Union Busting as Political Punishment

WI Protests - Fox News Will Lie About ThisOver recent years, and during the current budget discussion, various unions representing Wisconsin teachers gave into cuts demanded by the governor or legislature because of state fiscal shortfalls.  Despite the acceptance of his fiscal cuts, Governor Walker is now threatening hundreds of layoffs if his union busting clause isn’t accepted.

This clause does not save any money, yet Walker is threatening the layoffs to help make up the budget shortfall.  If his new threat is true, then he was going to make these layoffs even if his full bill was accepted, and it highlights the fact that he is punishing unions that didn’t support his election, rewarding unions that did, and he’s sending a message to all unions to support him, or he’ll try to kill them if they don’t.

Walker’s spin machine is trying to tell the public the union workers are over-payed at the expense of all these poor citizens.  However, the union members are paid less than their counterparts in the private sector, and they’re accepting more cuts.  This low compensation has continued shortfalls in quality teachers available to work even while unemployment plagues the higher paid private sector.  Additionally, as teachers take more and more cuts, large businesses are complaining about increasingly fewer qualified employees to hire for innovative positions.

Basically, continuing cuts in education are creating continuing shortfalls in a qualified work force.  Maybe we should put more money into education to increase the output of a qualified pool of workers.  This is not the immediate issue at hand, but it is the long-term issue which the unions need to exist to get back the conceded cuts when the fiscal deficits are gone.

According to an NPR article, part of the governor’s deficit cutting plan is to refinance the state’s budget at lower interest.  This must be completed by this Friday in order for savings to start when planned.  For this bill to be passed by Friday, Walker only needs to concede one thing – remove the union busting clause.

If Walker does not remove this clause by Friday in order to get this bill passed, then it will be the governor who will have lost millions of dollars, not the unions.



Filed under American Government & Institutions (state & federal), Education, Government Taxes, Spending, and Deficits

Hope for Egypt

Protest in Egypt

Protest in Egypt

These Egyptian demonstrations are truly amazing.  Given their size & scope, I’m nothing short of impressed by the peacefulness of the masses.  In the intermittent absence of police and military, demonstrators have resorted to keeping peace and deterring looting.  They even set up roadblocks to check for looting.  All this has happened despite the Egyptian government’s attempts to disorganize the demonstrators and society in general.

It appears elections are the imminent outcome.  Let’s hope they are fair, and the new government represents all its citizens, not 1-2 groups against the rest.

I will not portend to know what’s best for the Egyptian people between keeping the government they have versus forcing the creation of a new government.  Even they don’t know what is best because they don’t know what kind of government will form.  If the civility of the uprising could be any kind of omen, I would guess a government formed from this will be more representative than what they currently have.  Hopefully, it will also be as stable in the region, or more so, than the Mubarak government.

Anwar el Sadat

Anwar el Sadat in January 1980

Anwar el Sadat became President in 1970.  He formed a multi-party government.   In 1973, he attacked Israel to take back Israeli gains from the 6-Day War 6-years before.  Sadat engaged in peace discussions with Israel beginning in 1974 and furthered cooperation with the U.S.  In 1979, Sadat signed a peace accord with Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin recognizing Israel as a legitimate nation.  This eventually led to Egypt’s expulsion from the Arab League, the Arab League headquarters move to Tunis (interesting tie to today), and in October, 1981, his assassination.

A plot by the Egyptian Islamic Jihad to overthrow Sadat’s government was uncovered in early 1981.  Sadat ordered the roundup of Islamic, Coptic and secular intellectuals and activists across the country.  A small jihad cell, led by military officers, was missed and soon carried out his assassination.

Then VP Hosni Mubarak was wounded in the assassination, but succeeded as President.  He had been a powerful VP personally selected by Sadat to manage negotiations for Israeli peace with other Arab nations.  Mubarak’s continued progressive stance on regional issues was a pleasant relief for much of the world, but it probably took his heavy hand in order to stay in power and continue Egypt on the path of a stable, moderate leader in the Arab region.

