Burger King merger, political nonsense

facebook losses

image source: www.clusterflock.org

The recent Burger King, Tim Horton’s announced merger has you feeling? Angry, shocked, or? Myself I am in disbelief. Not of the actual merger or Burger King’s new home of Canada, but of the outrage. Politicians standing up, and speaking out against the new Burger King. “Avoiding Taxes”, you must be kidding! These outraged politicians are the same people who have created the tax game that BK and all the rest of corporate America are playing in. Why should we be surprised? Or is it, the politician playing their game? The game of outrage, acting as if they will do something to protect the tax-base, the middle-class? Washington politicians will they do something about Burger King? Why didn’t they do anything about General Electric when they paid NO taxes?
The issue at hand is not Burger King becoming Canadian and avoiding U.S. Taxes. The issue is the tax-code and the politicians who think we are all stupid! (Though there is no evidence that taxes paid to the U.S will be any less as Burger Kings are franchises.

One big political stunt to get us to believe the little guys being protected. From Obama on down, it’s just political foolishness that far too many of us are believing.

America, the land of less opportunity

stars and stripes

pic: Rebecca Betzler

America, the land of opportunity. This idea is what drives immigration, legal and illegal. Immigration is what built America and it will also be what destroys it. That is if we continue on our current path of inaction.

It has been nearly ten years since the banking crisis almost collapsed this nation. Since that time, America has battled (or pretended to) many a fight along the way . Unemployment, immigration, the housing crisis just to name a few. The response by our government, some believe good, others not so good. We have also seen to some degree civil unrest most notably the  Occupy Movement. Now just with this little bit said, where do you believe we are as a country? Has our country become stronger or weaker during this period?

Economically we are far weaker as a nation as well as a people. Immigration, many might say, has played a role in weakening our country. I am not of that belief, at least not in its stated form. This brings me back to the opening sentence, “the land of opportunity.” Opportunity is in America for the immigrant for now, but this will not last. The fight for those entry level jobs, those according to the Republican Party nobody wants, is becoming  a real fight. And the battle for these minimum wage jobs is becoming more difficult with each passing day. We have not built strong opportunities since the collapse of our economy. Not anywhere near what we did post World War 2. The jobs that our country has been creating, low paid service jobs. And we who are citizens are or soon will be fighting for these opportunities. Not because we want them, but because we will NEED them. The creation of living wage opportunities, like America experienced during the Post WW2 era, is that possible? Only if we begin to bring the jobs home. How do we do this?

Washington, that is where it begins and ends. Starting with not your vote, but your candidate. The positions of  your candidate on immigration and job creation, go hand in hand. We cannot continue to allow the growth of our population without strong job growth (outside the service industry). So your candidate must answer also to the tax-code and incentives for business to grow American jobs. The tax-code would also need to cover tax-penalties for shipping jobs overseas. Lastly we get to education. Making college more affordable and having a GI Bill that will cover in its entirety educational expense for veterans. Many complex issues for a candidate to answer, but we must be asking. America’s in decline? Take a good hard look around you and what do you see? Poverty is on the rise. Incomes have flat-lined for the working. The problems facing us are not singular issues. It is not just about jobs, immigration, food-stamps or a GI Bill. Though we are fighting as if they are.

Immigration will be the final nail in the coffin of America the great. How? It is all about jobs and education. If you look at America’s past we have cycled in new immigrants. As the second generation of each group began to work they moved out of the lower-end jobs. Today we do not have this. They are coming and staying in those jobs. Washington hasn’t created any meaningful new jobs to move up to. If Washington continues on with this, it is simple. Too many workers for the low-paying jobs.Washington has two choices, do something about jobs/education or stop immigration. If America cannot provide opportunity for its own people why are we allowing more to come?

The solar White House

image source: en wikipedia.org

image source: en wikipedia.org

The White House’s new solar panels are installed capping a project originally announced by President Obama in 2010. The project did not begin until late 2013, the cost to the taxpayer? Unknown as security issues will keep us from knowing how much and how many panels were installed. The solar panels will provide hot water and some electricity for the White House.

This is not a first for the White House. President Carter installed a solar water heating system in the late 1970′s at a cost of $30,000. Quickly removed by President Reagan when he took office.President George W. Bush did return to some solar while in office, powering a maintenance building, some of the mansion and heating his pool with the sun.

