Sunday, December 18, 2011

GOP Presidential Contestant Nomination: How’s Your Favorite Candidate doing?

Keywords or Terms: GOP Presidential Aspirants; US Tax Code; Facebook; Twitter; Emails; Efficacy of Social Media; Apolitical; FOX News; MSNBC; 24/7 Internet; Herman Cain; Rick Perry; Newt Gingrich; Voters’ Campaign Contribution; Republican Aspirants; Choices and Choices.

Party Presidential Campaigns and Nominations, are both blessings and curses for any aspirant and contestant for the highest office in the land. Aspirants need to have enough money in the kitty bank to go the length of the campaign period and probably the national election. Further, aspirants and contestants have to be ready for sleepless nights of road travels and a tough skin for criticisms from comic pundits and road show clowns. Notwithstanding, there is hardly no short list of aspirants or contestants for party nomination.

Personal, face to face and retail campaigns at the grassroots, including door gobbing, is getting some competition from social media, face book, twitter, emails and video-conferencing, among others in the GOP Presidential Nomination for 2012 general elections. GOP 2012 Presidential aspirants and contestants are introducing other outreach campaign strategies to garner votes for their aspirations, out of necessity. Some pundits are already proclaiming that non-conventional ways of reaching the voters are advisable considering the challenge of raising funds for Presidential campaigns in a tough economy; and, winning voters’ attention in a multimedia world of 24/7 Internet connections and cable television beaming, where voters’ attention is now considered precious as gold. Today, Republican aspirants who are short for time and low on campaign cash are resorting heavily to social media to accomplish the same objective of retail campaign; whether this strategy will bring home enough support for their candidacy is yet to be determined. The jury on the efficacy of using social media or other new outreach campaign strategies for garnering votes for Party Presidential nomination, is still out.

Until Obama 2008 Democratic Party Nomination exercise came along, using a combination of social media and retail campaign, fondly referred to as house parties or community organizing, was hardly a favorite for Presidential aspirants. The traditional lure for what has conventionally worked as a silver bullet, retail campaign, face-to-face, door to door, hand shakes and smile, was ingrained in the repertoire of political aspirants, nationally and locally. Obama’s 2008 Presidential candidacy challenged the status quo and brought into the fold more voters, especially minorities and young folks, who seem to have been disenfranchised in past elections. Newt Gingrich, the 2012 GOP aspirants for nomination and former speaker of the House, is said to be currently bulking the trend as well out of necessity; low funds and probably the most illiquid campaign office structure in probably half a century in Presidential Candidate Party Nomination.

In the past few centuries, Party Presidential aspirants relied on leaflets, travels for face to face campaigns in addition to various media, Newspapers, Radio and Television advertisements, to carry out their message of ambition. The revolution in communication technology, especially electronic technology, has made it imperative for politicians to seek votes and campaign contributions through alternative sources of contact; hence, you see a bunch of political questions regarding an aspirant on your Facebook Page; even when you are apolitical or hardly connected to a particular major party in America.

The new game in American Political Campaigns for office is to reach the campaign contributors and voters at all cost, with probably the minimal cost; or maximum impact, if possible. In fact, it is not a question of possibility; rather it is a question of survival in a contest, where money or size of campaign contributions can determine who reaches the finish line; and or, end up being the final nominee to face the opposing party's candidate in the general elections. GOP Presidential Aspirants for 2012 are increasingly weighing the tangibles against the intangibles in their effort to reach supporters and voters. Further, in a world of scarce monetary campaign contributions, GOP Presidential aspirants for 2012 are finding short cuts to meeting the campaign contribution shortcomings and the challenges of reaching voters with individual aspirant’s message.

Some GOP Presidential Aspirants for 2012 have cultivated new strategies for staying ahead of their competition, with press conferences and releases, face time on ‘talk-head’ Radio and television shows or programs on Fox and MSNBC. Interestingly, early measures of their expectations seem to be getting positive result or appreciative impacts. Valuable air time for some Republican aspirants on some informational and probably propaganda programs, supported by PAC or unidentified organizations on FOX Television has been identified as the reason why some GOP Presidential Aspirants for 2012 elections have remained point of reference with respect to other candidatures on the Republican band wagon. For example, Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 Tax plan received appreciable airtime and attention on FOX Television before the aspirant fizzled out; same is the bravado but pepper-weight aspiration of Texas Governor Rick Perry that nearly flamed out after a couple of debate performances for the GOP 2012 Presidential Candidate's Nomination.

What an aspirant is selling is important, but so is ensuring that the message gets to the voters. A simplified new tax code proposal hardly guarantees a vote for a candidature; that is why a front runner status for any candidate means practically nothing, until Americans vote. Even straw polls at party level in a state hardly guarantee a positive result come real nomination or election time. Ask Former Godfather’s Pizza Boss, Herman Cain and current Texas Governor Rick Perry? The former once won a Florida straw poll and the latter was considered the strongest GOP Presidential Nomination for 2012 until his lackadaisical debate performance on the circuit. The challenge seems not to be a change in tactics for how the message of a prospective nominee is carried out or straw polls result taken before the actual or final voting in a state, but the substance in the message and how effectively the candidate is committed to the message.

In a party presidential nomination contest and campaign, what is more important is that voters receive favorably the message of a candidate; and retain the potency of the message till state caucus voting; and hopefully, until the general election against other party’s candidature. Many candidates don’t get the message to the voters or fail to articulate the message in a way that is appealing to voters or campaign contributors. That is why the new tax proposal from some Republican candidates for GOP nomination is moribund while others are just a fly in the oil pan. You probably heard different variations of what it will take to straighten out the complex US tax code offered by Republican candidates for GOP nomination; however, what you get out of their advancement and discussions are untested and unwholesome proposals or sound bites that make you wonder if these candidates are realistic and aware of the underpinning problems with the existing tax code.