Hosni Mubarak

Hosni Mubarak 2009-10-17 (c) Presidenza della Repubblica

Despite continued heavy-handed, autocratic domestic rule, the Mubarak government has been a stable, positive influence internationally since the early ’80s.  However, it appears Mubarak missed an opportunity to lead Egypt to a true democracy.  He was elected in what were generally seen as rigged elections.

People painting Egypt as just another militant, oppressive Islamic regime simply can’t support that view.  Although they can argue many inequities in Egyptian society, Egypt has been more secular and progressive on social issues than many of its neighbors.  Most of the time, Egypt has been a safe place for Westerners to travel even if some places were best avoided.

However, it appears Egypt is ready to move to a full democracy and to accept closer equality between gender and various religious groups.  Day after day, Egyptian citizens maintain relatively safe self-rule despite the room for chaos, so I gain hope they’ll create a democratic government that will be a model for other countries in the region.  I also hope the uprising remains a peaceful model for other nations.

I believe the Obama administration is working with Mubarak behind the scenes to create a democratic transition out of this uprising.  Publicly, President Obama’s hands are tied causing him to veil support for either side.  However, I believe his administration is supporting both sides while bringing them toward this transition.

Historically, this movement is moving at break-neck speed.  I am in awe every day much as I was when the Berlin Wall was brought down.  Luckily, for all the progress Egypt made the last 40 years, they will have a much easier transition than Germany.

Mohammed ElBaradei

Mohammad ElBaradei, Sept. 2010 - AP photo

Mohammed ElBaradei, a Nobel Peace Prize winner in 2005 for his work in arms control, has emerged as a possible interim President.  Many believe he would win if elections were held today.  He has Islamic and secular support so he could be the best person to further unify a diverse group in a tumultous region.  People are scrambling for more information about him in an effort to decide what role, if any, he could play.

Any plan to form a new Egyptian constitution and government will likely take years to reach a complete form so there will be much to see over the coming weeks and months.

Leave a comment

Filed under Egypt, International Politics & Economy, Middle East

2011 State of the Union – Real Leadership?

Barack Obama

Barack Obama - White House Stock Photo

State of the Union addresses have been televised since President Truman.  The advent of radio & TV meant the SOTU address no longer gave direction just to congress, but also announced presidential intentions to the wider public.  Any President using this speech to speak only to his party base is not doing his job.  Regardless of who voted for him, a President must represent everyone in the country as well as possible.

I think President Obama did this very well.  He announced or furthered intentions grown from the democratic base, and he co-opted several issues grown from the republican base.  Our government’s job is to provide benefit to the country as a whole, not either party’s base.  Obama is leading this call, and I hope both major parties will come together behind him.

The Republican Response by U.S. Representative from WI Paul Ryan simply returned to rhetoric driven by old talking-points.  He continued with prefixes like the “failed stimulus”.  Did it fail?  The DJIA rebounded over 5k points, and we’re no longer dipping further into recession.

Republicans only offer tax cuts as stimulus.  Tax cuts only benefit people already earning money who, with a bleak economy, will hoard that money out of fear, not create new business and jobs.  Government spending does create jobs by spending it on new research and innovation (green technology) as well as roads, schools, managing our beloved land/property records, and paying doctors and nurses caring for our deserving veterans and first responders.

Ryan also said limited government, individual liberties, and free enterprise is what made America great.  Did he forget the high-taxed Eisenhower (R) years that built our country’s great infrastructure?  Does he include fighting gay marriage, Bush’s subsidies to oil companies, and fighting pro-choice as limited government favoring individual liberties?  This is contradiction pandering to his party’s base, not to the broader country’s citizenship.

Government has always directed money toward industries they want to grow.  Bush signed billions in oil subsidies which democrats tried to reverse in 2007.  Oil companies subsequently set world corporate profit records when the rest of the economy was falling.  Obama will redirect oil subsidies to clean energy innovation.  This will create jobs since the industry is in its infancy.  We will never be the world leader in the aging oil industry, but we could be the world leader in green technology innovation and manufacturing.  When developed, it will reduce our dependence on increasingly expensive oil.

