Universal Health Care and Renewable Energy will Save Our Economy

     This is a piece about the economy and I am not an economist.  It is then, an              opinion piece, and I would welcome your comments on it.  I have been thinking      about this for quite some time.

Universal Health Care was a plank in the platform of Teddy Roosevelt in 1912, and the need to invest in clean, renewable energy has been a political football of sorts at least since the Oil Embargo of 1973.  These are not new ideas.  But, in the wake of the de-regulation of the banking industry, the disastrous trade agreements from NAFTA and CAFTA to the TPP, the mortgage industry meltdown and now, the revelation from the Panama Papers of how easy and de rigeur it has become for the wealthy individuals of this world to cheat their own national taxmen, our crumbling economy necessitates that bold changes be made to save our country from further economic collapse.

Economic collapse?  But, but the government just said….  Yes, the government is routinely telling us that the economy is improving.  It has gotten to the point where the government’s proclamations echo the reports from the Front in Orwell’s 1984.  Charts and graphs and numbers backed by plenty of zeroes, yet the wallets and bank accounts of most middle and working class Americans continue to grow thinner.  The Economy, it would seem, only applies to the wealth at the top of the mountain.  We are standing here, open mouthed and waiting for the trickle down, but it ain’t trickling. 

(for more on Trickle Down Economics, see our prior article, Time For Some Trickle Up Economics)

Perhaps it is that we have been looking at the economy from the wrong end.  Economists are well schooled, well paid folks, who often treat the rest of us as though we haven’t been taught the secret handshake.  The tendency is to look at the economy in vast numbers, too large for mere mortals to comprehend, and cloak all discussion in a form of econo-babble  which explains little, guarantees nothing and leaves plenty of room for shrugs and head scratching later on.  For real people, this is no way to understand the Economy.  Looking at the Economy from the top down does us no good when we are at the bottom looking up.

The Economy is not a matter of GNP set against National Debt as reflected in a Provisional Budget subject to Line Item Veto.  The Economy is the sensation that  spreads up your spine just before you open your most recent credit card or heating bill.  The Economy is deciding between feeding your children and paying your mortgage.  The Economy is not national or global, it is intensely personal.  And, in that sense, it is readily understandable to all of us.  Economists?  We don’t need no stinkin’ economists.

You see, the Economy, for the vast multitude of us, is as easy as pie.  Your Economy is what you earn, plus what you have (assets), divided among what your financial obligations are.  In that sense, your wealth is a pie and everything on which you need to spend that wealth are pieces of that pie, wedges if you will, of varying sizes.   

I thought this article was about how universal health care and renewable energy will save our economy?  It is.  To see it, we need to embrace three essential ideas about our Economy.

At the core of this understanding is the first simple precept; the pie is the pie.  What you have is what you have.  If your income is not growing, your pie remains the same size.  For many of us, if we look at our incomes in adjusted dollars, we are actually earning less than we were thirty years ago.  Our pie is not getting bigger.  As a result, no matter how many ways we slice it, we never end up with more pie.  Unless we are doing fairly well, we seldom end up with leftovers.

Within this first aspect of understanding our Economy lie two other simple concepts, necessary vs. discretionary spending.  In my view, there are five things that we have no choice but to allocate our financial resources toward:

Housing – rent or own, you need a safe place to get out of the elements

Food – we can not yet outsource eating – we have to do it ourselves

Energy – we need to heat and cool that shelter, plus get ourselves to and from work, for  most of us either by car or public transportation – all of this requires energy

Health Care – for ourselves and our families, our good health goes a long way to make life worth living

Education – education is the key to making ourselves better able to increase the size of our own pie and make all other expenses easier to bear

We could argue that this is a simplistic view of our necessary spending, but there is an important unifier to these five items.  Unless you own your own home or are purchasing it under a fixed rate mortgage,  each of these expenses can, will, and is increasing without your ability to control it. 

What we have to pay for food, energy, health care, and education has been rising steeply, for most of us, outpacing earnings.  In one way of looking at it, if we considered those five items as the entire pie, we would see the wedges for food and energy increasing in size modestly, and health care and education increasing in size substantially.  The wedge that we would label housing, would of necessity be getting smaller.  We used to call this robbing Peter to pay Paul.  When the housing bubble burst and the market crashed, it was revealed that mortgage companies had been engaged in what has come to be known as predatory lending, one aspect of which was that mortgages were being granted to people who lacked the financial resources to pay for them.  That is the effect of the shrinking pie wedge.  It is also the reason that the home you own will be losing value rather than gaining it, until the majority of people start to see an increase in the size of their pie.

Of course, our pie can not be cut just five ways.  We have many other expenses as part of our daily lives, many of which we feel we can not do without, but which for the time being we will label as discretionary.  Now, if you are reading this in your home, take a look around at all of the things that you have purchased: furniture, clothing, books, televisions, cooking utensils, cds, dvds, even your pets.  The list could go on and on.  All of these things are discretionary spending.  For the purposes of this exercise, let us imagine five elements of discretionary spending: car maintenance, haircuts, restaurant dinners, remodeling and a new toaster.

As costs rise on our necessary expenditures, the pie changes shape and the wedges for our discretionary spending grow smaller.  Every time you celebrate a birthday, your health insurance costs tick up a notch.  Every time the market price for a barrel of oil rises, you pay more at the pump.  Every year, the tuition at your college increases.  Every time you head out to the grocery store, you wonder why the milk is getting more expensive.  You can not change this world and you can also not reject this world out of hand.  You inhabit this world and are committed to paying the price of it. 

So the discretionary wedges get smaller.  In our exercise, what does this mean?  Perhaps you decide that you’ll live with the dent in your front quarter panel or the long scratch along the passenger side of the car.  Maybe you’ll cut back on trips to the hair salon and only go every other month.  Much as you’d like to, you’ll opt to eat in more often and save restaurant outings for very special occasions.  The deck out back will have to wait until next year.  And the old toaster, well it still warms the bread, so you’ll limp along with it.  These are decisions each of us make every day.

But here is the second essential idea; your discretionary spending is the filling in someone else’s pie.  When you skip a haircut, the stylist does not get paid.  That is an easy to understand, one for one transaction.  When you don’t go out to dinner, the restauranteur, wait staff, chef, line prep people and bus boys take a financial hit.  When you hold off on building the deck, the carpenter and his helper don’t get paid, and the lumber yard doesn’t sell wood and screws.  When you steer away from the body shop, the mechanics don’t put in their hours and the replacement parts sit in stock.  And when you don’t buy the new toaster, the hardware store owner loses a sale and the manufacturer has one less reorder to fill. 

The direct result of a growing loss of your discretionary spending is for other people in your own community to see their pies growing smaller, while their necessary expenditures continue to rise.  As a result, their allotted wedges for discretionary spending shrink as well, and the ripple effect through the community and the nation spreads.  In some cases, a factory that makes auto parts or toasters we’ll say, the shrinkage of pie as experienced at a corporate level creates loss, which must be offset by a cutting of costs.  One of the easiest costs to cut is labor, and another job is outsourced overseas.  Now, that person who was making quarter panels or toasters has a pie that consists only of assets, not earnings, and it shrinks to nothing before their eyes.

Within the broader picture of the national Economy, those institutions that comprise our necessary expenditures continue to grow and, as a result, the economic forecast looks good.  The health insurance industry, the fossil fuels industry, corporate agribusiness and big-education continue to gain traction.  But more of the people in our communities are employed in thousands of smaller fields, which fall within the parameters of discretionary spending.  There, the cuts in our discretionary pie wedges are resulting in a loss of well paying jobs or the demise of entire industries.

Whether we choose to think of it as a Local Economy with feedback loops or as an outpost in the Global Economy, it is easy to see that our own, personal Economy, is entwined with everyone else’s.  For our Economy to grow, others must contribute to our pie filling, as we do to theirs.  And, when the wedges shift out of balance, all of our pies are subject to having a bite taken out of them.

For this reason, it is my contention that we need to shift part of our economic focus to creating universal health care and an energy system that is based on clean, renewable sources of energy.  A reapportionment of pie wedge sizes will revitalize our economy.

Of course, we could make other, simpler arguments for these two items.  Since we have the capability of providing fine health care to people in all stages of their lives, and since we function as a nation under the supposition that each of us is created equal, it stands to reason that each of us should by right have equal access to that fine health care (and at an equal cost).  In the rest of the industrialized world, universal health care is the norm and is paid either through taxes or private health insurance, but in the latter case, the health insurance companies operate on a not-for-profit footing.  The costs are substantially less than our own and the health care outcomes tend to be better because people feel more economically able to take advantage of what their systems have to offer.

Similarly, we could look at clean, renewable energy as a necessity as we own up to the reality of climate change.  Carbon emissions must be cut now.  Polluting of our waterways and our air must be curtailed now.  Non-renewable energy is by its very definition unsustainable, yet we have already determined that energy is essential.  We need a better plan.

Appeals to the morality of our energy providers and our health insurance carriers have fallen on deaf ears.  They are not inclined to do what is right because it is right, not while a profit remains to be made.  So, it is to our government that we must be able to turn, to do what is right because it is truly for the greater good.    

Consider that by taking two of our necessary expenditures and shrinking their wedge size, all of the other wedges would have a little more breathing room, a little more room for expansion.  In fact, if a universal health care system could bring the costs Americans pay for health care into line with that borne by people in other industrialized nations, that wedge of the pie would shrink to one half its current size. 

Almost ten years ago, scientists in the solar energy field determined that an array of solar panels one hundred miles square (most likely in the western desert), could provide all of the energy needed by the entire country.  Other industrialized nations, such as Germany, have already embraced solar technology as the energy of the future, and are putting up panels everywhere they can.  Wind, water and geo-thermally produced power might even make us an exporter of clean energy.  In many calculations, the United States remains the world’s largest consumer of energy.  As such, we could do much to curb the rate of climate change, and provide our people with an energy system whose costs would decline over time, rather than rise.  Again, a wedge of the pie would first be stabilized and then it would shrink.

The result would be a more balanced pie, with leftovers.  The last essential idea is simply this: economic growth depends on leftovers.  This is a Demand Side, rather than a Supply Side concept.  Starting from the vantage point of the consumer, rather than the provider, the leftovers are the key to growing the Economy.  After all, what do you do with leftovers?  You consume them.  The leftover sections of our pie are unspent wealth and that wealth is what would wind up in the filling of ours and our neighbors’ pies.  Either by spending the money directly at the hair salon or body shop, investing it in the parts manufacturer or toaster factory, or contracting with the carpenter, the discretionary spending of those leftovers would pass through the pies of each of us, growing the size of our own pie, making the expenses we have to meet more bearable while allowing for economic stability and growth.