Many voters towards the primary level for the GOP Presidential Nomination are disappointed with debate performance of their choice candidate and sometimes with the ability of the candidate to articulate his or her message on the campaign trail. A peripheral assessment of the debate performances of some of the Republican candidates for GOP nomination has shown that some of them are poor communicators, some hardly understand the expectation of voters and campaign contributors in a candidate; and are probably playing to the perceived political consultant's market assessment of what voters will support come party nomination exercise in different markets or states. If you are a republican voter and your choice candidate is not panning out, never mind, you are not alone. Many Presidential aspirants for party nomination to general election fall into an illusion of how great their message is, without actually articulating the message or carrying forth the message in an appealing format to voters either at the party’s nomination or the general elections. A candidate’s nomination message must be crisp, structured or unstructured, formal or informal, but critical enough to muster a feedback from voters without it hurting the candidate’s chances at a party’s nomination and or national general election

While clearly defined message may be critical to garner the support of a few voters or campaign contributors, some not so clearly defined messages carry weights at the party nomination level but rather unappealing to voters in a general election. When voters and or campaign money contributors assess a candidate’s message, either at the party nomination or towards a general election, they are looking at whether the message speaks to them: does it speak to their finances or lifestyle; does it speak to their preferences or purses; does it speak to their state or community specifically or in general; and sometimes, though hardly spoken, to their race, age, gender, income group and sexual preferences.

A typical voter or campaign contributor looks at his or her immediate situation or circumstance; and, weighs the message from the candidate against his or her preferences in taking a voting decision. Will the candidate’s message conflict or create tension in a voter’s personal life and finances or not? Voters and campaign contributors go through a process of unawareness of what the immediate impact of the candidate’s message is, to an awareness of it's impact in medium term; and then in the long term. Though the voter may not have all the information regarding the long term impact of the message when initially voiced by the candidate in a party’s nomination bid; a contrast from the other party’s flag bearer in a general election often ultimately opens up the message for the voter, with respect to the long term impact of the message. This type of revelation can either turn the voter away or solidify his commitment to the candidate at a general election.

Even if something is missed in the process of general campaigns and debates between the two parties' flag bearers, voters or campaign contributors eventually understand where the nominee is coming from as campaign advertisements or other non-patrician groups offer the key to the misery in the candidate’s proposal. It is possible, as the voters and campaign contributors understand eventually what the candidate is up to in his or her message, to become apprehensive and dump him or his or her message. Whenever the voters or campaign money contributor(s) become disconnected or disenchanted with the details of the message or how it is being articulated, the candidate for nomination begins to loose support and may eventually loose out in public opinion polls to the extent that he or she drops out of the nomination process or looses the general elections. Similarly, a candidate’s past or perceived inadequacy may come to hunt him or her such as we recently saw with one of the high rising candidate for GOP nomination in the months of October and early November 2011. Mr. Cain can tell you a thing or two about his experience in his bid for the GOP Presidential Nomination. Often this last reference is an aberration or is weathered out by some aspirants; however, if the perceived atrocity is contrary to overwhelming public opinion, the candidate may end up loosing out. A similar frame of reference may begrudge or deluge the current front runner for GOP nomination, former House speaker,  Newt Gingrich.

Voters or campaign contributors have to start to do their own investigation and or assessment of the candidate’s fitness for the high office. You may want to look at the past performance of the candidate in a position of executive authority or legislation in congress, or his or her performance in non-public offices. Past behavior are often predictors of future performance. Individual personal characteristics, effectiveness and motivators may help the voter or campaign contributor make a better assessment of candidate’s fitness. Relying on campaign profiles and messages alone may not be enough to determine if the candidate is worth the occupation of the oval office in the White House. Since voters and contributors are not always privileged to have the prospective aspirant fill out a bio-data survey, a pre-employment questionnaire, a cognitive assessment based on figural reasoning content, as is possible in the employment of a worker for a position in your company, voters and campaign contributors must treat individual candidate and aspirant as a future employee; considering all the possible ramification of his or her employment as a President of a corporation with 360 million shareholders and a yearly operation budget close to 250 trillion dollars. Would you put a man considered a member of a secret organization, a former spousal cheat, a revisionist, an extremist, a poor communicator or flip-lopper in the job? Are you interested in someone with lack of candor or someone liken to be less astute in your values? The choice is up to you; al you need to do is to choose more carefully!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Stock Act and Political Intelligence II: Why current provisions in the bill may not suffice?

 Keywords or Terms: Stock Act; CBS 60 Minutes; Financial Congressional Committee deliberations; Congressman Brian Baird  (D-WA) and Congresswoman Louise M. Slaughter Rep (D-NY); Congressman Tim Walz (D-MN); Equality under the Law; Congressional Retirement System; Social Security System; PPACA; Change

Provisions in the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act as introduced in 2006 are probably insufficient in 2011; considering what we now know has been going on with political intelligence, and our lawmakers. It is easier denied than corroborate; however, no one may doubt that to some extent, congressional lawmakers may have taken advantage of political intelligence for financial gains.

The new congressional interest in the Stock Act seems to have emanated from the CBS 60 Minute expose on political intelligence and the use or non-use of insider information for financial benefit by lawmakers. Even if congressional lawmakers fail to associate the new interest and multiple congressional sponsorships of the bill with CBS 60 Minute Steve Kroft’s interview, there are enough questions that need some answers; and any further foot dragging in congress will be tantamount to bridge of faith. For example, some congressmen in committee deliberations insinuated that current overwhelming interest in the act has more to do with perception of congress rather than a genuine need to have in place an effective law that prevents use of insider trading for financial benefit by congressional lawmakers; and or their cohorts.

