Archive for ‘Government’

03/16/2017

Presidents Jackson and Trump

by Jeff Brinckman

President Andrew Jackson, put on a militia uniform at age 13, during the American Revolution, and was quickly transformed into an angry young man, upon being captured by the British, and marched 40 miles to a wretched stockade, where his brother would die. He was then cut by a sword for refusing to polish an English officer’s boots. After a case of smallpox, he acquired a lifetime cough from TB, which would remind him from then on of abuses he would never forgive.

President Donald Trump, who has Jackson’s portrait in his office, also had his personality shaped as a teen. Although he avoided the army, despite being of draft age throughout the Vietnam War (1964-73), he was such an incorrigible behavioral problem by age 13, that his parents sent him to the NY Military Academy (1960-64), where he was drilled into an angry dictatorial type we see today. Trump has since looked up to Jackson as a role model, and has followed his playbook.

Jackson did not hide his violent personality. When he married Rachel in 1791, it turned out her divorce papers had not been completed, and she was still her first husband’s wife. After Jackson remarried her in 1794, she was subjected to name-calling. When Charles Dickinson used a choice word to describe her in 1806, Jackson took the law in his own hands, got a gun, challenged him to a duel, and killed him. Jackson would become President despite this well-known homicide.

Trump was also elected despite several well-publicized scandals involving women. His three marriages were to: 1) a Czech model (1977-90); 2) an actress (1993-99); and 3) yet another model (2005). During the campaign, when a political blogger speculated that an older man like Trump could not have married a gorgeous model 24 years his younger, unless she was a high-priced call-girl, Trump defended her honor, sued for libel, and settled recently on favorable terms.

As a candidate, Jackson was radically different from his predecessors. The first six Presidents were well-educated, diplomatic, and enlightened philosophers. Jackson on the other hand was unschooled, undignified, and tactless. He had just joined the Senate in 1823, and when he first ran for President in 1824, he lacked experience. His quick temper and violent propensities sharply distinguished him from the Founders. He was called hot-headed, unfit, and dangerous. He wasn’t taken seriously, as his only claim to fame was his military celebrity from the War of 1812.

Trump’s background also led to assertions he was unqualified, as he totally lacked any government experience, not even a political apprenticeship. During the 2016 campaign, he gained attention by insulting his Republican primary opponents and then Sen. Clinton. He was known basically for his TV celebrity, as he gained headlines with unsupported outlandish claims about the issues.

Jackson’s income came mostly from buying and selling land and from gambling, but instead of casinos, he bet on his own race horses. As a realtor, he knew the Native Americans west of the Appalachians held some of the best farm lands, and he resented it. Although the first six Presidents granted treaty rights to the Indians, Jackson advocated the deportation of all natives from the Appalachians to the Mississippi, and rural whites elected him on that platform in 1828.

Trump’s wealth likewise came primarily from land deals. As a real estate tycoon, he also profited from gambling casinos, multiple bankruptcy filings, a low-level university, and by fighting tax audits. Interestingly, as soon as Trump became President, he figuratively went to war against Native Americans in North Dakota, over a dispute between their treaty rights and an oil pipeline.

Despite a personal conflict of interest as a realtor, Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act (1830), which the Cherokees challenged in the Supreme Court, as contrary to treaty law that shielded them from deportation. Five Justices, appointed by the Founders, along with Jackson’s first nominee McLean, ruled (6-1) for the tribe in Worcester v Georgia (1832). But instead of enforcing the law, an outraged Jackson declared: “Marshall has made his decision, now let him enforce it!” As the Indians were pushed west across the Mississippi in IL and WI, the Black Hawk War (1832) broke out, and in the South, a Trail of Tears followed, as natives were marched on foot to Oklahoma.

Trump pursued a similar white racist campaign, as he pledged to deport millions of Hispanics, even though many had ancestors who occupied the Southwest long before the first Anglos arrived. He promoted a populist fiction that North America was originally all-white, as he waged a dog-whistle campaign promising to “make America great again.” Trump’s racism was not limited to Latinos, as he routinely suggested our first black President was not an American, despite Hawaiian newspaper baby announcements that clearly showed President Obama was born there in 1961.

Jackson’s real estate background led him to accuse the East Coast bankers of rigging the money supply to make it difficult for western farmers to obtain mortgages. Upon becoming President, he refused to re-charter the U.S. Bank, arguing it was unconstitutional, despite contrary Supreme Court rulings. When Jackson ordered the Treasury Dept. to withdraw all funds from the U.S. Bank and transfer them into State Banks, Secretaries McLane and Duane both refused, until Roger Taney finally carried out the deed, in an act that would earn him a Supreme Court seat.

As to the banks, although Trump promised to drain the financial swamp, he quickly got knee-deep in the muck by working with the Republicans and Wall Street bankers on a repeal of the Dodd-Frank Consumer Protection Law, which was designed to prevent another Great Recession.

Jackson resumed trade with the British West Indies (1830), made a treaty with Russia (1832), and negotiated the first trans-Pacific trade arrangement in Siam (1833). Despite his free trade policies, he also took a middle ground by enforcing tariffs. When Sen. Calhoun of South Carolina threatened secession over tariffs, Jackson responded: “If you secede from my nation, I will secede your head from the rest of your body.” Congress quickly gave Jackson a military force to collect tariffs.

Trump also made trade a centerpiece, as his anti-free trade pitch won the election for him in the industrial Midwest. As President, he quickly dumped the Trans-Pacific Partnership. We can soon expect some kind of a deal with Russia. Even if Trump abrogates NAFTA between Mexico, Canada and the U.S., all three nations agreed to the same free trade terms under in the World Trade Organization Treaty, so nothing much will change, and Trump will likely take a middle course.

As to the Supreme Court, in Jackson’s eight years, he nominated six Justices, most of whom negatively impacted jurisprudence. Taney, Wayne and Canton joined in the horrendous Dred Scot (1857) majority, where a (7-2) Court held Congress unconstitutionally infringed on slave owner property rights by banning slavery in the territories. Only one Jackson Justice, McLean, dissented.

Trump will also have a lasting imprint on the Court, as two liberals Ginsburg (83) and Breyer (78), and swing vote Kennedy (80), are already beyond normal life expectancies. In addition to his nomination of Gorsuch (49), if Thomas (68) resigns, Trump may send four more right-wingers to join Alito (65) and Roberts (61), leaving just two liberals, Sotomayor (62) and Kagan (56).

Jackson’s victory in 1828 triggered political party realignments. He didn’t destroy Thomas Jefferson’s “Democratic-Republican Party,” he merely hijacked it and renamed it the “Democratic Party.” A coalition of his opponents formed the Whig Party in 1832. Although the populist Jackson won again in 1832, as did his successor Van Buren in 1836, the Whigs finally took the White House in 1840 and 1848, and later merged with the new Republican Party in 1854.

