No. of Recommendations: 9
How We Got Here
Where Are We Headed?

By Way of Introduction

I would like to take a moment before getting into the real reason for this post to introduce myself to members of this board. I feel this is important because in reviewing several posts in the process of choosing this board, the style I use is different, but I believe complimentary.

I am a retired self-managed investor whose portfolio is a key component in maintaining and enhancing the lifestyle of my wife and myself. My connection to The Motley Fool (TMF) goes back to their fledgling operation in the early 1990’s. I became a member of TMF in 1998 and can remember the experiments with Fribbles and investing styles (mechanical investing anyone?). I succumbed to the relentless marketing campaign joining the Million Dollar Portfolio (MDP) in August 2008, just in time to enjoy a wonderful ride on the rollercoaster. I make fun of the marketing campaign, but I suspect it may be part of the reason many of you may have chosen to increase your involvement with TMF. I have learned to ignore the campaign because MDP meets my needs and if necessary, I can chose to add additional services.

I do not post often, but apparently what I do post is appreciated because I seem to have acquired a following within the MDP Community, which brings up my style. I am a firm believer in TMF’s banner – “To Educate, Amuse & Enrich.” As a self-managed investor, I recognize the importance of our community and the contribution each member makes. Since joining MDP, I made it a point to read at least 98% of the posts on all the various MDP boards. In the process of reading those posts, I find the more I know, the more I do not know and need to learn to improve. To me, learning is a lifelong process that begins in earnest after you leave the classroom. I use my posts to share my knowledge because I find I learn from those who accept the invitation to become a part of the dialogue. The result is we as a community often gain something far more important than the knowledge shared – and that is wisdom.

This preface is important because the topic which is the focal point of this board can be emotionally charged with individuals having hard positions and opinions. I attempt to present ideas and offer a variety of ways to look at the same subject. This should be familiar territory for anyone who is serious about investing. When making your investment decision, you look at many sources, construct bull and bear arguments, consider valuation in relation to the current share price, call up any experience you may have with similar companies in the same or similar industries, and then you decide if you will become an owner of this company or not. Even when the initial decision is made, you are not finished. For those companies you invest in or place on your watch list, you will continue to gather information and re-evaluate your decision in light of the new information.

What I will be doing in the topics presented in this post is asking you to go through the process of evaluating the ideas. You may agree or disagree with what is presented, but what I want you to do is approach the argument with an open mind much as you would a bull / bear discussion for an investment decision and be willing to examine how the information impacts your belief. Does it strengthen it? Does it weaken it? No impact? Is there something missing you wish to add which may change the direction of the argument? In no way am I implying the position presented is the one and only right argument. It is what I believe based on reading and research completed at this point in time. The intent of this post is to identify a decision on your vote is as important as any investment decision you may make and should be approached with the same due diligence.

The Journey Begins

I found an article which I believe will be of wide interest to the members of our community. I have chosen to ask you to read it initially because the focus needs to be on the ideas and concepts in hopes it will be a learning experience for you. As I read and re-read sections of the article, thoughts and arguments from a variety disparate sources were pulled together in a mosaic that sharpened in clarity as the individual pieces were placed in their respective positions. After reading, and reflecting on your thoughts, please return to this post as I share the mosaic created from my reading. I hope you will find this exercise stimulating, thought provoking, and creates a spark which will lead to taking action to let your voice be heard in a meaningful way. Grab a cup of coffee, take out your pen and pad to make notes as you see fit. The Tax-Cut Con

I hope you took the time to read the entire article. If not, please do so now because the remainder of this post will have more meaning.


This is an involved post with many sections and a lot for you to consider. My wife says I am crazy, it will not be read because it is too long. I have to trust as you read the outline of what is included you will be enticed to explore the ideas in a more in depth manner and perhaps enter into a dialogue from which all will benefit. A great deal of thought and effort went into creating this post. The reward will come if it helps you clarify in your on mind the foundation upon which you will decide your political action and votes. To help provide a framework, the following major sections are identified:

A Review of Critical Points in the Article – I asked that you read the entire article and take notes. The following is a review of what I believe are the important ideas. You may agree or disagree with me, but I believe taken together they present a powerful story, more than ever considering they were written more than eight years ago.

Path To Prosperity(?) – This spring the House of Representatives passed what they consider to be the path to prosperity. I provided the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) initial analysis and a link to the bill as passed in the House. After reviewing the information, hold your thoughts until you read the remainder of this post

A Framework for An Orderly Conduct of Daily Interchange – This is the fall season when we become engrossed in football at multiple levels. I use a sports analogy to help identify the role of government in our society and its importance.

Back to Civics – An Understanding of Roles – In preparing this post, a review of comments made by a variety of individuals indicated a basic lack of understanding of how our government is designed to function. Thus, I have included links to our Constitution and its Amendments. The obstructionist nature of a single individual in our legislative process becomes starkly clear when I provide a current example of a bill addressing a safety issue which literally involves life and death, is supported by industry, with overwhelming bipartisan support, and yet its progress is impeded by a single individual. That example is provided in A Time for Action.

Harsh Words – You Be the Judge if They are Deserved – I had written a post previously in which I called out the House of Representatives for their inaction and presented an argument to back up the criticism. I felt it appropriate to include it in this post, especially after the Civics Lesson.

Disaster Recovery – A True Exercise in Hypocrisy – The timing of the debate on Disaster Recovery, how it is to be funded, provides a poignant example for the previous section. I read all the debates on the House floor from September 20 – 23rd and have included two excerpts which I believe frame the issue properly. I have also included information on finding the debates so you may read them in their entirety if you are so inclined.

Penny Wise – Pound Foolish – One of the ways in which our economy grows and prospers is by having creative and innovative individuals. Many of the jobs today did not exist even five years ago. And there will be as yet undefined jobs created in the future. Yet, we continue to reduce funding for education saying we cannot afford it while other countries see the promise and rewards and are increasing their commitment to developing creative and innovative individuals, ready to propel their economies and country forward.

Cut It or Shut It! – A brief look at a faction of one of our major parties in their own words. They came into power in 2010 with what they call a mandate to impose their ideology. Is it really a mandate? Do you realize we have had three near government shutdowns since the 112th Congress started its session on January 3, 2011?

The Pledge – Shining a light on a pledge signed by a significant number of our legislators. Are tax cuts actually a form of spending that require an offsetting reduction in other areas of the budget to impose fiscal responsibility? The answer may be found in a Brookings study. The important question to ask your legislators is - Do they honor the pledge created by a lobbyist or the Oath of Office taken when they assumed their position?

Lowering Tax Rates on the “Job Creators” – There is a belief that by lowering the taxes on our “Job Creators” we will eliminate the unemployment problem. They have sufficient money now – how will the addition of more money convince them to use it to create the necessary jobs? And if not money, what is preventing them from creating jobs now?

Sense of Entitlement and The Need for Humility – Elizabeth Warren is running for Senator in the state of Massachusetts, and while being significantly outspent, has expressed an idea that money cannot buy. Does this really bring us back to reality far more than all the reality TV shows?

Going According to Plan – An examination of a theory we are fighting the wrong war. I do not have answers but feel it is important to bring forth the question, asking for your thoughts or ideas.

A Time for Action – You may agree or disagree with all or part of what is written. It is presented for your thoughtful consideration. I provided links enabling you to contact your representatives, the only caveat being you present your arguments thoughtfully and respectfully, and be open to dialogue.

Follow Up Review – You read the article that served as the inspiration leading me to create this post and do the necessary research. I provided a link to a follow up review of the original article which I believe you will find interesting and informative.

A Review of Critical Points in the Article

When I first read the article, I skimmed the byline and did not take particular note of it. Upon finishing, I looked and found this particular piece was written more than eight years ago – how prophetic are these words in reflecting our current fiscal and political climate? Knowing on the internet, dates are not always what they seem, I researched the archives of the publication to confirm its authenticity and the fact it had not been updated in the meantime.

As investors, we either with ourselves or with fellow investors construct bull and bear arguments before making investment decisions and committing our resources. I previously ask you to thoughtfully read the article and take notes as you saw fit. What I have done is summarize what I believe are strong points, adding links to supporting information from other sources as appropriate, and then provide phrases from which it is possible to find the starting point within Professor Krugman’s article for review.

It is necessary to use the following procedure to avoid Copyright issues and stay within The Fool Community Posting Guidelines ( ) and Terms of Service ( ). This will enable you to expeditiously find the particular idea I am summarizing within Professor Krugman’s article:

• Open a separate window using this link - The Tax-Cut Con in pdf format. This window may be used to find multiple phrases.

• If you wish to review the section of the article being summarized, a phrase will be provided in this post that should be copied to be used in a search of the pdf file.

• After copying the provided phrase, go to the separate window and right click within the file. A “Find” function will appear within the drop down box of selections. Click the “Find” function.

• A dialogue box will appear within the file in the upper right hand corner with a section for entering your search argument. Paste the phrase copied from this post.

• Click the Down Arrow at the end of the section where you just completed your paste. A series of selections will appear – choose “Find Next in Current PDF”. This will take you to the precise starting point within the article.

• Repeat the process from the second bullet point on to search for additional phrases.

When finished, I will lay out a course of action. This may be as interactive as you wish, either supporting the case, identifying aspects not considered, and/or presenting counter arguments. My hope is we will have learned more about ourselves and what we value for our country. As you re-read the sections of the original article, it is very important to remember this was written more than eight years ago and to put these words into today’s context.

This first excerpt is important because it is an example of how the author is through in his documentation. The quotation attributed to George W. Bush (“… in August 2001 he called the disappearing surplus ''incredibly positive news'' because it would put Congress in a ''fiscal straitjacket.'') is actually from a press conference question and answer session. To me it is odd to we would have a president of the United States expressing this sentiment, even more so when we look at his record spending in the remainder of his presidential term.

A good explanation of the concept is found in the following from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. After reading the excerpt, you may want to follow the link to a more detailed treatment of the concept including History and Political Commentary:

"Starving the beast" is a fiscal-political strategy of some American conservatives[1][2] to cut taxes, depriving the government of revenue in an effort to create a fiscal budget crisis that would then force the federal government to reduce spending. The assumption is that the government would not spend beyond its means (taxes). History has shown, however, that the US government - "the beast" - has instead borrowed money to maintain or increase its continued spending, generally resulting in increased United States public debt rather than dramatic reductions in the size or scope of government.”

As noted in Professor Krugman’s article and from other sources, starve-the-beast relies on tax cuts to achieve its ends, with the emphasis in higher tax cuts for the rich and a series of deductions for lower income tax payers such that their Federal Income tax is low or non-existent. The concept came to be defined as “Lucky duckies - … a term that was used in Wall Street Journal editorials starting on 20 November 2002 to refer to Americans who pay no federal income tax because they are at an income level that is below the tax line (after deductions and credits).”

One of the “Lucky duckies” sent this reply to the editor of the Wall Street Journal, a suggestion really:

“I will spend a year as a Wall Street Journal editor, while one lucky editor will spend a year in my underpaid shoes. I will receive an editor's salary, and suffer the outrage of paying federal income tax on that salary. The fortunate editor, on the other hand, will enjoy a relatively small federal income tax burden, as well as these other perks of near poverty: the gustatory delights of a diet rich in black beans, pinto beans, navy beans, chickpeas and, for a little variety, lentils; the thrill of scrambling to pay the rent or make the mortgage; the salutary effects of having no paid sick days; the slow satisfaction of saving up for months for a trip to the dentist; and the civic pride of knowing that, even as a lucky ducky, you still pay a third or more of your gross income in income taxes, payroll taxes, sales taxes and property taxes …”

E. J. Dionne wrote the following in The Washington Post in November 2002, nearly nine years ago:

“Prepare yourself for the latest cause of the political right: You are about to hear a great deal about how working Americans at the bottom of the economy are not paying enough in taxes…”

“And the truth is, low- and middle-income people do pay a lot in taxes. They just don't happen to pay the taxes that supply-side conservatives want to cut….”

“If the goal of welfare reform is to encourage work, we ought to be thinking of more ways of lifting the fortunes of the poorly paid. That's not class warfare. It's good policy. The last thing we need to worry about is whether poor Americans are taxed too little.”

