Zera's Blog

A Citizen's View from Main Street

Mitt Romney Makes ‘Redistribution’ Argument, Bolstered by Fox News, Conservative Media


Redistribution is a fact of life. The tax code, by it’s very nature, redistributes wealth. It has to, in order “to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States“.

The real question is: What kind of redistribution works best for the country?

The republicans have embraced upward redistribution, a strategy that is decimating the middle class. In a consumption economy, this is fiscal suicide.

The Democrats embrace a strategy that funnels more money back into the economy, empowering demand and driving sustainable growth. This is a strategy that built the United States into the superpower it is today.

This image depicts the Territorial acquisition...

This image depicts the Territorial acquisitions of the United States, such as the Thirteen Colonies, the Louisiana Purchase, British and Spanish Cession, and so on. Possible Errors There is a concern that this map could have errors. For discussion, please see the talk page. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It is a strategy that predates either modern political party. From the Louisiana Purchase to the Alaska Purchase, tax money has been used for expansion from the very beginning. Land given to farmers and ranchers, schools and land grant colleges.

And the transcontinental railroad, much of it wasted by corporate greed.

The G.I. Bill helped create a golden age of prosperity, even as the rich were heavily taxed.

State agricultural colleges and their extension services made farmers more productive. Hydroelectric dams, the interstate highway system, NASA, DARPA…all created opportunities or entire new segments of the economy.

We would not be who we are if not for the kind of government spending that republicans are opposed to.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Advertisements

September 20, 2012 Posted by | Direction, Governance | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Becoming Aware of Civic Unawareness


education

education (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)

The United States was founded on the premise that the people could rule themselves without theocracy or aristocracy. Government of, by, and for the masses – int the rich and powerful. It is called The Great Experiment, and its success depends on a well-educated electorate. Sufficiently educated to understand not only  the system that we have, but why we have it and how it works. And how it doesn’t.

The preparation of the voter so that he might express his opinion by means of the ballot, thus insuring political liberty, was one of the main goals of Jefferson’s plan for education which asserted four basic principles:

  • that democracy cannot long exist without enlightenment.
  • that it cannot function without wise and honest officials.
  • that talent and virtue, needed in a free society, should be educated regardless of wealth, birth or other accidental condition.
  • that the children of the poor must be thus educated at common expense.

http://www.earlyamerica.com/review/winter96/jefferson.html

Jefferson believed the elementary school was more important than the university in the plan because, as he said, it was “safer to have the whole people respectfully enlightened than a few in a high state of science and many in ignorance as in Europe” (as cited in Peterson, 1960, p. 241). He had six objectives for primary education to bring about this enlightenment and which highlighted what he hoped would make every person into a productive and informed voter:

  • To give every citizen the information he needs for the transaction of his own business;
  • To enable him to calculate for himself, and to express and preserve his ideas, his contracts, and accounts, in writing;
  • To improve, by reading, his morals and faculties;
  • To understand his duties to his neighbors and country, and to discharge with competence the functions confided to him by either;
  • To know his rights; to exercize with order and justice those he retains; to choose with discretion the fiduciary of those he delegates; and to notice their conduct with diligence, with candor, and judgment;
  • And, in general, to observe with intelligence and faithfulness all the social relations under which he shall be placed.

The state of Jeffersonian enlightenment in the realm of civic responsibility and the promotion of a healthy democracy is deplorable. The country is full of jingoists and poser patriots, passionate to defend what they do not understand – and are therefore easily mislead.

We have been encouraged to value wealth over community, and the accumulation of wealth over patriotism. Citizenship has ceased to be a code of honor and is now reduced to simply a legal status.

The problem of civic illiteracy is not something new, but it is finally getting periodic bursts of recognition.

Asserting that democracy is not inherited at birth but rather learned in school, O’Connor founded the educational nonprofit group iCivics in 2009 to secure America’s governance and prepare the next generation of citizens and leaders.
Justice Sandra Day O’Connor seeks to reverse America’s decline in civics

Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Plans are being developed to “address the problem”. I say that with a hint of sarcasm because they are still treating it as a mere lesson to be learned. I think the solution will need to stress participation as much as scholarship.

May 29, 2012 Posted by | Education, Elections, Governance | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Harry Reid Will Ask Obama To Recess Appoint All Nominees If GOP Delays Continue



By rejecting their constituti­onal responsibi­lities to provide advice and consent on these nomination­s, by substituti­ng extreme obstructio­n for reasons unrelated to the qualificat­ions and merits of the individual nominee, by doing this for pure political brinksmans­hip, the republican­s have created a constituti­onal crisis.

