Posts Tagged ‘Economy

02
Jun
09

Fiscal Discipline and the State and Defense Departments

CapitolBuilding

icon_digg  At the beginning of  May President Obama announced an across the board budget reduction for each federal department and a complete revamping of overdue change in the way Washington typically does business.  Throughout all forms of media we learned of the fifteen different departments, including the the overly expensive “Defense Department” revising and slashing their respective budgets as directed by the president.

Personally of course I do not possess the ability to carefully analyze, digest and render judgment on each department’s cost reductions and understand there value to the overall needs of there justifications.  However, the two budgets of most interest were the State and Defense Departments. The State Department in regards to Central Asia and the DoD’s as it  pertains to Iraq only.

It also requires mentioning that “I recognize the 2010 budget presented to congress was not of President Obama’s Administration, instead authored by the Bush Administration, which included numerous “earmarks”; regardless of this fact, my posting is basically unconcerned with the monetary size or the needless earmarks themselves, but only to suggest for consideration aspects of unfinished business within congress regarding the Department of Defense and the reckless “fat” that should be trimmed within the proposed State Department budget.”

Defense Department:

kbr_logo-smRegarding the DoD budget, I sincerely want to secure the recovery of all monies wasted and pilfered by KBR, the Army’s leading Iraqi and Afghan contractor who is linked to “the vast majority” of suspected combat-zone fraud cases that have already been referred to congressional and DoD investigators.  The total amount paid to KBR, for their services (or lack of services) by our government amounts to 13 billion dollars for Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Defense Contract Auditing Agency as found KBR’s contracts for awarded work, accounts for forty-three percent of the Pentagon’s total audited Iraq contracting dollars.  Furthermore, according to the agency’s data, thirty-two cases are now under current investigation.

The Army has paid an additional $83.4 million in added “bonuses” to KBR, despite documented accusations of its inferior electrical wiring work that was incorporated into military facilities and the U.S. Embassy in Iraq, which has been linked to the electrocution of at least four soldiers and one contractor (please review the reference sources below for details).

A Senate Democratic Policy Committee has determined that more than half of the aforementioned bonuses, $48.9 million, to be exact, were awarded to KBR after the DoD sounded an alarm in early 2007 regarding what was described as pervasive problems with KBR.

Let us not forget the Halliburton Company was the parent company to KBR where former Vice President Dick Cheney served as Halliburton’s Chief Executive Officer from 1995 to 2000 before becoming George W. Bush’s running mate.

While serving in the Bush Administration, some critics have charged Cheney’s received “deferred” compensation from Halliburton which represented a conflict of interest and questioned Halliburton’s winning of lucrative government contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The contractual money awarded to KBR for work, unsatisfactorily completed, must be fully accounted for and returned before any additional contract is awarded to KBR.

State Department:

federal-reserve-smThe State Department is embarking on a $1 billion crash program to expand its diplomatic presence in Pakistan and neighboring Afghanistan, which is another costly, long-term commitment in South Central Asia when this money could be used more effectively for other uses back here in America.

The White House has asked Congress for and seems likely to receive $736 million to build a new U.S. embassy in Islamabad,  with permanent housing for U.S. government civilians and new office space in the Pakistani capital.  The request also includes funding for two additional Consulate Offices in other regions of Pakistan.

I seriously question this request and needless spending for the following reasons:

  • Financial burdens on our economy still remain an issue here within the U.S., especially at the state and local levels.  Most Americans know and subscribe to the notion that there’s only so much money to go around.
  • Pouring additional money into any country without knowing what the political outcome may be or the final implementation of how a free democracy will best be served, is money unwisely spent.  Currently it appears as if a civil war within Pakistan (pro-government forces versus a Taliban backed regime) could develop over the next three to six months.
  • It behooves me to comprehend why we need three “Super Embassies” within the Eastern Hemisphere; Cairo, Baghdad, and now the proposed expansion of the Islamabad embassy.  Three large embassies located approximately within less than four hours of flight time from one another.

Cairo, Egypt to Baghdad, Iraq is 800 miles,
Baghdad, Iraq  to Islamabad, Pakistan is 1,600 miles
Cairo, Egypt to Islamabad, Pakistan is 2,400 miles

  • How are we the American public going to benefit from this expense?

This last point is of the utmost importance, since one of the primary reasons for the State Department’s justification of existence is to arrange and promote American business interests within countries.  How can this objective successfully be accomplished with an unstable and perhaps corrupt government in Pakistan.

Other major State Department projects are planned for an expanded embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan; and for consulate offices to be setup in the Pakistani cities of Lahore and Peshawar. In Peshawar, our government is negotiating the purchase of a five-star hotel that would house a new U.S. consulate.  Again, I wonder how this is going to go down with our thousands of already homeless, here in the states and aid our laid off auto workers desperately trying not to become homeless?

