Archive

Monthly Archives: November 2015

Republican ElephantHmm.  Socrates, lick your chops.  This question needs to be answered with several questions.  Personally, with the deadline to file papers to run on one’s own volition long passed, I think the mindset of most Republicans is that old playground edict, tick tock, game’s locked.  The chance is still greater than zero with Republicans and Republican constituents playing another game called Trump or Not Trump.

Question 1: Mitt Romney could not beat an incumbent Barrack Obama; a failed leader, and four years earlier, the first African American president, but in 2012, did not have that leverage since he already crossed that barrier.  If he could not beat incumbent Obama, how can he beat Hilary Clinton who does have a barrier to cross, the first woman President of the United States?  I think Marco Rubio has a better chance making it a contest between the first woman and the first Hispanic American, or Carly Fiorina to level the playing field guaranteeing the gender barrier being crossed regardless which party wins the presidency.  The former still very much alive, the latter just keeping her neck above water.

Question 2: Has Mitt learned his lesson and is no longer going to patronize what he calls the forty-seven percent?  Not hearing from him lately, no statement can be made one way or another.  Whether the distribution of wealth is eighty-twenty, ninety-nine-one, or something in between, one thing that is a constant, there will always be more middle-class than wealthy and in a Poisson distribution, the middle-class decides the election.  This is why it is far more mentally challenging to be a Republican, especially a working-class Republican, why the Republican party has to generalize to a more all-purpose party rather than attracting only the upper class, and why our bill of goods that opportunities and the American Dream benefits the middle-class more than entitlements, is a much harder sell.  Barring a run by Bill Gates or Warren Buffet, if Mitt Romney were to somehow get elected president anytime in this decade or the decade of the 2020s, he would be the wealthiest president in history and he just cannot come up with a sales pitch the masses can buy into.

Question 3: Now class, take notes.  This is very important.  Can Mitt Romney define himself as The Anti-Trump?  With a plethora of conservative candidates not named Donald Trump, some riding that Tea Party line, the RNC has no reason to rock the boat and bring in a late-arrival unless (1) they feel Trump will be the perpetual frontrunner once the caucus and primary season gets underway, (2), they begin to see the light that Trump is a modern-day Fascist playing on the American people’s fear and ignorance, and (3), they see Mitt as the only candidate that can defeat Trump in the nomination process. Personally, if a Rubio, Cruz, or Fiorina can’t do it (I really have by doubts about gentle Ben as he just does not demonstrate strong leadership), I see Romney having even less likely to topple The Donald than the aforementioned three.  Stranger things have happened, but if I were a betting man…

Question 4: How does Mitt feel about it?  The best the RNC could do is offer it to him; he still has first right of refusal.  He declined an opportunity to run last fall and the type of man he is, I really do not believe he wants to be recruited.  For Reince Priebus to hang is star on someone who elected not to get in before the filing deadline who may be too full of disdainful pride to accept or may just be sick and tired of the process and not want it constitutes a vote of no confidence against his own party.  Mitt was not my first choice during the caucus and primary process in 2012 although I did vote for him in the general, but one thing I do give him credit for is his intelligence.  Charles de Gaulle once said après moi, le deluge, which literally means after me, the flood referring to the flood of [French]  presidential hopefuls who could never replace a man like de Gaulle.  Mitt Romney may be the best twenty-first century metaphor for Charles de Gaulle.  Witnessing the Trump mess, Trump’s front-runner status, and the inability for one of the others in the race to become enough of a superstar to send The Donald packing, Mitt is probably grateful he is on the outside looking in and not part of the mayhem.  Again, stranger things have happened.  So keep your dial set and stay tuned.

Advertisements

Republican ElephantTalk show host and conservative pundit Sean Hanniity and Republican presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee both stand for the Repeal-16 movement.  The Sixteenth Amendment to the Constitution is the amendment that gives the Federal Government the authority to tax income.  Hannity and Huckabee would like to see it repealed and replaced with a consumption tax, i.e., an national sales tax.  Currently, I stand for the flat rate income tax and close the loopholes, but like they say, Rome was not built in a day.  Any reform package that meets approval of Republican conservatives has to be a journey, not a destination where the basic principles an inner-workings remain unchanged for the ages, but adaptable to the ingredients that fuel it to meet the changing political and world-economic and sociological environment.