They have defied the constituti­on to the point that the government therein defined can no longer function. President Obama took drastic action to minimize the damage, but this particular crisis will persist as long as conservati­ve extremists remain in the Senate in sufficient numbers to sustain a filibuster­.

The filibuster was never meant to be used as the republican­s are using it. It is supposed to be a lever, not a straightja­cket.

The oath to support and defend the Constituti­on carries the implied oath to support “This Constituti­on, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States”. Even the ones republican­s hate.

Without that support, we are not a nation of laws. Without that support, we do not have a constituti­onal government­.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

What I have been wondering is why Reid and the other Democrats have been going along with the pro-forma sessions in the first place. If they refused to not recess, and the House wanted to, then there would be disagreement between the two and Article II sec. 3 could be invoked. This would let the President dictate the time of recess and reconvening.

February 19, 2012 Posted by | Administration, GOP, Governance | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sen. Mike Lee Vows To Block Obama Nominees


Mike Lee went ballistic over President Obama’s recess appointments in January. This is how someone who believed in presumption of innocence might have worded it:

Senator Mike Lee formally responded to the President’s (allegedly) unconstitutional recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. In a statement delivered at a Judiciary Committee business meeting, Lee outlined the (allegedly) unconstitutional nature of the appointments and criticized the justification offered by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel.

“President Obama used (in Lee’s opinion) deeply flawed legal reasoning to circumvent the Constitution’s clear requirement that the Senate must be in (official) recess in order to make such appointments,” said Sen. Lee. “The President’s assertion that he (the Office of Legal Counsel) may unilaterally determine for himself (the administrative branch of government) whether or not the Senate is in recess (allegedly) violates the Constitution’s fundamental separation of government powers and the Senate’s rightful prerogatives.”

“Although some Senate Democrats claim prior ‘obstruction’ of nominees during this Congress, in reality Senate Republicans have willingly allowed the overwhelming majority of the President’s nominations to pass through the Judiciary Committee with little controversy and receive an up or down vote on the floor.”

Passing a nominee out of committee does not necessarily mean that the nominee got an up-or-down vote.

Getting nominees confirmed has proved a challenge for the administration. A recent report from the Constitutional Accountability Center in Washington said the federal judiciary had had more than 750 days with at least 80 vacancies on the federal bench, which adds to the workload of an already overburdened judiciary.

“Never before has the number of vacancies risen so sharply and remained so high for so long during a president’s term,” wrote the group, which noted that all presidents come into office with a backlog that gets worked down more quickly over time.

Judicial nominations have been a source of escalating conflict since the fight over President Ronald Reagan’s attempt to nominate Robert H. Bork to the Supreme Court in 1987. Over the years, fights have included refusals by Senate Republicans to hold hearings on Mr. Clinton’s nominees and Democratic senators filibustering nominees of Mr. Bush.

Now that conflict is just one of many in a continuing battle between Congress and the president that also includes nominations to the executive branch and efforts to pass major legislation.

While Mr. Obama was relatively slow to nominate judges earlier in his term, his team has now sped up, the group said. But Congress has been slow to confirm nominees, some of whom “go through committee without any opposition and still spend months and months waiting for a vote on the Senate floor,” said Doug Kendall, the group’s founder. “That’s never happened before, and it’s a big part of the reason the judicial vacancy problem has reached crisis proportions.”

For Obama, a Record on Diversity but Delays on Judicial Confirmations

Back to Mike Lee (NO relation):

“Given this President’s (allegedly) blatant and egregious disregard both for proper constitutional procedures and the Senate’s unquestioned role in such appointments, I find myself duty-bound to (commandeer the authority of the judiciary to determine constitutionality, ignore my “advise and consent” responsibilities under the Constitution, and) resist the consideration and approval of additional nominations until the President takes steps to ‘remedy’ the situation. Regardless of the precise course I choose to pursue, the President certainly will not continue to enjoy my nearly complete(ly imaginary) cooperation, unless and until he rescinds his (allegedly) unconstitutional recess appointments.”

Now that we’ve seen the rant, let’s look at the Constitution.

Before he enter on the Execution of his Office, he shall take the following Oath or Affirmation:–“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

US Const. Article II, sec 1.

He shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur; and he shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law: but the Congress may by Law vest the Appointment of such inferior Officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the Courts of Law, or in the Heads of Departments.

The President shall have Power to fill up all Vacancies that may happen during the Recess of the Senate, by granting Commissions which shall expire at the End of their next Session.

US Const. Article II, sec 2

He shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient; he may, on extraordinary Occasions, convene both Houses, or either of them, and in Case of Disagreement between them, with Respect to the Time of Adjournment, he may adjourn them to such Time as he shall think proper; he shall receive Ambassadors and other public Ministers; he shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed, and shall Commission all the Officers of the United States.

US Const. Article II, sec 3

This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.

The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.

US Const. Article VI

“I, (name of Member), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constituti­on of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservatio­n or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.”
Mike Lee is only concerned with the Constituti­on when it is politicall­y advantageo­us. How many pledges of allegiance (like the Norquist pledge) did he swear to before he got to the oath of office?
  1. Lee has personally determined that these particular recess appointments are unconstitutional. He has no constitutional authority to make such a determination. His constitutional authority is limited to legislative actions, confirming specific actions of the President, and approving selected structural matters of the country. “The judicial Power of the United States shall be vested in one supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish.” Unless he has legal standing to challenge a law in court, his only constitutional remedy is to change the law. In either event, he is obligated to support the law until it is legally determined to be improper.
  2. It is Lee’s Constitutional duty to support the “Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof”. While he has the authority to oppose specific nominees, he does not have the authority to reject the Constitutional mandate for a confirmation process.
  3. The President has a Constitutional obligation to “take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed”, and the obligation of a Senator to “support and defend the Constituti­on of the United States” and “bear true faith and allegiance to the same” requires him to support and enable the President to fulfill his own obligations to the Constitution.
  4. By putting his ideology ahead of his (alleged) commitment to the Constitution, he is rejecting his oath to “well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office”. He has set himself up as judge, jury, and executioner for laws that offend his ideology. This is how dictators operate, not American Constitutional officers. This could easily be considered an impeachable offense. If he does not like a law, his sole Constitutional remedy is to change the law.  Congress does not have the authority to implement, or prevent the implementation of, a law.

This is an anti-constitution power grab.

Lee has made at least two oaths he clearly holds above his oath of office. His loyalties are divided. Patriotism or subversion?

Continue reading

February 4, 2012 Posted by | Constitution, Ethics, GOP, Governance, Government | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Jan Brewer, Arizona Governor, Announces Plan To Buy Back State Capitol Complex


Jan Brewer sold the heart and soul of the Arizona government­, the pride of the state, to the private sector. She sold out the people of Arizona. Now, a month before the 100th anniversar­y of Arizona statehood, it occurs to her that the people are going to need the cornerston­e of statehood back in their possession­. I am sure that Arizonians do not like to feel like tenants sold out to carpetbagg­ers.

There is more to being a state than having a shelf full of laws and a spreadshee­t full of numbers. Maybe she realizes that she sold the state’s identity and its pride. Probably not.

On the 100th anniversar­y of Arizona’s statehood, the citizens will not have a Capital to call their own. At best, they will spend that historic day listening to a republican explaining why their Capital is owned by persons unknown, and how committed she is to buying it back.

I doubt that they will hear from her just how many taxpayer dollars she wasted on this debacle, or that this incident will tarnish Arizona history to the last generation­.

Such will be the legacy of the modern republican party.

“There’s just one problem, most of our Capitol Complex, including the building we gather in today, is not ours,” Brewer said in the speech to the Arizona Legislature.

In my defense, I assumed that if Brewer was giving a speech to the state legislature, she was doing it in the state capital. According to MyFoxPhoenix, the capital building itself was not sold. On the other hand, the capital building is not used for constitutional business – it is a museum. Literally. The state legislature moved to a new building in 1960, and the administration moved in 1974. So the Capital that was built to help prove that the Arizona Territory was ready for statehood was put to pasture decades ago.

No wonder Arizona politics is so whack-a-doodle.

She sold for $81M, wants to buy back at $105M. As I understand it, they do not save any money by buying the buildings back early. What they lose is the use of the money over the life of the bonds that are redeemed early but at full price.

Buy high, sell low, and make up the difference in BS.

