I have often been called a Bernie Sanders look-alike, which I dispute. First I have more hair than he does, and mine is not totally white. True we both wear glasses, but I bet mine are way cooler than his are. Also we do share the same first initial and nearly the same last name. So, in that spirit I feel I can speak for Bernie when there are things to say that he is reticent to lay out just a little more clearly.
The very first Democratic debate featured both Hillary Clinton and Martin O’Malley attacking Sanders record on gun control. One week later, Sanders addressed a gathering of Vermont NRA members and Brooklyn gang members. This meeting was held on neutral territory in a New Hampshire Maple Syrup plant.
Last week two of my Democratic opponents challenged my record on the subject of ‘gun control’. As my constituents here are well aware, I have supported their desire to have access to guns and rifles used for hunting and personal safety. I have shown that support to them by voting on numerous occasions against the Brady Bill. [NRA members applaud] But also with respect to our friends from my birth place, Brooklyn; I have consistently supported bans on weapons that are usually classified as assault weapons. By keeping those types of weapons off the streets disagreements are more likely to be settled in a manner resulting in far fewer deaths on both sides. [clapping from gang members] Additionally, once instant background checks were added into the Brady Bill, I consistently voted for it. [Boos from NRA members] With an instant background check we decrease the number of guns sold to individuals with criminal records of gun violence [boos from gang members] and those that present a danger to everyone due to a mental problem. [applause from everyone]
Today, what I want to tell you is that I agree with Secretary Clinton’s agenda on gun control. I remain steadfast in demanding instant background checks, banning assault weapons, and I will be glad to vote ‘yes’ on a bill that will require gun manufacturer’s to include additional safety features. Yes, this is a change in a position I had on that type of legislation, but my position was based on other provisions in the bill that I was not happy with. Just to be clear, on the issue of guns, the differences between Secretary Clinton and myself are paper-thin. If some of my views have changed since the horror of Newtown, then events can change my mind, just as the success of same-sex marriage such as we have right here in NH allowed the Secretary to change her stance.
Both the NRA and the gang members left through separate doors. Most of the Brooklyn people bought Bernie T-shirts and buttons. The NRA members went looking for Trump headquarters.
Suggested Debate point (never used)
Madame Secretary, may I point out that you have altered your position on marriage equality; I would say that my evolution to a nearly identical position as yours on guns was a considerably smaller change. Your challenge to me on the issue of gun control is effectively a moot point, lets discuss the issues we differ on.
Election season in America. There is nothing like it anywhere in the world. Some , maybe even most, do it better. And surely there are also a lot places that do it worse. But I really doubt that any nation can have such a convoluted, impractical, inconvenient, illogical, costly, undemocratic process of a electing the only nation wide elected office holder.
And we got ourselves a doozie this year. But that is just an observation and not what this blog post is about. However, as you read on, keep that observation in mind.
I am strong supporter of US Senator Bernie Sanders to be elected President, and so I get to read and talk about his candidacy with many Hillary supporters. And a theme that I have heard from these supporters from the earliest days of the campaign has been, that “other people” will not vote for a Socialist so he can’t beat a Republican, and even if he did win, he can’t pass any of his plans because Congress is overflowing with Republicans.
The first point is totally irrelevant, since if Socialism is so despised, then how will he win the nomination? And if the fear of Socialism only exists in Republicans, then most of them they are not voting for him anyways, and we all know Republicans would never vote for Hillary. But more importantly, Bernie Sanders in all his years in office always worked to promote private enterprise, expansion of Democracy, and using government as the organization to operate certain industries where profit is not in the public benefit. Industries such as schools, health care, and infrastructure projects. These areas have always, since Colonial times been administered, at least partially, as social institutions in the US.
The second point is unique. Because once the point is made that he will not be able to pass any legislation they are in the awkward position of justifying it with outright misinformation. The reason is quite obvious. The point is made under the assumption that Congress will have both houses under Republican control. If that happens, then Congress will block every thing Hillary proposes as well. We all know the song, it’s been playing almost continuously for 7+ years. So, in order to hide that the Hillary supporters make two points. First is that Hillary has actually passed legislation, and Bernie has not. Without going into details, that simply is not true. The second point assumes the first point is correct and is more of a demand. How will he pass his legislation proposals, is the query. One person even asked for a detailed plan. Whether or not the Republicans hold both houses, there will be different players. For example, Harry Reid will not be the Democratic leader. This would be like asking Peyton Manning exactly how will you win the Super Bowl, what plays will you call, who will be your receiver? Not the day before the Super Bowl, but at the beginning of pre-season. Not only that, when the question is reversed, the answer gets flipped back to Hillary has a history of getting things done so there is no need to explain it.