What’s my Point:

Tom-Serious-80x54After several of our embassies were destroyed or listed as targets for terrorist activity; our State Department requested much needed funding to enhance the security aspects of our embassies and consulates, which I agree, funding needed to be authorized and construction for security re-enforcement undertaken.

However, I feel there are defined limits to be adhered to and there should not be a blanket, coverall “card blanc” policy towards proposed State Department expenditures.

Our president who I believe comprehends the American people, more so, than any other president in the past thirty-five years has acted in a diligent prudent manner, requesting each of his fifteen departments, he oversees, to cut unnecessary items from their budgets.

This can be witnessed here, where the President as taken the following action (links added by myself for reference):

The programs in Terminations, Reductions, and Savings are ones that do not accomplish the
goals set for them, do not do so efficiently, or do a job already done by another initiative. They
include these ten:

  • LORAN-C, $35 million. This long-range, radio-navigation system has been made
    obsolete by GPS.
  • Abandoned Mine Lands Payments, $142 million. This program is now used to clean
    up mines that are already cleaned up.
  • Educational attaché, Paris, France, $632,000. The Department of Education can use
    e-mail, video conferencing, and modest travel to replace a full-time representative to
    UNESCO in Paris, France.
  • Los Alamos Neutron Science Center refurbishment, $19 million. The linear
    accelerator housed here was built 30 years ago and no longer plays a critical role in
    weapons research.
  • Even Start, $66 million. The most recent evaluation found no difference on 38 out of
    41 outcomes between families in the program and those not in it. Strengthening early
    childhood education is accomplished through significant investments in proven, more
    effective programs such as Head Start, Early Head Start, and the Early Learning
    Challenge Fund.
  • Christopher Columbus Fellowship Foundation, $1 million. The Foundation would
    spend only 20 percent of its 2010 appropriation on the fellowships it awards.
  • Advanced Earned Income Tax Credit, $125 million. This program benefits very few
    taxpayers, and has an extremely high error rate: GAO found that 80 percent of
    recipients did not meet at least one requirement.
  • Javits Gifted and Talented Education Program, $7 million. Grants from this
    program go to only 15 school districts nationwide, and there are no empirical measures
    to judge efficacy.
  • Public Broadcasting Grants, $5 million. USDA made these grants to support rural
    public broadcasting stations’ conversion to digital broadcasting. That transition is now
    almost complete.
  • Rail Line Relocation Grants, $25 million. This program, duplicative of a merit-based
    program, is loaded with earmarks.

The efforts detailed in Terminations, Reductions, and Savings are part of a larger and longer
effort needed to change how Washington does business and put our fiscal house in order.

Rarely, do I agree with the media who have criticized the President for this small cost savings reduction or members of our legislative branch of government, who infer this is a small amount of the overall 2010 budget.  However, I feel the federal government should look again for additional cost savings measures and rescind programs and projects that may not be needed at this time.

I do hope in the coming four years both the Defense and State Departments act responsibly to fiscal spending along with both Congress and President vetoing  any and all requests for haphazard expenditures, at least until our country is relieved from some of its financial burdens.

Finally, consider authoring an e-Mail to both your House Representative and Senator, requesting an update on the status of where the KBR investigations presently are and your opinion regarding another expensive new embassy in Pakistan along with two new and additional Consulates offices in Lahore and Peshawar.

Reference Sources and Documents:

Newswire Articles and Updates

Defense Department:

The Use and Misuse of Reconstruction Funding Affects the War Effort in Iraq and Afghanistan

Senate Committee Hearing Contractor KBR Misconduct in Iraq (pdf)

Senate Document Questionable Contracting Practices by KBR and the Pentagon (pdf)

House of Representatives Committee Hearing – Statement Thomas Bruni KBR Engineer (pdf)

Senate Document Request to KBR – Blackwater Payments (pdf)

Department of Defense base budget for 2010 (pdf)

Department of Defense Organizational Chart (pdf)

State Department:

State Department FY 2010 Budget in Brief (pdf)

State Department Organization Chart – May 2009 (pdf)

White House:

Remarks by the President on Reducing Spending in the Budget (pdf)

Budget Fact Sheet (pdf)

Fiscal Year 2010 budget overview (pdf)

Accompanying Video:

The President Announces Key Spending Cuts in His Budget

The President discusses his budget reductions a change in the way Washington does business. May 7, 2009.

