Wednesday, October 24, 2012

"No" to Romney on Military Spending

Why I say "no" to Romney's plan to spend an additional $2 trillion on the military in the next decade:

I'll let this quote from Dwight D. Eisenhower, Army General and President of the United States from January 20, 1953 to January 20, 1961 state the case. (Some of us are old enough to remember Ike.)

"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities. It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population. It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some 50 miles of concrete highway. We pay for a single fighter plane with a half million bushels of wheat. We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people. This, I repeat, is the best way of life to be found on the road the world has been taking. This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron."

-  From DDE's Address "The Chance for Peace" Delivered Before the American Society of Newspaper Editors, 4/16/53

To many Involved Voters this "ancient wisdom" provides yet another reason to re-elect President Obama and VP Biden.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

52nd Michigan House Seat - Driskell vs. Ouimet - Analysis

This Involved Voter is tired of the claims made in robo-calls and on mailers with unflattering photos.  So, I'm sharing some analysis I recently found via the e-newsletter Bridge: News & Analysis from The Center for Michigan.  (Exact quotes are shown indented; emphasis added.)

In my opinion, the Republican Party is trying to distract us from Mark Ouimet's voting record with these robo-calls and mailers.  And with good reason - his record is out of sync with the wishes of his constituents and right in line with those in control in Lansing.

Republican freshman Rep. Mark Ouimet of Scio Township in Washtenaw County is seeking re-election in the 52nd House District, where he is opposed by Democrat Gretchen Driskell, who is mayor of the city of Saline (and has been for 14 years).
From Republican Party mailers (and robo-calls of unknown origin):

Questionable statement: “While serving as mayor of Saline, Gretchen Driskell voted to increase her salary eight times.” 
According to City Clerk Dianne Hill, the mayor’s salary has increased five times since Driskell took office in 1999. Driskell said the votes were always unanimous and that she also voted against raises several times. The pay rates are set by a local officers compensation commission, and the council, including the mayor, can either accept it or reject it. Three of the five raises were $100. Driskell’s salary as mayor grew from $3,200 in 1998 to $4,000 in 2009, and she hasn’t had a raise since.
Questionable statement: “She received over $35,000 in taxpayer-funded travel reimbursements for her junkets across America.”
The mailer cites “City of Saline Expense Vouchers and Credit Card statements.”
The Driskell campaign did not dispute the figure when contacted by Truth Squad.
Driskell acknowledges traveling to conferences of the Michigan Municipal League and the National League of Cities, where she has had leadership roles. She is a former vice president and board member of the MML and is vice chair of the Advisory Council for the League of Cities. Last year, the City Council approved her trip to Phoenix for a League of Cities conference, despite objections raised by a city resident. Driskell said that she paid her own expenses in travels to Germany and Wales to establish sister cities with Saline.
Questionable statement: “According to a Saline City Council member, Gretchen took questionable votes related to her employer, including permit fee waivers.”
While serving as mayor in the early 2000s, Driskell also worked part-time as a leasing coordinator for the Phoenix Corp., which owns business rental property in Saline and does other business with the city. According to the Ann Arbor News, she abstained on several votes involving Phoenix, but she did vote for a building permit fee waiver. Councilwoman Mary Hess raised questions about whether it was a conflict of interest.
A city attorney’s report found that Driskell had not taken inappropriate action. “I have been unable to find any Council action on any matter which might be directly, or even indirectly, related to your employment relationship with Phoenix where you failed to abstain from voting,” the attorney’s memo reportedly said. Hess was unsatisfied with the report, saying it lacked objectivity,” according to the newspaper.

From Michigan Democratic Party mailers:
Questionable statement: “An independent audit showed Ouimet took nearly $15,000 in reimbursements he wasn’t eligible for as county commissioner, and as state representative, he’s billed taxpayers more than $17,000 in expenses.”
Ouimet served as a Washtenaw County commissioner before he was elected to the state House in 2010. During his campaign, Democrats accused him of bilking the public by inappropriately claiming reimbursement for a variety of activities.
Under county rules, commissioners were eligible for $25 per diems for attending meetings of the Board of Commissioners and its committees, as well as other authorized county-related and where boards and committees on which commissioners serve. After the allegations were made, the Ann Arbor News review(ed) the records and found that Ouimet had claimed reimbursements of a wide range of other meetings and events, including an interview with the Ann Arbor News editorial board, meetings with the County administrator, and attendance at an annual memorial service for fallen police officers.
An audit followed and found that Ouimet had received inappropriate reimbursements totaling $14,386. Nine other commissioners were found to have received inappropriate reimbursements of much smaller amounts. He then paid the money back to the county.
It is true that Ouimet has received more than $17,000 for expenses since becoming a state representative in 2011. Legislators receive a $71,685 salary and $10,800 for expenses — those are set by the State Officers Compensation Commission. All legislators receive the payment for expenses as part of their compensation package. The “more than $17,000″ is the total of all of 2011 and part of 2012. They are also entitled to mileage for a round trip to the Capitol each week and mileage for legislative-related travel in the district. 
I'll leave it to you to decide which are the more blatant distortions of the candidates' records when it comes to how taxpayers' money was spent.

