Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Ben Carson needs to treat individuals not machines

Ben Carson, the country’s head of Health and Human Services Department, took a tour of a West Virginia drug rehabilitation facility a few days ago.

After touring the facility, he said, “Our citizens are our most precious resource.  We have to treat them like that.  We have to do everything we can to bring them to their maximum potential, because we only have 330 million people in this country.  We have to compete with countries like China and India with four times that many people.”

He is talking about human beings as if they are just machines.  Machines that are needed to compete against countries that have more machines then we do.  

Therefore, that is the reason that these people need help, to become rehabilitated machines that need to get back on line.

Is there a chance that the people in the facility are not machines?  They are people with real emotions.  They have families, communities and lives to lead that have nothing to do with being a machine.

They should also not be treated like one of 330 million.  But as individuals with distinct personalities that are different then all others.  (By the way, that number includes children.  Are our children also just machines?) 

The Republicans are also talking about individual freedoms.  Then, please step up and treat people as individuals and not a bunch of machines that need to be repaired and get back on line. 

Only then can we help them become clean.

Friday, May 11, 2018

New Style, Faster Turn Around

Events are moving much too fast in this administration.

It makes it difficult to complete a well written blog post before 3, 4 or 5 other events happen that need to be commented on.

Not that I was a great writer in the first place, I am not.

It takes me a long time to write, re-write, correct, source and fact check.

While I will maintain the sourcing and fact checking, I will not write “pretty” essays for now. 

This will be the way it is written from now until things slow down.

Perhaps, solid position statements will be different, but short opinions will be bullet pointed, or, “graphic-novel style”.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Never Again members are Citizens

Politicians and everyday people need to hear this message:
We hear and read that the #NeverAgain movement is a bunch of kids. Students from high schools around the country. The children who survived an attack on their school.
But, no matter how well meaning, when we call them kids, students and children we discount their standing. We segregate them from the main body of people living in the country. We create a sub-category of people filled with less experience, less maturity and naïve children.
But, these people are Citizens.
They are Citizens that have experienced the terror of a war going on around them.
They are Citizens that have watched through much of their lives as follow Citizens die in a war they didn’t want .
So the next time you think of them, think of them not as a sub category of our nation, think of them as follow Citizens. Think of them as we all should when there is a cry for help, show your respect by standing with them as follow Citizens.
Citizens standing together can change the world.

Monday, February 5, 2018

No more Home Depot

Here is what Bernard Marcus, founder of Home Depot, said about Democrats on January 29, 2108 during an interview with Fox News…

"Come on, give me a break, you've got to use your brains. I mean, Democrats, use your stupid brains. You have any stupid brains and don't understand what happens."

Since I am a Democrat, I will not shop at Home Depot again. 

This issue first came to my attention with a MEME on line said that Home Depot doesn’t want Democrats shopping at their stores.  After looking into the matter, I found that it wasn’t anyone that is currently “working” at Home Depot.  I found that it was Marcus.  He is a former founder of the company, former CEO and board member that retired a few years ago.  He currently is worth billions of dollars as documented on Forbe’s list. 

Bernard currently has plenty of influence at Home Depot.  He knows people that run the company on an executive level, he knows board members, I have no doubt his advice is often sought, he owns plenty of stock in the company and is still a major influence on the policies of the company.  As a former employee of Home Depot for a brief period of time, on the inside and at the employee level, he still has a major influence on the company.

I say this because when I called and talked with someone at Home Depot, they said he has left the company.  The person on the phone also said that they don’t comment on anything the former CEO says.  Well, he will never not be a part of Home Depot.  Even after his death, his heirs will still have influence.  So to say he has separate from the company is not a believable statement.
Home Depot doesn’t issue comments about what Marcus says or does because Marcus still has plenty of influence in the company. 

Even if they just want to keep distant from Marcus, they could at least issue a statement on national media that says the view of Bernard Marcus doesn’t reflect the views of Home Depot.
But, they have not and tell me they will not issue a statement on Marcus’ statement, as of this writing. 

Today, in response to finding out about Marcus’ comments, I visited two Home Depots in the area.  In a brief meeting with the floor manager at the time I was there, I told them since I was a Democrat, I would not shop at Home Depot.  After our discussion, I handed them a note card restating my position which included my contact information.

It is suggested that others take similar actions, actions that you are comfortable with.  Perhaps it is like I did in a meeting with a store manager.  Perhaps it is a phone call, an email or other form of communication.  Home Depot and other large corporations that think we should all think the same and support their political agenda need to know that this will not be smart for them to do. 

They already have too much influence in Washington, they need to be curtailed. 

Friday, January 26, 2018

Don't believe that bonuses are because of tax law changes

It has been reported over the last few weeks that the new tax law by the Republican Congress and signed by President Trump has spurred a round of bonuses, stock options, 401(k) matching boosts, and, in some cases, an increase in hourly wages for working class Americans.  Of course, those that are supporting the tax changes are touting the windfall to workers as proof that the tax law is working.  

But, let’s look a little deeper at the issue.

Let me be clear, I am not against giving more money to the workers in a corporation instead of mangers.  A bonus is wonderful.  It will allow workers that receive the money to go out to dinner, purchase some clothes, pay down debt or, for better off workers, place some in the bank.  Any money that falls into the hands of working class families means that almost every dollar will boast the economy because most every dollar will be spent on consumer goods or paying off debt.

The downside is that a bonus doesn’t allow a worker to make plans, like purchasing a new car or purchase a new home.  Bonuses don’t obligate a company to continue paying throughout the years.  It is better to give workers a living wage instead of a bonus now and then. 

“If all these corporations were coming back with wage increases it would have a more substantial impact on consumers,” according to Edward Yardeni, president and chief investment strategist at Yardeni Research. 

Additionally, a bonus does nothing to close the gap between the top earners in a company and the bottom earners.  That is where the real boost must happen.

But let’s examine if the bonus is a result of the tax change or something else that is more dangerous.

Here is a quick view of how the tax changes in theory are going boost wages for working class people.  With a lower tax rate here in America, companies will have an incentive to invest in plant and property in the United States instead of overseas.  It makes sense because with the profits from such investments, the companies will pay less taxes.  Workers then will become more productive and more valuable as a commodity in the market place.  Companies will then begin competing for the workers, which will in turn increase wages.

These advantages for the workers are not something that will come about in just a days or weeks after the tax changes.  It is something that will take place over many years.  Even the republicans during the debate surrounding the tax changes occasionally mentioned the fact.

So, if it is too soon for bonuses and wage increases from the tax plan, you must ask why is this happening?

First, these bonuses and wage increases are something that would have happen anyway or having been happening about this time of year, every year.  A corporation doesn’t turn around in just a few weeks and give millions of dollars away.  This is something that takes a long time to plan and work through a process for approval and find funding.  As an example, Apple announced after the tax changes that it is bringing back over $350 billion to the US for an investment in their business.  Tim Cook is quoted as saying that there is, of course, a nice benefit from the new tax law, but it is something that has been planned for a long time.

There are two other things that must be considered as to the reason corporations are making such a big deal tying the bonuses to the change in the tax law.  The first is that they are attempting to curry favor with the Trump Administration, according to Alan Viard of The Hill.  Trump’s pro-business agenda has made it easier for business to operate.  Trump has reduced regulations, decreased taxes and is less likely to interfere with general business behavior in the market place than past administrations, republican or democrat.  By placating to Trump on the bonuses they make him look good.

The second is more insidious than the above.  They are attempting to purchase votes and interfere in the next round of elections in favor of the republican party.  The business climate in the United States is the best it has been in decades.  If business can keep the republican’s in charge through the 2018 election process and for the next presidential cycle, the business environment may return to the laissez-faire policies of the late 1800s.  By suggesting that the money their workers are getting is because of republican policies they may be able sway many workers to vote republican.

Don’t be fooled.  The bonuses are not because of the tax changes.  Business is trying to do the same thing we fault the Russians for doing, interfering with the American election process.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Start talking about a Living Wage

We need to stop talking about the minimum wage.  It is an outmoded concept that only hurts those that it intends to help.

A living wage should replace the concept of a minimum wage.      

Let’s examine how a minimum wage is set.  The conservative business/alliance in congress will only come to the table to discuss an increase in the minimum wage when they find they may lose an election.  But, when the alliance does come to the table, every ploy is used to keep the increase to a bare minimum.  

So, when, and if, the wage is increased it will not be enough to make up the difference between what it was and what someone needs to live.  (But, they will shout and holler about how wonderful they are because they increased it.)

All of that is crap.  

