Wednesday, July 25, 2018

No, it is not a war  but rather a tax  on
the more-perfect-Union's working class

"Our original Constitution did not even have an income tax.  Instead, it had tariffs." - Donald Trump in a speech in Monessen, PA, June 28, 2016




When that above-described average Walmart-shopping 51-year-old female with an annual household income of $56,482 voted for Donald Trump in 2016, she voted to reduce the share of progressive federal income taxes collected from the rich.

Having heard Trump's June 28, 2016 speech in Monessen, PA, she apparently planned to pay to help offset the federal government's revenue loss through regressive taxes on consumers like her family. The regressive taxes are tariffs.

This post is about such taxes fully understanding that, as noted in the "welcome post" of this blog, we Progressives allowed the 70-year systematic destruction of American Progressivism.
 

Progressive Tax Structure


As previously noted in these posts, consistent with the goal to create equitable communities within an equitable world, “Progressives” focus on using using a "progressive tax structure" to fund government activities.

On the internet, one can see two definitions of the term "progressive tax" that are subtly different. The Investopedia definition is the correct definition by which one can determine if the structure of a tax is progressive:
    A progressive tax is a tax that imposes a lower tax rate on low-income earners compared to those with a higher income, making it based on the taxpayer's ability to pay. That means it takes a larger percentage from high-income earners than it does from low-income individuals.
The definition offered by Wikipedia is as complex to understand as the federal income tax code. Its first sentence in italics is misleading which could lead to an incorrect determination that a tax structure is progressive:
    A progressive tax is a tax in which the tax rate increases as the taxable amount increases. The term "progressive" refers to the way the tax rate progresses from low to high, with the result that a taxpayer's average tax rate is less than the person's marginal tax rate. The term can be applied to individual taxes or to a tax system as a whole; a year, multi-year, or lifetime. Progressive taxes are imposed in an attempt to reduce the tax incidence of people with a lower ability to pay, as such taxes shift the incidence increasingly to those with a higher ability-to-pay. The opposite of a progressive tax is a regressive tax, where the relative tax rate or burden decreases as an individual's ability to pay increases.
More specifically, the Progressive Pacific defines a progressive tax structure as one that, without exception, takes a larger percentage of a person's income from high-income persons than it does from low-income persons in a graduated manner when calculated at increasing income levels. In this context "person" means both "natural persons" and "corporate persons."

The problem with the Wikipedia definition above is the use of the term "taxable amount" as the manipulation of the "taxable amount" can turn what appears to be a progressive tax structure into a regressive tax structure. Consider this table:

The tax rate appears to increase as the "taxable amount" increases. But is it really a "progressive tax?" No, because the "taxable amount" is the first $35,000 earned. Earnings above that are not taxed. So the actual tax rate on total income paid by the person begins to drop if they make more that $35,000. Thus the person making $200,000 is taxed less than 1% of their income while the person who made $35,000 is taxed 5.57% of income. It is a regressive tax structure.

Social Security payroll taxes are similar except the rate doesn't increase. It is a flat rate collected on income up to a certain amount. It actually is a regressive tax structure. The federal income tax when combined with the Social Security and Medicare payroll taxes as collected in 2017 from wage earners was progressive in total. When considered together with persons whose income derives from different types of sources such as dividends and capital gains, that progressiveness becomes fuzzy.

Again, a progressive tax structure is one that without exception takes a larger percentage of a person's income from high-income persons than it does from low-income persons in a graduated manner when calculated at increasing income levels. One cannot simply assume that because the tax rate increases as the taxable amount increases it must be a progressive tax structure because defining what income is taxable can be manipulated.
 

A Tariff is a Tax on Consumers


A "tariff" is a tax  on what you buy, not a war  against China, Japan, Mexico, Canada, the European Union, and other countries. The use of the word "tariff" is a good way to hide a tax.

When a 25% tariff is collected on a product entering the country, that increases the wholesale price by 25%. Importers pay U.S. import tariffs to the federal government and the cost is passed on through the wholesaler and retailer.

To borrow some language from the Tax Foundation, tariffs are in a class of taxes "included in the final price of products and services, and are often hidden to consumers." But one doesn't have to take the word of untrustworthy experts on such things or some "fake" news source.

It was two years ago this month that Trump started bantering around the phrase "trade war" in a speech in Monessen, Pennsylvania, in 2016. There he threatened Canada, China and Mexico. And it was there that he made it clear he intended to use taxes Americans would pay in order to benefit select American businesses stating: "Our original Constitution did not even have an income tax. Instead, it had tariffs emphasizing taxation of foreign, not domestic, production."

The problem with that, of course, is taxes (tariffs) on imports aren't taxes "foreign production", they tax domestic consumption - you the consumer absorbs the tax in the item cost. When a 20% tariff on imported goods is collected at the American port (not in the foreign country), the wholesale price of those goods is increased 20%. Now, perhaps the cost of Apple products depicted at the right might not be increased the full amount of the tariff as Apple's retail markup is extremely high and the corporation could afford to absorb some of that tariff cost.

But consider the hypothetical Walmart receipt depicted at the left above. In all likelihood a person buying clothes for their kids which would have cost $64.91 including sales tax, would cost an additional $9.48 because of tariffs which represents about a 15% tax paid to the Trump federal government. And that's also true of stores like Macy's and Costco.

Of course, Costco members are considered wealthy, or "affluent", with only 15% just "getting by" or "poor." The average Costco member is college educated, owns a home and earns about $100,000 a year. On the other hand, the average Walmart shopper is not nearly as wealthy as indicated below...


What may be more surprising to home-owning, out-of-touch, older generations is that two thirds of American millennials, or adults between the ages of 20 and 35, shopped at a Walmart store in the last month and are more likely to shop at Walmart than the general population. They need bargains as they spend on diapers, then kids’ clothes, pay off student debt, and/or save money to buy a home.

So when this headline appeared in Bloomberg News Walmart, Nike Suppliers Put on Notice by China Tariff Threat as the Trump Administration began to do exactly what Trump promised in Monessen, PA, on June 28, 2016, there is a good chance that the Walmart-shopping 51-year-old female with an annual household income of $56,482 voted for Trump in 2016 and dismissed the 2018 story as fake news. Why? Because of this:

It is certain that the tariffs generated by Donald Trumps actions will do significant harm to the economies of the red states. But they will also cause damage to the economies of the Progressive Pacific States.

And it will be worse for those who find themselves in the lowest 80% of earners and/or who's net worth is in the lowest 90%.  That is because taxes on goods are regressive taxes - those who earn less pay a higher percentage of their income for those taxes.

Consider the Walmart receipt above. It indicates that $9.48 is being paid towards the tariffs. If the customer's monthly income is $9,480 ($113,760 per year, $54.69 per hour), the tax represents 0.1% of the monthly income. If the customer's monthly income is $1,896 ($22,752 per year, $10.94 per hour ), the tax represents 0.5% of the monthly income.