What is absent in the “solar story”, is the rest of our beloved government. First, they are in Washington to spend our money prudently are they not? With attacks on the middle-class and social programs, where is the cost saving ideas when it comes to them? The White House and it’s new solar panels should have been mandated by our government long ago. The House and the Senate buildings should also be powered by solar along with any building within the Federal Parks system ( without destroying its visual beauty). Saving us the taxpayer money on the “cost of government”. The solar panels are expected to return the full investment in eight years.

The cost to run the government, that is the home. When you or I need to buckle down and restrict the budget we look for savings wherever we can get it. And yes, sometimes we also spend money to save money in the long run. That is the key! The long run, our government is unable to look forward to the long run. They need to be held accountable to this idea.

The question that will be left unanswered at least until 2016 is, “how long will the solar panels remain on the White House this time?

Our Post Middle-Class Economy

image source: http://www.flatrock.org

image source: http://www.flatrock.org

Each day most of us live one tragic event away from economic disaster. Living pay-check to pay-check providing for our families and hopefully having some left for savings. We are the worker ant’s that provide profits for businesses, shareholders, yes the Top 1%. You would think that the Top 1% would be more appreciative of our efforts wouldn’t you?

This reality again was slapped across my face by a recent article I read. In the Dec 16, 2013 publication of The Nation an article titled Holiday Crush. The article written by Gabriel Thompson was about his brief work in a distribution warehouse in California. Thompson’s experience, fast-paced work (unsafe conditions), very low pay ($9 an hour) and the expendable worker (most employees supplied by temporary companies).

The stand-out piece of information, the erosion of Middle-America, the third-party trend, the temporary workers. In 1986 manufacturing jobs that were temporary positions, 1 in 43. By 2006 this number has become 1 in 11. This is a staggering loss of good middle-class jobs. The culprit is the North American Free Trade Act (NAFTA). Business has responded to free-trade and this competition not only by the elimination of jobs, but also by shedding benefits, wages and pensions. We have been sold a bag of lies and continue to be. President Obama has also sold-out the Middle-Class, continuing on with “free-trade” signing on most recently with Columbia.

If we are to believe that change is not over we are fooling ourselves. Profits are the driving force behind the American Middle-Class decline? This is not true. The policies and trade-agreements of our government is at the top of the list. (naturally bank-rolled by business.) And aided by the lies of Right-Wing media. You know the lies don’t you? Entitlements such as pensions, social security, unemployment insurance, welfare, food stamps, etc. are killing our competitiveness. Regulations by the government are making it impossible for the U.S. to compete. The question that should be asked is, “how can we compete?” How can we compete in a global economy when nations pay far-less? How is it possible for the U.S. to compete with nations that have no regard for their environment?

The answer to any and all these questions, we cannot compete. So in order to compete, wages and benefits must be cut and eliminated. Work (esp. manufacturing) must leave to cheaper and less environmentally friendly nations. And it has! What we are left with is what we are experiencing today, lower wage jobs, the near extinction of defined benefit pensions, millions living in poverty. Not one action will correct this trend down. This is our economy and don’t get too comfortable with it. It will change for the worse at the hands of Washington, Republican and Democrat. You may protest the Democrat inclusion, but who signed NAFTA? That would be former President Clinton. And who continues to expand “free-trade?”, President Obama.

So we have two choices. One to accept our fate and do nothing. Or the second option, engage our enemies, who are all who reside in Washington. Time is running out on the United States. If we stand by and do nothing the majority of our jobs will be low paying, temporary positions. Americans will be working multiple jobs for less and spending less, resulting in lower wages. Engage our enemies, getting active in politics and holding everyone accountable. Where do we start? At the very beginning, by educating ourselves on what really is the reason behind our decline, NAFTA.

 

 

A New Year, A New System

facebook losses

image source: www.clusterflock.org

As this year nears its end and fades into history, and a new year, full of possibilities, lay before us, it is only natural to think about our (collective and individual) future. Many propose New Year’s Resolutions –to lose more weight, see our loved ones more often, work harder to get a raise-in hopes of making the new year better than the old. Some may even take a look at the world around them and vow to get more involved, to pick an issue (or set of issues) and attempt to make progress. For anyone who is hoping that 2014 will be the year of democracy, a chance to transcend the post-Citizens United America and work toward a fairer and more democratic political system, here is an idea worth discussing.