Consequently, in the opinion of Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, Spenser Bacchus (R-Ala), this is more of a window dressing rather than an effort to ensure that lawmakers play by the same rule that all other Americans are required. Given the benefit of doubt to the Chairman’s assertion, the questions on the mind of the public include: Why are some lawmakers intrepid about the stock act restoring public confidence in congress, while others are not? Why are some lawmakers still advocating the indefensible in light of current information regarding what may have transpired with lawmakers and political intelligence? Will the current provisions in the re-introduced and probably overwhelmingly re-sponsored Stock Act in congress, suffice? Can we have congressmen abide by all the laws, other Americans are called to uphold?

Imagine, public records show that this act was first introduced by former congressman Brian Baird  (D-WA) and Congresswoman Louise M. Slaughter Rep (D-NY) in 2006; followed up by a joint press release on the Political Intelligence Disclosure Act (H.R. 5617), in March of 2008. Five years had elapsed since the august appearance of the bill in congress. The bill had gathered little or no steam since then and it appears that the bill was moribund except for the CBS 60 Minute Expose. Yet, at the new Congressional Financial Services Committee deliberations this past week, some lawmakers were hardly interested in the movement of this bill in congress; and, if they were, their actions do not match the urgency of the public’s interest. Without making flagrant and probably insupportable comments, it is more than a conviction that the public wants congress to pass the Stock Act, today, and not tomorrow or sometime else.

The notion that using political intelligence for financial gains is inappropriate and unacceptable for anyone, lawmakers or the public, is well grounded. Any effort to thwart the renewed interest and or the urgency of passing the Stock Act this time around is clearly a show of ineptitude by any lawmaker. Any insinuation that a few may be opposed to urgent consideration and passing of the bill will be considered a travesty; and probably, encroaches on the rights of all American citizens. If initial sponsors of the bill were wooed away from pressing on until something was done in congress about the bill, the fact that the public now has information regarding the potential for abuse of insider trading information, make the urgent deliberation and passing of the bill, unavoidable and paramount in the current congressional session. The same lawmakers who may have issues with the current renewed interest from some lawmakers and public may want to consider, if they were in the public’s shoes, would they allow lawmakers from abiding by the same laws they are called to uphold?

According to the new lead sponsors of the bill, five years after the first effort, Congresswoman Louise Slaughter (NY-28), Ranking Member of the House Rules Committee, and Congressman Tim Walz (MN-01), the bill is expected to prohibit insider trading on Capital Hill. Further, the bill is expected to: 1) Prohibits Members and employees of Congress from buying or selling securities, swaps, security based swaps, or commodity futures based on nonpublic information they obtain because of their status; 2) Prohibits Executive Branch employees from buying or selling securities, swaps, security based swaps, or commodity futures based on nonpublic information they obtain because of their status; 3) Prohibits those outside Congress from buying or selling securities, swaps, security based swaps, or commodity futures based on nonpublic information obtained from within Congress or the Executive Branch; 4) Prohibits Members and employees of Congress from disclosing any non-public information about any pending or prospective legislative action for investment purposes; 5) Requires Members and employees of Congress to report the purchase, sale or exchange of any stock, bond, or commodity future transaction in excess of $1,000 within 90 days.  Members and employees who choose to place their stock in holdings in blind trusts or mutual funds would be exempt from the reporting requirement; and, 6) Requires firms that specialize in “political intelligence” and that obtain their information directly from Congress to register with the House and Senate, much like lobbying firms are now required to do. The urgency of these provisions may not be over-emphasized; yet in the estimation of some congressmen, this is just a fad, an event that would soon go away, if congress takes on other objections.

The documented pace and frequency of use of insider information and probably collusion between lawmakers and lobby groups in Washington DC as exposed by CBS 60 Minutes, make one wonder whether other issues related to the use of insider information to benefit the interests of our lawmakers are not ripe for visitation or re-visitation in-depth. If it has taken us six years to appreciate the relevance of this bill for congressional responsibility and governance; how long do we expect it will take before the Act is passed into law? Do we have to wait another five years? The current steam behind the stock act must now be exploited to expand the possibilities in the Act, considering that CBS 60 Minutes raised some issues that interest many members of the public. Although, it seems that a few lawmakers are unfazed with the findings of CBS News network, it is hardly impossible to justify any action that may derail the renewed interest in the Act. Two certainties at this time forward are: 1) the practice of using political intelligence for the benefit of a few is poaching and hardly portrays leadership in lawmaking; 2) any action that gives anyone an undue advantage over the rest of us, is cheating and must be eliminated in the interest of fairness.

In light of the trepidation from some lawmakers, how can we ensure that the current provisions in the Stock Act are sufficient enough to address the question of abuse or potential abuse? According to Steve Kroft of CBS 60 Minute: Political intelligence employs former Congressmen and staffers to scour the halls of the Capital gathering valuable non-public information then selling it to hedge funds and traders on Wall Street who can trade on it long before it’s public.” If this assertion is true, how can we expect lawmakers who had benefitted financially and tremendously from the past slackness, to give up their bread and butter? Is it any reason, why congress is considered a millionaire’s club?  If the public expect to wrestle from the rich, their source of largesse’s, they must be ready for a huge fight, for the rich hardly give up easily.

Congressmen have in the past looked at the slackness as a source of wealth generation after sojourning in congress? The public may be oblivious to this fact, some congressmen will continue to advocate for the indefensible, prophesying that CBS investigative reporting has some rather inexplicable shortcoming. Change is not something many people readily agree to; and more so, when it comes to millions or billions of largesse that are considered fringe benefits of having served in congress. Many of those retired lawmakers will hardly go down without a fight. Political intelligence has been their bread and butter or graft, if you like. The question, Why are some lawmakers still advocating the indefensible in light of current information regarding political intelligence? The retroactive answer to this question is: Money! Money!! And Money!!! Those purists, who are currently advocating that any congressman who has traded stocks with inside information should resign, probably are not going to get what they want.