Before the tariffs this wasn't a cost for the customer. It is a new cost, a tax increase. And for the low income customer $9.48 may represent two meals for his/her kids. That is simply unacceptable to a Progressive.

The impacts of the tariffs have been calculated statistically, which means dry statistics:


If you click on the table above it will take you to the source article at the Tax Foundation. As indicated in Table 4 above, they determined that the tariff proposals would produce $145 billion a year in additional tax revenue but would cost 364,786 full-time equivalent jobs in the economy.

In a separate study, the Tax Foundation determined that The 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act enacted by the Republicans would reduce federal personal income tax (mostly for the wealthy) and corporate income tax revenue by $1.47 trillion over the next decade, or an average of $147 billion a year, and add an additional 339,000 full-time equivalent jobs in the economy.

Thus, the net effect of the tax policy described by Trump in the election will be to significantly lower taxes for corporations and the wealthy while offsetting the revenue loss with tariffs mostly passed on to the consumer, particularly impacting the Walmart shopper as indicated in the receipt above.
 

Marketplace Competition


The expected side effect of the implementation of Trump tariffs has been tariffs levied on American exports in response by the other nations that Trump has impacted.

Any person who doesn't see the marketplace as a game board would recognize this as competition. But Trump sees marketplace competition as "war." As noted in Wikipedia: "War is a state of armed conflict between states, societies and informal groups, such as insurgents and militias. It is generally characterized by extreme aggression, destruction, and mortality, using regular or irregular military forces."

Tariffs are not bombs or bullets reigning down terror, killing people. But the United States is so comfortable with "warfare" that people, particularly those that have never been in war, use warfare metaphors without grimacing.

Unfortunately for Donald Trump, the Chinese noted his foolishness. In response to his "trade war" metaphors, they "targeted" their response to tariffs levied on American exports to goods that more drastically impact red states, states that voted for Trump.

And so in this week's news from the Associated Press we see Trump administration announces $12 billion in aid for farmers hurt by tariffs explaining:
    The Trump administration announced Tuesday it will provide $12 billion in emergency relief to ease the pain of American farmers slammed by President Donald Trump’s escalating trade disputes with China and other countries.
    The Agriculture Department said it would tap an existing program to provide billions in direct payments to farmers and ranchers hurt by foreign retaliation to Trump’s tariffs.
    With congressional elections coming soon, the government action underscored administration concern about damage to U.S. farmers from Trump’s trade tariffs and the potential for losing House and Senate seats in the Midwest and elsewhere.
    However, some farm-state Republicans quickly dismissed the plan, declaring that farmers want markets for their crops, not payoffs for lost sales and lower prices.
And we are offered a story Farmers like me put Trump in office. Now his trade war is smothering us. written by Kalena Bruce,CPA, a fifth generation Missouri rancher, who tells us:
    I am a farmer and a Trump supporter. I agree that China needs to be punished for stealing patented U.S. technology. But opening a new front in this trade war, while trying to reduce the blowback on farmers with a Great Depression-era transfer program, is not the right approach. It is the economic equivalent of treating a hangnail by cutting off your finger.
    As Trump’s aid package tacitly admits, tariffs hit farmers especially hard. With farmers already facing economic head winds, including oversupply and drought, I predict that even with this aid, expanded tariffs would be the breaking point that puts some farmers out of business entirely. As the history of the Great Depression demonstrates, such federal and bureaucratic farm-support programs rarely compensate for the full burden of a trade war, while usually ushering in unintended consequences that distort the farm economy.
    Farmers use a lot of steel, which Trump subjected to a 25 percent tariff in March. Combines, grain bins, fencing and cattle gating, which we are constantly upgrading and replacing, have become significantly more expensive as steel prices have jumped markedly because of the tariffs. This has taken a painful bite out of our already-slim profit margins.
    Yet the most significant consequence of tariffs for farmers has been the inevitable tariff retaliation from trading partners, which reduces our export opportunities. For instance, China has targeted soybeans and hogs with steep retaliatory tariffs. These farm products are popular in China and fixtures on Midwest farms.
    More than one-third of U.S. soybeans, the second-biggest crop in the nation, goes to China — about $12.4 billion worth. Since May, soybean prices have dipped about $2 per bushel to about $8.50 as export markets have dried up. For every dollar lower a bushel, farmers lose about 10 percent of their revenue.
    Meanwhile, pork exports to China are down nearly 20 percent this year. China is an especially valuable market for pork farmers because it purchases the lower-value portions of the hogs, such as the tongue and ears, that are difficult to sell elsewhere. As a result of the limited export markets, meat is piling up in U.S. cold-storage warehouses. Since May, prices of lean hog futures have fallen by 14 percent.
You can read about Bruce in Meet Kalena Bruce: American Farm Bureau YF&R chair. And you can also read about her attempts at optimism in a local paper article Missouri farmers brace for President Trump's trade war. However, that local article raises some big red flags for those of us in the Progressive Pacific:
    The Bruces are part of the fifth generation in a family that holds more than 3,000 acres of farmland near Stockton, where they've owned land since before the Civil War, according to Kalena.
    Kalena has been an active figure advocating for rural life and conservative policies. She and her husband continue to support Trump despite anticipating a short-term squeeze.
She is a conservative obviously enchanted with the idea of her ties to land that date back to the time when slavery was widespread and the area had just been ceded by the Osage Indians. She has a focused professional education and voted for Donald Trump. One has to wonder if her view includes something more than their wealth derived from their family being hard working European-Americans.

Whatever her thoughts, she is an alien to a Progressive in California. She supported Trump despite his obvious misogyny. She still professes support for Trump though she is concerned his tariff policies. And despite her accounting background, she doesn't seem to offer any thoughts about the future increases in the cost of shopping to that average Walmart-shopping 51-year-old female with an annual household income of $56,482. And Missouri is among the top 10 states for Walmart based on per-capita sales

At this point the residents of the Progressive Pacific states must find ways to effective cushion the impact of Trump's foolish tariffs. As noted in the post here Economics Matter, Stupid! Combating the Bi-Partisan Assault on the Enduring Economics of the Pacific States:
    In 2015 the LA Times ran an Infographic piece West Coast ports: What comes in, what goes out and what it's worth providing look at the volume and variety of both imports and exports at the 28 ports along the West Coast totaling over $630 billion in 2014, including smaller ones like Kalama, Washington (total 2014 trade $3.0 billion, top export Soybeans, top import Rolled iron and steel).
We cannot continue to allow the population East of the Transcontinental Divide to interfere in Pacific Rim trade economics.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Why factually these United States is a more perfect Union, not a country, nation, or state

One cannot understand the range of emotions experienced - and related opinions held - by Americans, without having an awareness of the world of the men we call the Founding Fathers of the United States. Particularly, we need to understand the language they spoke, the meaning of the words they used. Late 18th Century Colonial English might seem to resemble the language of 21st Century America, but it is not the same language. 

Political disinformation in the United States for 230 years has created confusion about certain words important to an understanding about what was new and different in the world after the Revolutionary War.