In the end, growth means a bigger pie for those of us who have waited too long for the trickle down.  Growth, when viewed against a reduction in necessary spending, creates greater and greater degrees of discretionary spending.  Greater discretionary spending (Demand) creates jobs.  Growth means that the value of your home, the single largest asset that most middle and working class Americans possess, can rise again. 

Universal health care and clean, renewable, sustainable energy, are essential components of our personal economy.  They are a requirement, not just for the rebuilding of the wealth of the middle and working classes, but for the well being of the planet.  Teddy Roosevelt saw this in 1912.  The rest of us, waiting in line at gas stations in 1983, knew this day had to come.  It’s here.

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Time For Some Trickle Up Economics

Once we enter the general election season and its culmination in November’s selection of our next President, the rhetoric will turn, as it always does, to the economy.  At that point, we will be down to just two viable candidates, and it is important that the American public have the opportunity to decide from two different points of view on how best to grow that economy.

We can all see this one coming.  The establishment politicians, particularly those on the right (and one Wall Street backer on the left), will call for a lessening of taxes on corporate America, because corporate leaders create jobs and Americans need jobs.  Nonsense.

As they have since the Reagan era and what was then referred to as Supply Side Economics,  the corporate establishment have lobbied for an ever lessening tax burden on the assumption that lower taxes on big business would allow said business to produce at greater levels, thus creating the room for a larger workforce and better pay.  The wealth then, that would be consolidated in the upper echelon of corporate America, would trickle down to everyone below it.  Those of us who have been running back and forth with our buckets to try to gather up this trickle, know otherwise.  Trickle down economics has never worked and is built upon a basic economic fallacy.

While the establishment wants us to believe that wealth creates jobs, that jobs are created from the Supply side, nothing could be further from the truth.  Jobs are created from the Demand side.   

Imagine for a moment that there is a person who has grown up with a great love of history.  Now, when he reaches adulthood, his real estate mogul father gifts him with a few billion spare smackeroos.  This enterprising young lad decides then to go into business and, following his love of history, opens a factory producing authentic Roman War Chariots.  These are the finest war chariots in the land, made of the finest materials available.  His factory starts up and employs one hundred craftsmen.  So far, so good for Supply side economics.  There is just one problem.  There is no Demand for authentic Roman War Chariots, with or without Corinthian leather appointments.  He is instantly overstocked with a lifetime supply of a product no one wants, the factory has to be closed, workers laid off, and a bankruptcy filed (whew, at least there is a tax write off).

Jobs are not created by Supply, they are created by Demand.  Yes, Henry Ford revolutionized American industry with the mass production of the automobile, but it was America’s demand for the automobile that rationalized mass production in the first place.  Had the Demand not been there, Henry Ford would be remembered as a fine craftsman of a limited line of a particular luxury item, manufactured in his three bay garage.  Instead, that Demand made possible the growth of Detroit into a major economic power and put hundreds of thousands of people to work there, and millions more across the country in related fields. 

Of course, like any field of endeavor into which the government steps, Supply Side Economics was further crippled by a series of horrifically bad trade agreements, starting with NAFTA and continuing today with the Trans Pacific Partnership.  These deals allowed for the wealth at the top of the economic food chain to be trickled down, not to American workers, but to workers in foreign markets, because the same amount of goods could be manufactured there, that much more cheaply. 

It is long past time to abandon Supply Side Economics and embrace Demand Side Economics.

Do Americans need jobs?  No.  Americans don’t need jobs, they need good paying, meaningful  jobs.  They need jobs on which they can feed their families.  They also need jobs which give them a sense of purpose within their communities, a sense of having an impact on their communities and on the lives of others within those communities.

Right now, the stagnation of our economy has become something of a death spiral.  When consumers, the Demand side, have less money to spend, they have fewer opportunities to express Demand and influence the growth of Supply.  Look at the growing job sectors in America.  What are people buying?  Fast food, cell phone apps and cheap housewares.  When Wal-Mart is the largest employer in America, selling cut-rate junk products from third world manufacturers and paying starvation wages to part-time employees, it is easy to see that there is increasingly limited opportunity for Demand to influence Supply.  Demand is struggling to make ends meet, to keep the lights on.  Right now, Demand hasn’t the capital to create jobs and Supply knows that its customers can only support a meaningless, low-rent service economy.

If, instead of consolidating the wealth at the top of the ladder, we spread it out among the lower rungs, the consumer would do what consumers have always done, spend that money as an expression of Demand.  Then, the enterprising young lad with the Chariot backlog, could retool his factory to produce the products or deliver the services that people actually want.  And, since people have different tastes and different needs, the more money that is put in the pockets of consumers, the more varied a Demand will be created.  This is what led to the rise of American industry in the first place, an insatiable demand from a populace with more money to spend than was required to meet their basic needs.

So, how do we turn the tables on the economy and shift to a Demand Side economic model?  Abandon the trade agreements which have consigned our workforce to meaningless jobs in a Wal-Mart paradise.  Support middle and working class Americans with legislation for better wages and with a lessened tax burden, so they have more money to spend.  Close tax loopholes for the large corporate concerns and put that money into creating good paying jobs which can’t be outsourced (like rebuilding our infrastructure).  Create incentives for American corporations to stay at home, paying American workers to build quality goods and provide quality services.  Educate our young people so they can perform in better paying fields of endeavor.  And yes, provide affordable health care to all Americans, so that the out of pocket costs of their health care are minimized.  They will gladly allow that extra cash to burn a hole in their pockets, exercising their Demand and creating the need for an increased Supply.

This fall, we will have a choice of two candidates to lead this country.  We all know the level of economic stagnation in which the middle and working classes have been struggling for close to forty years.  We also know that one political party will back a nominee who will work to continue a failed system of Trickle Down Economics.  We can not afford to have two nominees embracing that same nonsensical ideal.

Put the People first.  Put the economy in the hands of those people.  Demand will show us the new industrial models.  Supply will still make money if it is smart enough to recognize the Demand.  Better jobs and healthier communities will follow.  And don’t worry, Corporate America, the wealth will trickle up to you.

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Want to Change the World? Get Off Your Couch and Vote!

There is an old saying that you get what you pay for.  In the world of politics, that might better be said as you get the candidate that someone else has paid for.  But it need not be that way.  Setting aside for a moment the issues of election fraud and voter suppression that have mired this campaign season in the mud, it remains the case that we can have the candidate for whom the majority of us vote.  What is very important to understand is just how few of us act to make that decision.

Most Americans who pay attention to the political world already know that our electorate has a certain notoriety for not showing up to actually vote.  In our best general election tallies, barely 57% of registered voters actually make it to the polls.  In the primaries, you can cut that percentage in half.

This campaign season, much of the talk in the main stream media has focused on the record turnouts on both sides of the political aisle.  Coupled with images from Arizona, Massachusetts and Michigan of long lines queuing up to polling stations, the concerned viewer might think that the political revolution of 2016 is at long last drawing vast numbers of Americans into the political process.  Not so.  Thus far, and calculated on a state by state basis, the Republican primaries have drawn out 17.3% of all eligible voters and the Democratic primaries 11.7%.  Combined then, only 29% of eligible voters from the states which have already held their primary polling have actually made it out to vote.  By extension, by the time that we get around to the general election in November, less than one third of our eligible voters will have determined the candidates between whom all of us have to choose.

And this is a record year for voting!   The Republicans’ 17.3% represents their highest total since 1980 and the Democrats’ 11.7% their highest since 1992.  When many of us ask, rhetorically, “Is this the best we can do?,” the answer is certainly “yes,” if we rely on a small portion of the electorate to get out and do the dirty work of voting. 

When we look at a candidate like Donald Trump, who is seemingly running away with the Republican nomination, he is doing so (presently) with about 34% of the 17.3% who actually come out to vote.  In other words, Trump has roughly 6% of the population of eligible voters behind him and he is very likely to become the Republican nominee. 

Is this an aberration of some sort?  No.  In 2012, Mitt Romney won 30 states, the District of Columbia and the Republican nomination with a combined total of only 9.8 million votes.  That number represented a turnout of just 5.1% of the eligible voters during that cycle’s primaries.

Why do so many people let so few determine whom our leaders will be?  The short answer must encompass laziness and disinterest on the part of the voter.  But equally significant as a cause of poor voter turnout is voter suppression.  The small turnouts in our primary seasons are nothing new.  So, the question becomes, how do I win with a small amount of voter support?  The answer, simply enough, is to do all that you can to maximize your voters while discouraging your opponents’ voters from taking part in the process. 

In this cycle, it appears that the Clinton campaign, in collusion with the DNC, has done a far better job of getting their own vote out (often through early voting mail-in programs), while making it harder for Senator Sanders and Governor O’Malley to maximize their own voters.  The dramatically reduced number of polling stations in Maricopa County, voters who were mysteriously re-registered as Republicans or Independents, a bomb threat to the hotline headquarters for voter issues, letters directing Washington voters to the wrong caucus sites, running out of ballots in Florida by noon time, all of these are examples of ways in which the vote was overtly suppressed. 

More insidious perhaps is the suppression of the vote by the main stream media.  Between endlessly proclaiming the Clinton campaign to be farther ahead in delegates than they actually are and calling the vote in Arizona with only 1% of it in, the media created a reason for people who had been standing in line for five hours to just pack it in and go home.  These are textbook examples of a carefully coordinated voter suppression program.  Interestingly enough, every instance of voter suppression and election fraud has served to help the same candidate.  Coincidence?

But here you are, frustrated and longing to do your civic duty. You should be.  While we can argue all day that the process of voting should be simple, fair and available to all eligible Americans, it is not going to be, so long as the people calling the shots remain the people calling the shots.  It is incumbent upon all of us to work harder to exercise our right to vote, so that those who would suppress our vote have to work that much harder themselves.  Right now, we are making it far too easy for monied interests and national committees to rig the election. 

What should you do? 

First, ignore the hype from the media and the national committees.  The media is owned by corporations which share a hip pocket with the Super Pacs of the front runners and the committees themselves.  They are nothing more than mouthpieces for whomever pays them the most money.  They are mercenaries or, less politely, whores.  The purpose of the media is to disseminate misinformation in a coordinated effort to maintain the establishment by suppressing grass roots efforts to effect change.