I'm convinced that Gretchen Driskell is the candidate who will best serve our interests as 52nd District Representative.  She has my vote.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Romney & Ryan: A Former Republican's Perspective

I received the following today in an email from a friend.  It was written by a mutual acquaintance who lays out in detail why he believes the Romney/Ryan ticket is a bad choice.  The case he puts forth is well-reasoned and heart-felt.

My views on the vote this November:
Since nearly every other phone call these days involves an organization wanting to know how I am going to vote this fall, I decided to put the rationale for my answers in writing and, even though you didn’t ask for it, share it with you to encourage you to develop your personal rationale for however you plan to vote.  As most of you know, I once considered myself a Republican. I was even officially registered as a Republican as recently as 2000, although I increasingly voted for non-Republicans. But I have not found a Republican at any level that I could support since George W. Bush and Carl Rove sabotaged John McCain in the 2000 primary. I’ve concluded that the “new” Republican Party has totally departed from its Lincoln/Eisenhower roots, and I’m not going to follow. Although President Obama is not a perfect leader, he far surpasses his present opponent. In fact, I fear for our country if Romney and Ryan (the 2Rs) should win this election. I have the same view of current Republican senate and congressional candidates. So the reasons why I will vote for Obama and the Democratic slate – and why I will probably not return to the Republican Party as long as I live – follow below:

International relations: The 2 Rs have absolutely no experience in dealing with foreign governments. Romney demonstrated his diplomatic ineptitude in spades during his overseas trip this summer. Romney was in London four days before we arrived there this July. Every British newspaper except one voiced their view that it was incredulous that Romney had been selected as a presidential nominee. Even more important in my opinion is that Romney is of the persuasion that military might is the solution to many of the world’s problems – although he has vacillated on specifics with astonishing frequency. As one who spent two long years in Vietnam and has studied the wars of the past, my view is that all of the wars in which we participated since the Korean conflict could have been avoided if those in our administration had spent the time and effort up front to understand the culture of the countries we eventually decided to fight in, and had acted appropriately on that knowledge. Apparently Romney would skip that step.

Debt: Obama is currently being blamed for increasing the national debt. In fact, Republican administrations have a much worse record at piling up debt – and, in their case, totally without reason. In Obama’s case, at least, there were reasons. The vast majority of economists agree that his $840 billion stimulus (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act) saved 2.5 million jobs, boosted the economy by 3.8%, protected the most vulnerable, kept one million in their homes, and kept seven million from falling below the poverty line. Reagan decided to cut taxes to grow the economy – sounds familiar doesn’t it? The national debt tripled under Reagan. George Bush senior added another third to the debt. His son, George W. Bush didn’t learn from their experience; he cut taxes again, passed Medicare Part D, and fought two wars, both poorly conceived, and both very costly in lives and treasure. He took these three actions with no attempt to cover the costs. The debt redoubled due to G. W. Bush’s misguided actions. And, because of his failure to pay attention to the factors that were destroying our economy during his watch, he caused the extremely severe recession that Republican politicians tell us Obama should have taken care of by now. To say the least, the U.S. budget situation has deteriorated significantly since January 2001, (at the end of Clinton’s presidency) when the Congressional Budget Office forecast average annual surpluses of approximately $850 billion from 2009–2012. Eight years later, as of June 2009, the average deficit in each of these years was projected to be approximately $1.215 trillion! A reliable analysis of this roughly $2 trillion "swing", separating the causes into four major categories along with their share, produced this result:
Recessions or the business cycle (37%) [primarily, in my personal opinion, caused by Bush’s tendency to deregulate and to ignore the economic trend until too late];
Policies directly enacted by President Bush (33%);
Policies enacted by President Bush and supported or extended by President Obama, including the reduced tax rates (20%);
New policies from President Obama including the stimulus and his additional tax cuts (10%).
Unfortunately, the 2Rs would add steroids to the Reagan/Bush strategy that was the main cause of this disaster.

