Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Super PACS- Another Tool for the Governing Elite

Here is the situation. We have a worthless Congress choking on its self made problems. It has an all time low 12% positive rating by the citizens. We are saddled with an ineffective executive branch which is baffled and outmaneuvered by the worthless Congress. The entire mess is managed by two self serving, and corrupt political parties whose primary interest is to stay in power with the status quo. The national ruling elite have no answers to this status and little inclination to try to find any. They are awash with tired ideologies that have been proven not to work 20 years ago. Our great country is being wasted and unable to serve its citizens. It is so serious that the citizens are beginning to occupy the streets in serious protest.

We need productive change to our governance. We will only get it when we elect effective governments. For that we need truthful and useful information on the candidates.

Working against truth and balanced discussion is a 2010 decision by the Supreme Court that allowed corporations to make unlimited contributions to Political Action Committees (PACS) directly from their treasuries. They cannot make these contributions directly to a candidate so they make them through “super PACs” that are formed especially to create large political expenditures for political purposes. This allows corporations to provide then with unlimited funds. With these resources they can instantly create floods of negative media against reform candidates.

For an example of the role super PACS can play consider the Republican Party primary elections. Of the six potential candidates there are two that are proposing several anti statist solutions for consideration. In view of the shortage of productive ideas with which the part y has been plagued you would hope that the party would welcome an informed discussion of these ideas. No so. When polling showed that the citizens were swinging strongly toward both of the candidates it caused a panic throughout the Republican establishment. Gingrich took a commanding lead over the statist Romney, while Paul also climbed rapidly in the polls.

The statists immediately released a barrage of super PAC funded negative media directed at the two unflavored candidate. Those shown in Iowa are loaded with ignorance, misquotes and half truths related to events going back over 20 years.

They were effective. Gingrich admitted the difficulty of countering the cash rich super PACS media supporting Romney. NPR reports that the attempt to counter with positive ads is not working. Within a week the Gingrich large leads in the polls have disappeared.

We have just put another powerful tool in the hands of the governing elite. They are apparently anxious to use it to further muddy up our already weakened election process. Regardless of your candidate this is bad for democracy.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Two Important Events Last Week

Occupy Comes to DC

The 99% have come to challenge what many people feel is the primary obstacle to reform.  The corrupt Congress of the United State and the special interest lobbyists that feed them. The lead organization is Occupy DC which is a solidarity partner with OccupyWallStreet.
Their intent is to call attention to all of the Washington landmark institutions that are favoring the 1% to the detriment of the 99%. First actions were marches to the lobbyist’s offices on K Street, the Capitol Building, the White House, and the Supreme Court. There are additional actions on many more Washington landmarks.

They have been tightly controlled by police. A temporary building installed near K Street was forced to be dismantled by the police. Lots of arrests but the occupiers have been peaceful-no violence. The effort to shut them down seems to be underway.

They say they will stay until the government responds. It will probably be a long visit. We wish them luck.

Newt Gingrich Takes a Commanding Lead in the Republican Presidential Race

This really has the leading elite and their media confused

Newt has a distinguished list of enemies. He is hated by the party elite, the media, and those who were his colleagues in Congress. Considering the job this bunch have been doing Newt may be just the person we need.

Remembering his activities in the 90’s It is hard to imagine that once elected he would follow the irrational do nothing policies of the current Republican party. Surely with his pride he will be looking for aggressive and radical solutions to our problems. Backed up by his intelligence he could apply some major reforms to the party and our whole corrupt system. But there is a predictability problem. At this point we don’t know his real intentions because they are masked by the stupidities he must spout to win the primary.

Those 90’s years when he was leading the House do look pretty good in comparison to today. Granted, he used a lot of hypocrisy to reach his goals. Working with a Democratic President he brought us a balanced budget, got rampart welfare under control, and is a rare Republican that favors cutting the oil company subsidies. The House of Representative that he led with Clinton as President makes the current Congress look feeble. He certainly is not a run-of-the-mill politician.

The Democrats say they would love to run against him, but they had better be careful.

His 20 yr old personal baggage that they hope to use against him seems pretty mild when compared to our current embedded government corruption. You can review his personal history in Wikipedia and reach your own conclusions.

Both important events to watch.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Disastrous Elected Government Causing Strong Remedies

Background on Occupy Wall Street/99 %(OWS)
The OWS/99% movement is described more completely in the October 22, 2011 and November 22, 2011 posts on this blog.

The core conflict has occurred because those who call themselves the “99%” of the population refuse to accept the broken economy and dysfunctional society that the current system has brought us. The elected government shows no capability of correcting the problems.

The OWS/99% has chosen the First Amendment as the primary mechanism to call for reform. The First Amendment clearly establishes freedom of religion, speech, and the press, along with the rights of peaceable assembly and ability to petition the government for redress of grievances.
The standard method of protest is the “occupying” outside of an institution by hundreds to thousands of protesters at a symbolic site. Signs and activities at the sight outline the reasons for the protest. The “occupy” is to be non violent so as to meet the protection granted “peaceable assembly” by the First Amendment.

Responsibility for the mismanagement is placed on a 1% component of the population that holds the positions of power. The goal is to shift power from the 1% to the 99%.
 It is impossible for the hard core 1% to deny the economic and social problems that are not being addressed by the governance. Sadly, we have elected a Congress which is doing nothing to address the protests. In fact many of the hard-core members of the 1% were deeply involved in the creation of the problems and continue to benefit from them. They have chosen a counter strategy that ignores the problems but instead relies upon attacking the 99% as socialistic, left wing, and un-American and the real source of the problems. In short, they are substituting public relations for reform. In so doing they have committed the country to a clash of philosophies that could have very dangerous consequences.

Recent Events
November 17 marked the 2nd month anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street (“OWS/99 %”) invasion of Soccotti Square in New York. They have established solidarity with hundreds of additional organizations that are also protesting the actions of the government and financial sectors. The November 17 Day of Action created “occupies” of hundreds of institutions and facilities that were felt to being wrongly managed by the 1%.

This date is also marked as the first large scale coordinated counterattack by the hard core governing 1% of the population. On this date numerous cities, including New York, moved to remove the 99% from their protest camping areas. Although this was generally done peaceably there was the use of excess force. Thousand of arrests were made. The claim by those cities and other institutions were that the protesters were not being “peaceful” and that the First Amendment did not therefore apply.

One series of damaging videos of the police spraying pepper spray on sitting non violent students is circulated widely on the internet and has added to tensions. A damaging proposal by a Washington public relations firm to the American Bankers Association (ABA) was also leaked. The proposal offered to initiate a program that would warn politicians of future penalties if they sided with the protesters and to initiate research to present negative information on the protesters. Although the ABA reported that they had refused the proposal it represents a discouraging attempt to substitute public relations for real reform.

State of the 99%
The OWS/99% movement has become large, global and distributed. It is being very aggressive in pursuing its protests. The question is whether it can withstand the forthcoming public relations firestorm when the 1% fully unleashes its vast financial and media resources. There is also the difficult task of converting public sentiment to legislative action with an ineffective Congress that has only a 13% approval rate.

Of special interest is a plan by OWS/99% to soon “occupy” Congress. Here they will address their most inept and fault ridden institution and hopefully have the entire nation cheering them on.
OWS has prepared a proposed vision statement with supporting goals. They propose major changes to some current financial policies.

State of the Hard Core1%
It is impossible to deny the existence of serious problems that were largely created by many of the hard line members of the 1% themselves. The obvious way to defuse the situation would be to correct the reasons for the protests. However this is not being done by either the government or responsible institutions.

Polls show that only about one half the population currently understands the situation and its seriousness. That uninformed half will be a prime target for their PR campaign.

The Near Term
In the near term we will continue to see major “occupy” efforts by OSW99% and strong public relation counter measures by the hard core 1%. It is unknown how far the hard-core ideologue members of the 1% will go to attempt to preserve the current status. Nor do we know how the 99% will be able respond to their attacks. There is a real danger of losing public support if the “occupies” are unwisely overused.

The 1% does have powerful control of the financial sector and elected government, along with almost unlimited financial resources. A little attention to the internal traffic of the competing groups, however, shows that there is considerable overlap between the 99% and the 1%. Many people who fall in the upper 1% in a financial test recognize the problems being cause by the current environment and would support many of the reforms proposed by the 99%. It is hoped that this group can eventually contribute to a reasonable, non violent , and just middle ground. As of now, however, there are no indications that either side will accept a compromise.