Second, ignore the polls.  The vast majority of polling in the United States is done by telephone and the costs to do so are kept down through the use of predictive dialers and robo-callers.  The problem is that it is illegal under FCC statutes to use a predictive dialer or a robotic calling device to call a cellular phone.  That must still be done by hand, in a costly and time-consuming fashion.  Therefore, well in excess of 90% of telephone polling is done exclusively to land lines and some 40% of our population no longer has a land line to call.  That same 40% is also reflective of a younger demographic, so the polls tend to be skewed toward older voters.

Third, research the facts about the candidates.  It is easier than you might think.  Remember, campaign rhetoric is just that.  It is a lot of sturm und drang, vague promises and idle threats.  What the candidates promise is infinitely less significant than what they produce.  Go to your browser and search for a candidate’s name and legislative record.  This will show you just what legislation that candidate has actually authored (sponsored) and what legislation of theirs has been passed into law.  The latter is significant as it tends to show the candidate’s ability to work across the aisle, essential to getting anything done in Washington.

Fourth, make sure you are properly registered.  Try doing a search online for your county and state and voter registration.  From there, you should be able to determine just how you are registered in the eyes of your state.  There have been far too many instances of voter suppression by reassigning registration to the wrong party or to an Independent status in states which do not allow Independents to vote in primaries.  Check that too!  If you are an Independent, change your registration to reflect the party of the candidate you prefer, so that you can be sure to be able to vote in your state’s primary.

It might look like more work, but if you ignore the hype and ignore the polls, you will find that you have more time to research the candidates and check on your registration.

Lastly, get out to vote.  Make the time and you can make the difference.  Do not let anyone convince you that your vote does not count.  When the turnout is so low, each vote carries that much more weight.  When John F. Kennedy defeated Richard Nixon for the presidency in 1960, he did so because he won the state of Illinois.  And he won the state of Illinois by less than 9000 votes.  Your vote matters.  Your vote could change the world.

Remember, the squeaky wheel gets the grease.  Voter suppression tactics are about shutting people up and shutting them out.  Exercise your right.  Vote.  Your voice will be heard, loud and clear.

On the 2016 Primary voting:

http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/03/08/so-far-turnout-in-this-years-primaries-rivals-2008-record/

On the JFK election:

http://stonezone.com/article.php?id=391

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Super Delegate Math or Myth?

As the primary season continues to unfold, the DNC and their affiliated main stream media remains insistent on counting Super Delegates pledged to Hillary Clinton among her actual, earned delegates for the convention in Philadelphia this summer.  And, while the social media networks are abuzz with chatter about how these Super Delegates will actually vote, what is not addressed accurately is just how they are already influencing the primary process. 

DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz is on record, having defined the purpose of the Super Delegates as a means by which the party will not be held accountable to a “grass roots insurgency.”  In other words, the voting block that is the Super Delegates is there to turn the tables on the will of the voters, should that will not reflect in lock step the will of the party elders.  So it is that by the outset of the primary season, the Super Delegates pledged in support of Hillary Clinton gave her the illusion of having far outdistanced her opponents and of having already started the process of running away with the election.  Strategically, this remains a key component of the Clinton campaign.

However, nothing could be further from the truth.   The function of the Super Delegates is twofold.  First, they can serve as a tie breaker in the event that neither candidate arrives at the convention with enough delegates to win the nomination outright, and that after the second ballot and the attendant “horse trading” between the candidates, the balloting is perceived as hopelessly deadlocked.  Second, they can serve the function of adding authority to the delegate totals of a winning nominee who managed to win by less than convincing numbers.  Such was the case in 1984, when the Super Delegates chose Walter Mondale over Gary Hart for the nomination.  Neither of the candidates had arrived with enough delegates to claim the nomination outright, but Mondale had about 500 more than Hart and the addition of the Super Delegates put him over the top and did so in a way that made his victory appear more decisive.

1984 was also the first and last time that the Super Delegates even voted in any meaningful way.  In subsequent elections, the candidate either arrived with enough delegates earned in the primary balloting to claim the nomination or, horse trading after the first ballot was cast broke the deadlock and the nominee emerged.  In the former instance, the Super Delegates served as a cheering section which put their weight behind the nominee, to show support  for the people’s choice.  The latter case was exemplified in 2008 when Hillary Clinton suspended her campaign, allowing Barrack Obama to go through as the nominee.  Trailing Obama in a close race, the Super Delegates could have been used to swing the election to Clinton.  But, had they done so, it would have meant overturning the will of the electorate, and would certainly have had major repercussions in the general election.  Instead, back room negotiations secured the Secretary of State post for Hillary and she agreed to bide her time on the presidency.

Now, in 2016, the looming presence of the Super Delegates is again suggesting that the will of the electorate may be undone at the convention.  As in 2008, this would be disastrous for the Democratic party.  Today, in terms of earned delegates to the convention in Philadelphia, Hillary stands at 1243 and Bernie Sanders at 980.  Only 263 earned delegates separate the two candidates, with seventeen states yet to vote and a cloud hanging over the election in Arizona which may yet rain on Hillary’s parade.  Over two thousand delegates are still available, spread across those seventeen states, and the voting trend recently has significantly favored the Sanders campaign.  There is a very strong likelihood that Senator Sanders will arrive in Philadelphia with more earned delegates than Secretary Clinton.

Will the Super Delegates overturn the will of the people and hand the nomination to Hillary Clinton?  If their concern is genuinely with the general election, they will assuredly not disenfranchise half of their base.  This has been a tight race so far and will quite possibly remain so.  The two candidates could arrive in Philadelphia with a fairly even split of the delegates and a lot of bitterness between their two camps.  But, if the Super Delegates are required to break the deadlock, they would be well advised to side with whomever arrives with the most earned delegates.  If not, and if they choose Hillary as most say they will, Bernie Sanders’ supporters will possibly exit the party en masse. 

To arrive at that conclusion, we have to look at just who his supporters are.  They represent the progressive wing of what was once a progressive party, a group of Democratic lifers who already feel that they have been abandoned by the DNC.  His supporters are also Independents and their voting block will be key to the election.  Independent voters now represent about 40% of the electorate and if they come to the conclusion that their votes were nullified by the DNC, their lack of a  lifelong commitment to the party will manifest itself in a mass exodus.  They will sit on their hands in November and look for another party entirely come 2020.  His voters are also young people, the voting block which will grow and age with the party over time.  If the Democrats lose them now, they may never get them back.

So why is such a fuss being made over the Super Delegates, who have not even voted yet, may never vote at all, and almost certainly would not vote to overturn the will of the electorate?  The truth is that what the Super Delegates do best, is to suppress the vote.  Their function is to convince the grass roots voters that their candidate hasn’t a chance, to give up and just stay home.  If they are successful in doing that, then the grass roots movement dies on the vine and the establishment candidate goes through without the Super Delegates ever needing to cast a deciding vote.  The problem this year is those pesky progressives, independents and young people.  They have had enough of establishment politics, enough of DNC posturing, and enough of Hillary Clinton’s promises of incremental change.  They are staying the course, staying true to Bernie Sanders, and are becoming more entrenched in their own beliefs with each successive instance of election rigging. 

To date, every single instance of that rigging has benefitted Secretary Clinton.  Most recently, the misadventure that was the primary in Arizona combined election fraud which forced voters to stand on line for five and six hours, with an election result which was called with only one percent of the vote in.  When you have created in the mind of the voter the idea that Hillary is already within reach of the nomination due to her backing from the Super Delegates, announce that a given primary has already been decided, and force voters to choose between voting and possibly losing their jobs, it is no wonder that many voters broke from the ranks of the ballot lines and went home. 

While no one can say definitively that Hillary was behind it, she is the one who benefited from it.  That is enough.  And, in what is perhaps the most telling aspect of the election fraud, the scope of it is rising as it becomes more obvious that the electorate is not willing to be  buffaloed by the promises of the Super Delegates.  This has been made abundantly clear by the protests of the voters in Arizona, who refuse to be denied their rights.  They have their candidate, they followed the rules and their votes were not counted.  The blame lies with the DNC and local officials who have clearly conspired to rig the process.  But Sanders’ supporters have remained firm and have taken to the streets.  Rather than staying home, Bernie Sanders’ supporters are essentially drawing a line in the sand and daring the DNC and the Super Delegates to step across it.

The Super Delegates though, remain firm in their vocal support of Hillary, even in instances where the primary results in their own states favored Sanders by over 70%.  Why?  It goes back to whether or not the focus is on winning the general election.  It is possible (though doubtful) that the Democratic party leadership would prefer to lose the election rather than adjust their mode of operation to support a Bernie Sanders presidency.  Remember, campaigns and parties run on the fuel that is money.  Lots of it.  Many of the Super Delegates are themselves elected officials.  They will need to run for re-election, or may have aspirations of moving up the elected office ladder.  This too, will require lots of money.  Hillary represents the establishment, the status quo, and with that, lobbyists and Super Pacs and lots of soft money to fuel campaigns and buy media outlets.  Bernie is committed to removing the influence of big money from electing our representatives to Washington.  Without that big money, without the backing of the main stream media, many incumbents will soon be out of jobs.

In the end, the actions of the Super Delegates will tell us everything we need to know about the Democratic party for at least the next generation.  If Bernie Sanders arrives in Philadelphia with more earned delegates than Hillary Clinton and the Super Delegates rise in support of him, it will validate and welcome the progressives, the independents and the young voters to the fold, solidify the base, and quite likely prove overwhelming to the Republican candidate.  If they decide instead to pull the rug out from under Bernie and his supporters, the backlash will cripple the Democratic party, cost them the general election and, in all likelihood, cement the hold the Republicans have on the House of Representatives.  Imagine what a president like Trump or Cruz might accomplish.

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Shall We Live What We Learn?

Today, it is time to take a step back, time to take a broader view.  The election cycle demands of us that we continually focus our attention on the nitty gritty of campaigns, sorting through the rhetoric, filtering out the lies and half truths.  But today, today it is time to look more broadly at what we have learned and ask how we shall choose to live in light of it.

We have learned that while there are quite a few bad apples out there, there are a hell of a lot of good and decent people, who want to be involved and want to make a difference.  This time, it seems as though the demarcation line between the two sides is somehow clearer; we have been encouraged to define it as establishment against outsider, but in the end, it has nothing to do with our politics.  This is about our priorities. 

One the one hand, we have the institutions that value money and power.  On the other, people and the planet.  It could not be more clear.  This is not about Democrats and Republicans; each side has its good and its bad people.  Equally, this is not just about the candidates; this is about the people whom they attract as supporters and the actions taken by those supporters to advance the cause.

On one hand, we could express this as the year that pitted hope against hate.  It troubles me, as it troubles so many that the level of vitriol expressed against immigrants, muslims and people of different political persuasions, owes nothing to reality and everything to fear.  It is sorrowful for the country to acknowledge that some candidates made the conscious decision to garner support by catering to that hate and fear.  The good news is that they are losing ground.  In the end, it is much harder to hold onto your hate than it is to hold onto your hope.  Hate burns you up and burns you out.  Hope is sustaining.  I believe that in November, the country will choose hope.

We have also witnessed a pitting of two dimensional vs. three dimensional characters.  A novelist could not create a work of fiction with Donald Trump as the main character and hope to win the Booker Prize.  He has no depth.  There is no there there. 

And it is those same characters, the ones drawn expressly for the six second sound bite on the main stream media, that have allowed the rest of us to see just how much the media has become complicit in the problem.  Calling elections with 1% of the vote in is just the most recent and egregious example.  Not giving equal time to all candidates, creating pundits out of campaign flunkies, and above all else, refusing to report on the real issues facing the country, have shown us the degradation of the Fifth Estate.  The news media was supposed to stand up for us, to speak truth to power, to use our freedom of speech to represent us against the wrongdoings of our own government.  Instead, they have become self-appointed kingmakers.

When the real story is one of voter suppression and election fraud on not just a grand, but growing scale, they choose to present tabloid reports regarding candidates’ wives, purportedly insurmountable delegate leads and Super Delegates who have pledged votes but not actually voted.  Similarly, it is somehow not newsworthy that voters arrive to polling stations after standing in line for five and six hours, only to be handed a provisional ballot which will likely not be counted, because their party affiliation has mysteriously changed since they last voted.  We also seem to not need to know that the votes have actually come in from two caucus states, because the media chooses not to announce the winner until it is late enough that most folks have gone to bed.  But, we have to thank them, because now we see them for what they are.  In showing their true colors, they have done all of us a favor.  We can now consign them to their rightful place as background chatter, the white noise of society.

We have learned that to many, the governance of our country is just a game.  Winner take all, to be sure, but just a game.  For the Mitch McConnell’s of the world, doing the job they have been elected and sworn in to perform takes a back seat to the gamesmanship of obstructing the process, grinding everything to a halt lest it be perceived that the other side has actually achieved something.  And Mr. Mitch is not the only one.  The gamesmanship extends to the campaign trail, where Bill Clinton defined the Obama presidency as “the awful legacy of the last eight years,” but only after the African American vote was secured in the primaries of the southern states.  We have witnessed the efforts of Debbie Wasserman Schultz to rig the election process, from denying Bernie Sanders access to the voting lists, to scheduling debates for times when no one is watching, and making sure that there are never enough ballots for the voters who show up to exercise their civic duty. 

But I find something interesting here, too.  All of these people are looking mighty old.  There is a Picture of Dorian Gray component to this.  The corruption, degeneracy and wickedness of these thieves who would steal the country from its own people, has crept upon their faces like lines on Gray’s portrait.  And all of the spray tan in China can not varnish it away.

Largely, that distinction is now visible because we have learned that there are so many good people, standing up and standing together in opposition to the establishment, the forces of darkness, the forces of same as it ever was.  From Elizabeth Warren to Nina Turner, Bill Moyers to Cornel West, Robert Reich to Spike Lee, Asher Edelman to Danny Glover, there is a vitality among the forces of change and hope that grows stronger by the day. 

The pairing though, that shines most clearly is that of Bernie Sanders and Tulsi Gabbard.  Two distinctly different generations, two distinctly different experiences of life.  But between them, fire and focus, wisdom and compassion, and most of all, continuity.  What we have learned is that there is a movement, a revolution, that has been going on in this country since the early 1960’s.  It comes back to that mindset of hope.  It hinges on the priority of doing what is right for the planet and for our fellow human beings. 

It has been suppressed, to be sure, for many years.  So much so, that many of us thought we were alone.  We are not.  When the enthusiasm in one county’s voter turnout from 2012 to 2016 rises by half a million voters, we are not alone.  When those people stand in line for five and six hours because they will not be denied their right to participate in the process, we are not alone.  When a candidate takes in over five million separate donations averaging less than thirty dollars a piece, from real working men and women, not the $27,000 a plate crowd, we are not alone.

The single most exciting piece of news during this cycle has to do with the involvement in the process of so many people, young and old, who thought previously that they did not have a voice.  It was not that they had no voice; it’s just that no one was listening.  Now, we have learned that those combined voices can change the world.  The same as it ever was crowd is frightened, as well they should be.  They are circling the wagons and sending out volleys through their super pacs and media cronies, in a last ditch effort to stem the tide of change, to convince us that we need to be pragmatic, that we need not expect too much, that we can not win against that which is inevitable. 

They are trying to negotiate a truce for fear that hope will sweep them from the field. 

In the end, we have learned that you will fail to galvanize a nation around hatred, but succeed when you do so around hope.  You can send out dinner invites with a $27,000 a plate RSVP or you can throw open the doors to the entire neighborhood.  You can deny people their voices in the process with rigged elections, or you can trust the goodness in their hearts to make the right call.  You can believe what you hear or you can shine light on the lie.  As we used to say, you can be part of the problem, or part of the solution.  It is for each of us to choose how we shall live from what we have learned.

Increasingly, we are learning that it is the solution that is becoming inevitable.

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Are We Willing to Pay the Price for Our Freedom?

As the election process inches forward, we are once again faced with allegations of election fraud and voter suppression.  The primary yesterday in Arizona was an outright disgrace.  A state in which one county (Maricopa) had witnessed 300,000 people come out to vote at 200 polling stations during the 2008 election cycle, was unprepared to handle the estimated 800,000 who came out yesterday to only 60 polling stations.  Voters stood for five and six hours on line, only to find that once again, insufficient numbers of ballots were on hand.  Once again, registered voters found that their political affiliation had mysteriously changed or that they had been dropped from voter rolls altogether.  Once again, provisional ballots were handed out though it was indicated to voters that these ballots would not be counted.  And the Media called the election by 10:00p.m. eastern time, with just 1% of the vote in,  while voters were still lined up for blocks at 1:30a.m.

These are the same problems which plagued the primaries in Florida (where some thirteen precincts had run out of ballots by noon), North Carolina, Illinois, Ohio, Utah, Idaho, Missouri, Massachusetts, and just about every state the Clinton campaign has notched as a victory.  Oddly enough, a large proportion of Hillary’s supporters have been instructed to vote early, by mail, and avoid the entire precinct voting process.

But there have been instances of Republican election rigging as well, namely Ted Cruz’s efforts to convince voters in Iowa that Ben Carson was dropping out of the race.  Yesterday, in Mormon Utah, a Super Pac supporting Ted Cruz ran an ad featuring a nude Melania Trump with the tag-line, “Meet Melania Trump, your next First Lady.  Or, you could support Ted Cruz on Tuesday.”  I have absolutely no love for Donald Trump, but attacking someone’s family in this manner is gutless, classless, despicable and cowardly.  And whether or not it was authorized by him, Ted Cruz will have to own that characterization from here on out.

One interesting element to the dirty politics we are seeing from both sides, is that it has originated with the establishment candidates.  Neither Sanders’ nor Trump’s campaigns have been accused of attempting to rig the elections.  The DNC, on the other hand, has been complicit in nearly every effort to suppress the vote of Democrats who would largely be supporting Bernie Sanders (if Hillary’s supporters have voted early and in enough numbers, you could suppress everyone on election day and almost guarantee a win for the Clintons).  The RNC has openly suggested that they might need to run a third party candidate to stop Trump, and has dragged Mitt Romney out of mothballs to do their dirty work.

How should we read this?  To express the conditions surrounding our current election process in their simplest terms, the Establishment on both sides is actively working to suppress the will of the people to make a change in the status quo of our government.  The Establishment is utterly out of touch with the voters of this country.  When Trump and Sanders began their campaigns, each was scoffed at by their respective party elders.  Each was seen as something of a joke.  But Sanders and Trump are engaged with their base; they know their supporters.  Each, for his own reasons, reflects the will of the voting makeup of his party.  And now, the Establishment finds itself with only one card left to play; make sure that those votes don’t count.

Like him or not, Donald Trump is bringing voters out of the woodwork.  His rallies are enormous and his supporters passionate (for all of the wrong reasons, I would add).  The other night, Sanders held a rally in Washington State which drew 35,000 people.  Hillary, meanwhile, held her “rally” in a living room where attendees paid $27,000 apiece to get in and $50,000 if they wanted to meet and speak with her.  This is not lost on the American voting public.

Middle and working class people in America may not really be able to comprehend just how much money $170 billion dollars in increased earnings by the top fifteen people in America is, but we know when we are getting screwed.  We know that when Washington tells us the economy is improving, it isn’t improving for us.  Our wallets are still just as empty.  Our credit cards still carry large balances.  Our bank accounts still have no buffer.  Our jobs pay less, our health care costs more.  Our retirement savings won’t be enough and a trip to the hospital could be one cost too much.  We may be able to remember a past full of promise, but we now fear that our children will have no future.

“At least,” we may have thought, “we still have a voice.”  We have been taught since we first entered school that the greatness of America lies in the process by which we, the people, elect representatives to speak on our behalf in Washington and in the State Assemblies. Each November, we learned, the people get to vote so that the government represents our needs, our desires and our principles.   That, we now must concede, was a lie. 

The middle and working class people of this country did not arrive here overnight.  We can now look back on nearly half a century of legislation which has allowed corporate America to line its pockets while sending our jobs and our futures overseas, legislation that keeps us in debt to big health care corporations when the rest of the industrialized world provides better health care as a right to its people.  We have been dragged into twenty odd years of endless and pointless war, run up a national debt that is somewhere in the vicinity of nineteen trillion dollars, and found that a large chunk of the debt for which we are responsible, is held by the Chinese.  The people on both sides of the aisle, playing politics in Washington, have doomed at least once generation of us to penury.  And now, the RNC and the DNC have informed us that we no longer even have a voice of complaint in the process.  Our votes, if it looks like they will cause injury to the Establishment, don’t count.

In the title of this article, the question was asked, “Are we willing to pay the price for our freedom?”  We often hear that our nation’s soldiers have paid that price for us, guaranteeing with their lives the freedoms which we enjoy.  But now we have to ask whether we are free at all.  One need not feel the bars to be trapped in a cage.  When limitations are placed on our abilities to grow as a society or as individuals within it, we are not free.  When a corrupt economic system keeps the vast majority of us enslaved to the next paycheck, we are not free.  And when our political leadership looks us in the eye and says that our voices do not matter, we are not free.

It is now nearly forty eight years since the summer of 1968, two generations, a single life lived almost to its mid-line.  It was in 1968 that the people, for one brief, shining moment, found their voice.  The assassination of JFK in 1963 marked the first time that the majority of American people believed that their own government could not be trusted.  By 1968, with the war raging in southeast Asia and middle and working class American kids being drafted and sent to fight for nothing more than the nightly body count, that voice rose as one to shout down the Establishment. 

While the respective parties gave us establishment candidates in the form of Richard Nixon and Hubert Humphrey, the grass roots gave rise to Eugene McCarthy and, later in the campaign, Robert Kennedy.  McCarthy’s early primary lead chased incumbent president Lyndon Johnson out of the race and lured RFK in.  In time, the voice of the young people in America, desperate to end the war and to heal the wounds at home between white and black Americans, coalesced behind RFK.  McCarthy’s ill advised remarks on opting for a Communist coalition in Vietnam and relocating black youth out of urban areas to quell urban problems ultimately doomed his campaign. 

So, with the Doors’ song, “Five to One” as a backdrop, the young people of this country began to see that it was true that “they have the guns but we’ve got the numbers.”  And politics, after all, is a numbers game.  Everything was coming together for a political revolution.   And then it was gone.  Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. was murdered in Memphis on April 4th and RFK was assassinated in Los Angeles two months later.  By late August and the Democratic convention in Chicago, the sense that the fix was in was palpable.  During the primaries, some 80% of the votes cast were in favor of anti-war candidates, but at the convention, the DNC pushed Hubert Humphrey through, despite the fact that he had not entered a single primary.  The “riots in the streets” to which Donald Trump alluded last week when considering what might happen if he is denied the nomination, were exactly what played out in Chicago.

In hindsight, 1968 saw this country on the verge of a massive political shift, away from establishment politics, away from a war that no one outside of government wanted, away from hatred and divisiveness at home.  The chance was there and the voting public seemed ready to seize it.  But the promise went unfulfilled.  Now, nearly half a century later, the chance has once again arisen.  This time. however, it is not a “lone nut gun-man” who has his crosshairs on our opportunity.  It is the establishment itself, bold as brass.

Perhaps it takes a leader like RFK or maybe Bernie Sanders, to galvanize the people of our republic behind an image of all that is good about us, an image of the potential for greatness that still lies in America.  Or, could it be that Donald Trump has revealed something about ourselves that we have kept hidden, but which could once again push us to the top of the world stage?  Truly, those leaders come along only once in a lifetime.  So the question is reframed, “Are we willing to pay the price for our freedom to elect the leadership we choose for ourselves?”  If the people put their support behind a candidate whom the parties seek to undo, are we willing to destroy the parties in return?

This journal does not endorse Donald Trump.  Other articles here have in no uncertain terms pointed out just how bad a choice he would be for the country.  But if Hillary Clinton is to get the nomination, are we, the people, willing to pay the price of electing her and continuing the ownership of this country by the ruling class?  If the supporters of Bernie Sanders “sit on their hands” in protest, refusing to vote for a candidate who is the antithesis of all that they believe, Trump will win, regardless of what the Republican party does to stop him.  The next four years will be disastrous, for trade, for human rights, for maintaining allegiances throughout the world.  But should we elect Clinton, the very first order of business for the DNC will be to make sure that no grass roots candidate ever again threatens the party’s plan.  The next Bernie Sanders, maybe fifty years from now, will have it that much harder.

Do we resign ourselves to business as usual or do we break the machine and build anew?

Those who do not learn from history are condemned to repeat it.  George Carlin used to say about the relationship between the working people of this country and the owners of the country (and of our government) that, “it is a big club and you and I ain’t in it.”  The old Fram Oil Filter ad warned us that, “you can pay me now or pay me later.”  If we don’t stop the cycle of selling our freedom now, we consign our children and our grandchildren to the debtor’s prison of paying later.  Thirty pieces of silver now could damn us for generations to come.  I, for one, am not willing to pay that price.

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Too Late to Stop the Runaway Train?

Over the course of the last two weeks, the political conversation among Republican party elders and increasingly, within the same Media which has helped to create the Monster, has turned to trying to find a way to keep Donald Trump from becoming our next president.  To many of us, the thought that he might actually have a chance at doing so seems ludicrous.  Here is a man with no experience of government, a self-proclaimed master of business with at least four bankruptcies to his credit and a string of failed business ventures which range from comical to con-artist.  If ever there was a candidate ripped straight from the pages of a Superman comic, this is it. 

But alas, it is we who have been proven wrong, as the Trump Train continues to gain steam.  You see, we have committed the cardinal sin of believing that somehow, the election process will run on logic and reason.  It doesn’t.  It never has.  The fuel of elections is raw emotion, visceral gut reaction.  In life, we don’t love and trust people from our head; we love and trust from our heart and our gut.  And the election process is nothing, if not a love fest.

One look at Trump’s supporters should be enough to tell us.  They are not interested in taking the time to hash out the details of his platform; he hasn’t got any.  His campaign is swagger, bluster, braggadocio, histrionics and self-aggrandizement in the extreme.  Every other day it’s “pin the blame on the foreigner” or “when are we gonna get sick of all this winning?”  I have personally witnessed high school pep rallies with a better articulated game plan.

But the Republicans don’t get it.  In desperation, they sent out Mitt Romney, first runner up as most boring man in North America, to strike dead this fire-breathing town dragon.  To say he failed to do so does not adequately paint the pile of ashes Trump and his supporters made of ol’ Mitt.  Next, Marco Rubio threw himself on his sword, overthinking the game and asking his supporters in Ohio to vote for John Kasich.  His supporters everywhere probably saw that Marco’s investment in the election was not 100% and they promptly lost him his home state of Florida.  Don’t let the door hit you on the ass on your way out.  Now, Ted Cruz and John Kasich are squaring off against each other, each claiming that for the betterment of the party, the other should step aside.

All of this plays right into the hands of Trump and his followers.  Every time the establishment makes a failed run at derailing his express, they confirm at a gut level, at a heart level, that they fear Trump because he is the strongest candidate, because he has the truest message, because he will make America great again.  This is the same Republican party which has taught the far right to fear that the government is coming for them, that the invasion of Texas by the US military is imminent, that the Supreme Court is coming for their weapons and will confiscate their bibles, that a Kenyan muslim has usurped our government with plans to overthrow the country and instill Sharia law.  Well fellas, you reap what you sow.

Let us be real.  Ted Cruz has all the appeal of a tooth extraction without the Novocain.  John Kasich’s homespun vitality plays well with the flannel shirt crowd, but the establishment Republicans are more of an Armani suit group and Trump’s followers don’t wear shirts; the bib overalls show off the White Power tattoos to greater advantage.  Neither of these guys is going to galvanize enough of the party faithful to overtake the Trumpster.

Now, it appears that Rod Serling is staging a chess match from the heart of the Twilight Zone.  The party suggests that if they can get to a brokered convention, the delegates will be free to vote for a candidate of party choosing.  Trump counters with a riots in the streets threat.  The party probingly hints that they might have to run a third party candidate of their own.  Trump’s smirk emerges like the Cheshire Cat as he instructs his acolytes, “see how the establishment works to undermine the will of the people, my people.”  This may go down in history as the first Reality Presidential Election, with Kim Kardashian installed as the next Secretary of Status.

So, what will it take to put the brakes on the Trump Train?  For stop it, we must.  If you haven’t been living under the neighbor’s porch and have an IQ somewhere north of litmus paper, you know that this guy is bad news.  What he lacks in a legislative record on which to run, he makes up for in a record of dim-witted get rich(er) quick schemes ranging from steaks and vodka, to a crashed airline business, a bogus school for wannabe real estate moguls and a casino empire that has run out of money on four separate occasions.  For Christ’s sake, he’s a game show and beauty pageant host.  Wink Martindale has an equal claim to the Presidency.

In one sense, the Republican elders are right.  If they can somehow drag this to the convention without the obligation of naming Trump the winner, arcane rules of the nomination process can be dusted off and a nominee, maybe someone who has not yet even thrown a hat into the ring, could be crowned heir apparent to Ronald Reagan or perhaps, Zachary Taylor.  But this is a Friday Night Football and Jeopardy kind of crowd.  The way they see it, whomever has the most points at the end of regulation time, wins.  The risk for the Republicans is that they could save the country (from Trump) and fracture the GOP in the process.  And this would not be Socrates knocking back a goblet of hemlock; this would be Jim Jones ladling up the Kool-Aid.

It is possible that a third-party, independent candidate could be run with the backing of a Super-Pac and keep enough votes from Trump in the general to either lose the election to a Democrat or stall it in the Electoral College.  That would send the decision to the Speaker of the House, Republican Paul Ryan. 

On the surface, it would appear that a split ticket from the Republican side would send the Democrat through, but there are no guarantees here.  It is already becoming clear that a large portion of the Democratic base will not support Hillary Clinton, should she become the nominee.  With allegations of voter fraud emerging from Florida, North Carolina and Illinois, and a DNC which has overtly been attempting to rig the primary process, many true liberals are feeling disenfranchised.  In a three way race, they might just stay home.

So, unless a true Republican could be induced to take a dive for the party, it would have to be another outsider running on the third party ticket and that would possibly put Ryan in a quandary.  If he named the Democrat as president, he would remove from the Republican party any license to play the victim at the hands of those Democrats.  If he selected the Third-Party candidate, the faithful would proclaim that the fix was in, and the party would be faced with rebuilding its base for the next decade.  And if he played the Trump card, he would not only risk the American economy, judicial system, a new war in the Middle East and deteriorating relationships with allies across the Western World, he would risk the Republican party becoming a global laughing stock, witnessed as the newest incarnation of a Papa Doc Duvalier led banana republic.

For these reasons and perhaps a few more, the Republican elders are more likely to do nothing, and continue to let the string play out.  “Perhaps,” they may think, “this train is still going to wreck and boy, we wouldn’t want to miss that!”  If they can make it to a brokered convention, they will have to wet a finger and see just how hard the political wind is blowing. 

They may determine that there is no choice but to let Trump run.  They may take him into a back room and make him an offer he can’t refuse; while his ego is immense, his love of money and the sense that he made a great deal might leave him open to an old-fashioned bribe to step aside.  Give him a huge cash settlement and make him ambassador to Monaco.

Or, they may wet the middle finger, test the wind with it and name Cruz or Kasich as their man with the plan.  If there are riots in the streets, well, it is only Cleveland.  Who’d notice?

Ultimately, if they choose to let this nation’s voters decide, the odds are that Trump will take the nomination and will be run against the Democratic nominee.  That is allowing this race to be run right down to the wire.  They could instruct the Super Pacs and Republican office holders to sit on their hands and let Trump play this game with his own money.  But he seems to have plenty of it. 

Then, it comes down to the Democratic candidate.  As I see it, Hillary is the Lou Costello to Trump’s Bud Abbott.  They were made for each other as they were made for entertaining, reality TV.  She is a large target with a string of scandals, a paltry legislative record, a history of failures as Secretary of State, lingering doubts about her honesty and the lurking and leering shadow of her womanizing better half.  All of Trump’s inadequacies as leadership material will have to be set against her on the record lies, obfuscations, legalese, flip-flops and her track record of not being able to work across party lines (let alone within her own party).  In a tragi-comic sense, she makes him look, if not good, acceptable.  And of course, this is a popularity contest.  This is emotion and gut.  People love a winner.  And people don’t like Hillary.

The only way to save this country, and the Republican Party by extension,  from the disaster that would be a Donald Trump presidency, may be to stack him up against Bernie Sanders.  Sanders has the record of achievement that Trump lacks.  Sanders speaks to the heart of the American population from inside.  He is one of us.  There are no scandals surrounding Sanders.  There are no flip-flops, no moral lapses, no equivocations or inconsistencies of political vision.  The socialist tag has not done him any harm.  His actions speak volumes to his integrity.  Like Trump, Bernie Sanders can’t be bought.  But unlike Trump, he is doing this with our money, given gladly by a population that loves the man and trusts the message.  Trump’s style of attack will not find its mark with Sanders.  Instead, Trump will be forced to actually debate Sanders on real issues, and will be shown to be the fool that he truly is.  When the American voter makes an emotional decision here, it will be between everyone’s favorite grandfather and their belligerent, drunken uncle. 

But there is a price to be paid by the Democratic party as well, and they may not be prepared to meet it.  The DNC has backed Hillary because Hillary represents business as usual.  Her election ensures the continued funding from Wall Street, the backing of lobbyists attached to the health insurance and big-pharmaceutical industries, and the quick death of a grass roots movement that might toss out long standing Democratic House and Senate members in favor of new blood who would work with a President Sanders to revive the middle and working classes.  The oligarchy is not prepared for a life in exile, and they fear that Sanders might be punching that ticket.  As the DNC carefully pointed out in explaining the role of their Super Delegates, the Democratic Party does not belong to the people, it belongs to the folks who know better, the elder statesmen of the party, the oligarchs themselves.

Come November, should Trump become the next President of the United States, history will forever blame the Republicans.  But those of us who live through it, will remember that the Democrats, through the actions of the DNC, were absolutely complicit.

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Time to Choose Your Revolution

peaceful revolution - JFK

In the wake of the most recent “Super Tuesday,” it is time to consider that a revolution may yet be coming to America.  The races are not over, by any stretch, but one thing that we have clearly seen is that among all of the candidates who have thrown hats into the ring this election cycle, two have garnered more attention and enthusiasm than any other, Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders.  And, while the two are vastly different as men, as political figures, and as representatives of particular economic classes in our society, there is one constant between them.  Each is calling for a revolution.

In Sanders’ case, he is calling for a political revolution which involves more and more people becoming involved in the political process, such that the leaders we elect better reflect the desires of the broader base of the population and will work together to point our country in a new direction.  His is a revolution based on leveling the playing field for all of us, so that no one economic strata of our society foots the bill for everyone else.  Instead, his desire is for the wealthiest members of our society to pay their fair share, for our country to guarantee as a right, decent health care to all Americans, for the greed that has taken over corporate America and Wall Street to be tempered so that working people have a chance to own a decent standard of living, for us to look to the future and provide all of our children the opportunity to become the best and brightest that they can be, because we will be relying on them to take over for us.  And he is calling for a nation that has given its young men and women to two decades of purposeless war to finally, give peace a chance.

Trump is calling for a very different kind of revolution.  His is based on the idea that our enemies are already in the process of taking over our country from within and without, with the solution that we need to send our immigrant populations home, deny aid to refugees who might be coming instead to attack us, force our economic will upon the world in the form of “great deals” which would strengthen our economy against those of China and third world nations, and secure our borders with a wall which would be visible from space.  He points to outsiders and says, “They hate us.”  He wants to “bomb the shit out of” our enemies abroad and enter into a database all of the ones at home who might be conspiring against us. 

One revolution is about including people in the process and one is about excluding anyone who does not think like him and his.  These two candidates have consistently drawn larger crowds than all of the others. That alone speaks to an understanding among our people that some manner of change must come.

What merits this revolution?  What is different this cycle or has mysteriously managed to focus all of our attention on something we previously had ignored?

Bernie Sanders points to the rigged system and there has been ample evidence of it.  Since the passage of Citizen’s United and the legislated understanding that “corporations are people,” the rise and overt nature of the Super Pacs has become abundantly clear.  Aside from Sanders and Trump, all of the other candidates receive their funding in large part from Super Pacs, organizations of wealthy individuals and corporations who choose candidates to support based on their willingness to endorse the agendas of those individuals and corporations.  There is an old story about Henry Ford, who once said that people could “have a Model T in any color they wanted, as long as it was black.”  As voters, we have come to see that we can vote for any candidate we choose, we just weren’t the ones choosing who ran in the first place.

We have also seen that the mainstream media has attempted to shut out Sanders and his campaign in favor of Hillary the Inevitable and the ever entertaining media darling, Donald Trump.  Understanding that 90% of the main stream media in America is owned by six enormous corporations, which lobby and own their own candidates, makes it easy to understand why they want nothing to do with a candidate who can not be bought.  And, even the DNC itself, has shown that it is part of that same rigged system, organizing debates to run at times when the fewest number of people would be watching, shutting out voters from the process by arriving without sufficient number of ballots, and disregarding President Obama’s own expressed desire to keep Wall Street money from buying Democratic candidates.  When the DNC looks us in the eye and tells us that their Super Delegates exist to make sure that the party is not subject to the will of voters choosing a grass roots candidate, we know the fix is in.

For his part, Trump has asserted time and again that he is self-funding and cannot be bought.  Instead, he exemplifies the section of our society doing the buying.  He is a classic, self-styled “power broker,” able to cite the law and rationalize why he is not to be bound by it.  Rather than come to a fuller understanding of the principles at the heart of our system of government, he deals in expedient and entirely whimsical reasons to thumb our collective noses at those values.  His ignorance shall be our strength.  His defiant scowl, reason enough.  As the world bows to Donald Trump, so shall it bow to America.  I am reminded of a line from an old episode of the Firesign Theater, “All for one and all for one.  Let’s hear it for me!”

But the foundations of this revolution run far deeper.

What we have come to understand about America since the start of this election cycle is deeply troubling.  Where we once thought of our government as sitting at the top of our society, perched like Olympus atop the mountain, we have now come to see that the government is not at the summit of our nation.  That is the playground of the wealthiest people and institutions in the country, the same ones who buy the candidates and the elections themselves.  Instead, the government serves as a buffer between them and us.  The laws are passed to benefit them, to benefit big corporations and big money, to insure that they become bigger still.  And in just the same way that a corporation shields, in a legal sense, the owners from the threat of loss due to lawsuit, the government shields them from us.  We can replace the government, but we can not replace them or their influence on our nation.

Karl Marx once called religion, “the opiate of the masses,” and John Lennon sang that “they’ll keep you doped on religion and sex and TV.”  What we have come to see is that on certain fundamental levels, nothing in our country ever changes.  Bones are thrown our way, to be sure.  The Affordable Care Act promises that we will all be able to purchase health insurance.  But just like something called a Smart phone, it is neither smart nor affordable. 

More often than not, those who own and run the country find ways to pit us against each other.  The rise for example, of evangelical christianity to a point where some 25% of the country’s population identifies itself as evangelical, directly corresponds to the time frame over which this country has become so polarized that Republicans and Democrats have become the Hatfields and the McCoys.  Through a calculated fear mongering aimed at an element of the religious right, evangelicals have been taught to believe that they are under attack from all sides.  Their understandable response has been to rise up in opposition of this perceived threat.  And that keeps everyone’s attention focused like Don Quixote on dragons that are not really there at all.

The endless battle over issues like abortion rights, gay marriage, gun control, corporate taxation, the role of the bible in our government and judicial system, even the birthplace and citizenship of the president, are all issues designed to divide us.  Like a magician’s sleight of hand, they serve the purpose of distracting our eyes from the real issues.  Today, our magicians are all in politics.  And what is politics but the art of convincing people that you are saying one thing, when in reality you are saying something completely different?

The still recent and lingering (despite what Washington tells us)  recession has illustrated what the real issue is; in America, the very wealthy are becoming more and more so, while the rest of us slip a little further down the slope with each year.  When the wealthiest fifteen individuals in the country have seen their earnings grow by $170 billion dollars in two years, and the wealthiest 1% of the country controls more wealth than the bottom 90%, all while they pay a lower percentage of their income in taxes than your average secretary, one must see that there is something fundamentally unjust in our system.  When the richest nation on the planet sees 40% of its population with no savings, living hand to mouth on the edge of poverty, worried that the next rise in health insurance or the cost of energy, might be the straw that breaks the camel’s back, something is fundamentally unjust in our system.  And when our politicians stare stone-faced at us and say that providing health care as a right to our people or free college tuition to our students, is impossible, despite the fact that much of the industrialized world does exactly that, something is fundamentally unjust in our system.

After all, is ours not a system of justice?  For so long, we have been taught that ours is not a democracy (where the mob can rule), ours is a republic, where there are laws which bind everyone, high and low.  Prove it.  The truth has become all to obvious; there is a class of people in this country who are above the law.  As Bernie Sanders pointed out, of the people on Wall Street who destroyed our economy, stole the retirement savings of countless Americans, and bankrupted cities to the point where they could not pay their retired workers the pensions they had bought and paid for, not a one went to jail.  Not a one was even indicted. 

And well we remember that even on the off chance that a scum bag like Marc Rich could be charged or convicted, the system, in the form of then President Bill Clinton, would pardon him and absolve him of his crime.  When Hillary Clinton laughs at the camera and tells you that she will never be indicted, you can believe her.  It matters not that there is or is not evidence against her that would merit an indictment.  What matters is that like Achilles, she has been dipped in the River Styx by the ruling class, and is nearly impervious.

But Sanders and Trump each know her Achilles’ heel.

And so a revolution may yet be coming to America.

Where establishment candidates like Clinton and Cruz are content to blame each other’s party, whilst wrapped in the flag or clutching their bibles, Sanders and Trump, like the majority of the voting public, know that the apple doesn’t rot far from the tree.  The system is broken, perhaps hopelessly so, and the engine of government needs to be completely overhauled or even replaced.

It is then up to us to decide.  Which revolution shall we choose?

Bernie Sanders has been careful to say, “I can’t do this alone.”  He needs the help of all of us, joining in the political process.  He understands the gridlock that is Washington and just how easy it would be for the Republicans to block his efforts as they have blocked President Obama’s.  But there is a difference this time around.  It just so happens that 88% of the House of Representatives is up for re-election this year.  If the grass roots movement is really paying attention, the chance is there for us to throw the bastards out, and make a real change, from within.  It will be hard, for certain, but if it is truly the will of the people, and the people choose to stand together, it can be done.  Unless, of course, the DNC does not print enough ballots, or the Super Pacs run enough smear campaigns.

Then, we might be left with Trump.  Why it has taken so long for him to terrify the Republican party, I do not know.  But terrify them, he has.  Today, there is even talk of running an independent candidate against Trump in the general election.  It would not be because that candidate might win; it is simply because that candidate might split the ticket and cause both to lose.  Many Republicans would rather see Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders in office, than to endure a Trump revolution.

It has been very interesting to me to see all of the comparisons of Trump to Adolph Hitler.  It is easy to make them, based on his attacks on minorities, outsiders and a particular religious group.  His posturing and scowl may owe more to Mussolini, but the comparison to Hitler is certainly warranted.  What worries me more is the style of his revolution.  In some ways, it has a greater resemblance to that of the Bolsheviks.

When the Bolsheviks overthrew the Czar and took control of Imperial Russia, they had before them the task of bringing the revolution to all corners of the empire.  So, while they could easily have exiled the Czar and his family to any one of a number of european countries (the royal families were all inter-related by birth or marriage), they chose instead to line them up against a wall and have them shot.  Years later, they acknowledged that this was done for one simple reason.  After the execution, there would be no turning back.

Trump’s rhetoric is increasingly backing him and his adherents into a corner.  The cult of Donald Trump allows for no errors of judgement, no statements of remorse, no admission of fallibility.  Any such event could topple him like a house of cards.  Instead, his revolution is targeted specifically at those who can not defend themselves.  His followers have been groomed for a generation to believe that they are already under attack and they have armed themselves to the teeth to defend their god, their freedom and their guns. 

Would Trump do something to advance the agenda of his revolution from which there could be no return?  If it was good for business, he just might.  He just might start a third world war with the Islamic world, because our country would then be mobilized into full industrial productivity, full employment for the war effort, and a booming economic forecast.  Think not?  Remember that World War II brought this country out of the Great Depression.

If this election is bringing revolution to America, our saving grace may be that it appears we will at least have a choice.  We can overhaul the engine from within or we an drive off the lot in a shiny new convertible, paid for in the misery of generations to come.  If we make the peaceful revolution impossible, we might make the violent revolution inevitable.

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Putting Some Perspective on Income Inequality

A number of different campaign strategies have evidenced themselves during this presidential election cycle.  Among the Republicans, much, if not most of the campaigning has been focused on the need to undo everything President Obama has done, and to insult anyone who holds a different idea or who may have smaller hands than yourself.  For Hillary Clinton, her primary strategy has been one of touting her years of experience, while distancing herself from what she actually said and did during those years of experience. 

Bernie Sanders, on the other hand, has spent a great deal of his campaign energy on the issue of income inequality in America and its impact upon the middle and working classes of this country.   He has expressed a number of plans for the country, chief among which are implementing a single payer health care system, creating a massive infrastructure rebuilding program to put many Americans back to work in meaningful jobs, and creating a program whereby our young people could go to state colleges and universities, tuition free.

Many pundits and the Clinton campaign have gone out of their way to say that Sanders’ ideas are unworkable, and on the surface it is very clear that they would indeed be costly.  So, as a matter of gaining some perspective on this, it is illustrative to actually break down some numbers and see how some aspect of his ideas could be made to work.

In a recent campaign video from Bernie Sanders on the nature of income inequality in America, he pointed out that the wealthiest fifteen people in America have seen their wealth increase by a combined total of $170 billion dollars in just the past two years.  Let us come to a deeper understanding of that.

For starters, who are these people?  According to Forbes Magazine, the wealthiest people in America are, in order: Bill Gates (Microsoft), Warren Buffet (Berkshire Hathaway), Larry Ellison (Oracle), David & Charles Koch (energy interests), Christy, Jim, Alice and S. Robson Walton (Walmart), Michael Bloomberg, Jeff Bezos (Amazon), Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook), Sheldon Adelson (casino mogul), Larry Page and Sergey Brin (Google). 

Did they really see their wealth increase by $170 billion dollars?  According to Statista.com, yes they did.  We think of their increase in wealth, rather than in earnings, because “earnings” has the suggestion of wealth gained through work.  For people in this income bracket, their money comes from many sources, most of which are outside of what we would traditionally think of as “working for a living.”  Essentially, their net worth as reported in 2013 was set against their net worth in 2015 and the difference was a gain of $170 billion dollars.

Now, you might think that these people pay out a tremendous percentage of their net worth in taxes, but, according to Forbes Magazine, their Fortune 400 pay on average about 22.9% of their income to the IRS.  That is less than the income tax rate on a single person earning $38,250 per year (remember when Warren Buffet said that he pays less by percentage in taxes than his secretary?).

For the purposes of discussion, let us look at this in a different light altogether.  First, we’ll divide that $170 billion dollar figure in half and call it one year’s earnings, $85 billion dollars.  Then, let’s imagine that we are taxing that income at a rate of 90%.

If we taxed $85 billion dollars at a 90% rate, the tax collected would be $76.5 billion and the amount retained by the wealthiest fifteen people in America would be $8.5 billion.  Divide that evenly among the wealthiest fifteen and each would see a net increase in their earnings of just $565 million. That is quite a chunk of change, lost to the taxman.  How would the wealthiest fifteen survive?

Well, if Bill Gates or Alice Walton or Charles Koch were to go into full on panic mode, and determine that he or she might never be able to work again, that $565 million could be stashed in one of the safest investments going, a United States Government Treasury Note.  Now, these notes pay only a very modest return, but they are backed by the federal government and as safe an investment as you can get.  Currently, they have a yield of 4.625% interest per year.  So, if $565 million was stashed in your name in a Government T-Note, and you were to live on the interest from it, never adding another dime to your savings, what would you get per year?  The answer is $26 million, 131 thousand, 250 dollars per year, every year.

Could you eke it out on $26 million a year?

The first part of putting income inequality into perspective is this.  If we took from the fifteen wealthiest people in America 90% of their earnings and forced them to survive on the interest alone from the investing of the 10% left to them, they would each still earn more in a year than the overwhelming majority of Americans could dream of earning in a lifetime.

Now, what of that $76.5 billion in tax that was collected?

In a simple equation, let’s assume that every penny of it was to be spent on providing free college tuition to students attending public (rather than private) state colleges and universities.  In 2015, the average cost of tuition and fees to in-state students at public stage colleges and universities was $9,410 per year.  The cost for same to out of state students was $23,893.  If we divide the tax collected by the cost of the tuition, we get the number of students who could attend college, free of charge.  In this example, those “in-state” students would number 8 million, 129 thousand, 649. 

So, the second part of putting income inequality into perspective is this.  If we as a nation determined that it was in the best interests of the country to educate our young people as fully as possible, so that they might take on leadership roles in business, science, medicine, education, government and the arts (!), and through their leadership, better support the rest of us as we slip into middle and old age, we could send over eight million of them per year to college, tuition free, on the taxes levied against just fifteen people.

Think that a 90% tax bracket is too high?  Remember the lyric to George Harrison’s song from 1966, “Taxman”:

“Let me tell you how it will be, there’s one for you, nineteen for me”

One for you and nineteen for me (the Taxman), is a tax rate of 95%, what the Beatles were paying in England in the mid 1960’s.  AND THEY STILL GOT RICH!

In fact, in the United States, the wealthiest income bracket between the years 1944 and 1963, had a tax rate which vacillated between 90% and 92%.  And what was the cut-off point?  Two hundred thousand dollars.  So, if you earned $200,000 in 1960, your tax liability was $180,000 of it.  That would leave you with just $20,000, but in 1960, $20,000 was roughly four times what an average school teacher earned per year, and three times what your average NFL star earned.  In other words, you would still be very well off.

In 1964, that tax rate dropped to 77% (still on $200K and up) and then to 70% as a top tax rate on the $100K and up bracket from 1965 until 1981.  In 1981, the tax rate for the wealthiest Americans dropped to 50% and it has continued to decline until today, where it stands at 39.6%.  Of course, that tax rate is on W-2 reported earnings, not on dividends, and it is set against various write-offs and tax havens.  This is why Forbes reports that the wealthiest four hundred people in America only pay about 23% of their earnings in taxes.

In the illustration of what taxing the wealthiest members of our society would do to provide for free tuition to public colleges, we looked at just fifteen people.  Bernie Sanders refers to the top 1% of our income earners, a group of people who collectively earn more than the bottom 90% combined.  If we get our priorities straight and make the wealthiest people in America pay their FAIR share (and it need not be as much as 90%), they would still be rich beyond our wildest dreams, and our country would be able to provide for its citizens and our own future.

Disregard the rhetoric; look at the candidates’ records.  And by all means, do the math.  That is why we send you for a free public education.

