Sunday, August 14, 2011

Do Iowans Only Receive FOX news?

I think everybody who's concerned with who is elected to represent us in Washington D.C. knows that Michele Bachmann declared in the Iowa debate, "I wish the federal government had defaulted."  Yet, in spite of that declaration more Iowans, participating in the Ames Iowa straw poll, selected Michele Bachmann as the 2012 Republican candidate for the presidency.

Surely the Iowans that voted in the straw poll were watching the debate when Bachmann wished that the government had defaulted.  Do these people not see what has happened as a result of the S&P downgrading the U.S. because it toyed too much with defaulting?  Can they not imagine what would have happened had we actually defaulted?  Or, perhaps, they think the aftermath of defaulting would be a good thing and, if so, how?  How?

But, there is another possible explanation for the Iowans choice.  Perhaps the Iowans that voted for Bachmann are too deaf, dumb and blind to see not only that Bachmann has done NOTHING good for America but also that she could never do anything good for America except if she were to bow out of politics.

Bachmann is an idiot.  Her single "significant" legislative proposal was to repeal the future ban on incandescent light bulbs, which the Republican lead House defeated.  Regarding global warming she said, “Carbon dioxide is natural, it is not harmful, it is a part of Earth's lifecycle. And yet we're being told that we have to reduce this natural substance, reduce the American standard of living, to create an arbitrary reduction in something that is naturally occuring in Earth.”  The list of shockingly stupid Bachmann statements is too long to include here.

What kind of person wants Michele Bachmann to be the President of the United States?  How can there be so many of these people that Michele Bachmann can get elected to Congress?  Thanks to these people the Republicans control the House and Michele Bachmann and dozens of like-minded members of Congress control the Republicans.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Should The FAA Be Re-funded?

I've heard of two issues that are preventing Congress from re-funding the FAA.
I support the Republican's decision to stop subsidizing flights to/from several airports. I have a lot of experience with traveling to Johnstown, PA - one of the airports that is at issue. I have never flown to Johnstown although I have traveled to Johnstown dozens of times. Like most people I fly to Pittsburgh and drive for 2.5 hours to Johnstown, because It takes me as much time to fly from NY to Pittsburgh and drive to Johnstown as it takes to fly from NY to Johnstown AND because it is too costly to fly to Johnstown from NY. If the State of PA wants to maintain and expand air travel into Johnstown to promote business development in Johnstown then the State of PA should subsidize the flights but it will only be worthwhile to the business traveler if there are more direct flights in Johnstown. Currently the only airport directly connected to Johnstown is Dulles in Washington D.C. That's not going to help the business traveler. They would need directs to/from LaGuardia, Atlanta and one in the mid-West Chicago, Dallas or St. Louis. Otherwise, business travelers will continue to drive to/from Pittsburgh.
I assume the circumstances at all the other small airports at issue are similar to Johnstown's and  the Fed should stop subsidizing flights to them.
The second issue is over the terms for unionizing air transportation industry employees. Employees can unionize if more than 50% of the employees cast a yes vote. Employees who do not vote will be counted as a no vote. That is not how unionization is determined in all other industries; it is not how Americans elect their government representatives. The Democrats want to change the rules so that the outcome is determined only by the votes cast. If only 60% of the employees vote, then only 1 more than one-half of the votes cast are needed to unionize. I agree with the Democrats: the outcome should be based only on the votes cast.
Why? I agree with the Democrats on the voting process for the same reason that I disagree with them on Card Check. The voting process for unionizing must be secret, otherwise, the company and other employees can and WILL use intimidation to control the voting. Employees actually threaten each other over unionization. Card Check makes known which employees want to unionize and which do not. Card Check would modify the current unionization process by taking the secrecy out of the voting. This gives an unfair advantage to the employees who want to Unionize. In the transportation industry, the employee that wants to unionize must vote. The employee that does not want to unionize only has to abstain from voting. Employees that want to unionize but fear reprisal from their employer if they vote to unionize will abstain from voting. There is no secrecy in this process. Employees know that by casting a vote, the company and other employees will assume that they are voting to unionize becuase anybody opposed to the union only has to abstain to be counted as a NO vote.
I'm not a big supporter of unionization. The need for a union varies by employer and by industry. However, any change to the unionization process that eliminates the protection of secrecy is wrong regardless of who benefits.
I suspect that the unionization process is the single important issue over which the FAA re-funding has not been approved.
Furthermore, it is a waste of time and taxpayers money to require re-funding votes periodically. The FAA should be funded until such time as Congress determines that it is no longer needed. If Congress had approves the FAA funding in July it still would have only been funding into September. This is a make-work, waste money process.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

A thought about Slavery in the United States

Did you ever wonder how long slavery would have endured in the United States if the federal government had not opposed it or if the Confederate States of America had been allowed to secede?  When in 1865, the United States outlawed all slavery in all states, without exception, freeing its last 40,000 slaves, most nations and most of their colonies had already banned slavery, some about 100 years earlier than the U.S.  In case a Bulgarian history buff is reading this,  Bulgaria did not ban slavery until 1879, however, Bulgaria was not a free nation until 1879 and banned slavery in its first constitution.

The success of the agricultural economy of our Southern states depended on slavery.  When the Southern states were forced out of slavery, the plantations failed.  They could not exist without slave labor.  The slave states' governments knew that their economies would collapse without slavery.  Thus secession and the Civil War.

But let's assume that secession had been accepted by the United States and there had been no Civil War.  How long would slavery have existed in the Confederacy?  The Confederacy would not have voluntarily banned slavery at least until its economy no longer depended on it; until the rich plantation owners found an equally profitable business that did not depend on slavery or a technology that significantly reduced the need for labor on the plantation.

The first technological impact on agriculture in the South was the cotton gin, which, instead of reducing slave labor, significantly increased it.  The gin was invented in 1794, after which the production of cotton in the South exploded.  Between 1830 and 1850 it quadrupled.  Before the gin there were 700,000 slaves in the South.  By 1850, the slave population had swelled to 3.2 million.  So, technology wouldn't have brought an end to slavery.

Perhaps enlightenment!  The Southern slave states would have voluntarily ended slavery when the majority of its citizens decided that it was morally wrong in spite of the negative impact to their economy.  How might we consider moral enlightenment as the cause to end slavery?

How has the black population been treated in the South since they were freed?  They were segregated and oppressed in every way until the enactment of the Civil Rights laws of the 1960's.  Blacks were routinely lynched in the South for acting equal to a white person even after the 1960's.  Public lynching of blacks in the South were condoned through the 1920's.  By 1910, all the Southern states had modified their constitutions to disenfranchise blacks.  In 1920, the Republican Party promised to enact a federal anti-lynching law.  However, the Southern white Democrats in the U.S. Senate used a filibuster to prevent its passage.

Organized labor regardless of color, was not accepted in the South.  In the 1930's, Southern local and state governments, in support of industry owners, used deadly force to prevent unionization.

So, obviously, self-enlightenment would not have ended slavery.  Could external economic pressure on the South have caused Southerners to quit slavery?  Perhaps apartheid in South Africa is an example of how and when the world would have dealt with slavery in the Southern States.  All sanctions against South Africa intended to end apartheid were weak and half-hearted.  Not all countries supported the sanctions and not all companies complied with it.  Thus, South Africa did not end apartheid until the 1990's.  Since the first democratic election in South Africa in 1994, less than 20 years ago, there has been some progress toward educating, employing and raising the standard of living of all black citizens.  However, the effort has been costly and slow and, today, it still has many critics who believe that ending apartheid and the political disenfranchisement of blacks and other citizens of color destroyed South Africa.

So, the world wasn't quick to free the black "citizens" of South Africa, and would not have done more to end slavery in our Southern states.

When, then, would slavery have ended in the Southern slave states or the Confederate States of America?  Surely, not before the early 20th century even if the Southern states had not seceded.  Had the Southern states seceded and formed the independent nation of the Confederate States of America, I think slavery would have persisted beyond the mid-20th century.  Had slavery ended then, there is no reason to expect that the blacks of the Confederacy would have obtained political equality sooner than the blacks of South Africa.

If Southern slavery had not been forcibly ended in 1865, it could easily have continued unchanged until the 1950's with some form of disenfranchisement still persisting today.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Redistribution of Wealth in America: Obama or Reagan?

There is large scale social injustice in the U.S. Addressing these injustices requires intervention and large expenditures by the government. Opposition to these programs has always existed but it has grown significantly during the current recession, when many of the people affected by the recession are easily convinced that such programs have overburdened employers resulting fewer jobs and lower pay, as well as, higher personal taxes. All such programs, especially when the head of the federal government is black, are labeled by those who oppose them as "wealth redistribution" schemes. Similarly, other uses of tax revenues, except those that enrich government contractors and big business, are also under attack: all local, state and federal employees, especially those that are unionized. Both public and private employee unions are being attacked. The opposition claim: all such programs and organizations are intended to take money from the workers and give it to the non-workers; to take jobs from the unorganized and give them to the organized.
South Africa, used as an example of how "redistribution of wealth" is destructive, has the second largest wealth inequality gap among all nations. Although South Africa has not succeeded in closing the gap, I don't think of any of it programs are unjust. Taking property from some white South Africans and giving it to some black South Africans after apartheid seems like blatant redistribution but in reality the only property transferred to the blacks had been confiscated from the blacks under apartheid. Although there are many successes that have come out of South Africa's efforts to correct the injustices of apartheid, many changes have yet to yield improvements in the lives of the black South African. Take for example, the transfer of lands back to the black South African. Giving a person the deed to land used for farming and herding, does not enable the poor, uneducated black South African to be a successful farmer/rancher. The land must be returned to its original and rightful owner but the government must also pay to train and equip the new landowner for farming/ranching. However, South Africa can not afford to adequately fund all the programs to support all the victims of apartheid.  Improvements are being realized but they are painfully slow.