Stand by for Round 2 and hope for a peaceful and just constitutional resolution

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

The OWS and 99/1 Movements-A Quick Update

On the Oct 22 post we described how the one- sided self serving actions of the current governing elite finally aroused the population into forming a fast growing organization dedicated to shifting governance responsibility away from the 1% elite to the 99% middle class citizenry. The movement started with the Occupy Wall Street (“OWS”) actions to occupy Succotti Square near Wall Street. This immediately let to similar organizations being formed in US cities and towns and spread throughout the world into a global network. This post brings you more information on the progress and environment they have created. There is so much action it only touches on high points.


After 6 weeks the total movement is beginning to take form as hundreds of local organizations outside of New York establish “solidarity” with OWS on the global network. The movement has continued to establish itself as the center of the 99% who are demanding corrective action after a bungling Government and allied institutions have proven to be disastrous to the nation. Wisely, the movement has been extremely careful to avoid being co-opted by other movements, agendas. or political labels. It is clearly described as a pro-democracy movement to correct major deficiencies in the nation’s governance by moving to a more democratic middle class environment.


Each local organization in the network is self managed but must be non violent and democratic. The local governing body in each node is a General Assembly that must approve all actions. They use a decision support system called “People’s Assembly” that focuses on distributed consensus decision making across a group environment. All members can participate. A methodology of hand signals express positive and negative positions and keeps discussions moving and on topic. Communications is open between nodes to all members via Twitter or other social systems. This system continuously maintains real time communications with hundreds of local organizations through the world and allows instantaneous coordination of activities. There is a tremendous volume of information flowing. You can follow much of it through Twitter. The information system plus the large number of people involved is impressive. This is an advantage over the many layered hierarchy of the 1%.


Significant portions of the 1% are not hardened ideologues and recognize the disaster that the remainder of the 1% has dealt the nation. They are supportive of reform and could eventually be a basis for reasonable compromise. But there remains the hard core ideologues and the plain greedy that are profiting from the current situation and viciously resist any change. Unfortunately they are deeply embedded in positions of wealth and power in Congress, the media, and the corporate and financial sectors. It was in those positions that they created the very situations which are the point of contention with the 99/1 % movement..

This hard core 1%seems to feel that with their power they can eventually make OWS/99/1% meaningless. They do not yet seem to understand the scope and intensity of the OWS/99/1% movement. They are going to find it difficult to hire the energy and intelligent dedication which is standard within the 99/1% movement. Their only hope for survival is to turn the general public against the OWS /99/1% movement.

They have embarked on an extensive misinformation and infiltration program to try to create in the public mind an image of a left wing, communist, violent, and unlawful agenda made up of drug addicts and sexual predators which must be brought under control. If the movement stays true to its current path, however, the public will surely recognize the falseness of these accusations. This site gives you a better perspective of the typical 99% membership.


The 99% have made a good start by gaining worldwide exposure and in identifying the critical issues that need reform. The strong infra structure of the 99% is already showing its ability to call broad attention to the thoughtlessness of different government policies by holding thousand person plus “occupations” of the offending institutions.

The movement is an intelligent core being applied to financial and governance issues that the public recognizes. Because it has no legislative authority, however, it must face the next critical step. That is to elect a new Congress that will provide the required legal actions.

This is setting up to be a very competitive and important contest for the mind of the American citizen. It is encouraging to find a force that is still fighting hard for the American Dream.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

OWS-The Citizens Finally Run Out of Patience

The greed of the financial sector, the ignorance of the ideologues, and the unimaginable incompetence of the 111th and 112th Congress has been causing excruciating pain to American citizens for almost three years. We could not be expected to quietly accept this situation indefinitely. A common sense Congress could have defused the situation by correcting obvious errors and sincerely addressing the underlying problems. Unfortunately the guilty parties have refused to offer serious solutions.

The nearest opportunity for citizens to replace many of the current non performing members of Congress through elections is over 12 months away. Continuance of the current ineffectiveness by Congress is longer than the citizens could wait. Thus a far reaching global protest movement has become activated. The movement is serious, and growing at an explosive rate around the world. It has been joined by numerous additional organizations. Initiated by the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) protest movement it has as its battle cry the taking away financial and political power from the self serving portion of 1% of the population and returning democratic control to the 99%. Polls show that this concept is strongly supported by the majority of middle class citizens.

No one knows where these protests will lead. At this time they are wisely adamant about remaining independent of political parties. The organization has not been in place long enough to present a code of demands but one is being prepared. I saw a listing of eight demands that were being suggested for inclusion by one protester. All were legitimate, practical, and addressed needed actions. Some were addressed to laws already passed that were nullified through congress cutting funds to the intended enforcing agency. One demand dictated that all laws passed by Congress would apply equally to them as to the citizens. Reducing the influence of unlimited money and special interests on the democratic process was an important theme.

The protests are definitely legitimate and aimed at correcting the overreach practices by the established institutions that is damaging our country and our democracy. They should have been corrected long ago by Congress. It is extremely important that real progress on the major issues happens while the protests are controlled by citizens strongly motivated by patriotism and democracy. This will require the elimination of many practices of the financial and political systems.

I suggest you follow the protests closely. Read and understand the demands when they are presented. Offer advice and criticism. Be prepared to resist the forthcoming propaganda assault by those who brought us down to the current state.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

American Jobs Act Update

On September 5, 2011, after over 2 yr years of recession and 14 million citizens still unemployed the President announced a $447 billion American Jobs bill which included $140 billion in infrastructure construction work. On September 13 this blog applauded the bills’ focus for finally providing direct help to the middle class. We concluded, however, that it could only pass the current Congress if forced to by strong public support.

On September 20, 2011 Gallup released the results of a detailed public opinion poll on the citizen’s response to the bill. It was overwhelmingly favorable for the bill. The infrastructure element was favored by 72% of the citizens polled. A blow-out 80% favored an accompanying tax deduction for small businesses. The reference covers the results by element and political party affiliation.

It is now October 5 and in spite of numerous presentations by the President the bill has not been submitted to either house by party leaders. No target dates have been set. (Of course, the Congress did have a week of vacation to get in). On Sept 28 the Democrats announced that they don’t have the votes for passage in the Senate and won’t bring the issue to a vote until they do. Republican leaders in the house have called the bill “campaigning” and have not announced a date when they would bring it up for debate,--if they do it at all. Today they announced it DOA.

With trillions of dollars worth of infrastructure work to be done and 14 million American citizens out of work you would think that leaders of both parties would be all over each other to work out a plan. They should want to flood the country with projects that would get the citizens off unemployment and back to value-added work. But you would be wrong.

The question is why would the US Congress prefer to write unemployment checks and watch our infrastructure crumble than provide productive value-added work to its citizens? My only observation is that this is the expected behavior of our current Congress. This is exactly why the latest Gallup poll shows citizen approval of Congressional job performance is down to13% and 9% with Independents.

There are many studies which point to the benefits of an immediate national infrastructure plan. On March 5, 2011 the New America Foundation released a widely distributed evaluation estimating that our inadequate infrastructure was costing the nation more than $192 billion a year in wasted fuel consumption, lost time, additional handling and other delays. As a specific example, this article by USA Today discusses the waste and additional costs that inadequate infrastructure is causing the grain export business.

It is apparent that there are ideologues and special interests that do not want the act to pass, but in view of the public support are afraid to be seen voting against it. Hence every delaying trick available will be pulled to avoid a vote.

What can the citizens do to force a vote when Congress refuses to even consider an issue that is so important to the citizens? Although national referendums are common in municipalities and states there is no mention of them in the constitution. (The Founding Fathers apparently never considered the possibility of incompetence at the level we now have.) In the short term we have only the advisory force of public opinion as determined by the countless political polls. In the longer term we have our 2012 election where we have the opportunity to replace all of the Representatives and one third of the Senators.

Keep up the pressure. What are your representatives doing?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The American Jobs Act-A Critical Decision

The American Jobs Act presents an important choice for America. We will have to determine if we want to give up and join the bean counters in their rush to the economic bottom or fight to regain a booming American economy. This decision is so important that a wrong choice could portend the concluding stages of the American dream.