The Richest People in America:

http://www.statista.com/statistics/201426/the-richest-people-in-america/

How Much the Richest People in America Make:

http://money.cnn.com/2015/12/31/news/economy/richest-americans/

Information on T-Bonds, T-Notes and T-Bills:

http://www.thesimpledollar.com/making-sense-of-treasury-securities-treasury-bills-notes-and-bonds/

Cost of a College Education:

http://www.collegedata.com/cs/content/content_payarticle_tmpl.jhtml?articleId=10064

Federal Tax Rates by Year:

http://taxfoundation.org/article/us-federal-individual-income-tax-rates-history-1913-2013-nominal-and-inflation-adjusted-brackets

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The Role of Judgement & the Other Government

Today, I was reminded of a conversation I had had with one of my sons, when he was about seven years old.

“Dad,” he said, “what is government?”

Of course, as an adult I knew that government is a very complex organism, but I tried to give the seven year old a basic understanding of it.

“Well, government is a group of people whom the rest of us choose to go to a special meeting place and work with each other to express our wishes for how to change the country and keep making it the best place it can be for us to live.  And, since the rest of us don’t agree all the time on what changes need to be made, we send these people, called representatives, to talk to each other, argue out the details and try to come up with solutions that benefit everyone.”

“Okay.  And what if we don’t get what we want?”

“We can change the person whom we send to speak for us.  We do that in an election, every few years.”

“Okay.  So Florida sends a person, and Pennsylvania sends a person, and Texas sends a person?”

“Right.  Every state sends people to speak for them in the government.”

“And France and England send people?”

“Well, no, the government is for the people from the fifty states and a few other places, like Puerto Rico and Guam and the Virgin Islands.”

“How do England and France get what they want?  I mean, from us?”

“Well, we have this part of the government, called the State Department, and their job is to work with the governments of other countries, to make friends where they can, and to make sure that American people and American businesses are safe and protected by the governments of other countries when they are living or working there.”

“Okay.  But we choose the people in the State Department, right?”

“Umm, no, some of the people in the State Department are there because it is a job that they were hired to do by the other people that we did send to the government.  And some of the people, the leaders at the State Department, are given their jobs by the President that we elect.”

“But the State Department does what we want it to do.  Right?”

“That’s the idea.  But truthfully, we often don’t really know what the State Department is doing.  A lot of it is kept kind of quiet.”

“Oh.”

Thinking this way, trying to take a complex issue and boil it down to its essential components, makes you realize how onion-like our government really is.  In that sense of layers upon layers, we get to vote for a President or a representative to Congress, and we are somehow led to believe that these are the people at the center of the government.  It might be argued that they represent only the outermost layer.  What is inside the onion, hidden at the core, are the layers of government who are appointed, hired into the mailroom and brought up through the ranks, or given a position out of nepotism or the sense of a favor owed.  And it is these people, people who do not answer directly to the voters of this country, who do the bidding of the government behind the scenes, the Other Government.

Of course, they answer to the people we elect (or at least, that is the plan).  But we often fail to get “progress reports” from our elected officials.  And so, much of what they do, behind the scenes, is also under the radar, and not necessarily in our best interests.

Of chief concern to most of us, would be the actions of the FBI / Homeland Security and the State Department / CIA.  As citizens, we want to know that our guaranteed freedoms remain guaranteed, so we want to keep tabs on the FBI and Homeland Security Departments and their surveillance of or spying into our own affairs.  And it is with the State Department that we need to know that their actions are making the world safer for Americans to inhabit, both at citizens and as business people.  The CIA?  Well, that has become a whole ‘nother kettle of fish, entirely.

In recent weeks, and particularly since the addition of Representative Tulsi Gabbard to the Bernie Sanders campaign, the issue of judgement in terms of our foreign policy has come to the fore.  We have already heard from the Republican side of the aisle, in the form of Ted Cruz and Donald Trump and their plans to “carpet bomb” or “bomb the shit out of” ISIS.  As an expression of foreign policy, it is direct, to say the least.  It also is manifestly illegal by any and all International Conventions on war.

Recently, Donald Trump had stated that he would ramp up the use of torture as a means of leveling the playing field between us and ISIS, and that the military would follow his orders to torture prisoners and even murder the families of terrorists.  They won’t.  The United States military swears an allegiance to the Constitution, not the President.  They follow the laws of our land and the International Conventions on warfare.  They do not do the President’s bidding.

That is the job for “the other government.”  That is the job for the government which we do not get to elect, and it is the number one reason that we have to focus on the judgement of the people we do elect.

The State Department functions, in many ways, like its own government.  It makes agreements with other nations and establishes laws that exist between multiple countries.  It gathers information.  It has the task of making the world a better place for Americans and American business.  And, since the end of the Second World War, it has had its own army to act as an agent of change.  That army is the CIA.

At the end of the Second World War, the CIA grew out of the old OSS and became the chief tool for gathering information and implementing “compulsory change” in our dealings outside our own borders.  As an organization, it is tasked with two responsibilities, gathering intelligence and covert operations.  And, since about 1953, these operations have often involved the changing of regimes in other countries.  There is not enough room here to delve into too many specifics, so there is a link at the bottom of this article to a timeline of CIA operations.  Suffice it to say, the United States, through its agent, the CIA, has played a large part in the changing of numerous regimes in the Caribbean, South and Central America, and the Middle East:

1953 – Iran, Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh overthrown in favor of the Shah

1954 – Guatemala, President Jacobo Arbenz forced from power

1959 – Haiti, CIA installs Papa Doc Duvalier and his private police force, the Tonton Macoutes

1960 – Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba assassinated by the CIA

1961 – Ecuador, President Jose Velasco forced to resign

1961 – Dominican Republic, Rafael Trujillo assassinated with CIA support

1961 – Cuba, CIA led attempt to remove Castro from power fails in Bay of Pigs disaster

1963 – South Viet Nam, puppet leader Ngo Dinh Diem, originally installed by the CIA in the late 1950’s, removed and executed with CIA support 

1963 – Dominican Republic, Juan Bosch overthrown and military junta installed by CIA

1964 – Brazil, President Joao Goulart, thought to be moving toward a communist style government, removed in a coup with CIA support and Humberto Castello Branco, chief of staff of the military, installed as head of government

1973 – Chile, Salvador Allende, socialist President elected in 1970 is overthrown in CIA backed coup, and General Augusto Pinochet is installed

1989 – Panama, Manuel Norriega removed from power and President Guilllermo Endara sworn in

2001 – Afghanistan, CIA works in support of US led invasion to oust the Taliban

2003 – Iraq, Saddam Hussein is ousted from power.  The CIA had originally supported Hussein with arms, training and intelligence as an ally against the Iranian revolutionary regime

2011 – Libya, CIA support of rebels in Libya leads to the capture and assassination of Muammar Gaddafi, but many of the arms we delivered found their way into the hands of ISIS and other Islamic terrorist factions, culminating in the attack on the US embassy in Benghazi

2016 – Syria???

2017 – Mexico??

The general idea is that the President sends as his or her emissary, the Secretary of State, to pursue the interests of the United States in foreign locales.  In recent years, John Kerry has fulfilled that function.  Prior to Kerry, that job belonged to Hillary Clinton for a four year stretch under President Obama’s first term.  And today, Hillary Clinton is running for Obama’s office. 

While she can certainly lay claim to having the most foreign policy experience of any candidate, Republican or Democrat, running for President in this cycle, she can not lay claim to demonstrating particularly good judgement in that capacity.  Under her watch, the efforts we had made in rebuilding the nation that is Iraq unraveled into chaos that allowed for the rise of ISIS.  Her leadership in Libya provided for the arming of rebels who in may cases turned out to be the very terrorists we hoped to suppress.  And now, in Syria, we are still trying to sort out the disaster that she left as she attempted to oust Assad and the influence of the Russians with him. 

It is now becoming clearer that along with the support of the CIA, then-Secretary Clinton entered into an arrangement with the governments of Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar to support their countries with arms and materiel, while they provided the ground forces to overthrow Assad and fight ISIS.  A lot of American armaments have been moving into that often unstable and unpredictable area of the world, much to the dismay of our largest ally there, Israel, and to one of our chief adversaries in that region, Iran.  One supposition is that our recent agreement in economic support of the Iranian regime, was really an overture meant to calm tensions which had arisen from our arming of its neighbors.

One of the reasons that Hillary Clinton’s email scandal refuses to die is simply this; by refusing to establish a secure, government provided server for her email correspondence, Secretary Clinton created a situation in which our own government was not immediately privy to the complexity of her dealings with foreign governments.  No one knows what quid pro quo may have transpired outside the realm of government business to “grease the wheels.”  While the Secretary was negotiating the arming of Saudi Arabia, for example, the Saudi government was contributing millions of dollars to the Clinton Foundation.  In total, during Hillary Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State, the State Department approved $165 billion dollars in commercial arms sales to twenty countries which had all donated sizable sums to the Clinton Foundation.  And sixteen of those same countries received a further $151 billion in separate deals through the Pentagon.  Not too surprisingly, a number of American defense contractors, the beneficiaries monetarily of those sales, were also large donors to the Clinton Foundation.  While that might just be a coincidence, it would certainly require that the left hand did not know what the right hand was doing.

Our country has a history of involvement in the world outside its own borders, going all the way back to Stephen Decatur and the Barbary Coast Pirates in 1801.  Since the end of the Second World War however, much of that history has been written with the aide of the CIA, and that history is not very glorious.  Nearly every instance of regime change that we have undertaken has ended disastrously and has spoken to the poor judgement of our State Department and the hubris of our own intelligence community.  What we have seen from Mrs. Clinton is poor judgement on a grand scale and the lingering concerns that her office was corrupt, for sale to the highest bidder, and actively engaged in flying under the radar of her own government.

Whomever becomes the next President of the United States is going to appoint his or her own Secretary of State and that person is going to do the bidding of the American government and by extension, the American public in the world of foreign affairs.  That President and that Secretary of State needs to exemplify sound judgement in order for this country to repair its relationships with much of the rest of the world.  As voters, we need to think not only of the government that we will elect, but also of the other government which our elected officials will install at the heart of the onion.  We can always vote out a President if we feel we have made a mistake in our judgement.  But mistakes in his or her judgement can haunt this nation for generations.

Hillary Clinton’s Foreign Policy Disasters:

http://observer.com/2016/03/its-time-to-talk-about-hillarys-foreign-policy-faux-pas/

Arms deals and the Clinton Foundation:

http://www.ibtimes.com/clinton-foundation-donors-got-weapons-deals-hillary-clintons-state-department-1934187

Timeline of CIA operations:

http://www.globalresearch.ca/a-timeline-of-cia-atrocities/5348804

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