Thursday, December 22, 2011

Ideology's Collateral Damage

The Tea Party Caucus in the US House of Representatives is once again choosing to support their narrow ideology over the interests of the majority of Americans.  This time by refusing to vote on the Senate's bipartisan compromise that would have extended the payroll tax holiday for two months until a compromise can be reached on a longer extension.  For most of us, even a two month continuation of the break in deductions from our paychecks makes a difference.

Steve Benen of The Washington Monthy describes the scene in the House at this link:

So it appears that even during this season of peace on earth and good will to all, House Republicans are operating from their minds & egos with their hearts nowhere in sight.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Moving on to a Single-Payer Health Care System?

I just read a couple of articles by Rick Unger of Forbes that gave me hope that private insurance companies , whom I believe add no value to our health care system , will soon get out of the health care business.

Here are the links:  The Bomb Buried in Obamacare Explodes  Today - Hallelujah!
and The Obamacare Bomb is Real Even if the Washington Post Doesn't Get It

Here's a sample from the first article:
I have long argued that the impact of the Affordable Care Act is not nearly as big of a deal as opponents would have you believe. At the end of the day, the law is – in the main – little more than a successful effort to put an end to some of the more egregious health insurer abuses while creating an environment that should bring more Americans into programs that will give them at least some of the health care coverage they need.

There is, however, one notable exception – and it’s one that should have a long lasting and powerful impact on the future of health care in our country. That would be the provision of the law, called the medical loss ratio, that requires health insurance companies to spend 80% of the consumers’ premium dollars they collect—85% for large group insurers—on actual medical care rather than overhead, marketing expenses and profit.

Both are worth a full read.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Only We the (real) People Can Change This

There's an article by Bill Moyers that's definitely worth reading if you want to understand what has happened to our political system in the past 40 years.

Here are some choice quotes followed by my comments:
During the prairie revolt that swept the Great Plains in 1890, populist orator Mary Elizabeth Lease exclaimed, “Wall Street owns the country…. Money rules…. Our laws are the output of a system which clothes rascals in robes and honesty in rags. The [political] parties lie to us and the political speakers mislead us.”
Sounds familiar, 'eh?

Why New York’s Zuccotti Park is filled with people is no mystery. Reporters keep scratching their heads and asking, “Why are you here?” But it’s clear they are occupying Wall Street because Wall Street has occupied the country. And that’s why in public places across the nation workaday Americans are standing up in solidarity. Did you see the sign a woman was carrying at a fraternal march in Iowa the other day? It read, I Can’t Afford to Buy a Politician So I Bought This Sign. Americans have learned the hard way that when rich organizations and wealthy individuals shower Washington with millions in campaign contributions, they get what they want.
Yes, it will take us, Involved Voters, standing up and demanding a government that serves all the People, not just the few.  This will be hard work - especially when the average citizen is kept busy trying to make ends meet and just wants to crash in front of the TV at the end of the day. Then there are those whose situations are even worse because of job losses and foreclosures, who are depressed and immobilized.

William Simon (in his) book A Time for Truth argued that “funds generated by business” must “rush by multimillions” into conservative causes to uproot the institutions and the “heretical strategy” of the New Deal. He called on “men of action in the capitalist world” to mount “a veritable crusade” against progressive America. BusinessWeek (October 12, 1974) somberly explained that “it will be a bitter pill for many Americans to swallow the idea of doing with less so that big business can have more.”
Those “men of action in the capitalist world” were not content with their wealth just to buy more homes, more cars, more planes, more vacations and more gizmos than anyone else. They were determined to buy more democracy than anyone else. And they succeeded beyond their expectations. After their forty-year “veritable crusade” against our institutions, laws and regulations—against the ideas, norms and beliefs that helped to create America’s iconic middle class—the Gilded Age is back with a vengeance.
 The world is more complicated now than it was in 1890, but change brought about by the majority of us working together is still possible - not to mention absolutely necessary for the basic well-being of all.  When you hear and see campaign ads - follow the money and take them with a grain of salt.  Work for and vote for those who will restore government of., by and for Real People.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Why can't the Repubicans in Congress recognize a Jobs Plan when they see one?