It is not that the proposed Act is the final solution. There is much more to do and this Act is over two years late. But at last there is an aggressive middle class oriented plan put before the nation. It shines when compared to the special interest actions of the ineffective congress with which we have been living. We need it to pass now, however, not in fourteen months with a new congress. Sadly, the only way we will see significant action with the current congress is through such overwhelming public support that each congressman decides that to oppose it would be political suicide.

Your understanding is very important. You will need to educate yourself on its’ contents to withstand the misrepresentations, half truths and delaying tactics that are on their way from the ideologues and their politicians. You can move toward an independent and knowledgeable judgment by reviewing the American Jobs Act Fact Sheet.

The Act addresses four major areas, all focused on middle class issues.

Tax Cuts to Help America’s Small Businesses Hire and Grow ($70 billion)

Putting Workers Back on the Job While Rebuilding and Modernizing America ($140 billion)

Pathways Back to Work for Americans Looking for Jobs ($62 billion)

More Money in the Pockets of Every American Worker and Family ($175 billion)
The items in each area are explained in detail in the fact sheet. There is also a detailed cost table in the fact sheet. The fact sheet further claims that it is fully paid for as part of the president’s long-term deficit reduction plan.

As the proposed Act is further understood we should begin to see the results of legitimate public polls as opposed to the unscientific self serving ones starting to be published now.

Understand it and you will support it.


Monday, September 05, 2011

Americas Economic Problems are Political - Not Resource Limited

The founding fathers were not bean counters. So they must be confused when they hear the ideologues and bean counters tell us that we can no longer afford to do the good things for our citizens that are described in the Preamble of the Constitution.

What exactly are they saying? That we don’t have enough science and talent to support a health care system for our citizens? We don’t have enough engineers and skilled tradesmen to manufacture everything we need? Are we short on farming and the land needed to grow our food? Are there not enough engineers and construction workers to fix our infra structure?

They talk nonsense. We have an ample supply of all of these assets. The country is filled with everything we need to satisfy the material and creative requirements of all our citizens.

There is one thing that we don’t have--a thoughtful and honest Congress. One that will make sure everything that should happen on the national level does happen, regardless of party ideology. It is the absence of a willful elected leadership that is pulling us down.

With a thoughtful and honest Congress we would not be in the current mess. They would have recognized that having everyone together in productive work is the only way to financial and social stability. We would by now have an all out program focused on that. Instead the two parties have wasted over two years bickering with each other over unproven ideologies while the confidence of the nation is destroyed. They have yet to provide the citizens with a substantial plan for economic recovery.

The current Congress has had its’ chance and failed miserably. Remember this. Be very careful how you spend your vote in 2012.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Congressional Cost Cutting Obsession is the Tail Wagging the Dog.

When will the bean counters acknowledge that deficit reduction should only be one element of a national economic plan? Nothing would be more slipshod than to create a cost reduction plan without careful attention to how it affects a national economic recovery plan. The trouble is, after over two years of recession, the US has never built a national economic recovery plan. What our congress is doing with this single minded devotion to cost cutting is similar to only studying seat covers while trying to build an automobile.

We do need a comprehensive plan but it should be for economic recovery. It should address all sectors that impinge on the economy such as citizen employment, expanding the manufacturing sector, correcting the trade imbalance, protecting our science leadership, restoring financial integrity and a general return of the principles of the American dream. Obsessive bean counter concentration on cost cutting without understanding the consequences on the rest of the economy will lead to disaster. It is discouraging that this nation is being managed by leaders who do not seem to grasp such a simple principle.

The lack of basic management skills had created a Congress that is badly failing the country. Americans realize this. The current Congress has no creditability with the citizens. The latest Gallup poll shows that only 9% of independent voters support the way Congress is handling its job while 84% of all voters disapprove. These are disastrous results.

What can the citizens do? What can be done to restore the citizens’ faith in its governing institutions? In spite of these failing ratings I have not heard of a serious proposal for extensive reform of Congress from either party. If these polls haven’t energized them what will?

The Constitution makes no allowance for the early termination of an existing Congress. We will have to wait until 2012 to exert our voting power. Unfortunately, unless the situation changes, our choice of candidates in 2012 will come from the same process that created the current gene pool.

The known solutions of letters, emails, and calls don’t seem to be providing the driving force for the level of reform we need. We definitely must open the election process to have more choice in candidates. In fact it may be time for that risky street-driven movement that says “Don’t vote for an incumbent.”

Friday, August 19, 2011

Starbucks CEO Loses Patience-Withholds Political Party Contributions

Howard Schultz ,The CEO of Starbucks. has called for corporations to boycott contributions to political parties until Congress and the Administration agree to work together to address the real problems of the country. CBS News presents the elements of his proposal and contains a link to his letter. A Forbes article “Washington Losing Credibility Among US Business” offers more detailed analysis. The New York Stock Exchange and NASDAQ have mailed his letter to all of their listed CEOs.

This is a big time effort to compensate for the lack of confidence in Washington that is retarding our economy. The citizen’s approval of the job by Congress by citizens has dropped off the chart to only 13% . Congress went on vacation at that point and does not intend to return until September.

The two articles and his letter present a realistic analysis of the actions to counter our inept elective government. The conclusion is that current Washington will not create a solution to the sluggish economy. They cannot be counted on to set aside their ideologies and special relations for a solution that is best for America. For the long term good of the country American corporations must actively step up on a bipartisan basis and demand confidence- building results. This is true even if it will sometimes means a hit to short term profits. The boycott of contributions is until decent reform is reached.

In contrast to the hot air politicians who have unproven ideologies they would like to try on us Starbucks has created over 135,000 jobs in the US alone.

It will be interesting to see how many companies join in. Shultz was very careful to say that he is making no comments or influence on policy. He asks only that the parties have their elected members working hard on solving America’s problems and stop viewing election at the national level as a personal and party-based business opportunity.

This is a distressed attempt for reform of our political parties by a practical American business. There is always the possibility that other companies benefitting from today’s confusion and ineptness will increase their contributions to maintain this situation. Good investigative reporting and close attention to those companies by well informed voters is the only counter to these actions.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Performance of Congress Reaches Point of Complete Breakdown

After months of self induced wasted time on the deficit while ignoring the crucial need for energizing the national economy Congress ended up on Tuesday with a bean counter solution for the national credit ceiling. The market immediately gave us its analysis of the legislation by going into free fall, with the Dow losing over 512 points on Thursday.

On Friday, for the first time in its history, the credit rating of the United States was lowered form AAA to AA+ by Standard and Poor. An explanation of the reasoning shows that the primary basis was the deteriorating legislative performance by the Congress, which after months of pathetic effort came very close to causing a default in the country’s’ credit.

Meanwhile Congress left town and won’t be back until early September!

Thus ended several months of record setting self afflicted elected government incompetency, while millions of Americans remain unemployed, our infrastructure crumbles, and our economy remains broken.

Naturally the citizens are irate at this performance. The latest NY Times/CBS poll shows that 82% of the US population disapproves of the performance of Congress. Everyone I know double disapproves. I have yet to meet someone who is a member of the approving 18%. No company would consider a management team as incompetent as the ones we have picked to run our country. I maintain that the root cause of the current pathetic level of performance is closely related to the undeserved power we have given our two political parties.

I specially blame the Democrats because they claim to be the party protecting the average American and have failed. The Republicans openly favor wealth and privilege interests and aggressively protects them with all its political power. In spite of their vast resources the Democrats, by contrast, show only weakness as they fail to confront the Republicans and the bean counters destructive and one sided policies. These policies have been very destructive to middle America. There is no third party to pick up the fallen flag of the American citizen.

Although our Founding Fathers did strongly warn us of the harm they could do, political parties are not mentioned in the Constitution. The current two parties have had over 150 years to legislate themselves into a very powerful position. We have let them capture both our electoral and legislative processes. They have established laws and procedures that make them very difficult to replace. We have only the election process established by the Constitution as a tool. We must very carefully use it in the 2012 election.

Our theoretical limit for Congress is to replace the entire House of Representatives and one third of the senate each national election. We must be careful, however, that the replacements are an improvement over the incumbents. This will require having real research about the candidates.

