Thanks, Russia!

All over the press, mainstream media, social media, water coolers, and barstools the talk is about President Trump’s relationship with Russia. Every person he knows that ever spoke to a Russian is being presented as further evidence of collusion with Russia between his campaign and even President Trump himself in order to alter the results of the vote last November. A serious charge that if proven true should mean more than the removal of just Donald Trump as President. Since the accusations extend to numerous individuals within his campaign, a legitimate case could be made that the election itself is invalid. However calling telephone conversations that have been documented as not having been found to have any evidence of collusion along with the total lack of any hard forensic evidence means that the charges, if true would be hard to prove. In fact, there are significant reasons to discount every justification being made by the press and the government to take the idea of Russian meddling in the US Presidential election seriously.

But there was election tampering and it all occurred by US interests without any foreign assistance. Hillary Clinton actively rigged both sides of the primary. She manipulated the media with the assistance of the “unbiased” DNC, laundered contributions that were intended for other Democratic candidates in other races. There was also money used by the DNC and the Clinton campaign to create a hidden stash that was used to create social media propaganda and outright attacks on Sanders and his supporters. Additionally there are questions outstanding as to the validity of the actual votes counted in the Primaries due to red flag discrepancies between the count and exit polls. On the Republican side, the Clinton campaign enlisted assistance from various media outlets to minimize their coverage of Sanders and fill in that void with an overdose of coverage of the two most extreme Republicans, Trump and Cruz.

During the general election, Republicans had already proactively rigged the vote by engaging in wholesale voter suppression of targeted likely Democratic voters. There was minimal, exit polling which is the international standard in which to gauge the validity of the vote. Additionally when challenges did arise, recounts were either impossible due to all electronic votes tabulated without a verifiable audit trail, or both parties conspired to raise the costs of funding recounts as to make them all but impossible to achieve.

And after all that known improprieties by US interests we are supposed to get all worked up because the Director of the FBI stated that Vladimir Putin hates Hillary Clinton? That was an actual reason provided at one point by then FBI Director Comey.

But still, when I mention these issues, people tell me to ‘get over it’. Why? The supposed two party system was manipulated so that the choice would be between a person whose only accomplishment in life was marrying a guy who later become President, while she garnered an incredible resume, but little else and a man who rose to fame and fortune by the grace of his father’s business acumen backing him up. Ever since his father’s death, his career has been a string failures punctuated with a few get rich quick schemes. In other words, this election was not between two people who have been proven capable, but between two corrupt and incapable individuals. Whether the Russians had any influence in the outcome, the damage was done before they ever got involved. Maybe, the Russians did us a favor, or more likely we are just giving them another reason to make a toast and down a shot of vodka.

Propose Don’t Oppose

BRADFROMSALEM

Republicans, free of any serious opposition, have revealed their unverified template to reinvigorate the American economy, dissolve government’s role in any matter not connected to protecting the US from foreign entities real or imagined, and enhance government’s role in enforcing moral choices connected in any manner to sexual or other personal activities.

That’s a large agenda, and to be fair, not all Republicans are on board with every line item in the two major proposals, Mr. Ryan’s Health Care bill and Mr. Trump’s Budget proposal. The party as a whole, however, will define these two critical items with next to no alternatives coming from the Democrats in office. Democrats will pushback against the Republican plans and instead of responding to criticisms of the ACA, most elected Democrats respond entirely by defending the ACA, when all the solutions to the problems with the ACA can be corrected. It is called Medicare for All. The Republican idea that a budget and any legislative proposals reduce annual deficits is universally accepted as the “gold standard” of economic virtue and that guarantee to growing the American economy is never opposed by elected Democrats. This leaves little room for proposed legislation such as infrastructure growth, free higher education and expanded Social Security, all items that will grow the economy organically based on historically verifiable precedent.

The Republican assumptions cannot be accepted by anyone that is opposed to their vision of America. The debate can no longer be about presumed truths, presumed enmities (that include both Russia and China), who talks to who or any metric that is not measured against doing what is moral and right. Amorality has become America’s real enemy and both party’s establishment fully endorses and legislates on amoral standards. Changing the paradigm will break down the political monopoly trust that is stagnating the US. Yes, Trump has got to go, because doing so will start to establish that the American people are ready for the change to a moral standard; a goal much, much larger than firing a single incompetent President.

HOW YA GONNA DO THAT?

BRADFROMSALEM

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.

WRONG REASONS TO SUPPORT HILLARY

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Sunset in Salem
BRADFROMSALEM

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.

What In Tarnation is a Progressive anyways?

Maine Desert - Created by good intentions gone bad
Maine Desert – Created by good intentions gone bad

BRADFROMSALEM

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 US BUDGET. IT’S NOT THE SAME AS YOUR BUDGET.

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Don’t be like Lester. Do your thinking outside the box.
  BRADFROMSALEM

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.

Let’s Pretend.

 

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BRADFROMSALEM

Let’s play pretend.

Let’s pretend we know what happens over the next two years while the Republicans have control of America’s House of Representatives and the Senate as well. Let’s pretend that they continue passing bills in the House to defund anything Obama tries to do either by veto or by executive order. Let’s pretend that in both chambers, rule changes are instituted on a regular basis. Rules that prevent any chance of Democrats funding any initiative that will provide more opportunities for rich and poor alike, strengthen and reinforce the tattered safety net, glue back together our crumbling infrastructure to keep things working and moving until a new infrastructure can be designed and built. Of course, we must also pretend that even environmental issues will need to be put aside so we can pretend to create jobs via tax cuts to those that have money, and less regulations on both good and bad, but especially pesky environmental and safety regulations. Yes, let’s pretend by a crooked hook they get everything they want, and more.

What will happen when they attain their goal of privatizing every single government function?  Is it the end of government waste and fraud, saving the taxpayer billions of dollars every year? Is this how we achieve a lowered tax rate, but continue to live and prosper in the greatest nation ever made in the history of Earth, 3rd planet from the star Sol in the Milky Way galaxy?  No, it’s not. But at that is exactly what the Republicans will pretend. What I don’t know for sure is just how many Republicans believe that their agenda, if implemented, will create the greatest nation ever made in the history of Earth and how many know it’s a game of pretend.

So what does happen? The meager improvements in the real unemployment figure will start to diminish and by the end of the two years turn negative just like in 2008. The persons whose wages have been stagnant lately will see their wages actually decrease, and those already suffering lowered wages will see their pay plummet. We probably will see prices begin to drop as demand almost entirely disappears.

You may have heard that recently, Mitch The Turtle McConnell, is taking the credit for our limping, but improving economy to the Republicans and people being thrilled about the Republicans gaining control of both Houses. He knows the reality is that any improvements have been in spite of Republican obstructionism, but that doesn’t matter. By 2016 he and the rest of the Republicans will be able turn in either direction. If things go well leading into the 2016 elections, the story will be that it is the Republicans that did it. If things turn sour (most likely), he can say that Obama’s veto pen, executive orders,  and the Democrats in Congress obstructed all their initiatives.  That story does not require truth to get in the way of its telling, the media will report as a “he said/she said” argument. But since we are pretending that the Republicans do get their way, then I am fairly certain that the economy will tank and the Republicans have already started to sow the seeds just for that outcome.

But I call this pretend because there are options open to the managers of the American economy. And the economic managers work for the executive branch. There are signs that some, particularly Senators Warren and Sanders, that are trying to force the executive branch to look for alternative answers. Warren’s blocking of another Wall Street guy to Treasury, and Sanders naming a leading Modern Money Theory advocate to be the minority economic adviser to Senate Budget committee. Together on two separate fronts these two are making it clear to the administration and the American people, that just maybe the ruin that Republican economic policies will create does not have to happen. And all their maneuvering to get their way will end up as an exercise for some future professor to say to her class, let’s play pretend.