Friday, May 05, 2017

Stopping the Merry-Go-Around

Republicans seem pretty pleased with themselves these days. Trump, who they were calling a "fake Republican" before denying the heir apparent her crown in November, has been mostly embraced by the GOP faithful, especially given that his victory also resulted in Republican control over the House and Senate, and will most likely result in the appointment of federal judges to the bench, not to mention possibly replacing two Supreme Court Justices at least. Of course, the corporate media has used every opportunity to throw mud at Trump; to discredit or delegitimize his administration or policies. Democrats to have made it a point to defeat every effort Trump or his administration makes regardless of what it is. Of course, one could argue that the Republicans did the same thing during the eight years of the Obama Regime, and that would be largely true except Republicans, at least, did make the occasional effort to get along with Obama (that may have also been done in order to get some friendly press from the openly Liberal media too).

While Trump victories have been rather few and far between during his first 100 days, one key issues seems to have been addressed---repealing Obamacare and replacing it with something else (some are calling it "Trumpcare" given "The Donald's" propensity to have his name on everything). Of course, this is the second go around with repealing the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Now it has to go over to the Senate for further discussion, so it has a way to go before it lands on Trump's desk for his signature. There's still a lot we don't know yet (given that it was a rush job) like exactly how many low income individuals or families will be adversely affected. It's quite possible that hundreds of thousands will either face much reduced coverage or lose coverage all together. While the Senate will likely make some changes, one provision which will likely remain is allowing States the loophole to opt out of any type of national healthcare. This alone could result in tens of thousands facing some form of coverage loss.

Personally, I can't say that I was fan of Obamacare, although I agreed that the US needed some form of nationalized healthcare. After all, we were the only industrialized nation without a national healthcare plan. However, what irked me the most was how the bill was deferred to the Supreme Court which ruled it "unconstitutional" as written, and then proceeded to rewrite the bill as tax , which it could uphold. This was clearly in violation of the Constitutional's separation of powers clause. Secondly, I've always favored the "Single Payer" form of national coverage. This would allow everyone to have a minimum coverage and leave an option for either employers or individuals to purchase additional coverage. This way small businesses wouldn't have to worry about the expense of insurance coverage in their competition with larger companies for qualified talent, plus the overall costs to businesses and States would be much more affordable than Obamacare. Lastly, everyone would be under the same basic plan, including government employees as well as Congress, the Supreme Court, and even the President, and I like that. Why? Because it's fair. It treats everyone the same.

Under the Affordable Care Act, as well as this package the House just passed, Congress, and both the Judicial and Executive branches are exempt. Yelp, this new healthcare coverage is good enough for us (assuming we actually get coverage), but not for them. Nope. They get to keep their current healthcare package, which you and I still get to pay for, and I have a real problem with that. I do not think that government officials should be exempt from any laws that they impose on us. However, the GOP has stated that that a separate bill has to be submitted to make Congress, the Presidency, the federal Judiciary subject to the law, if passed, along with their staff. At present, Congress' coverage is provided through the Senate Homeland Security and the Government Affairs Committee.

Those in Washington, as well as our State Capitols and local City Hall, are our employees. We hire them for one, two, four, or six years. They work for us. I don't know of any employee exempting themselves from the same rules that apply to their employers. Do you? I also don't know any employee who gives themselves pay increases (especially in the dead of night or during some holiday), nor do I know of any employee that takes money or gifts from potential competitors or repeatedly fail to do their job and expect to remain employed. But that's what we've got in Washington and in places like Albany, Sacramento, Minneapolis, Frankfort, and other State capitols, not to mention in city halls throughout the country. So here's what I propose:

First, no law passed by a legislature or imposed by a government agency, can exempt those who passed it. In short, no one is exempt from any law, statute, or ordinance. Secondly, there must be term limits. The House of Representatives, who currently serve two year terms, shall be allowed no more than three terms or a total of six years. The US Senate serves a six year term. Therefore, no Senator can serve more than two terms. If you can't get it done in 12 years, you're in the wrong line of work. The President was previously allowed to serve as many terms as they wanted, however, in following with Washington's tradition, all but one self-limited themselves to no more than two terms of four years each. The one exception for Franklin D. Roosevelt, who was elected in 1933, during the depths of the Depression, and then whose presidency carried through to the attack on Pearl Harbor and World War II. However, following FDR's death in 1945, this was changed and henceforth the president was limited to two four year terms. I would like to see this changed to three four year terms or 12 years. It's a tough job and almost impossible to get anything accomplished on eight years. It also puts him or her on par with the Senate. Supreme Court justices should be appointed to 20 year term.

The reason is that many of the Chief Justices lose touch with mood and direction the country is headed in. In making their decisions, it's more than just knowing the law or even the intent of the law. It's understanding the period in time in which the matter to be decided is being made and how that will affect citizens not just in the present, but 10 or 20 or 50 years down the road. The Supreme Court has made some serious blunders because they were so out of touch with times. However, they need to have the practical experience on the bench, so I would like to see the Supreme Court nominees to be at least 45 years old. That would put the expiration of their term at roughly around 65 years old. Plus, we have to face reality too. People like Ruth Ginsberg and others are getting up there in years. Not only is their familiarity with the mood of the nation impaired, but they are also at the age where they're going to have health issues, especially with the memory and judgment. It's just a fact of life. Being on the highest court in the land is a tough job. We need people who are at their peak in terms of mental acuity and overall health.

Next, we need to end gerrymandering. Gerrymandering is when a given political party is allowed to design their own districts based on voter registration. This all but ensures that a given party or politician will be elected or reelected. It's like giving a criminal your password or PIN number. Most of the time, the redistricting makes no sense and groups are thrown together for no other reason than their registration. Redistricting needs to be practical. It needs to make sense based on geography and neighborhoods. The best way to do this is to have an impartial or non-partisan group draw up the district, such as by a university or college for State and local elections and the Census Bureau for national offices. We also need real campaign finance reform. What we have now makes it virtually impossible for ordinary Americans to run for office, and it greatly restricts the diversity of who is elected. By that, I mean that most elected officials, especially at the national level, are businessmen and women and lawyers. We need a cross-section of America elected---doctors, nurses, small business owners, small farmers, police officers, firefighters, high school teachers or college professors, fishermen, and so forth; people who truly know this country.

US Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has said repeatedly that "money is a form of free speech". I couldn't disagree more. That would imply that the wealthy have more of say regarding this country than the poor or what's left of the middle class. From my perspective, people's opinions and input into how this country is governed should not be based on the size of their stock portfolio or bank account. Therefore, we need to limit the amount of money that can spent on a given campaign, and limit the length of the race itself like other countries have done; perhaps public funding of races up to a preset limit or free access to media for races who raise below a certain threshold. Additionally, we must reverse Citizen United, the "Frankenstein Ruling" which was upheld by the Supreme Court.

As some of you may recall, Citizens United said corporations could donate---direct and openly---what they want to a candidate's race while you and I remained capped in what we can give. It also says that corporations are entitled to the same rights as ordinary flesh and blood people, especially when it comes to the 1st Amendment and free speech. This directly ties into why Senator McConnell equates money with free speech. Corporations are not human. Corporate charters are not the same as birth certificates. Corporations are artificial legal entities; fictions of law. They do not speak for all those work there, nor do they speak for all the stakeholders or shareholders. They speak only for a executive board of directors. Lastly, we should prohibit lobbyists, who are usually employed by these same corporations, from writing or reviewing legislation aimed to benefit themselves . Elected officials and those in their employ, as well as those directly related to them, should be prohibited from taking gifts, money, "educational" trips and so forth. All contact with lobbyists should be made public.

America is an oligarchy. There can be no argument about this. It is a fact. We, the ordinary working class stiffs who made this country great, are no longer being represented. Legislation is aimed at appeasing their corporate masters. Those in Washington see us merely as "flyover country". They come to us, hat in hand, only when election time rolls around, but increasingly they need us less and less now that corporations have come out of the shadows. The corporate news media is hardly subtle about who they support. Gerrymandering makes their election or reelection almost assured. We are but a mere formality; an least for the time being.

We are increasingly under surveillance by an expanding police state. We are monitored, recorded, photographed, tracked and chipped. We now have chains made of zeros and ones instead of iron, but the result is the same. Enemies and allies are manufactured; each are just as interchangeable as the other, depending on their willingness to cooperate. There are other issues we need to address such as tax reform, illegal immigration, reinvestment in our infrastructure, ending our "dumbing down" educational policy and perpetual wars for control of resources and markets in the name of "democracy" or "freedom". But, we can change this. All we have to do is ignore their attempts to divide us and act in unison; with one vision and with one voice. Divided, they win. United, we do. So which is it?

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