What has been the recent line in relation to increasing taxes on the highest earners? We have a significant segment of our population that does not pay any Federal Income tax – we need to increase their taxes. Mr. Dionne provides informative examples of who pays what in taxes, putting it into perspective. It is well worth the time to follow the link and read his short article. Low-Income Tax Payers: New Meat for the Right

Here is another viewpoint:
“What's scary is that the problem is self-perpetuating. The more the tax burden falls on the wealthy, the easier it becomes for opponents of tax cuts to claim that a given tax cut plan "only benefits the wealthy." Of course it does. Because the wealthy are the only ones paying taxes. Nevertheless, it then becomes harder and harder to sell a tax cut to a voting public where 25 percent of voters pay 84 percent of taxes. That other 75 percent gets very protective.
It's time for a politician with moxie to stand up and say what no politician would never say: It's time to tax the poor.”,2933,83696,00.html Tax the Poor

And another viewpoint:

“Emboldened by the midterm election, key conservative ideologues have now declared their support for tax increases - but only for people with low incomes.” Hey, Lucky Duckies!

As you look at the thoughts and articles cited in the last three links you would think they reflect today’s political climate. In reality, all these articles were written in 2002 and 2003. The only difference between then and now is the deficit and debt are much higher.

For those wishing to refer back to Professor Krugman’s original article, the phrase to copy is: The starve-the-beast doctrine and the section ends with 'blood boiling with tax rage.''

Securing the Base and Sunset Clauses
The 2001 and 2003 tax cuts were sold to the public in a variety of ways – returning “excessive surpluses” (what happened to using the surplus to pay down the existing debt?), to serve as a demand side stimulus (of which its ineffectiveness and failure is well documented), and finally by reducing taxes on dividend income, it would improve incentives and long run growth. None of the rationales was really true for a variety of reasons. The only reasonable explanation was to court wealthy contributors for the Republican party – individuals who benefited from lower taxes. In the process, the deficits and debt began a serious upward trend, and continued an established concentration of income and wealth for the highest 1% (more on this later). To conceal the actual cost of the tax cuts, the cuts were designed with expiration periods – Sunset Clauses.

For those wishing to refer back to Professor Krugman’s original article, the phrase to copy is: Second Wind: The Bush Tax Cuts – please review the entire section

What can we really expect?
Since our current president took office in January 2009, we have not added significant new programs, yet the deficit and debt continue their upward climb. I was very specific in not providing a name for our current President because the name or political party is immaterial – policies enacted would not have prevented the increases, and in some analysis, would have made the increases greater. Even Paul Ryan’s “Path to Prosperity” (which will be addressed in the next section) acknowledges the increased level will continue to rise significantly over the next decade.

So why are we still seeing increases in government outlays? Two reasons and why the emphasis needs to be on providing jobs. Reason 1 – an increase in unemployment decreases government revenue all other things being equal. Reason 2 – an increase in unemployment increases government expenses as safety net items kick in (i.e., unemployment insurance and food stamps) to slow or stabilize the decline temporarily at a lower level and buying time to devise and initiate policies to enable recovery to begin.

Without those safety net items, it is true government expenses would not rise as fast. But the flip side of that coin is the decline would be more widespread and pronounced, reaching a far lower level before stabilizing, impacting a significantly larger share of our population, making recovery more difficult. Remember also, government revenues would also join the downward path, as a result, services may be cut. This is what the extreme ideologues desire. Their view is no government is good government.

Remember these quotes from Grover Norquist, cited from a number of different sources –

“The other camp in the tax-cut crusade actually welcomes the revenue losses from tax cuts. Its most visible spokesman today is Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, who once told National Public Radio: ''I don't want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub.'' And the way to get it down to that size is to starve it of revenue. ''The goal is reducing the size and scope of government by draining its lifeblood,'' Norquist told U.S. News & World Report.” The Tax-Cut Con

Later in this post I will examine the argument and you decide if the extreme position is realistic?

Re-read Professor Krugman’s conclusion. The phrase to copy is: What Kind of Country? – please read the entire section.

To sum up the author’s case, we have a faction within our country that believes we do not need government. Behind the scenes and over time, that faction has been working to weaken the fabric that holds our country together. Ten years ago, two years before the author put thoughts to paper, it was well known the aging of the baby boom generation would put a strain on our economy. Let’s look at some major events and how they have weakened our economy such that those who want to do away with government now have a stronger hand.

• Beginning of 2001, government was experiencing a surplus that by Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates would have eliminated the then existing debt (approximately $5.6 trillion) in ten years. Result – strengthening the economy in preparation for the aging baby boom generation. Remember the words attributed to the President at the time when the surplus evaporated – “: in August 2001 he called the disappearing surplus ''incredibly positive news'' because it would put Congress in a ''fiscal straitjacket.''

• June 7, 2001 – The Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001 signed into law. Result – weakened economy by increasing deficits and debt (the net return on the dollars invested was negative, i.e., we invested a dollar, we received less than a dollar back.)

• October 7, 2001 – The Afghanistan War started - unpaid expense adding to the deficit and debt

• March 20, 2003 – The Iraq War started – unpaid expense adding to the deficit and debt

• May 28, 2003 - The Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2003 signed into law. Many questioned the wisdom of cutting taxes while the country was waging two wars – weakened the economy by increasing the deficits and debt (the net return on the dollars invested was negative, i.e., we invested a dollar, we received less than a dollar back.)

• December 8, 2003 - Medicare Modernization Act (Medicare Part D – Drug Benefit) signed into law. An unfunded program made more expensive because the government was prevented from negotiating drug prices with the pharmaceutical companies – unpaid expense adding to the deficit and debt.

• November 21, 2008 – Major recession started, worst since Great Depression, requiring extraordinary measures just to stabilize a greatly weakened economy and prevent a further slide – unpaid expense adding to the deficit and debt.

• 2011 – First of Baby Boom Generation turning 65 – weakened Federal Government ill prepared by deficit spending, debt, and weak economy

The net result of the past decade (remember we started the decade with a surplus) was a debt of $11 trillion and rising, an economy struggling to stabilize and then grow, an environment ripe with fear and anxiety, just what those who say we do not need government need to sow their seeds of discontent and strengthen there argument for dismantling the very programs that have provided a safety net for hundreds of millions of Americans over the decades with the argument – “we cannot afford it!!”

As we leave this review, I will give you a question to ponder – How is anyone’s pay determined? It is important to understand in the United States we measure the worth of an individual by how many toys have they collected and how big is their paycheck. We will tackle the answer later in this post.

Path To Prosperity(?)

Just as an aside, if you have not done so previously, you may want to read Paul Ryan’s “Path to Prosperity” passed by the House of Representatives this spring. The following was taken from the CBO Preliminary Analysis of the proposal. It is interesting to note that even after the government has shifted the cost of medical care to the individual, it is not until 2040 that the federal budget would begin to show a “slight” surplus. What happens to the federal debt in the meantime – it continues to grow, more than doubling from its current level. Is this really the path to prosperity?

“Effects of the Proposal on the Federal Budget
According to CBO’s projections, Chairman Ryan’s proposal would significantly reduce mandatory outlays for health care relative to the amounts projected in both of CBO’s long-term scenarios. In addition, the proposal would substantially reduce spending on other mandatory programs (other than Social Security) and discretionary programs compared with the amounts projected in CBO’s long-term scenarios. Those reductions, combined with no proposed changes to Social Security and with the path
of revenues specified by the Chairman’s staff, would result in much lower deficits and debt in the long run than the amounts in CBO’s scenarios. Under the proposal, the federal budget would show a deficit of about 2 percent of GDP in 2022, a slight surplus in 2040, and a surplus of about 4 percent of GDP in 2050. The ratio of debt to GDP would fall sharply—from about 70 percent of GDP in 2022 to about 10 percent in 2050.” Long-Term Analysis of a Budget Proposal by Chairman Ryan Restoring America’s Promise

“Under the proposal …” It is important to understand the foundation on which the findings are based. Following is a quote and links to two articles that address weaknesses in the foundation:

“Ryan also claims that his proposal has the imprimatur of the CBO. The budget document declares: “According to the Congressional Budget Office, this budget charts a path to complete balance. By 2040, the CBO estimates that this budget will produce annual surpluses and begin paying down the national debt.”

This seriously overstates the case.

Yes, CBO has produced a letter in which it plugged various data, plans and scenarios provided by Ryan’s staff into its budget database. But just as Republicans have repeatedly complained about the cost estimates associated with the Obama health-care law, this document largely reflects the scenarios that Ryan has concocted.’ Fact Checker: Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget blueprint Ludicrous and Cruel

Finally, a good source of information on the “Path to Prosperity” may be found in the Wikipedia treatment of the subject (from which some of the references above are sourced):

A Framework for An Orderly Conduct of Daily Interchange

The argument of those who wish to do away with government is that it is too big, intrusive and full of regulations that stifle private enterprise. A sports analogy might be appropriate for this discussion. As kids, you probably remember playing pick up games in which on the spur of the moment there were a sufficient number of interested individuals to form teams and play. Often, there was a lose set of rules which everyone agreed upon, and there were some rules that were made as you played. The difficulty occurred when not all agreed to the ad hoc rules and arguments ensued. If we step it up and consider high school, collage, and professional sports, we have rule making bodies that are established and maintain consistent rules, providing the individuals who help interpret those rules (umpires, referees, judges, etc.), enabling an orderly and consistent environment. This environment allows for the safety and enjoyment of those who participate and watch. Is it perfect – no. There will always be situations that were not previously identified that the rules do not cover. There will be rules which once instituted have unintended consequences. Unlike the pick up games in which there is a disagreement on the ad hoc rule, an orderly process and framework is established by which rules can be thoroughly evaluated and modified as necessary. Step it up one more time and you now have a better understanding of the role of government.

Lets examine some of the ways in which government interacts with you on a daily basis and then you judge if you could do without them. Could you:

• Inspect the plane you are about to board to ensure all required maintenance is done, safety equipment is available, and pilots are properly trained and certified to fly this plane?

• Ensure that semi-truck that you just passed on the highway met all the required safety requirements (does it have brakes to stop if you should stop suddenly?) and the driver is qualified to operate the vehicle?

• Ensure the steak you are about to put on your plate for dinner is free of harmful bacteria and has been properly handled as it makes its way from the cow to your dinner table?

• Certify the water you about to drink is safe to drink, be it bottled or tap?

• Ensure the credit card company which provides your credit card does not have hidden fees?

• Ensure the drugs you are taking are safe and do what they are supposed to do?

• Ensure you are able to enjoy many varieties of recreation opportunities at a reasonable cost?

• Ensure the mail you are sending to your sister, brother, mother, father, or others is properly delivered at a reasonable cost?

• Ensure the highway bridge you crossed will be there in safe condition the next time you need to use it? Minneapolis-St. Paul anyone?

• Avoid “Bill Shock” (perhaps $500 or more than your expected monthly bill and which you are legally required to pay) when you have exceeded your minutes, text, or data plan limits (by the way, you have 22 months to go on your two-year plan so changing carriers is not a realistic option)?

• Ensure the Cuyahoga River will not burn?

The last item on the list is not there to be funny, but to illustrate the importance of regulation. The river did in fact burn, not once, but multiple times as companies along its banks dumped waste directly into the river without regard to its harmful effects.

“There have reportedly been at least thirteen fires on the Cuyahoga River, the first occurring in 1868.[12] The largest river fire in 1952 caused over $1 million in damage to boats and a riverfront office building.[13] Fires erupted on the river several more times before June 22, 1969, when a river fire captured the attention of Time magazine, which described the Cuyahoga as the river that "oozes rather than flows" and in which a person "does not drown but decays."[14]” Cuyahoga River

The Cuyahoga River story is but one of many that illustrates the importance having and enforcing adequate regulation of private enterprise. A more recent one is the contribution a lack of regulation played in precipitating the Great Recession. Businesses complain they are over regulated and perhaps in some instances that may be true. In cases where it can be established the specific regulation is counter productive, it can be changed or eliminated as necessary. But the need for regulation grew from the excesses of private enterprise that proved harmful to society as a whole.

The list above is by no means exhaustive. But it does illustrate all the many daily things we encounter and take for granted they will be safe and do us no harm. It also indicates the variety of knowledge you would need to acquire to make decisions on your safety that is now not necessary. Those who view government as unnecessary dismiss and call those who work for the government as superfluous and non-essential. I believe the examples cited refute that argument.