January 9, 2012 Posted by | Administration, GOP, Governance | , , | Leave a comment

Richard Cordray’s Recess Appointment Gives Consumer Agency Full Power


In principle, I think that recess appointmen­ts are obsolete in these days of modern transporta­tion, communicat­ions, and longer sessions of Congress. But that depends on a properly functionin­g Senate. Obstructio­nist republican­s have thrown that out the window.

The reason for a recess appointmen­t is to fill major empty positions in the administra­tion (on a temporary basis) when the Senate is not available to confirm an appointmen­t and convening them for confirmati­on would leave the position open too long.

In this case, it is the intention of the republican­s to leave the position unfilled. This is a direct rejection of their oath of office to support and defend the Constituti­on, particular­ly the President’­s Constituti­onal obligation to administer the law. This has created a Constituti­onal Crisis.

By blocking the nomination for reasons unrelated to the qualificat­ions of the nominee, they have perverted the “advise and consent” authority of the Constituti­on, and created the very emergency situation that the recess appointmen­t exists to resolve.

Some claim that the language of the law prohibits recess appointments for the position of Director. The authority of the recess appointment is part of the Constitution, and cannot be revoked without a Constitutional Amendment.

Pro forma sessions are not addressed in the Constitution. There is precedent for using them to block a specific appointment, but that precedent includes objections based on controversy over the qualifications of a specific nominee – not the position or the law. This obstruction is without precedent, and an unprecedented response may be necessary to maintain a Constitutional government.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

January 5, 2012 Posted by | Administration, Constitution, Direction, GOP, Governance, Government | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

House Republicans Pushing Bill To Shift Regulation Authority To Congress


The purpose of having regulatory authority within the administra­tion is that the legislatur­e does not have the time or expertise to do it. The legislatur­e writes broad policy into law, and the administra­tion works out and implements the details.

Putting the administra­tion on a short leash rejects the separation of powers, cripples the regulatory function, inflates hyper-part­isanship, and increases the cost while decreasing the effectiven­ess of government­. This, of course, is what the GOP wants. By crippling the government’s ability to protect the lives and rights of living people, they give a free hand to the predators and polluter who support them. The anarchy they seek favors the powerful and the dangerous.

This is deeply damaging to the country.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

December 10, 2011 Posted by | GOP, Governance, Regulation | , , , , | Leave a comment

States Struggle For Money, Political Will To Fix America’s Failing Roads


Every road and bridge we build includes an ongoing commitment to maintenanc­e. Repairing roads, plowing snow (clearing rockfalls and blown sand/dirt?­), painting and inspecting bridges – and repairing structural weaknesses – and then there is traffic management­, which is becoming a science all its own.

If driving surfaces are allowed to deteriorate, the cost of vehicle damage goes up, as does the possibility of accidents – which leads to higher insurance costs. Not keeping traffic lanes clear also leads to accidents, congestion (and higher fuel costs) and reduced accessibility to emergency services. Without a protective coat of paint, metal bridges rust, corrode, and become less safe and more expensive to keep in service.

Population growth leads to increased congestion, which means wasted gas, higher demand/prices, more air pollution, wasted time and lost productivity, frustration and road rage.

Minneapolis bridge collapse

Minneapolis bridge collapse

But we are rapidly using up the land, and there are both financial and physical limits to expanding our transporta­tion infrastruc­ture. It is inevitable that we begin shifting back to mass transporta­tion of some type.

After Katrina, New Orleans had an opportunit­y to redesign the city and its transporta­tion system in a more effective and protected manor. I was disappoint­ed that the possibilit­y was never seriously discussed.

A few years ago, there was only one train route that would carry cars piggyback. With growing congestion­, drowsy driving, and road rage, it seems like a good idea to be able to park your car on a train and let someone else do the driving. If it cost little more than gas, tolls, and an overnight stay – and you could eat, sleep, work, read, study, surf the Internet, or even just watch the landscape go by, and not worry about traffic, turnoffs, or accidents, it would seem like a really good deal for longer trips. Being able to pack your own vehicle and have it there when you arrive would beat the heck out of flying if time was not critical.

Higher gas mileage undermines the effectiven­ess of gas taxes to fund transporta­tion costs. The correspondence between gallons of gas and miles driven is becoming variable. One solution that has been floated is to track vehicles by GPS and charge by the mile. I would rather pay a mileage tax when renewing my vehicle plates than have my every movement tracked and recorded by GPS.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

September 19, 2011 Posted by | Governance, Transportation | , , , , | Leave a comment

   

%d bloggers like this: