Thursday, November 06, 2014

Lies, fear mongering, appealing to baser emotions and other winning GOP strategies

It's been a while since I have written.  I thought I said it all; educated you to the dangers of partisan politics and expected you to go to the polls enlightened enough to make choices that would help improve what is wrong with government.

Then the mid-term elections took place.  After I came back from the acute case of shock induced depression brought on by the recent romping that the Democrats got from the Republicans, I began to ponder what just happened.

For every enlightened voter out there, there are just a few more who are blind to the devious ways of the Republican party.  Just enough low information voters to give Republicans an advantage in mid-term elections with low voter turn-out.  Although the general public has rated our modern "do-nothing" Congress with only 13% favorability, it appears they do not know who the real culprits are.  I used to think that America blamed both parties equally.  Now I understand that America only blames Democrats.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Republicans purposely caused the failure of the government in order to deceive voters that the party holding the office of the President, cannot accomplish anything.

Many voters think that all failure and blame lands on the President and his party.  Republican strategists and Mitch McConnell himself understood this and used it to their advantage.  Before the President was inaugerated in 2009, Mitch and his band of Republican strategists met to take advantage of it.  See the evidence in an article from Time magazine here. The plan they created was to obstruct every major piece of legislation that Democrats and the President wanted.  In this way, Mitch and his malcontents knew that the President would not be given any credit for any accomplishment.  This would strengthen Republican potential to win future elections.  They did this in plain view of the public and yet too few noticed it happening.  They did it to the detriment of America for political gain and got rewarded for it in the end.  Their obstruction has gone on for years now.

Republicans kept deceiving the public at a rapid clip with continuous lies about the President.  During the 2012 Presidential campaign, Republicans used lies as a campaign strategy.  They blamed Obama for telling business owners that they did not create their business.  A complete fabrication intended to mislead the public.  They took the President's words out of context to make it appear he said denigrating things against all Americans.  They spoke of how damaging Obamacare was without justification and voted to repeal it over fifty times.  Republicans even denied medicaid expansion without reason in most Republican run states to attempt to encourage it's demise and deny healthcare to millions of Americans.

Conservative "news" shows kept slamming the President with false accusations, appealing to their audiences baser emotions, using fear mongering, appealing to racism and spreading lies to confuse the public.  They blamed Obama for everything.  If Ebola got into the country on the backs of ISIS it would be Obama's fault.

Republican leaders like Michele Bachman lied to the public about Obamacare death panels.  Republicans closed the government and blamed the Democrats while Republican leaders took photo-ops with veterans at closed government federal parks and facilities pretending that the GOP was outraged that the government was closed.  Republican led witch-hunts by Congressional committees to hear about the so-called involvement of the President or his cabinet members in Benghazi, the IRS tax exemption decisions, and other fabricated scandals were done not to get at the truth, but instead to confuse the voting public and spread lies about the President and his cabinet.

Republican voting shows them to be against the poor and middle class, veterans, the elderly, women, students and labor.  Their budget proposal shows that they have plans to increase the wealth of the super-rich while taking from the middle class to accomplish it.

And this strategy worked.  America blamed the Democrats and rewarded Republicans bad behavior by electing them into power.  There is only one deceiver I can think of who might be on par with the deception of the Republican party and that horned demon might actually be behind all of this.  Nothing else makes as much sense.

Monday, June 09, 2014

Puckett says good-bye to Virginia Democrats and Medicaid expansion

Virginia state politics has entered a new era in stymying aspects of the affordable care law.  Virginia Republicans have enlisted a self-serving Democratic Senator to spoil the chances that medicaid will be expanded in Virginia.

Democrats in Virginia's legislature have been preparing to expand medicaid and were working on a budget which included it.  That budget was moving forward and expected to pass with medicaid expansion in it.  The balance of power in the Virginia Senate was tied at 20 to 20 but that is now about to change.

Democrat senator Phillip Puckett will resign from the Virginia legislature and leaves a balance of power in the hands of Republicans running Virginia.  The GOP will now take over the chairmanships
Phillip Puckett (D-VA)
and leadership of the Virginia legislature, thus ending newly elected Governor Terry McAuliff's campaign pledge to expand medicaid.  Some 400,000 people now have no possibility of gaining access to healthcare in the near future.

The circumstances surrounding Senator Puckett's resignation is very suspicious.  Reportedly, Puckett's resignation was done on the promise that he would be given a position on the state tobacco commission while his daughter would get a state judicial appointment compliments of Virginia Republican leadership.  Because of the public outrage over this attempted bribe, Puckett has refused to accept the deal, however with Puckett's resignation, the Republicans still get their part of the bargain and gain the control they needed to allow hundreds of thousands of poor people to die of their health issues.

If you are Republican, you should be ashamed of your party.  If you are a Puckett, you should be ashamed of your family.  If you are a Virginia voter, you have your chance to rectify this in the fall.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Are you misguided, uniformed, heartless or rich? Then you must vote Republican.

Elections for many political offices will be occurring this fall.  The winners of these elections will be responsible for future legislation in federal and state governments that will control our daily lives.

The upcoming mid-term elections are not insignificant nor typical.  One could say that these mid-term elections are the most important election of our time.  The future of our American society could be in the balance.

The Congressional elections for the federal House and Senate could reinforce Republican obstruction or eliminate it, depending on the results.  State elections could make life or death differences to many who cannot receive medical care under Republican obstructed medicaid expansion.

To help you remember or to just inform some of you for the first time, of some of the deleterious effects of having Republicans in office, let me recall some things you should know by now.

America's unemployed work force could be put back to work if the President's American Jobs Act is enacted without Republican obstruction.

Women could become equal in the workforce if legislation to prevent discrimination in wages was lifted by removing Republican obstruction.

America's immigrant families could receive fairer treatment if Republicans could not prevent it.

Opportunity for all Americans and America's economic condition could be improved with an increase in the minimum wage which Republicans refuse to support.

The unfair control of government realized by the few uber-rich American contributors to the Republican party who influence their legislation and activities could be eliminated.

The American worker and middle class could rise in importance and our government could be "of, for and by the people" again.

Poor children would go to bed less hungry if Republican cuts to the SNAP program were eliminated and reversed.

Falsely imposed voting restrictions could be stopped if Republicans were run out of state legislatures.

The Republican party's partisan witch-hunts based on false  accusations would stop being the focus of the Congress and taxpayer money could be used more productively for legislation that Americans need if Republicans lost control of the House.

America would never again renege on their debt obligations if Republicans are not given the power to cause it.

Dealing with scientific facts, the government could make more reasonable decisions to enact laws that protect our environment if Republicans were not in control.

Near treasonous acts that show Republican leadership's opposition to government would end.

Using fear tactics and lies to persuade Americans into voting against their own self interest could end if Republicans are shown that using those unethical tactics cannot win them elections.

The federal government may never face another shutdown if Republicans were not in control.

The Affordable Care Act might be allowed to continue to benefit people; improve the health of America; put money back into the economy with increased jobs in health services; improve the profits of medical device manufacturers, hospitals, doctors, nurses and insurance companies while at the same time making healthcare affordable.

Expanding Medicaid in Republican run states would insure and protect the health of over seven million uninsured poor voters and reduce costs for taxpayers whose premiums are higher in order to cover the costs of those who do not have health insurance.  Hospitals in rural areas of Republican run states could become profitable again and re-open their doors.

America's tax policies could be reviewed and certain unfair loop-holes closed so that all Americans and American Corporations pay their fair share of taxes and revenue could again become part of the equation for budget considerations if  Republicans did not control the federal House.

Ultimately, the mid-term elections are  extremely important.  You should consider this as important an election as a Presidential one and get out to vote. 

If you consider yourself a Republican, perhaps you have inherited that title or been influenced to vote as one from your parents and grandparents whose culture of Republicanism goes back many years.  You should recognize that political parties change over time and may not be the same as the party your parents or grandparents aligned with.  For example, Abraham Lincoln was a Republican who freed the slaves yet some modern day Republicans pass legislation to restrict voting rights to African-Americans.  In regards to empathy toward others, Republicans have changed dramatically.