Trump’s win in 2016 will also lead to party realignments. He didn’t destroy the Republican Party, he simply did a “hostile takeover” and now it’s his. It’s not the Republicans who need reinventing, for that already happened. The Democrats will now need to choose to put on a white face and talk about rural blue-collar economic concerns, or double down on urban social issues for blacks, Hispanics, Muslims, gays and women, and perhaps lose again, yes, to Trump. He may be re-elected, unless something unforeseen happens, like a depression, or a death in office.

Our first great depression was caused by Jackson’s tinkering with the money supply. When he ordered the acceptance of only gold or silver as payment for government obligations, his 1836 policy created gold shortages, triggered inflation, and raised interest rates. The depression that hit just as Jackson was leaving town in 1837, would be blamed on his successor Martin Van Buren. Only time will tell if Trump’s policies will trigger a depression.

As to death in office, Jackson’s closure of the U.S. Bank led to the first assassination attempt on a sitting President. Richard Lawrence, who thought he was King Richard III, and believed the U.S. government owed him money, blamed Jackson for not being paid. So, he took two shots at Jackson outside the Capitol in 1835, but since his gun misfired twice, Jackson was able to subdue Lawrence by using his cane to beat the living daylights out of him.

With modern Secret Service protections, it’s unlikely Trump will be shot, but since he’s over 70, the prospect of a natural death is not outside the realm of possibilities. If Trump survives, and chooses to run again in 2020, he’ll certainly follow Jackson’s playbook. If the Democrats are smart, they’ll take him seriously, and will begin right now studying how Jackson won his second term.

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12/26/2016

WHAT WILL TRUMP DO AT HOME?

Abortion: Trump will soon have the power to nominate Supreme Court Justices. One constitutional issue remains a woman’s lawful right to an abortion. At one point in the campaign, Trump was of the opinion that women who have abortions should be jailed. While that will not happen, the Court is now likely to further restrict 5th and 14th Amendment liberty rights as to abortion. On top of that, the Republican Congress will cut funds for Planned Parenthood, even though 90% of their activities have nothing to do with abortion.

Campaign Finance: With a Republican Congress, there is no hope any useful legislation restricting big money in politics will be enacted. Nothing will change. Lobbyists will continue to inhabit the swamp. Big money will not be drained out of it, as Trump promised.

Cities: Nothing much will change in black inner cities. The Republican Congress doesn’t care much about them and Trump himself knows little about how poor people actually live. Trump said blacks would have to be crazy not to try something new with him, but they knew better, and most voted for Clinton. While Ben Carson and other token blacks will be paraded around by Trump, nothing much will improve in minority communities.

Citizenship: Trump said he wanted to end constitutionally protected “citizenship by birth.” With regards to persons born in the U.S., the 14th Amendment makes it crystal clear that they are both citizens of the U.S. and the state where they reside. Trump apparently doesn’t understand how difficult it is to amend the Constitution. Outlawing citizenship by birth will never happen.

Economy: Trump talks about creating a 6% to 7% growth rate. I don’t think he knows what he’s doing. He’s not going to be able to stimulate such high growth. The greater fear is that his lack of understanding of international trade may trigger another recession or depression.

Environment: There is no doubt the oil and coal industries will benefit under Trump. With an Exxon chief running the State Dept., they will get what they want in global trade. Environment treaties that are in the way will be abrogated. The Keystone Pipeline will be completed. Any Native American who gets in the way will be dealt with the same way the U.S. has always dealt with Indians.

Government: Like most Republicans, Trump said he would eliminate some government agencies and departments. Sadly, the Republican Congress will only propose eliminating the most effective and useful regulatory bodies, and they’ll expect Trump to sign such bills. Since I doubt Trump will actually read any law presented to him, he’ll probably just go along with whatever they give him.

Guns: There is no hope during the next four years that anything useful will be done regarding the proliferation of guns, or the massacres they routinely generate. The Supreme Court will uphold the right wing’s twisted view of what the Founders intended by the Second Amendment.

Health Care: Trump repeatedly said he would repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. The question is with what? He said he opposes the more efficient single-payer model. So, if we continue using private insurance, how are we going to keep working people insured without subsidies? The only alternative is to regulate prices in the health care industry. Since “regulation” is a dirty word to most Republicans, no useful law will come out of this Congress. Health savings accounts are not going to cover galloping inflation rates in the health care industry. There is also little chance a Republican Congress will break up the virtual monopolies that exist in the health care delivery system, or in the pharmaceutical sector. Without subsidized insurance, people will either just die, or they’ll return to the more expensive government-subsidized emergency room.

Presidency: Since Trump has not previously been elected to anything, not even dog catcher, he will be on a tremendous learning curve. He will soon learn that the 435 House members and 100 Senators collectively have much more power than he does. While he can use the “bully” pulpit (a description that certainly fits), Congress controls the purse strings, and nothing happens without money. To be sure, Trump will continue to blame everyone but himself, but in the end, he may be forced to deal.

Religion: The U.S. Constitution endorses no religion. It doesn’t even mention the word “god” or “Christianity.” It speaks of religion in only two places. First, it bars all religious tests, and second, it prohibits an establishment of religion, such as Christianity. A Muslim U.S. Citizen, who happens to be a follower of Islam, is fully protected under our Constitution. Trump cannot do anything to them based on faith alone. He is not going to round up Muslims, or make them register, or do any such things to American citizens.

Retirement: During the campaign, Trump said he would not touch the retirement age. The problem is the Republican Congress doesn’t appreciate how much ordinary elderly people need their Social Security checks, and they will propose to raise the age. If this happens, I would hold Trump to his word and ask for a veto.

Supreme Court: While campaigning, the Republicans made Trump sign a paper promising to nominate one of 11 pre-approved right-wingers to the Supreme Court. Any one of them will be readily accepted by the Republican Senate. As a result, for perhaps another generation, the Court will remain conservative, particularly if Kennedy, the remaining Republican swing vote, or one of the four Democrats retires or dies.

Taxes: Like a typical Republican, Trump promised to lower everyone’s taxes. I’m sure the Republican Congress will gladly give him several tax reduction bills, and he will sign them. As a real estate tycoon, Trump will first and foremost help the real estate industry (as if they need additional tax breaks). He will also cut taxes for big business. The problem with taxes is the Republicans love to spend on costly military adventures, but they fail to raise taxes to pay for them. One thing is almost certain, Trump will not even begin to move us towards a balanced budget, or a lower national debt. The debt will almost certainly get much worse under Trump. I’m still hoping that some whistle-blower at the IRS discloses Trump’s tax records, so we can finally see who he’s been dealing with, and what if any taxes he’s paid.

Transportation: Although the Republican Congress has no use for public works projects that might put regular people to work (as evidenced by their failure to support Obama’s Great Recession proposals), they will throw Trump a bone, and they’ll give him something to sign creating some jobs, fixing roads and bridges in rural areas. This will be so he can say he did something.

