxpayer guarantees of protection. While he suggested they be “right-sized,” or reduced to a “proper size,” no one in the Republican Party openly advocated the filing of federal antitrust actions against these institutions, to bust them up.

President Obama should direct his Antitrust Division at the Justice Department to file lawsuits against all banks “too big to fail” to break them up, since they need to be able to go under, without taxpayer bailouts, to protect our system from harm. He should simultaneously ask Congress to amend the antitrust laws so market shares of 10% or more become presumptively illegal. The antitrust exemption for insurance companies should also be ended.

“Antitrust” arose late in the 19th Century, when big corporations, managed by trusts, operated free of government regulation, and controlled prices by eliminating competition. A populist one-issue Anti-Monopoly Party first appeared in the 1884 Presidential election, and the Democrats soon co-opted their platform.

The Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890 made monopolies, contracts in restraint on trade, and attempts to monopolize, illegal. In Standard Oil (1911), the Supreme Court ordered the dissolution of Standard upon finding they unreasonably affected interstate commerce, by destroying competition and restraining trade.

Antitrust law was strengthened under the Clayton Act (1914), which in part was to stop companies from becoming monopolistic in the first place, by prohibiting mergers that “substantially lessen competition.” The Federal Trade Commission (1914) was added to investigate antitrust violations, and to seek enforcement.

Problems arose in antitrust prosecutions in terms of how to define “market share.” Are coffee and tea in competition with each other? Are banks and derivative brokers in the same market? Geographic issues also posed problems. What geographic area is involved? Do we examine just Wall Street, all U.S. institutions, or only international banks? How much control leads to a monopoly? While 90% is clearly monopolistic, what about 60%, or market shares of less than 30%?

Since the crash of 2008, it is now time for Congress to revise the antitrust laws to expand their scope, and make the breakup of companies “too big to fail” much easier. They should declare market shares of 10% or more per se illegal, so competition is enhanced, and the risk of failure is reduced.

They should also eliminate the antitrust “exemption” enjoyed by insurance companies. The bailout of the American International Group (AIG), a multi-national insurance corporation, was done because it was “too big to fail.” The nation cannot afford the risk posed by such oversized entities. There is no rational reason for their antitrust exemption and they must be busted up.

It is time to break up corporations without the need to prove anything, except a market share of 10% or more. Since the Republicans will never approve of any regulations, the Democratic Party and President Obama will have to take the lead.

05/15/2012

Campaign Ads: Walker Hurts Wisconsin

I regret to inform you, as I report from Madison: The entire State of Wisconsin is now burning, and the flames are spreading, due to a non-stop carpet-bombing political campaign launched by Gov. Walker, which has fully consumed our air waves with a massive barrage of negative TV ads, designed to demonize Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, by viciously targeting our largest city.

During these turbulent political times, while we cannot escape the disinformation generated by Walker’s henchmen, and the propaganda funded by his wealthy out-of-state allies, Middle Class Wisconsinites, favoring the June 5 Recall, can respond through a word-of-mouth ground game. Consider these words:

Walker’s trashing of Milwaukee in his TVs ads is hurting all Wisconsinites, because our biggest city is the window through which most visitors view our state. The economic ripple effects from Milwaukee are great, and extend well beyond Republican Waukesha County. We all sink or swim together.

While Walker claims Milwaukee is the third worst city in the nation, most would pick it any day over Detroit, Cleveland, Los Angeles, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Miami, Philadelphia, Chicago, or a whole host of others, too numerous to list.

A good governor would extol the virtues of our largest city, not slander it. If after this Recall, Milwaukee is completely destroyed, like Hiroshima or Nagasaki, and nothing but smoke rises from the ashes, then what Mr. Walker? How will you attract new industry, once the reputation of Wisconsin’s urban base is totally gone?

05/14/2012

Gay Marriage: Time for Recognition

While President Obama announced last week he now favors gay marriage, Gov. Romney simultaneously was implicated in a bullying event against a gay student, who was pinned down against his will, so Mitt could cut his hair, despite the victim’s cries for help. Although virtually everyone involved in the abusive incident clearly remembered it, even though it occurred in 1965, Mitt obviously lied, when he claimed he could not recall it.

The issue of gay marriage has now been joined as a topic for the 2012 Presidential Campaign, as Obama is for it, and Romney is against it. In the Republican Debates, Romney said he supported equal rights regardless of sexual orientation, but characteristically adopted a contradictory position, as he said he opposed same-sex marriage. (1-16-12) He explained as Governor he issued gay marriage licenses in Massachusetts, only because his state constitution required it (12-15-11). He agreed with adoption agencies that restrict child placement to homes with only one man and one woman (2-22-12). He wants the Constitution amended to limit marriages to one man and one woman (8-11-11) (1-7-12).

If Mitt Romney and the Republicans win the 2012 election, the policies of other conservatives will also be advanced. Sen. Santorum pledged to push gays back into the military closet by reinstituting “don’t ask don’t tell” (10-25-11). He ran against the U.S. Constitutional framework, and State’s Rights under the 10th Amendment, as he suggested the issue of marriage be governed exclusively from Washington. He wanted to federalize marriage in all states, saying a national law is needed. He argued someone cannot be married in one state, but not in another. He also supported a federal law banning adoption by gay couples (1-7-12).

Newt Gingrich also came out against gay marriage. While he conceded gays should be able to visit friends in hospital beds, or designate them in Last Wills, he opposed gay marriage, as he thinks marriage is limited to one man and one woman. (1-7-12) Gov. Perry also favored a U.S. Constitutional Amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman. (1-7-12)

President Obama on the other hand has evolved, and we as a nation have come a long way. Mitt is right about one thing, in the 1960s, the topic of gay rights was very much in the closet. At that time, we all focused on Mary Tyler Moore in a tight black shirt. While I think it was the Laugh-In Comedy Hour that allowed an apparently gay guy named Tiny Tim to play banjo, while singing at a very high pitch, no one verbally connected the dots, and explained he was gay, or that there were people like him, who are drawn to their own sex. Personally, I had absolutely no idea of what gays were all about in the 1960s. The assumption was we were all the same, and had the same drive towards women.

In college, in the early 1970s, I met a couple of smart guys on campus, who shared an intellectual curiosity about academic topics, which made them interesting to talk to, but I did not know they were gay, because they were not flaming, and they left me alone, since I was very heterosexual and they knew it.

Some 20 years later, I saw one of them at a class reunion. By that time he had some gay characteristics, and he finally came out of the closet, and told me the other friend we had in college was gay. When I asked how he knew, he admitted he too was gay. I was kind of shocked, but asked what made gays the way they are. Was it genetics or environment? He stated he was gay due to genetics and not learned behavior. It was something in their DNA, he said.

The incident helped me to evolve, because the revelation put a human face on the topic. Today, while I still don’t feel comfortable around flaming gays, at least I understand why they are the way they are. They certainly have no choice. I am sure if they did, they would avoid the troubles that come with being gay, by joining the heterosexual world.

Romney and the Republicans need to change, as many of the rest of us have over time. We have come to grips with the reality gay people are born that way, and it is unfair to blame them for being different, simply by the random chance of birth. It’s is time they were treated as fully equal citizens.