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Thursday, November 17, 2011

Disconnected Republicans

Recently, we spoke of a major disconnect between the Republicans in Congress and the reality of their constitutional responsibility, i.e. their control of the national purse strings.  Their attempts to blame others -- particularly the President -- for the national debt is simply misguided.  The Congress has the constitutional duty to appropriate taxpayer funds, with the proviso that they must use those funds to provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States.  The Executive is not given power over those purse strings.  The President cannot legislate nor can he appropriate funds; he cannot pay on the debt or borrow money or coin money unless directed to do so by legislation.  All of these responsibilities fall to the Congress in Article I of the Constitution. 

So, if we have a huge national debt, or expenditures that are out-of-control, or lack of adequate revenue, a bloated bureaucracy or loans from foreign countries like China, the Congress must bear the responsibility -- and blame -- for all of it!  The Congress has legislated it all -- they passed the bills that got us into the financial mess we are currently in.  No amount of political rhetoric can make this fact into fiction.  The Congress owns these problems, even if the bills they passed were recommended by the President.  Just as they legislated us into this mess, they must legislate the way out of it.  Unfortunately, their greatest disconnect is that they are acting as though they do not bear any responsibility for solving real national problems!

Let us take a look at some of the other problems that demand attention from the Congress, and at the same time note the disconnects that exist between reality (the facts) and what the Congress has created as the fiction (disconnect).  And, what better place to start than with a very obvious fact of modern life: there are not enough jobs available, unemployment is way too high and manufacturing jobs are moving overseas at an alarming rate.  Let’s take a brief look at some facts about this.

On Nov. 4th, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported:

--  Both the number of unemployed persons (13.9 million) and the unemployment rate (9.0 percent) changed little over the month. The unemployment rate has remained in a narrow range from 9.0 to 9.2 percent since April
--  Although employment in the private sector rose, with modest job growth continuing in professional and business services, leisure and hospitality, health care, and mining,  manufacturing employment changed little in October 2011 (+5,000) and has remained flat for 3 months. In October, a job gain in transportation equipment (+10,000) was partly offset by small losses in other manufacturing industries.
--  The number of persons employed part time for economic reasons (sometimes referred to as involuntary part-time workers) was 8.9 million in October. These individuals were working part time because their hours had been cut back or because they were unable to find a full-time job.
-- In October, 2.6 million persons were “marginally attached” to the labor force, meaning that they wanted and were available for work, and had looked for a job sometime in the prior 12 months but were not in the labor force.
--  In October, the number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks and over) stood at 5.9 million, or 42.4 percent of total unemployment.
--  In October,  no major private-sector industry stood out with significant employment changes over the month
-- Construction employment declined by 20,000 in October, largely offsetting an increase of 27,000 in September. Employment changes in both months were concentrated in nonresidential Construction
-- Government has lost 323,000 jobs over the past year.  In October, government jobs losses were concentrated in state government, excluding education, which lost 16,000 jobs as budgets remained tight.

It is also a fact that multi-national corporations almost uniformly report that their largest growth is in their foreign markets.  Companies on the S&P 500 generate 46% of their profits outside the U.S., and many, like Coca-Cola, report much larger foreign profit percentages (80% for Coke), with a larger percentage of employees in foreign countries.

It is more than fair to ask:  how do these statistics (facts) fit into the problem-solving that is needed from both the Executive and Legislative branches on the national level?  

Republicans say that one of the major problems we face is that taxes are too high on the “job creators” -- presumably those who are at the top of the income ladder, e.g. corporate CEOs.  Republicans claim that high tax rates prevent “job creators” from creating jobs because they lack confidence to innovate or invest, and therefore, they signed a pledge not to raise any taxes.  Secondly, they insist that over-regulation by government agencies contributes to this lack of confidence.  But this statement of the problems we face flies in the face of certain facts and statistics.  It is abundantly clear that the job creators are choosing to create jobs in foreign countries, not here, in spite of what the Republican presidential candidates claim for their plans to grow the economy.   It is also clear that corporations are sitting on almost $2 trillion in profits that they are not investing.

Problems should be defined carefully using facts and reputable studies (statistics, e.g.) to back up the definition of a particular problem.  When asked to identify the “job creators,” and the specific jobs the “creators” have created or will create, the silence is deafening.  When asked to identify the specific regulations that are preventing the creation of jobs, we are met with more silence, or the absence of specifics.  Instead, we are bombarded with agencies that should be “deep-sixed” like the EPA or FEMA or the Departments of Education, Commerce, and uh-h-h, um-m-m - that 3rd one -- ENERGY.  Not once have we been given specific facts or statistics that link job creators to job creation, or current taxes to lack of jobs, or regulatory agencies and specific regulations causing specific job reduction.  Where are the facts that link the claims to the realities?

Statistics indicate that one of our problems is that jobs are disappearing overseas.  Or, to put it another way, job creators are going where the biggest profits are.  They are going to developing countries who have the ability to offer all the things that corporations most desire: very low or no taxes; much lower wages; incentives to build; lack of regulations on safety and health; lack of unions; infrastructure creation; areas of growing consumerism, etc.  Thus, if the richest 1% are truly “job creators,” they are creating jobs elsewhere because that’s where the profits continue to be. 

So, one of the problems we have in reality is that certain jobs are not going to be retrieved from abroad, unless this country regresses to the status of a developing country willing to give the same huge favors to corporations -- lower taxes, very low wages, no unions, etc. -- as those entities now receive from the countries in which they exist.

Thus, it is necessary that we concentrate on creating new industries, new services, innovative processes.  Instead of concentrating on lower taxes for the richest 1%, we need to concentrate our efforts on how best government at all levels can work directly with innovators in such areas as alternative energies, bio-tech and computer science to move us forward into leadership in these areas.  Some of these businesses -- like the solar company Solyndra -- will not succeed but that is not a valid reason to back off such support.  It is my opinion that government needs to concentrate on creating immediate jobs, but at the same time, gather its resources to assist new businesses -- especially in high-tech areas -- to start-up and then to flourish.  This takes strategic planning, and must involve all agencies of government taking part in that Plan.

Another real problem we have is that of competition from everywhere in the world.  Therefore, we must raise education in this country to the highest possible level in order to provide a workforce with the highest skill sets for the new industries and processes that will save our economy and our society.  Instead, we find Republicans concentrating on the dubious solution of laying off teachers, refusing to improve school buildings, and downgrading the place of science in our lives.  Their rationale is that budget-cutting is more important than investment and that education is being compromised by teacher unions.  Of course, once again, we have been given no facts or statistics to back up these made-up problems.  This is simply political rhetoric designed to get them elected so they can control the purse strings at all levels of government.

Are you ready to face some more of the Republican disconnects?  Here are just a few to think about:

-- cutting back on research because of a suspicion of, and opposition to, scientific method and inquiry in a world that needs more scientists
-- cutting back on college grants, Pell grants, and tuition relief while the competitive world demands greater skills and more education
--  cutting Medicare and Medicaid at the same time that aged and disabled population is growing: baby boomers reaching 60-65.
--  decreasing school days and weeks; cutting back on federal grants to schools when new world demands world-class education
--  cutting school programs like art and music when it has been demonstrated that the effects of art and music on the brain are considerable, indicating that children with such influence also seem to do well in math and science.
-- claiming that job creation is their highest priority, they refuse to pass jobs & infrastructure bills, propose no solutions of their own, filibuster to death almost every part of the President’s jobs bill (except incentives to hire veterans), and through their Senate leader, admit that their top priority is to make President Obama a one-term president.

Finally, it is clear that because Republicans do not define problems in a specific, fact-supported manner, they end up wasting resources and energy on false or manufactured problems and their solutions.  This is the greatest disconnect of all: solutions offered for manufactured problems.  Take the country’s motto: is there evidence anywhere to show that this is a problem?  Hardly.  It’s a distraction; an attempt to distract people from their real concerns, such as the need for immediate jobs.  Another one: the bargaining rights of public employees: when did this become a real problem for the nation?  Republicans reply that it is costing taxpayers and the states a great deal.  But the evidence for such claims is refuted by the repudiation of this approach in Ohio, and the blow-back from taxpayers in other states.

And that brings us to the made-up problem of when life begins.  Is this a true problem for the citizens of the United States?  No; it is a problem for a minority of fanatics who think that their view is the only view to hold, and that they must make everyone else agree.  The defeat of the proposition on the ballot in Mississippi shows that even in conservative states, voters are basically opposed to the idea of the government defining life’s beginnings. 

Oh yes, and how about “ObamaCare?”  We have never been told specifically what is wrong with this legislation (except perhaps for the mandate that all must have insurance), nor have we been told what Republicans would put in its place.  Instead, we get made-up problems:  cuts to Medicare (I thought Republicans favored cuts to Medicare -- these cuts are mainly related to hospital administration and to subsidies for higher income folk); government control of the patient-doctor relationship (a totally bogus proposition since there is no data to indicate any change in such relationships); new taxes on employers (there are penalties or fees for both employers and individuals who fail to comply with mandated coverage, but nothing is said about the subsidies to individuals and tax credits for small businesses to assist with obtaining coverage). 

So it comes down to Republicans having ascribed a name to this legislation that raises the specter of a problem, but does not actually produce a defined problem backed-up by facts, statistics, studies, actual cases.  What most Republicans will never indicate is that millions of people - especially the young and the old -- have already benefited from initial changes made in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (there are more to come which will also be beneficial).  And, to their detriment, those benefits are going to keep growing and people who opposed the bill because they never knew of its benefits, are going to change their minds.  At that point, Republicans will reap the fruits of their lies, innuendos, and false claims.

That seems to be the modus operandi for Republicans: get people to believe there is a problem where none exists, and do not deal in facts, ever.  Republicans love to make-up problems that distract voters or that play well in elections.  Republicans have no ideas for solving real problems because they don’t define those problems accurately.  The more bamboozled people are -- especially independent voters -- the easier it is for Republicans to take advantage and to be elected.  This time around, their office-holding could be disastrous, just as it has been already in Wisconsin and Ohio and Florida.  Solving manufactured bogus problems is not what this country needs!