To get my vote the candidate will have to survive the following evaluation:

Be fully aware of the disaster to the American dream caused by the special interests driven government elite -- and be dedicated to correcting it

Have absolute loyalty to the United States and its people, not to a political party

Not be a one solution-solves-all ideologue.

Advocate revising congressional rules and privileges to be closely aligned with those of the average citizen.

Move the US toward a productive and creative economy by preparing and implementing a comprehensive national plan to restore our economy at all fronts.

Insist that we aggressively use all means available and eliminate the negative trade balance.

Runs a campaign that is faithful to truth and reason. Rejects the usual dodge and lie techniques.

Will treat being elected to congress as an honor and responsibility, not a position to be exploited
There are a few in congress that could pass these requirements, We must support them and drastically increase their numbers in 2012. Then we may have enough for real reform.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A National Economic Restoration Plan Versus a ”Grand Deal” for Deficit Reduction

What was the Administration thinking when it asked congress to present a “grand deal” for controlling the deficit in return for the increase in the national debt ceiling? The plan had Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security as “on the table”. What a morale killer for an already demoralized population!. They learn that their leader wants a plan for full retreat that threatens what little support they have left. They certainly don’t need a bean counter driven plan of retreat that discounts the national potential we would have if the system would only let us work.

Does the administration think the current special interest controlled congress is even capable of developing such a “grand deal” of retreat for the country? No one else in the country does.

In any event I am tired of listening to the Republicans and Democrats talking right past the citizens. They then negotiate with each other for final results that always seem to satisfy the special interests and shortchange the citizens.

Addressing a real problem, the “grand deal” we need is one directly with the citizens to develop and really implement a comprehensive road map for Americas’ economic restoration. The plan would assemble our total talent pool and make both the economy and the American spirit soar again. Its progress would be completely transparent to the citizens.

Nothing of this nature will come from the bean counters. Retreat is in their DNA. Not only will the bean counters say we can’t do it-they will say we shouldn’t even try. They support the sure path to mediocrity.

This is America. Our greatness is not due to bean counters. Don’t let them set “the things that need to be done”.

Restoring our economy is the only acceptable way to cut into the deficit-but more importantly it is also the only way we can remain true to the American Dream.

Unfortunately we have voted in a Congress that is pitifully inadequate, both organizationally and talent-wise, to lead us down this path. They are proving this every day. Somehow we must identify the few competent and honest members of congress and vote the rest out.

It is critical that the plan make use of the extensive citizen talent pool that has blessed this country. The sections of the plan must be explained in understandable English to the citizens and progress completely transparent. Congress has to be prevented from injecting special interests at the expense of the country. All elements of the US economy must become dedicated to its success.

Elements to be resolved are: trade balance, manufacturing deficit, constructive employment of our citizens, an honest and stable financial system, energy policy, and an efficient political system.

Sound impossible? Not as complicated as going to the moon. And extremely important.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

When Your Leadership Causes the Problems

If you are looking for a perfect example of a society that makes its own problems look no further. You are living in one. Being blessed with abundant natural resources, an innovative population, and a tradition of freedom you could expect our success in the basics of life. We have a booming agriculture that feeds other parts of the world as well as ourselves. We have a defense so strong that no other country dare threaten us, and a historical gift of basic principles of governing from our founders. Yet somehow, here in the early 21st century we find ourselves in a shameful and innocent mess of national governance. It has robbed our citizens of their national pride and disgraced the American dream. This situation was not brought on by nature or military invasion, but by the efforts of our elected leadership.

So what happened? If you take a broad view, and don’t get bogged down by all the hot air, it is a pretty clear picture.

The national debt was not caused by the American working population unable to directly supply the services and materials from their own work. The farmers continue to plant crops and the factory workers continue to work and generate real wealth wherever allowed. Over the last 25 years, however, the elite ruling class and their bean counters have focused on moving large amounts of that wealth to themselves through worthless financial ploys. They have now greatly overplayed their hand and killed the golden goose by selling much of the nations real wealth creation capabilities overseas.

So the producing members of the economy, who are the only force that can create new wealth along with the basics of living, are now faced with not only fixing the productivity machine but also with addressing the debt that was carelessly accumulated while they were stealing from us.

What have we got to work with? First we have to understand that the “government” is really two organizations. There is the political half which consists of elected leadership plus the special interests that finance them. Their only qualifications are the ability to sell the voting public that they should be elected. Then there is the operational half which carries out the policies and legislative actions set by the political half. This is made up of workers who are a typical cross section of Americans. Their positions have technical qualifications which must be met by the employee. These people are faced with implementing the changing and inconsistent requirements of the elected and their appointees who are election winners of our two party election process.

It is easy to pinpoint which group is to blame for our sorry state. The elected representatives have severely failed in their obligations to the citizens. Their corruption and incompetence have created the serious problems that we now face. Although the operational workers do sometimes make mistakes they do not have the embedded corruption of the elected elite. It is the elected elite that must be decisively improved. People who rail against “the government” without understanding this distinction are misguided.

The only tools we have for correction are the election process, our numbers, and our thoughtfulness. As we have posted many times we must somehow reintroduce ethics, truth and intelligence into our elections. These traits are not common in either party. It will require much closer attention to the quality of political candidates. The citizen voter must make the difficult effort to sort ethical behavior from dishonesty, truth from lies, and intelligence from stupidity. There is no single ideology to substitute for these basics.

Friday, July 08, 2011

Our Two Political Parties Need Real Competition

One very important subject that is well understood but rarely mentioned in the media is the fact that the two party political system as now practiced is a disaster that is destroying our nation.

Permanent political parties did not play a significant role at the time of the formation of our country. They are not even mentioned in the Constitution. As pointed out in a previous post, however, (June 13, 2011) we were warned against the concept, by several Founding Fathers. Unfortunately, we foolishly disregarded their warnings and are now attempting to live with the results.

The two parties have:

Created a ruling elite that have loyalty to their party beyond that toward our nation.

Exhibited typical elitist behavior by creating many special privileges for themselves that are not available to the citizen.

Limited the voters’ choice of candidates almost entirely to loyal party members.

Done a disastrous job of managing our economy

Allowed their servitude to the special interests that fiancé them to create a warped tax and economic environment that is severely harming American citizens.

Because their only competition is the other party they operate under a very low bar for competency. The parties struggle to accomplish even the simplest of legislative tasks and fail to address serious issues. The latest poll shows Congress with a favorable rating of only 17%.

In a truly competitive situation the parties would either reform or be replaced. Both parties are so entrenched, however, that they can ignore the citizens and still survive. It is unbelievable that we have turned the governing process of our democracy over to two self-serving organizations that focus almost solely on their own power.

These multiple defects are now deeply embedded in current practices. Although the failings have become even more obvious during the recession there is no evidence that the parties are seriously attempting correction. With over 150 years to rig the system in their favor there is not much hope for significant change in the near term.

There is always the fantasy that a new party standing for all the right things will somehow be formed and have sufficient funds to give the competition needed to spur reform. Unfortunately, because of the organization and funding requirements third parties have not had long term success. Our best hope is a conscience epidemic that results in serious reform in one of the existing parties.

If we don’t set a course for correction of the problems of the current system we can expect to silently watch the American dream disappear. We must have a major improvement in our Congress.. This could be done if we could somehow open up the selecting of Senators and Congressmen to match the quality and dedication that was present at our founding. This is difficult because the only new candidates we see are products of the current parties.

The country now has 300 million citizens. We can surely come up with a better mix of candidates and leaders than the current population of career politicians and lawyers that characterize the two parties. We have to increase the talent pool available to give the major parties competition.

One step in this direction would be to greatly simplify how qualified citizens who are not affiliated with a political party could more easily seek office. If the voters could judge and vote between better qualified candidates the quality of congress should improve. This would be possible if there was a third set of primaries to select candidates from a talent pool that is not affiliated with a party. We need a state registered non profit organization, similar to the League of Woman Voters, dedicated to supporting the administrative overhead of the electoral process for unaffiliated candidates. This would not be a third political party but an advocate for equal and fair treatment of all unaffiliated candidates by the system. There would be no promotion of a specific candidate. That would be the job of the candidates themselves.

The parties could continue as now, except they would have real competition. The competition should force them to move in the direction of reform and offer better candidates. Unaffiliated voters would have the same input level on candidates that members of a political party now have. In the general election voters could choose from Democrat, Republican, or Unaffiliated candidates on an equal footing.

