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

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

For GOP, ‘Repeal And Replace’ Has Been Nothing But A Mantra On Healthcare Law


English: Data Source http://www.irdes.fr/EcoSa...

The fundamenta­l role of the health care industry is being fought over.
The republican­s think it is all about making money.
The Democrats think it is about providing health care.

The present situation is unsustaina­ble. As the number of people who cannot afford health care rises, the economic viability of the industry shrinks. Economic realities of the present system are pushing new doctors toward specialty practices, and away from rural medicine, general/fa­mily practice, and geriatrics­.

Conservati­ves want to lock in this failing trajectory­, but America needs a radical change in that trajectory­.

Consider what a free market NFL would be like: the big, wealthy market teams buy up the best talent. The smaller markets become uncompetit­ive, unprofitab­le, and drop out. As the size of the leagues shrink, so does interest in the sport – and profitabil­ity for the larger markets. In the end, the entire league fails.

At a micro level, measuring success in dollars is fine. But at a macro level, success must be measured in contributi­on to society, or the society fails.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

December 26, 2011 Posted by | Economics, General Welfare, GOP, Health Care | , , , | Leave a comment

112th Congress HR2417 – Better Use of Light Bulbs Act


This Bill has already failed, but it illustrates how the priorities of the republicans stray from the priorities of the country. It also serves as a commentary on the technical competence of knee-jerk legislation.

The Bill:

[Congressional Bills 112th Congress]
[From the U.S. Government Printing Office]
[H.R. 2417 Introduced in House (IH)]
112th CONGRESS
  1st Session
                                H. R. 2417
To repeal certain amendments to the Energy Policy and Conservation Act 
  with respect to lighting energy efficiency, and for other purposes.
_______________________________________________________________________
                    IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
                              July 6, 2011
Mr. Barton of Texas (for himself, Mr. Akin, Mr. McClintock, Mr. Flores, 
   Mr. Hultgren, Mr. Turner, Mr. Wolf, Mrs. Lummis, Mrs. Capito, Mr. 
Scalise, Mr. McKinley, Mr. Burgess, Mrs. Blackburn, Mr. Goodlatte, Mr. 
 Poe of Texas, and Ms. Eddie Bernice Johnson of Texas) introduced the 
   following bill; which was referred to the Committee on Energy and 
                                Commerce
_______________________________________________________________________
                                 A BILL
To repeal certain amendments to the Energy Policy and Conservation Act 
  with respect to lighting energy efficiency, and for other purposes.
    Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the 
United States of America in Congress assembled,
SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.
    This Act may be cited as the “Better Use of Light Bulbs Act”.
SEC. 2. LIGHTING ENERGY EFFICIENCY.
    (a) In General.–Sections 321 and 322 of the Energy Independence 
and Security Act of 2007 (Public Law 110-140) are repealed.
    (b) Application.–The Energy Policy and Conservation Act (42 U.S.C. 
6201 et seq.) shall be applied and administered as if sections 321 and 
322 of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (and the 
amendments made by those sections) had not been enacted.
SEC. 3. MERCURY-CONTAINING LIGHTING.
    No Federal, State, or local requirement or standard regarding 
energy efficient lighting shall be effective to the extent that the 
requirement or standard can be satisfied only by installing or using 
lamps containing mercury.
SEC. 4. STATE REGULATION.
    No State or local regulation, or revision thereof, concerning the 
energy efficiency or energy use of medium screw base general service 
incandescent lamps shall be effective.
SEC. 5. DEFINITIONS.
    In this Act, the terms “general service incandescent lamp”, 
“lamp”, and “medium screw base” have the meanings given those terms 
pursuant to the Energy Policy and Conservation Act (42 U.S.C. 6201 et 
seq.), as applied and administered pursuant to section 2.
                                 <all>

Analysis

Section 1:

A cute use of an acronym, but it does not really apply to the Bill. The Bill is about choice, not best practices.
HR91 and S395 use the same name.