I had remembered as a kid a TV commercial for Sunsweet Pitted Prunes in 1967 when the pitted prune was first introduced.  The man enjoyed the flavor and liked not having prune pits in his mouth.  But said they were still very wrinkly.  The ad ended with a deep voice that could be coming from above saying, Today the pits, tomorrow the wrinkles.  A good way to look at America’s economic future with a simpler, kinder, gentler tax code is to assert Today the flat tax, tomorrow the consumption tax. 

The flat tax will provide instant relief for both businessmen to enable job creation and for working class taxpayers.  While Governor Rick Perry (R-Texas) suggests a 1040 Postcard, I would take it one step further.  If, for example, a 9% flat rate income tax were agreed upon by Congress and signed into law by the President, 9% gross earnings would be deducted from every paycheck in America and electronically [wire] transferred to the United States Treasury eliminating the need for a third-party intermediary such as the revered IRS.  This allows (or at least provides an option) for the Federal Government to close the IRS and that will saves millions (if not billions) to apply to the deficit, and no American, Republican, Democrat, or Independent, liberal, conservative, or moderate, will protest this mother of all spending cuts.

While Hannity, Huckabee, and those involved with Repeal-16 have a genuine good intention, replacing the federal income tax with a consumption tax will not provide adequate revenue and make for better lives in America until and unless you bring back manufacturing to American soil.  If we had a consumption tax today, 85% of the goods the tax would be applied to would be imports.  If the percentage rate is too high, Americans will be deterred from making big-ticket purchases to stimulate the economy.  If the percentage rate is too low, it will not offset tariffs and the result is the same result as a retailer selling goods below cost—you grow [the] deficit, not reduce it.

So the best approach is the quasi Sunsweet Prunes approach.  Today the PITS; flatten the income tax for immediate relief for taxpayers and to pave the way for job creation.  As part of a total reform package, come up with a comprehensive plan to bring manufacturing back to America, which would involve lower corporate taxes and a simplified federal tax code.  Tomorrow the WRINLES.  Once manufacturing returns, we can apply a consumption tax to domestically produced goods, a low reasonable percentage rate that stimulates the economy and more taxes are collected in volume with more taxpayers participating, and finally, end the income tax.

 

American-Flag1While most people agree ISIS must be defeated at all costs, there is a wide opinion gap with respect to the incoming Syrian refugees, and an even wider gap on foreign policy and preventive medicine.  The Paris attacks have shifted the focal point of presidential debate and the people’s juxtapositions in the arena we call Decision 2016 from the economy, labor practices, and minimum wage requirements, to counterterrorism and concrete foreign policy.

There are many reasons why I, as loyal as I am or claim to be to the Republican Party, will never be a Trump supporter.  He was floundering in the polls and Carson and Rubio were rising before the Paris attack.  After the massacre, Trump has a commanding lead again.  In the aftermath of a horrific tragedy in the world, the Low Information Americans want to hear somebody talk tough and that is exactly what The Donald is doing right now.  Details to his suggested policies suggest they torture us so we have the right to torture them.  That defies every principle America was founded on and although we could possibly be a safer place, America would forever lose its identity as the world example for freedom and human rights.  The Bible says and eye for an eye, but we cannot blind everyone and sustain as an operable nation.

Ironically, the politician who makes the most sense about how to handle ISIS is President Barrack Obama.  But why is that?   Like the man with nothing but the shirt on his back, there is a principle for human existence that reads go ahead and risk everything if you have nothing to lose.  If the Office of President of the United States were not restricted by term limits, Obama would run for a third term and would take a far more aggressive approach to screening refugees and other immigrants.  He would never issue an executive order to defer deportation of illegal Mexican immigrants in his first term as it would jeopardize the re-election to the second term.  He broke a promise to get all troupes in Afghanistan home before his term expires, and unfortunately, he made the right decision.  But he is in the penultimate year of his presidency and has nothing to worry about broken promises and unpopular policies now because he had no option to run for a third term and he has nothing to lose.  Hilary Clinton and ten Republicans are shackled to the rhetoric in their respective party platforms; otherwise they cannot get elected or nominated by their party.