Wages: While Trump acknowledged that working people have not had any real wage increases in a long time, there are only a few ways to increase incomes. One is to raise the minimum wage, which is something the Republican Congress will never do. Another is to strengthen unions, which again the Republicans will not do. So, it is unlikely wages will improve under Trump. The only possibility is that they go up due to supply-and-demand employee shortages. If this occurs, it won’t have anything to do with Republican policies or Trump.

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12/24/2014

Constitution of U.S. in 1750 Words or Less

The U.S. Constitution created a House and Senate. (1-1-1) House terms are for two-years. (1-2-1) House members are directly elected by the people. (1-2-1) Representatives must be at least 25 and citizens for at least seven years. (1-2-2) House seats are apportioned equally based on a census taken every 10 years. (1-2-3) Washington DC receives one House seat. (A-23) Vacancies are filled by elections called by state executives. (1-2-4)

Senate terms are for six years. (1-3-1) Senators, initially chosen by state legislatures, are also directly elected. (A-17) Senators must be at least 30 and citizens for at least nine years. (1-3-3) Each state is entitled to two Senators, regardless of population. (1-3-1) Senators are divided into three classes; one-third are elected every two years. (1-3-2) The Vice-President serves as the President of the Senate (1-3-4)

The time, place and manner of elections is determined by Congress. (1-4-1) Citizens 18 years of age may vote. (A-26) Those born in the U.S. or naturalized are citizens. (A-14) Congress may write rules for naturalization. (1-8-4) No one may be denied the right to vote due to race or sex. (A-15, A-19) No poll taxes are permitted. (A-24)

No member of Congress may be subjected to a religious test. (6-3) Members are compensated. (6-1) Pay changes cannot become effective until after the next election. (A-27) The House and Senate determine if those elected met the qualifications for office (1-5-1) Members may not simultaneously retain other offices. (1-6-2) They cannot accept gifts or titles of nobility from foreign states. (1-9-8) Senators and representatives may be disciplined for disorderly behavior and expelled if two-thirds agree. (1-5-2)

Congress convenes on Jan. 3 and is in session at least once a year. (1-4-2) A majority constitutes a quorum. (1-5-1) While in session, neither body may adjourn for more than three days. (1-5-4) Members may not be questioned about their House or Senate speeches or debates. (6-1) They are privileged from arrest. (6-1) A journal records all proceedings and votes. (1-5-3) The Vice-President votes only to break a tie in the Senate. (1-3-4)

The President must be a natural-born citizen. (2-1-5) He must be at least 35. (2-1-5) Each state receives Electoral College electors equal to their number of representatives and Senators. (2-1-2) Elections are held on the same date in every state. (2-1-4) A majority of electors choses the President. (2-1-3) If no candidate receives a majority, the House elects the President. (2-1-3)

The Presidential oath of office, written into the Constitution by the Founders, makes no reference to god. (2-1-8) The President may not be subjected to a religious test. (6-3) The President is entitled to compensation. (2-1-7) He is elected to a four-year term that begins on Jan. 20 (2-1-1). He can serve no more than two terms. (A-22) If he already served more than two years of another’s term, he is limited to one term. (A-22)

The President defends the Constitution. (2-3) He is Commander-in-Chief of the army and navy. (2-2-1) He may use the militia to suppress insurrections and enforce the laws of the union. (1-8-15) He appoints ambassadors, officers, and Supreme Court Justices. (2-2-2) He fills vacancies, including Vice-President. (2-2-3) He may grant pardons. (2-2-1) He gives a State of the Union address, which recommends legislation. (2-3) He can make treaties. (2-2-2) No state may sign treaties. (1-10-1) The President may veto bills (1-7-2)

The President may be impeached for treason, bribery, or high crimes and misdemeanors. (2-4) The crime of treason must be supported by two witnesses or a confession in open court. (3-3-1) The House has the sole power to file impeachment charges. (1-2-5) The Senate has the exclusive power to try and convict cases of impeachment. (1-3-6) The Vice-President becomes President if the President dies or is removed from office. (2-1-6)

The House and Senate have legislative powers. (1-1-1) Congress has several enumerated powers. (1-8) They may also pass laws necessary for carrying out the delegated powers. (1-8-18). They may legislate for the District of Columbia. (1-8-17) They may make rules for U.S. territories. (4-3-2) They may admit new states. (4-3-1) They may initiate constitutional amendments by a vote of two-thirds in both bodies. (5) Presidential vetoes may be overridden by a two-thirds majority in both bodies. (1-7-2) The Senate may ratify or reject treaties. (2-2-2)

All revenue bills begin in the House. (1-7-1) Congress has the power to lay and collect taxes. (1-8-1) They may use income taxes. (A-16) Direct taxes must be proportional (1-2-3) Congress, but no state, may coin money. (1-8-5, 1-10-1) They may punish counterfeiters of U.S. coins and securities. (1-8-6) They may borrow money. (1-8-2) They may pay the debt. (1-8-1) They may write uniform bankruptcy rules. (1-8-4) Money from Treasury must be appropriated. (1-9-7)

Congress may regulate commerce with foreign nations and among the several states (1-8-3). They cannot tax exports (1-9-5) There shall be free trade within the U.S. from state to state, without preferences or tariffs imposed on ships (1-9-6) States cannot impose tariffs on imports from abroad or exports headed overseas. (1-10-2)

Congress may promote the progress of science and useful arts by protecting inventors and authors. (1-8-8) They may build post offices and postal roads. (1-8-7) They cannot prohibit intoxicating liquors. (A-21) They may provide for the general welfare. (1-8-1)

Congress provides for a common defense. (1-8-1) They may declare war. (1-8-11) They may raise and support armies for two-year periods. (1-8-12). They may create a navy. (1-8-13) They may organize the militia to repel invasions. (1-8-15, 1-8-16) Militia members cannot be denied a right to bear arms. (A-2) They may grant letters of marque and reprisal. (1-8-11) States may not. (1-10-1) Individual states may not maintain troops. (1-10-2) Congress may erect forts, arsenals, and docks, (1-8-17) but may not quarter soldiers in homes. (A-3)

The Congress may make rules for land and sea forces. (1-8-14) They may make rules for enemies captured on land and water. (1-8-11) They may punish offenses against the Law of Nations. (1-8-10) They may punish felonies on the high seas. (1-8-10)

The Constitution created a Supreme Court. (3-1-1) Tribunals inferior to it may be created by Congress. (1-8-9) Supreme Court Justices serve for good behavior. (3-1-1) They must be compensated.