Ribbon for Gabby Giffords

Showing Unity and Ribbon Supporting Gabby Giffords

President Obama announced direction where money will be spent.  As an independent, I don’t follow the extremities of either major party, but I can follow our President who is trying to work with groups across our country.  Following his leadership will help small and large business alike, and new jobs will be created.

We need to get behind our President.  Stand together in his moderate stance or divided we will fall.

Leave a comment

Filed under American Government & Institutions (state & federal), Government Taxes, Spending, and Deficits, International Politics & Economy, Political Parties & Partisan Politics

Tax Cuts vs. Government Spending

As David Stockman, the architect of Reaganomics explains in his books and articles, there is a time and place for tax cuts, but its use is limited and any political religion based on cuts is a perversion even from the original Reaganomics.  Stockman will also tell you Reaganomics was a failed policy that led to soaring deficits.  An Internet search on David Stockman will provide many articles, or read the middle of this article.

Stockman said the recently approved tax relief for the rich is misdirected, but was an unfortunate outcome of republicans holding all other legislation hostage without passing them.

The fact is, government spending does create jobs as well as return some control of the country’s financial might to the people who help earn it, the working class.  Without the working class, the country’s upper class would not exist, yet, it is the upper class controlling the purse strings and who often (not always) chooses raises for themselves while fighting raises for others.  As for tax burden, richer people find many ways of paying lower tax percentages while low to middle class families don’t qualify for most, if any, of tax breaks.  It’s just not true that we’re making the rich pay for everything.

Taxes pay for roads, hospitals, schools & universities, firemen, police, disaster relief, and all kinds of administrative support such as safe keeping of our land records so nobody can sneak land out from under another.  Taxes also support investment in industry.  Obama wants to spend money on repairing our aging infrastructure, and wants to redirect oil subsidies toward greener technologies so America will be a leader in this infant industry, not just other countries.  If you want to benefit even more from taxes, invest your business into American infrastructure or green technology so the government will pay you and will reinvest your taxes back into you.

Republicans are right to spend money on some industries, so let’s spend money on growing industries still in their infancy instead of spending it on aging, waning industries like oil.  Democrats are right to spend money on repair and improving our country’s infrastructure to benefit business and individuals now and in the future.  Republicans are right to put money toward war costs, but enough money needs to go toward taking care of our veterans, not more none-compete contracts for Halliburton.  They voted for war in Iraq with Rumsfeld saying it wouldn’t last 6-months, but they had no plans to pay for the residual costs.

The last 30 years show republicans are not conservative or small government when it comes to their party’s wish list, and they don’t want republican financiers to pay for it either.  However, we need to pay our expenses through taxes.  The fact is, the richer a person is in this country, the more they benefit from our country’s infrastructure, so they should pay more than the person working 2 jobs and just staying afloat.  Richer people have huge cushions to last through unemployment while the poor and middle class people have little to no cushion to handle unemployment.

The government helps maintain private spending by ensuring all families have some money to spend.  Private spending keeps our businesses afloat to continue providing jobs.  There is no way around this.

Leave a comment

Filed under American Government & Institutions (state & federal), Government Taxes, Spending, and Deficits

Packer Fans

Clay Matthews

Clay Matthews - from GB Packer's Website

Packer fans are a great study in human psychology.  I have been around this country, experienced sports fans in their home markets, and I’ve found no other group like Packer fans.

Most other sports markets have a large percentage of fair-weather fans, or worse yet, when-the-sun-shines-up-my-butt fans.  However, I remember in the 1988 season when the Packers had another losing season in a row.  They went 4-12.  I had just moved to St. Paul for college, and I had no better time that year than watching the Pack beat the Vikings both times they met.  That year, their only other winning games were against Cardinals and the Patriots.

The thing is, 1988 was the Pack’s 9th season in a row of .500 or well worse, yet, Packer fans stuck  by them 100%.  They’re just happy to be there.  Aww, the Pack will do better next year.  True, some people get upset over certain plays or player mistakes, but they always, always back the team.