Using insider information to benefit lawmaker’s bottom-line is akin to cheating; and, ignoring public concerns regarding such actions from congressional lawmakers is tantamount to flagrant abuse of power. Current provisions in the 2011 Stock Act or the re-figured 2006 Stock Act may not completely contain those provisions that will completely avert abuse. Bills working their way through congress can still be added to or amended to address concerns from the public. Like the saying goes, it is easier to spout platitudes than to address fundamentals.

For provisions in the re-figured 2006 Stock Act to suffice and reflective, it must answer the basic questions: Who? When? What? Where? and, How? As long as the provisions answer these basic questions, we may be rest assured that the issue of fairness may be addressed. Further, as long as congressional lawmakers understand why it is possible to adversely exploit political intelligence to one financial benefit; and, why the public is concerned that the ‘first to know’ doctrine regarding the developing and passing of a bill may give lawmakers a competitive or undue advantage over others in the market place, then we are half way through the journey.

It is imperative that congress abide by all laws that are imposed on other Americans. Further, it is also essential that lawmakers are not perceived as having an undue advantage over other Americans. Just as we are considering the issue of political intelligence, how about looking at other issues as congressional retirement fund and participation of lawmakers in the same health care system enacted for all Americans? Is it possible to move the Congressional Retirement Fund into the Social Security System? Is it feasible for all congressional lawmakers to participate in the mandated purchase of health care insurance as contained in PPACA? That way, all Americans are called to participate in the same Social Security Retirement System and patients Protection and Affordable Care Act? Finally, how about having an independent salary commission consider congressional salaries, rather than having congressmen consider pay increases. Many cities have a commission like this and it works fairly well for everyone, why not for the esteemed United State Congress? For congress to stand clear and clean there must never be a suspicion of having an undue advantage over other Americans, with respect to laws of the country.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Stock Act and Political Intelligence: Why Congress must now act for its own good!

Keywords or Terms: Political Intelligence; Political Insider; Insider Information and Trading; Voter’s Confidence; First-to-Know Information; Lobby Groups; Congressional Lawmakers; Steve Kroft; Martha Stewart; Raj Rajaratnam; and, Transparency in Governance

CBS 60 Minute Program recently visited some lawmakers in congress, attempting to find out why congress is not playing by the same rule as Americans when it comes to insider trading information and stock trading. Congressmen probably failed to see the connection between having insider information regarding impending bills and abuse of the information in purchasing stocks on the whiff by lawmakers and congressional staff. However, after a couple of vivid examples alluded to, where lawmakers and congressional staff had taken advantage of what is referred to as political intelligence to benefit their wealth or pockets, it became obvious why the stock act must move ahead, after languishing in congressional committees.

In a time, when congress is lacking in voter’s confidence, when many bills that could have done good for the people, especially millions that are unemployed, are hardly budging in congress, it is time for congress to act on the stock act to burnish its lackadaisical image. Congress cannot continue to live in a long shadow of deviousness, when and where many congressmen and their staff have exploited the benefit of being the first to know, to expand their largesse in the open market for stocks and bonds. CBS 60 minutes sought details about congressional leaders buying of stocks and bonds just before the passing of the health care and financial reform bills, and hardly could both leaders questioned in press conferences could give a straight answer. Republican House Speaker John Boehner and Democratic minority leader Nancy Pelosi were caught flat-footed when Steve Kroft questioned them about stocks and or bonds tradings that seem to have benefited these lawmakers just before the passing of some bills; and, the question and answer session looked rather embarrassing, if not completely disastrous for the leadership role that these leaders play in America’s Politics.

Neither Pelosi nor Boehner has a plan for a memoir about how congressional lawmakers had exploited the first-to-know information regarding the dynamics of bills in conduit that may directly or indirectly jolt the market on Wall Street. None of them could tell a better story regarding how many of their followers in congress and their staff had exploited the first-to-know privilege of lawmaking to better their financial largesse. Hours of video of such memoirs by Hollywood would have made the public wonder truly about our Democracy and the integrity of our lawmakers and their staff. Alas, these lawmakers had taken a two, in articulating the difficult situation they had put themselves by having financially beneficial trading closed with suspiciously too close a time to when a related bill passed in congress.

Martha Stewart, business magnate and founder of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia and Raj Rajaratnam, former hedge fund manager and founder of the Gallup Group, went to jail for insider trading; both today are felons and practically stripped of the right to vote in many states. Each were reputable member of the corporate business world before being caught doing similar things to what some congressmen and their staff are accused of in the 60 Minute expose. Congressional lawmakers still have the opportunity to create and pass laws that affect the lives of every American. Congressional lawmakers who swore to protect the country and the constitution, seems to be violating their oath of office by doing same things that have landed Americans in jail: exploiting the first-to-know privilege to expand personal wealth!

This is interesting, considering that we live in a world of 24/7 information sharing. When congressional lawmakers took oath to protect the constitution, their respective obligations include the protection of the process of making laws. When congressional lawmakers share information regarding bills working through congress with their staff and family members, they all stand to recoup millions by exploiting the privilege. For example, friends and associates who have a blackberry, android and or 4G information sharing devices, who are necessarily not in proximity of Pennsylvania Avenue, can exploit the same privilege. Since the public are excluded from this privilege, it is important that congress look at itself in the mirror and ask the question: Is this really fair? Is this what our constituent sent us to Washington DC to do?

Today, the question of integrity is often swept under the rug like a run-off from American streets and farms. In a world of reality television, where men and women of lesser aptitude and intelligence, are portrayed as ideal role model, it is probably acceptable for some lawmakers with convoluted integrity to justify the action that congressmen and staff are being accused; but the truth is, what is wrong is wrong, whether it is being done by a congressional lawmaker or a businessman or women in their corner offices on Wall Street. The use of insider information or political intelligence as it is called in Washington DC lobby ally; to better one’s financial purse is wrong and cast smog on the integrity of our lawmakers.

While the benefit of using insider information to benefit one’s wealth may not be seen as wrong by some lawmakers who attempt to scorn at the suspicion from the press and public, since no one can truly link this possibility directly with the subsequent action of the lawmakers in buying stocks and bonds, it is still imperative that lawmakers play by the rule and or stay above board. It is important that lawmakers are not found to be abusing power by using political intelligence or insider information to amass wealth at the expense of the public they have sworn to protect. The duties of congressional lawmakers call for the utmost integrity in men and women. To fail to appreciate this reality, to scorn at an effort to expose this illegality among congressional lawmakers and their staff, constitute disservice to the process of lawmaking. Further, it is shameful when the public has to call on our lawmakers to play by the same rule that the public are called to play by or uphold. That is why Steve Kroft’s investigative reporting on CBS 60 Minutes last Sunday deserves the highest journalism award in the country. CBS 60 Minute and Steve Kroft deserve the 2011 Peabody award for integrity reporting by getting the wheels turning in congress over the Stock Act.

To maintain that there is no insider trading information being used by congressional lawmakers and that all these are insinuations and unproven, is to fail to appreciate the concerns in the CBS 60 minute expose. No one is attempting to impinge on the integrity of our congressional lawmakers; however, the actions taken by some lawmakers just before a bill is passed into law regarding stocks’ and bonds’ purchases as exposed on the program are too close for comfort and probably, disconcerting. The fact that an outside body had to delve into lawmakers action regarding a bill that has been allowed to languish in congress and to draw imperatives regarding why the bill is allowed to die or be dying in congress, says a million about congressional lawmaking. Figuratively, can the public imagine how many bills that could have done the people and our democracy good that have been allowed to die in committees because our lawmakers are somehow benefiting from the death, or perceive the bill as inconsequential for the time being?

Fast forward today, there is the jobs’ bill that President Obama has been hammering that congress passes so that unemployed Americans can get jobs; is it possible that some congressional lawmakers are failing to pass this bill, because they are benefiting from not doing so? Can congressional lawmakers be cheating on the unemployed, the same way a few of them have cheated on their spouses, apologize in press conferences, reconciled and hopefully repented? There is no association of guilt here, however, what many unemployed are saying is that congress and those lawmakers who have chosen not to support the jobs’ bill, are cheating on the unemployed. They are using the privilege of their office to deny what is rightly essential to better the lives of millions of Americans.

Back to the Stock Act and the inquisition by many that: Is it possible that congressional lawmakers have been underhandedly using political intelligence to better their financial bottom-line? Have our lawmakers been using the first-to-know privilege to buy lands in anticipation that a federal road will pass through it so they can make a windfall? Have our lawmakers been buying stocks and bonds a night before the passing of a relevant bill and off-loading them about two weeks later with some handsome returns? We all hope these are not true. Having first had information regarding what a bill can do to trading on Wall Street can hypothetically benefit those who have that information in the course of their duties or work. Acting on this information to unduly benefit the lawmakers is unfair and unacceptable to the public, period!

Seeing first hand how “good people” have been sent to gallows for using insider information to better their financial returns is alarming. Asking that congressmen do not succumb to the same temptation is in order for transparent governance. The public finds it unfortunate that many lawmakers, some of them who have once scorned at the Stock Act, are now falling over each other to co-sponsor the bill. A bill that only had nine sponsors a couple of year ago, now has over one hundred and thirty-eight co-sponsors barely a week after the CBS 60 Minute expose on the use of political intelligence to amass wealth among congressional lawmakers and their staff. If there were things to expect from our lawmakers, isn’t it the integrity to act even before we call them to do so on a bill that impacts the welfare of everyone? Where there is a bill that addresses the issues of fairness, should it take 60 Minutes to call our congressional lawmakers to do the right thing?

Many of us are loss for words at this time. What we now expect are as follows:

  • That the Stock Act is passed before the end of this year and penalty made retroactive, if possible;
  • Congress passes a law that congressional ethics board inculcate into its books criminal penalty for using political intelligence to financially benefit lawmakers;
  • Congress makes the bane of lawmaking a sifting system that highlight the potential pitfalls for exploitation of parliamentary process for private benefit or gains by lawmakers; and, insist that associated actions by lawmakers on financial and trading issues be left in a trust; and,
  • The earthy, open-ended process in parliamentary committee deliberations be scrutinized and evaluated constantly for conflict of interest by committee members or congressional lawmakers.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

What’s killing Republican’s Strategy to Privatize Social Security and Medicare?

Keywords or Terms: Privatization; Medicare; Social Security; Republican’s Strategy; Elderly and Disabled; Returns on Investments in Social Welfare Programs; Statistics and Accounting Principles; Will to Change; Alleviation of Poverty;  Democrats; and, Republicans

Republican lawmakers are at the vanguard of privatizing Social Welfare Programs. Privatizing Medicare has been reported as the bane of contention why the Super Committee failed to reach accord over the nation’s mounting deficit. At the heart of discontent from Democrats is the concern for senior citizens and the disabled who would suffer direct impact of unsavory machination that may arise from the privatizing of Social Security and Medicare. At least there have been two separate attempts to privatize Social Security and or Medicare with Republicans’ inklings, which failed woefully in congress in the past three decades. With the insinuation that an accord could not be reached between Republicans and Democrats on cutting the nation’s deficit because of Republican’s desire to privatize Medicare, and the Democrats’ discontent over the move in the congressional super committee, it is worthwhile to evaluate the Republicans’ strategy to privatize the pillar stone of Democrats’ effort in lightening the load of America’s Senior Citizens and the disabled through the support for Social Security and Medicare Programs.

Why haven’t Republicans fulfilled their desires over Social Security and Medicare? For Republicans, Social Welfare Programs are a drain on the nation’s purse and during the time of deficit, they must be the first to be on the chopping block. For Democrats, Social Security and Medicare are corner stone programs of what it takes to be responsible to pair constituents in our society who are either old or disabled; and, can hardly help themselves. While Republicans portray themselves as fervent advocate of fiscal responsibility, Democrats characterized their support for Social Welfare Programs as social cost that must be borne to make the face of capitalism, humane. While Republicans place their bets on the doctrine of everyman for himself, God for us all; Democrats see the need for an invincible hand of fairness to the failures of the free-market system in a pluralistic Democracy.

Republicans’ position on the issue of efficiency of social welfare programs are rooted in staunch free-market enterprise doctrine. Democrats’ position are rooted in the natural progression of slight imbalance in the free-market enterprise system, which they construe as needing corrective measures to make the system work, fairly; especially for many in the fixed income group in their golden years, dependent on social security checks, retirement checks, IRA and 401Ks. While Republicans base their evaluation of social welfare programs on specific metrics of efficiency derived from accounting principles and proxy statements, Democrats see the face of the teaming millions of retired citizens crying for help in their golden years and some disabled citizens, who could have been productive except for the misfortune of illness or natural biological failures. Republicans seek the greatest returns for government investments in social welfare programs; Democrats not only seek the same results but clamor that such results must have a human face.

At any given time, Republicans often denigrated Democrats as big spenders, especially on social welfare programs, while Democrats have painted Republicans as ruthless and often willing to throw the elderly and disabled under the bus, in their quest for efficiency of social welfare programs. Absent conviction that either group may move their metrics of measuring efficiency of social welfare programs to an amicable ground, leads to the type of stalemate found in the recent congressional super committee debacle. While Congressional Republicans are largely interested in aggressive maneuvers to convince Congressional Democrats and the public that the answer to deficit spending from social welfare programs can only be found in letting the forces of the free market dictate the efficiency of each of these social welfare programs; drumming up the usual brouhaha that government should get out of the way as it is the real problem for failure in the system, Democrats advance a defensive maneuver that without government involvement, the forces of free market enterprise system annihilate the disadvantaged, the elderly and disabled; especially during the burst period of the sequential boom and burst scenario legendary of our capitalistic economic system.

Over time, however, this blog believes that while both groups have great points to support their position or conviction, because the motivation for their individual position is based on completely immeasurable quantitative and qualitative metrics, either group will never triumph with their relative advancement on social welfare programs in the public arena. From record of historical upward and downward swing in the Americans economy, it will be difficult for Republicans to demonstrate that if we actually privatize social welfare programs, Social Security or Medicare, the nation will be better-off; or the quality of life enjoyed by all citizens, will be appreciable than what we now have. For example, in the last effort by Republicans under the Bush Whitehouse, if the privatization effort on Social Security had been realized or received the blessing of congress, how would the elderly and disable have fared when we went into a recession in 2008.

In similar argument, the obsession by Democrats that funding for Social Security are Sacrosanct and Medicare costs could be managed with better scrutiny of health services’ providers and associated health insurance costs, one is apt to believe that their support for Social Security and Medicare are based on justifiable empirical evidence of the infrequent failures of the free-market system; thus, there is a place for their position in the realm of public discuss. For example during the Clinton’s Whitehouse, budget deficit were better managed and the nation was able to pay down some of its debts; however, the nation was unable to curtail its rising Medicare cost or prevent congress from borrowing from the Social Security trust fund to address other national problems. Moreover, Republicans’ and Democrats’ agreement to invest in two foreign wars in the late 2001 practically eroded whatever gains accruing from better fiscal management during the Clinton’s or Democratic Whitehouse. The failure of each major political party to address the issue of fiscal responsibility with respect to raiding the social security trust fund make both incapable of advancing the ‘holier than thou’ argument for or against fiscal responsibility with respect to social welfare programs.

Ideally, the wish of either political party’s congressional lawmakers to demonstrate with some degree of success that each is fiscally more responsible than the other would have been possible, if either had advanced unblemished arguments or positions that are empirically or historically verifiable. However, that is not the case, and either congressional leader of both major political parties is oblivious of the shortcomings of their individual arguments and or position in current day American economy. What’s not obvious or easy to demonstrate for either political party leader in congress is that their casual association of prescriptions for not bankrupting Social Security or Medicare stand on shaky grounds and the significance of opposing arguments to either’s position, gradually erodes when subject to objective quantitative and or qualitative scrutiny.

The ability of predicting what will happen if Social Security or Medicare is privatized is very unclear. Profitability of either social welfare programs in a privatization scheme cannot rely on empirical data or results from a country as Chile or similar experience in a European country, as each of these examples are not replicable of our country, because of the size of our economy and life-span of Americans. America has a bigger economy than any around the globe and we have the fortune of our elders living longer than many citizens of the world. What will happen if Chile invests billions of dollars in medical research and elder care as is done America will their social security program survive easy liquidity? How much capital is invested in elder care or retirement savings or expenditures in Chile or France? Are the bedrocks of argument of bankruptcy of America’s Social Security and or Medicare Programs, really estimable without the concrete evaluation of quantitative and qualitative factors that are likely to doom these programs? The nation has the wherewithal to make correction in factors that may doom Social Security and or Medicare into bankruptcy, without privatizing either program. What the nation cannot afford is a prescription of privatization of these programs that could actually damage other social indicators that makes the country the first in the world in many areas of assessments.

How about a re-evaluation of a culture of entitlement to some social welfare programs? There are different points of view on whether the reform to the health care system enacted in 2010, can rally address the problems of health care cost and inflation without some additional tweaking. There are even critics in the health care industry that laments that the nation is saddled with an illness treatment industry rather than a health care system. On one hand, there are those who believe that we need a one-payer health care system to address the shortcoming of an illness treatment industry; and, through asking of the right questions, collection of the right data from patients, health care providers, hospitals and doctors clinics, drugs manufacturers and setting up an advanced electronic medical record management infrastructure, the nation will be able to cut waste and address the problem of rising health care costs and inflation. Unresolved issues regarding these variable factors have been part of the problem associated with the bloated Medicare cost. On the other hand, what about reviewing the benchmark for contribution to Social Security by employees and employers? Should there really be a one hundred and six thousand dollars income threshold rather than all earned incomes? And, is it necessary to have an exclusion clause on income threshold for any American when it comes to saving Social Security or Medicare?

With advancements in information technology, the government can go for gold: by collecting social security and Medicare from organizations that have now be defined as a person for political mischief? The focus is saving Social Security from bankruptcy, how about driving growth in the Social Security trust fund by collecting equitably contributions from all earned income generated by all factors of production?

Apart from all these issues addressed on the blog tonight, here are the following bullet points, preventing Republicans from achieving privatizing of two major social welfare programs that are criticized as contributing to the nation’s deficits:

  • An increasing application of statistics and accounting to explore correlation and causation factors bloating the implementation of these programs;
  • The concept of one jacket fits all, in the delusion that privatization will solve all the associated problems found in implementing the two social welfare programs;
  • An increasing desire to lambast government regulatory responsibility or involvement as detrimental to the free-market enterprise system;
  • Poor leadership tactics engaged in galvanizing the required votes from both isle of congress in support of privatization of the welfare programs; and,
  • The indisputable contribution of both and either of these programs from alleviating poverty among the disadvantaged and elderly among us.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Is the Balanced Budget Amendment Bill a Political Gimmickry: new lessons from the failure of this initiative in current congress?

Keywords or Terms: Balanced Budget Amendment; Deception; Deceit; Betrayal; Fiscal Conservatives; Whimsical; Historical;  narber Conable (R-NY); Ed Jenkins (D-GA); Tip O'Neil (D-MA); Charles Stenholm (D-TX); Katrina; Iraq; Afghanistan; and, Modern Democratic Governance

It’s historical, it’s whimsical, it’s seasonal and many congressional representatives dream about it, Republicans and Democrats alike. Rather than promote a balanced approach to government spending that eventually helps the nation dig out of debt, Republicans and Democrats in congress often lead a bandwagon of famed or defamed fiscal conservatives to seek the passage of a balanced budget amendment bill, every now and then. What inspires them to do this is sometimes defensive and maybe liken to the incredible desire to appear as better managers of the national fiscal issues, whenever either party holds a majority in either or both congressional chambers

Incidentally, history has shown that neither Republicans nor Democrats are good custodians of the national kitty-bank! Previous attempts to pass a mandated balanced budget have been fraught with defections, reversals and sometimes, betrayals. After several failed attempts in the period 1930 - 1982, Republican Representatives in the house were able to pass a balanced budget amendment by circumventing parliamentary procedures through the use of discharge petition about three decades ago. Representatives Barber Conable (R–NY) and Ed Jenkins (D–GA) in 1982, when for the first time the measure was able to garner 236 supporting votes in the House, a number short of the required two-thirds majority, attempted to circumvent the then Speaker of the House, Thomas “Tip” O’Neill (D–MA), to his disdain; however, the measure went nowhere in Senate. Subsequent attempts in the 1990’s, including a bipartisan effort led by Charles Stenholm (D–TX), fell woefully short and remained unsuccessful till today.

Emotional reactions during those times that these efforts have been made to pass the ephemeral balanced budget amendment, historical experiences have always been ignored; and, the approaches taken to move the initiative through congress, indicate poor homework by the lawmakers, flawed and arbitrary efforts by party leaders, and an unmistakeable unwillingness to do all it takes. Worse more, the routine woeful failures at each time, shows how unprepared and sometimes mischievous, the moving groups are every time. For the records, I am in support of prudent national fiscal policy; however, when a proposal is completely infeasible in light of modern day governance, it is ridiculous to find lawmakers pushing an unworkable proposal, especially when it is being done half-hardheartedly.

The idea of balanced budget amendment has been around for centuries, but it has often failed to garner the necessary two-third majority support, when brought to a general vote in both or either chambers of congress. Interestingly, it often gains an arousal or support in congress around the period after a recession, 1930, 1973, 1983, 1993, 1995, 1997, 2011; and, every time a movement to pass the initiative in congress is advanced, those lawmakers who are initially behind it at the committee stages and floor debates, often back out and vote against the proposal when it comes to a general vote. For instance, in 1798, when the proposal was first mouthed, Thomas Jefferson opined that if there was any single amendment that he wished, that would have been one limiting the power of the federal government to borrow. That proposal may have been applicable three centuries ago; however, in modern day governance and public sector management, it is far from possible and in some quarters, will be considered ridicules. Can you imagine, during a huge natural disaster like Katrina or elongated foreign wars, Iraq and Afghanistan, if the federal government looses the power to borrow?