Could this happen? Not likely. But we must continue to push for major reform at every opportunity. It will not happen naturally.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Crude Oil Release from Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) Sticks It to Speculators

At last, a real effort to bring the oil speculators to heel.

Here is the background on the SPR and a story from US News on the release of 30 million galleons of petroleum to the commercial market from our current pool of 727 million gallons. Other countries also released another 30 Million gallons from their reserves.

The US release amounts to only 4.1% of our current government owned petroleum pool. What it portends has created a storm among the financial speculators and others profiting from high oil prices. This is finally an aggressive first step toward bringing stable and reasonably predictable prices to the petroleum market. It is great news for the preponderance of businesses for which petroleum products are important costs. It could be a God send for small businesses, manufacturers, the transportation sector, and the economy in general. All of these industries have been hurt badly by the volatility of petroleum prices. The release is bad news for the financial institutions that make hugh profits by speculation in petroleum prices. It reduces the influence of OPEC and is hated by the American Petroleum Institute. .

The puppet media, bought congressmen, and the financial speculators that gain by making the market volatile are screaming about government interferences with their game. Somehow it is fine for government bailed out members of the financial sector to buy and hold tankers filled with petroleum for a higher price but it is terrible for the government to do something to lower the price to the economy and the citizens.

This release was done by Presidential memo. If congressional approval was required it would not have had a chance against the special interest lobbying.

Operated carefully we can begin to get value from our 80 billion dollar investment that is now sitting idle in salt domes. If the price of petroleum would surge to a high price for reasons other than pure supply and demand a small amount of petroleum will be injected into the market to bring it down. That petroleum would be replaced in the reserve when the market returns to a lower price. The average amount in the reserve for emergency use would stay the same while the volatility of the market would be checked. There would be room for true business based hedging but no profit in wild speculation on price. This will remove a major financial risk to businesses. It is a good thing and if not derailed its’ effects will reverberate though the economy.

You can expect a major effort by the special interests to derail this. As I finish this post CNN is reporting on my TV on the decision to release the 30 million gallons. The newscaster claims that “the business community” complains that we should not release this small amount oil because it was “there for an emergency”. What a red herring! Who is this “business community?” Obviously a very select group of petroleum sellers and financial speculators. The newscaster did admit that other countries were also doing releases from their reserves.

You will be hearing lots of twisted logic from these self interests. Don’t believe them. They are not friends of the American citizens and definitely not trying to help with the recovery.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

American Dream vs. Bean Counters

The cerebral cortex (i.e. problem solving) component of the Government has shut down. The conversion of our nations’ management from a producing to a corrupt financial society has left millions unemployed, and losing their homes. As our infrastructure decays the two party government that is suppose to protect us from such mistakes continues to fail. The focus on loyalty to the party instead of to the citizens is obvious. The latest poll shows that Congress in total has a favorable rating of only 17%. We have no current means of correction. At the next election in 2012 we will be given choices between candites selected by the same two parties that have led us here. There seems nowhere to turn.

Bob Lutz, a long time executive in the automobile industry who returned from retirement to help GM through its’ recovery has written a book “Car Guys vs. Bean Counters”, The book describes the difference between product people and bean counters. Car guys love cars and take pride in the manufacturing of automobiles that are creative and give the customer pride in their ownership. Bean counters view the automobile as an object of finance that has value only by the short term money that can be extracted from it.

Although the subprime financial meltdown and high price of oil were major hits to the industry, the rise to power of the bean counters was the killing event for General Motors. The book is a detailed description of how the bean counters coming to power brought associated actions that almost destroyed General Motors. The bean counters business plan emphasized making the minimum car that extracted the most money from the customers. The car guys’ goal was to make automobiles that gave the customers maximum value for the price. As the customers were exposed to automobiles built under the bean counter philosophy they moved to other companies that gave them better value. Taking design, manufacturing, quality control and company philosophy back from the bean counters was a major milestone toward survival.

It is a great read for those who have followed the automobile industry. As I read it I was struck by how closely this story describes what we need to accomplish to manage our country. If only congress was controlled by those who love and really care about America and its citizens. This is in contrast to the current environment where decision making is under control of those who view the citizen as a financial object for exploitation. It would be great if someday we could write a book with the title “The America Dream vs. Bean Counters” that described how the US was turned around.

A key event in the resurgence of GM was the creation of an energized work force that was dedicated to creating products that please the customer. Our governance is failing miserably in this area.

It is encouraging that once the “car guys” attitude began to be established in GM the employees became re-energized and creative. There was actually plenty of talent available but it was being hobbled by the bean counter management. Perhaps this is true for congress. An approval of only 17% would certainly seem to be a legitimate reason for a change of leadership.

In discussing the tough competitive environment that the American auto industry must meet in the future Bob Lutz begins his conclusion with the following statement.

In a sense the decline, failure, and rebirth of General Motors is simply a metaphor for what is happening in the whole United States
I certainly agree.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Major Political Parties Underestimating the Nations Anger


Political parties were just on the horizon when our country was formed. They are not mentioned in the Constitution. Our founders however, gave us due warning that it allowed to develop they could prove disastrous to the nation. One example is the special warning George Washington gave in his farewell address

The common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest of a wise people to discourage and restrain it. It serves always to distract the public counsels and enfeeble the public administration. It agitates the community with ill founded jealousies and false alarms; kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasional riot and insurrection. It opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which find a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passions.
Similar warnings were given by the other founders. Sadly, we did not listen. By allowing only two political parties to control the nations election process we have seen all of the warnings become true. In effect, over the last 150 years, we have turned our democracy over to two self-serving organizations that focus on their own power. They have taken over every important step of the electoral process. for their own gain.

Every citizen sees firsthand the results of this situation

We have corrupt and weak candidate from both parties that are financed and controlled by special interests. There is more loyalty shown to party and to these financiers than to the citizens. Our choice in elections is limited to two sets of weak candidates that have been filtered through party only primary elections. These electionst favor extreme ideologues from both the left and right, with no choice available for moderate citizens.

The leadership of our country has been transferred from a productive to a financial elite. These financial elite, in turn, have mismanaged our economy and caused trillions of dollars of damage. This hardship for this is being placed on the American citizen.

The list goes on. We all watch as our elected government brings down our great country.

So what can we do?

Our two party system has almost 150 years of steady evolution and solidification of its position. Because their only competition in performance is the opposing party they have a very low bar for competency. Our rocking back and forth between two inept organizations each election will not fix the problem. Both parties are doing a terrible job but we are helpless to adequately punish them. Somehow we need to confront them with real competition from the many leaders that thrive in this country but are outside of the two party system. We must open up our governance to a broader talent pool.

Election Primaries for Unaffiliated Candidates

One scenario that could go a long way to accomplishing this is states running a third set of primary elections for unaffiliated candidates and voters. This would be in parallel with the two party’s primaries and have similar procedures. It would be funded by public contributions.

To participate in this primary the candidates must not be affiliated with one of the major political parties. The winners of the national unaffiliated primaries would be given slots on the election ballots as are the winners of the party primaries. This is not another political party, but an organization to get unaffiliated candidates before the voters. Voting would be for an individual candidate, not a political party.

Technically the unaffiliated primary campaign would appear very similar to that of the major parties. Only there would be a third track of candidates. You would have debates, a limited amount of promotion, and rules and fees to register as unaffiliated.

On primary day, depending on your affiliation, you would be given a Republican, Democrat, or Unaffiliated ballot to cast your votes’. On election day you would be selecting from individuals with Republican, Democrats, and Unaffiliated beside their names.

Is this radical change?

Giving unaffiliated voters the same election level of choice as party members? Is that such a radical idea? This effort would shake up and be fought vigorously by the major parties and the other special interests.

Only large numbers of angry citizen voters and continued poor performance by the two parties can make this happen. But it would really open up the talent pool and maybe even light a fire under the two underperforming parties.

And we would be getting back in sync with the Founders

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Apply Compensation Recovered from Financial Sector to Rebuilding Our Infrastructure

The purpose of the financial sector is to manage and encourage the nation’s flow of capital for beneficial uses. To obtain this service the nation has dedicated trillions of dollars to the industry. The sector, however, has lost or wasted a significant portion of these funds in a constant search for its own profits. This mismanagement has resulted in a major catastrophe for the nation and great harm to the lives of millions of citizens. Minimum operation was only partially returned to the completely disgraced system by the Government providing large injections of funds and guaranteeing the solvency of the major banks.