As for the exoneration of George W. Bush, I am referring to the shift from the age old foreign policy of second strike only to the use of a pre-emptive strike.  George W. Bush picked Iraq, in retrospect, the wrong nation.  But the rise of ISIS, the threats to the United States, and the way they use technology and social media not available to Adolph Hitler, Hideki Tojo, or even Ayatolla Ruhollah Khomeini as recently as 1980, the pre-emptive strike seems to have public opinion on its side, unlike in 1941 when Franklin Roosevelt waited for Pearl Harbor to send American soldiers to World War II.  Vladimir Putin is doing that right now and although it took a tragedy, France is on board with us and Belgium, Germany, and Great Britain should follow suite shortly. I can remember less than ten years ago when we had to call french fries freedom fries due to France’s indifference to our 9-11 attacks.  Yes, it seems one-sided, but that is the price we pay to be the world’s super-power.

In so far as the topic of conversation has shifted from the homeland to the world, let us not forget the importance of balancing the budget.  Going forward, it is the only way we can maintain our strength in the world.  As Warren G. Harding once said, it is good to drink from the fountain inherited to us from our Founding Fathers.  Drink from the fountain to inherit their wisdom, but not emulate them to the letter as, with all due respect to George Washington, we cannot go back to the policies of isolationism and no permanent alliances.  But we must be careful never to sacrifice liberty for security; another Founding Father, Thomas Jefferson, warned us of that.

La Tour EiffelI spent some time in Paris, France in the summer of 1977.  I saw it in all its beauty and splendor that makes it a favored tourist destination.  I studied junior high school French and after eighth grade graduation, selected classmates got to take this trip.

I was fourteen years old with my fifteenth birthday taking place in the City of Lights.  Thirty-nine years ago was the last time I saw Paris.  At one time, I longed to go back there although it never worked out.  Now if I had the chance I would probably pass.  Not going back is the only way I can preserve the memories of Paris in 1977.  It is not the same place; just turn on the news.

 

The last time I saw Paris
Her heart was warm and gay
I heard the laughter of her heart
In every street cafe

The last time I saw Paris
Her trees were dressed for spring
And lovers walked beneath those trees
And birds found songs to sing

I dodged the same old taxicabs
That I had dodged for years
The chorus of the squeaky horns
Was music to my ears

Oh, the last time I saw Paris
Her heart was warm and gay
No matter how they changed her
I’ll remember her ah that way.

Here’s to you, Paris, France, and the fond memories you have given me

American-Flag1If America is a boulevard of broken dreams, and two political parties, fifteen presidential candidates, and nation of political junkies blowing head gaskets in their minds to produce opinions all want to repave the boulevard and restore this great nation to its lofty status.  I am no exception and in the wake of the two debates, the eight elite Republicans on Tuesday night (11/10/2015) and the three Democrats last night (11/14/2015), my puny little brain is in hyper drive.  Nobody wants to repave the boulevard more than I do is it is this very boulevard that serves as the highway to the forgotten American Dream.  But the dream remains out of reach if we only pave parts of the boulevard.

One of the hot topics that was brought up at both debates is the issue of raising the minimum wage, an issue I believe my fellow Republicans did not get right.  In addition, the Democrat opposition failed to complete the square, as it were.  I believe in raising the minimum wage for two reasons, one of which is it is long overdue.  I have mixed feelings as to whether or not we should jump all the way to fifteen dollars an hour; ten dollars an hour in North Carolina goes farther than fifteen dollars an hour in Connecticut right now.  It seems to me as we should maintain the status quo of having the federal government set a minimum standard and leave it up to each state to determine if the federal standard is high enough or if they need something higher; it is simply time to raise that minimum standard.  If I were a state governor facing a huge budget deficit with a realization that budgets cannot not should not be balanced on the backs of the taxpayers and did not want to throw the baby out with the bathwater and attempt to balance on the backs of corporations who could simply move out of state taking the jobs with them, I would want a minimum wage that guarantees a paycheck twenty percent higher than what welfare pays.  It is difficult for a welfare recipient with a family to support to take a job that pays lower than what he or she is receiving on the dole.  But if any full-time job paid no less than twenty percent of welfare and the biggest transition from welfare to work since the welfare state was established in the 1930s, the money [my] state would save in welfare payments could be reinvested in paying down the deficit without any imposition to either the corporation of the working [man].  But it will only work if it is part of a complete labor and welfare reform package.