Yale Law School professors Bruce Ackerman and Ian Ayres have developed a two-part campaign finance reform which is dynamic, creative, and purposefully designed to avoid constitutional and popular objections. (Note: My source of this information is David Schweickart’s book After Capitalism). It is very different from many of the typical progressive approaches to the issue. It is best to be viewed as an immediate reform which can be implemented to make our current system fairer. It is not, however, the end of the line. It is a step toward a full publically funded, participatory, and pluralistic democracy.

Theoretically, a democracy is supposed to be organized along one person, one vote lines. However, when money pervades the system (as in the United States), and the “democratic” society in question is unequal and class-stratified, this principle surrenders to one dollar, one vote. Those with the lion’s share of the wealth and influence in society can, and do, use their privileged positions to influence the “democratic” process to their favor. Thus, one ends up with plutocracy rather than democracy. The 2010 Supreme Court decision Citizens United v. F.E.C. has destroyed any semblance of campaign finance regulation designed to curb moneyed influence and create a level playing field. This situation is now thus that two individuals (the Koch Brothers), to name just one example, can have vastly greater sway over the government of the United States than even those elected to run it. Since there is no chance that the entire system can be scrapped and remade overnight, what can we do in the interim?

Ackerman and Ayres have an answer. They propose a two-part plan. The first part consists of providing every eligible voter with a credit card. On each credit card is $50 that can only be used to donate to candidates and/or political parties of their choosing. This includes third parties. The $50 can be distributed to as many candidates and/or parties as the citizen chooses. These cards have been called “Patriot Cards”. These cards are publically funded. But wouldn’t this cost a fortune? Not quite. As Schweickart points out, if all 200 million or so eligible voters use their $50 card, the cost would be around $10 billion. This amount is equivalent to about 0.3% of the Federal Budget. Even if half of it was used (about $5 billion) it would be enough to offset the influence exercised by the super rich. This proposal is fair, equitable, relatively inexpensive, and largely avoids constitutional issues regarding money and free speech.

The second part of the plan involves what happens once the money is donated. Part two insists that all donations, from the “Patriot Cards” as well as from private donations, have to be made anonymously. All anonymous donations would go into a trust ran by the Federal Elections Committee. From there, the money would be distributed into each candidate/party account. So, under this plan, politicians still get money from private donors, they just do not know which private donors. This would eliminate the quid pro quo which dominates our political landscape today. This is still a far cry from publically funded elections, and there will still remain an imbalance in the amount of money given. But the playing field between the top 1% and everyone else is significantly leveled. With the “Patriot Cards”, citizens can match the amount of money pumped into the system by the top 1%. With the anonymity rules, Super PACs and private donors cannot openly support candidates financially, and thus cannot demand special favors in return.

The hope is that this plan would reinvigorate democratic discourse in the US. It would also create space for third parties and independent candidates. It would largely alter the landscape which currently exists that bestows upon the rich undue influence in our political system. It also does so in a relatively uncontroversial manner. Though doubtless there are some, it remains difficult to find a compelling enough reason not to employ this strategy. It is this author’s opinion that this is a great step in the right direction toward “democratizing democracy” in America. It will give workers and ordinary citizens some space from which to challenge the plutocracy and, perhaps, create some political inertia to move toward a full publically funded political system. So, if you are looking for a New Year’s Resolution, perhaps you might consider making America a truly democratic place one of them.

John Boehner continues to pander to the hard-right on workplace non-discrimination

Congress

image source: www.teambuildinginc.com

“The speaker believes this legislation will increase frivolous litigation and cost American jobs, especially small business” Michael Steel John Boehner’s press secretary. This was the statement made on Speaker Boehner’s position on The Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2013 and not taking to a vote on the House floor. The proposed legislation would protect those in the workplace that are gay from discrimination. While many large corporations already have policies that cover this issue (90% of Fortune 500 companies) this legislation would close the door this workplace issue. Boehner’s statement begs to ask, “How will this cost American jobs?”