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29
Apr
09

Change is in Our Future Not Our Past

returning-vet

icon_digg15 Every good past President has looked to the future, while every failed administration has suffered with the past, in part by their own misunderstandings of the failure(s) and to fully concentrate on moving their own agenda’s forward!  Consequently, we the American public are as much to blame, for their failures as they are.

Today in office we have elected a forward looking Chief Executive, tasked with the mission of tackling the previous administrations failures and deceptions; while moving onwards his own vision of how America should be.

To me, this means let the president delegate responsible, for corrective action on the issues concerning Gitmo, torture, Rove, FOIA and FISA to his appropriate cabinet members and select committees within congress.

We as diligent citizens and supposed caretakers of our country should and must be focused on issues such as health care, getting out of Iraq, the economy and perhaps an over looked issued by many, an improved, affordable plan to enhance our current educational system of higher learning.

We have seen hundreds of thousands of jobs disappear over the past several months, will these jobs ever come back?  The answer is “No”!

Soon we will have thousands of veterans returning from overseas, will they remain in the military service?  Again, the answer is possibly “No”!

So what are the solutions to the aforementioned issues within the Obama Administration?  I feel the president has chosen the most correct choice by relying on what made our nation what it was in the “past” – “Education”.

But, as we all know, including the president, both the cost and quality are the downsides for most of us, even the slightly “upper middle class”.

As quoted by President Obama (President Obama on Higher Education and Reforming Student Loans):

Over the past few decades, the cost of tuition at private colleges has more than doubled, while costs at public institutions have nearly tripled. Tuition has grown ten times faster than a typical family’s income, while inefficiencies in the student loan system provide lenders billions of dollars in wasteful subsidies instead of making college more affordable for all Americans.

staff_report_ed-chart

When we review the 60’s, the days of placing a man on the moon and the golden times of NASA; education was at our country’s forefront, even while the Vietnam War was in progress, education was considered a must for survival in the Cold War overall and personal success in life as an individual(s).

We must not accept taking a backseat within the international community, as we have and again noted by the President in his Remarks by the President at the National Academy of Sciences Annual Meeting:

Our schools continue to trail other developed countries and, in some cases, developing countries.  Our students are outperformed in math and science by their peers in Singapore, Japan, England, the Netherlands, Hong Kong, and Korea, among others.  Another assessment shows American 15-year-olds ranked 25th in math and 21st in science when compared to nations around the world.  And we have watched as scientific integrity has been undermined and scientific research politicized in an effort to advance predetermined ideological agendas.

Complementing while confirming the aforementioned is the following from Gallup Polls with an article entitled: “Public Discontent With Quality of U.S. Education, where we can see the American public over the past eight years have been frustrated with the Bush Administration’s progress on education:

A three-year aggregate of Gallup data (2002-2004)* on attitudes toward the public schools indicates that 44% of Americans are very (11%) or somewhat (33%) satisfied with public education, but a slight majority, 55%, are either very (25%) or somewhat (30%) dissatisfied. Despite these negative perceptions about the quality of the U.S. education system, past surveys have demonstrated that most Americans are happy with their own educations and the educations their children receive.

20040518_1

So, should you subscribe to the fact our nation’s higher learning institutions are to expensive and our primary education system(s) of public schools are not performing as they should; how is the president and perhaps more selfishly “us the American public” going to resolve the educational systems and turn their services into “jobs” and an increased standard of living for all of us?

The President has prepared congress for needed changes, staring with his Fiscal Budget for 2010 with major investments in broadband networks, clean energy technologies, and health information technology, as I’ve quoted him here (Fact Sheet A Historic Commitment To Research And Education):

President Obama has already made science and technology a top priority:  The Recovery Act includes $21.5 billion for research and development, the largest increase in our Nation’s history, and well as major investments in broadband networks, clean energy technologies, and health information technology.  The President’s FY10 budget includes sustained increases in basic research, $75 billion to make the research and experimentation tax credit permanent, and funding to triple the number of the National Science Foundation’s graduate research fellowships.  The President is committed to restoring integrity to science policy, and making decisions on the basis of evidence, rather than ideology.

Also, the President has enacted steps within his own Executive Branch (President Obama Meets with Family Struggling with College Costs, Underscores Need to Eliminate Wasteful Spending in Federal Student Loan Program, Reinvest Savings in Making College More Affordable):

Today, President Barack Obama met with a family struggling to afford the cost of college and underscored his commitment to cutting wasteful spending on federal student loans by ending taxpayer subsidies to banks.  President Obama discussed the strain that rising tuition costs are placing on middle class families and his proposal to end the private Federal Family Education Loans program that lines the pockets of the banks who serve as middlemen while costing the American people $5 billion a year.