If the principles of capitalism had been applied at least six major banks would have been allowed to fail. The Government, in a tough decision to make, concluded that such widespread failure would present such a shock to the economy that we would enter a full fledged depression equal to or worse than any every experienced. They were in a position where they had to support incompetence to prevent a greater negative.

I cannot judge the wisdom of this decision. A complete breakdown was avoided. The banks are now making profits as usual but the nation still struggles with massive unemployment and lack of investment. Because of the recession and the associated loss of revenue we cannot even find the political courage for essential investing in the nation’s infrastructure.

In July 2110 the Dodd-Frank bill was passed to correct many of the financial sector operations which lead to this catastrophe. Having been saved by the Government intervention you would think that the industry would be despite to make amends and correct its’ errors. Instead it is spending large sums with lobbyists to prevent the laws effective implementation and to allow continuing with their operations and profit motivations unchanged.

There is no business sector that is held in less regard by the public than financials. The financial sector morally owes the country serious compensation to even allow it to continue to exist as currently structured. This is compensation that could be directly applied to infrastructure improvements and the associated employment.

The country needs it now.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Republican Goals and Medicare: NY District 26 is Right

As a former Republican who once thought the GOP had something to offer I felt obligated to personally check on the Medicare treatment in the Republican budget plan. Was it as bad as the voters in New York District 26 decided? Bad enough for a strong Republtican district to go Democratic in protest?

I hate reviewing legislation but decided I could manage to focus just on the Medicare issue. So I downloaded the summary as presented in “A Roadmap for America's Future"

It took discipline to only skim the first one third of the roadmap. This part was dedicated to criticizing all efforts to get out of the financial industry caused recession. Items like saving the millions of jobs related to the American auto industry, the economic stimulus, TARP, and attempt to regulate banks and the financial sector, etc. were all viewed as destroying America. Strangely it didn’t mention the recession, the banks role in it, or what they would do to prevent a reoccurrence. In fact, they seem determined to learn nothing and take no preventive actions. They were strongly against any additional regulation of central banks, saying it would decrease the ability of institutions to raise capital. They were against consumer protection saying it would also reduce the types of credit that would be available.

It continued with quotes on about how Americans have become too dependent on their government and were losing their initiative. They also dwelled on fantasies about the good results that their unproven budget would bring. (But that is not part of this post.)

Finally at about 60% deep into the document I found the following statement as part of the Medicare discussion.

In place of the current Federal tax law creating the market distortion – the individual income tax exclusion for employer-sponsored health insurance – every American (except those enrolled in Medicare or a military health plan) will have the option to receive a refundable tax credit – $2,300 for individuals and $5,700 for families – to pay for health coverage. The tax credit is available solely for the purchase of health care
This is the replacement for Medicare. It is indeed a voucher system via tax credits. You will receive a health care tax credit with which you can, if you wish, directly buy a health insurance policy for yourself or your family. Payment will be made directly from your credit account to the supplier. If health costs are above the stated “voucher” amount or that of the new policy that you “negotiated” with an insurer then you are directly responsible for the difference. It is essentially all you have. There is no other pay or sharing cost with the government above that credit amount. The states are to set up exchanges to provide information to you and help you with enrollment. This is very different from Medicare where the government makes payments directly to the doctor for everyone under Medicare and provides protection against large bills.

The document claims it will reduce costs because the individual patients will negotiate the best policy for themselves rather than be subject to the current Medicare negotiations with suppliers. The patient will have the very doubtful “opportunity” of negotiating directly with the insurance companies and the doctor. Can individual patients negotiate better rates than Medicare does now with its’ millions of patients? This is very doubtful. Remember AIG, the self regulated central banks, and what they brought us.

The benefits to the insurance companies are easily identified. In fact I believe this part is so one sided that it must have been written by the insurance companies themselves. The Medicare infrastructure for processing claims and controlling costs will be destroyed. It will be individual patient against individual insurance company. The insurance companies will gain millions of new applicants with the only controls set by the industry. A standards group composed of a commission of five private commissioners will decide the standards for care (government is strictly forbidden to participate). No government overview is available.

What to conclude? What kind of policy would you get for $2300 annually from a self regulated insurance industry that sets its own rules? That information is just not available.

My conclusion is that this healthcare plan is definitely not to the benefit of the American citizen. The current so called “market distortion”they call Medicare is much better. Thank you voters of New York District 26 for realizing this.

What is both scary and disappointing are the 235 congressmen and the 40 senators who voted for it. Why are they not protecting us? Did they not understand the plan, are they bought out by the industry, or is it party loyally over citizens?

Or all three.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Deficit Hawks Sound More Like Parrots

It may take some effort but they really should broaden their vision of life and of America. We know we need to control the deficit but they should keep it within perspective of other issues. And while they are at it how about some new clichés?

It is really disappointing to turn on C-Span and see our congressmen standing there, bathed in imagined virtue, repeating the same old empty lines. Very proud of the “new” wisdom being passed on to us. Some examples:

1. The people want the government to balance its’ budget like they do theirs.

2. The United States is “broke” and out of money

3. We must cut taxes on the wealthy so they will create more jobs for us

4. We don’t have a revenue problem, we have a spending problem.

5. A corporations’ only loyalty should be to its’ stockholders
Of course, there is never any legitimate supporting evidence. My personal experience tells me that none of it is true. It is merely part of the scare protocol the elite always seem to use to exert further control over us.

Let’s just take a short look.

1. After countless barbeques and happy hour beer sessions I have yet to meet someone who doesn’t see the difference between managing finances of a three hundred million population country and their home budget. They may be out there but sure don’t deserve the inclusive title of “the people.”

2. What would you expect when the financial sector goes unpunished after stealing trillions from the economy? At the same time you have two unfunded wars, have exported million of manufacturing jobs overseas and caused a major recession. Focus on fixing those problems that you and your “experts” caused! If they were fixed our future cash flows would be more than enough to cut deeply into the deficit.

3. This is so unproven by history that it shouldn’t even be mentioned.

4. Where is the evidence for this? Simple math and history shows that these are linked. We obviously have revenue and spending problems.
What would I like to see on C-Span? How about something like this:

As a member of Congress I would like to confess that I have erroneously worked for the special interests and my political party rather than that of my country and its citizens. During the remainder of my term I will devote myself to correcting this terrible mistake.
As a CEO of a United States corporation I admit that the protection, support and free enterprise environment of my country and its people has been a major factor in our success. We owe loyalty and responsibility to the United States, our stockholders, our employees, and the locations where we have facilities.
 What a day that would be! Wouldn’t we all feel better?

Monday, May 16, 2011

Ethics, Truth and Intelligence: Three Characteristics We Must Have in Those Who Wish to Govern Us

To be specific here are working definitions from the dictionary:

Ethics: the discipline dealing with what is good and bad and with moral duty and obligation.

Truth: the property of being in accord with fact or reality.

Intelligence: the ability to learn or understand or to deal with new or trying situations
That these characteristics in no way describe much of our current governing elite is to our shame. The founding fathers closely fit this representation but over the 250 years we have allowed its’ deterioration. Some pessimists claim that this is the inevitable progression of a democracy.

It is undeniable that ethics, a respect for truth, and a little intelligence would have prevented a majority of the problems that are haunting us now.

The sub prime financial meltdown and associated recession had the lack of ethics in the financial industry and elected government as its very core. Truth was not even present. To say that intelligence was weak would be an understatement.

Uncontrolled export of manufacturing jobs and associated unemployment and trade deficits shows an inability to deal with new situations, a shortage of practical intelligence plus a lack of ethical behavior toward the American worker.

Transfer of undue government power away from the productive sector to the financial sector has been a disaster based on lack of both ethics and intelligence.

An expensive war based on non existing weapons of mass destruction was a massive mistake based on lack of respect for truth.
Unfortunately it is apparent that if ethics, truth, and intelligence are to become a larger part of the governance of the nation it will have to be forced on new governing elite by the citizens. The existing elite benefit too much from the current confusion. The voters have a very dense fog to cut through.