Boehner who again is using his leadership to protect the views of the hard-right is not even addressing it with a legitimate statement. It is all about votes and support from your base. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Heritage Action two conservative groups that announced opposition that Boehner would be pandering to. Next year the entire House will be up for re-election so it is highly doubtful that this legislation will make it to a vote. Possibly in next years lame-duck? That looks as if then will be the next opportunity to push legislation through.

Boehner is protecting his own ass on this one and again ignoring what is the right.

UNIONS need UNION candidates

image: insurancejournal.com

image: insurancejournal.com

Supporting those who sort of support us. This the conversation I had the other day with my contributor Shane Johnson. Shane was a bit disgusted with his union throwing support behind a candidate who didn’t fully support his unions agenda. The opponent held NONE of the values of his union, making the Democrat a no-brainer pick despite his flaws. The question asked, “why support anyone?” In the answer I gave, it is better to have someone who would some support your unions positions then to have nobody. Not quite the answer Shane was satisfied with. Also an answer that I wasn’t satisfied with but its politics.

The decline of unionism, it begins with the unions themselves. Much as been written on politics and unions. To believe unions have no responsibility for their state is foolish. Actively involved in politics they are failing in providing the right candidate. The Democrats/Republicans provide the candidate, the unions decide on generally the Democrat despite flaws. We can call this default. In this default the unions and their members have and will continue to fight to hang on. Spending money not to advance. We can certainly find many a failed decisions when it comes to support. Just the other day Democratic candidate for NJ Governor Barbara Buono was boasting of a police union who threw support behind her. This union previously supported Republican Governor Christie in the last election. Did the union have Governor Christie’s support? Apparently not.

For unions to advance and grow, they must begin to grow their own candidates. Homegrown union candidates beginning at local levels. Moving them through the levels of government to gain name recognition and most importantly experience. The North East, strong union country so why not strong UNION candidates? Where do we find them? Within our ranks! Training and education, to be a candidate, is where some if not most of the political money needs to be spent.

Finding the perfect union candidate has been impossible and easily seen in the decline of unionism. This will not get better until we pool our resources, educate and train our members to become candidates. If we do this, we will not be debating endorsements.

The decline of union membership, the decline of U.S. pensions

Congress

image source: www.teambuildinginc.com

Coming to the political theater of Washington in the coming month’s, another bout of entitlement reform. Yet again your future Social Security will be on the line with the Republican’s leading the way. If successful in cutting future benefits where do you stand in your future retirement?

We’re #10! Can you imagine anyone at the Olympics chanting this at the opening ceremonies? On the world retirement stage the United States is #10. The Melbourne Mercer Global Index ranking of retirement income gave the U.S. a 58.1 ranking in 2011. In their report they stated that “governments being able to financially support their aging population is becoming more of a reality, and some significant reform must be made now.” In pointing out the deficiencies in the U.S. Arthur Noonan pointed directly at “the decline of employees being covered by Defined Benefit Plans as a major factor. Along with American’s contributing far too little to their 401-k’s and having the ability to withdraw funds http://www.mercer.com

The decline of defined benefit plans and union membership cannot be ignored. The right-wing attacks unions for their “rich pension benefits” and they are rich considering having little to ZERO retirement savings. “Thou protest too much”, this phrase applied to the GOP anti-union message should be raising interest. Pitting workers who have few or no benefits against the few, to eliminate forever defined benefit pensions. In a resurgence of union membership would our country remain ranked #10?

We are not #1 and who is ranked higher?

  1. Netherlands
  2. Australia
  3. Switzerland
  4. Sweden
  5. Canada
  6. United Kingdom
  7. Chile
  8. Poland
  9. Brazil

What will improve the U.S. pension and your future retirement? Some suggestions that were made in the Mercer report and ones we have heard from our government, “increasing the pension age to reflect our life expectancy.” Is working longer what you want to do?

The reliance of 401-k’s and the stock market, a scary prospect if you hope to retire and live modestly. Washington will be taking another swipe at the American worker in the coming month’s. The only way to change our course is to stand together as a people and demand a system that promotes security in our older years. Sounds like a union movement to me.