As I elated to earlier, since this is a failure of past administrations to attend address the president has wisely delegated this national concern to Vice President Joe Biden, who in my own opinion as been doing an outstanding job for the president in seeing all measurers are brought to the forefront on getting legislation authored and past in a bipartisan manner.

Vice President Biden has implemented “Middle Class Task Force” to find solutions and assist him in seeing colleges become more affordable through a series of town hall meetings. Here in an excerpt from such a meeting in St. Louis, the excerpt is entitled: “Middle Class Task Force Report: College Affordability

Middle Class Task Force Report: College Affordability

Middle Class Task Force Report: College Affordability

An obstacle to federal student aid is the unnecessarily complicated application process that is often intimidating to families and students seeking loans. In order to qualify for aid, students or their parents must first complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form, which contains well over 100 questions on income, assets, family characteristics, personal characteristics, and other items. Completing the FAFSA requires families to sift through paperwork and transfer numbers from tax forms that they may or may not have readily available.

The following is a downloadable pdf report, which bears reading, regarding steps being taken by the Obama administration to lower college cost to the middle class desiring to enter college and making the application procedure more simplified and friendly:

Middle Class Task Force Staff Report (pdf)

So, what’s the Point:

Much “to do” recently has been made in the media over the release of torture memos and the president’s first 100 days in office, which are all constructive concerns and self-servicing pats on our own backs for electing the “right person for the right job”, but lets not get hung-up on the issues of witch hunts and arrogance that got us into the trouble we’re in today.

Lets keep pressing forward in correcting mistakes and apathy of the past with “new ideas” and approaches that will insure we’re never in the fix we are in today.

After all wasn’t it President Bush who said “Fool me once and you’re a fool, fool me twice and I’m a fool”.

The following selections of videos cement President Obama’s commitment to the middle class and his devotion to insuring every American is entitled to higher learning:

Opening the Doors of Higher Education

Taking a defiant stance towards those banks defending the status quo, the President proposes cutting out the middle man in student loans for a savings of almost $50 billion over ten years.

Additional Videos:

Real Tax Cuts Making a Real Difference

Flanked by Americans who have benefited from his Making Work Pay tax credit, President Obama speaks about his tax policy and how it is helping people across the nation.

Taking on Education

The President explains the urgency of changing the way we educate our children, and offers four pillars of reform.

Meet Secretary of Education Arne Duncan

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan talks about the source of his passion for education reform — and why he thinks it’s about more than education, it’s about social justice.

Update 2 May 09:

Universities in Crisis? From Compartmentalization to Collaboration
Michael Roth | President, Wesleyan University

In the last several days there has been a flurry of articles bemoaning the condition of American higher education. Two stand out. In the New York Times religion professor Mark C. Taylor enjoyed comparing American graduate education to the US automotive industry. Ouch. It was small relief that he seemed to be thinking mainly about a handful of humanities disciplines. In the New York Review of Books, Andrew Delbanco traced the steady erosion of the American promise of social mobility through post-secondary education. In the wake of a financial crisis that has drained endowments and led to decreased public support for higher ed, Delbanco wonders how America can prevent its best universities from becoming finishing schools for the rich. In this post I will comment on Taylor’s view, and in a future post I’ll write about access and social mobility.

Update 04 May 09:

Tom Vander Ark: 2020 Forecast: the Future of Learning
from HuffingtonPost.com by Tom Vander Ark

“You will have a teacher as a personal tutor who will follow you through your school years, help you and train you in planning and developing your learning strategies, follow up your school work and be available for support and control. As you learn to set your goals yourself and to plan your own time, you will be allowed to take a greater responsibility for your own studies. Thus, our method of working will teach you to take personal responsibility and to become independent.”

This quote is not from a future scenario planning exercise, it’s a description of a school, actually 22 schools with 10,000 students, but as you may have guessed from the spelling, they’re not in the US. The chain is Kunskapsskolan in Sweden where a national voucher system supports innovative schools. Their web site is a pretty good description of where learning is headed–at least in places where leadership is focused more on kids and the future than adults and the past.

Volcker’s ‘Great Recession:’ Unemployment Will Be Redefined
from The Huffington Post News Editors

Post-recession America may be saddled with high unemployment even after good times finally return.

Hundreds of thousands of jobs have vanished forever in industries such as auto manufacturing and financial services. Millions of people who were fired or laid off will find it harder to get hired again and for years may have to accept lower earnings than they enjoyed before the slump.

22
Apr
09

A Lot of Talk Finally Some Action

Call Centers - India

Call Centers - India

icon_digg11 During the Presidential campaign we heard numerous politicians expounding on their concepts on ways to retrain our veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan and fellow Americans workers who saw their jobs outsourced overseas.