Key to the confusion is the American jumbling together of words that once had truly different definitions and implications - country, nation, state, and union.

For purposes of clarity and simplicity, as used here from this point on the following words have specific meanings based upon pre-17th Century concepts:
  • "Country" means "any considerable territory demarcated by topographical conditions."
  • "Nation" means "any distinctive population with a common language, culture, and considerable history."
  • "State" means "a central civil government or authority that exercises the legitimate use of force within defined geographical boundaries."
  • "Union" means "a number of states or nations joined together for defined purposes to be accomplished by a separately created autonomous authority."
Using those definitions, the Cherokee Nation is a nation. Italy is a country and a state. Japan is a country, a state, and a nation. The United States of America is none of these. It is a union of states.
 

It's not a country - here's why


Again, "country" as will be used here means "any considerable territory demarcated by topographical conditions."

As explained in Wikipedia:

    In English the word has increasingly become associated with political divisions, so that one sense, associated with the indefinite article – "a country" – through misuse and subsequent conflation is now a synonym for state, or a former sovereign state, in the sense of sovereign territory or "district, native land"....
    The equivalent terms in French and other Romance languages (pays and variants) have not carried the process of being identified with political sovereign states as far as the English "country".... In many European countries the words are used for sub-divisions of the national territory, as in the German Bundesländer, as well as a less formal term for a sovereign state. France has very many "pays" that are officially recognised at some level, and are either natural regions, like the Pays de Bray, or reflect old political or economic entities, like the Pays de la Loire.
    A version of "country" can be found in the modern French language as contrée, based on the word cuntrée in Old French, that is used similarly to the word "pays" to define non-state regions, but can also be used to describe a political state in some particular cases. The modern Italian contrada is a word with its meaning varying locally, but usually meaning a ward or similar small division of a town, or a village or hamlet in the countryside.

For purposes of sharing an understanding of the political world as understood by our Founding Fathers, here is a map of Europe at the time of the creation of the United States of America:



Fundamentally, Europe was divided into constantly warring empires with shifting boundaries. While topographical conditions may have slowed some conquests, our concept of "country" did not set boundaries for kingdoms and empires which are "states" by our definitions. And that was an attitude that Europeans brought to the Americas and which has resulted in a blurring of the terms "country" and "state."

As can be seen on the map below, North America is a large geographic area with significant topographical conditions:
Click on image to see a larger version!

If a people whose only mode of transportation on land is walking "discover" such a geographic area and through walking logically divide it into more than one division without intent, it is reasonable to assume that the dominate shape for divisions would most likely be in a north-to-south direction,  more or less. And indeed, the result of an actual natural migration produced this map:


Further some predominantly English-speaking Europeans came along and, initially struggling just to survive, began to occupy a land bounded by topography:



But these folks were Europeans used to warring empires with shifting boundaries not constrained by topography. So over the next 150 years in defiance of the idea of a topographically-defined "country" they and their descendants drew some lines dividing that continental topography in illogical ways...


... and, more irrationally, even further like this:


To summarize, the United States is not a "country" defined by obvious topographical extremes. Even the oceans did not stop it from including Hawaii as one of the internal "state" governments even though it is 2,500 miles from the American Continent. In fact, the Rocky Mountains were known as the Continental Divide but even that didn't suggest creating separate "countries" based on topography. The United States is not a country as we define it.
 

It's not a nation - here's why


As it will be used here "nation" means "any distinctive population with a common language, culture, and considerable history." And it is this map that indicates a division of the North  American Continent by "nations" of indigenous peoples...


As already discussed, the American "melting pot" did not include those indigenous North American nations, African slaves and their descendants, and the indigenous Spanish speaking residents of lands purchased or conquered by the United States. Not only that, the United States encouraged immigration from around the world, such as from China to build the Transcontinental Railroad, resulting in these maps today...


...which makes it very clear that the United States is not a "nation" by our definition as "any distinctive population with a common language, culture, and considerable history."

As a reminder, as explored in another post Saving the Union is a struggle against pots, bowls, and mosaics, between individuality, identity, and assimilation, amid unprecedented wealth disparity the historical fact that the term "melting pot" was a concept to encourage immigrant "English, Scotch, Irish, French, Dutch, Germans, and Swedes" who back home in Europe constantly fought wars with each other to form an English-speaking culture. Had anyone before 1920 suggested adding other races, they would have been met with incredulous laughter.

So it is a perfectly logical outcome of this history that emotionally for many within the United States "nationalism" means only white English-speaking nationalism. But that doesn't reflect the population born and living here.

Again the United States is not a "nation."
 

It is not a state but rather a union - here's why


As it will be used here "state" means "a central civil government or authority that exercises the legitimate use of force within defined geographical boundaries." Given the definitions accepted here, most would want to say the United States is a "state."

Except, of course, within the defined geographical boundary that is the United States pursuant to Constitutional law there are 50+ "state" governments which independently exercise the legitimate use of force within defined internal geographical boundaries. There is nothing confusing about the wording of the 10th Amendment to the Constitution:
    The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
So the United States is not even a "state" in the our use of the word (for this discussion entering into the arguments over the so-called "implied powers" is not relevant). Rather, it is a "union" which means "a number of states or nations joined together for defined purposes to be accomplished by a separately created autonomous authority." The following is the Preamble of the Constitution of the United States (emphasis added):
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
And here is where the confusion exists. In that document, the Constitution of the United States, a "Union" was formed. That "Union" meant "a number of states or nations joined together for defined purposes to be accomplished by a separately created autonomous authority."

The existing real states jointly assigned the Union the limited authority to use a very few of their powers and functions while retaining the vast balance of powers of a state to themselves.

Americans seem to be confused about that. Perhaps that is because political history is not something we think is as important as, say, how to use technology to see cat videos to make us laugh. But sometimes we need to consider the concept of a "union" in the context of the American Revolution and Constitution which happened in the last quarter of the 17th Century. It literally was all the latest in government.

"Founding Father" Benjamin Franklin was born in 1706 which meant that even our oldest Founding Father had a clear understanding of the then new, cool British concept of a "union." That is because over the first two years of Franklin's life the concept of a political "union" was formalized during the process of creating Great Britain which most Americans probably think was created by the Romans at the time Jesus was alive.

Wikipedia provides a brief insight into what we frequently shorten to Britain:
    The Kingdom of Scotland emerged as an independent sovereign state in the Early Middle Ages and continued to exist until 1707. By inheritance in 1603, James VI, King of Scots, became King of England and King of Ireland, thus forming a personal union of the three kingdoms. Scotland subsequently entered into a political union with the Kingdom of England on 1 May 1707 to create the new Kingdom of Great Britain. The union also created a new Parliament of Great Britain, which succeeded both the Parliament of Scotland and the Parliament of England. In 1801, Great Britain itself entered into a political union with the Kingdom of Ireland to create the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.
    Within Scotland, the monarchy of the United Kingdom has continued to use a variety of styles, titles and other royal symbols of statehood specific to the pre-union Kingdom of Scotland. The legal system within Scotland has also remained separate from those of England and Wales and Northern Ireland; Scotland constitutes a distinct jurisdiction in both public and private law. The continued existence of legal, educational, religious and other institutions distinct from those in the remainder of the UK have all contributed to the continuation of Scottish culture and national identity since the 1707 union with England.
    In 1997, a Scottish Parliament was re-established, in the form of a devolved unicameral legislature comprising 129 members, having authority over many areas of domestic policy....
In a different Wikipedia entry we can also learn:
    The Acts of Union were two Acts of Parliament: the Union with Scotland Act 1706 passed by the Parliament of England, and the Union with England Act passed in 1707 by the Parliament of Scotland. They put into effect the terms of the Treaty of Union that had been agreed on 22 July 1706, following negotiation between commissioners representing the parliaments of the two countries. By the two Acts, the Kingdom of England and the Kingdom of Scotland—which at the time were separate states with separate legislatures, but with the same monarch—were, in the words of the Treaty, "United into One Kingdom by the Name of Great Britain".
    The Acts took effect on 1 May 1707. On this date, the Scottish Parliament and the English Parliament united to form the Parliament of Great Britain, based in the Palace of Westminster in London, the home of the English Parliament. Hence, the Acts are referred to as the Union of the Parliaments. On the Union, the historian Simon Schama said "What began as a hostile merger, would end in a full partnership in the most powerful going concern in the world ... it was one of the most astonishing transformations in European history."
It might surprise many that within the Constitution of the United States the term "country" never appears. The term "nation" appears only in reference to "Commerce with foreign Nations" and to "punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas, and Offences against the Law of Nations." The term "state" does appear, but always in reference to the proposed union of 13 states - you know, the real states per our definition which was the definition understood by Benjamin Franklin and the other Founding Fathers.

On the other hand, besides in the preamble quoted above, the term "union" is used as follows:
  • New States may be admitted by the Congress into this Union...
    The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government...
  • He shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union...
  • Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers...
  • To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union...
In the lifetime of the "Founding Fathers" prior to the Revolutionary War, Great Britain was clearly understood to be newly created as a "union" which was a revolutionary acknowledgement of a political idea. Because of the words used in the Constitution, it would be fair to say that the United States was created as a "union" of somewhat diverse states, where "state" clearly referenced 13 central civil governments that exercised the legitimate use of force within 13 defined geographical boundaries. This shouldn't come as a surprise, as for the Founding Fathers a "union" was a new and improved concept of political organization.

And is it surprising that the winning army in the Civil War was the Union Army? Was not the Union Army a land force that fought to keep and preserve the Union of the collective states? Did you never wonder why they called it the "Union" army?

In fact throughout the 19th Century, the Union was known as "these United States" which is a plural designation meaning more than one state. Titus Munson Coan who in his 1875 article "A New Country" in which he coined the term "Melting Pot" uses "these United States are" a decade after the end of the Civil War while trying to argue that it is a country, though what became the American Melting Pot "transforms the English, the German, the Irish emigrant into an American" creating a "great nation of Christendom."

Coan's piece was written after the 1849 approval of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo ending the Mexican-American War, which permits Spanish-speaking brown folks to remain in the United States entitling them "to the enjoyment of all the rights of citizens of the United States, according to the principles of the Constitution; and in the mean time, shall be maintained and protected in the free enjoyment of their liberty and property, and secured in the free exercise of their religion without; restriction." Coan's piece was written after the Civil War when the slaves were freed and the 14th Amendment to the Constitution was adopted which begins: "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside." But Coan had no confusion about who is in the American "nation" which is similar to most today's Americans of European descent living in the Red States indicated above.

But still, Coan wrote "these United States."

Linguist Mark Liberman in When did the Supreme Court make us an 'is'? noted that, contrary to one of his previous posts indicating the change to "the United States is" may have been made after the Civil War, he learned that Minor Myers of the Brooklyn Law School prepared a study Supreme Court Usage and the Making of an 'Is' which examined the use of the phrases “United States is” and “United States are” in opinions of the United States Supreme Court from 1790 to 1919 and determined that the plural usage was the predominant usage in the 1870s, 1880s, and 1890s and did not disappear until the 1920's.

As one comment speculated it is likely the plural persisted "at least through Reconstruction, and I'm afraid it hasn't entirely disappeared in some quarters."

No it it hasn't disappeared, and sometimes the use of the plural in the 21st Century creates a political buzz. For example, on Thursday, April 25, 2013, speaking at the dedication of the George W. Bush Library,  then President Barack Obama asked God to bless "these United States."

Don't dismiss this as if it were Bush fumbling a speech. Obama taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago Law School for twelve years. In his 2013 inaugural address he closed with "Thank you, God Bless you, and may He forever bless these United States of America." Obama understands that those who drafted the Constitution never intended that the Union be other than "these states." When he says "these" states Constitutional Law professor Obama knows full well that it is "these" states that make up a Union.

Again, the singular usage "the United States is" did not become the "common" form until after World War I when it became obvious that the Union functioned as an "is" in a complex international scene where people could kill each other in the millions based on their "is-ness."

We need to understand "these United States" is a union created solely for purposes of a common military defense and assuring economic success of the numerous and separate states, not regulate mundane issues such as who can have sex with whom. That's one reason why in 1792 Americans insisted on leaving establishing government churches to the real states.




Originally Posted in the California First blog

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

A Progressive State of the Union:
   Teddy Roosevelt, Progressive corporate
   leaders, and 21st Century healthcare

In the 21st Century American Progressives find themselves lost in a sea of words which opponents use to confuse, hide, or sublimate their message. Progressives know that in the 20th Century their message about government and the economy was accurately expressed by Teddy Roosevelt:

“Liberals” generally today in the United States focus on using taxpayer money to help create better society.

“Progressives” focus on using government power to make large institutions play by a set of rules while using a "progressive tax structure" to fund local, state, and federal government activities such as providing streets and highways, schools, medical services, and defense. The goal is to create equitable communities and an equitable world.

Importantly, Progressives are aware of history and know that Teddy Roosevelt was cast out by the Republicans and rejected by the Democrats - he had to create his own political movement. As explained in this website, the 21st Century Neoliberal takeover of the state Republican Party organizations and the Third Way takeover of the National Democratic Party effectively shuts out the Progressive Pacific Message.

It superficially seems ironic that it is not a Progressive government as envisioned by Teddy Roosevelt but 21st Century Progressive corporate leaders who propose to exercise the artificial powers of government-granted corporate franchises on behalf of the public good - in this case taking on the healthcare problem in the United States.


Read the above news release carefully because the media has already misrepresented it, explained why it won't work, called it the end of health insurance or healthcare as we know it, predicted it will reduce the fed's anticipated inflation rate, and otherwise became creative about limited known facts.

There are some related known facts beyond the text of the news release:
  • All three companies are international is scope.
  • Taken together the three companies employ more than 950,000 people worldwide.
  • Amazon:
    • Has a history of creating an internal product which then develops into a product for an external market.
    • For current business activity holds wholesale licenses covering the distribution of medical-surgical equipment, devices, and other healthcare related equipment in at least 12 states (called wholesale pharmacy licenses which have been misrepresented in the press as for drugs).
  • Berkshire Hathaway
    • Is #3 on Forbes list of The Worlds Biggest Public Companies ranked by profit.
    • Its wholly-owned subsidiary unit, General Re, in addition to other wide ranging services and products provides:
      • reinsurance to the health insurance industry;
      • offers health reinsurance protection in various lines of business, such as critical illness, disability, life, and Medicare supplement;
      • underwriting services for individual life, individual disability, and individual critical illness;
      • claim management services;
      • industry wide studies and research services for life and health reinsurance clients;
      • services in the areas of risk assessment for biometric insurance risk;
      • medical underwriting and claims assessment services;
      • underwriting services for medical professional liability, personal accident, personal injury liability, workers' compensation/employers' liability;
  • JPMorgan Chase
    • Is #3 on Forbes list of The Worlds Biggest Public Companies ranked by profit, the largest bank in the United States, the world's sixth largest bank by total assets, and the world's second most valuable bank by market capitalization.
So it isn't as if three CEO's of an auto company, a construction company, and a shipping company got together and decided to cut their insurance costs by creating a subsidiary company to buy group insurance through.

And it isn't as if three CEO's met for the first time last week. As explained on CNBC:
    Two decades ago, Jamie Dimon almost joined Jeff Bezos at Amazon before deciding to run Bank One instead. Both considered joining each other's boards, but did not because of potential conflicts.
    Warren Buffett has long admired Bezos and lamented not owning Amazon in its early days because he didn't understand it. The Oracle of Omaha's love of Dimon's annual letters are well-known.
    And all three are customers of each other.
    But the initiative that was announced Tuesday turned from a casual conversation into a real effort after Berkshire Hathaway's Todd Combs joined J.P. Morgan Chase's board in September 2016, sources familiar with the situation said. That meant there was an insider to pull the group together in a formal way.
    Talks about forming this partnership, which will be "free from profit-making incentives," really began to pick up in pace over the last two to three months, according to sources. It was during this period when the decision was made to actually form a new company and share all health-care data with this entity.
An all three CEO's have been staunch supporters of Democratic candidates.

In presenting this story one thing the American media seems to ignore, or perhaps they just lack historical awareness, is the peculiarity of how the provision and funding of healthcare occurs in the United States came to be and how consistent this new initiative is with that history.

Today, most Americans under 65 have some version of a private health insurance program covering the cost of routine, preventive, and emergency health care procedures, and also most prescription drugs, but this was not always the case.

During the 1920s, individual hospitals began offering services to individuals on a pre-paid basis, eventually leading to the development of Blue Cross organizations in the 1930s. The first employer-sponsored hospitalization plan was created by teachers in Dallas, Texas in 1929. Because the plan only covered members' expenses at a single hospital, it is a forerunner of today's health maintenance organizations (HMOs) as was the Kaiser Permanente program.

In 1933, Henry J. Kaiser and several other large construction contractors had formed an insurance consortium called Industrial Indemnity to meet their workers' compensation obligations. Dr. Sidney Garfield had just finished his residency at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center at a time when jobs were scarce; fortunately, he was able to secure a contract with Industrial Indemnity to care for 5,000 construction workers building the Colorado River Aqueduct in the Mojave Desert.

Soon enough, Garfield's new hospital was in a precarious financial state (with mounting debt and the staff of three going unpaid), due in part to Garfield's desire to treat all patients regardless of ability to pay, as well as his insistence on equipping the hospital adequately so that critically injured patients could be stabilized for the long journey to full-service hospitals in Los Angeles.

However, Garfield won over two Industrial Indemnity executives, Harold Hatch and Alonzo B. Ordway. It was Hatch who proposed to Garfield the specific solution that would lead to the creation of Kaiser Permanente: Industrial Indemnity would prepay 17.5% of premiums, or $1.50 per worker per month, to cover work-related injuries, while the workers would each contribute five cents per day to cover non-work-related injuries.

And that was the beginning of the model of employer-employee shared cost for employee plus family healthcare and the current Kaiser-Permanente HMO model.

Employer-sponsored health insurance plans dramatically expanded as a direct result of wage controls imposed by the federal government during World War II. When the War Labor Board declared that fringe benefits, such as sick leave and health insurance, did not count as wages for the purpose of wage controls, employers responded with significantly increased offers of fringe benefits, especially health care coverage, to attract workers.

In the 1930s, The Roosevelt Administration explored possibilities for creating a national health insurance program, while it was designing the Social Security system. But it abandoned the project because the American Medical Association (AMA) fiercely opposed it, along with all forms of health insurance at that time.

President Harry S. Truman proposed a system of public health insurance in his November 19, 1945, address. He envisioned a national system that would be open to all Americans, but would remain optional. Participants would pay monthly fees into the plan, which would cover the cost of any and all medical expenses that arose in a time of need. The government would pay for the cost of services rendered by any doctor who chose to join the program. In addition, the insurance plan would give cash to the policy holder to replace wages lost because of illness or injury.

The proposal was quite popular with the public, but it was fiercely opposed by the Chamber of Commerce, the American Hospital Association, and the AMA, which denounced it as "socialism".

Foreseeing a long and costly political battle, many labor unions chose to campaign for employer-sponsored coverage, which they saw as a less desirable for their members but more achievable goal as well as more favorable to the union movement, and as coverage expanded the national insurance system lost political momentum and ultimately failed to pass.

The rest of the story of the mostly hodgepodge of American health insurance and healthcare providers is history which has left the U.S. with the most cost and least cost-effective healthcare in the developed world - right up through Medicare and Obamacare. (You can explore this history further at the Wikipedia articles Health insurance in the United States and Kaiser Permanente.

Given the chaos the federal government is in and given the Neoliberal control of two-thirds of the state governments, real Progressives will be supporting the Amazon-Berkshire Hathaway-JPMorgan Chase initiative as a possible means to further evolve American healthcare into a more cost-efficient system and a more universal coverage model.

They may fail to achieve one or both goals. But anyone who thinks "the government" can do it alone doesn't understand American political history. And they most certainly have a better chance at success than Trump and/or Congress.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

This past weekend the Koch network formally announced the Neoliberal plan to take over the local public school education system

In the last post we reported that The Neoliberals met last weekend to create a strategy to stop the Democrats in November. But that wasn't the intended focus of that seminar.

This week the Neoliberal Koch network opened up to the press regarding their plan to take over the American public education system. In Koch network laying groundwork to fundamentally transform America’s education system we read:
    Changing the education system as we know it was a central focus of a three-day donor seminar that wrapped up late last night at a resort here in the desert outside Palm Springs.
    “We’ve made more progress in the last five years than I had in the last 50,” Koch told donors during a cocktail reception. “The capabilities we have now can take us to a whole new level. … We want to increase the effectiveness of the network … by an order of magnitude. If we do that, we can change the trajectory of the country.”
    Leaders of the network dreamed of disrupting the status quo, customizing learning and breaking the teacher unions. One initial priority is expanding educational saving accounts and developing technologies that would let parents pick and choose private classes or tutors for their kids the same way people shop on Amazon. They envision making it easy for families to join together to start their own “micro-schools” as a new alternative to the public system.
    “The lowest hanging fruit for policy change in the United States today is K-12,” said Stacy Hock, a major Koch donor who has co-founded a group called Texans for Educational Opportunity. “I think this is the area that is most glaringly obvious.”
    Tim Phillips, the president of Americans for Prosperity, highlighted field operations that the network has built in 36 states to advance its agenda, including on education. “We have more grass-roots members in Wisconsin than the Wisconsin teachers’ union has members,” he said. “That’s how you change a state!”
    “We all need to be fully committed to a society in which everyone has an opportunity to make a better life for themselves,” Charles Koch said. “To succeed, each of us has to be all-in. What I mean by that is that we have to make these kinds of efforts a central part of our lives. You don’t need to be as obsessed as I am … although that wouldn’t hurt … but you can’t just make it a sideline.”
In 1980 David Koch became the Vice-Presidential candidate for the Libertarian Party. Included in the Party platform were these two provisions:
  • We advocate the complete separation of education and State. Government schools lead to the indoctrination of children and interfere with the free choice of individuals. Government ownership, operation, regulation, and subsidy of schools and colleges should be ended.
  • We condemn compulsory education laws … and we call for the immediate repeal of such laws.
Today, 38 years later, the Koch Brothers are older and, having learned many lessons about our system of government and politics, they are much wiser. One of those lessons is that it is much cheaper and easier to forge new elements within each of the taxpayer supported state public school systems to support the Neoliberal objectives for the American economy as can be seen here:

For a deeper look at this, read Koch High: How The Koch Brothers Are Buying Their Way Into The Minds Of Public School Students.

And consistent with their willingness to use bigotry as residents of one school district learned in 2009, they will do what is necessary to take control of our local schools:


In 2011 they founded The LIBRE Initiative® specifically to make inroads into the Hispanic community offering dreams to the Dreamers:


For a deeper look at this, read How the Kochs are trying to shake up public schools, one state at a time.

If you watched the video above, what should hit you in the face is the absolute "deer in the headlights" images projected by folks who have a Progressive outlook but who, like 95% of Americans, obviously have ignored politics except in fun Presidential elections.

As the two losing school board candidates project, Progressives have left the real politics to the politicians - elections of local and state government officials are boring hard work. As the kids in the video probably did not learn but should have, marching is fun but it is mostly a waste of time (as is millionaire stars dressing up to promote a change on a single social issue).

What some of us old Americans remember is that even at the national level, it wasn't the civil rights marches that finally delivered the 1964 Civil Rights Bill, it was Lyndon Johnson, a Progressive politician with a moral compass who was not afraid of the drudgery of hard work over an extended period of time. Sure, the marches brought the civil rights issue to the forefront. But without the Progressive politicians holding office at the time, the Civil Rights Bill would not have happened.

Today we need a 24/7/365 network of organizations in every state dedicated not to some hot-button issue or identity-politics-group-betterment issue, but to promoting as public policy in every city and county in every state the core of the Progressive Pacific Message.

Without it, the goal of assuring equitable communities which permit every person the opportunity to pursue personal productive goals within an atmosphere of equality in personal dignity and human rights will remain on the back burner of America.

Monday, January 29, 2018

The Neoliberals met last weekend to create a strategy to stop the Democrats in November

Quite literally some think a 21st Century civil war has erupted on the American political scene as Democrats bask in the awards season while having won a few elections.

How silly of them. They think their opponents are Republicans when, in fact, their opponents are America's most organized, well-funded political ideologues - the Neoliberals.

While the Grammy weekend kept blue state entertainment millionaires busy, a wealthy, well-organized group of 550 Neoliberal militants led by the Koch family again met Indian Wells, California as they do every year. Consider who the Progressives are up against as reported in the press:
    “This midterm is going to be hard,” said Gail Werner-Robertson. “We need everybody to help. We can’t lose the progress that you all have fought so hard for. So I would tell everybody to get ready to fight. Get ready to double down.”
    Turning to billionaire industrialist Charles Koch, she quipped: “I’m happily helping my dad spend my inheritance and moving much of it your direction.”
    Werner-Robertson is one of 550 members of the Koch network who have come to a resort outside Palm Springs for a three-day seminar, each of whom commits to contribute at least $100,000-per-year to Koch-linked groups. This is their biggest gathering since the Koch brothers began convening like-minded donors twice annually in 2003.
On our website page Wealthy Neoliberals Matter: How an Economic Ideology Took Control of U.S. State and National Legislative Agendas the history, organization, and success of the Neoliberal movement in the United States is reviewed. Last weekend, confronted with several Democratic candidates winning special elections in the past few months, more Neoliberal millionaires gathered than ever before.

Unlike in the British press over the past two decades, the American press appears to have finally figured out there are Neoliberals, albeit they seem to think they need to identify them in newspaper articles with a celebrity name, the Koch Brothers:
It's clear the Neoliberals intend to spend a much larger than normal sum of money on the 2018 midterm elections. And the Neoliberals intend to have Republican candidates undermine the Democrats on key issues such as immigration:
    The network associated with conservative billionaires Charles and David Koch is calling on Congress and the White House to compromise on an immigration deal that provides a permanent legal status for 1.8 million undocumented young adults known as Dreamers, while also enhancing border security.
    "We welcome a debate about whether our current legal immigration policy properly balances family and skills-based migration," Daniel Garza, president of the LIBRE Initiative, said in a statement. "But that broad debate should not distract from the immediate goal of providing certainty to Dreamers and enhancing security."
    "We look forward to working with Congress and the White House on balanced legislation that enhances border security, protects the Dreamers, and wins bipartisan support," he said.
What you have to understand is that the Neoliberal's aren't particularly conservative beyond economic issues. Here's how the LIBRE Initiative describes itself:
    The LIBRE Initiative® is a non-partisan, non-profit grassroots organization that advances the principles and values of economic freedom to empower the U.S. Hispanic community so it can thrive and contribute to a more prosperous America.
Who could be against that?

And the Neoliberals are backing a real prison reform effort while "downplaying the challenge Attorney General Jeff Sessions might pose to their objectives on criminal justice reform, which the network said would be a key policy focus this year [instead of] a broader criminal justice reform proposal that some lawmakers and the Koch network have championed."

As explained on our web page, the Neoliberals have no right-wing social policy agenda. Their sole government policy concern is the relationship between government and the economy.

At any point in time, to win they can easily advocate for liberal causes except anything resembling socialism or restricting business activity. In fact, they don't like government doing more than the minimum necessary to protect property. Looser immigration policy? Why not as it expands the labor pool. The same thing could be said for reversing the Clinton Administration policies that created prison overpopulation.

Since Third Way Democrats support Neoliberal economic policies, the Progressive Pacific Message has a hard time finding political support.

As of this moment, there is no Progressive billionaire rounding up his 550 rich Progressive friends for a meeting twice a year and having them fund multiple Progressive policy advocacy organizations in every state to gain control of government. There certainly hasn't been such activity since 2003 or 1947.

This year the Neoliberal goal will be to minimize the loss of Republican members in state legislatures and Congress. Then they will plan for expansion of their control in 2020 while putting their economic policy goals into place state-by-state.

Democrats will still be laughing at a comedy bit done by Hillary Clinton presented on the fun Grammy awards show while the Neoliberals implement their economic polices which neither the Democrats nor Donald Trump understand.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Neoliberal Ideology is Dangerous
  Failures are examples of why public sector
  responsibilities need public sector workers

For Progressives, one key truth is that certain tasks should never be "outsourced" to the private sector.

Since the 1980's, the Neoliberal movement in the United States, Britain, and Canada has been working successfully to change that. Today, headlines in newspapers in voters in both countries offer opportunities for learning.

In the U.S. we read G.E. to Take $6.2 Billion Charge Tied to Finance Unit's Insurance Reserves and GE CEO Renews Pledge to Study Breakup After $6.2 Billion Stumble. We'll explore this further below because its connection to the private v. public debate is less obvious. But first we'll look at the more obvious.

The Massive Carillion Debacle

Britain began outsourcing public services nationwide in the late 1980s under Neoliberal ideologue Margaret Thatcher and the model expanded under successive governments. It is now the world’s second-largest outsourcing market behind the United States.

British citizens, who last year voted for Brexit and are geniuses much like Donald Trump followers, this week are reading Carillion crisis deepens amid scramble to save jobs after firm collapses and Carillion collapse: Here's a list of the construction jobs that are most at risk.  Canadian's are reading Liquidation of British firm Carillion threatens 6,000 jobs in Canada  and Carillion's collapse leaves Canadian road, hospital, military contracts in question.

Carillion employs more than 43,000 around the world, including 19,500+ in the United Kingdom, 6,000+ in Canada, with most of the balance in the Middle East and North Africa. It was working on 450 British government projects, including the building and maintenance of hospitals, schools, defense sites and a high-speed rail line. Carillion was responsible for providing per month millions of pounds worth of public services.

Swamped by debt and pension liabilities and burning through cash, Carillion went into liquidation on Monday, threatening suppliers, merchants and big banks. The British government relies on Carillion to provide services from school dinners to road building, and initially stepped in to guarantee that key government contracts would be unaffected. But firefighters in Oxfordshire were put on standby to serve school dinners and U.K. officials said other work would only be paid for 48 hours after the collapse.

Britain’s Specialist Engineering Contractors’ Group estimated that Carillion had left a trail of 1.2 billion pounds in unpaid bills to thousands of small subcontractors.and thousands of small suppliers face unpaid bills totaling millions of pounds.

This is, of course, the behavior the majority of Americans outside the Pacific States approved when they voted for Donald Trump who on a smaller scale has long history of bankruptcy and not paying subcontractors and suppliers.

Outsourcing Long-Term Care for the Elderly

Which brings us to the GE (aka General Electric) situation. GE CEO John Flannery said in the release Tuesday that after a review of its GE Capital GE long term care insurance portfolio that it will take a $6.2 billion after-tax charge for the fourth quarter of 2017 and expects to contribute $15 billion over the next seven years to shore up the portfolio's reserves.

Long-term care insurance in its modern form began in the 1980s along with the election to the Presidency of former GE spokesman and avowed Neoliberal ideologue Ronald Reagan. The insurance was to cover health-related care costs not paid by Medicare or standard health insurance.

As more-and-more people started to live longer, the Reagan-era choice was to expand Medicare by raising payroll taxes paid by individuals and corporate employers or encourage a surpisingly imprudent, short-sighted (and maybe too greedy?) private insurance sector to start selling "affordable" long-term care insurance.

Some would generously say that insurance was undermined by faulty actuarial and underwriting assumptions such as how long people would live and how expensive their care would be, along with grossly overestimating future return on safe investments of premiums. But the truth is, all that was predictable in the 1980s.

“Things really started to fall apart” for the long-term care market in the early 2000s, said Joseph Belth, professor emeritus of insurance at Indiana University. “Companies found that they had to raise rates frequently and substantially, and everybody was unhappy.”

Most long-term care insurers have reduced or ended their participation in the long-term care market since the beginning of the 21st Century, including MetLife Inc. and Prudential Financial Inc.

Long-term care was the death knell for Penn Treaty, which was liquidated last year in a rare failure for the insurance industry.

“The problem that these insurers face is very real,” said Peter Goldstein, CEO of LTCG, a business-process outsourcing company that manages policies on behalf of insurers in the long-term care market. “People are working hard to figure out what to do here.”

The Odd GE Ties to Chinese Communists

That brings us to Genworth, which was spun out of GE in 2004, incurred billions of dollars in losses on the long-term care policies, and has agreed to be bought by China Oceanwide Group Holdings Co.

The CEO of China Oceanwide is billionaire Lu Zhiqiang whose other investments include Lenovo, China Minsheng Banking, and other companies in the banking, securities, insurance, construction, energy, hotel, pawn broking, commodity trading, infrastructure, film and media sectors. Being a leader in what is known as the"Chinese private sector", he now serves as a vice chairman for All-China Federation of Industry and Commerce.

In 1985, Lu Zhiqiang founded the China Oceanwide Holdings Group while a local Communist Party secretary. He is also a member of standing committee of 12th Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, a political advisory body in the People's Republic of China. Other than this, he is the deputy chairman for China Foundation of Guangcai Program.

Organized and promoted by the United Front Work Department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and the All-China Federation of Industry & Commerce, the China Foundation of Guangcai Program has as its mission " prioritizing social responsibility while seeking profits " with the goal to eliminate poverty in poverty-stricken areas mainly through investments by private enterprises.

This sounds weirdly like Neoliberal ideology slipping its way into Chinese politics. How this ties into the GE, with its long history of ties to Neoliberals including Reagan, is complicated and a conspiracy nut's delight.

Last year, John Rice, President & CEO, GE Global Growth Organization, joined President Donald Trump in his visit to China where on behalf of General Electric Rice signed deals with three Chinese companies worth a total of $3.5 billion including;
  • an engine and repair agreement with Juneyao Airlines worth $1.4 billion, 
  • a $1.1 billion deal with ICBC Leasing for engines to power Boeing planes, and 
  • a $1.0 billion agreement with China Datang Group to supply gas turbines.
Also China’s Silk Road Fund and General Electric signed an agreement to cooperate China’s “Belt and Road Initiative.”

"The two sides will make joint investment in infrastructure projects in the fields of power grid, new energy, and oil and gas, in countries and regions along the Belt and Road. The cooperation between the Silk Road Fund and GE will not only boost cooperation between high-end manufacturing companies from China and the US, but also promote economic development of the regions where their investment goes," a statement from the Chinese State Administration of Foreign Exchange said.