So, in a year when all the assumptions have turned out wrong, we are being told to elect a candidate based on the type of assumptions that have turned out wrong, based on facts that are misleading.
What is the political Revolution that Bernie Sanders is talking about? Is he asking that we take to the streets, block traffic and commerce until the wealthy agree to share their riches? How about, we congregate at nearby military bases and police stations and block all the exits until the various government agencies agree to make the wealthy share their riches? What is this revolution about, how does it work, and will the US be the new Soviet Union after it’s all over? I have no doubt that as the 2016 Presidential campaign continues, this is a subject that Senator Sanders will discuss at length. Until then, here is my take of what a political revolution in America is about.
As Bernie Sanders has pointed out, our political system is broken and it’s in danger of collapsing under the weight of oligarchy. An oligarchy is where all the functions of state are managed by a few. In the case of America the oligarchy manages the state covertly to its own financial gain. To do that, they have strategically manipulated the voice of the people to either agree with their agenda or be unaware of its existence. Take a step back and consider how we would like the system to work without an oligarchy. Then consider how the system actually works, and the existence of an oligarchy becomes plain. If you are like me and nearly everyone I know, no matter what political persuasion, the system does not work how we would like it to.
The political system is the processes we follow in order to select the people to administer our various governments. But for this entry, lets just stick to the federal government. It is this political process that Bernie Sanders wants to revolutionize by reinventing it. We can also call the revolution he is championing as a reinvention of the political processes used to elect members of the House, the Senate and the Presidency. Currently our elections require (unofficially) for candidates to belong to one of two parties, obtain funding to mount a campaign and devote themselves almost 24/7 to campaigning and funding. Running for elected office forces one to compromise their principles and ignore morality in the belief that you can overcome the compromises and amorality. But once you enter this world and make your first bargain, you are forever in the debt of the oligarchs that supplied you with the money to buy some newspaper ads, and a few TV ads. And you can say whatever you want, but don’t actually do anything that will jeopardize the oligarchs. Over and over, well-meaning people choose a party, get some funding and suddenly find themselves having to choose. The hardest part is avoiding that first compromise.
The political revolution will change that. The very fact that Bernie Sanders, a Congressional Independent, who claims his political leanings are toward a Democratic Socialist system, can legitimately run for President as the candidate of one of the two established parties is itself a political revolution. Sanders is in a unique position to be able to this. He began as a mayor of the largest city in a state that at the time really did have more cows than people. However he won that position without going the party route and won by a razor-thin margin. When he decided to try for a promotion to Congress, he refused to use a party, refused big money and he won. Then he went on to become a Senator using the same model. Now he is running for President following the same revolutionary model and undertaking a long shot revolutionary takeover of the Democratic party. He can lead the revolution because he is not compromised by the oligarchy.
But, Sanders has never been about himself. He is the well-meaning person, except he never had to change his mind on issues just to keep getting elected. He wants to alter the system so that all the well-meaning people don’t have to join a party, their campaigns will not be dependent on who can get the most money for the most ads. Public financing of elections and outlawing Super Pacs are two of his campaign platforms. That alone will revolutionize the political process.
The revolution can expand from there. The idea that government is limited by what it can do to help people live up to their potential will also be changed, because women and men of vision and integrity will be able to serve. A recent newspaper column claimed that Sanders is turning the phrase that JFK spoke at his inauguration from ‘ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can for your country’ around to ‘ask what your country can do for you’. The writer is wrong, Sanders is doing exactly what JFK was talking about. He is not asking that the country elect him president for himself or even the oligarchs, he asking that the country elect him for what he can do for the country. He is trying to revolutionize how our political process works, a process nearly everyone agrees is broken and corrupt. Without a reliable political process with integrity, how far away are we from handing it all over to an elite that only think ‘don’t ask what your country can for you, ask what you can do for us, the oligarchs’. We can stop that from happening by a political revolution, because if we continue to elect people who have chosen the party and big money route we will need a revolution that won’t resolve at the polls.
Starting almost the day after (or maybe it was the day before?) that VT Senator Bernie Sanders announced he was running for the Democratic nomination for President there has been strong disagreement within the Democratic Party in particular, and all Progressives in general, regarding his candidacy. Most prominently there have been numerous arguments taking place between supporters of Sec. Hillary Clinton and supporters of Sanders.