Finally we have one brave Democratic Senator Bob Casey of Pennsylvania with a workable plan to introduce a new law that aims to pay community colleges nationwide $1,000 per student to retrain laid-off workers, which Casey says would come from existing funds already allocated to job retraining in the department’s budget.

In an article authored by Anne Fisher of TIME, entitled: “Tuition Help for the Unemployed Gains Traction” the following excerpts regarding Senator Casey’s pending bill:

His inspiration for the bill: Pennsylvania’s community colleges, 10 of which have enrolled 1,062 unemployed workers in free training programs this semester, at a total cost to the schools of $741,788. “They shouldn’t have to foot the bill alone,” Casey says. “My bill will encourage other community colleges across the U.S. to do the same thing.” Senate Democrats are working to build bipartisan support for the bill and expect to move it forward in the coming months. (See TIME’s special report on paying for college.)

A few states already have a head start. California, whose 11.2% March unemployment rate is the state’s highest since 1941, is rushing to funnel $415 million in federal stimulus money to 49 job-retraining centers. Most of the training will be designed to qualify people for jobs in infrastructure construction, health care and green industries like waste recycling and wind-farm technology. In Texas, legislators will vote next month on a final version of a 2010-11 budget, already passed by the state senate, that boosts spending on higher education by $1.5 billion. That figure includes $500 million in federal stimulus funding for workforce retraining and a $134 million state-funded increase in financial aid for students.

Michigan, whose 12.6% jobless rate is the highest in the U.S., with still more auto-plant closings coming soon, launched its “No Worker Left Behind” program in August 2007. So far the state has footed the bill — up to $10,000 per displaced worker — for 61,434 unemployed Michiganders to learn the math, technology and science skills they need to embark on new careers at companies like Hemlock Semiconductor, Dow Chemical and Dow Corning, which are investing and hiring there. Also in demand: the program’s newly trained nursing assistants, physical therapists and health-care technicians.

Hopefully Senator Casey’s proposed legislation will quickly be approved, in congress, since it won’t be long before our long awaited veterans will finally be returning home and will be in direr need of employment.

The following video concerning outsourcing is a revolutionary twist on outsourcing.  American workers have themselves gotten into the act of sending their jobs overseas.  For example; there are tasks, such as proof reading that could be accomplished overseas as well as it could be done in the office back in the states, thus allowing more time, useful energy and increased productivity to be devoted to other, more important tasks.  Give the video a watch it’s interesting.

More American Workers Outsourcing Own Jobs Overseas

The following video concerning outsourcing is a revolutionary twist on outsourcing.  American workers have themselves gotten into the act of sending their jobs overseas.  For example; there are tasks, such as proof reading that could be accomplished overseas as well as it could be done in the office back in the states, thus allowing more time, useful energy and increased productivity to be devoted to other, more important tasks.  Give the video a watch it’s interesting.

Update 05 May 09:

Gary Shapiro: American Brain Drain: Why We Need H1B Visa Immigration Reform
from HuffingtonPost.com by Gary Shapiro

America’s immigration system is broken. While most focus on illegal immigration or changing ethnicities of legal immigration, what concerns me is that we are losing our historic ability to attract and retain the word’s brightest and most entrepreneurial workers.

Silicon Valley exemplifies an American success story threatened by a shift in how we treat the type of bright foreign-born technologists and entrepreneurs who help make us great. These engineers, scientists and entrepreneurs build companies that create jobs and wealth in the United States. Of the 163,000 applications for H1B visas received last year, the law allows for just 65,000 approvals picked through a lottery system. H1B visas allow foreign workers in specialty occupations to work in the United States.

14
Apr
09

The Democratic Party is Finally Back

2009-04-13-alanaprilchart2

icon_digg7 In a Huffington Post article by Thomas B. Edsall, entitled “Permanent Democratic Majority: New Study Says Yes”, Mr. Edsall points out two areas of growth in the Democratic Party:

  • The increasing numbers of black and Hispanic voters
  • A decisive shift away from the Republican Party by the suburban and well-educated constituencies that once formed the backbone of the GOP

As quoted from the article:

In a March, 2009 51-page paper [PDF] “New Progressive America: Twenty Years of Demographic, Geographic, and Attitudinal Changes Across the Country Herald a New Progressive Majority,” Ruy Teixeira makes a strong case that “progressive arguments are in the ascendancy,” that demographic and geographic “trends should take America down a very different road than has been traveled in the last eight years. A new progressive America is on the rise.”

To further buttress his case, Teixeira has put together “a very cool interactive map that includes 7 levels of exit poll demographics and county-level vote shifts going back to 1988.”

The only slightly negative point in the report was stated: “The only circumstances that could bring back the Republicans is Obama’s failure to stem the recession.”