The two party system we now have makes this is a very difficult task The only ethic of either party is to get elected and keep their goodies. They are therefore very loose with the truth. Their intelligence is focused on manipulating the voters and satisfying their financial supporters. Actions that may be good for the citizens but interfere with winning an election or are against the wishes of their financial supporters are given little attention. We are seeing that this is not a formula for the American dream.

We must vote in a leadership that embodies the three critical characteristics. This will require every voter to put in an extra effort before voting.

If there is any concern about ethics, withhold your vote. Do not vote for an unethical candidate who has a record of favoring special interests in opposition to those of the citizen. A candidate or his/her followers who blatantly lie in the campaign should be rejected regardless of the issue. Attend face to face town hall meeting and ask questions to judge the candidates’ intelligence and ability to think past one minute sound bites.

Hopefully, there will still be some candidates standing.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Banks and their Lobbyists Continue Assault Against Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

You would think that when the big banks, their lobbyists and their puppet senators look back on the damage and hardships their greed and incompetence has brought to millions of Americans they would be ashamed to show their faces in public. Not so. Proving once again that lack of ethics is often accompanied by lack of shame they are using every conceivable tool to weaken the financial reform bill passed in July 2010. As we posted on Feb 17 a Business Week article ( “Starving the Regulators”) disclosed that the budgets of the regulatory agencies responsible for enforcement of the already anemic new Dodd Frank bill ( aka the financial reform bill) are being kept impossibly low to ensure that the bill will be ineffective. Business Week noted that the only agency on schedule was the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).

For background, a major contributing factor to the subprime financial disaster was widespread use of fraudulent and deceptive terms placed on the borrowers by the mortgage originators. This resulted in mortgages that the borrower could not meet, triggering failures across the entire banking community. The CFPB was formed to protect consumers from fraudulent or misleading practices by the financial community. To keep it away from special interest politics it is an independent agency funded out of the Federal Reserve and not subject to a Congressional budget. It is highly favored by private consumer protection organizations. It is hated by the large banks.

The preferred director of the agency is Elisabeth Warren, who became publically well known when she chaired the Congressional overview panel for TARP. She is organizing the agency as a special assistant to the President. MS Warren is independent of the banking industry. The banks want one of their own in that position.

On May 5, the New York Times published the article “Foes Revise Plan to Curb New Agency” that summarizes the current status of the industries attempts to make the agency ineffective. Read it and some of the links to get a good idea of your government in action. The public pressure was too great to have the agency killed. The current plan seems to be to never confirm a director and instead form a commission of five. Forty four of forty seven Republican senators pledge to vote against any director until the bureau is restructured.

If there is anything that makes me pessimistic about our country it is when our elected representatives show their complete disdain for us by openly working for special interests and against the citizens. The discouraging part is the large number of Republican senators involved. The only way the bureau will happen if through continued intense pressure from the public.

If you have a Republican Senator and are not a banking industry lobbyist give him a call for a little independent support of CFPB. He might find it feels good to actually serve us.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Deficits Being Used by Politicians to Chip Away at Democracy

Our country has many financial meltdown induced problems that are greatly changing our lives. The meltdown was created by mismanagement and greed in the financial private sector and the failure of our elected national government to exert obvious controls. It was not caused by workers, their unions, or our retired citizens. In a sad and cruel action, the elected governments in several states are passing drastic laws that require these innocent people to pay the price. This is an in-your-face violation of the “establish justice, promote the domestic tranquility, promote the general welfare and blessings of liberty” provisions of the preamble to the Constitution.

Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana, and Michigan are active in this area. In these states large numbers of public workers, such as teachers, firemen, and police are being terminated. Drastic changes to the school system are made. Public owned property is going up for sale. Every issue that binds citizens to their local government is up for destruction.

Michigan goes even further by giving the governor the authority to displace mayors, councilmen, and other elected officials with what can only be described as a finance dictator. Originally discussed in our March 31 post the May 2 issue of Business Week updates the effects of the Michigan law. The governor can force the citizens to trade democracy for the mythical “benevolent dictator”. He has done just that in Benton Harbor. As in all actions against democracy claims are made that it will be more efficient. This is a very dangerous precedent.

It is a strange feeling to see states take such aggressive behavior toward American middle class citizens rather that those who caused the problem. Especially so because many of the actions are directed at goals other than the deficit. For example, taxes are lowered for the wealthy and corporations, creating a larger deficit, while working citizens must absorb these costs also.

There are other ways to handle the financial sector induced shortfall that would place more of the burden on those that caused the problem. This article gives a true cost of the recession and those institutions and people who were major players.

These actions by the new state governments have lead to serious cases of buyers’ remorse by voters. Opponents claim there was no mention of implementing these drastic actions during the campaigns. The sponsoring governments have dropped sharply in the polls. Recall campaigns have been filed against six state senators in Wisconsin. The Wisconsin law is now held up in court. But the fact remains that legislators and governors who are sponsoring these actions were legally elected. The only correction for deceit in a campaign is through a complicated and expensive process ---  recalls that have requirements that vary between states.

This is a real life experience showing how carefully we must protect our votes against power grabs by the governing elite, either in the states or federal systems. The fact that four states came out with similar programs is probably not a coincidence.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Deficit Reduction Panic Follows the Traditional Government Fear Protocol

Have you noticed that the politicians have a specific protocol for inducing worry about the country to the citizens? It is something like this:
Create or discover a potential problem for the country (new or ancient).

With the help of the media create the impression that if the problem is not solved immediately the US is doomed.

Then create the impression that you (and only you) have the solution to this extremely difficult problem.

Use the fear created to move the problem to the top of the nations’ worry list.

Take advantage of the power you gain to further your position, wealth, and control over the citizens
This protocol is one of the most powerful tools the elected government uses. It is used time and time again to start wars, destroy our economy, take actions that favor special interests, and divert attention from other problems. We seem to fall for it every time.

Pardon me, elected government, but you have fooled me too many times. This time I have a few questions about panic mode deficit reduction that I would like you to address before I panic

We are in a recession. Why does it have to be done in immediate panic mode where we wildly slash services without thought of the consequences for the citizens? How about a 20 year program of accelerated reduction in strong economies and less in downturns.

It appears that the deficit discussions have completely blanked out action on the economy and serious financial reform. Is panic mode deficit reduction really a diversion to take attention away from the terrible job the government is doing in these areas?

Many of the actions being taken under the deficit cloak are really special interests oriented. Examples are cutting corporate taxes, killing safety net actions, and favoring the wealthy. There seems to be no action in helping the middle class through the crisis or improving our planning for the future. Why is this?

I have heard many politicians assert that the US is “broke” financially. Considering our total resources and the position as #1 economy and military in the world this is of course ridiculous. Who is going to close down on a country with our military? But I do agree that we are “broke” ethically as long as the financial sector and special interests run the country.

The media has made a lot of noise about Standard & Poors saying they may downgrade our credit from AAA if we don’t take action on our deficit in two years. This is the same S&P that gave AAA ratings to thousands of subprime securities and played a major role in the financial meltdown. Why are they even in business, let alone making credit threats to the US?

There is a strong effort to create a fear that China will soon not grant us any credit. Therefore we won’t be able to buy anything from them. Excuse me, but China would not have a decent economy without selling to the US. But even if they would stop selling we could gladly manufacture more ourselves. Although Wal-Mart would need a new supplier this does not sound like something we couldn’t gladly handle.
We do need to get our debt under control but it shouldn’t be used as a reason to destroy the American Dream. If you fix the economy and use common sense rather than special interests as a guide in spending I have a strong feeling we will have it under control. Please shut down your fear machine.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Beware of Unbending Ideologues

Merriam- Webster has two definitions under Ideologue

An impractical idealist
An often blindly partisan advocate or adherent of a particular ideology
The dictionary has three definitions of ideology, The one most appropriate to us is:
The integrated assertions, theories and aims that constitute a sociopolitical program
For our purposes an ideologue is a citizen who has bought into a concept of how American society should work and is relentless in efforts to make the concept real. Our Constitution was formulated to encourage people of different opinions to work together. Unfortunately we are currently in the midst of a bitter no - compromise battle between right wing and left wing ideologues. Because of our two party system we are forced to pick only one package. There is no middle road offered. There is little compromise.