DEBT DEAL reached, McConnell gets $3 billion to take home

 

image source: www.wikimedia.org

image source: www.wikimedia.org

As expected a debt deal has been reached in the eleventh hour by the useless in Washington. The deal that we all knew would come, a brief deal that will have the same cast of clowns arguing again when the new year begins. The temporary raising of our debt limit was also bought by the Democrats who gave away $3 billion in pork to Senator McConnell. Was it not the point of the GOP in shutting down the government to also get “spending under control?” Apparently values do not matter in the end and if you can’t win get a “kickback” to take back home.

What should be learned from this ridiculous failed plan of the GOP is that in the end they are not serious in their positions and can be bought. The future fight, will be the same. Continuing their lie of fiscal responsibility. It is time for the party of “NO” to begin to find politicians who are not full of shit.

Debt deal? Washington will punt again to attack your Social Security

Congress

image source: www.teambuildinginc.com

Time is running out on the debt ceiling with Congress and President Obama getting closer to a deal. Again, America is being subjected to last-minute politics averting tragedy. Well tragedy might be a little dramatic and I say this because of history. Never has America defaulted on debt, so it is safe to say the do-nothings in Washington will get a deal done. The deal? Extending the debt for six months or a year, temporarily saving America, punting the ball for another future potential tragedy.

At risk of change, Social Security, Health Care and revenue. Revenue being taxes, Republicans again will push for tax reform that will benefit business and the few at the price of everyone else. Reducing taxes what effect it will have on the bottom line? The rudimentary math is the country is running a $750 billion deficit, reducing taxes will drive this number higher. The answer to closing the gap, entitlement reform to include Social Security and Medicare putting the retired at risk and the future of many in peril.

The ridiculous statement that imply government is in the way is an oxymoron. Government is clearly in the way, creating events at a semi-annual rate, governing a few months at a time. But there is a long-term strategy and that is to move the remaining riches to the few, finishing off the diminishing voices of protest and create the two-class economy. Personal responsibility, when if ever will Washington be held to this standard? They certainly believe the poor and the soon to be poor (middle-class) need to be held to it.

John Boehner (R-Ohio) future Strom Thurmond of Congress?

Boehner backs away from tax cutGovernment shutdown, debt ceiling, Congress got you down? With congressional approval in the single digits it is safe to say America is disgusted with Washington. One might think, “I can’t wait to vote them bums out!” This is easier said then done, as we all know money is behind why these “bums” continue to get re-elected despite low approval. But first we must have viable candidates to run against the incumbents and even a candidate!

Republican John Boehner the Speaker of the House and probably the least approved congressional member in America has got it damn GOOD. And in all likelihood not going away any time soon. Yes his $22 million campaign war chest certainly helps but his congressional district will make him the Strom Thurman of Congress if he desires. The 2012 re-election of John Boehner was his easiest yet, no Democratic challenger. The only votes cast against Boehner, 62 write in votes for James Condit.

To oust Boehner from Congress finding a candidate that will appeal to voters will not be easy. The demographics are in Boehner’s favor, a median income of $43,753 and 90.4% white are daunting for any Democrat to succeed. History pretty much gives any election to a Republican in Ohio’s 8th district. Not since 1936 when Thomas B. Fletcher won over Grant E. Mouser by less-then 7000 votes has a Democrat won. For Boehner it has been rather easy as only his first election win was close, winning by 36,000. Which makes one wonder, why the big campaign war chest? It certainly not needed to win the 8th seat. But helpful in winning the most important seat in the House of Representatives.

To win back America we must win in Congress. Taking on each seat with strong candidates that will appeal to the VOTERS. In Boehner’s case finding a candidate needs to be the start. Giving up on seats because history tells us the task will be difficult is a poor plan by the Democrats. We cannot take back America focusing only on swing districts and ones that are friendly to our cause. The word hostage has been tossed around and applicable to Ohio’s 8th Congressional District. With about 650,000 residents America’s being held hostage by a small population and by Democrats unwillingness to take on history.

Debt ceiling, raising the limit or default?

Congress

image source: www.teambuildinginc.com

The nations debt ceiling limit is fast approaching and what will happen if it is not raised? Opinions on the effect of not raising the limit vary depending on which side of the aisle you sit on (Republican/Democrat). Fundamentally the government will not be able to spend money that it does not have, borrowing will cease. The rate of borrowing by the United States is at the alarming rate of $30,000 a second. Obviously this number is unsustainable (to steal a GOP word) but how long can it possibly continue without addressing?