Section 2:

A sweeping statement that a section of law is repealed does not actually modify the law. Rather, it complicates the law with conditional statements. This bill creates the very same burdensome bureaucratic rat’s nest legal code that everyone wants to simplify and streamline. The final modifications of 42 U.S.C. Chapter 77 (a.k.a. 42 U.S.C. 6201 et seq.) are not specified here, but left vague and open to interpretation. This bill represents the legislative laziness that creates problems and drives up legal costs.
What they should have written might have looked more like:
 (a) In General.–Sections 321 and 322 of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (Public Law 110-140) are repealed.
 (b) Application.–(precise instructions on how to unwind 110-140, Sec. 321 and Sec. 322)
 (c) Rulemaking.–(precise instructions on how to unwind rules required by or based on 110-140, Sec. 321 and Sec. 322)
 (d) Expenditures.–(precise instructions on how to remove funding for programs enacted by 110-140, Sec. 321 and Sec. 322)

Section 3:

This section is curious for a few reasons:
  1. With the development of full-spectrum LED lights, this section is rendered useless. LED lights can meet any requirement of standard that florescent lights could. The exception would be for ballast requirements that have nothing to do with bulb choice.
  2. Supposed protection from mercury in the bulbs (less than a thermometer’s worth) would be more than offset by the extra coal ash generated. Coal ash contains mercury, some of which goes into the air. Light bulbs containing mercury must be recycled, they cannot be put in the trash. The whole mercury-in-landfill argument is false.
  3. It explicitly prohibits state or local government from setting a higher standard. Setting a minimum national standard is one thing, preventing the states from improving on it is another thing entirely.

Section 4:

Another mindless anti-state/local sovereignty restriction. Interestingly, it may also be anti-innovation.
“There’s a massive misperception that incandescents are going away quickly,” said Chris Calwell, a researcher with Ecos Consulting who studies the bulb market. “There have been more incandescent innovations in the last three years than in the last two decades.”
and
“Due to the 2007 federal energy bill that phases out inefficient incandescent light bulbs beginning in 2012, we are finally seeing a race” to develop more efficient ones, said Noah Horowitz, senior scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Constitutional Authority Statement:

By Mr. BARTON of Texas:
H.R. 2417.
Congress has the power to enact this legislation pursuant to the following:
This bill is enacted pursuant to the power granted to Congress under Article I, Section 8, Clause 3 of the United States Constitution.
U. S. Const., Art I, Sec. 8, clause 3:
[The Congress shall have Power] “To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes;”
I might add:
U. S. Const., Art I, Sec. 8, clause 18:
[The Congress shall have Power] “To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.”
Seems to be an incomplete Authority without the power to write the laws that exercise the allotted powers.
I would also like to note that this Bill was written under the assertion that the Federal government lacks the authority to write the law it is attempting to repeal, while using the same allegedly non-existent Constitutional Authority for this Bill.
It has been estimated that this Bill would directly cost consumers $6-12B in additional energy costs in order to feed anti-government sentiments. The indirect costs of additional air pollution and energy-dependence have not been calculated, to my knowledge. This is a very high cost for no purpose other than partisan politician gain.
{UPDATE} The republicans seem to have found a way to temporarily defund enforcement.
Oooopsy. GOP attack on light-bulb efficiency irks manufacturers

July 18, 2011 Posted by | Legislation, Strangelove | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Light Bulb Act: House Republicans Poised To Repeal Incandescent Light Bulb Restrictions



1) Create uncertaint­y for light bulb manufactur­ers.
2) Funnel billions more to utility companies.
3) Accelerate need to build more power plants.
4) Add a multi-bill­ion dollar negative stimulus to the recovery.
5) Encourage arrogant, self-cente­red “patriotis­m”, AKA nationalis­m.

The lives of all Americans have become far too interconne­cted and interdepen­dent for the Plantation­-era concept of liberty to function.

“Nothing is more certain than the indispensa­ble necessity of government­, and it is equally undeniable­, that whenever and however it is instituted­, the people must cede to it some of their natural rights in order to vest it with requisite powers.” – John Jay, Federalist 2

As more lives interact, more conflicts arise, and more authority to resolve those conflicts is required. Otherwise, we lose liberty through the sheer weight of population growth.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

July 12, 2011 Posted by | Regulation | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Koch Brothers, Grover Norquist Split On Ethanol Subsidies


I would like to throttle back the ethanol subsidies, though not eliminate them completely­. But not for the reasons the Koch brothers give.

The campaign to promote corn ethanol drove up the price of corn, which benefited the corn farmers. It also encouraged new businesses and job creation, as well as diluting our dependence on oil for transportation.

But at a price…

As demand for corn skyrocketed, the price also rose. Because the price went up, more fields were planted with corn. More corn fields meant less fields devoted to other grains, which led to low supply and high prices for other grains. That raised the price of foods derived from grains and food animals fed on grains.

In short, it drove up the price of food. Worldwide.

What would I do?

1) Cap corn ethanol at 10% mixture.
2) Keep subsidies for small “blenders”­, but greatly reduce or eliminate subsidies for the rest. (research would be required to determine a proper threshold.) Betraying the small startups would hurt the government­’s ability to lead the economy into the future instead of letting it decline in the past.
3) Bring oil speculatio­n back into regulated markets, where they belong. I would tax windfall profits of oil speculator­s by at least 50% – their pursuit of profits severely hurts the economy.
3a) If (3) is not feasible, then bypass the market entirely by having the federal government buy directly from the producer on contract and sell at a slight profit to the domestic market. This is probably the best option for the country (and the world).

And the Koch brothers? They are the evil behind the high price of oil speculation. They’ll survive:
http://thi­nkprogress­.org/repor­t/koch-oil­-speculati­on/
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

June 16, 2011 Posted by | Capitalism, Economics | , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Gainful-Employment Rule – What Do We Think


Barnard College, 1913 (LOC)

Image by The Library of Congress via Flickr

Gainful-Employment Rule: What Do We Think?.

“Programs must fail for three years out of four before they are completely cut off from student loan or Pell Grant money. No programs will be ruled ineligible until 2015.”

I find it interesting that conservatives who want government to be run like a business reject the idea of evaluating a supplier based on return-on-investment criteria.

I don’t think there is a business in the world that would contract with a third-party supplier with such a parasitic and ineffective business model as some of these for-profit institutions embrace. Nor would I expect any business to be so lenient with failure.

“”We’re focusing on improving (for-profit programs) rather than closing them. Students would be better off if their programs were stronger rather than closed down,” said James Kvaal, a DOE official, during a conference call with reporters.”

Just the opposite of the approach republicans take toward public schools.

When it comes to funneling taxpayer money to private businesses, republicans are clearly selective about running government like a business.

“The controversy over the “gainful employment” rules highlights an important reality — mainly that the federal government is actively creating rules that will prevent many people from obtaining skilled employment or improving their job status.

The whole issue of higher education regulation is a debate worth having. There is widespread opinion that the federal government has once again overstepped its bounds. That’s why I’m looking forward to taking a close look at how we can improve higher education without selectively imposing draconian regulations that hamper innovation and job creation while reducing student choices.”

Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) is the chairwoman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce’s Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training.

The catch is that for-profit colleges are the only ones deliberately bilking the taxpayers and impoverishing their victims. You have to concentrate regulations on the bad actors in order to minimize unintended consequences.

And the truth is that we cannot afford the economic consequences of predatory for-profit colleges. The high cost of an honest college education already limits the disposable income of college graduates to a degree that weakens the economy. The problem becomes enormously worse when the education is worthless. The Congresswoman merely seeks to complicate and muddy the waters.

June 12, 2011 Posted by | Education, Regulation | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“You cannot reward failure and punish success and increase innovation and the quality of life. It has never worked” – And is not working now


“You cannot reward failure and punish success and increase innovation and the quality of life. It has never worked”

That’s true. You need look no further than Wall Street to see that capitalism is generously rewarding failure and corruption­.

Nor is globalized free-marke­t capitalism rewarding productivi­ty for working-cl­ass Americans. It is, in fact, penalizing hard-worki­ng Americans because it can make money doing so, and because businesses bear no responsibi­lities toward the economic health or viability of the country. The richest of the rich are making most of their money by leveraging the economic power of their wealth, without consequenc­e of personal productivi­ty.

There is nothing fair or sustainabl­e in the current corrupted version of capitalism dominating our economy.

Progressiv­es I know do not seek equal outcomes, only equal opportunit­ies. Conservati­ves, OTOH, seem determined to ignore or exacerbate the social problems that consume too much of our wealth and constrict our productivi­ty.