Back to Civics – An Understanding of Roles

Then there is the channeling of fear and anger against the government that is prevalent in these difficult economic times. We want government to solve our problems, and when it cannot, we lash out. But what are we lashing out against? Its time we take a moment to go back to our civics classes and understand the roles and limitations in our federal government. President Obama is taking a lot of heat for the failure of movement to resolve the problem. I contend it could be President Joe Blow. The point is any president, whoever it is, will face the same issues when you have a Congress that refuses to act. It just so happens it is currently Obama.

The Federal Reserve is taking the lead role in attempting to lend stabilization and growth to our economy using tools not designed for the task, but with the only tools available. Recently it received a letter from the Republican Leaders in Congress urging it not to act. However, there are no other choices since those same Leaders have refused to enact Fiscal measures to address the problems (more on this later in this post).

The House of Representatives has been soundly critical of not only the Federal Reserve for its actions, but both the Senate and President for not producing legislative proposals from the beginning of the current congressional secession (112th). It seems we have representatives who have failed to read the Constitution of the United States. Specifically, Article I, Section 7:

“All Bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with Amendments as on other Bills.” The Constitution of the United States: A Transcription

“According to the United States Constitution (Article I, Section 7, clause 1), all bills relating to revenue, generally tax bills, must originate in the House of Representatives, consistent with the Westminster system requiring all money bills to originate in the lower house which is why the appropriations bills that are enacted begin with "H.R.", indicating a bill that originated in the House. The Constitution also states that the "Senate may propose or concur with Amendments as on other Bills," so in practice, the Senate and House each drafts and considers its own bill. The Senate then "cuts-and-pastes", substituting the language of its bill of a particular appropriations bill for the language of House bill, then agrees to the bill as amended.” Appropriation bill

So where is the blockage for any legislative action? It makes no difference if the Senate or President proposes legislation – if the House does not agree, the proposal is effectively killed. And we have seen since the 112th Congress convened, a major tool for resolving our economic stress – tax increases, is taken off the table, period, because it would discourage the job creators. A second issue for the Senate is the filibuster ( Hoyer Says Bunning Filibuster Underscores Senate Dysfunction). Unless a bill can be crafted to garner sufficient Republican support, any effort will die because of the filibuster. Don’t get me wrong, the filibuster is a valuable tool for allowing the minority a voice in the legislative process. However, as with any tool, its use can be abusive when carried to extremes and used to block all efforts at reaching a solution. Imagine you are the House of Representatives, take your hand and point your finger at anything. Observe – one finger pointing away, three fingers pointing back. Enough said.

Harsh Words – You Be the Judge if They are Deserved

I recently posted this message on one of the boards of which I am a member. I am including the post as a part of this message.

“Hi Dave,

I understand you are worried, and you have a right to be. You really cannot fault the Fed for trying to encourage some kind of growth using the imperfect tools they have available. Our current Congress, the House in particular (it has the sole constitutional authority), has abdicated its responsibility and is pursuing a political agenda at the expense of our county’s needs. I realize that is a very strong statement, but there are numerous examples to back it up.

Some examples:

In response to President Obama’s threat to use his veto power, Speaker Boehner criticized the President for taking a stance of “My way or the highway.” Yet is the next sentence and without skipping a beat, Speaker Boehner said he is willing to negotiate, but tax increases for the highest earners are off the table, period. Did you notice the incongruity in Speaker Boehner’s criticism of the president? This is nothing new, you do not have to follow Speaker Boehner’s or Majority Leader Cantor’s remarks closely to find many similar examples.

President Obama has been roundly criticized in the House for not taking the lead and providing specific proposals. President Obama provided specific proposals in the American Jobs Act, a proposal which contained among other things targeted tax cuts for small business to encourage investment and hiring (previously favored by the Republicans), and the President is criticized. In other words, anything he does is wrong.

What about the President suggesting or supporting positions that were previously championed by Republicans? The Republicans back off and no longer support the positions. And it is not all Republicans, just a minority in both the House Of Representatives and the Senate who are using their power to hold the President and Country hostage to a highly, unyielding ideological position, claiming a mandate to pursue their agenda. The President has been placed in a no win situation. You can read a summary of the main points contained in the President’s job proposal at the link below. As you read, make note of the impact the proposals would have on many of the companies of which we are owners and how many have previously been championed by the Republicans, and the fact they are focused and targeted to gain the most benefit. Fact Sheet: The American Jobs Act

Or the entire bill at this link: American Jobs Act (Full Text)

There are coordinated efforts at the state level to change the rules of the game. In Nebraska, there is an effort in the state legislature to change the nature of the way their Electoral College votes are counted from a split system (Obama received one vote from the 2008 election) to a winner take all. Yet, in Pennsylvania, they are attempting to change from a winner take all (Obama won PA in 2008) to a split system. While I am not a fan of the Electoral College and its effect on our presidential elections, the current effort to change it to without addressing the issue nationally appears to be highly political and not in the best interest of individual voters.

Take some time to check what else is happening in our state legislatures. The Republican sweep in 2010 allowed the Republicans to gain control in many states. What have they been doing since gaining control? Modifying election laws to restrict voting on the pretense they are eliminating fraud. In Ohio, the League of Women Voters conducted a study of multiple elections encompassing 9 million votes cast. Any guess how prevalent was the level of fraud? Four votes! Yes, you read that right – only four. In Ohio, HB 194 was passed. It is so restrictive the League of Women Voters of Ohio is supporting a petition drive to place the law on the ballot for the citizens to have a chance to express their opinion. By the way, the League in a press release said the law should be repealed. The latest update is a sufficient number of signatures (318,460 submitted, approximately 231,000 needed) were submitted to the Ohio Secretary of State’s office for verification. The Election Reform Law (HB 194) will appear on the Ohio ballot in 2012.

What have our legislators NOT been doing since taking office? Proposing and passing legislation that creates jobs, either at the federal or state level. In fact, after passage of the state budget, Ohio’s unemployment rate is on the rise (rising in each of the last three months).

I would be making the same complaints if the egregious actions were being taken by the Democrats. I am an Independent voter who is truly frustrated our political system has evolved to such a point the extremes of either party can hold our country hostage to the detriment of hundreds of millions of Americans. If you support or oppose Obama and his policies, you cannot say he has not tried compromise repeatedly. The facts do not support that position unless your ideology blinds your reasoning. And reasoning is what we need at this critical juncture in our country’s history.

So why this discussion now? If you do not believe the actions taking place in Washington DC do not have an impact on our investments, need we discuss the recently concluded Debt Limit debate and the lack of action on our most pressing issue – Jobs? We can wait until the next election nearly fourteen months away, but at what cost, individually, to our portfolios, and to the country? It is long past time we ask those we elected and took the oath of office to work for the country, and not their own limited agenda.

Thank you,
Bob (an investor who eschewed any kind of activism until it hit him squarely in the face)

Disaster Recovery – A True Exercise in Hypocrisy

Definition of Hypocrisy is the state of pretending to have beliefs, opinions, virtues, ideals, thoughts, feelings, qualities, or standards that one does not actually have.

A quick note before beginning this section about the quotes used. These quotes come principally from the Congressional Register. Because of the length of the quotes used, I had a concern about violating the Terms of Service referenced earlier in this post. In order to determine if the information in the Congressional Record was copyrighted material, I contacted the Government Printing Office for an answer and was referred to the Government Information Office. Below is the answer I received:

“Dear Mr. Claussen,

Your question was referred to the Government Information Online (GIO reference service by the Government Printing Office. GIO is a formal partnership with the U.S. Government Printing Office. I am responding from the GIO service.

Librarians cannot provide legal advice or legal opinions. The information provided below does not constitute legal advice or legal opinions and should not substitute for the advice or an attorney.

With that out of the way, according to the Government Printing Office, "With the exception of copyrighted articles, there are no restrictions on the republication of material from the Congressional Record."

Thank you for using the Government Information Online: Ask A Librarian service ( Please contact us again if you have further questions.

Hui Hua Chua
Michigan State University

The reason for using the material from the Congressional Register is the individuals cited provide more in depth and relevant information than I could hope to provide.

Recently, the discussion and votes on passage of a Continuing Resolution which included Disaster Relief brought into sharp focus the extreme ideology which has come to dominate the House of Representatives. Almost all Representatives say they are pledged to increasing jobs in our struggling economy, yet a group has proposed cutting the funding for a program that has proven to be a job creator (it is supported by the US Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufactures) as a condition of passing a Continuing Resolution which would include much needed Disaster Relief funds. I read the floor debates that proceeded the three House votes on September 21st, 22nd, and 23rd (Continuing Appropriations Act, 2012 - H.R.2608).

The first vote was to add a House Amendment (Providing for consideration of the Senate amendment to the bill (H.R. 2608) to provide for an additional temporary extension of programs under the Small Business Act and the Small Business Investment Act of 1958, and for other purposes - H.RES.405). This amendment required offsetting reductions for increased spending requested for FEMA (Disaster Relief). Those offsetting reductions are part of a Department of Energy Program to assist companies in meeting the new CAFÉ standards. There was a floor debate in the House of Representatives prior to the vote on acceptance or rejection of the amendment – it was accepted.

There was a second floor debate to accept the amended legislation with the offset. This failed in a bipartisan vote. If you take my suggestion after reading each of the floor debates, you might check the recorded votes and make note of the Republican legislators who had a change of heart when the measure was re-introduced with a minor change the next day

There was a third vote when the amended legislation was returned to the floor the next day with one minor additional change. This time the legislation (with the offsetting amendment and the minor additional change passed the house on a partisan vote and was sent to the Senate for consideration. What was the difference? The Republicans had the opportunity to caucus and bring their members in line. The floor debates were interesting and informative and I urge you to take time to read them. I have chosen two excerpts which I believe provide a great deal of insight into the divide of our Current House of Representatives.

“I thank the gentleman for yielding, and I congratulate him on his tremendous leadership as the ranking member on the Appropriations Committee.

When he was speaking today, I was thinking back to when I was a relatively new Member of Congress--not even here 2 years--when we had the Loma Prieta earthquake in the San Francisco Bay Area. It was shocking to us. Of course, it was a complete surprise--a terrible natural disaster. The Bay Bridge was out of commission and cracked. The homes were on fire for days and days and days--a true natural disaster.

When I came to the floor when this issue was brought up by the chairman of the Appropriations Committee, the Honorable Jamie Whitten of Mississippi, he came to the floor; and with his words of comfort and assurance to the people who were affected by this natural disaster, his comments made all the difference in the world. In listening to him, no one had any doubt that the Federal Government was going to honor its commitment to the American people: that when in time of natural disaster, we will be there. We have a compact with the American people.

How different the conversation is today when we're talking about saying, when in a time of natural disaster--and by the way, there have been many more natural disasters than in the San Francisco Bay Area, the Loma Prieta, which stretched for long distances in northern California. Today, we've had hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes, floods, forest fires still raging out of control in some parts of the country--Texas, until recently, in that situation. I hope that it's under control now or that the rain we all prayed for there is coming.

And what do we do? We come to the floor and say, Now we're going to institute a new policy that says: in time of natural disaster, we're going to have to find some place to pay for it. Now, what's next? Where are we going next to pay for it?

The distinguished chairman has said, well, we've paid for emergencies before and, indeed, we have. I'm talking about something of a much different caliber. I'm talking about a natural disaster. I'm talking about the FEMA Disaster Relief Fund. With all of the disasters that are happening at once, we don't know when the next one will come; but what is frightening also is we don't know where this majority wants to go to pay for it.

I have serious objection to the pay-for in this legislation. I have a bigger objection that we would have to pay for a disaster. We never paid for the tax cuts for the rich. They never were paid for. We never paid for the wars in Afghanistan or Iraq. They were never paid for. But, all of a sudden, we have to pay to try to make whole these people who have been affected, who have lost everything. I've visited there. I wish you would. Maybe you have. But it's not that the joblessness story is finished. It's not that as we go to a new disaster, we're finished with the old one. It's just compounded.

Someone mentioned earlier in the election--people talked about this--that the American people, whether in election or out of election, want jobs; and exactly what this bill does is cut jobs. Instead of creating jobs, which is the number one priority of the American people, this Republican bill will cost good-paying jobs. It's amazing because the bill that we're debating here will cost at least 10 good-paying American manufacturing jobs--Make It in America--and perhaps tens of thousands more by cutting the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing loan program.