Democrats use Seattle, Washington as a prime example to make their point.  The city of Seattle raised the minimum wage to fifteen dollars an hour and their economy is booming.  What they neglect to mention is the economic boom is not due to an increased minimum wage; but an increase in tech jobs from tech companies located in that area such as Google and Microsoft and it is because of those six-figure and near six-figure tech jobs that allows the state of Washington and the city of Seattle to aid the lower classes with a generous minimum wage.  The same would not work in a Southeastern state like North Carolina were the crux of the economy is agriculture and manufacturing and in Connecticut, the state that needs it the most, the minimum wage is becoming superfluous with companies leaving the state.  Employers only have to pay minimum wage if the hire you and if there are no employers to hire, you know the score.

I believe a minimum wage increase has to be part of a complete labor and welfare reform package.  Suppose are earning minimum wage in a state with a minimum wage of ten dollars an hour and you are working forty hours a week.  The legislature votes for a bill that would raise it to fifteen dollars in hour and the governor signs it into law.  The company you work for has no choice but to raise your hourly rate from ten to fifteen, but suppose the company redefines the minimum full-time work week as a thirty hour week?  You are back to square one and still cannot support yourself and your family.  Minimum wage without minimum hours creates a dog chasing its tail scenario.  And when it comes to unskilled labor and menial jobs, fifteen dollars and hour may be too big an investment if the employee has to be dismissed for poor performance.  As a viable alternative, I suggest the 35-35 rule.  I had the good fortune through a friend of my father’s to meet a man named Ralph Kiner shortly after I graduated college.  Ralph Kiner was a hall-of fame baseball player playing most of his years with the Pittsburgh Pirates, and then a broadcaster for the New York Mets for over fifty years.  Kiner was also a student of the game of baseball as I am and could tell stories of Ty Cobb and Babe Ruth from literature, memorabilia, and conversation with his elders and mentioned the minimum salary for a major league baseball player before World War II was $6,000 a year, but that an major league owner was only obligated to pay the full $6,000 if the player was on the roster the entire six months of the season; otherwise only had to guarantee $5,000.  This is the essence of my 35-35 rule.  The first thirty-five refers to a minimum work week of 35 hours, which can be a little more one week, a little less another.  I multiply this thirty-five by fifty, indicating working fifty out of a fifty-two week year and come up with the number 1,750 hours a year.  I would keep the hourly rate in the ballpark of $9.15 as a reasonable compromise.  However, I would guarantee no full-time employee earns less than $35,000 a year.  On the employee’s first paycheck after his or her one year anniversary on the job, there would be an additional subsidy on that check that would cover the difference between $35,000 and the total money earned from the hourly rate under the condition that the total hours worked for the year was 1,750 or more (35X50).  States that choose to have minimum wages and minimum full-time hours that would allow the lowest wage earners to earn more than $35,000 hourly would be exempt from this subsidy requirement.

At the Democrat debate, they also brought up college tuition and the student loan crisis.  All three candidates suggested tuition-free state colleges to eliminate our youth graduating with a lifetime of debt from the inability to pay student loans, especially in a deficient job market.  This is another illustration on why a complete package is required.  Even a tuition-free education at a school like the University of Connecticut at Storrs can still leave behind a lot of debt as the pupil would still be responsible for room and board and other incidental expenses if there is no employment or higher-paying employment after graduation.  And waiving all the expenses will bankrupt the state college system in any state.