And so GE expects to dump $23 billion into its spunoff long-term care insurance debacle which is to be purchased by a corporation operated by a billionaire member of standing committee of 12th Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference and a former Party Secretary.

And GE's ties to China have been endorsed by U.S. President Trump.

No one knows what the future will bring, but to a Pacific States Progressive two serious lessons are offered by these stories. Looking at the weird truth that Britain just found it necessary to put firefighters on standby to serve school meals, we should continue to be steadfastly opposed to outsourcing basic government services.

And looking at an even weirder truth that Ronald Reagan's General Electric has teamed up with Chinese Communists to take care of our elderly, we should be sure that the private sector isn't attempting to effectively invade what should be in the public sector.

Also, according to the American press apparently it is really important news that Donald Trump uses some swear words and it was news this week that he is racist. Neither of those things is news to Progressives.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Pacific Progressives are Non-Ideologues Seeking to Assure Equitable Communities

In 21st Century American Progressives find themselves lost in a sea of words which opponents use to confuse, hide, or sublimate their message. Progressives know that in the 20th Century their message was accurately expressed by Teddy Roosevelt:

 “Liberals” generally today in the United States focus on using taxpayer money to help create better society.

“Progressives” focus on using governmental power to make large institutions play by a set of rules “Progressives” use  a "progressive tax structure" to fund local, state, and federal government activities such as providing streets and highways, schools, medical services, and defense. The goal is to create equitable communities and an equitable world.

Importantly, Progressives are aware of history and know that Teddy Roosevelt was cast out by the Republicans and rejected by the Democrats - he had to create his own political movement. As explained in this website, the 21st Century Neoliberal takeover of the state Republican Party organizations and the Third Way takeover of the National Democratic Party effectively shuts out the Progressive Pacific Message which is presented here on this blog (use link near the top of the page) as well as on our website (use link below).

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Dissidents in American Politics:
   2016, The Most Depressing and Ominous
   Presidential Election Year Since 1860

The year 2016 had become the most depressing and ominous Presidential election year since 1860. Then out of the fog came Michelle Obama....

This is a face and voice of a 20th Century American telling 20th Century Americans what we should known, that 2016 would become the year we decided what life will be like in 2050 for Americans age 16 and younger - telling us that the focus of our nation over the next decade should not have been about the needs of people who voted for Jack Kennedy or Ronald Reagan.

As Hillary Clinton said:
    “Stronger Together” is not just a lesson from our history. It's a guiding principle for the country we've always been and the future we're going to build. So let's be stronger together. Looking to the future with courage and confidence. Building a better tomorrow for our beloved children and our beloved country.
In contrast, in 2016 the 20th Century Republican Party has been declared dead and reborn. Longtime GOP strategist for President George W. Bush and for Senator John McCain, Nicolle Wallace, recently bemoaned that Republican Party candidate is "a man who believes in protectionism, isolationism, and nativism."

(As an aside, we need to note that the Democratic Party survived only because the outsider who attacked it was unsuccessful. Bernie Sanders was never a Democrat and has declared he will continue to serve in the Senate as an independent. Political parties are, of course, private organization whose members and staffs work hard to elect majorities in the Senate, House, and state legislatures where public policy is made.)

One can't help but ponder, to consider the historical context, about how too many 20th Century American dissident voters (and yes, all current voters were born in the 20th Century)  brought America back to where we are today.

It is not like vocal dissidents are a new thing, but what we've seen this year is the worst that is embedded within the American soul. This, at least partially, is the result of an unforgivable ignorance of American and world history, particularly political and economic history.

Voters' attitudes are painfully reminiscent of the "Know Nothing" movement of the 1850's which arose in response to an influx of  Irish and German Catholics and other immigrants, thus reflecting nativist and anti-Catholic sentiment (though in California it was based on opposition to Chinese immigration). It resulted in former President Millard Fillmore running for President in 1856 on the American Party ticket, winning 23% of the popular vote and carrying one state.


It may seem like this is just what happens in America. But history has details that the broad strokes don't tell you.

Yes, if you add to Nicolle Wallace's words "protectionism", "isolationism", and "nativism" the anti-Muslim anti-Hispanic bigotry of Donald Trump's rhetoric and you might think you have Millard Fillmore reborn, just with Islam substituted for Catholicism.

Except that unlike Trump, Fillmore was a knowledgeable, experienced public official who, when it came to government administration and public policy, "had a clue" as they say.

Prior to his run for President on the American Party ticket, Fillmore was an Inspector of the New York Militia's 47th Brigade with the rank of Major, an attorney, a New York State Assemblyman, a Congressman as a Whig Party candidate, a Vice-President as a Whig, and a President as a Whig after the death of President Zachary Taylor.

In Trump we have as a President someone that spent his life as a con man who gained notoriety as a reality show host. A reality show host....

This happened because we are in a time in which our political discussion has been reduced to the divisiveness of uninformed, dismissive, content-free, frequently hate-filled tweets.

We have literally created in the form of "apps" the mechanism to amplify the worst in ourselves, the worst in America, creating the worst kind of dissidents.

Because those "apps" - whether they are tweets, Facebook posts, or news web sites - generate corporate revenues, they proliferate becoming the source of "The Conventional Wisdom" instead of truthful facts.

For those who do not understand the term "The Conventional Wisdom", economist John Kenneth Galbraith in his 1958 book The Affluent Society prepended "The" to the phrase "conventional wisdom" to emphasize its meaning narrowed to those commonplace beliefs that easily became acceptable and comfortable to society, thus enhancing their ability in the minds of people to resist facts that might diminish or belie them.

In contrast to tweets, offered "for the record" are ruminations on early 21st Century American politics in an historical context, adapting an early-20th-Century-magazine-article-style long-form format divided into 10 more long, though  hopefully provocative and/or informative, blog posts. Below is a linking "table of contents":
  1. Dissidents in American Politics: "Left", "Right", "Conservative" and "Liberal" are Meaningless Labels
  2. Dissidents in American Politics: The 21st Century Political Divisions within a Divided, Disintegrating American Union
  3. Dissidents in American Politics: The History of the Authoritarian Presidency
  4. Dissidents in American Politics: Who are we angry at? The Ethnic Others? Politicians, Congress, State Legislatures? Or the Sort of Rich, Rich, & Stinking Rich?
  5. Dissidents in American Politics: The Shareholder Capitalist Class
  6. Dissidents in American Politics: The Academic Oligarchist Class
  7. Dissidents in American Politics: The Romantic & Mythical in Politics
  8. Dissidents in American Politics: Shareholder Capitalists versus Academic Oligarchists
  9. Dissidents in American Politics: The Prospect of a Revolution and Tyranny led by American Mythical Reactionaries
  10. Dissidents in American Politics: Beliefs, Facts, and  Future Shock





Revised from the Original Post in the Redwood Guardian