I'm not even going to speak too much about it because our colleagues already have. They've talked about how this takes us to the next place in innovation and competitiveness for our country, the next place in technology for cars that will reduce emissions, which will help to stop some of these natural disasters. These loans are proven to be effective. They have already created 42,000 jobs, putting America to work making cleaner, more efficient American cars. We shouldn't have to choose between creating jobs and caring for those struggling in the aftermath of disasters like Hurricane Irene and the earthquake that preceded it and the floods that continue.

One of the speakers, a gentleman whom I respect, said this is a political move. Well, if there is anything that is not political in our country, it is a natural disaster. Do you want to talk politics when somebody is suffering a natural disaster? There is no place for that. At some place, we walk on a ground that is more hallowed than the normal terrain on which we debate, and that terrain is the terrain of the disaster that has affected the American people. If you looked in their eyes, you would feel so helpless that you could not make them whole. You may not be able to provide them the personal effects of their families. I've seen it so many times.

Will they economically be made whole? Will their homes be restored in a way that makes it the home it was before that they loved, that created a sense of community, one home after another? So we're at a very, very sad place for all of these people. We don't know who is next.

What makes me suspicious about what the majority has put into this--and I want you to know this--is we haven't paid for natural disaster assistance before. They're using this advanced technology vehicle manufacturing. They're taking $1 billion of it to pay for the disaster. There is a half a billion dollars left, and they're rescinding it in this bill. They're eliminating it. So this isn't about paying for the disaster. This is about destroying an initiative that is job-creating, that is innovative, that keeps America number one, that creates good-paying jobs in our country.

It's really hard to understand what the motivation is for that, but one thing is clear--they are using the disaster to eliminate that initiative, and that's just not right. But even if they had the best offset in the world, I still think it is wrong for them to go down a path that says, This time, for your disaster, we're using this technology program. What's next? With all of the disasters that we have, where do we have the room to say, On those days, at that specific time, this is how we'll pay for it?

Let's, instead, do something that gives hope to people, that creates an economic boomlet in these places that have been affected and not a discouragement that they are being treated differently than anybody else has been in time of natural disasters.

I heard the distinguished chairman use the term ``emergency.'' It's a different story. It's a different story. It is with great sadness that we try to meet the needs of people at this difficult time. It's in great sadness that we even have to have a debate about it. I urge our Republican colleagues to withdraw this bill. Come back clean. Let us vote together to address the natural disaster that has afflicted our country, recognizing that we don't know what's around the corner.

As one of my colleagues said, We said we're going to pay for everything.

We don't know what God has in store for us for the next disaster. We hope and pray that, whatever it is, we have the strength to meet the needs of our people in a way that has nothing to do with politics but everything to do with America.”

As an aside before I provide the second excerpt for the House floor debates, I want to highlight something that struck me from the previous excerpt and what we have witnessed from the Republican Presidential Debates.

• The excerpt: “…no one had any doubt that the Federal Government was going to honor its commitment to the American people: that when in time of natural disaster, we will be there. We have a compact with the American people…”

• The raw emotion expressed by the audiences in those debates:

o The cries of “ … let him die!” when the question was raised about what should happen to an uninsured 30 year old in a comma

o The applause when Gov. Perry said with pride Texas has executed 234 people while he was governor

o The undercurrent of boos and jeers Gov. Perry received when he expressed support and compassion in helping the children of illegal immigrants receive an education

o The disrespect shown for a soldier putting his life on the line while protecting our rights when he called the debate from a war zone, raised a question and said he was gay

Which is the vision we really want for our country? A country in which it is everyone for himself and only the strong will survive? Or a country in which we treat each other with respect, compassion, helping, learning, allowing us to grow as individuals and as a nation?

The second excerpt from the floor debates:

“Mr. Speaker, listening to the debate, it's really almost hard to explain to someone why we're coming back tonight with the same old, same old warmed-over stew that was rejected yesterday by the Congress of the United States. But since then we've had some support expressed for the initiative that is contained in this bill and against the notion that our Republican colleagues have that it's a good idea to use this as a pay-for.

I take particular pride in this provision that the Republicans are trying to zero out in this bill, the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing program.

You will recall, Mr. Dreier, that it was part of a bill that was passed when President Bush was President. It was the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. It was a bill that passed the Congress with strong bipartisan support, including your support, Mr. Dreier. In fact, 95 Republicans voted for the bill. It was an even split in the Republican Caucus, 95 for, 96 against. But you recall voting for that…

“… For some reason the Republicans are not showing their faces on the floor on this amendment. He has plenty of time on this bill, plenty of time to speak. If he didn't, I'd be more than happy to yield to him, but since he has so much time on his own, he can use that.

In any event, here's the thing. We have an initiative that is bipartisan. We have an initiative that has passed the House in overwhelming numbers, 314-100; 314-100 it passed the House after coming back from the Senate.

Yesterday, there was an attempt made to use the funds allocated to the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing program to offset the disaster assistance. I myself believe it is a matter of principle that we should just do with disaster assistance what we always have done, have no doubt in anyone's mind that when a disaster, a natural disaster strikes, the Federal Government will be there, FEMA will be funded, and that we don't have to look around for a place to say, let's prioritize. No, the disaster assistance is our priority.

But on top of that, they use as a pay-for, again, zeroing out the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing. I don't want you to take my words for the merit of this initiative. I want to quote for the record the letter from the United States of America Chamber of Commerce and the letter from the National Association of Manufacturers.

First from the Chamber of Commerce:

``As Congress sets spending priorities, the Chamber wishes to highlight a few important facts about the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing loan program. First, the program was authorized in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, which was supported by both Republicans and Democrats as an important step in reducing America's dependence on oil from unstable regimes. Second, ATVM loans, which will be repaid with interest, incentivize automakers and suppliers to build more fuel-efficient advanced technology vehicles in the U.S., providing new opportunities for American workers in a sector of the economy that is critical to the Nation's recovery…''

“… In the NAM letter, National Association of Manufacturers, they say similarly:

``We express our support for the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing (ATVM) program, authorized under the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 with bipartisan support and signed into law by President Bush.''

It was a very proud day for us when President Bush signed this bill. It made tremendous advances in energy efficiency and conservation. It was a great accomplishment of the Bush administration and a Democratic Congress working together, but the bill passed in strong bipartisan fashion.

``The ATVM program is an example of what government/industry partnerships can accomplish. It has helped create and preserve thousands of auto sector jobs and put our Nation on a path towards greater energy security. The NAM believes defunding ATVM will hurt manufacturers and their employees.''

I will submit the rest of the letters for the Record so Members can read further for themselves in the Congressional Record; and for all who view the work of Congress, they can see the importance of these initiatives, first by the strong bipartisan support that they received in a Democratically controlled Congress but signed by a Republican President, President Bush, a very major accomplishment, I think he believes.

The second point, though, is that, again, American people are looking for ways for us to create jobs. The Republicans have been in power in this Congress in this House of Representatives for over 250 days. They have not passed one bill into law which is a job creator; and today, they come back to the floor a second day in a row with a job destroyer. The repetition of it is almost frivolous when you think that what we could be talking about here is a clean CR, a clean continuing resolution that will meet our needs to November 18.

I thank Chairman Dicks for his leadership on this important issue, Mr. Levin, certainly Mr. Dingell, who was a champion of this initiative from day one and a leader in the fight to preserve it here.

It could just have been so simple. Let's just keep government open until November 18 with a clean continuing resolution instead of coming to the floor and for the first time.

Now my colleagues will say, Well, we've had other emergencies that were funded. I'm not talking about emergencies. There are many emergencies. I'm talking about disasters. I'm talking about natural disasters when people's homes are swept away. This isn't political. This is very, very personal, if you've lost your home, your belongings, your livelihood, your business, your sense of community, the character of the area in which you live, as many of our colleagues on both sides of the aisle have done. When you see the nature of the natural disasters, whether it's out-of-control forest fires in Texas, what happened in Joplin, Missouri, which is almost biblical in its proportion, and what happened on the east coast with the earthquake followed by hurricane followed by tornado followed by floods and all that goes with it.

Do you think people think that we have any relevance to their lives if we're talking about something like this when all they are saying is, Help. It's as if a building is on fire and you're going to figure out who is going to pay for the water instead of just running to the rescue.

I urge my colleagues to vote ``no'' on this and urge my Republican colleagues to please pull this back, bring a clean CR to the floor. Let's get serious about the people's business.



Washington, DC, September 22, 2011.

TO THE MEMBERS OF THE U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the world's largest business federation representing the interests of more than three million businesses and organizations of every size, sector, and region, strongly supports disaster relief funding to assist victims of natural disasters. The Chamber is also a vocal proponent of fiscal responsibility and recognizes that Congress must make difficult but necessary choices among competing priorities.

As Congress sets spending priorities, the Chamber wishes to highlight a few important facts about the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing (ATVM) loan program. First, the program was authorized in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, which was supported by both Republicans and Democrats as an important step in reducing America's dependence on oil from unstable regimes. Second, ATVM loans, which will be repaid with interest, incentivize automakers and suppliers to build more fuel-efficient advanced technology vehicles in the U.S., providing new opportunities for American workers in a sector of the economy that is critical to the nation's recovery. Third, the fact that the Department of Energy has yet to use the funds Congress appropriated for the program is not the fault of industry; numerous loan applicants have been in the queue for years, waiting for the Administration to complete its due diligence.

Again, while the Chamber understands the importance of reducing America's unacceptable debt and believes that all programs must be on the table, the Chamber urges you to bear in mind the facts about the ATVM loan program, which promotes manufacturing in the U.S. and is an important component of America's energy security.





September 22, 2011.
Hon. Harry Reid,
Majority Leader, U.S. Senate,
Washington, DC.
Hon. Mitch McConnell,
Minority Leader, U.S. Senate,
Washington, DC.

Dear Leaders Reid and McConnell: The NAM is the largest trade association in the United States, representing over 11,000 small, medium and large manufacturers in all 50 states. We are the leading voice for the manufacturing economy, which provides millions of high-wage jobs in the U.S. Two-thirds of our members are small businesses, which serve as the engine for job growth. Our mission is to enhance the competitiveness of manufacturers and improve American living standards by shaping a legislative and regulatory environment conducive to U.S. economic growth.

The NAM is writing to express our support for the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing (ATVM) program, authorized under the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 with bipartisan support and signed into law by President Bush. The ATVM program is an example of what government/industry partnerships can accomplish. It has helped create and preserve thousands of auto sector jobs and put our nation on a path towards greater energy security. The NAM believes defunding ATVM will hurt manufacturers and their employees.

Introducing any new model motor vehicle is a capital intensive process. Automobile manufacturers and suppliers must make large investments at the front end before a vehicle enters production. The ATVM 'program assists this process by providing low cost capital for retooling U.S. facilities. These loans, which will be repaid with interest, allow automakers to build more fuel-efficient advance technology vehicles in the U.S. and provide greater job security for the workers they employ. Furthermore, it is worth noting that many suppliers to the automobile manufacturers are small and medium manufacturers. These smaller manufacturers have the potential to create thousands of jobs but are typically some of the first businesses impacted by a struggling economy. By maintaining the ATVM program the government will also be supporting the maintenance and growth of these smaller manufacturers.

During this time of economic recovery, we urge you to preserve this successful program that is helping preserve auto sector jobs and promote energy security.

Paul A. Yost.”

I have included the two excerpts which I believe provide a good summation of what this is all about. Do not rely on what I am presenting, think and explore for your self and draw your own conclusion. The floor debates can be found in this manner. It is necessary to give explicit instructions because the information is the result of a search with a dynamic URL: This is the link to the THOMAS (Library of Congress) website. Once on the website, cut and paste this “H.R.2608” in the box before “Search Bill Summary & Status” near the top of the page. Before pressing the box marked “SEARCH” ensure you are searching for “Bill Number” rather than “Word/Phrase”. This should take you to a page titled “Bill Summary and Status”.

• In the lower right section of selections you will see a link “All Congressional Actions with Amendments” – click on that link.

• Scroll down the page until you see “9/20/2011 8:31pm” on the left hand side. You will see a link to “H. Res. 405” – click on that link

• On the new page will be a link to “All Congressional Actions” - click on that link

• Now, scroll down the page until you see “9/21/2011 1:51pm” – looking to the right, you will see a link to “H6304-6314” – click on this link.

• Once you have reached the screen with “Page H6305” in the top left corner, look down the page for the link that says “Printer Friendly Display” – click on this link.

• This is the debate and record of the roll call votes to add the amendment to the Continuing Appropriations bill

• After you have read as much of the debate as desired, click back through your screen until you reach the screen that took you to “H. Res. 405” if you have not timed out. If you have timed out, go back to the original link and repeat the first two steps of these instructions. Go beyond “9/20/2011 8:31pm” to “9/21/2011 3:52pm” - looking to the right, you will see a link to “H6315-6328” – click on this link.

• Again, chose the “Printer Friendly Display” – this is the debate on the entire bill with the approved amendment

• Once finished reading this debate, return to the screen with “9/21/2011 3:52pm”

• Scroll down the page until you see “9/22/2011 11:19pm” - you will see a link to “H6399-6410” – click on this link (Note: This will take you to a screen with “Page H6400” near the top left)

• After choosing “Printer Friendly Display” (which will take you to Page: H6389) you will be able to read the floor debate of the amended bill with the offset and additional minor change that passed in the House and was sent to the Senate.

If you would like more information about the program the Republicans were working on eliminating, you may follow the links below. You will find it is not only a job creator, but it also addresses limiting our dependence on foreign oil. ATMVLP U.S. Department of Energy – Loan Programs Office Wikipedia Discussion Links to underlying legislation Article identifying the programs strengths and weaknesses GAO Report and Testimony (PDF Version) – June 9, 2011 GAO Report and Testimony (PDF Version) – February 28, 2011

One final telling excerpt references something I alluded to earlier in this post and for which I am apparently not alone in my thoughts. It is being said on the floor of the House of Representatives and made part of the Congressional Record. It is but another illustration of the extreme divide in our political process. The last line of the excerpt says it all – divide and conquer (think back to the eight year old article that started me on this journey – it is going according to plan):

“I thank the ranking member, Ms. Slaughter of New York, for granting me this time to say, at first, I really didn't believe it when someone suggested to me that the Republican Party would really like to defeat President Obama by raising the unemployment rate. I thought, that's too cynical to really believe.

But in this particular proposal tonight, what we see is a proposal by the Republican Party to take money from the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing program to help America compete in the auto industry with state-managed economies like China's and Japan's, and take it away from recovering auto firms and unemployed auto workers to give to disaster victims around this country.

It's a no-win game. We're hurting the American people. We take from one sector that is suffering for another sector that is suffering? In the greatest automotive manufacturing country in the world, we don't want to put more people back to work because we want to defeat the President next year?

I'm starting to believe those that suggested this cynical ploy. Why should we hurt the automotive industry that is just beginning to hire back and starting to lift this economy in the industrial Midwest and through hiring at parts suppliers coast to coast?

Vote ``no'' on this cynical ploy to set disaster victims against unemployed auto workers in the automotive industry of this country, which has a right to compete.”

Penny Wise – Pound Foolish

Let’s take a moment to examine some economics about why the current course of action being taken in slashing budgets might just be making matters worse. I am not saying we should not be considering the deficit and debt and how we are going to address them. There are decidedly some ways that are better than others.

First, we have to decide what is the root cause for our current situation and how do we dig ourselves out of the hole. I would argue the root cause is policies over a number of years that ignored the basis for our ability to be the world’s leading innovator – growing the infrastructure that allowed us to think and be creative in understanding the challenges we face, and the solutions needed to overcome them and move our country and the world to higher ground. For those who think this is too far removed, let’s bring it down to reality.

Look at our jobs situation. It is not that we have too many unemployed – it is there is a serious mismatch between the skills of those who are unemployed and the skills required for the jobs that are vacant. We do not need people who can do repetitive, mind numbing tasks – those can be handled through automation. We need people who can be creative, unafraid to constantly examine what they do and develop ways to do it more effectively and efficiently.

To give you an example, at one time I held a supervisory position. While in that position, I looked at what we were doing, the tools we had available, and the number and tasks of the people who worked with me. Over a period of a year, I developed innovative ways of using tools and people such that I was able to reduce the number of people necessary to accomplish the same job by 35% (i.e., increase their productivity and provide a more stimulating work environment while lowering the cost of completing our work). Yes, you say, fine and good, but what happened to the individuals who were no longer needed?

At the beginning of the year in which this was accomplished, there was the realization people would be displaced. Parallel with changing the work environment was a planned effort to upgrade the skills of the people who worked with me, enabling them move to new jobs where they could continue to assist in the growth of our company. It made sense to me because there are greater costs involved in hiring and training new individuals that are not associated with working with the individuals you currently have and expanding their abilities. At the heart of it, any company is the sum total of the individuals who devote their time and effort to help it grow and thrive. You do not get that with bricks, mortar, steel and machines. You only get that when individuals combine their skills with the bricks, mortar, steel and machines to produce an output that helps others.

What does this have to do with “Penny Wise – Pound Foolish”? It has to do with how we think and analyze problems, the depth of that analysis and the development of resulting solutions, both short and long term. We need to develop individuals who are not afraid of change, but embrace it. During my working career I held a variety of jobs, some of which did not exist more than five years before I held them, and which have changed such they would not be recognizable since I left. All those changes did not come about by happenstance, they came about because we invested in and re-invented ourselves – expanding our ability to think, reason, and arrive at solutions that introduce new puzzles to be tackled.

This all goes back to education and the reason I am passionate about it. When I was growing up, one of my teachers said to me: “One of the reasons I teach is to help you learn and grow. It is one if the ways I can ensure being comfortable as I grow older.” At the time he made that remark, I did not understand what he meant. With the opportunity of time and experience, the realization of how profound a statement it was became clear. For those of us who are older, as I am, think about what your world was like when you were 10 or 11 and how it is now. My grandmother lived to more than 100 years old. She went from a time when indoor plumbing, electricity and automobiles did not exist to a time when we were not only dreaming of living in space, we were actually doing it. Those differences came about because teachers chose to give of themselves to increase the depth and breadth of our individual and collective knowledge, enabling us to explore, question and discover, to constantly ask and seek answers to the universal question of our early years – Why? We owe these individuals a debt of gratitude for unlocking our imagination and encouraging lifelong learning that does not stop once we exit the classroom.

What have we done? We have cut funding for education at the Federal, National, and Local levels. Other countries that realize the value of education and the benefits it provides are investing far more and reaping the rewards, not only in better trained individuals, but in individuals who can apply there skills to tackle and solve a myriad of non-work issues. In limiting our funding, we are limiting our ability to have individuals who can not only meet the challenges of the jobs of the future, but make reasoned decisions about how to get there. This is the overriding short term challenge we face now.

In the current Disaster Relief debate, we have individuals who are attempting to cut funds for a program that is proven to produce the jobs our economy needs. Not only that, cutting the funding increases the opportunity for the Research and Development of the innovative technologies to be developed somewhere other than the United States. Let’s examine the ramifications of the proposed action.

• Save $1.5 billion in spending, $1 billion to go to FEMA, $500 million “saved”

• Eliminate/Prevent the creation of jobs, thereby reducing Federal, State and Local Income tax revenue

• Add cost of benefits provided by short term safety net (part of which is paid for by taxes on employees and employers – employee contribution no longer available)

• Add ancillary costs to the economy as unemployed worker is no longer providing spending which supports additional jobs in our economy (those jobs are now at risk)

• Minimize potential job growth in high paying positions as the innovation and technology will be developed someplace other than the United States.

You can plug in what ever figures you want – it will not make a difference. This is a public/private loan program designed to encourage the development of alternative sources of energy to minimize our dependence on oil. It was passed with bipartisan support and signed into law in 2007 by a Republican President. Any jobs saved/created would be solely American jobs. Furthermore, it requires the applicant to ensure the majority of any loan made is provided for from private funding (i.e., the applicant must have “skin in the game”). Therefore, the only way this becomes an expense is if the loan is not repaid, otherwise, the entire Federal portion is returned with interest. Questions that should come to mind are who chose this particular program to cut and why was it chosen over all the other possibilities? I do not have the answers, but I leave it for you to research.

Another important aspect of Disaster Relief is it goes beyond providing the necessary needs of food and shelter for the victims. There are immediate clean up efforts, and more importantly, longer term efforts to re-build that which has been lost. All these activities involve jobs, either utilizing existing workers with the proper skills, or creating new jobs for the longer term effort. With the number and size of disasters this year, FEMA funding has been stretched beyond its limits. As a result, the longer term efforts of re-building have been halted (read: Jobs lost) while dwindling funds have been diverted to the immediate needs of food and shelter and initial clean up. Although the immediate issue of getting through the remainder of the fiscal year has been resolved through shifting priorities, FEMA funding for the coming budget year will be re-visited because it has only been budgeted at a level insufficient to handle disasters in the coming budget year, let alone the carry-over from this year. Here are excerpts from the Congressional Record, S5968 and S5970:

“ We cannot decide with each new catastrophe where we will find money, stripping funds from transportation this month and education the next.

That is what this debate is about. We did not choose this fight. It was started by Representative Eric Cantor. There was a moment in time when he said we must offset this disaster.

Some of us stood right up and said: No, we will not.

I see the Senator from Illinois, but I sent four letters as the chair of this committee as early as February. Please don't let anyone in the press criticize me for waiting until the last minute. February 16, 2011, I sent a letter saying: Heads up. This is going to be a problem.

Not many people listened. Then I sent another letter in March, then I sent another letter in May, and then I sent another letter May 11. We are now in September. One can accuse me of a lot of things. I most certainly make mistakes, but not being ahead of this one is not one of them. I knew this was going to happen …”

“ I guess I take this a little bit personally because while the rest of the Members sort of say things like: Well, FEMA is not really running out of money, and they can probably make it until Friday--there is some talk about that going on. There are some technical ways that could be done--I wish to remind everyone here that this is already an emergency for over 400 projects that were shut down weeks ago [emphasis added]. If you are a small business owner who had a subcontract building a road in Alaska, it is an emergency for you because you were shut down and you cannot make payroll [think jobs lost]. You already bought the supplies to build the bridge, and nobody on the Republican side is caring about your crisis.

FEMA is technically out of money as we speak. The only way they are continuing to operate is because they have shut down these projects.

This is the third time in the last 6 years, to my knowledge, that projects have been shut down across the country. Why is that right? Many of those projects are in Louisiana, some of them are in Mississippi, and some of them now are in Joplin. If you were in a disaster that happened a few years ago, because Republicans either will not budget the money or will not budget enough money or every time you go to ask for a dime, they require an offset somewhere else--truly what is happening is disaster victims in other parts of the country are subsidizing this foolishness.

This does not fall equally on the backs of Democrats and Republicans. I know people are tired of hearing it, but it does not. Harry Reid did not start this fight. Mary Landrieu did not start this fight. Dick Durbin did not start this fight. Eric Cantor of Virginia, a Republican leader, started this fight when he said: We cannot fund the 2011 disasters without an offset.

So in this whole debate, what they have done is shut down projects in Louisiana and Mississippi despite the fact that I have said: We don't really need an offset. We have made arrangements in next year's budget. It is unprecedented, Representative Cantor. Your State is going to be hurt as well.

He doesn't seem to care. But I do care, and I do think it is worth talking about.

I don't know if we will win this battle today. I don't know if we will win this vote this afternoon. I am not the whip. I do not count the votes. All I do is keep my eyes on the people who are in disasters because I have had to for the years I have been, unfortunately, the Senator from Louisiana who has been through the worst natural disaster our country has ever known. I have walked through too many destroyed neighborhoods, I have cried with too many people, and I have watched what they go through.

For me, this is not a simple change. This is a major change which we cannot afford in this country and which our people do not deserve. We cannot have a budget meeting every time there is a disaster in America and try to run up here and in 30 minutes or 2 days or a week decide what program we are going to slash that everybody can agree to so we can send help, whether it is to West Virginia or to Florida or to Michigan or Louisiana. That is no way to run a government.

Now tea party people and Republicans want to bring change to Washington. I welcome some of that change but not this. This is not a change we need. This is not a good policy for America. I am not opposed to change. I am adaptable. I am a centrist. I am a moderate. I can listen to what Republicans and Democrats say, and I am proud of that. It is a strength. I consider it a strength, not a weakness. This is not a change I can support lightly, and that is what this fight is about. We may be forced to change, but if we are, I want the people of America to know this was Eric Cantor's idea. This is on the tea party agenda. I do not think it should be on America's agenda.’

Cut It or Shut It!

“They heard us, but they’re not listening!” Martin, a tea party leader, told members of the movement that helped put Republicans in charge of the House last November.”

“Four months after the historic election, the populist force that helped drive Republicans to power is finding that its clout on Capitol Hill isn’t automatic.

What brings you out today, one tea party member was asked. “Saving our country, obviously.”

“Sensitive talks over how many billions of dollars to cut from this year‘s federal budget have strayed far below the Republicans’ campaign promise to slash $100 billion. Rather than standing firm and allowing parts of the government to shut down until enough lawmakers came around, House Speaker John Boehner was doing exactly what the tea partiers thought they had elected Republicans to avoid: negotiating with President Barack Obama and Senate Democrats over spending cuts.”

“Cut it or shut it!” chanted the crowd outside the Capitol on Thursday.”

“As tea partiers gathered in DC today to protest compromise on the budget cuts, there are also activists fighting the fiscally conservative fight on the state and local level, as ReasonTV reports below. Chris Littleton, president of the Ohio Liberty Council, says of his council’s tea party activism, “All of our focus is going to be state-based because we feel that DC is just–it’s not going to go too many places too fast right now.”

“We need to send responsibility back to the states,” Rand Paul said at the rally today.”

“Nothing of consequence can happen until the Senate and WH change hands….WE have to make sure that the Congress, Senate and WH will be occupied by Republicans (in the case of the senate and congress a majority) come 2012. Real meaningful reform and huge cuts can only happen when that scenario becomes reality. The Congress can only do so much with 2/3 rds of the Fed Gov’t are at odds with your policies. The Democrats are hoping to do what they have always done….blame the Repubs for the counries problems/mess it is in….the only poroblem with that is the left no longer dominates the media message so such a fantasy (that the ills of the country are soley Repubs fault) can no longer fly with any legitimacy. The fact that FNC [Fox News Channel] has now taken over the #1 slot in dishing out the real news will only further erode and neutralize what the Dems have planned in the near future. It will backfire if they try this time around (the 95 shutdown was spun as a Repub want and it worked in the Dems favor)…This time it won;t work despite the fact that the Dems have no ontention of meeting the Congressional demands (100 billion in cuts by April 8th).”

This is a series of quotes that are representative of the Tea Party agenda taken from the following: The Blaze

As you read through the quotes notice the tone is highly specific and non-yielding. They want what they want and they want it now. They claim a mandate from the 2010 election – this is what the people want. Some facts and a question:

• In 2010, slightly less than 42% of all registered voters participated

• A winner in that election would only have needed a vote count that amounts to slightly more than 21% of registered voters

• Is slightly more than 21% representative (a mandate) of what the people want?

We now have a critical mass of individuals in positions that are key to our legislative process with the view that government is too big, too intrusive, and in the extreme – does not need to exist. While they cannot achieve all that is wanted at the moment, they can be disruptive enough to create instability, attempting to advance their argument that government is dysfunctional.

Do you realize we have had five government shutdowns since 1981 – the most significant occurring in 1995 and 1996? Three were short and probably not even noticed by the American public. However, the shutdowns that occurred in 1995 and 1996 were of such duration that pain was felt. The following link provides a brief assessment of the cost of the shutdown and how a shutdown might effect you: History and Effects of Government Shutdowns

Why bring this up? Do you realize we were in the midst of the third near government shutdown since January 2011? The first occurred in April attempting to time it with the tax deadline. The second occurred at the beginning of August with the debate over the Debt Limit. The current occurred as we attempted to pass a Continuing Resolution to fund the Federal government until November 18th, allowing the completion of the current budget year and time for passage of agreements to fund the next budget year starting October 1st.

The Administration was criticized as fear mongering and playing politics in July for identifying who would and who would not be paid if the Debt Limit was not raised. But if you took the time to review the previous link, you would find what was presented by the Administration was what actually occurred in the only significant government shutdown since 1981. I bring this up because although we got through the current impasse, we will again be facing the potential of another shutdown just before Thanksgiving. That same fear mongering charge will be leveled again as the Administration tries to outline the potential actions to be taken in an actual shutdown. Having reviewed the history, you will be in a better place to understand the proposed actions will be a prudent and practical approach. Is the threat (or the actual) shutdown good for encouraging the growth necessary to resolve not only ours, but the world’s economic problem (yes, we do have a significant impact on the global economy)? I leave that for you to decide.

The Pledge

What do foxes, lions, tigers, individuals, families, small businesses, mid-sized businesses, Federal, State and Local governments, corporations, churches, synagogues, temples, the Red Cross, the United Way have in common? They all consume in order to survive and grow. The necessary consumption in the first group is oxygen, water, food. You can live some time without food because your body will use what was stored in good times to meet the challenge. Water is more of a issue because it provides the necessary lubrication for a body to function – here we are talking about days of survival. Oxygen? Without it, survival is limited to minutes.

The second group is sustained by gathering of resources - investment and revenues. The investment comes from selling an idea and encouraging others to contribute to its sustainability and growth. The revenue comes from others buying the output of those ideas that have been allowed to flourish. The final group is also sustained by gathering resources – contributions and volunteers. It depends on the willingness of others to contribute without the expectation of any return to themselves.

In either of the final two groups, a failure to gather the necessary resources results in that entity fading into obscurity – sometimes quickly, other times the process is long and difficult, but the end result is the same.

What does this have to do with a pledge? How many are aware of a group called Americans for Tax Reform (ATR)? It was founded in 1985 by Grover Norquist at the request of President Reagan.” From its mission statement:

Opposes all tax increases as a matter of principle.

• We believe in a system in which taxes are simpler, flatter, more visible, and lower than they are today. The government's power to control one's life derives from its power to tax. We believe that power should be minimized.

• The flagship project of Americans for Tax Reform is the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, a written promise by legislators and candidates for office that commits them to oppose any effort to increase income taxes on individuals and businesses. Since ATR first sponsored the Pledge in 1986, hundreds of U.S. Representatives, more than fifty U.S. Senators and every successful Republican Presidential candidate have all signed the Pledge. In the 112th Congress, 236 U.S. Representatives and 41 U.S. Senators have taken the Pledge never to raise income taxes.

• ATR is a nonprofit, 501(c)(4) lobbying organization. Contributions to Americans for Tax Reform are not tax deductible.

You may want to explore in depth this organization. If you take time to visit the website, select The Pledge and then go to the link to Questions and Answers. Americans for Tax Reform

In the 112th Congress, 236 U.S. Representatives and 41 U.S. Senators have taken the Pledge never to raise income taxes, all but three of them Republican. There are 535 members of Congress. There have been calls to make the Bush tax cuts permanent. Think about what this would mean in terms of our government’s ability to raise revenue to fund the programs which provide safety and certainty, a few of which were cited earlier in this post. Or to initiate new programs which are desired by an overwhelming majority of American citizens. Or the flexibility to meet fiscal challenges such as those we are currently experiencing with both economic and natural disasters. It would mean we are working from a lower base and significantly less revenue. And then there are those saying taxes must be even lower to allow the job creators to create jobs. And when we reach that new, lower rate, revenues would decrease further. With this logic, we face a continuing downward spiral. What this pledge does is allow for the ratcheting down of available resources without any possibility of making adjustments in the other direction if the policy is wrong. Doesn’t that remind you of “My Way or the Highway” – there can be no negotiations that involve tax increases, period.

But this is what the pledge is designed to do – to “starve the beast”. The following are quotes attributed to the founder of the ATR (a lobbying organization), Mr. Grover Norquist:

“The other camp in the tax-cut crusade actually welcomes the revenue losses from tax cuts. Its most visible spokesman today is Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, who once told National Public Radio: ''I don't want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub.'' And the way to get it down to that size is to starve it of revenue. ''The goal is reducing the size and scope of government by draining its lifeblood,'' Norquist told U.S. News & World Report.” The Tax-Cut Con

The same Representatives and Senators who signed the ATR Pledge also took the following Oath of Office, as did the remaining 258 Representatives and Senators:

“The current oath was enacted in 1884:

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.” Oaths of Office For Federal Officials

Here is a 2004 analysis of how The Pledge has effectively impacted fiscal responsibility among our Senators and Representatives. The link to the entire paper appears at the end of the quotes.

“D. Paying for the Pledge
It is ironic -- if not downright Orwellian -- that the no new taxes pledge is officially titled the “Taxpayer Protection Pledge.” Between the policies they have explicitly supported and the policies they have pledged to support, the self-styled taxpayers’ protectors have been instrumental in enacting policies that raise the long-term fiscal gap by upwards of 4 percent of GDP, or about $34 trillion. These burdens will have to be borne by future taxpayers, who are likely to markedly “unprotected.”

To provide some perspective on the implications of these voting patterns, Table 4 shows the spending cuts that would be required in 2014 alone to pay in that year for policies supported by pledge signers and implied by the pledge: (a) making the 2001, 2002, and 2003 tax cuts permanent and extending all of the other expiring provisions in the tax code, (b) indexing the AMT for inflation starting in 2005, and (c) maintaining the prescription drug benefit in Medicare.

Paying for these policies in 2014 would require a 17 percent reduction in all noninterest spending, a more than 100 percent cut in domestic discretionary spending, a 26 percent cut in all entitlement spending, a 66 percent cut in social security benefits, or a 78 percent reduction in medicare. If interest, defense and homeland security, and social security, medicare and medicaid were left alone, there would have to be a 72 percent decline in all spending.

Signers who voted for the medicare prescription drug bill and the 2001, 2002, and 2003 tax cuts, and who do not support spending adjustments of the magnitude shown in Table 4 can not be portrayed as acting in a fiscally responsible manner, unless they secretly harbor plans to raise taxes in ways that the pledge does not prohibit …”

Signers of the “no new taxes” pledge voluntarily commit to limit their own ability to
consider a wide variety of tax increases. The intent of the pledge is to remove one of the
options for dealing with current and projected future budget shortfalls, and to require that the
entire adjustment occur on the spending side. Such a one-sided adjustment seems unlikely to
occur based on the historical record since 1981, which shows instead that tax and spending
have moved in opposite directions over the medium horizons.

As a result, it would seem especially incumbent on the signers to promote spending discipline. In fact, they have done just the opposite -- supporting massive permanent increases in spending at the same time they support equally massive permanent cuts in taxes and at the same time that current and projected revenues are declining for other reasons. The policies supported by signers will require changes in future spending or taxes that no elected official has publicly supported or would conceivably support. All of these findings suggest that the no new taxes pledge and its signers are a significant part of the fiscal problem, not the vanguard of a realistic solution.” The “No New Taxes” Pledge (An Analysis)

The President’s job plan introduced in early September had a procedural vote in the Senate in which it would have passed normally – 51 vs. 49. The procedural vote was simply to bring the bill to the Senate floor for debate and amendment. However, under current rules, legislation/actions must have 60 or more votes for passage. Therefore, any discussion or action on the President’s jobs bill was denied with the entire Senate Republican members voting no – do not even bring it to the floor for discussion. The current strategy is to break up the proposal and work on passage of individual pieces. Here are some thoughts on what pieces might have the potential of passage:

“Schumer mentioned at least two provisions in the $447 billion bill that Senate Democrats intended to bring to the floor as smaller pieces of legislation. One was the renewal of a payroll tax holiday for working Americans that he predicted would win bipartisan support. The other was a significant new investment in transportation infrastructure that the lawmaker said Republicans would likely block and would focus the differences between Democrats and Republicans on job creation efforts.

He described a separate initiative he is backing that would see the creation of a holiday allowing U.S. multi-national companies to bring overseas earnings back onshore at a discounted tax rate paired with a large investment in transportation infrastructure.

Doing so, Schumer said, could win the support of Republicans because it would mean a large tax break for many U.S. companies, and would also see the federal government acting to create construction jobs across the country, which would please Democrats …”

“House Republican leaders have said in recent weeks they would be willing to bring forward legislation based on aspects of the president's jobs agenda they agree with.

So far, these include passage of three outstanding trade pacts with Colombia, Panama and South Korea and the permanent deferral of the collection of a 3% withholding tax by the Internal Revenue Service on salaries earned by government contractors.” US Sen Schumer: Will Break Up Obama Jobs Plan And Move It In Pieces

What I find interesting about this discussion of breaking up the package is the emphasis on the tax reduction pieces – they are the ones most likely to garner passage. The question that at this point remains unanswered is:

• Will the tax reduction pieces be offset with spending reductions?

Acting in a fiscally responsible manner would seem to indicate you are reducing your income, you also reduce your expenses. However, as seen in the Brookings Abstract (“The “No New Taxes” Pledge (An Analysis))” reductions in taxes are not considered increased spending requiring an offset. Until the mindset changes in considering tax reductions a form of spending, we will continue to see fiscally irresponsible behavior.

If yours is one of the Representatives or Senators who signed the Pledge, a suggested line of questioning to be asking them is:

• Do you intend to uphold your pledge to a lobbyist whose avoid purpose is “to reduce the size [of government] where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub …” and whose “… goal is reducing the size and scope of government by draining its lifeblood.” Or the oath you took when you were sworn into office? It would appear there is a significant conflict, what is your choice?

Lowering Tax Rates on the “Job Creators”

Speaker John Boehner insists taxes cannot be raised on those with the highest incomes because these are the “Job Creators” and instead of raising taxes on this group, we should be lowering them. This course of action should be considered carefully because based on what we discussed in “The Pledge,” once taxes are lowered, there is no flexibility to raise them again if the action proves incorrect. There are three questions to be answered – What has been the effect of the Bush tax cuts on employment?; What has been the effect of the Bush tax cuts on income inequality?; What has been the effect on the progressive nature of the tax system? A good starting place is the following:

“Those tax cuts passed in 2001 amid big promises about what they would do for the economy. What followed? The decade with the slowest average annual growth since World War II. Amazingly, that statement is true even if you forget about the Great Recession and simply look at 2001-7.” Were the Bush Tax Cuts Good for Growth?

“Economist John Weeks asserts that increased income inequality in the U.S., one of only four high-income OECD countries to experience a significant increase in inequality, is largely the result of a less progressive taxation structure, the weakening strength of labor unions, which has resulted in "a growing imbalance in the economic and political power of capital and labor."[79] However, claims of a "less progressive taxation structure" are refuted by the fact that "high-income households pay a modestly larger share of total federal income taxes," which is the generally-accepted measure of progressivity.[80]

In actuality though, the existence of a progressive federal personal income tax, does not refute the claims of an overall regressive tax system. First consider that the prior statement ignores federal payroll and excise/customs taxes, which as suggested by the fact that these taxes are disproportionately carried by the middle and lower classes, are widely considered regressive type taxes.[81]

Moreover, as a percentage of total federal taxes, these regressive type taxes have seen an increase in recent years. To display this, consider that in 2000, 60.8% of the federal taxes collected came from personal and corporate income taxes (i.e. two progressive taxes) whereas only 38.9% came from payroll and excise/customs taxes (i.e. two regressive taxes). This is a ratio of 60.8 to 38.9, with the remaining 0.4% coming from taxes collected from the rest of the world. By 2005, this ratio had changed to 56.4 to 43.1, thus indicating a trend towards a less progressive federal tax system.[81]:73

Lastly, by taking local and state taxes into consideration, it can be can be fully seen how claims about the strong progressiveness of the American tax system are misguided as local/state tax systems are very regressive. Consider that in the year 2000, 30.1% of all state and local taxes were from progressive type taxes (see above for examples)whereas 64.4% came from regressive type taxes. By 2005, this trend had become exacerbated as only 28.8% now came from progressive type taxes, and 65.0% came from regressive type taxes.[81]:73” Economic Policy of George W. Bush Administration

What is preventing job creation? Google the last three words of the previous question and you will see a plethora of ideas ranging from regulations to taxes to health care to whatever. My thought – the overriding lack of leadership and confidence that those in leadership positions know what they are doing. Your thoughts or ideas?

Sense of Entitlement and The Need for Humility

How many have seen the National Car Rental commercials that emphasize the individual can choose any car in the isle because they are a “business pro” and they “deserve it”? The tail end of the spot is the booming voice in the background saying they are a business pro with the individual almost under their breath agreeing they deserve special privileges. What strikes me about the commercial is the reflection in our society that there are those who place themselves apart and above everyone else without realizing and acknowledging the contributions others made in helping them achieve their current status.

This was brought home to me in reviewing comments to Elizabeth Warren’s "There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own" video. I read many of the nearly 600 comments before deciding there was something missing and I decided to write my own comment (October 1, 2011 at 3:41 PM EDT). If you have not seen the video, it is less that two minutes long and can be reached at the following link: Elizabeth Warren: "There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own"

The following is what I wrote and contains what I believe to be the answer to the question posed earlier in this post – How is anyone’s pay determined? :

“There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own" If you really think about it, this statement is very true.

• You win the Powerball – individuals created the game and contributed to the prize through the purchase of tickets

• You inherit a fortune – another individual accumulated the resources to create that fortune

• You earn it by building a business – other individuals helped build that business and still others purchased the products produced

Tables, chairs, desks, bricks, mortar, steel, computers, backhoes, bulldozers, trucks – what do all these have in common? They are inanimate objects which by themselves do not have any value. Yet, when combined with an individual AND the people assembled around him, they form the basis of a business which adds value to those inanimate objects, producing products others need and use.

The important word in the last sentence is “AND”. It is important because no single individual, no matter how skilled, can put together a business by themselves. Thus, Elizabeth Warren’s statement rings true. Where we have difficulty is how we value an individual’s contribution and how their contribution will be rewarded. The issue is who controls the reward system.

I argue those who have power are the ones who control the reward system. How do you gain power? In our society, you accumulate wealth. The more wealth accumulated, the greater the power available. One only has to look how pay is decided for those at the top of a business or corporation. Generally a Board of Directors will determine pay for those executives who represent the top of the ladder. In far too many instances the members of the Board are indebted to top executives who invited them to be members. The result is a reward system highly skewed to those who have the power, not on the basis of what that executive contributes to the success of the enterprise, but based on the then existing power they hold. If this sounds far fetched, one only has to study history and the accumulated bankruptcies to identify those at the top continued to receive increased rewards while destroying the business.

There is documented exploitation of those less powerful, but necessary for the individual at the top to accumulate their wealth. Without those at the bottom, the individual at the top could not attain their level of wealth – remember the inanimate objects discussed before? They only become powerful and useful when individuals are introduced into the mix.

What do we have now and how is that manifest? Let’s examine the raw emotion expressed by the audiences in the Republican debates:

o The cries of “ … let him die!” when the question was raised about what should happen to an uninsured 30 year old in a comma.

o The applause when Gov. Perry said with pride Texas has executed 234 people while he was governor.

o The undercurrent of boos and jeers Gov. Perry received when he expressed support and compassion in helping the children of illegal immigrants receive an education.

o The disrespect shown for a soldier putting his life on the line while protecting our rights when he called the debate from a war zone, raised a question and said he was gay.

Do we want a country in which it is everyone for himself and only the strong will survive? Or a country in which we treat each other with respect, compassion, helping, learning, allowing us to grow as individuals and as a nation?

This is really what Elizabeth Warren is saying – we need to restore the balance of power our forbearers fought for when they left England where kings and nobility held literally the life and death of their subjects in their hands. When we have an extremely small number of individuals controlling the vast majority of the wealth in our country, is it not reasonable to conclude we have created that which our forebears fled? As I have read several of the posts there seems to be a claim of entitlement by those who have become wealthy and a denigration of those who helped them accumulate their wealth.

“No man is an island entire of itself; every man
is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;
if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe
is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as
well as a manor of thy friends or of thine
own were; any man's death diminishes me,
because I am involved in mankind.
And therefore never send to know for whom
the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”

o No Man Is An Island

What you are hearing is all the “… clod[s] washed away by the sea …” reminding those on the promontory that you are where you are because of the foundation provided by others, without that foundation, you will join us in being washed into the sea.

Thank you,

I opened this section with the National Car Rental ad and a commentary about the “I deserve it” sense of entitlement. And I talked about the relationship of power and wealth in my post to Elizabeth Warren’s video. There are five additional short articles that expand the idea. The first two identify the rewards one gets from being on the board of a specific company or controlling the board. The information about the perks of being on the board or executives of these companies are not really that different from many other companies. Sitting on this board is no gamble … Chasing performance (bonuses) at Best Buy …

The third highlights the insular power of boards and the difficulty of unlocking that power. Shareholders Locked Out of the Boardroom

The forth is a report from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) identifying the growing income disparity between the “haves” and “have-nots”.

”From 1979 to 2007, real (inflation-adjusted) average household income, measured after government transfers and federal taxes, grew by 62 percent. During that period, the evolution of the nation’s economy and the tax and spending policies of the federal government and state and local governments had varying effects on households at different points in the income distribution: Income after transfers and federal taxes (denoted as after-tax income in the study) for households at the higher end of the income scale rose much more rapidly than income for households in the middle and at the lower end of the income scale …”

”As a result of that uneven income growth, the distribution of after-tax household income in the United States was substantially more unequal in 2007 than in 1979: The share of income accruing to higher-income households increased, whereas the share accruing to other households declined. In fact, between 2005 and 2007, the after-tax income received by the 20 percent of the population with the highest income exceeded the aftertax income of the remaining 80 percent.” Trends in the Distribution of Household Income Between 1979 and 2007

The last expands on the idea of power equating to wealth by including information in the equation. It was brought to my attention in a post on the MDP Apple Board by kickbishopbrenna - Re: An Interesting article.

“It is no longer a simple supply-and-demand equation, thanks to the entrance of speculators buying through the New York commodity markets. In effect, these speculators take advantage of quirks in the coffee chain to gamble with price and demand, driving up the price (the farmers don't see a piece of this) and distorting the market. To reform things truly, coffee needs to be producer-centric, but instead the producers end up at the bottom of the chain, well below speculators, coffee retailers and roasters.” An ethical guide to your home: from mobile phones to sofas

As you read through the article, you begin to get a sense of the greed and exploitation of others that happens at many different levels (Do you remember Enron? WorldCom? Bernie Madoff?). You may think the miners and coffee producers do not have anything to do with you. Go back to my discussion of regulations and think about the examples of “Bill Shock” and a burning Cuyahoga River. The provider knows when you are about to exceed your limits and incur excessive charges, but their incentive is to let that happen because it improves their bottom line. The companies dumping waste in our rivers know they are contributing to pollution but find its less expensive to pay the fine than properly dispose of the waste. Perhaps those examples bring home the idea that someone else’s greed and exploitation is something that could touch you such that you are placed in the roll of the miner or coffee producer as a victim. It would do well for all to remember we come into this world with nothing and we leave it the same way. All the wealth and power accumulated in one’s life is of little importance if it was done so by building oneself up while in the process others are torn down.

Going According to Plan

I throw this out here because as I have been putting this post together, something keeps cropping up in the back of my mind that I think needs to be explored. I will tell you right off I do not have any answers, only questions for consideration. You can tell me I am heading in the wrong direction and I will respect that. But if the answers found by you in open dialogue confirm my thoughts, then we face a far more serious problem to our country’s future than is currently being discussed.

The phrase used to open this section (Going According to Plan) comes from the article written more than eight years ago. The basic question in the back of my mind – Is there a plan? I laid out the arguments earlier in this post:

“To sum up the author’s case, we have a faction within our country that believes we do not need government. Behind the scenes and over time, that faction has been working to weaken the fabric that holds our country together. Ten years ago, two years before the author put thoughts to paper, it was well known the aging of the baby boom generation would put a strain on our economy. Let’s look at some major events and how they have enabled weakened our economy such that those who want to do away with government now have a stronger hand.”

With that, I identified policies which added significantly to the debt and deficit. Here is a partial assessment of the Bush administration from an article written in August 2006 on the CATO website:

“Republicans also have their own policies of big spending to blame. Tax cutting has been made more difficult because Bush has been the most profligate president in decades. In his first five years, 2001 to 2006, federal spending increased 45 percent and deficits have soared. It’s tougher to convince the few centrist Democrats in the Senate to go along with making tax cuts permanent when federal red ink is gushing non-stop.