A political party affiliation should not be treated the same as your genetically inherited characteristics. Although "mutation" is a similarity between genetics and political parties, your party affiliation should be based on how closely a comparison of the overall beliefs and policies of the party match your own personal beliefs.  The comparison should not be limited to one or two policies but to all policies and beliefs so you get a complete picture of a party.  For example, Republican leaders claim to hold to the teachings of Christianity because they support a right to life but their legislation may indicate that they oppose Christianity since they do not support the needy and carry out injustices to other diverse populations.

In order to make such comparisons you should research the facts about the political party's policies; understand how they vote on issues and determine if they represent your views.  It is important to determine these things by reviewing factual reference material while ignoring commentators or others who would attempt to deceive you or are just misinformed themselves.  One way this can be done is by reviewing government web sites such as, and  

To keep informed on current events in politics, watch political television shows on both sides of politics and judge for yourself which is most truthful.  For example, Fox News is known to be conservative television that takes a less factual "entertainment" approach to supporting Republican causes while MSNBC is known to be progressive news reporting that supports Democratic causes.  Seeing these two networks present both sides of the same issue can be enlightening. 

Paul Ryan (R) Wisconsin
That being said, I want to begin analyzing Republicanism with one of the most telling subjects in recent days; the 2014 Republican budget proposal.  It has been said that you can tell where a party's priorities are by the budget they propose.  

Paul Ryan was tasked with the job of preparing a Republican budget proposal that balanced within ten years.  Balancing a budget can be done in many ways, but the Republican budget had to be based on Republican principles which molded and forced the end result.  

One building block of that Republican budget is that tax revenue cannot be increased.  Without new revenue, only cuts in federal programs would be possible. 

Another prerequisite was that military spending must be increased. Increasing military spending without raising taxes means something else must be cut by the amount of increase in military spending.  About $650 billion is spent on the United States military each year which exceeds the combined military spending of the next ten highest spending countries in the world.  Even the US military has stated that the amount is too high and can be reduced.  When Republicans speak of military spending they do not mean government assistance for veterans.  They do mean to increase the wealth of defense contractors.

Yet another prerequisite of the Republican budget is that much of the cost and operation of Federal government programs must be passed on to the states.  Making states take on safety net programs will force them to either increase their taxes (if they plan to continue to provide the service) or cut or eliminate the programs.  In Republican run states I can state almost certainly that these services will be cut.  Overall, their budget expects that the financial burden that they are eliminating from the federal government should be placed on the states.  Provided the states maintain the programs, the savings to the individual would be no different than if the federal government had kept the financial burden except that the taxes would be coming from the state instead of the federal government.

The Ryan budget makes severe cuts to services that support the poor, middle class, students, the elderly and disabled while at the same time rewarding the rich with lower taxes, repealing the alternative minimum tax, reducing corporate tax, and changing international tax laws to allow corporations to avoid being taxed on foreign income brought back into the United States.

By the explanation he gives in his budget's narrative, Ryan tries to convince people that government loans are the reason that students must pay such high tuition costs as these somehow encourage Universities to charge higher tuitions.  Even if this were true, Ryan's solution is to reduce government loans and cap Pell Grants for students, thereby eliminating help some deserving students might be able to obtain without a government loan.  It's funny how Republican reasoning often defies logic.  They accept big business' action of  charging higher tuitions as reasonable given the availability of government money and instead blame the federal government for providing so much loan money.  I guess we are supposed to understand as our Republican leaders do, that the ethics of businessmen can readily be overcome by such easy opportunity for profit.

Sticking to the Republican claims that the Affordable Care Act is the worst thing that could happen to America, his budget calls for the repeal of the ACA leaving no alternative but to return to the way it was before the ACA.   The budget calls for repealing Medicaid Expansion and eliminating healthcare premium subsidies available on the government healthcare exchange.  With these words, Republicans are saying that insurers can deny coverage to people with pre-existing conditions, so if you lose your job and have a pre-existing condition, you will no longer have health insurance.  They remove healthcare access from millions of the poor who are now covered under medicaid expansion.  Lifetime coverage caps will return so if you get a debilitating and costly disease you may also lose your life savings.  If you have limited income, you will no longer get any help to pay for your insurance premiums.  Certain free services will once again be charged.  Children between 21 and 25 will lose their parent's insurance and be required to purchase their own or not be insured.