Many people have tried to explain this phenomenon.  I like Garrison Keillor’s explanation.  Just like in Lake Wobegon, life is not always perfect…in fact it often isn’t, but you still don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.  Packer fans have the cold, blue skies, serious rain storms, mobile obstacles on the roadways, awesome lakes, clean forests, frost heaves and pot holes, good breweries, large vanilla breweries, cheese, and beer-cheese soup often garnished with popcorn.  Packer fans have learned to simply roll with it…whatever it is, and find something good in their day.

Every year, Packer fans think it’s their year, and for every year it’s not, they think next year will be.  I think all this is the reason Green Bay is title town.  The team really wants to play for fans like that.  It’s also why players like Randy Moss never made it to Wisconsin – we won’t stand for stuck-up players that don’t return our appreciation for them.

Lambeau Field is the only venue sold out since, I think, 1962.  It’s the home of the Lambeau Leap – the move elated athletes make to share elation with elated fans.  Packer players really feel the love in Green Bay and all of Wisconsin.  When they’re not playing well, they don’t get the Lambeau Leaps and the shared elation which they play for, but they don’t get crapped on either which tends to get players pissed-off at their fans, and I think this hurts their chances of doing better.

I’m soooo looking forward to tomorrow’s game, and, once again, I’m looking forward to watching the fans and being part of it all.  Go Packers!!!

Leave a comment

Filed under People in General

A Rebuilt America Benefits Chinese and American Interests

Barack Obama - Hu Jintao

Barack Obama - Hu Jintao - London April 2009

A general environment of cooperation takes years or decades to build between major countries, especially between superpowers competing for influence so we better further cooperative efforts with China now.

Economically, China is heavily invested in the U.S.  They want to be sure our country remains stable to protect their investments.  Where we fail, they hurt, too.  Currently we’re failing our working and middle classes.  This is where the U.S. loses and China wins, but only to a point.  A struggling American working & middle class means more Chinese products are bought, and it keeps costs low for Chinese to further invest in the U.S. (less competition from American investors).  However, a crashing middle class will eventually lead to the total crash of the American economy and the value of American investments.

If the U.S. invests in its middle-class, who are more likely to buy domestic products than European-made cars and boats or the cheapest products made elsewhere, we’ll begin to buy back Chinese investment in our country.  Chinese enjoy profits as we buy back, and then they will invest in some other profitable economy.  When Americans reinvest in the U.S. and overseas, more profits remain in this country.  The working and middle class was the hallmark of the 1950’s (Eisenhower’s well taxed) American economy.

David Stockman

David Stockman - AP Photo - Louis Lanzano

The Chinese have a burgeoning middle class.  Marvel at their domestic and international investment power and profits.  That could be the U.S. again if we listen to David Stockman, the architect of Reaganomics, as he refutes the entire theory of Reaganomics.  In Stockman’s book from 1986, The Triumph of Politics:  Why the Reagan Revolution Failed, he will tell you his former theory didn’t work.  In preparation for a book he plans to publish next year, Stockman explains the further perversion of Reaganomics by Republicans burst the economy, and Reagan would never approve of extending the Bush tax cuts demanded by the current Republican Party.

David Stockman recently stated: 

The Republicans abandoned their old-time fiscal religion in favor of two theories, which I think are now proving to be both wrong and highly counterproductive and damaging.One was monetarism, which said let the dollar float on the international markets.  Let 12 men and women at the Fed decide whether to raise or lower interest rates, and use the Fed to try to run this massive economy.  What they’ve done instead is run the printing press; they’ve flooded the world with dollars.  The whole monetarist policy has been a mistake.

The second thing was the perversion of supply side.  Yes, there was a good idea that in certain circumstances, lower tax rates will encourage economic activity and savings.  But when you make it a religion, when you make it a catechism and you say you cut taxes no matter what the circumstance, what the season, what the condition, then I think the whole idea has been perverted.