The big spending policies of the Bush administration have been remarkably short-sighted economically and politically, as they have threatened Bush’s primary domestic policy success of pro-growth tax cuts. For its part, the Republican leadership in Congress has gone along with, and often encouraged, the spending feast of recent years. There are only about 50 serious budget reformers in the 435-member House. For the rest, it’s been a pork-barrel pigout in recent years.” Tax Policy Under President Bush

We were already weakening the ability of our government to have the funds necessary to operate when 9/11 occurred. Then we added to our problem by enacting a tax cut while we were fighting two wars – something highly unorthodox. We compounded the problem by removing lending standards and changing the incentives for banks, absolving them of their responsibility for the loans they originate by allowing them to sell their loans to others. Therefore, their incentive was to create and sell as many loans as possible – that is where they make their money.

Recall the words attributed to George W. Bush earlier in this post:

“George W. Bush himself seemed to endorse the doctrine as the budget surplus evaporated: in August 2001 he called the disappearing surplus ''incredibly positive news'' because it would put Congress in a ''fiscal straitjacket.''

Do you believe we are in a “fiscal straitjacket” now? Below is a quote from the House floor debate I cited earlier in this post:

“But in this particular proposal tonight, what we see is a proposal by the Republican Party to take money from the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing program to help America compete in the auto industry with state-managed economies like China's and Japan's, and take it away from recovering auto firms and unemployed auto workers to give to disaster victims around this country.

It's a no-win game. We're hurting the American people. We take from one sector that is suffering for another sector that is suffering? In the greatest automotive manufacturing country in the world, we don't want to put more people back to work because we want to defeat the President next year?

I'm starting to believe those that suggested this cynical ploy. Why should we hurt the automotive industry that is just beginning to hire back and starting to lift this economy in the industrial Midwest and through hiring at parts suppliers coast to coast?

Vote ``no'' on this cynical ploy to set disaster victims against unemployed auto workers in the automotive industry of this country, which has a right to compete.”

And this quote in the comment section from the article in The Blaze:

“Nothing of consequence can happen until the Senate and WH change hands….WE have to make sure that the Congress, Senate and WH will be occupied by Republicans (in the case of the senate and congress a majority) come 2012. Real meaningful reform and huge cuts can only happen when that scenario becomes reality. The Congress can only do so much with 2/3 rds of the Fed Gov’t are at odds with your policies.”

It does not take a full team to affect the outcome, only enough in key positions to change the dynamics. With the 2010 elections, more of those key positions have been filled. The dynamics of weakening the government have been working their way through our system for the last decade. If in fact this is part of a grand scheme, then the danger from within is far greater than the danger from without and we have been fighting the wrong wars.

The President proposed a package to create jobs in a joint session of Congress on September 8, 2011 Congress consisting of ideas that have been traditionally supported in a bipartisan manner. The one kicker is the need to raise revenue through a tax increase. The necessity to raise revenue is recognized by Republicans and Democrats alike. But is not going to happen because of the pledge 277 Congressional members have signed. This is the question that needs to be asked of those we elected – Do you want to work for the best interest of our country allowing ALL options that can be used as part of the solution to be placed on the table and realistically considered and applied? Or Do you want to handicap the process by explicitly taking a major element necessary to reach a workable solution off the table and keep the government in a ''fiscal straitjacket'' because you have signed a pledge designed by a lobbyist and supported by a minority of the American people?

Here is a view of the strategy being used:

“Nevertheless, many on the political left have long charged that the ultimate goal of starve-the-beast advocates has been to create a deficit so massive that entitlements will have to be cut when a fiscal crisis finally emerges. In the words of Peter Beinart, editor of The New Republic: “It’s middle-class entitlements, however, such as Medicare and Social Security, which make the federal government so big (and so popular). And the GOP’s only hope of undermining them is to create a fiscal crisis so huge that now-unpopular Republican solutions, such as privatizing Social Security and turning Medicare into a voucher program, become politically feasible. In roughly a decade, when multiple Bush tax cuts and an enormous defense buildup run smack into the baby-boom retirement, they might just get their wish” “Starve the Beast” (An article in The Independent, VOLUME XII, NUMBER 1, SUMMER 2007

And here is a final comment written in February 2010 by Paul Krugman summing up the plan:

“Economist Paul Krugman summarized the strategy in February 2010: "Rather than proposing unpopular spending cuts, Republicans would push through popular tax cuts, with the deliberate intention of worsening the government’s fiscal position. Spending cuts could then be sold as a necessity rather than a choice, the only way to eliminate an unsustainable budget deficit." He wrote that the "...beast is starving, as planned..." and that "Republicans insist that the deficit must be eliminated, but they’re not willing either to raise taxes or to support cuts in any major government programs. And they’re not willing to participate in serious bipartisan discussions, either, because that might force them to explain their plan — and there isn’t any plan, except to regain power."[19]

Thoughts? Ideas?

A Time for Action

When I started putting this post together, “Occupy Wall Street” did not even exist. However, if you think about what appear to be the driving forces behind the movement, they share many of the same themes expressed in this post. They have chosen one way of expressing the need for change. The way identified below is something we all can do. Perhaps with the application of both methods, substantive positive change will occur.

If you believe as I do that we as a nation are at a critical inflection point, it is time to formulate and execute a plan of action. What I will be requesting is something any one of you can do, makes no difference if you agree or disagree with what I have presented, if you are Republican, Democrat, Independent, member of one of the other minority parties, or not a member of any party. These are things which as Americans we should all be doing to ensure the ability of our Democracy to endure.

First, invite respectful dialogue and debate. Realize we can all benefit and grow from well presented, fact based arguments with sources cited when necessary so others can review and come to their own conclusions. Your task is to build your case in such a way that others can understand your position, raise questions, and perhaps introduce relevant information not previously considered. It is seldom we are totally right or wrong in the positions we take and present. If we dogmatically pursue our argument to the point of refusing to be open to different viewpoints, we all lose. We lose as an individual because we do not advance our knowledge. Those we interact with lose because of the time and effort spent in presenting reasonable counter arguments or points we have overlooked or not considered.

Second, research the arguments you are presenting. Know their strengths and weaknesses. When constructing your thoughts, take the time to explore those thoughts from another point of view. When you finally put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard), you will be rewarded with a thoughtful and reasoned presentation others will be able to follow.

Third, review the Constitution and its Amendments. It is not an overwhelmingly long document, but it does provide a framework from which you can understand the roles, responsibilities, and limitations placed on various portions of our government. You can then direct any attention and comments you have to where they will do the most good and have the greatest impact. Below are two links which you may find helpful: The Charters of Freedom United States Constitution

Forth, pay attention to the laws that are being discussed at the Federal, State and Local levels. Be aware of anything that has happened (or not happened) since September 8th on the proposals put forth by our President in a joint session of Congress – committee meetings, hearings, floor debates. What is the most pressing problem our nation faces? What has Congress done to address this issue since being sworn in January 3rd, more than ten months ago? Take some time to explore both of the links listed below. There you will find the answers to the previous questions and more. United States House of Representatives web home United States Senate web home

You want to know what your Representative or Senator said on the floor about a specific bill, or voted, or any amendment they made, search the Congressional Record. Congressional Record: Main Page

Fifth, use a variety of sources to sharpen the focus on whatever position you are considering. Explore sources that are diametrically opposed, examining the arguments presented with a critical and open mind. Make it a point to utilize sites that are known as fact checkers – they have an incentive to present all sides in a fair discussion to maintain their reputation for impartiality. The links below identify some of the more popular sites. Discussion of Fact Check Sites A Project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center Home of St. Petersburg Times Political Fact Check

Sixth, once you have gathered your information, honed your argument based on facts, and made written notes substantiated by documented sources, it is time to contact your Representative or Senator, as well as any other legislative leaders you deem appropriate and respectfully present your case. In presenting your case, be open for thoughts or ideas that may challenge or add additional information. Be willing to re-examine your position based on any new information, but hold that new information to the same high standards used in building your initial argument. The intent is to open and maintain a dialogue in which all learn and grow in their knowledge and understanding – reaching solutions that minimize the opportunity for unintended consequences and address all aspects of the problem. The House and Senate links provided above are good starting points for obtaining contact information. An additional link I have found useful is listed below. Contacting the Congress

Finally, and most important – you were given the right to vote. If the act of voting were not important, why are Republican controlled state legislatures in a headlong rush to enact legislation which discourages voter participation? Please use that right and do not take it for granted. Do not discount your vote by saying it won’t matter if I vote or not. There are many elections won or lost by one or a few votes – perhaps yours would have been the one to make a difference. Elections will be coming up quickly. Take the time to explore the issues and candidates to best ensure the decision you make in the polling booth will yield the results you expect.

As if you did not have enough to think about, I will add two more pertinent issues to research and consider:

• First, the U.S. Postal service is undergoing a congressional review pointing toward privatization. Although the Postal Service is a government organization, it is self-sustaining and does not receive public funding. Quite the contrary, it must contribute $5.5 billion or more to the government through at least September 2016 based on a 2006 law, H.R. 6407, Section 803 - 109th Congress to meet what were deemed unfunded pension liabilities. It has since been established the calculation of the unfunded pension liability was incorrect and the excess funds should be returned to the Postal Service. However, the Postal Service must by current law continue to make payments and not have access to the excess funds. Why is this important? Because the Postal Service is second only to Wal-Mart in the total number of employees and the impact any decision may have on jobs and unemployment; the Postal Service assists Fed Ex and UPS by providing delivery of packages to areas where it is uneconomical for those companies to service; the Postal Service handles the distribution and delivery of Absentee Ballots, the only way voters in Washington (state) and Oregon can vote; those excess funds can assist in providing the capital necessary for the service to modernize and streamline its operations. If you go to Search Bills and Reports using “Postal Reform Act of 2011” it will return a list of bills currently being considered in the 112th Congress. Two bills of interest are H.R.2309 and H.R.1351. The Congressional Record floor debate of S.353 is a good place to begin to understand the issue and well worth the read. There are others, but those should get you started.

• Second, this puts in sharp contrast the difficulty we are facing of legislating. Senator Paul Rand, KY blocked a safety bill that has overwhelming bipartisan and industry support and for which officials familiar with Paul's objections said he has told lobbyists and company officials that he's not opposed to any specific part of the bill, just to the notion of additional federal regulation – he is opposing it on principle – he does not want to increase regulation, period. Does this remind you of something that has been discussed before? Perhaps ideology overcoming common sense? You can go to Rand Paul blocks pipeline safety bill on principle for more information. Here is an update - in which the Senator indicates he feels the bill should be debated on the Senate floor. Note: The US Senate approved the bill on October 18, 2011 after Rand Paul dropped his objection.

Follow Up Review of Original Article

If there is noting else you have learned from this post, it is a belief that ideas are far more important and enduring than the presenter. I found another piece written in the same timeframe that presents perhaps even more starkly what we face now, more than 8 years later. It is well worth reading the entire review, but here are some relevant excerpts:

“Though Krugman’s unblushing display of self-esteem sometimes makes his book read like a job application, events have proven him correct about much of what he has said during the past three [eight] years. Most notably, the tax cuts for the most affluent have not been paid for by an expanding economy. Instead they have helped convert the Clinton administration’s $230 billion surplus into a $500 billion deficit. Krugman also foresaw the likelihood of a “jobless recovery,” which now appears to be in progress as the economy fails to create new jobs...”

“In the higher levels of journalism there is a curious uneasiness about dealing candidly with the quite natural relationship between various money interests and government. All politics is to a great extent about who gets the lion’s share of the money at a government’s disposal, and a public that realized this might be less insouciant about elections than today’s American nonvoter.

Journalism is reluctant, however, to make much of an effort to find out who will benefit if a given candidate wins, and who will lose out. Instead of providing this valuable information, the media tend to explain politics in terms of high-sounding ideological piffle about a “conservatism” and a “liberalism” which have very little pertinence to anything of consequence to the voter. The result is to deaden public interest in politics by diverting the mind from the fact that there is real money at stake.

It seems slightly scandalous that Krugman has persisted in noting that the present administration [George W. Bush] has been moving the lion’s share of the money to an array of corporate interests distinguished by the greed of their CEOs, an indifference toward their workers, and boardroom conviction that it is the welfare state that is ruining the country. Krugman has been strident. He has been shrill. He has lowered the dignity of the commentariat. How refreshing.” The Awful Truth

Thank you,
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