“Obama does have to succeed, and so far, he’s pretty much on the right track, and the Republicans are definitely not. That suggests to me that he and the Democrats will be able to solidify their majority in 2010 and 2012,” Judis said. “But again, I don’t fully understand what is going on in the world, and events could defy demography.”

Again a quote from the report:

Perhaps the strongest evidence in support of the Teixeira-Judis-Abramowitz thesis is, however, the current inability of the Republican Party to respond to market pressures. Defeat has, ironically, diminished the GOP’s capacity to respond to loss. As the elected leadership gets smaller, the strength of the most dogmatically rigid and least elastic faction has grown. On issues running the gamut from immigration to the economy, this dominant faction has yet to demonstrate “a wonderful corrective” in reaction to losing. Instead, they have retreated further inside an ideological shell that began to show cracks — Bush I in ’92, Dole in ’96, and Bush v. Gore — well over a decade ago.

The full report is available here progressive_america (pdf).

Update 15 Apr 09:

The Floundering Republicans Look for a Turnaround
from TIME.com: Top Stories

Essentially leaderless, lacking a cohesive message and fighting among themselves, Republicans appear to be in disarray, which begs the question — can things only get better from here?

Americans Most Confident in Obama on Economy
Gallup Pools

Americans are not overwhelmingly positive about either the Democratic or the Republican leaders in Congress. Still, the Democrats fare better on a comparative basis. Fifty-one percent of Americans have a great deal or a fair amount of confidence in the Democratic leaders, compared to 38% in the Republican leaders.

12
Apr
09

Denny’s – Where The Food Is Free – and Drunks Can Pee

dennys_0409

icon_digg6 I follow TIME online reverently for stories concerning TIME’s view on our changing society, so of course I subscribe to their RSS feed.

Last night the following headliner came in from TIME with their title being: “Denny’s: Where The Food Is Free, and Drunks Can Pee”.  This is disturbing to me; here’s a restaurant chain prospering and doing a good job of it, while providing food to those who may be homeless at this time or those who could go homeless soon and they’re being criticized by a somewhat elitist magazine.

I’ve never grasp the fact that “all who are homeless, are alcoholics” or those that are only poor always participate in promotions, such as offered by Denny’s.  Most of the time for me, it’s been to the contrary, where the rich I’ve had the pleasure to know, sit at home and clip coupons for the supermarkets and restaurants they chose to shop and dine at.

Here’s my point:

  • Times are economically difficult, so we should all search for values and reward outlets with our businesses that are smart and adaptable to the country’s needs.
  • The days of big money spenders are either at an end or coming to an end, so businesses had better learn to repackage their goods and/or services in a very competitive market.  After all, look what’s transpired in the auto industry.
  • Most of all “STOP” profiling, boxing and grouping people who have difficult time defending themselves in the media.

Super Bowl XLIII – Denny’s Commercial

07
Apr
09

Discontent Within America

state-of-discontent1

icon_digg4 Over the past eighteen years I have resided, as an expat, in a country where a modern unspoken “Class Society” as existed.  I use the word “modern” to empathize what is currently transpiring within the small social economic middle class and much larger segment of society, the lower income earners.

Recently, since 2002 these two aforementioned groups of individuals have experienced opportunities of social advancement in the country by its elected government, which understood; the uneducated, the economically disadvantaged and the hardcore unemployable would only compound this nation’s problems and bring the country more into an unfavorable focus within the international community, thus limiting foreign investment and international trade.

It is difficult for me to believe the country I departed eighteen years ago, America, has digressed to the standards of the country I came to live in and this new country is currently in the process of eliminating its former “class structure” policies and attitude towards its citizens.

America is my home country, my first and always will be the country I recognize as a loyal citizen of, but when I read and follow up on articles I’ve posted, such as, “Our American Society’s Shameless Crime”, I question where our country lost its meaning, to itself and the world community.

We are a huge land, a continental nation, rich in resources with a core belief that your talents and drive can take just about anyone anywhere.  “In America, at least, we don’t resent the rich … we want to be rich,” said President Barack Obama.

A recent article authored by Jeff Greenfield on CBS News online points out some interesting observations, which are worthy of note and a large amount of self reflection upon ourselves, here is one of many excerpts from his writing’s entitled “Drawing The Battle Lines Of Class Warfare

There is a powerful current of anger that runs from Main Street to the Halls of Congress. And it’s raised once again an argument that’s almost as old as the Republic: Is too much wealth and power concentrated at the top? Should the government try to redress that balance?

We see the excesses of wealth afforded to those on Wall Street, corporate executives, professional sports figures and entertainment celebrities.  I guess I have to paraphrase a saying somewhere spoken in a movie I once saw where I actor said “How much, is enough?”

