Should The Progressives Speak Now?

Posted March 25, 2015 by zukunftsaugen
Categories: 2106 Presidential election, affordable care act, congress, deficit, Democratic Party, federal budget, house, Republican Party, senate, Ted Cruz

Republicans in both the Senate and the House have issued budget proposal outlines. While slightly different, the GOP proposals share the belief that Government expenditures should shrink, the Affordable Care Act should be repealed, and in the House version, Medicare spending should be capped with the introduction of vouchers. Both proposals predict that magically the economy will boom and life will become better for everyone. Hmmm.

Regrettably, it is no clearer than with these budget proposal that everyone is entitled to their own opinion but not to their own facts. There are serious problems in the American economy and the GOP ideas do not deal with them.

Income inequality data shows that average wage earners’ income has been stagnated (for 30 years or so) while the income of the top 2% has grown handsomely. Without more even income distribution, the average earner will not be able to purchase as many goods and services from business as they do now. In time following the GOP script, our economy will shrink, not grow.

Bridges and roads, the backbone of business, are woefully in need of repair and maintenance. Without substantial investment, getting goods to market or for consumers to easily travel to services will become much more difficult. Undertaking the massive investment to prevent this will require substantial expenditures, something the GOP is reluctant to fund due to their “no new tax” pledge.

Standardized tests continue to show American K-12 education lagging over 15 other modern industrial countries. While the path to improving our students’ performance is not agreed upon, abandoning the “Common Core” curriculum and instead following the paths of Alabama, Mississippi, and South Carolina sounds more like a race to the bottom.

And whether we want to recognize it or not, the cost of healthcare services is beyond the reach of all Americans but the top1/2 of 1%. Without the aid of health insurance, normally provided by employers, few Americans could afford any healthcare at all. So the notion of repealing the Affordable Care Act, without an equally affordable alternative appears wrong headed at best and cruel at the worst.

So the question is, should Progressives speak now?

I guess the answer is “it depends”.

It will serve of little value for Progressives to only point out the obvious, the GOP plans are grossly unfair and will almost certainly not deliver their promises. Progressives, if they choose to speak, must address the facts.  Progressives must offer remediation ideas that provide a pathway to a fairer and more stable future state. Here’s why.

The business world has changed.  American no longer lives in the world of the wild frontier, the gilded age, or post World War II. Globalization and wide spread use of qualify principles insures that goods (and many services) can be produced anyplace in the world where the economics dictate. In and of itself, this will continue to drive down wages. Simply paying workers more (without commensurate productivity gains) will only lead to inflation. Sharing productivity gains liberally with workers, however, will have a very positive impact upon real average wages.

The “average” wage earner must acquire new skills and training in order to fill better paying jobs of the 21st century. Without the new skills and training, workers will be relegated to “minimum” wages, part time hours, and a world of few benefits.

Conservatives may choose to think it helpful to remove entitlements like Medicaid, Medicare, or social network expenditures thinking these reductions would motivate Americans to “pull themselves up by the boot straps” (the way it was done in the past). The GOP, however, will see their hopes fail. The world has changed.

Progressives, on the other hand, who call for these programs to be left alone and even new programs added for training and skill development are just as off base… unless funding is addressed. Tax code reform (a GOP recommendation) offers a route to increasing the tax revenue flow even while lowering certain tax rates.

Probably the biggest opportunity to reduce Government spending and eliminating the deficit lies in reducing the reasons Medicare and Medicaid cost so much. The GOP method appears to be based upon capping the Government’s portion and forcing those without generous business supplied health insurance to pay more. Over time, much more.

The GOP’s budget proposals call for no action to control and reduce the actual healthcare cost. With over two dozen other modern industrial countries experiencing health care delivery at half the cost per capita and equal or better outcomes as the US, there is clearly food for thought in a fairer approach to dealing with our deficit.

Maybe that will come up in a future Ted Cruz speech?

Cruzing Along

Posted March 23, 2015 by zukunftsaugen
Categories: 2106 Presidential election, affordable care act, Democratic Party, GOP, medicare, Republican Party, same sex marriage, Ted Cruz, women's rights

Senator Ted Cruz, true to his word, announced his campaign for the GOP Presidential nomination. Few pundits give Cruz much chance at securing the nomination but that doesn’t seem to worry Senator Cruz. He sees his prospects differently and points to enthusiastic crowds that have already turned out for him in Iowa.

Interestingly, these Iowan Bible thumping supporters will be unavailable for Rick Santorum or Mike Huckabee unless the Iowa caucuses allow someone to vote for more than one candidate. Hmmm.

Cruz told his announcement audience that he would “return America to greatness”, what ever that means.

Statements like that make one wonder what school Cruz’s speech writers graduated from? What exactly would “greatness” in America look like?

I wonder whether repealing Obamacare and dumping 16 million more Americans onto the “no health insurance” roles would make his list? Or, would Cruz prefer to pile more costs on future Medicare recipients shrinking their fixed incomes? Maybe Cruz’s picture of American greatness involves taking away women’s access to reproductive health methods or saving money by only granting marriage licenses to heterosexual couples?

His campaign announcement was brief and these clarifications did not come up. Fortunately there is still over a year to the nominations and about a year and an half to the election. I think we will have time to learn the answers to these questions as well as find out what goodies would lie in a Cruz bag of tricks.

Waiting For Godot

Posted March 22, 2015 by zukunftsaugen
Categories: 2106 Presidential election, Democratic Party, Hillary Clinton, jeb bush, marco rubio, Politics, Republican Party, scott walker, Ted Cruz

Tags: , ,

POTUS must be a great job. So many seem willing to shed any semblance of a private life for what appears to be a thankless (unless you value highly meeting the NCAA football champions) 4 or 8 year job. The upcoming 2016 race seems to be following recent precedents (about how many Republicans seek this $400,000 job) and the GOP field is getting more crowded (unofficially).

Reports today indicate the Texas Senator Ted Cruz will announce tomorrow that he will seek the Republican top prize. Interestingly if he does announce he will the first GOP member to announce. Does that look like a crowded field?

In the modern day Presidential race gamesmanship, candidates choose run without announcing they are running. Former Governor Jeb Bush has had to rent an additional warehouse in order to store all the money he has secured even though Bush says he is still assessing. Waiting to announce saves “face” should the money not flow in.  Hmmm.

Governors Scott Walker, Rick Scott and Chris Christie are scurrying to assemble the teams, strategists, speech writers, pollsters, point people, and the all valuable fund raisers who collectively make or break the prospective candidates chances. One report said the pool of experienced campaign staff members was running near empty.  Senators Marco Rubio and Rand Paul also finds themselves in the same predicament.

So much to say, so few people to write what you should be saying.

Ohio Governor John Kasick has been speaking out saying “don’t forget me” while perennial showman Donald Trump assures the world that he is seriously thinking about running. Mike Huckabee, bible in hand, is searching for those early primary voters who know more about the Bible than how to run a government. Kasick , however, is the real thing and could be a strong, sensible GOP candidate while Trump and Huckabee are just previewing their next television productions.

I wonder where Jon Huntsman is when we need him?

The problem all these GOP wannabes are experiencing is what do they really stand for and what will be their campaign themes.

Fiction, of course, works well here. The difficulty is that not just any fiction. GOP candidates need also to win enough primary votes to keep the campaign donations flowing and that often means turning to the dark side of very conservative issues. All these problems could dissipate if there was an announced Democrat candidate.  With a Democrat opponent, there could be something to say they were not.

Hmmm.

Each GOP hopes to save the Country from “Godot”.

When Words Mean Something Different?

Posted March 20, 2015 by zukunftsaugen
Categories: 2106 Presidential election, Barack Obama, benjamin netanyahu, congress, hamas, Iran, Israel

In the final hours of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s campaign to retain his leadership position, Netanyahu spoke to his conservative supporters, “there will not be a Palestinian State on my watch”. Singing to the choir, Netanyahu, a master politician, reached out to get the last vote possible in what was predicted to be a close race. The world’s reactions to his words were instantaneous.

In particular, President Obama said bluntly through his press secretary, that the State Department will review our overall relationship with Israel and in particular its negotiations with the Palestinians. The unbreakable bonds which all US Presidents invoke when referencing the Israeli relationship suddenly did not appear so firm.

As the election dust settle, Netanyahu realized he had a comfortable basis to form another government. And just as suddenly he had “clarifications” to make to his “no two states” pathway, and he wanted to make it to as many US press members as he could.

Netanyahu explained that his no two State solution referred only to the current Palestinian Authority which includes Hamas. Hamas is a terrorist organization, Netanyahu stressed. Hmmm.

Netanyahu’s point is that an independent Palestinian State would be a breeding ground for terrorists just as Gaza is today. Occupied territories (the current condition) minimizes that risk. So, with a completely straight face, Netanyahu announced he really did want a two State solution. Hmmm.

Hamas’s Gaza strategies, for example firing rockets indiscriminately into Israel, makes no sense when viewed from abroad. Instead of undertaking public works and education projects in Gaza, Hamas prefers building tunnels and smuggling rockets and munitions into Gaza later to be used against Israel. This dysfunctional behavior understandably severely clouds negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Hamas gratuitously provides Israelis committed to a one State solution all the arguments they need to make their point.

Netanyahu’s “no-I mean yes to two States” statements put in question also his objections to the Iranian nuclear weapons discussions. Netanyahu has said Iran can’t be trusted (hmmm, that must mean no agreement can be trusted). He has also offered no alternative path forward except an undefined “better deal”. So, what does Netanyahu mean? Is there a better deal possible with Iran or is it simply fruitless to negotiate at all? And where does that lead us?

We know in the world of “political speak” words do not always mean what they say. Prime Minister Netanyahu has plenty of fellow travelers in the US Congress and that should make for more fireworks in the months ahead.

Closing In On Apartheid

Posted March 19, 2015 by zukunftsaugen
Categories: Apartheid, benjamin netanyahu, Democratic Party, Israel, Middle East, Palestian, Politics, Republican Party

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced this week that if Israeli voters returned him to office, there would be no Palestinian State on his watch. If past actions were any measure, most observers had already concluded what Netanyahu finally put into words. Did Netanyahu just draw a free card or will there be consequences?

To repeat the obvious, the Middle East and specifically the Israeli-Palestinian situation iremains complex and carries a huge history of contradictions.  Recognizing specific consequences tied to his statement might be difficult.   Netanyahu’s announcement (contradicting his statements in the past) will, however, remove any remaining world opinion about “poor Israel” being the victim of unreasonable neighbors. The possibility of many other nations or the UN recognizing the Palestinian Authority as the legitimate government in the occupied lands is real.

Gone, also, will be the notion that the only obstacle standing in the way of Middle East peace was a stubborn and intractable Palestinian Authority. Israel now owns the cause for continued Arab terrorism against Israel.

Does this mean that Hamas and Hezbollah would have chosen non-aggression had Israel confirmed its commitment to a 2 State solution?

Very unlikely. Hamas and Hezbollah are surrogate organizations financed by Iran and would have been expected to continue their extremism even if Israel had sincerely attempted to find a 2 State solution.

The two State solution, however, is driven by other considerations, namely the alternative one State solution will lead to apartheid and still present the same level of external risks towards the existence of Israel.

Apartheid?

The one State solutions in democratic Israel will inevitably lead to restrictions being placed upon non-jewish residents. If not, Palestinian demographics will soon put the Palestinians in the voting majority.

Netanyahu undoubtably recognizes this outcome.  He also recognizes that world opinion will isolate Israel economically (as it did South Africa). He never the less made his announcement in a desperate attempt to win the election.  Live today, die tomorrow.

While Netanyahu might want to walk back his statement, he is stuck with it (and all the consequences) for the near future.

Overlooking The Obvious

Posted March 18, 2015 by zukunftsaugen
Categories: 2106 Presidential election, affordable care act, congress, Democratic Party, federal budget, GOP, Republican Party, universal healthcare

House Republicans unveiled their 10 year Federal Budget plan yesterday amid choruses of complaints from both parties. GOP hawks lamented the size of the Defense budget (not large enough) and Democrats complained about proposed changes to Medicare and the lack of investment in education. The GOP claimed the proposed budget would eliminate deficits within 10 years and return the Country to robust growth (what ever that is). Also, all of this would happen without any tax increases. Oh yes, the Affordable Care Act would be fully repealed. Hmmm.

Over the next weeks, this subject will be dissected and pundits with views from all angles will weigh in. The GOP’s goal of eliminating deficits, repealing Obamacare (ACA), and no new taxes has presented them with some fiscal obstacles. Entitlements are growing and inflation, even at a low level, is inflating the budget size if nothing is done. Whose ox will be gored is the GOP’s quandary.

It is unlikely that the GOP will be able to repeal ACA or privatize part of Medicare and remain in control of Congress. Both of these programs will have strong political support and Republicans might pay mightily in the voting booths.

Even more to the point, “Medicare reform” while technically not a tax increase will be never the less a transfer of costs from the government to the elderly. Hmmm.

Probably more shameful would be a repeal of ACA where current estimates indicate that 16 million more Americans now have health insurance compared to before ACA. Hmmm.

The argument over Defense spending is curious. Some Republicans see no problem in cutting entitlements while simultaneously increasing Defense spending. Others prefer “across the board” cuts including Defense. At this point no one is describing the foreign policy or international environment against which a defense strategy should meet. So how can Congress decide how large the Defense budget should be?  Hmmm.

A purposeful Congress might see an elegant path forward which could cut Medicare costs and eliminate the Affordable Care Act at the same time.

The road map can be seen in some two dozen modern industrial countries like Germany, France, and Japan. The US could adopt a single payer, universal health care delivery system. Modeling the new US healthcare on, for example Germany, would provide Americans with healthcare outcomes equal to or better than what exist now at about one half the current US cost per capita.

This would be “real reform”, and better yet, Defense cuts would be necessary only if the US foreign policy so dictated.

What is the GOP thinking taking on Grammar and Grandpa, and 16 million formerly uninsured?

The Hillary Problem

Posted March 17, 2015 by zukunftsaugen
Categories: 2106 Presidential election, Benghazi, congress, Democratic Party, GOP, Hillary Clinton, Republican Party

Did former Secretary of State Clinton sign a “separation form” when she left government service? A Fox News reporter opened this can of worms and now pundits are opining about another example of rules for some and different rules for others. Clinton avoided answering the question with a smile.  (After all it was a Fox News question.)

Sunday, New York Times op-ed columnist Maureen Dowd wrote an entire column critical of Hillary and pronouncing the “private email server” as an example of what we would get if she was elected President. While Dowd is most likely correct, she doesn’t take the time to explain why Clinton’s behavior might be continually in the public debate while others seem not to gain the same attention.  Just as important was the consequences of Hillary Clinton not running for President.

Make no mistake there are big stakes in play. If the next President is from the GOP, and in such circumstances he would most like inherit a GOP controlled Congress, the social pendulum would be poised to move far to the right. Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act would be open for repeal or significant modification according to GOP press releases. This potential change, of course, is the right of the American people to choose. That choice, however, ought to be made with a full understanding of the consequences.

The Hillary Problem, IMO, results from Hillary being a tough, smart, and cleverly combative woman. Men and particularly GOP men find it difficult to get out maneuvered. Bottom line, the GOP does not want there to be another President Clinton.

The first foray was the Benghazi hearings. Clinton (and the White House) saw correctly the side show aspects of the hearings and that their main purpose was a “fishing expedition”. House Speaker John Boehner has weighed in saying he wants the Benghazi incident fully investigated and key to that investigation will be getting hold Clinton’s private email server. Hmmm.

Here’s the Hillary problem.

Is she or isn’t she?

Is she going to run for President or not. If the choice is “not”, this problem will melt away.If she is going to run, the GOP will sanctimoniously call for more and more hearings.

The problem is Hillary must make a decision to run soon, like in weeks, in order to free other Democrats to throw their hats in the ring if Hillary is not there. A late decision to not run will be ruinous for Democrats.

Lastly, it is wise to note that Benghazi was as much a problem of Congress not authorizing sufficient funding (for security forces) for the State Department. The email issue has not been linked to anything illegal but rather to the potential of some unnamed acts. Fishing.

Congress members have received outrageous amounts of money from dark sources and spend inordinate amounts of time while in office begging for more money from special interests. If someone wanted to go fishing, there would surely be more fish in that pond.


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