The judicial power extends to cases where the issue involves the U.S. Constitution, federal law, a treaty, an ambassador, admiralty or maritime law, where the U.S. is a party, two states sue each other, or citizens of different states are involved. (3-2-1) Federal courts cannot hear cases between a state and citizens of another. (A-11) The Supreme Court has appellate jurisdiction, and only a limited degree of original jurisdiction. (3-2-2)

Each state is guaranteed a Republican form of government. (4-4) States cannot grant titles of nobility. (1-10-1) They cannot enter into confederations with other states (1-10-1) They cannot enter into agreements with foreign powers or other states. (1-10-3)

Federal law is the supreme law of the land. (6-2) States reserve only those powers not delegated to the federal government, or barred by the U.S. Constitution. (A-10) States may initiate amendments to the Constitution, if two-thirds of the state legislatures agree. (5) A constitutional amendment becomes law, if three-fourths of the states ratify it. (5)

States must grant full faith and credit to the laws and judgments of the other states. (4-1) They cannot impair the obligations of contracts. (1-10-1) If they take private property for a public purpose, they must pay just compensation. (A-14) In civil cases at law, jury trials cannot be denied. (A-7) States cannot deny citizens the privileges and immunities of citizens of the other states. (4-2)

States cannot deny liberty, which encompasses many freedoms. (A-14) Liberty includes a freedom from religion, as well as the free exercise of it. (A-1, A-14) The government cannot deny free speech, or a freedom of the press. (A-1, A-14) They cannot deny a right to assemble to petition for a redress of grievances. (A-1, A-14)

The Founders made possible the abolition of the slave trade by inserting a provision that allowed it to be terminated in 1808, which is exactly what Jefferson did as soon as he could. (1-9-1) Slavery itself was ended by Lincoln’s efforts in 1865. (A-13) Persons cannot be denied the equal protection of the laws. (A-14) The enumeration of certain rights in the Constitution, does not mean others retained by the people are denied. (A-9)

Neither Congress nor any state may single out a person and convict them through a Bill of Attainder (1-9-3, 1-10-1) Neither Congress, nor any state, may change the rules of the game after the fact by passing Ex Post Facto laws. (1-9-3, 1-10-1)

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures shall not be violated, and no warrant shall issue but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized. (A-4) One state may ask another to extradite an alleged fleeing felon. (4-2-2)

A person accused of a crime may not be denied liberty without the due process of law. (A-5, A-14) He is entitled to the assistance of counsel. (A-6) Writs of Habeas Corpus, which bring the accused out of a jail and before a judge, cannot be suspended, except in times of rebellion (1-9-2) While awaiting trial, the accused may not subjected to excessive bail. (A-8)

One accused of a felony must be indicted by a grand jury, or a judge must find probable cause to bind him over for trial. (A-5) He must be provided with the information that sets forth the nature of the accusation. (A-6) He is entitled to a speedy trial (A-6) He is entitled to a trial by jury. (3-2-3) The jury must be impartial. (A-6)

The trial must be held in the state where the alleged offense occurred. (3-2-3) The trial cannot be conducted in secret and must be open to the public. (A-6) The defendant cannot be compelled to be a witness against himself; in other words, he has a right to remain silent. (A-5) He has the right to confront witness against him. (A-6) He has the right to use the compulsory subpoena process to obtain witnesses for his defense. (A-6)

If a jury finds the defendant not guilty, he cannot be subjected to same offense twice (A-5) If the defendant is found guilty, he cannot be subjected to excessive fines, or exposed to cruel and unusual punishment. (A8)

01/14/2013

Need “Borrowing” Not “Debt” Ceiling

The “Debt Ceiling” is once again being debated in Congress, but it shouldn’t be, since we have no choice, but to pay the financial obligations we already have. Defaulting on our loans is not a realistic or responsible option as it would do nothing but lower our credit rating and trigger negative global responses.

The debate should instead occur much earlier whenever Congress borrows money.  If we are going to have a “ceiling,” it should be as to the amount we borrow. Whenever right-wing politicians vote for another war, or a new weapons system, without raising taxes to pay for them, they should first be required to raise a “Borrowing Ceiling.” This is where the issue might make a difference, since borrowing is not a necessity.

Under the U.S. Constitution, the power “to borrow money” is specifically delegated to the Congress (Art. I, Sec. 8). Congress must approve of any measure that causes borrowing. It is not a power assigned to the Executive. The President does not write the budget. The House must stop blaming the President for spending and they must face their constitutional duty to control it.

Right-wing politicians, who control the House, where all budget bills originate, are famous for supporting all sorts of wasteful military spending, without raising taxes, but once they authorize spending, it’s a waste of time to debate the issue of paying for the military toys previously purchased with a credit card.

It’s time for the Republican House to act like adults, take responsibility, and significantly cut the Defense Budget, or raise taxes to pay for the military spending they previously supported.

12/22/2012

NRA: Gun Caused Newton Shooting

It’s only been a little more than a week since the horrible grade school massacre in Newton, Connecticut, where twenty 6-year-olds and six teachers were murdered, but the National Rifle Association (NRA) is already confusing people as to its cause.

Yesterday, in a speech by Wayne LaPierre, the head of the NRA, the true cause of the shooting was not mentioned. Instead, he suggested increasing our tax burden by spending countless sums to place armed guards in every school in the U.S. He failed to mention mass killings have occurred in theatres, shopping centers, and even army bases, already protected by armed guards.

The NRA cannot see the forest for the trees. The simple cause of the shooting in Connecticut was a gun, period. Yes, the shooter had a mental issue. People have had mental problems in the past, and no matter what we do as a culture, there will be sick people in the future. All we can do is treat illnesses once diagnosed.

The critical mistake in Connecticut occurred when the mother of the mentally ill kid purchased not one, but three firearms, and then kept them in her home, where her son could access them. Although people have been warned over the years the presence of firearms increases risks of injury or death to the owner, more than anyone else, the mother ignored this, and tragically she died first.

The mentally ill kid then took his mother’s semi-automatic weapon on a shooting spree at a grade school. If the mother had not given him access to the gun, or if we would have barred her from purchasing it, the shooting probably wouldn’t have occurred.

We first have to acknowledge that twenty innocent 6-year-olds were murdered by a gun. Sadly, the NRA just can’t accept this.

Other countries, including Canada where hunting is popular, have far less violence from guns, because their regulations are more effective. The 2nd Amendment is not absolute. It specifically refers to a “well-regulated militia.” As the Founders wrote it, they envisioned regulations. It’s time we implemented gun regulations by banning powerful semi-automatic guns now and forever.

11/04/2012

Undecided Voters: Foreign Policy Issues

The better choice on each issue is in the left column, indicated by a (D) for Democrat, (R) for Republican, or (N) for neither.

(D) TRADE WITH CHINA: Although Romney called China a currency manipulator and promised to prosecute them in the World Trade Organization (WTO) for the right to impose tariffs (10-11-11) (11-9-11) (11-12-11) (1-7-12) (1-19-12), since the Great Depression, both parties have worked together to eliminate tariffs, and in recent years, the Republicans have been the loudest advocate of free trade. It is highly unlikely Romney will seek or impose protective tariffs, or interfere with free trade.

(D) TRADE WITH CUBA: Although Romney said he would not open trade with Cuba, until Fidel Castro is dead (1-23-12) (1-26-12), there is actually no reason to treat Cuba any different than the People’s Republic of China, Vietnam, or any other country we now trade with, who was once our enemy. Open the door now.