My personal feelings are a person should not be limited by the money they earn for their respective talents, but more so, how our elected officials manage the taxes collected from their wages.

Or is that idea nothing but “class warfare”?

Two centuries ago, Thomas Jefferson denounced “bankers and speculators” as the biggest danger to the Republic.

President Andrew Jackson waged war against the Second Bank of the United States, and the “elite circle” of financiers.

And Franklin Delano Roosevelt began his Presidency by indicting the “money changers” who he said had caused the Great Depression:

“The rulers of the exchange of mankind’s goods have failed, through their own stubbornness and their own incompetence,” FDR said in his first inaugural address in 1933.

“There was a great deal of cultural as well as political resentment at the rich, for having gotten away with murder in effect for too long,” said Princeton historian Sean Wilentz. “One certainly saw that in the 1930s. You can’t look at a popular movie from the early 1930s and feel that palpable sense that the rich, personified by a fat guy sitting on moneybags with a cigar clenched in his mouth … that they are the enemy.”

Ohio Democratic Senator  Sherrod Brown feels this way regarding corporate America and we the people:

“I think there’s no question that the government sings with an upper class accent,” he told workers in Ohio.

“The government has too often sided with the people with great advantage against the least privileged,” Brown said. “In the last three decades, the five percent at the top have done much, much better than the rest of society.”

Populists like Senator Brown argue that, according to recent data from the Economic Policy Institute, the top one percent of Americans have more than 22 percent of income, a number that hasn’t been matched since 1929.

“Those who have done very well under this system, those who have made huge, huge, huge profits, and not shared those profits with their workers, why should they not pay a higher tax rate?”

While Republican Congressman Jeff Flake of Arizona is a mirror opposite of Senator Brown:

“When you have the top one percent roughly 35 percent of all income taxes,” he said, “it’s tough to make the case that those at the top aren’t paying their share of income taxes.”

America may have a more unequal distribution of wealth than other nations, Flake says, but that misses the point:

“Look eastward to Europe: You have a so-called fairer distribution of income there,” he said. “But it’s a lower income, and it’s a lower quality of life than we have here. And I think it would be tough to argue otherwise.”

But Flake is no apologist for the Wall Street players who put the global economy in danger:

“They knew full well at some point, it would not last. They knew full well at some hint of a bubble bursting in the real estate market that they were gonna be in trouble. But they went ahead knowing they could get theirs and then go away, I guess. And so I think people were justifiably outraged, and still are.”

Again I insert my own personal feelings about the changes occurring in America and will continue to change until a more equal balance is achieved between “rich” and “poor”.  The following are my observations of how we as Americans have divided ourselves into classes:

  • Over the past thirty years we have accept homelessness on our streets and walk by the homeless as if they weren’t there.
  • Accept our elected political leaders as being corrupt by nature, which is acceptable.
  • Given our children hundred dollars bills, which in turn are given to their favorite sports stars for their autographs.
  • Accepted illegal immigrates into our society to perform the work we deem to degrading for us to do.
  • Became more interested individual interests instead of family interests or values.

These are but a few, but I do believe a change in coming and even if it might be difficult to accept, we will all be better off over time.

The following 1957 video represents our class system as it was before when we were a nation of people, not individuals.

1957 Social Classes in America

Social Class In America (1957)
Sponsor: McGraw-Hill Book Co., Inc.
Producer: Knickerbocker Productions

Sociological discussion of ascribed status, achieved status, vertical mobility and horizontal mobility in America. We follow the lives of three men from high school on through their professional lives. Rather pessimistic conclusion on the possibilities of movement across class boundaries.

“These three babies are equal under the law, but they are not equal in terms of class…” This sociology lesson breaks educational film taboo by speaking directly about social class, shocking the ears with its frankness.

02
Apr
09

The GOP Plan to Recovery

magical_unicorn

icon_digg1 Lets see how long as it been since last September when Americans first learned of our worst economic crisis in almost eighty years?

It’s intuitively obviously to the most casual observer – not long enough for the GOP boys and girls to come up with a fail-safe plan to rescue us from the Democrats Economic Stimulus Package that’s creating a variety of green jobs, improving just about all facets of our digital and concrete infrastructure, resurrect the doomed “middle class”, render lower income tax payers a break in taxes and restore confidence in our country’s future as a world leader.

Now lets consider the benefits of the GOP’s concept of an economic stimulus package (as presented on the first of April (April Fools Day)):

  • Freeze discretionary spending for five years
  • Regressive tax cut for the super rich

That’s about it, no more, but the ramifications are great!  Please carefully read an article publishing on Huffington Post, authored by Bob Cesca and entitled “Insane Republicans Reveal An Insane Budget Plan

It only makes sense that a party currently being wagged by fringe crazy people like Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and Michele Bachmann would release its alternative budget on April Fools’ Day.