Unified Germany experienced some of the same expensive problems that South Africa is struggling with. Many East Germans had their property confiscated by the communist government that came to power after WWII. The infrastructure of East Germany was decayed and many East Germans were poorly educated, untrained and unemployed or underemployed when East Germany was freed and united with West Germany. The only way to restore East Germany and the East Germans was through taxpayer funded government programs. Properties were restored to their original owners (in many cases the original owner was a Jew whose property was confiscated by the Nazis before it was confiscated by the communists). The decayed infrastructure was rebuilt. Programs were established to develop East German industry and the East German worker. Higher income Germans pay a "solidarity surcharge" on their income that is used exclusively to fund the Unification of Germany. After more than 20 years, the German taxpayer is still paying this special tax and great progress has been made. What would East Germany be like today if Germany had not imposed a "solidarity" surcharge. The surcharge applies to any person (or couple) making more than $10,000 ($20,000) up to a maximum of 5.5% at $1.8 million ($3.6 million).

South Africa has yet to succeed in correcting for the damage of apartheid and they have many, many more problems to deal with than did Unified Germany (high HIV/Aids infection rate, and communities without electricity, drinking water and sanitary sewers) but there is no other way than large government spending.

Income and wealth inequality in the U.S. increased during the last 40 years after having decreased in the 30 preceeding years. Prior to the rise of labor unions and banking and business regulations, the only opportunity that existed for a poor American was to "go West" beyond the interest and control of big business. Elsewhere, non-rich Americans had an opportunity to work 72 hours a week for room and board, no vacation, no medical benefits and, above all, no retirement. Americans often lived in multi-family homes (grandparents, parents, uncles, aunts and cousins) not because the family unit was so strong but because single-family homes were unaffordable for everybody but the rich.

Labor unions with the support of federal regulations brought significant improvements to the standard of living of the working class Americans. These changes and improvements were significant every where except the Southern states where local and state governments supported businesses who opposed unionization - sometimes with deadly force.

After WWII the federal government returned 100's of thousands of unemployed and largely unskilled soldiers and sailors to the private sector, which did not have the capacity to employ everybody. Government spending through veterans benefits programs provided vocational and professional training, and subsidized home mortgages. The Middle Class was born and income/wealth inequality was at an all-time low. The Civil Rights Movement and the resulting laws opened up the Middle Class to black Americans, albeit only slightly. Today intervention such as this by the government would be labeled "redistribution" of income and wealth. It would be attacked as anti-American: Socialism.

Americans elected Ronald Reagan in 1980 who promised to restore American values following our rebellious '60's and the political and military disasters of the '60's and '70's. The U.S. was struggling to recover from a recession and astronomical inflation. Conservatives and the Rich blamed government social programs. Reagan said that the best way to help the struggling Middle Class was to reduce the tax burden on the Rich and big business. Social programs for the Poor, the Elderly and the Disabled were cut. Spending to grow and maintain our national infrastructure was reduced. Safety and environmental regulators were eliminated or not enforced. Big Business was giving tax credits to subsidize expansion to offshore markets. These changes, "Reaganomics," are what I would call "redistribution" of income and wealth.

Reaganomics was enormously successful for the Rich and Big Business. The Poor got poorer and grew greater in number as the Middle Class shrank. Reaganomics, if it was intended to benefit all Americans was all but a complete failure; only the Rich benefitted from trickle-down Reaganomics.

Big Business was so unregulated and corrupt that it finally failed in 2008. Banks were broke. Businesses large and small closed or cut back significantly. Ten million American workers were suddenly out of work. To save Wall Street, the taxpayer bought the banks' bad debts. To save Main Street, a new Democratic president spent taxpayer money on the national infrastructure and the development of new industries. The Opposition said the money was wasted increasing the plight of the poor and middle class taxpayers, while supporters said too little was spent.

The Opposition labeled the effort a "redistribution of income and wealth" from the successful (the Rich) to the undeserving, i.e. those left jobless or underemployed after the distruction of the American Economy by the Rich.

The only unjust redistribution of wealth in the U.S. resulted from the changes that began with Ronald Reagan and continue today.

One would think that the abundance of evidence that Reaganomics does not work would cause Americans to demand that our governments reverse the changes enacted for Reaganomics. But, Conservative propaganda laced with hate and race-baiting directed at the poor, the minorities, the illegal aliens (rather than their employers) and President Obama have been very successful.

Unless President Obama retains the White House and the Democrats resume control of both Houses of Congress in 2012, and at least one conservative Supreme Court Justice retires and is replaced by a liberal, I fear the U.S. will become a country with a small and politically powerful super rich population served by an enslaved lower class.