(D) EURO CRISIS: If the banks and economies around the world were collapsing, Romney said he would act to prevent contagion. (10-11-11). He also said Europe should take care of their own problems (11-9-11), and if Europe had a financial crisis, he wouldn’t give them a blank check, or save their banks (1-16-12). He was critical of the European for using IMF Funds (11-9-11). It appears, as usual, Romney wants to cover both sides of the issue.

(D) IMMIGRATION: Romney promised to crack down on immigration. (8-11-11). He said employers who hire illegal aliens are magnets. (9-7-11) (9-22-11). He would make businesses check the E-Verify data base. (10-18-11) (12-15-11) (1-19-12) (1-26-11). He thinks illegal aliens without jobs will self-deport (1-26-12). He said amnesty for illegal immigrants is another magnet that only encourages more. (12-10-11). He would not give aliens tuition assistance. (9-12-11) (9-22-11) (10-18-11). He would not give them Driver’s licenses. (9-12-11). He wants people with math and science degrees (11-22-11), and English language emersion for immigrants. (1-23-12) (1-26-12). He opposes special routes to citizenship (1-16-12). Although many Republicans favor what Romney has said, business owners in his own party wish to continue hiring illegal aliens, so they can keep paying cash under the table, to avoid payroll taxes and other legal obligations.

(D) MILITARY SERVICE: Romney, who received several deferments during the Vietnam War, found it extraordinary that only a few families were paying the price for freedom (1-7-12)

(D) IRAQ: Obama carried out his campaign pledge to end the misguided War in Iraq. Romney said he thought we had to go to war against Iraq. (1-16-12). Why is that even remotely true?

(D) BIN LADEN: President Obama was the Commander-in-Chief over the raid that eliminated Osama bin Laden. If a Republican had been President when the mission was accomplished, they would be carving his face into Mt. Rushmore. On the assumption Bin Laden was responsible for 911, it was a job well done, and Obama should be credited.

(D) ASSASSINATION: Romney said he thinks the President has a right to order the death of any “American citizens” suspected of terrorism (11-12-11) Sorry, Mitt, no such right.

(D) LIBYA: President Obama waged an almost flawless campaign to help the Libyan freedom fighters remove Gaddafi, their long-time dictator. He refused to put U.S. troops on the ground, but supplied aid to the rebels, and succeeded in bringing change to Libya. Republicans, who spend time on the recent incident in Bengazi, can’t see the forest for the trees.

(D) AFGHANISTAN: We should withdraw from Afghanistan as soon as possible, so our troops can come home, and we can save billions. Romney was vague about Afghanistan during the Republican debates. He said he would defer to generals and conditions on the ground. (6-13-11) (8-11-11) He thinks our commanders in the field don’t want to withdraw. He wouldn’t cut and run. He thinks Obama’s announcement of a withdrawal weakened us (1-16-12) He accused Obama of withdrawing early, but then he also said he would stay until 2014. (11-12-11) (11-22-11) He gave no reasons for wanting to stay until 2014. (1-7-12). He wouldn’t negotiate with the Taliban, since he said they’re terrorists. He incorrectly said they declared war on us. (1-16-12). Romney wants to win in Afghanistan by defeating the Taliban (1-23-12) He also said he wants a gradual transfer to Afghan Security Forces. Frankly, I think Romney wants to be President and will say just about anything, depending on who’s listening.

(D) LAWS OF WAR: Romney said the rights that apply to criminal law are different than those applicable in war (11-22-11)

(D) GUANTANAMO: As to the Guantanamo Prison, Romney thinks we have a right to deny al Qaeda due process. (1-16-12).

(D) PAKISTAN: Romney is concerned about the fact Pakistan has nuclear weapons (2-22-12) He believes they are a fragile nation close to a failed state. He wants to bring Pakistan into the 21st Century (11-22-11) He wants them to let us go after the Taliban and Haqqani Network inside Pakistan (11-12-11). We need to stay out of Pakistan, Mitt. You’re playing with fire there.

(D) SYRIA: Romney said Syria is a threat to Israel (1-26-12), and an ally of Iran. He would use covert means to end Assad’s dictatorship (11-12-11) He would not however impose a no-fly zone over Syria. He would use sanctions and covert means (11-22-11) I say let’s stay out of their war altogether.

(D) ISRAEL: Although Republicans accuse Obama of sticking a thumb in Israel’s eye (8-11-11), the American problem is not too little support for Israel, it’s too much. Our bipartisan American foreign-policy has been controlled by Israeli special interests for a long time. Romney is frightening, because he sounds like a weak leader, who would allow outsiders to control our foreign policy. Romney said it was wrong for Obama to criticize Israel for illegally constructing settlements in occupied Palestine (9-22-11) Weak Republicans like Romney would abandon our long-standing objection to Israel’s illegal taking of the Palestinian territories in 1967. (8-11-11) Since Obama courageously followed international law, we need him to keep Israel from taking the U.S. even deeper into their conflict. Romney pandered to the Jewish community while in Florida (1-26-12), and it’s not surprising his first foreign policy trip would be to Israel (11-22-11) We need a leader much stronger than Romney, one who would stand up to Israel.

(D) IRAN: Romney has a desire to impose crippling sanctions against Iran to keep them from developing nuclear weapons, which he called unacceptable (9-22-11) He falsely accused Obama of not putting crippling sanctions against Iran (1-7-12) He supports Iranian dissidents. He favors regime change and would take military action to keep Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons (11-12-11) He called Obama weak on Iran (12-15-11) Romney said if Iran shut down the Straits of Hormuz, it would be an act of war (1-23-12). He thinks they will sneak dirty bombs into the U.S. through Latin America (2-22-12) Romney would indict Ahmadinejad for violating the Genocide Convention (11-22-11)

(D) LATIN AMERICA: Romney actually thinks the Hezbollah is working in Latin America (11-22-11) (2-22-12) Get real Mitt.

(D) RUSSIA: In one debate, Romney sounded like he didn’t know the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991. He was still talking as though Russia was an enemy, as he accused Obama of giving them what they wanted. (11-12-11). Romney worries me.

(D) FOREIGN AID: Romney thinks the U.S. spends more on foreign aid than we should (10-18-11). We are still the richest nation on earth, and if we want allies, we need to give some aid.

(D) HOMELAND SECURITY: Romney would let people who are a “lower risk” go through TSA screening quickly. (11-22-11). Sounds like he wants to set up a fast track for his friends like Donald Trump, while the rest of us wait in line.

11/04/2012

Undecided Voters: Social Issues

The better choice on each issue is in the left column, indicated by a (D) for Democrat, (R) for Republican, or (N) for neither.

(D) VOTING RIGHTS AND ELECTIONS: Which party is more likely to promote a constitution amendment to remove money from campaigns, or appoint Supreme Court justices willing to interpret large contributions as bribery? Romney goes in the wrong direction as he suggests getting rid of campaign finance laws. (1-16-12). Who is more likely to promote and protect the right to vote by removing unnecessary obstacles, and yet preserve the integrity of the system? Democrats clearly win this one.

(D) MEDICARE: Although the nation must get Medicare spending under control, Romney has no solution, for he would block grant it to the states, which would effectively kill it. (10-18-11) (11-12-11) (2-22-12). Not changing things for current retirees is just a way of screwing those who’ll retire later (1-8-12) Romney wants a premium voucher program, which inevitably will not cover increases in insurance company premiums (1-16-12).

(D) MEDICAID: Romney would also effectively end Medicaid by sending it to the states. (1-16-12). As he put it, he would get the government out of Medicaid. (1-19-12). The problem is a large segment of the population will prematurely die off.

(D) HEALTH CARE COSTS: Health care needs tough federal regulation to control doctor and hospital costs, as well as drug prices, but neither party openly proposes a solution. Since regulation is the only answer, and the modern Republican Party never advocates price controls, Romney cannot be the solution.

(D) OBAMACARE: Romney was wrong when he thought Obamacare would be declared unconstitutional. (12-10-11). He repeatedly promised to repeal it. (10-11-11) (10-18-11) (1-7-12) (1-16-12) (1-19-12) (2-22-12). He posed a good question when he asked what we would be replaced with. (10-11-11). He alleged Obamacare raises taxes 500 billion, cuts Medicare 500 billion, and is a government takeover. (10-11-11). He thinks eliminating it would save 95 billion annually (11-12-11) (1-7-12). Romney would give states health care waivers (9-22-11), which effectively would repeal it. Since the current health care system is dysfunctional, the greatest problem with the Republican position is their failure to suggest a rational intelligent alternative.

(D) INDIVIDUAL MANDATE: Romney argued people need to purchase health insurance to show their personal responsibility. (8-11-11) (11-9-11). He said uninsured persons are going to emergency rooms and taxpayers end up picking up the tab. (9-7-11). Romney insulted those who cannot afford health insurance by calling them “free riders.” (1-26-12). He later contradicted himself saying he opposed the individual mandate (1-23-12). The problem is even with a government voucher program, health care providers and health insurance companies will continue raising costs and premiums, and most will be priced out of coverage. Deductibles and co-pays will continue to rise. Prices need to be controlled and regulated. Since Republicans will never regulate, the vote has got to go to the Democrats.

(D) PRESCRIPTION DRUGS: Romney said he would not repeal the unfunded Prescription Drug Program started by Little Bush (9-12-11). The problem is we need drug price regulation, but the Republicans will never do it. Our only hope is with Democrats.

(D) SOCIAL SECURITY RETIREMENT: Social Security retirement should never be confused with Medicare, or other social welfare programs. The retirement plan, created in 1935, is the most successful and efficient program ever created by the federal government. It needs nothing, except to be left alone. While Romney called it an “essential program” (9-12-11), Republicans from Reagan to Little Bush have advocated phasing it out. So, even though Romney said we should save the retirement plan (9-7-11), he would be pressured by House Republicans to push a right-wing agenda, which is to privatize it. Although Romney said it would not change for current retirees (1-8-12), he would add a year or two to the retirement age (1-16-12).

(D) WELFARE: Romney would turn poverty programs back to the states (1-8-12), which would kill them. He thinks Obama is creating a welfare state (1-19-12), and the U.S. has become an entitlement society. (1-16-12). Romney would block grant Food Stamps (2-22-12), which would cripple the needs of the hungry.

(D) EDUCATION: Romney apparently thinks there is something wrong with teacher unions, as he said he would stand up them. (9-22-11) While he would test children in math and English (2-22-12), which is fine, too many Republicans push the idea of privatizing schools, a long range threat to our culture.

(D) EDUCATIONAL TV/PUBLIC BROADCASTING (PBS): In an shocking campaign promise, Romney said he would eliminate Public Broadcasting (11-12-11). At a time when more, not less, non-fictional programming on science is needed, why cut PBS? Personally, it’s the only benefit I ever received from the federal government. I can’t believe any candidate would eliminate it.

(D) ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION: In Presidential elections, we don’t just elect a man; we choose a party to manage the agencies of government. If Romney wins, House Republicans will name the head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Extremists like Republican Michelle Bachmann, who advocated abolishing it, will have influence. If Romney wins, we will have a weak EPA. We should prefer over-regulation, than the other way around. Although Romney said we can’t let pollution flow from one state to another (1-8-12), which implies a need for federal law, modern Republicans cannot be trusted to regulate.

(D) FEDERAL EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT AGENCY (FEMA) The storm that just hit the East Coast is a good reminder of how bad it would be if FEMA had been abolished, or privatized. We need to remember we all sink or swim together.

(D) SUPREME COURT: It is likely the next President will appoint one or more Justices. A Romney win would tip the court to the hard right. The Court currently has four right-wing Justices: Scalia, Thomas, Alito and Roberts (on most issues). Reagan’s appointee Kennedy completes the usual conservative majority, which has existed since 1972.

(D) ABORTION: The secular right to “liberty” found in the 5th and 14th Amendments allows women to have an abortion in the earlier stages of pregnancy, when the fetus is incapable of living outside the womb. As a practical matter, attempts to outlaw abortion have been a waste of time. Even if the anti-abortion crowd had another Justice, who would ignore precedent, and reverse Roe v Wade, subsequent attempts to convict women and doctors would fail. Prosecutors will never get 12 jurors to convict women or doctors, and there would be hung jury after hung jury. We live in a free country which has no official religious creed. People disagree as to whether life begins at birth, or some other point before the fetus can live outside the womb. Romney, a missionary for the very conservative Mormon Church, will almost certainly appoint right-wing Justices. He changed his position on abortion. Most recently, he said he is pro-life (12-15-11) (1-19-12). He said Roe v Wade was wrong, it should be overturned, and the issue should be left to the states. (1-7-12). His stand would only give religious fanatics the power to impose their religious views on a secular society, filled with many who want to be free.

(D) CONTRACEPTIVES: Romney did not think any state wanted to ban contraceptives (1-7-12), but he is part of a right-wing Republican Party willing to turn back the hands of time.

(D) GAYS: Romney, whose Mormon grandfather fled the U.S. and moved to Mexico, because he believed strongly in the right to have more than one wife, ironically wants to amend the Constitution to limit marriages to one man and one women. Why the Republicans want to control the life of gays, who are genetically predisposed, is a mystery. We live in free country. It’s time to leave gays alone. Although Romney opposes same-sex marriage (12-15-11) (1-8-12) (1-16-12), and would amend the constitution to stop gay marriage (1-7-12) (1-8-12), the Democrats have the better position, as they believe in personal freedom.

(D) GUNS: Neither party is doing much to control hand guns in cities. Romney signed an assault weapons ban when he was Gov. in Massachusetts, but now he says he is pro-gun (12-15-11). The Republicans offer little hope to control firearm violence.