European financial support of cooperative international efforts leaves the U.S. footing a disproportionate amount of the bill.  China’s emergence as a superpower the means U.S. should find common ground for American-Chinese cooperation.  Chinese financial backing in international efforts, such as Afghanistan, could help keep more of our tax dollars at home.

Again, the Chinese have an interest in keeping us from over-stretching our pocketbook, and for better or worse, they have an increasing interest in the stability in the Middle East and oil-producing countries.  Both countries will be better served by reinvesting in America’s working and middle class by abandoning current Republican and Tea Party perversions of former Republican policies.  The republican Eisenhower era used increased taxes to invest in America’s infrastructure and education to raise the country to greatness.  This infrastructure is now in disrepair, and education spending is in decline.  A domestically stronger U.S. makes Chinese-American cooperation more attractive to China.

Republicans are fighting Obama’s efforts to reinvest in our infrastructure.  Some republican governors declined funding for revitalization projects in their states.  Instead, other states will get the repairs, and the jobs required to complete those projects.  This throws in the face all that republicans used to stand for such as Eisenhower, Barry Goldwater, and even Reagan.

I’m willing to bet two of the topics discussed by President Obama and President Hu Jintao this week will be reinvestment in America’s infrastructure and how both countries could cooperate financially on the international stage all in the name of protecting investments and political interests of both countries.

Leave a comment

Filed under American Government & Institutions (state & federal), Asia, International Politics & Economy, Political Parties & Partisan Politics

The Importance of Cooperation with China

Hu Jintao

Hu Jintao - President of China

Over the past 20 years, China has increasingly become a fixture in American minds.  Americans worry China is on their way to owning the U.S. while Americans mostly fill their homes with items made in China.  Are we just a step from being China’s 6th autonomous region, or 2 steps from being their 23rd province?  If we look at our 230-year history with England, the answer is no.

The United States will remain the preeminent world power through my lifetime, and will remain a world power for future generations to come until there is a single international government.  This is not something the average American needs to worry about.  Our government, and most of the international community, will continue to position the U.S. as a world leader.  However, can the United States support world interests on its own?  We only need to look at Iraq and Afghanistan to realize that is the most we can do, and it is draining us.

The U.S. will remain the world leader through cooperation with emerging world powers just as England/The U.K. has remained a world power through its cooperation with the U.S.  The world has so many problems needing international attention or intervention, and no individual country can handle these alone.  Nothing proved this better than U.S. bravado charging into Iraq, and watching Rumsfeld famously state, “How long will the war last?  It could last six days, six weeks. I doubt six months.”

Let’s face it, no country could ever amount to Superman’s ability to reverse time and negative events by flying around earth with ultra-speed.  Nor can any country survive our last administration’s faith based on, “If America does it, God will make it right.”  Well, that is exactly what our militant Islamic enemies believe, too.  Following this faith-based ideology, American international support went from legendary on September 11, 2001, to little support when we entered Iraq, to even less over the coming years.  Look at the last 2k years.  Faith-based wars last decades, centuries, and millenia.

God is a strong partner of many individual people, but is clearly not a proven partner of a country.  The U.S. cannot cowboy it alone.  We must continually foster cooperation with current and emerging world powers in order to provide the greatest positive influence over the rest of the world without Americans footing 90% of the bill.  The U.S. cannot afford financial future financial strains akin to Iraq and Afghanistan, and most people argue we can’t afford these current strains committed to in the last decade.

Cooperation with China, and continued cooperation with the European Union where Americans no longer foot the lion’s share of the bill, will make America stronger and increases our ability of remaining a world power into the future.  In contrast, lone cowboy operations will drain our country to collapse.  Additionally, if the U.S. focuses on green and next-generation technologies, China and other cooperative countries will have the ability to buy American.

China’s leaders have shaken our hands for years so we can bow to them in civility without bowing down to them in submissiveness.  Hu Jintao will visit Washington this week.  We need to support our administration’s efforts toward cooperation with China.  Tthe meetings this week will be very important in setting the stage.

Leave a comment

Filed under Asia, International Politics & Economy