Medicare and social security will not be the same for  future seniors.  Not being capable of funding social programs almost certainly means medicare and social security will suffer under Republican rule.

There are many more aspects to the budget that you should see for yourself.  Visit this link: The 2014 Republican Budget to find the actual text.

If you are not in the top 2% financially, voting for Republicans is not in your best interest.  If you are a caring person, voting for Republicans should outrage you.  If you are an informed and intelligent person and not in the 2%, you should never vote Republican.  What does that make you?

Remember to vote in the fall's midterm elections.  It's your protected right and it's what will make all the difference to America.

Saturday, March 01, 2014

Why GOP means Genuinely Odd Person and Georgia governor Deal turns from Dr. Jekyll into Mr. Hyde

Since President Obama was elected, the nature of the Republican party has been changing.  Some would say the change is not for the better.  Like Dr. Jekyll of the 1931 novella, the GOP is taking on more of a Mr. Hyde persona.  This change is occurring more and more frequently in many of our Republican leaders as we see Republican governors of many states with their "Mr. Hyde" showing.

Take for example scandals or questionable activities involving current or former Republican  governors McDonnell, Christie, Walker, McCrory, Corker, Scott, Snyder, and LaPaige.

We also see some Republican led state congressmen acting in unison to create legislation that causes voting restrictions while some go as far as to pass legislation that allows business to discriminate against certain classes of citizens.  Governors and legislators in many Republican run states have refused to allow medical care to the poorest people by denying medicaid expansion.

Now perhaps these actions were always part of the GOP psyche or policies, but for many governors, it is the first time the public is seeing this side of their character.  Now it seems clear that these apparently repressed behaviors in Republican politicians can no longer be hidden.  The dam of GOP malevolence is bursting.

One of the most malevolent actions that has ever been proposed by a Republican governor has
Gov Deal (R-GA)
occurred this past week.  That governor is Georgia governor Deal, whose "Mr Hyde" is starting to show.

Many Georgia hospitals located in the poorer parts of the state have been forced to close their doors because of financial losses.  Much of these losses come from lack of revenue by uninsured people who cannot afford to pay for their health care.  Governor Deal has a solution.

Governor Deal still refuses to extend medicaid to the poorest in his state.  That is not his solution.  He fails to realize that rejecting medicaid expansion is a big part of the problem for Georgia hospitals.   In fact, if he expanded medicaid, the root cause of the problem, uninsured poor people who cannot pay for hospital services, would be resolved.  Instead governor Deal wants to repeal the 1986 law signed by Republican President Reagan called the "Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act."

This law is designed to prevent uninsured people from being turned away by hospital emergency rooms when they have an emergency medical condition that requires immediate treatment they cannot afford to pay for.  Prior to 1986, hospitals had the right to refuse patients if they could not afford to pay for medical care or if they did not have insurance.  The Reagan GOP had empathy for people in such dire need of care and readily realized that the law was necessary.  But not Governor Deal.  His "Mr. Hyde" is gaining more control over his personality.

By calling for a repeal of the law, governor Deal is effectively asking to eliminate poor people from health services altogether.  He's made sure that they can't get health insurance from expanded medicaid in his state and now he wants to eliminate them from any hospital care at all.  "Heartless" is a kind word to explain governor Deal's thinking.

When a person has no empathy for others, we usually think that they have a psychological problem.  Depending on the degree, this lack of empathy can range from narcissistic personality disorder to psychopathic personality disorder.  More and more, I am seeing these disorders appearing within  GOP leadership.  Perhaps you may agree.

As a voter, I would like to know that the choices I have in politicians, present me with psychologically healthy people.  I believe we are beginning to see that the GOP does not offer this kind of choice.

Perhaps we can make psychological testing a mandatory requirement in order to allow a politician to run for office.

Or maybe we should just not vote for Republicans.

Monday, February 24, 2014

GOP deceptive tweet reminds us that they are the stupid party

Speaker Boehner's tweet
Today, House Speaker John Boehner found a new opportunity to demonize the Affordable Care Act and mislead his constituents.  His tweets proclaim that "Obama administration says 11 million will pay higher premium costs for their health care under ObamaCare."

Boehner's tweet derives its conclusion from a GOP  requested study from the Office of the Actuary, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which was released last Friday, the 21st of February.

The first thing that I should mention is that the population of people considered by the study is individuals who receive their health insurance through their small business employer and not through the ACA state health insurance exchanges.  So this is not about ObamaCare causing people financial harm even though Boehner interpreted it that way.

When the Affordable Care Act was created, it added requirements known as sections 2701, 2702 and 2703 to the Public Health Services Act.  These sections are intended to end discrimination by insurers on the patient population.

Section 2701 is titled "Fair Health Insurance Premium" and changes a practice called "community rating" where insurance companies used to be able to discriminate by charging higher prices for women of child bearing age; those having more health claims; or the elderly.  Now premium prices can only vary between individuals because of individual versus family enrollment; geographic area; age (but the ratio of higher premiums for the elderly is reduced from 5:1 down to 3:1); and tobacco use.

Section 2702 requires insurers to accept all applicants and is designed to prevent insurance company discrimination due to pre-existing conditions.

Section 2703 requires that group and individual health insurance must be renewable.

So, Boehner's tweet is actually attacking that part of the ACA that protects consumers from discrimination, probably because he didn't read it or perhaps because he didn't understand it.  The obvious fact is that he just read the lines in the study that supported his unreasonable view that "ObamaCare is bad" and tweeted.  This is unfortunate because there are important aspects of the study that place their own conclusions into serious doubt.  Some of this is self revealed, such as the admission that there are other studies that have found insignificant change in premiums.  Also, some parts of the study text indicate that the results are highly suspect and subject to large variations.

The study also found that the employer sponsored health insurance premium price changes would only affect small employers (100 employees or less) and the premium changes would only come from section 2701 requirements.  This is because they speculate that smaller and younger companies have younger employees who have been able to take advantage of the greater old to young ratio in premium prices allowed before ObamaCare and section 2701 requirements.  This would make those employers (only if they provide insurance for their employees) more likely to have increased premium prices after January 1, 2014.  The study also only speculates that any increase in the employers insurance costs would be passed on to their employees.

Additionally, these new requirements are only effective for employer health policies that are not grandfathered.  Grandfathered policies are any that existed on or before March 23, 2010.  So only new small businesses who provide employer sponsored health insurance and were created after March 23, 2010 should have been considered in the study.

However, the study indicates that 17 million individuals would be in this population.  This can be shown to be inaccurate by using the Business Dynamics Statistics data from the website.  One can see there that the maximum number of employees in new small businesses, using the largest employee population cited in a range for the category of small business created through all of 2010 and 2011 is about 2.3 million each year.  This calculates to 4.6 million employees.  Estimating a 20% increase year over year through 2013 adds another 6.2 million employees for a total population of 10.8 million.  This is a very high estimate since it would mean that nearly all of the increase in employment in the USA since 2010 has been from small business.   Prior government estimates of jobs created by small business is closer to 45% of the total.   A more reasonable population would be 5 million affected.  Still not a small number, but much smaller than the estimate of 17 million cited in the study.  (Even less than GOP led states have refused to provide expanded medicaid for.)

The study also speculates that about 35% of the population would receive reductions from their pre-ACA insurance premium costs.  The other 65% would receive increases that would put their 2014 premiums at about the average cost for health insurance prior to the ACA.

Additionally, the number affected is further trimmed down by the number of individuals who purchase health insurance from the ACA exchanges in their state.  The benefit is that many who earn less than 400% of the federal poverty level will receive federal tax reductions.  Hopefully, many of those people will take advantage of that and stop listening to misleading GOP rhetoric instructing them to avoid buying from the insurance exchanges.

Further the study stipulates that small businesses who currently provide health insurance may find it more advantageous for themselves and their employees to discontinue providing insurance and telling their employees to get their health insurance from the ACA state exchanges.  Again, Republican deception has made a large portion of America uncomfortable with ObamaCare, so it is not clear that employees would readily accept this idea.

The small business employer also has the option to utilize the small business health insurance exchange established by ObamaCare.  This option would allow the employer to continue providing insurance to its employees and be exempt from the section 2701 requirements.

Another option for the small business employer would be to self insure.  This would also allow them to provide insurance to their employees and be exempt from the section 2701 requirements.

The total number of employees affected by minor premium increases is likely to be less than 3 million and even that number depends on a lot of the variables mentioned which could make the number much smaller.  My suggestion for small business employees is to get your health insurance from the state exchanges.

Ultimately, if our Republican leaders would stop spreading misinformation and start to support ObamaCare, more people would benefit.  The federal government can be a valuable partner to business and individuals despite what radical GOP-ers want you to believe.

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

The CBO explanation of ACA effects screams for single-payer

Congressional Budget Office
To many Republicans in Congress the CBO's recent comments on the effects of the Affordable Care Law on labor markets appear to be the proof they need to continue attacking the law.  That's because they are Republicans who welcome the opportunity to mistakenly interpret and then mislead Americans into thinking badly about the health care law. 

The CBO's explanation is not about a bad health care law forcing business to take jobs away from Americans. It is mainly about Americans who may make a personal choice to leave the labor market or change their jobs because of some amount of financial benefit the health care law subsidies may give them.  

Whether this conclusion will ever be realized is questionable since many of the CBO's premises are purely conjecture and have no means to substantiate them.  The affordable care act law has not been in effect long enough to have shown any historical data to even hint that the conclusions drawn by the CBO are accurate.  Throughout the CBO's report, which can be found on the web at , the CBO itself has warned that the comments are subject to substantial uncertainty.

There are four areas where the CBO believes the ACA will have an impact on reducing labor supply, but major among them is the subsidies for health insurance purchased through the exchanges.  These subsidies are largest for individuals whose income is near the federal poverty level.  In many cases these people are working at the lowest level of low paying jobs and some may be working two or more jobs depending on their family situation, just to earn enough to pay their bills.  In such cases, a worker may find that the health insurance subsidy reduces their family expenses enough to allow them to spend more time caring for their family at home and less time trying to earn the money to feed, clothe and shelter them.

Quoting from the CBO study,
The CBO's estimate of the response of labor supply to the subsidies is based on research concerning the way changes in marginal tax rates affect labor supply and on studies analyzing how labor supply responds to changes in after-tax income.
However, the study cited does not consider a family's real expenses.  It only looks at a static response by all such families to an increase in taxes with the expected result of reducing their working hours to avoid paying higher taxes.  It is not a convincing argument of real-life and is most likely another flaw in their analysis.

The expansion of Medicaid is a second area which the CBO believes can impact certain parties in the workforce to reduce their personal working hours, since a person who is at 100-138% of the poverty level in states that have not enacted Medicaid expansion are eligible for health insurance subsidies through the exchanges.  Apparently the CBO believes that once people get subsidies they no longer want to contribute to society. 

Penalties on employers that decline to offer insurance is a third area that the CBO believes will reduce workers personal preference to work.  The CBO believes that business owners will transfer the costs of these penalties to their workers, thereby effectively reducing their wages or by removing other employee benefits.  Again, the CBO believes that the effective reduction in wages will cause some employees to reduce their working hours.  The CBO believes that although there is only currently anecdotal evidence that employers will reduce their employees working hours to side-step the health care law, it states that they may do it in the future. 

The CBO also expects that new taxes imposed on labor income will reduce the time some workers  will want to work.  Again implying that a worker's actions towards increases in taxes is to reduce his working time.  Not very realistic in my opinion. 

So, although most liberal media outlets are claiming that the CBO is only suggesting that workers themselves will make the decision to leave work early or reduce their hours, I believe the study causes more confusion than it is worth. 

It's conclusions are suspect based on it's inability to derive future events from historical facts, largely because the health care law has only just begun to have an effect on people.  It draws conclusions about worker actions in response to increases in taxes or reduction in wages without consideration for the real-life situation every person is in;  to survive at a reasonable level of comfort;  to contribute to society and feel valued.

Although business owners may take the unethical steps to circumvent the law by reducing employees wages or benefits, they can do that to others and the outcome for the business is positive insomuch as profit margin.  A worker cannot simply reduce his work without changing some other aspect of his life and a health care subsidy is simply not enough of a change to result in the kinds of actions the CBO expects.

The CBO's explanation of the behavior of workers because of a subsidy may be worthless, but one aspect of the study does have some merit.  That would be the possibility that when business is involved in providing insurance, they may transfer costs that are intended for them to their employees.  Although I don't completely agree with the CBO's estimation that some workers may leave work because of this, where it occurs, it does still have a negative impact on workers.  Because of this, an improvement in the ACA that the CBO study seems to be inadvertently advocating is to remove businesses from the equation altogether.  This would make health insurance a single payer national program where the government is responsible for providing all health insurance.

Single payer health insurance was discussed in the United States legislature before but never got more than 20% support from Congress.  It has been favorably evaluated by the CBO many times since 1993.  Since it would be a government program, it's cost would need to be offset by new tax revenue, such as would be obtained from eliminating tax loopholes for the wealthy and minimizing government subsidies for big corporations.

Republicans would never allow their constituents to pay their fair share of taxes, so we are pretty much assured that single payer would never be a program while they control the House, which is another good reason to vote them out of office.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Former Gov McDonnell not guilty of violation of Virginia law? Really?

Indicted Former Gov McDonnell (R-VA)
and spouse
Many of the news shows and even former governor McDonnell  have declared or implied that taking "legal gifts and loans" from a donor are not a crime according to Virginia law and that the indictment was purely based on federal law.  Really?

This statement was really puzzling.  Are Virginia laws so loose that they would allow a governor to accept hundreds of thousands of dollars and gifts from a donor when it allegedly was taken in exchange for using his office and position of power to promote a product?  Is the statement just incorrect?  I needed to understand which it was.

Now understand that Virginia has some outdated and unusual laws.  For example, it is illegal for couples to engage in sex with the lights on and only the missionary position are legal (we don't think the McDonnell's are guilty of this); but it seems that government officers should be held to higher standards when it comes to bribery.

A simple query of Virginia laws seems to indicate that the former governor's actions have violated Virginia laws as well.  Below, is the section of Virginia law on "Prohibited conduct".  I have highlighted the areas where the governor has run amuck.

§ 2.2-3103. Prohibited conduct.
No officer or employee of a state or local governmental or advisory agency shall:
1. Solicit or accept money or other thing of value for services performed within the scope of his official duties, except the compensation, expenses or other remuneration paid by the agency of which he is an officer or employee. This prohibition shall not apply to the acceptance of special benefits that may be authorized by law;
2. Offer or accept any money or other thing of value for or in consideration of obtaining employment, appointment, or promotion of any person with any governmental or advisory agency;
3. Offer or accept any money or other thing of value for or in consideration of the use of his public position to obtain a contract for any person or business with any governmental or advisory agency;
4. Use for his own economic benefit or that of another party confidential information that he has acquired by reason of his public position and which is not available to the public;
5. Accept any money, loan, gift, favor, service, or business or professional opportunity that reasonably tends to influence him in the performance of his official duties. This subdivision shall not apply to any political contribution actually used for political campaign or constituent service purposes and reported as required by Chapter 9.3 (§ 24.2-945 et seq.) of Title 24.2;
6. Accept any business or professional opportunity when he knows that there is a reasonable likelihood that the opportunity is being afforded him to influence him in the performance of his official duties;
7. Accept any honoraria for any appearance, speech, or article in which the officer or employee provides expertise or opinions related to the performance of his official duties. The term "honoraria" shall not include any payment for or reimbursement to such person for his actual travel, lodging, or subsistence expenses incurred in connection with such appearance, speech, or article or in the alternative a payment of money or anything of value not in excess of the per diem deduction allowable under § 162 of the Internal Revenue Code, as amended from time to time. The prohibition in this subdivision shall apply only to the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, Governor's Secretaries, and heads of departments of state government;
8. Accept a gift from a person who has interests that may be substantially affected by the performance of the officer's or employee's official duties under circumstances where the timing and nature of the gift would cause a reasonable person to question the officer's or employee's impartiality in the matter affecting the donor. Violations of this subdivision shall not be subject to criminal law penalties; or
9. Accept gifts from sources on a basis so frequent as to raise an appearance of the use of his public office for private gain. Violations of this subdivision shall not be subject to criminal law penalties.

McDonnell's lawyers have said that under the case presented by the federal government against him, any governmental official would be guilty if they did anything to promote a business, so even President Obama would be guilty in his promotion of Dream Works, for example.  This comparison  distorts the real facts in the case and mistakenly removes the illegal aspect of the crimes of the former governor.

How much money did Obama get from Dream Works?  The difference between the President's actions and McDonnell's actions is that there is no personal benefit gained by the President in exchange for his kind words about Dream Works.  In such cases "quid pro quo" is the rule.  "Quid pro quo" means there is intensional exchange of goods or services in return for some personal gain.  A "you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours" situation.

McDonnell was promoting a private company's tobacco based "medical" product known as "Anatabloc" by using the influence of his office in exchange for money, favors and gifts that only benefitted him and his family.

Only after news of these infractions became public did McDonnell pay back all money.  He maintains his innocence and only admits to bad judgement.  Since he paid it back, he now calls the money a loan.

McDonnell and his wife may face decades in jail and up to $250,000 in fines if found guilty.

Even if McDonnell's lawyers somehow manage to get him off, I think America expects more of our political leaders.

Sunday, January 05, 2014

GOP austerity program for the unemployed

In 1995 I lost my managerial level job after loyally working for the same company for twenty-one years.  At the time, the unemployment rate was about 5.6%.  It took me eleven months to find a new job that paid about twenty percent less.  I was lucky because I did not need unemployment assistance to survive during that time.  My former employer maintained our then current pay rate during our termination for a time derived from the number of years we were employed.  Many of us were long time employees and like myself found work before our termination salaries ran out.

Today, the unemployment rate is closer to 8% and unemployed people looking for new jobs have a number of new  obstacles in their way.  Most current-day companies would never continue to pay a person after they are terminated.  Many manufacturing and technical jobs have been moved to China or India and other American jobs are being given daily to lower paid foreigners working in America.  Federal Republicans are calling for more American jobs to be given to foreigners as they legislate for large increases in the number of H1-B visas offered annually.  The job market is diminished since 1995, competition for jobs is greater and now unemployment benefits for the long-term unemployed, who have been out of work for twenty-seven or more weeks is ended.

President Obama has called for Congress to extend long term unemployed benefits as a priority when they return from holiday break and Senator Reid has indicated he will put it on the Senate docket as a priority, but federal Republicans appear to be characteristically nonchalant about unemployment.

Contrary to the number one Republican concern spoken about by John Boehner of "jobs, jobs, jobs", federal Republicans are  insisting that extending unemployment benefits be either tied to big Democrat social program cuts or, as Eric Cantor has indicated, just won't be an issue of concern when the GOP House returns in January.

With Cantor's voting record against extending unemployment benefits in the past, it seems likely that the House will not even bring the Senate bill up for a vote.

It was laughable to hear the absurd explanation by the Republican's most promising future nominee for President, Rand Paul, that he was against extending unemployment benefits because "it does a disservice to these workers."  Paul believes that receiving unemployment insurance benefits makes a person less likely to look for a job and therefore perpetuates the time he or she is unemployed.  How likely is this to be true?

The unemployment insurance program does not provide unemployed workers with a full paycheck. The weekly amount varies by the state's insurance program rules but one estimate is about 25 percent of the weekly take-home pay.  How can a family who has a life-style that is adjusted to a home budget based on full wages be comfortable to continue to exist on 25% of that amount?  They can't.  Paul's explanation is a ruse.

With about 1.4 million unemployed about to lose financial assistance, Rand Paul explains that he would rather find a way to create jobs first, which is why the idiom "putting the cart before the horse" was invented.  Republican logic simply defies logic.

Analysts have estimated that it would cost about twenty-six billion dollars to extend unemployment insurance benefits.  Ironically, it cost about that same amount when Republicans forced the shut-down of the government last year.  If nothing else, that should make you angry.

If you are Republican and middle class or have ever lost a job due to no fault of your own, these Republican actions once again show that they are not worried about you and are not empathetic to you. They can't imagine what it is like to be living from paycheck to paycheck and what a negative impact a lay-off can have on your life.  They do not care that your children cannot eat well.  They do not even think about the family problems that develop during this stressful time.

Some GOP politicians can't think things through to their logical conclusion and can only learn from the hardships of bad personal experience.  I suggest we give them a chance to learn by personal experience and vote Democrat in all future elections.