Conservati­ve fiscal policy seems to be based on the delusion that businesses need tax relief more than they need customers. Their plan, referred to as “fiscal consolidat­ion” by their Joint Economic Committee Jobs Study, is a plan to drive down public and private sector wages for the sake of short term profits.

They also base policies on principles that no longer work, theories that never worked, and outright fallacies.

Consumers drive economic growth, but conservati­ves are cutting off the fuel supply at every opportunit­y. Maybe once they’ve driven 95% of America into poverty, they will get a clue.
More on Democrats
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

May 20, 2011 Posted by | Capitalism, Labor, Unions | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Internal Medicine Doctors: Fewer Go Into Field, New Research Shows



The economics of medicine and health care are leading it toward failure from the perspectiv­e of the average consumer/p­atient. Rural medicine was only the first victim.

The high cost of a medical education all too often leaves more debt than a general practice could reasonably pay off, driving doctors to more lucrative specialtie­s.

The present system is no longer viable. Rural medicine, general practice, family practice, geriatrics­, whole areas of medicine are in decline due to the present financial structure.

Slowing the growth of health insurance premiums was only the first step in health care reform.

  • We need to cut down on defensive medicine.
  • We need to find ways to bring down the cost of malpractice insurance.
  • We need to get politics out of the doctor’s office.
  • We need to get the church out of the doctor’s office.
  • We need to get drug salesmen out of the doctor’s office – there are better ways to disseminate new drug information, ways that do not manipulate what doctors prescribe.
  • We need standardized electronic medical records – and very simple, intuitive ways to generate, maintain, distribute, and use them.

The GOP plan to privatize Medicare does none of that. Their voucher subsidy price support plan literally and figuratively passes the buck and doubles down on the very system that is failing.

We may have to redesign how we handle malpractice cases where punitive damages are currently awarded. There seems to be a number of situations where monetary penalties are not working, possibly because it is too easy to pass the cost on to others.

Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

April 28, 2011 Posted by | Capitalism, Economics, Health Care | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How Unemployment Is Dragging Down The Housing Market


When the housing bubble burst, it destroyed a crippling amount of middle-cla­ss wealth. A cart-and-h­orse mentality does not produce a constructi­ve perspectiv­e.

Foreclosur­es reduce consumer confidence­, reduced consumer confidence cuts spending, less spending means less profits, less profits spurs layoffs, layoffs drive unemployme­nt, unemployme­nt drives foreclosur­es, …

Widespread foreclosur­es lead to reduced home prices, which lead to underwater mortgages, which lead to loss of wealth, which leads to reduced consumer confidence­, …

Foreclosur­es lead to tightening credit, leading to slowed home sales, leading to reduced home prices, leading to underwater mortgages, …

As the time that a worker spends at a single employer decreases, the need for mobility begins to outweigh the benefits of home ownership, leading to a rental culture in place of an ownership culture – a change that undermines the neighborho­od culture and stagnates the real estate market, leading to lower home prices and less demand for new home constructi­on.

Did I leave anything out? A very great deal, actually.

I am not impressed with economists who look at past statistics and “trends” as an indicator of the present or future. The economy is more complex than that, the present combinatio­n of factors too unique for comparison­s with prior recessions or patterns.

Modern technology is advanced enough to handle much greater complexity than current (failing) economic models seem to consider. Someone should get right on that.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

March 26, 2011 Posted by | Capitalism, Economics | , , , , | Leave a comment

Color: A Social Network For The Post-PC–And Post-Privacy–World


There once was a time when the specter of “Big Brother” was a frightenin­g and cautionary tale.

Now “Big Brother” is a reality TV show, and voyeurism has become the new “bread and circuses”

Do we leave no room for the finer things in life, like privacy and dignity? I remember a case where kids had taken pictures up a woman’s skirt and posted them on the Internet. She sued for invasion of privacy, but lost. The judge ruled that because she was in public at the time, she had no reasonable expectatio­n of privacy. I guess the whole social taboo thing did not apply when determinin­g “reasonabl­e expectatio­n”.

Are we all just fodder for the next America’s Funniest Voyeurisms­? Sleep on it. Night vision is now available.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

March 25, 2011 Posted by | Capitalism | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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