To the credit of both the former Secretary and the Vermont Senator, neither has carried much, if any, of these arguments to the campaign trail. But for those that have not decided irrevocably for any candidate from any party it may be useful to review some of the debate points regarding the candidacy of Hillary Clinton and how it affects Bernie Sanders. Full disclosure, I am an unabashed Bernie Sanders supporter. Also, just to be clear, as everything stands in August of 2015, I will not vote for Hillary in the General. And I can confidently add that I will also not vote for any Republican. So yes, I do have an agenda. Very simply, most of the reasons that are being pushed by Hillary supporters to not vote for Sanders are based on a set of assumptions that are not very strong.
One of the most common arguments for supporting Clinton over Sanders is that Hillary has the best resume of any candidate in modern times has had to be President. There are 2 ways that postulation is really a moot point as well as wishful thinking on the part of her supporters.
First, is that the resume includes her position as First Lady at both the state and national level. But how does that translate into a qualification for the job of President of the United States? The answer is, it does not. Who can confidently say they are qualified to give advice about their spouse’s job? Only couples that do the same job, that’s who. And First Spouse is not the same as being the elected Governor or elected President. Yes, she was an adviser and probably a strong voice and even an participant during Bill’s administrations. So has nearly every other First Spouse, she just happens to be the first one running for President.
Second, even if we accept that her service as First Lady counted and the fact that she was a lawyer at the Watergate hearings are legitimate resume items that add to her qualifications the questions remain about the value of a resume. For the job of President, in modern history (post WW I) the person with the best resume was clearly George H. W. Bush. He served in Congress, was an official adviser to a President and he even served as Director of the CIA as well as Vice President. Additionally, he served as a distinguished fighter pilot. Was he a great President, or even an OK one? No. He was certainly not the worst President, but with all those qualifications his performance still fell short of anything remarkable. Resume is not a qualification to be President. A resume may get you an interview, but we have a long campaign season for the people to conduct their interview and to demonstrate your competence, resume or not.
Another, irrelevant attack on Senator Sanders used more and more by Hillary supporters is that Bernie Sanders is a Socialist. And we all know that Socialism means that the entire economy will come under the control of a vast bureaucracy. Sorry, but that is not Socialism, that is Communism. While both are based on similar premises, their implementation are vastly different. The Socialism that Sanders adheres to is used throughout many countries that also support a thriving Capitalist economy integrated with Socialist principles. The Socialism that Sen. Sanders wants to bring to the US is called Democratic Socialism. The name does not mean Democrats that are Socialists, it means that the government is a democratic institution created by the people for the benefit of the people. Sort of sounds like something a long ago Republican once said. The election of Bernie Sanders will not result in Congress being replaced by a Politburo, along with the imposition of 5 year plans and Party apparatchik enforcing conformity. Although that does sound like something a modern day Republican might think of as a good idea. Bernie Sanders does not now, nor has he ever advocated the entire political and economic systems of the US be transformed into anything other than a democratic system operating as an advocate for the people, providing opportunity and protection against the more powerful for everyone.
Lastly, the Hillary supporters insist that having Sanders even competing against Hillary hurts her chances in November 2016. And the roughly similar argument that only Hillary can beat the Republican candidate because she can raise almost? the same amount as the Republicans. Neither of these arguments make any sense in a open democratic election. First, only the media decides who is winning based on how much money a candidate has raised. I have never heard anyone ever claim that they are voting for Rufus Firefly because he raised the most money. And unless Sanders reveals some deep secret that somehow he or his staff dug up on Clinton, he is not going to say anything that will be used as ammunition by the Republican nominee. (I am certain the Republicans have been accumulating their anti-Clinton talking points since 2006.)
The bottom line is that all the pro Hillary supporters are using misleading information that does not stand up to scrutiny. And if you are a Hillary supporter because a) It’s her turn; b) She’s a woman; or c) We need to be sure a Republican will not win. Remember, that it is never someone’s turn to be President, and just as Hillary would be the first woman president, Sanders would be the first Jewish President. Neither is a reason to vote for either one. If Bernie can compete against an intelligent and competent opponent such as Hillary, what makes anyone think that he cannot compete and win against any of the Republicans running.
We in America all talk of how we have a two-party system. Many persons disappointed in the current state of affairs have expressed a desire for a third-party. Usually they want the third-party because “neither party is for the people”, or “they’re all a bunch of crooks”, and “it don’t matter who I vote for, they are all the same”. All true statements, but only partly. Our present election system indirectly encourages office seekers and officeholders to put the interest of the people low on their priority list, it allows for unsavory legal and outright illegal deals to be made, and both of the two major parties have created a political infrastructure where you either sing the same song or don’t sing at all. But inside all the noise, there is a lot more going on and America is not really divided into two. We are not just either a Democrat or a Republican, a Liberal or a Conservative; or any of the tiny and not tiny offshoots of those four major alignments. What is unusual is that with negligible exceptions the Democrats have all the Liberals in their tent, and the Republicans have all the Conservatives. In the past, each party consisted of a coalitions of other groups along the political Right to Left spectrum. Not anymore. Right are Conservative Republicans, and Left are Liberal Democrats.
But as I noted, there used to be Republican Liberals. And most notably, the Republican Party under Teddy Roosevelt created the modern Progressive movement. Progressives were and are a liberal faction that places as it highest goal the supremacy of the individual person. This is similar and yet the opposite of the Objectivists, AKA the followers of Ayn Rand’s Libertarianism. The key difference between Progressives and the Objectivists is simply a question of how the supremacy is defined and how it is accomplished. The Objectivists believe each individual is solely responsible for their accomplishments and that means in the Objectivists worldview that the more an individual achieves is an indicator of how much better or worse that individual is as compared to others. A Progressive on the other hand believes that individual supremacy occurs when all persons are helped, guided, and encouraged to achieve whatever they are best at. This requires that our social mores and government (communal) actions are all biased toward the goal of each person achieving their individual supremacy. Objectivists are a special case of Conservative and Progressives are a special case of Liberals.
But beyond the individual person’s achievements there is another even larger gap. Progressives do not recognize the supremacy or even the legitimacy of the artificial person known as corporations to overrule the supremacy of natural persons. Objectivists, see the corporation as a collection of persons. The persons who run the corporations then use the corporation’s achievements to justify supremacy over other persons natural and artificial. It is a difference of perception, one which I personally choose the Progressive argument.
So here is the Turing test to see if a person is truly a Progressive. Many Liberals and Progressives will agree on policy details, but there is a big, huge, difference that will steer the decision-making once they have achieved public office. The test is an answer to a simple question. Do you believe that we, as a society, can achieve our loftiest ambitions by allowing corporations and it’s representative Natural Persons to have any say in our laws and regulations? Any person that answers ‘yes’ is not a Progressive.
The moment you apply the rules of balancing your books to a national budget, you have made a colossal mistake. Read on, let me know if agree.
It is Budget season on Washington when various caucuses and even the President all submit a different budget for consideration. And certainly there are many differences between the President’s budget, the Progressive Caucus Budget, the Democratic budget and this year’s winner, the Republican budget; which passed through both the House and the Senate. Now for all the complaints about the Republican budget and the others as well, they all share one very critical trait that deserves closer examination. But before I get to that, there is another item that is very important. A budget for the US Government is just an outline. There is little in there that enforces any cuts or increased spending. And the little that is in there for cuts and increases can be overridden when an actual bill is passed and signed by the President. It is all for show.
Back to that critical trait I mentioned, which is not just for show. All expenditures must be accounted for by taxes, tariffs and fees that the government collects. Any shortfalls are made up by selling Treasury notes that are repaid with interest. Similar to any loan that many of us take to pay for a house, car or college education. I call this method of funding the government Tax to Spend. The term is temporally correct since, first the government sets tax rates, then, as the money is coming into the government coffers, Congress authorizes spending. When there is a shortage, the Treasury Bonds are issued and sold. Those bonds represent what is called the deficit and every budget brought up in Congress targets reducing the deficit until the budget is balanced. In fact a balanced budget is the proclaimed purpose of creating a budget in the first place.
But what happens when there is an economic downturn? When millions of people suddenly turn to government to help fulfill their basic needs. Among those are unemployment payments and since the unemployed have no income they need subsistence assistance like food stamps so their lack of work does not let their families starve. Often economic downturns occurrences are coincidental with changes in the workplace so education and job training assistance are needed to provide access for the unemployed into this modified workscape. But also day care help makes certain that children are cared for when their parents are in a school or training or working at entry level wages. When more persons are suddenly in the low wage end of the income spectrum, how should government pay for it all? Most Conservatives will insist that by supplying people with “free” unemployment checks, education, low cost food and even housing the government is encouraging bad behavior, so just level fund all the programs so people will go get themselves a job. Liberals will usually insist that we raise taxes on those that are still doing real well and use that increased tax income to fund all the programs and also create jobs. Conservatives counter that by taxing the wealthy, the wealthy will be unable to expand their businesses and restore jobs.
Surprise! The Conservatives are correct. Raising taxes in tough economic times increases the pressure on business to contract when demand is shrinking. And taking taxes from persons with no income is very much out of the question. The government could “borrow” more to cover all the increased expenses during a downturn, but that just means that persons of considerable wealth are getting paid (interest) to put their money into the government instead their business. Putting money into funding the government where the interest rate certainty outweighs the risk of investing in any business and profits are not guaranteed. So we are left with a choice of increasing taxes or paying the wealthy to fund government expenses.