Free college without complete education reform at the primary and secondary levels (K – 12) will not result in the expected benefits.  You cannot compare us with Great Britain as long as America continues to produce academically-deficient pupils.  A typical standard in effect in most institutes for higher learning is the requirement for a grade point average (GPA) of 2.0 (out of 4.0, usually a C-grade is two quality points).  If a pupil’s GPA drops below that 2.0 mark, a typical remedy is a tool called academic probation which gives the pupil the next semester to raise that GPA back to 2.0 or higher.  For most colleges and universities, academic probation is more desirable than immediate dismissal because the institute continues to receive tuition money from the probationary student.  A free-college system would shift the onus to the institute itself, academic probation can get too expensive, and colleges will change the rules and if the GPA odometer slips one one-thousandth below 2.000, automatic dismissal with no second chance. I am not sure we should be that ruthless, but such a system could work if we create a system where every high school graduate is academically complete.  But if we continue to hand diplomas to the academically deficient, look to your left, look to your right—one of you won’t be here next semester will transform into look to your left, look to your right, two of you won’t be here next semester.  If we only graduate one-third of our nation’s youth, we will face the biggest skills gap in the history of this country.  Economic booms and recessions come and go.  But no economic growth can correct a stagnant or declining job market due to skills gaps.  With an education reform package that works, I think a better system than tuition-free college is tuition-reimbursed college.  I would have my state colleges continue to charge tuition and I would work with the legislature and the college presidents to ensure reasonable figures.  I would reimburse ninety-percent of four years worth of tuition paid to those who graduate and that ninety percent reimbursement check would pay off seventy percent of the student loan—the other thirty percent can be paid in a reasonable length of time through employment so long as job creation incentives are in place.  Extra semesters would be an out-of-pocket expense and those who do not graduate would not be eligible for reimbursement, but with less than four years worth of debt, a livable minimum wage scenario in place having a domino effect on the better jobs not requiring a college degree paying more than they do now would allow those loans to be paid as well.  But it will only work if we look at complete reform packages, not randomly legislating parcels such as the only the minimum wage and only college tuition.

These are two examples of how we can repave the entire Boulevard of Broken Dreams and ensure the route to the American Dream is passable without any road blocks or detours.  It is through the wisdom of both political ideologies and implementing from the side slightly right of center that can get the job done.  Let’s pave the boulevard with rock-solid pavement and the realistic goals of good hard-working Americans; not just on good intentions that ultimately pave the road to the one place nobody wants to go.

Republican ElephantI apologize to my followers for being idle all this time but I did hit some hard times with serious injuries to myself and to two members of my family.  I hope I can resume and stimulate your interests.

One pet peeve I have is that the campaign season starts way too early.  Candidates from both parties are campaigning and debating in the odd year (2015) before the local elections (some states elect governors in odd years too) take place.  I did not want to say too much prior to Tuesday, 11/3/2015 anyway because it plants a seed in too many people to disregard local politics and local elections as the big prize is blasted all over both traditional and millennial media.  Mayors and selectman are very important to our system too.

As a resident of Oxford, Connecticut, Bridgeport, the Nutmeg State’s largest city, is also my closest major city.  It has more than its share of issues with welfare, transportation, and crime.  A man named Joe Ganim was recently elected mayor of Bridgeport who had been the city’s patriarch in the 1990s as well.  He had served a seven-year jail sentence for corruption and fifteen other counts.  I know how it works; the people spoke out and chose this man.  Or did they?  Voter turnout in Bridgeport a couple of Tuesdays ago was less than twenty-five percent.  Remember that public service ad where they show a bag of leaves being carted off by a sanitation truck announcing Bag Of Leaves got elected and the closing message: if you don’t vote…  If schools, crime, and planning and zoning with respect to what gets built in you city or town, you need to be just as concerned with your local government if not more as your state and national governments. For that reason, I waited until after my local elections to really take an interest with full steam ahead.

On this Veterans’ Day, Wednesday 11/11/2015, I am scouting out the Republican candidates but I am not endorsing anyone at this time.  As I have mentioned before, Connecticut is typically a late-primary state hosting primaries after so called Super Tuesday.  It is unlikely there will be eight to twelve candidates still in the race on my primary day.  I am willing to share with you some observations from debates and other political messages and pundits.

First of all, I am not a Trump supporter.  Building a wall on the entire Mexican border, sending Mexico the bill, and then rounding the illegals in a fashion equivocal to Nazi Germany rounding up the Jews not only makes no sense, but is totally inhuman and we will be perceived by the good nations of the world as the most brutal people on Earth.  Not to mention how he feels about women, Muslims, and debate moderators; not the man you want in charge when that four a.m. phone call occurs.  If the general election in November 2016 is between Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton, although I would probably be throwing my vote away, I would have to do a write-in candidate.  And since at the first debate, all the candidates pledged to not run as a third-party independent, I would have to find someone outside the field.