Not only does the Republican plan freeze discretionary spending for five years in the midst of a recession which, by most accounts and proved by history, will countermand any sort of economic recovery, but it also cuts taxes by 10 percent for the same Wall Street executives whose actions largely got us into this economic mess in the first place. In other words: Congratulations, Republicans, you just released a budget that rewards wealthy corporate executives while blocking any attempt to dig us out of the economic catastrophe they created.

Smart!

The only bit of Republican legislation that’d be more ridiculous would be if Michele Bachmann were to introduce a constitutional amendment thwarting a fake plot to eliminate the dollar as the form of currency in the United States.

Oh wait. She’s already done that. And 30 Republican congressmembers so far have co-sponsored the amendment. 30 Republicans have irrevocably tethered their wagons to the Bachmann crazy train. Excellent. Next on the agenda: a bill creating the Office of Robot Insurance, protecting us from robot attackers who use old people’s medicine for fuel. Speaking of which, the Republican plan also phases out Medicare.

The marquee item, however, in the Republican plan is their inexplicably regressive tax cut for the super rich. Wealthy Americans in the top three tax brackets would see their tax burden cut to a flat 25 percent from previous rates of 35, 33 and 28. According to the Center for American Progress, CEOs from any of the top 800 corporations would receive a tax break of around $1.5 million a year. Meanwhile, if you earn $15,000 a year, your tax break will be around $0 a year.

But get this. Under the Republican plan, Americans are given the option of paying the old tax rates instead of the new, expensive and regressive Republican rates. So, for example, if your household income is $100,000, you could pay the same tax rate as someone earning $15,000. Or you could be a swell egg and go back to your old rate. Aside from the utter lack of fairness in the notion of a $100,000 household paying the same rate as a $15,000 household, who in their right mind would voluntarily pay higher taxes?

Now you might be asking, given that the Republicans are all about fiscal responsibility, how much does this Republican tax cut for the wealthiest three brackets actually cost? Some estimates, according to Steve Benen, project upwards of a $4 trillion price tag. At the very least, according to their own projections, the Republican plan would run up a $500 billion annual budget deficit through at least 2080. Again, the Republican grasp of fiscal responsibility is about as firm as their grasp of reality and sanity. The subtext here being: The trillion dollar Bush tax cuts weren’t irresponsible enough. Let’s go crazy! WOOO!

And by the way, those are annual deficits that factor into the mix a completely insane five year freeze on discretionary spending — a freeze that would surely plunge the American economy into a deep depression. To that point, the Republican plan doesn’t account for such an economic catastrophe, and therefore doesn’t factor such an inevitable consequence into their revenue and deficit projects.

All told, imagine if you will the Monopoly man running up and shoving you into a deep precipice. The Republican plan not only gives that Monopoly man a $1.5 million check for his trouble, but it also cuts the rope you were using to climb out of the hole — provided you actually survived the fall in the first place.

Speaking of holes, did you see the graph Paul Ryan clearly yanked out of his?

2009-04-01-gop_budgets_graph1

Check out that steep blue line illustrating the alleged Democratic budget deficits extending to upwards of 50 percent of GDP by 2060. Put another way, suggesting a deficit that’s 50 percent of GDP is like presupposing a living human being that’s 50 percent marshmallow man. It’s insane. Furthermore, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projections only extend out to 2019. Yet the Republican chart somehow extends out to 2080. The steep upwards slope of the Democratic budget begins at around 2030 — 11 years after the furthest CBO projections stop.

What does this mean? For starters the claim on the chart: “Out-years based on CBO’s Long-Term Alternative Fiscal Scenario” is a lie. And the text: “Source: House Budget Committee Republican Staff” might as well say: “Source: Paul Ryan’s Ass.” In other words, that steep upwards slope is entirely made up.

The graph might as well look like this:

2009-04-01-gop_budgets_graph2_bobcesca

Yes, the Democratic budgets will be so out of control they’ll eventually make little curly-cues and travel backwards in time — adding to past deficits — while also looping around the word “government” — you know, because the Democrats love government.

At this point, the laughable street vendor pamphlet that John Boehner rolled out was probably less ridiculous than this actual budget plan and its accompanying Wall Street Journal graph. But it stands to reason that given their track record the Republicans would churn out a budget proposal that’s fully in line with their backwards, zero cred reputation.

I’ve always said I’m not an economist, but when it’s presented this simply, as Mr. Cesca as accomplished to do; only a fool would understand this is more of a curse than it really is a plan.




The Month in Review

November 2017
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