Taxes: Cutting taxes is the battle cry of nearly all Republicans seeking office. This in spite of the fact that, under Obama, the effective Federal tax rates have been lower than under Reagan and in spite of the fact that the U.S. collects less in taxes as a share of the economy than every other industrial country except Chile and Mexico! And, as is apparent from the data above, cutting taxes only leads to an increase in the national debt, not an improved economy. In fact, the best economic activity in recent years was when President Clinton raised taxes. Clinton also provided some budgets with surpluses. As a result of our unreasonable fear of taxes, we spend much less to help the vulnerable than other countries and, to deal with one of my professional frustrations, have caused our once-enviable infrastructure to fall apart through neglect. Addressing the latter, America’s infrastructure has decayed to the point where the American Society of Civil Engineers gives its condition a grade of D. ASCE has repeatedly raised the alarm that decisive action is necessary to immediately invest more than $2.2 trillion dollars in repairs and upgrading to bridges, roads, rail, airports, dams, inland waterways and levies, treatment plants, schools, and utilities before it is too late. The more we delay, the more each repair will cost. At our present insufficient rate of reinvestment, the backlog of public infrastructure deferred maintenance increases $100 billion/year. Yet we have people like Sheldon Adelson, the conservative billionaire Las Vegas casino owner, now intent on plowing $100 million of his money into supporting the 2Rs in the current campaign. Why? Just because under their ill-defined “economic plan” Adelson would expect to save $2 billion in taxes! Apparently the current crop of Republican politicians and their supporters want to return to the pioneer/frontier days before the government provided essential public facilities like roads, bridges, sewage treatment plants, etc. I don’t.

Jobs:  As you know, Republican administrations have been in power for 28 of the years since 1960, Democrats for 24. The Republicans, with all their talk about creating jobs by reducing taxes and government regulations, created 24 million private sector jobs. Under Democratic administrations, 42 million private sector jobs were created, over twice as many/year. They were created because there are essential roles for government to play in stimulating job growth including funding research and education. Norway understands this. Their unemployment rate is currently 2.7% (1.3% in Telemark where Eric lives!).

Climate Change: Apparently most Republican politicians have signed a pledge to refuse to acknowledge climate change just as they have signed the pledge not to raise taxes. They deny the fact that we are causing the temperature of our planet to rise and therefore refuse to do anything about it. The National Academy of Sciences produced a report 33 years ago stating that there was no doubt that increased carbon dioxide levels would lead to an increase in average global temperature. Since then the evidence has been accumulating: The average Arctic temperature has increased 4ºF in the last 30 years. The rate of rise will increase even more rapidly now since there is much less ice in the summer (the absolute lowest amount remaining occurred early this month, 24%, which is 60% of the amount in the 1980s), causing the sun’s heat to be absorbed over a much greater area. The warming effect causes the jet stream to meander further north and south than normal, causing extremes in temperature. Greenland’s ice sheet is decreasing rapidly. Ice core samples collected from Greenland’s glaciers show the chemical makeup of the atmosphere for thousands of years; the conclusion is that what is going on now has no precedent. As of last year, the 13 hottest years (globally) since 1850 have occurred in the last 15 years. In the U.S., this July was the hottest ever. And much of the U.S. is beginning to see the extremes in weather that have been predicted as a by-product of global warming – drought, floods, and an increase in damaging winds. But Republican politicians have decided that they will ignore science as well as sound economics in order to, they think, improve their chance of election.

Medical Care: Although the Affordable Care Act is deeply flawed and falls far short of the benefits and cost savings of a single payer system, it begins to eliminate some of the abuses by insurance companies, covers many of the uninsured, caps some of the outrageous overhead and profit margins of insurance companies, and, despite what the Republicans claim, should, if fully implemented, reduce costs from what they would be if it didn’t exist. Romney promises to eliminate this act to satisfy the Tea Party, even though he invented the concept. A single payer system would likely provide care for all at a much lower cost than this act. Our present health system costs 17% of the U.S. Gross Domestic Product. Taiwan, whose government studied all existing models, chose a single payer system covering everyone, much like Medicare does for U.S. seniors; Taiwan’s system costs 7% of its GDP, much less than half of ours. Yet Republican politicians claim a single payer system would cost too much, so their opposition prevented the United States from the chance to achieve real health care reform. By the way, military retirees over 65 and their families, like Karen and I, are essentially covered by a single payer system and, based on our experience (which, in our case, does not involve care at any government facility), works nearly perfectly. But we will never see real reform under a Romney administration.

Help for the less fortunate: Christ cared for the poor, the sick and the vulnerable; he taught us to do the same. Obama has tried to provide relief for these and has succeeded to a limited extent, in spite of fierce opposition from Republican congressmen. Romney and especially Ryan (who had required his staff to read the literature of Ayn Rand, an atheist who argued that selfishness is a virtue and the poor are a drag on society) actively solicit the vote of Christians, but their words, proposed policies, and actions are in total opposition to what Christ taught. Amazingly, some still question Obama’s commitment to Christ. I suggest we judge that commitment by policies and actions. Those of Romney and Ryan totally fail the test.

These are just a few of the reasons I have lost faith in the present Republican Party. As is probably apparent, I would have to see a lot of change before I would trust them to guide our nation or state again.

Jim Christenson
September 2012