Ideologues are not friends of democracy. In the US, because of our Constitution, they are forced to compete in elections. They will use any deception that gains votes. Once elected, they try to enforce their ideology in the most extreme form upon the citizens.

History has shown that ideologues are not good leaders. We desperately need flexible leadership that uses every possible tool to help all citizens. Here are reasons why we should be very careful about giving ideologues power over us.

The dedication to their ideology causes them to only consider supporting information. They ignore essential contradictory facts. This leaves them vulnerable to believing half truths and lies. A trait often used by experts in manipulation to control them. This leads to delusional decision making and disastrous results. The invasion of Iraq is an example of such a decision.

Their problem solving ability is limited to solutions found within their ideology. This leads them to support programs of no logical or moral element in application. Cutting important services to the middle class while lowering taxes on the wealthy is an example. Another is the insistence that further gun control on lawful citizens will deter criminals.

They spend more time trying to gain power for their specific ideology than serving the United States. This been almost no recent congressional action toward improving the economy.

Many elements of their ideologies are speculative and untested, and risk causing great damage. Destroying unions as some advocate would leave the working person with no options for protection against large institutions. Major cuts in government spending in the midst of a recession are another example.

The appalling failure of our elected government to serve the citizens has created a situation where support for major changes is definitely needed. Ideologues with a sincere interest in the good of the country can make major contributions, but should not be given control. That is the responsibility of the citizens. Above all, we must retain our rights. We must make changes that address failures, not create new ones.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Are You As Discouraged As I Am?

Five months have passed since the election and I can’t think of a single job creation action by the elected government. I am discouraged by the complete inattention to the “promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessing of Liberty to ourselves” portion of the Constitution.

It is discouraging to find that the newly elected government is more ideologically bound and less analytical in thought than the previous one. It is now apparently under deep control of the bean counting ideologues. My experiences have firmly convinced me that rule by such people is not a path to success. They are uninspired leaders whose one trick pony of cuts regardless of the consequences leads downward into ruin. We need driven leadership that will use every tool that we have to bring our country back.

The 2011 budget negotiations which came within a hairs’ breadth of shutting down the federal government is a prime example of an ideologue engagement. Their scope of vision is so limited that they are willing to risk the recovery, cause financial problems for millions of citizens, damage the morale of 800,000 government workers, close all national parks and stop all other services and actions over comparatively small issues in a budget which only has a few months left to run.

Our two party system continues to pathetically underperform. Where is our comprehensive plan that the parties should have been developing. We desperately need some mutually agreed positive actions for action while negotiating the controversial ideology issues.

What is happening with creating jobs and fixing infrastructure? Budget arguments are stopping job creation actions In fact bean counter arguments are stopping almost everything.

Reform of the financial sector seems to be off the media radar. Speculation on critical commodities continues as usual, bringing us ridiculously high prices on oil and agriculture products. Any effort to help the citizens through their problems is followed by a media blitz blaming the citizens for thinking like “socialists”. The special interests of the financial sector certainly seem to be prevailing.

We continue to pay several billion dollars in subsidies to the oil industry while they lobby hard against any help for alternate forms of energy.

A skyrocketing income disparity combined with a policy of absolutely no sharing of new burdens by the upper bracket portends a tragic conclusion to the American Dream unless fixed.

I could go on and on. You know the litany of problems where we require real action.

We need bean counters to crunch the numbers for comparing alternatives but determining the nature of our country must be reserved for the citizens. We had better begin to exert that right immediately

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Media Reporting on International Science and Math Test Gives Wrong Impression

The media periodically hits us will damning reports on how low American students are in international rankings of science and math skills. You are given the impression that there is some global super bowl exam taking place where an accurate sample of our best students is pitted against those from other countries. The media is then filled with quotes from “experts” with vested interests blaming some facet of US life for the poor showing. Recent headlines shouted that “China students were number one”. Previous years had placed Finland as first.

Sweeping conclusions such as this certainly deserve the next level of examination. Especially since there were 258,950 foreign college science students enrolled in the US in 2009 and the number has grown consistently.

They must know something that the test doesn’t show. What criteria were used to establish the number one position? How did other western countries do? What criteria were used to select the students being tested? These are important criteria if we are to understand the meaning of these rankings. To gain a better understanding we went to the web site the *Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). PISA is the organization that is responsible for the studies. This site explains the basics of the testing with some comments.

The methodology is complex and only covered at a very high level at the site. PISA has examined the results and provides an overview of the selection of the population taking the tests and expresses concerns that the results are being reported uncritically.

Each country submits 5000 participants to take tests in reading, math and science in a two hour written exam. The questions are said to test the use of a science education to solve problems rather than a rote memory of formula. The completed tests are subject to detailed and complicated analysis. Countries can also submit other national tests they have conducted for inclusion in the analysis. Only a band of ages around 15 year old students in schools are considered. Home schooled students are not eligible.

The mystery was solved when an analysis showed that demographics of the area within the country from which the sample of students is taken can greatly influence the test results. The actual sampling methodology for the US is not explained on the site. To explain the surprising low results for the US PISA made the following important statements.

Critics say that low performance in the United States is closely related to American Poverty. It's also shown that when adjusted for poverty, the richest areas in the US outperform every other country's average scores, especially areas with less than 10% poverty (and even areas with 10% to 25% poverty outperform countries with similar rates)”.

PSIA is also critical about those that selectively and uncritically demagogue the results of the studies for their own special interest. They comment further:

In essence, the criticism isn't so much directly against the Programme for International Student Assessment itself, but against people who use PISA data uncritically to justify measures such as Charter Schools.”

The powerful demographic effect occurs because high poverty areas as a group have low average scores. If the US students chosen are selected to be a representative sample of the entire country of 15 year olds there will be low achievers from the poverty area pulling down the results of the high achievers. Conversely, if the US students are chosen from a low poverty area the resulting group will have a much higher score. Apparently the US contestants had significant representative from low achieving areas and the US results were not representative of the future pool of US engineers and scientists. To be dominant a country only needs a portion of its population to be outstanding in science and engineering. `.

Each country’s published results will be similarly highly influenced by the area from which they pick their participating students. This was apparently left up to the country. In 2009 the headlines shouted that China was now number one in science and math. But the students tested were only from China-Shanghai which is a select group.

The studies that were publicized by the media were not valid as a comparison between countries. Without a consistency of the domains chosen for sampling by each country no conclusions regarding competitive positions can be made.

This is not to say that the studies are not informative. Studies of this type could be valuable for measuring progress of a specific domain over time. However, these specific studies have not yet been conducted long enough to reach conclusions. Determining where we currently stand globally in educating the15 year old students that will eventually make up our pool of active mathematicians and scientists is a more complex problem. With the right selection of exam takers we are likely to be judged number one.

Our problems are not with our advanced education in science and mathematics. It is with the standards of our finance sector

Monday, March 28, 2011

Why Does Our Supposedly Great Economic System Tolerate High Unemployment While There is Work to be Done?

The country has trillions of dollars of infrastructure and other development work desperately needed. There are millions of willing workers unemployed, and the factories which make the materials are running at low capacity. You would think that a country of 300 million people working under an economic system that claims to be innovative would be able to develop a financing scheme that matches up these needs. Our banking leaders can come up with a scam that causes a global recession but seem helpless when given the chance to finance something innovative that would help get the country out of reverse.

One example of innovative financing for a targeted problem was War Bonds. You can read about them here. They raised $185.7 billion for WWII. Another gift of “can do” to us from the Greatest Generation. Their desirable characteristics were:

           They were voluntary investments by the citizens, not a tax or contribution.

 Backed by the US Government

Aimed at the general public (half of total population participated)

From $25 dollars to $10,000. (They had a card for spare quarters until $18.75 was reached and they could be traded for a $25 bond)

Ten years to maternity at face value.

Simple and straightforward, everyone could understand
Lets call a modern version “Recovery Bonds”. They would be targeted at specific national goals (i.e. highway/ bridge/rail/ air control upgrades etc.)The national government would certify the prospectus and participate under same terms as citizens.

The citizens will have an energized attitude toward projects and government. They are voting with their investments.

I am convinced that the only way we will fix the cozy government/special financial interest relationship is to have more direct citizen participation in national projects. This is just an example of one approach. How about some others from our "innovative” financial sector?