If the increase isn’t enough, and it never is, the increase in taxes the poor will pay and the decrease in purchasing power will eat up what ever the increase is and leave them with nothing for another 10 years.  (The last time the minimum wage was increased was in 2009.  Since then, the purchasing power of the minimum wage has lost 9.6%. (1))

We need to start talking more about a living wage.  A living wage,

“… refers to a theoretical wage level that allows an individual to afford adequate shelter, food and the other necessities. A living wage should be substantial enough to ensure that no more than 30% of it gets spent on housing. The goal of a living wage is to allow employees to earn enough income for a satisfactory standard of living.” (3)

The living wage isn’t a new idea.  The concept, not always in name, has been around for more than 2,000 years. (2)  Plato and Aristotle argued for the concept of a wage that would sustain an individual.  But, so did Adam Smith (yes, the author of the Wealth of Nations), Thomas Aquinas and others.

With a living wage, numerous problems are solved.  Here are a few. 

A minimum wage is a national average that doesn’t consider the variations in communities around the country.  But, with a living wage, communities that have a higher cost of living then in others, the employees in that community will receive enough to cover their expenses. 

Also, the minimum wage is set by confrontational decision making between competing political parties as noted above.  One party doing everything they can to keep it as low as possible.  But, with a living wage, the income is set by the market.  Then, instead of waiting for the national government to catch up with the increase in the cost of living, as the cost of living rises so do the wages.  

With the increase in income, the economy will grow.  As workers have more money to spend on the basics of life, business will prosper.  This will increase the standard of living for all. 

What ever increases there might be in prices (In many areas that have living wage policies in place, there has not been a sharp rise in prices.) it will be offset by a decrease in government spending.  People that are earning a wage that pays their expenses will not need to apply for government assistance even if they have a job.  As reported by Forbes, Walmart employees cost the American government $6.2 billion in public assistance.  Yes, that is billion with a “B”. (4)   If Walmart paid a living wage these employees would not be collecting public assistance. 

It is suggested you do research on the concept and support a growing movement for a living wage.  After more than 2,000 years, its time has come.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Blocked from Twitter

Knight First Amendment Institute of Columbia University is considering suing President Donald Trump for blocking people from his Twitter account. (1)

Isn’t that a right of every social media user?  Blocking is a great way to protect privacy, express outrage about a tweet you disagree with and the final act of giving up an old girlfriend.  But, if you are the President of the United States, it shouldn’t be a freedom that is enjoyed. 

To place this in context, what if the President of the United States used caller ID and blocked your phone calls?  You wouldn’t be able to express your view point on an item of importance to the nation.

How about if the post office, noticing that your letter is being sent to the president, wouldn’t deliver it to the president because of his orders. 

How about Western Union being instructed by the president to not deliver telegrams from you.   

If the president doesn't like you, or your opinions, he still can't deny access to you by stopping all letters, post cards, telegrams or any other communication with him.

As a private citizen, blocking someone on Twitter or any other social media can be allowed.  But, as soon as a private citizen becomes a public citizen by running for office, holding office, working for the government as an appointee or employee, especially as the most important public citizen in the country, the rules change. 

This is a basic First Amendment right.  While it isn’t directly “speech”, it is an element of speech called access.  A free press, widely interpreted as free speech, has 6 parts.  They are access, inquire, records, publication, association and redress.

Access is the ability to “reach” the official.

If a citizen of the country doesn’t have access to what is being said by the people that make, enforce or judge the laws of the country, they are not able to fully exercise their First Amendment rights.  Once a person crosses the line from private citizen to public figure (government official) citizens of the country must be able to have access to him or her just like anyone else.  To block some citizens and keep others is like creating a first tier - second tier relationship with the very people you are to protect and support equally.

Conventional forms of communications; letters, telegrams, voice; have helped define our First Amendment rights.  No matter the form, delivery is assured to the official.  He or she can choose to read and consider each piece of communications, or toss it in the trash, as I am sure much of it does. 

Social media has changed much of the structure of communications.  In the past, a public official may have selected a traditional medium, like a newspaper, a radio station or a television program, to communicate to the public.  Even though access for some people in the country might be difficult using traditional media, none can be cut off from its access.  Response through the same channels was accessible.    

Yes, when President Trump chooses to use Twitter to communicate his thoughts and policy statements, he has chosen a medium that all citizens have broad access to.  But, there is an element that is a component of the medium that isn’t included in tradition media.  Users can be cut off by the President by his ability to block.  Those cut off don’t have access to what is said and don’t have the ability to communicate back in like form. 

The President of the United States’ expressions of thoughts on policy must be open to all to both receive and respond.

Other thoughts to consider:
Courts have consistently supported the difference of a private and public profile.