But, there is another way that government gets money to pay for implementing all the items in the budget, as they are enacted in law. The US Government and the US Government alone has the authority to actually ‘print’ or coin money. Ever since President Nixon took the US off of the gold standard, the US Dollar is a floating currency. It’s worth is based on what people are willing to pay for it. Just like a Realtor will always tell you that your house is worth what a person is willing to pay for it, the same is true of the US Dollar. What this means is that probably by the stroke of the President’s pen alone all all tax deficits can be funded by the US Treasury requiring the Federal Reserve to “print” the necessary currency. (Side note: Money is not actually printed, it is just an entry typed into the US’s ledger by the Fed)
With the funding question now addressed, what a bout taxes? If we eliminate them entirely why would Americans or American businesses use the US Dollar. That is because, by taxing as well as only accepting the US Dollar as a tax payment a value actually gets assigned to the US Dollar. It also turns out that taxes can be a great tool by which government can implement economic management via the tax collectors. I call this the Tax to Manage economic model. Managing economic conditions is something that all governments do, but with its spending role mostly eliminated the management function grows in importance. For example, historical evidence indicates that income inequality increases as the range of marginal tax rates shrinks. So, it would seem that by raising the highest tax rate over 50%, probably to 75%; income inequality will diminish. Also, since that rate will stay consistent across economic upticks and downturns, the negative impact of raising taxes on the wealthy is minimized. At the other end of the spectrum, taxes on lower income persons can be lowered significantly, especially if no taxes are collected until pay reaches past a living wage.
One last word about what most skeptics will reflexively bring up. Hyper Inflation. And they are right, it is a risk, but not very likely. High inflation will occur when some critical resource that is needed by nearly everyone becomes scarce. The correction, when inflation starts to rise, is to simply manage it away by raising taxes and by addressing the shortage by some reasonable substitute. Once the economy stabilizes, return the tax rates to normal. In the final analysis, we need to alter how we fund government activities, so that government can meet the promise made in the preamble to US Constitution when it declares that the government as defined by the Constitution will “Provide for the general welfare”. By making money collected in taxes the major source of government income the US has weakened itself economically so that money cannot be used to mange the economy.
Yesterday I wrote about MSNBC’s current death spiral. https://opinionatedwriters.wordpress.com/2015/02/21/leaning-forward-msnbc-falls-flat-on-its-face/ Today I would like to propose a format for a Progressive Cable station also available with live streaming on the web. To use both outlets is critical, since more and more people are looking to cut the cable cord. Live streams are also critical since we are talking about news and current events. As the Stone sang many years ago “who wants yesterday’s news?”. But, on the other hand, some programming may be better suited to making it available for streaming over a long stretch of time. Thus a cross platform is necessary. That does not preclude a small $2 or $3 dollar per month subscription to the entire Progressive TV outlet’s catalogue.
But, content and name recognition is absolutely necessary to bring in the eyeballs and the ears initially. But programming cannot and should not follow the Right Wing baloney, where a blowhard talk and rants for an hour, brings in the same rotation of talking heads and possible experts that tell the host how smart they are. This happens now on both Fox and MSNBC. The people that want Progressive programming are not fooled by such inanity. That is why MSNBC’s ratings are tanking. That and each and every show covers the same two top stories every night. Borrrring!!
So Rule #1 If the show before you covered scandal “A”, then don’t say anything more than coverage of scandal “A” is available on the web and is also optimized for your cell phone. Two shows after scandal “A”, then the host has 90 seconds to outline the main theme and the redirect people to the web.
Rule #2. Nobody gets to cover scandal “A” more than 2 nights in a row.
Rule #3 is that Rules 1 and 2 can be overridden to introduce a new development, but only new information can be reported.
Rule #4, no host has a regular shift. What? No Rachel (or whoever) every night at the same time? Yup. All evening programming should be ready for publication by 5 PM each evening and announced via push technology such as social media, and even emails as well as 45 second blurbs on air. (These blurbs can be on radio and other tv outlets) For example, Rachel can put together a 45 minute program one night where she explores an issue in depth, the next night she follows with a rebuttal or a an expansion or possibly responds to viewer questions live or prerecorded, but that program only take 30 minutes.
Rule #5, One host, each evening may choose to not do a program.
The idea here is to create a dynamic set of programs that can explore issues with real experts, and sometimes follow up on the issues generated from one program into another. It does not have to repeat the same news stories over and over. Invite, but not require or expect viewer participation. Place material on the web that ties various parts of the same subject together . Allow hosts to live or die on their talents, and above all do not repeat the same story.