(D) RELIGION: Romney served overseas in France as a missionary for the Mormon Church. (12-10-11). He said he would seek guidance and providence in making critical decisions (1-26-12). He thinks Obama is somehow attacking religious freedom. (2-22-12). I have no idea what Romney is talking about.

11/04/2012

Undecided Voters: Economic Issues

The better choice on each issue is in the left column, indicated by a (D) for Democrat, (R) for Republican, or (N) for neither.

(D) DEFICITS AND DEBT: Which party has shown an ability to end deficit spending and produce surpluses? Reagan made drastic tax cuts for the rich in 1981 and 1986, and tripled the debt. Bill Clinton’s budget in 1993 was passed by Democrats, without a single Republican vote, and it led to surpluses. Little Bush cut tax rates again, started an optional war in Iraq, and failed to request taxes for it. He just handed a great recession to Obama. While right-wing Republicans control the House, and promise to spend more on the military, they stubbornly refuse to tax for it. There’s no reason to believe they are capable of managing the debt.

(D) TAXES IN GENERAL: Which party is more likely to implement fair tax policies that may correct the deficit and debt. Romney said he would not raise taxes. (1-8-12). He stated a desire to lower them even further. (1-16-12). He said we only need taxes for the military, nothing else. (1-7-12) With these extreme positions, he would never get close to correcting deficits and debt.

(D) TAXES: CAPITAL GAINS, DIVIDENDS AND INTEREST: Which party has the better position on taxes as to capital gains, corporate dividends, and interest income? Romney repeatedly said during the Republican debates he wanted to completely eliminate taxes on capital gains, dividends, and interest (9-7-11) (9-12-11) (9-22-11) (12-10-11) (1-16-12) He later said he would limit his plan to incomes of less than $200,000. (1-23-12) In either event, it’s unfair to people who pay taxes on earned income. His policies would either raise taxes on the Middle Class, or make the deficit and debt worse. He never explained how he would make up for the lost revenues.

(D) TAXES: PAYROLL: Which party is more likely to promote tax cuts for regular workers? Romney was dismissive of Obama’s ongoing payroll tax cuts, as he called them a band-aid (12-10-11)

(D) TAXES: CORPORATE: Romney advocated lowering the highest corporate tax rate from 35% to 25%. (11-9-11). This new loss of revenue would have to be made up by the Middle Class.

(D) TAXES: RETIREES & THOSE WITH SMALL INCOMES: Although everyone pays sales taxes, gas taxes, real estate taxes (as a part of rent), as well as other excise taxes, Romney said everyone (poor, elderly, etc.) should pay income taxes. (9-7-11).

(D) TAX RETURNS AND HIDDEN WEALTH: Why didn’t Romney disclose more personal income tax returns? Romney promised to release “multiple years.” (1-19-12). In the end, however, he only showed us two years. We don’t know if he is hiding something, or telling the truth. Gingrich said Romney lives in a world of Swiss and Cayman Island bank accounts (1-26-12)

(D) BUDGET, NATIONAL DEBT, MILITARY SPENDING: Romney said we need to stop spending like we have for the past 40 years. (1-8-12). He was critical about leaving debt to the next generation. (11-9-11). He claimed he would cut spending, but he didn’t explain how (11-9-11), except by saying he would ban earmarks. (2-22-12). Romney promises not to cut wasteful military spending, of any kind. (10-11-11). He wants 350 million for the F-22, more aircraft carriers, more Navy cruisers, more Air Force bombers, and more troops. (11-22-11). He would increase Navy shipbuilding each year from 9 to 15, and would add 100,000 troops. (12-15-11) (1-23-12) (2-22-12). He makes the case for the other side, saying Obama is shrinking the military (1-7-12) Romney thinks our Navy is smaller than it was in 1917, and our air force is smaller than it was in 1947. (1-16-12) (1-23-12).

(D) JOBS: Which party would be better for promoting jobs? Obama inherited a recession where unemployment reached over 10% in 2009. It is now down to 7.9% and the trend has been in the right direction the past three years. Romney incorrectly argued no jobs were created from the job stimulus bill (10-11-11) He said Obama’s polices worsened the job situation, which is obviously a false claim (1-7-12). Romney argues the government doesn’t create jobs (12-15-11), the private sector does (12-10-11), but then inconsistently blames Obama for not creating jobs.

(D) LABOR: Which party is more likely to protect the rights of working people? The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) insures fairness between organized labor and management. Romney said he would curtail the NLRB (12-10-11), and would promote anti-union “right to work” laws throughout the U.S. (1-8-12) He repeatedly showed hostility towards the NLRB, by saying it was filled with “labor stooges” (1-8-12) (1-19-12).

(D) MINIMUM WAGE: Do you think Romney would ever promote an increase in the minimum wage? In one word: no.

(D) MANUFACTURING: Which party appears to be more interested in saving American manufacturing? The Republicans clearly opposed loans help GM and Chrysler get through the Great Recession. Over fierce opposition, Obama helped them. Had they gone through bankruptcy, the nation would now be reeling from the economic ripple effects. Obama took a gamble and succeeded.  Romney said funds should not have been used to bail out GM and Chrysler (10-11-11) Romney again said the auto bailout was wrong; they should have gone bankrupt. (11-9-11).

(D) AGRICULTURE: Romney would end farm subsidies as he said to let the markets work. (1-23-12). What he is actually promoting is a localized depression in Midwestern small towns.

(D) TRANSPORTATION/MASS TRANSIT: In one debate, Romney advocated improving the infrastructure, by rebuilding bridges, roads, rail beds and air transport systems. We can’t criticize him for that, but we should not forget his party harbors the likes of Gov. Walker of Wisconsin and Gov. Scott of Florida, who blocked mass transit proposals. So on transit, it appears the Republican Party will not help America enter the 21st Century.

(D) ENERGY: Who has the better energy policy? Romney wants energy security and independence by using our own resources (10-18-11 (1-7-12) (1-19-12) That’s a nice idea, but energy resources are fungible and are sold on world markets, so no nation controls them. Romney put emphasis on developing coal, oil, gas, and nuclear (9-7-11)(1-16-12) He’d give more permits for natural gas and oil drills. (12-15-11). He does not discuss solar or wind, but why not? Since Obama includes all energy resources, his policy is better.

(N) ANTITRUST: Has either candidate advocated antitrust lawsuits to break up companies too big to fail? No. Antitrust was a Republican idea in 1890, and prosecutions are now needed to break up the concentrations of power in the hands of a few.

(D) FEDERAL RESERVE: Romney claims Federal Reserve chair Bernanke pumped too much money into the economy (9-7-11), and he would discharge him. (10-11-11). He said Congress should have Fed oversight, but no control over the currency. (9-12-11). Since Romney is opposed to priming the pump through Monetary Policy, how would he have stimulated it?

(D) BANK BAILOUTS: At one point, Romney said he didn’t want to save the Wall Street banks, as Bush did (2-22-12). It appears he would have just let the system collapse, but if that had happened, we’d be in a deep depression right now.

(D) WALL STREET: Romney correctly pointed out the derivatives market was not regulated (1-23-12), but he failed to promote a regulation of it. He instead criticized those occupying Wall Street, by saying they were engaged in dangerous class warfare (10-18-11).

(D) HOUSING: Romney supported the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) (10-11-11) (10-18-11) He accused Fannie and Freddie of offering mortgages to people who can’t afford them (1-26-12). He opposed the Dodd-Frank law, claiming it makes it harder for banks to make loans (1-7-12)(1-8-12).  He said the government should not stop the banks from foreclosing (10-18-11). He claimed Obama was holding off the foreclosure process, and argued we must let the market work (11-9-11) His non-solution solution is to block-grant housing vouchers (2-22-12).

(D) VULTURE CAPITALIST: If Romney wins, he’ll be the first President with a vulture capitalist background. He claims to have successfully operated businesses (12-15-11), but he was really a Bain investor, who just made money for himself and his partners. Gingrich accused him of profiting by stripping American businesses of assets,  bankrupting companies, and laying off workers (1-7-12) Romney said they had to be downsized (1-7-12) Gingrich said Romney’s Bain looted companies and left people unemployed (1-8-12). Gingrich said he was engaged in vulture capitalism. (1-16-12). In an interesting contradiction, while discussing tax returns, Romney said his income came from a blind trust. He said the money I earn: “is not made by me.” (1-26-12).

06/12/2012

Autos: Replace Gas Engines with Electric

There is no doubt autos with gasoline-combustion engines are by far the dominant mode of transportation in the U.S., but how long will that continue? For those who think gas-propelled cars will remain indefinitely, they should be reminded of the horse-and-buggy, which was once considered a permanent institution.

The question is not whether the gas-combustion engine will become a thing of the past, the only issue is: When will it be replaced, and by what alternative source of energy?

It may be surprising to many, but electric cars were manufactured by 54 different American firms between 1893 and 1928, and were once widely used. 300 electric taxis were operating in New York City in 1900. The next year, an electric ambulance took President McKinley to the hospital, following his assassination in 1901.

Although electric cars had the advantage of being quiet and clean, as they emitted no poisonous gases, their top speed was only about 20 MPH, and they could only go about 50 miles before their lead-acid batteries needed replacement. To complicate the problem, new batteries were expensive. As gas-propelled vehicles became easier to operate in 1910, the electric car faded from the scene, and they were eliminated completely in 1928.

Another predecessor to gas was the steam engine, known as the Stanley Steamer, which was first marketed in 1896. They remained through 1925, when again gas-combustion took over.

The gas-combustion engine got their boost in Germany in 1885, when Gottlieb Daimler and Karl Benz built vehicles. In the U.S., Henry Ford and Ransom Olds started in 1896. Olds took the first step towards an assembly line, as he increased production from 425 cars in 1901 to 2,500 in 1902. Using Ford’s conveyor belt in 1913, they were able to make one Model T every 93 minutes.

Following WWI, the gas-propelled auto became the major means of transportation in the U.S. Its use increased many times over in the subsequent decades of the 20th Century.

To make the auto dominant, the government invested billions in federal, state, and local highway systems, beginning in 1921. As tax dollars were spent, millions of miles of roads were added during the 20 years through 1941. Suburban communities exploded, particularly after WWII, as many were invented in places not previously serviced by rail or water.

Now, the era of the gas-engine has had a long 90-year run, during which many improvements were made to the car, but many problems also surfaced. Gas engines have given us air pollution, congested highways, urban sprawl, a foreign oil addiction, automobile accidents, as well as a host of other problems.

When considering their cost, we must keep in mind not only the price of the car, but the taxes spent by the government to build and maintain roads, military spending to keep the sea lanes open for oil shipments, and environmental harm to the air we breath.

Political leaders should be pushing scientists and engineers to bring back the electric car, since they are quieter, cleaner, and need not rely on foreign oil. The government invested heavily in roads to help gas-powered car get off the ground. Now, we need the same to help electric cars become our primary form of transit.

06/06/2012

Why Would Republicans Cut Agencies?

During the Republican debates, lightweights like Gov. Perry of Texas argued government regulations are killing America. He advocated a complete elimination of the departments of Commerce, Energy, and Education. As others singled out the Environmental Protection Agency for extinction, Gov. Romney characteristically used vague terms, while he promised to cut a whole series of federal programs.

The media of course failed to ask follow-ups like: Why were Commerce, Energy, and Education slated for elimination? Why not Agriculture, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Labor, Interior, Transportation, or Veterans Affairs? Don’t they all promulgated regulations? Why advocate just partial anarchy? Why not jump forward into total anarchy?

Can you imagine a country without federal regulation of any kind, where corporations did whatever they wanted, without any check on their behavior? Even though such a society would be an insane place to live, this is really what the Republicans want. Their goal is to abolish as many agencies as possible, because they simply don’t believe government has ever done or can do anything right.

But unlike the hardcore Republicans, rational people fortunately still believe the federal departments and agencies serve a purpose.

As to agriculture, we need agencies to inspect animal and plant health and safety. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) must continue protecting us from harm.

As to commerce, the Consumer Product Safety Commission determines if products are unsafe. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) should do more to regulate deceptive advertising and unfair trade, not less.  The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) should keep the airwaves from being owned by just a few.

As to energy, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has no choice but to deal with nuclear security and waste disposal.

As to government, the fairness of elections needs monitoring by a Federal Election Commission (FEC) empowered to remove the corrosive influence of money.

As to health, we want an active Center for Disease Control.

As to housing, we still need equal opportunity and fairness.

As to air and water, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is essential. They must monitor our endangered species, fish and wildlife, forests, migratory birds, and protect the national parks.

As to justice, we need stronger, not weaker, antitrust enforcement, to break up banks and other corporations “too big to fail.”

As to labor, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has reduced a countless number of injuries in the workplace. They have eliminated chemical hazards. Mine safety and health is not an outdated chore. The National Labor Relations Board monitors union elections, and hears grievances regarding unfair practices.

As to transportation, what rational person would abolish the Federal Aviation Administration? The National Transportation Safety Board looks into plane crashes, to improve air travel. We need a Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to insure truck safety. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has saved a great many lives by improving road conditions.

If retirement funds are going to be invested in the markets, the public must have an active Securities and Exchange Commission and a Commodity Futures Trading Commission. The new Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection is a welcome sight, but it needs even more power to check bank and credit card company abuse.

Fortunately, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation was created by Democrats in the 1930s, and when the banks failed this time, deposits were insured. We obviously must keep the FDIC, and maintain a strong Federal Reserve System.

Those who recklessly advocate abolishing agencies have not thought through their positions. In the modern age, people need government to regulate. Since the Republicans have been on the wrong side of this issue, and have no explanation as to why they would eliminate agencies, except that they apparently prefer an anarchistic world, they should be defeated in November.