Are Republicans in the House and Senate just clueless or something worse?

Take a moment to look at this analysis: Is It a Jobs Plan?

Today, President Obama took Republicans to task for rejecting his proposals to create jobs by improving the nation's infrastructure.  Among his remarks were:
“If you don’t want to take my word for it, take it from one of my predecessors. He said that — and I’m quoting here — ‘the bridges and highways we fail to repair today will have to be rebuilt tomorrow at many times the cost.’ He went on to say that rebuilding our infrastructure is common sense — and an investment in tomorrow that we must make today.’ That President was Ronald Reagan. Since when do we have Republicans voting against Ronald Reagan’s ideas?”
Greg Sargent tracked down the Reagan speech, and discovered that the former president proposed a tax on motorists to pay infrastructure investments, “and he explicitly justified this added tax by arguing that infrastructure spending would stimulate the economy.”
Source: Steve Benen at The Washington Monthly

Monday, October 31, 2011

Eric Cantor would have us believe we all have an equal chance at having significant wealth

...but it looks to me more and more like the wealthy have a strangle hold on the means to become wealthy.

Just take a look at this chart from a WSJBlog post (

The bottom 60 percent of households actually had less wealth in 2009 than in 1983, meaning they did not participate at all in the growth of wealth over this period.
Eric Cantor would have us believe that anyone who is wealthy is so because they worked harder and are smarter than the rest of us. This is undoubtedly true of some.
But consider these factors that can skew the distribution of wealth:

  • The rich are able to influence government disproportionately in their favor thereby increasing their wealth (tax policies that shift the burden to middle and lower income tax payers; deregulation of the financial sector). The Citizens United decision has amplified this factor.
  • Being rich can lead to being given high income jobs regardless of merit (also large bonuses, golden parachutes, etc)
  • Being rich means spending a smaller percentage of income on everyday necessities and being able to save/invest more
  • Wealth can be inherited; the wealthy can afford to send their children to elite schools which lead to higher paying jobs for them
It looks like most of us are becoming more realistic about our chances of becoming millionaires. (

But  becoming millionaires isn't really what most of us aspire to.  Most of us aspire to living in a country where we all have jobs that allow us to live comfortably; where everyone's children get a good education; where those who are down on their luck get a helping hand; where health care is affordable and of good quality; where those who have worked all their lives are secure in their retirement years; and where the air we breathe, water we drink and food we eat will sustain our health. This is what the current political situation in the US has put in jeopardy.

Involved Voters will tell Eric Cantor and like-minded Republicans we aren't buying his solutions - more of the same policies that have fostered the shift in wealth and have damaged the fabric of our country.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Holding the US Financial Sector Accountable

Did you know that the 2008 financial meltdown was 70 times bigger than the Savings & Loan crisis of the 1980's and 90's?  But, so far, prosecutions for fraud are practically non-existent.  The people at the top of the financial institutions appear to be experiencing no negative consequences for their actions. Should they be held accountable just as those responsible for the S&L crisis were?

I recommend listening to this October 18 broadcast of the Onpoint radio program, Prosecuting Financial Titans. It helped me understand the situation and what can be done about it - if Involved Voters make their voices heard.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Understanding the "Occupy" Movement - Income Inequality

This NYT article about income inequality is worth reading in full. Here are some key points.
According to the C.I.A.’s own ranking of countries by income inequality, the United States is more unequal a society than either Tunisia or Egypt.

Three factoids underscore that inequality:
  • The 400 wealthiest Americans have a greater combined net worth than the bottom 150 million Americans.
  • The top 1 percent of Americans possess more wealth than the entire bottom 90 percent.
  • In the Bush expansion from 2002 to 2007, 65 percent of economic gains went to the richest 1 percent.
As ...Catherine Rampell noted a few days ago, in 1981, the average salary in the securities industry in New York City was twice the average in other private sector jobs. At last count, in 2010, it was 5.5 times as much. (In case you want to gnash your teeth, the average is now $361,330.)
More broadly, there’s a growing sense that lopsided outcomes are a result of tycoons’ manipulating the system, lobbying for loopholes and getting away with murder. Of the 100 highest-paid chief executives in the United States in 2010, 25 took home more pay than their company paid in federal corporate income taxes, according to the Institute for Policy Studies.
This degree of income inequality is damaging our democracy. What we're seeing is government bought by rich people and corporate "people" and focused on their interests to the detriment of the public good.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Could This Be What Occupy Wall Street is About?

Leave it to Elizabeth Warren, consumer advocate and candidate for Senate, to explain why asking the rich to contribute more makes sense.

Is it clear now?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Sunday, September 18, 2011

We Need the American Jobs Act and the Buffet Rule

A recent New York Times/CBS News poll indicates that most Americans support the individual provisions contained in the American Jobs Act that President Obama has proposed:
Cut payroll taxes
Good idea 56%, bad idea 30%
State aid to prevent public-sector layoffs
Good idea 52%, bad idea 40%
Infrastructure investments
Good idea 80%, bad idea 16%
Small business tax cuts
Good idea 81%, bad idea 14%
Also, a 71% majority believes any deficit reduction plan should include a combination of both tax increases and spending cuts.

Source: Steve Benen's blog, Political Animal

The President is expected to call for a new minimum tax rate for individuals making more than $1 million a year to ensure that they pay at least the same percentage of their earnings as middle-income taxpayers. (Nicknamed the Buffet Rule after billionaire Warren Buffet who advocates that America's richest should be contributing more in taxes.)

The ball is now in Congress's court.  It will take considerable pressure from Involved Voters to get Republicans to agree to give us what we need and do it now.

Wall Street and the "Food Bubble"

First the "tech bubble" then the "housing bubble" - now new food market derivatives are creating a "food bubble".  Is there a way "to stop investors from turning the global food system into a casino that brings huge winnings to a few and hunger to millions?"

This is a complex issue.  A recent article by Tom Philpott explains the situation in detail and offers a possible step toward counteracting it.  If you care about global food security, this is a must read.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Time to call Rep. Tim Walberg

Involved Voters in the 7th Congressional District:

UPDATE - August 2, 2010: Please contact Representative Walberg to thank him for his "yes" vote on the debt ceiling bill, continue to press him to vote for future bills to increase the revenue stream, and ask him to support stimulating the economy through steps like creating an Infrastructure Bank to get people back to work.

=========original post=============
It's time to call Tim Walberg and urge him to vote to raise the debt ceiling immediately to a level that will last least 18 months. Why, because we need to reassure our creditors, and if the US goes into default, the cost of our current debt will go up and that money will be wasted. It will not be available to help us here in Michigan.

Urge him to let go of his "no taxes, no how" ideological stance and vote for a balanced plan to deal with the debt that includes targeted spending cuts and increases to the revenue stream through closing tax loop holes and asking the richest Americans to contribute more because cutting their taxes greatly contributed to the current deficit.

Please call today!
Washington Phone: (202) 225-6276
Jackson Phone: (517) 780-9075
Or go to his web site and fill out the Contact Form - not the most effective, but better than no action at all.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Life, Liberty & the Pursuit of Happiness

On this Independence Day, 2010, I'm taking some time to reflect on the these words from The Declaration of Independence:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
It seems to me that our beloved country has been maturing into the values set forth in this declaration. "All men" now includes those who were once slaves, and women who until 1920 were unable to vote.

The Great Depression prompted this country's' leaders to establish Social Security as a Safety net. In the 1960's, our leaders, realizing that Life and the pursuit of Happiness were impossible if people couldn't afford health care, instituted Medicare and Medicaid. Because these programs are designed to serve us, the citizens, rather than to make profits for investors, the efficiency and effectiveness of these programs can't be matched by private investment and insurance companies.

One area in which we as a country seem not to be maturing is "consent of the governed". When many citizens fail to vote, as in the 2010 General Election, it becomes possible for ideologues gain sufficient power to set upon dismantling programs like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid; dedicate themselves to looking after the interests of a privileged few; and to refuse to consider closing tax loopholes and ending deficit-ballooning tax breaks.

As Involved Voters, we can turn this situation around. Knowledge is power. Americans as a whole are poorly informed about where the money they invest in our government through paying taxes goes. Here is a web site that can help counteract this: Your Federal Taxpayer Receipt. Before you visit the site, I recommend that you take a guess at what your income tax is supporting and then see how close you are to the actual percentages.

With our rights as citizens come responsibilities. Being an informed voter is one of them. Insisting that our elected officials act in the best interests of all Americans is another.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

What is Mark Schauer Doing Now?

Mark Schauer's losing his seat as our 7th District Congressional Representative was a downer for me. But I'm glad to hear that he's still working hard for us.

Mark has taken a leadership role in the BlueGreen Alliance's "Jobs21!" campaign - a nine-state grassroots campaign aimed at creating good, middle-class jobs in the 21st century economy. You can find details here.

And you can read a recent guest column of Schauer's, "Clean energy is an economic engine for Michigan," on the Center for Michigan's web site.

Thank you, Mark, for continuing to serve the public interest.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

"Protecting" Medicare Out of Existence

Did you get one of those "Thank Representative Walberg" mailers from 60 PLUS? It sure would be nice to know whose interests 60 PLUS is championing. Involved Voters understand that introducing insurance company middlemen into Medicare through a voucher system does not control the cost of health care, and benefits only the middlemen. So what, if those of us who are 55 and older won't have to switch to the voucher system. We still care about our kids and grandkids and their access to affordable health care in the future.

If only we could "follow the money" and learn more about the loyalties of 60 PLUS. Is the organization beholden to lots of individual small contributors who are 60 and older, or big donors who stand to benefit from keeping in office Republicans with a no regulation, gut government, shift the tax burden away from the rich agenda?

From the blog Open Secrets:
WHO FUNDS 60 PLUS? The 60 Plus Association, a group that recognizes itself as the "conservative alternative to the liberal AARP," announced a new campaign thanking conservative members of Congress for "protecting" Medicare during recent debates over the government program's future. The 60 Plus Association says it'll spend more than $800,000 on radio advertisements, direct mail and phone calls throughout 39 congressional districts.
The 60 Plus organization is a nonprofit 501c(4) group that does not have to disclose its donors and spent more than $7 million during the 2010 elections opposing Democrats.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Invest in Our Kids

On Tuesday, May 3, we have a chance to reverse the downward slide in support for education in Washtenaw County. Our tax money provides 12% of the funding to serve young people (from kindergarten through age 26) in our County who have special educational needs. Renewing the special education millage will help all of the children in our local schools.

If the millage isn't renewed, our kids education will be in even greater jeopardy than what looms from the proposed $170 cut in per student funds from the State this fiscal year and a cut of as much as $300 per student next year. We need to find a way to reduce the State funding cuts, too. But, for now, we can start by supporting the renewal of the special education millage.

For more information, here's a link to a recent online article at

Thursday, April 7, 2011

A Guide to Michigan's Tax and Budget Issues

We Involved Voters want to do our homework and learn about the issues facing our State.

Here's a link to a reference that should make it easier: It's the work of the Center for Michigan, and Detroit Public TV.

For example, did you know that State revenues are down 12% since 2001 and State spending is down 16% since 2001? To find out where the money comes from and where it goes and how Governor Synder's proposal would change that, follow the link above.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

How the Republicans' budget plan will trash the US economy

If you want to get a quick sense of where the ideology of the Republicans in charge of the US House is leading, I recommend this post about Cuts & Consequences by Steve Benen at Washington Monthly:

After you read it, you'll want to tell your US Senators to make sure to block these ill-conceived cuts. Or, you can do nothing and watch millions more middle class jobs disappear.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Repealing the Affordable Care Act is a Bad Idea

Update: Find out how repeal or denial of funding will impact people in your Congressional District: Go to

Tomorrow, the US House of Representatives Republicans led by Republican Majority Leader John Boehner will vote on the repeal of health reform -- moving to end the law that keeps insurance companies in check.

If the health care law is repealed or gutted by denial of funding, insurers could return to denying coverage to children with pre-existing conditions, pursuing profits with no accountability, raising rates arbitrarily on families and businesses and canceling coverage when people get sick. Insurers could once again focus on promoting their own financial health at the expense of those seeking care.

And with repeal estimated to add $230 billion to the deficit over the next 10 years, the Republicans' first agenda item delays our economic recovery and does nothing to create jobs.

Repealing the Affordable Care Act is bad for our health, our economy, and our country.

What you can do:
Call your Representative in Congress to let him or her know that, as an Involved Voter, you are against repeal, and that you're counting on them to protect the Affordable Care Act, regardless of party affiliation.

According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, repealing the Affordable Care Act will add hundreds of billions to the deficit, increase costs for those who are covered, and result in 32 million fewer people receiving coverage. Health reform continues to provide greater freedom and control in our health care choices -- it's no surprise most Americans oppose repeal.

Chances are the Affordable Care Act is already benefiting you or someone you know.
It is at work for you:
-- If you're a senior who fell into the "donut hole" of prescription drug coverage and needed help covering that cost;
-- If you're a young adult who can benefit from staying on your parents' insurance until age 26;
-- If you've ever worried about your insurer dropping your coverage unexpectedly if you or someone on your policy gets sick or injured;
-- If you're a small-business owner trying to compete with large employers while providing insurance to your employees; or
-- If you're a taxpayer worried about the national deficit.

It took two years of debate and compromise for the 111th Congress to pass the Affordable Care Act. Please let your Representative know you think undoing that work and restoring free rein to the insurance companies is a bad idea.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

A Time for Healing

I'm passing along this post from Steve Benen at The Washington Monthly. It highlights some of the parts of President Obama's remarks at last night's remembrance in Tuscon that most inspired me as an Involved Voter.

"Those who died here, those who saved life here -- they help me believe," he said. "We may not be able to stop all evil in the world, but I know that how we treat one another, that's entirely up to us."
"We recognize our own mortality, and we are reminded that in the fleeting time we have on this Earth, what matters is not wealth, or status, or power, or fame -- but rather, how well we have loved and what small part we have played in making the lives of other people better.

"And that process -- that process of reflection, of making sure we align our values with our actions -- that, I believe, is what a tragedy like this requires.

"For those who were harmed, those who were killed -- they are part of our family, an American family 300 million strong. We may not have known them personally, but surely we see ourselves in them."

Benen went on to say:

At a fundamental level, I just like the idea of an American family. As we've seen over the last five days, we bicker and shout, and we often struggle to get along, but the threads that tie us together are stronger than we sometimes realize.

Or as the president put it, "As we discuss these issues, let each of us do so with a good dose of humility. Rather than pointing fingers or assigning blame, let's use this occasion to expand our moral imaginations, to listen to each other more carefully, to sharpen our instincts for empathy and remind ourselves of all the ways that our hopes and dreams are bound together....I believe that for all our imperfections, we are full of decency and goodness, and that the forces that divide us are not as strong as those that unite us."

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Being Faithful to the U.S. Constitution

The 112th Congress opened with a reading of almost the entire U.S. Constitution. (Parts of the original seven articles in 1789 Constitution referring to slavery were omitted from the reading. Slavery was abolished in 1865 when Amendment XIX was ratified.)

Involved Voters who want to understand the U.S. Constitution better should consider reading Keeping Faith with the Constitution (Liu, Karlan, Schroeder; Oxford University Press, 2010). The book describes a "constitutional fidelity" approach to the document and lays out the limitations of "originalist" and "strict construction" approaches.

In the words of the great Chief Justice John Marshall, our Constitution is "intended to endure for ages to come, to be adapted to the various crises of human affairs." To preserve the meaning and authority of the Constitution and keep it a living document, it's necessary to add precedent, historical experience, practical consequences and societal change to attempts to determine the original understanding of the text.

As the book's authors point out, the U.S. Constitution contains "the basic structure of government and some of its important procedures while expressing our commitment to certain core values: liberty, equality, and democracy."

A "constitutional fidelity" approach brings advances such as Amendment XIX (ratified in 1920) which states:
The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.

Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
Such an amendment is faithful to the core Constitutional values of liberty, equality, and democracy, but is not something those relying solely on the original intent of the Framers of the 1789 Constitution would make a case for.

The U.S. Constitution has been successful in preserving our nation because it is flexible enough to allow government to adjust as its citizens progress toward including all human beings in their vision of liberty, equality, and democracy.