Another qualm is I am very dissatisfied with both the formatting and refereeing of these debates.  RNC Chairman Reince Priebus really liked this last one and it was probably the best one yet.  But the first question asked was about the minimum wage and only Donald Trump, Ben Carson, and Marco Rubio got to answer—then other candidates got other questions.  There should be a less is more adjustment.  Less questions, every candidate answering every question, more substance in the answers.  There are no Republicans running that favor raising the minimum wage, but they all could have had different reason and different concerns that the American people are entitled to hear.

I give a lot of credit to Ben Carson.  I have my differences with him.  But while the field is so large, putting the focus on Carson, the man and less on the issues is a good strategy.  As a republic or representative democracy, we the people do not vote on bills and make policy—we elect people to do it for us.  One person’s personal politics is one of many threads of that person.  Before we over adjudicate political beliefs and ideologies, we must first like (or at least tolerate) the person as a whole.  The part of the human brain that regulates our social side is not equipped with a line item veto, as it were; we must accept a person as a whole person and like or dislike the whole person.  A person who stands for everything we stand for politically that demonstrates he (or she) is untrustworthy, immoral, and/or unkind is not right for the job and if we have to compromise our political views to get a good man or woman, so be it.  Ben Carson has more skeletons in his closet than originally assessed and uncovered, but a neurosurgeon who has never held public office came out alright.  This does not make him the best choice for the nation’s highest office, but I cannot dismiss him as a viable candidate at this time.

One unofficial highlight of the debate is it was Jeb’s last stand.  Although he was more dynamic in this one than in the previous debates, he still fell short of reviving a serious drive toward the goal.  He wants to separate himself, from his brother, Dick Cheney, and the mistake in Iraq.  But just cannot get past the quip that blood is thicker than water.  He will not discuss flat taxes, job creation, or issues that make push him too far center for the mainstream Republican and hence, the mainstream Republican voter.

I saw it in Jeb the most, but in Fiorina and Kachich as well, too eager to attack Hilary Clinton.  Sure, we all want to stop Hilary from getting elected.  Facing Hilary in the general election is facing the other league champion in the World Series.  This is the League Championship Series for Republicans (as well as Democrats if you still believe Bernie Sanders has a chance), and only the pennant winner gets to play in the World Series.  With eight candidates on stage and no moderate to speak of, there is no contrast among them and they want to talk like they are all the nominee and provide anti-Hilary dissertation.  This takes me back a discussion of the person.

I was most impressed by Marco Rubio.  He has done the best job articulating the conservative ideology we are trying to elect and has minimal skeletons in his closet.  There is an issue with missing too many senate votes, but even the Founding Fathers were not perfect.  Rubio also understands what it is like to be poor and is a voice for the poor and middle-class that believe government entitlements are not the answer.  He also handled criticism from competition Rand Paul.  Rand interrupted claiming Marco is not conservative enough because Rubio’s plan includes an increase in defense spending, as did that of the great Ronald Reagan, who is to this day the benchmark for post-World War II, post Viet Nam War, and twenty-first century compassionate conservatism.  Rand Paul would have been right if he had lived before World War II, before NATO, in an era where the advice of George Washington to maintain isolationism and have no permanent alliances were in vogue.  But in the unstable world of which we are part of, and the post Soviet Union era in Russia, anyone who gets elected president, liberal or conservative, Democrat or Republican, will inherit a world where the United States of America, the nation such president will be empowered to govern, is the only Super Power in the world.  You cannot change that by simply posting a sign at every port, airport, and oceanfront SUPER POWER FOR SALE—we don’t want the responsibility anymore.  Though Paul may be on point that continued increases in defense spending can make balancing the budget like draining the bathtub with the water running, defense spending is a necessary evil and the military is the one institution the federal government is constitutionally obligated to fund and foster.  The question with Marco is Can he play with the big boys?  Rand Paul’s interruption may just be a flash in the pan, but his biggest competition comes from Donald Trump, Ben Carson, and Ted Cruz.

Until we get to the Iowa Caucus and the campaign season is in full swing, let’s just sit back and have some fun with this.  And let’s decide how we feel about each person as a whole.