To service our debt the government last year spent $223 billion on interest payments on a debt of $17 trillion. With a continued budget deficit in last years budget of $901 billion (5.5% of GDP) this number would be the number to focus on. To eliminate the need for increasing the debt ceiling, Washington needs to address this number. The sequester that effectively reduced the deficit with automatic cuts took both parties off the hook politically. And more needs to be done if we are to get our house in order. But what needs to be done seems impossible considering the gridlock of Congress.

Increasing taxes or to decrease spending? Or a combination of both? No new taxes always the pledge of the GOP is not a realistic approach as cutting programs is not to Democrats. The deficit in comparison to the overall budget of $3.8 trillion is significant about 24%. These numbers indicate that both parties will have to move from their positions if we are to successfully balance our budget and send the debt ceiling fear to extinction.

If no agreement is made and we “default”, the government will not go bankrupt. Spending will be prioritized and some will be paid and others will not. Service on our debt will continue, Social Security payments will likely be made and our debt? This will stop growing at least for the short period that no deal is in place. The overall effect on our economy is unknown. To be a betting man, I would think that the stock markets would crash and “WE THE PEOPLE” will suffer yet again. Those in Washington who are representing, I would also bet that their paychecks will not be at risk.

sources: bankruptingamerica.org , Wikipedia.org , Thomas.loc.gov

Government Shutdown and getting re-elected

right-wing crap

image source:http://picdash.com/178/

Who is responsible for the government shutdown, Republican’s, Democrats, Tea Party Republicans or President Obama? Depending on the media source you follow the answer, any of the above. The politics driving the shutdown center squarely on Obama-care and the implementation of the program. “President Obama needs to be the adult in the room” (Fox), a fantastic line used to move the blame for the shutdown is one of the many lines used by both parties in the blame game. The blame can squarely be laid on all of the above, with the exception of Obama who is the “adult in the room.”

It is all about the votes and maintaining their jobs in both houses of Congress. While these parasites continue to collect a check, over 400,000 are not. While the military academy’s cancel some sporting events and making news for playing others (football), paychecks for Congress keep coming. Is there a question at what is driving Boehner and his lack of leadership to get a bill passed in both houses? The fight was lost on the issue of Obama-Care and the time to move beyond the issue has long passed. With the debt ceiling on the horizon (October 17) will the Republican’s and Tea Party continue on with their self-interest? Only time will give us the answer but make no mistake, the shutdown and our potential default is only about getting re-elected.

Congressional leaders deciding to pay staffers with “dirty money”

Congress

image source: www.teambuildinginc.com

The government shutdown and the loss of paychecks for government workers. While we see closures of historical sites and limited activity in branches of the government such as the Social Security Administration, the Center of Disease Control, etc. Congressional staffers are also among those that will not receive a check, which has received some press. Some Congressional leaders plan to pay their staffers with their own money and/or your tax dollars). How do you feel about that? Do you believe those who do pay should be applauded for their sacrifice?

Well NO! Congressional leaders who stand out in front and declare “they will pay their staffers”, just might be the runt of the congressional litter. Using this shutdown as another political opportunity. Charity, or a good deed goes without conversation from the giver. If they are giving we should not know about it, after all it is dirty money. And they are paying the future politicians and lawyers or for better words, the future parasites of our economy.

 

Republicans to ruin the economies for 2.2 million workers

Congress

image source: www.teambuildinginc.com

The clock is ticking on the do nothing Republican controlled Congress. What is at stake is the paychecks of 800,000 federal workers and 1.4 million military personnel. The effect it will have on our economy will be slow and depending on how long it lasts potentially devastating. Closures of state parks and limited services in government, also an economic negative. Obama-Care is the issue of Republicans but is it worth risking another recession? Or is it worthy risking the fragile economies of each of these 2.2 million that will lose their pay while Republicans  play their game. Republicans are putting the American people in this position because they cannot win at the polls. Lies that the majority of Americans want repeal, one must ask, “if this was the case how did President Obama get re-elected 11 short months ago?”

Your vote counts, so when midterm elections come keep this day in mind.