In many instances, where the federal or state governments have sought to borrow, it is out of necessity to meet some unavoidable national spending obligations; and, in some cases where the needs have been frivolous, both major political parties in congress, at one time or the other, have either failed to exercise their power to curtail the governments, or abdicated their responsibility to be fiscally prudent for the sake of other interests. Convincing ourselves that it is possible to completely restrained governments, federal and state, from exercising the power to borrow, is close to self-deception. Lawmakers are often focused primarily at advancing their careers in congress or state capitols and are hardly going to pass a law that will work against them when they are in a majority. Each, Republicans or Democrats, have some primary objectives to advance in a congressional session where they are in a majority, and any proposal or bill that will scuttle their chances of effecting those objectives, is a personal non-Grata! That is why you see the repeated failures of the balanced budget amendment, every time the initiative comes up for a general floor vote in congress. The failure of the balanced budget amendment bill is a re-affirmation of this reality; and, probably a reminder that this initiative is more of a wishful thinking than many of our lawmakers are willing to concede.

Either groups of lawmakers in congress, Republicans or Democrats, are more attuned to the balanced budget amendment debate, whenever either is not in a majority. Either group is motivated to ram the initiative through, when they find themselves in a disadvantageous end in fulfilling their party’s emblems; and occasionally, seek defection from lawmakers of opposing party to achieve their dream of balanced budget amendment. But neither group of these lawmakers, Republicans or Democrats, has been able to truthfully achieve the objective of passing the balanced budget amendment bill in both chambers of congress. Because of this, one can be certain that the next generations of Americans will always find that their country is in a hole for the foreseeable future in terms of fiscal responsibility.

As a matter of history and experience, the balanced budget amendment bill is gradually becoming an archaic and unreachable initiative in congress – commitment by two-third majority of congressional members and states’ resident are essential – and often, it looks rather difficult to achieve all concurrently in the same congressional session and year. Further, the political dynamics of understanding what line item constitutes a federal budget and which item has been subtracted or included for various interpretation of a balanced federal budget, has made it difficult or confusing for the average American to understand where each proponent of the balanced budget amendment initiative are coming from, every time they rise up again..

Fascinatingly, Republicans have attempted to push further this initiative to the goal post every time they hold a majority in the House of Representatives. The Democrats haven’t been bad too; however, one finds that either group lack the character to push this initiative through.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

PPACA Challenge: The New Case to be heard by the United States Supreme Court just before the 2012 General Elections!

Keywords or Terms: US Supreme Court; Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeal Ruling; US Congress: Constitutional Argument; PPACA; Medicaid Eligibility; 2012 General Elections; Mandatory Provisions; Congressional Powers;  Democrats and Republicans.

Recently, the United States Supreme Court agreed to hear the challenge to the Patients Protection and Affordable Care Act, an act designed to overhaul the American Health Care System. The agreement was widely covered in the press as a story of resolution – over lower court decisions which have kept everyone wondering if the health care reform law is about to be junked - in the face of antagonism and unwelcome criticisms  of the right of congress to make a law that has a mandatory provision; or, one that requires citizens to obtain or buy health care insurance as a product. But I believe it is a story about the right of the United States Congress to make law.

Did the United States Congress fail to address all the parliamentary procedures for enacting a bill? Did constituent members of congress fail to debate the provisions in the health care reform law in both chambers of congress? Did Congress violate some parliamentary procedures  in either chambers of congress in the process of passing the health care reform law? Did the constitution permit the United States Congress to issue a mandate in a law? Has congress exceeded its constitutional authority by extending the eligibility converge thresholds that States must adopt to participate in the Medicaid program? First, we may be able to get answers to these questions by checking the congressional records. Second, we may be privy to the wheeling and dealing on congressional floors when the highest court of law hears the case over the constitutionality of the health care reform law. Third, we may end up being confused or disenchanted by the effort of critics of the law to bring this case before the highest court in the land, hoping to discredit the whole law as unconstitutional. However, my guess is, answers to all these questions will pit two opposing teams of of brilliant lawyers against each other; and, either will re-affirm congressional authority to make laws or erode the powers of our lawmakers.

Dig past the current acrimony of whether the health care reform law is unconstitutional, unworkable or unpopular, the decision from the United States Supreme Court will show how relevant congressional authority is to the way we live our lives as ordinary Americans. Can our lawmakers actually bind us in a democracy and if they may, why are Americans not taking conscious effort to find all the answers about the past of our lawmakers, their beliefs and convictions, their education and abilities, their sponsors and financiers, and their past experience in leadership and their shortcomings. Why? Answers to these questions and inquisitions about these questions, will allow us make better judgment about who is representing us in congress; who may actually mandate us to do some things that we may not in totality be in agreement with or who is actually serving the public by his or her representation in congress. My premonition is that fear is causing the acrimony over the Patients Protection and Affordable Care Act. Many people in the right would like the Supreme Court to strike down the whole law as unconstitutional; those in the left, seek an alternative ruling that will allow the law to stand. The fear in both cases can either be described from the context that, if the court rules in favor of the constitutionality of the law, Democrats win and by default their leader, President Obama, stands a better chance at the polls in the 2012 General Elections. On the other hand, if the mandatory provision in the law is invalidated and the whole law is found unconstitutional, Republicans win and by default their candidate for the office of the Presidency, whoever it maybe, stands a better chance at unseating the current President.

Delivering a judgment either way, very close to general elections, has the potential or power to tilt the result of the general elections either way. Political Party leaders, who are more interested in preserving their position(s) in congress or the dominance of their respective party in congress, want a favorable ruling for their position from the nine-member judgeship of the Supreme Court. Either leadership group in the respective major parties in the US, do not want their wishes dragged down so close to a general election. Unfortunately, their demands are essentially inconsequential at this time as the Supreme Court, is exerting its prerogative of independence from the two branches of government, executive and legislative branches, by determining to hear the case just few months before the general elections next year. A case has been appealed from the eleventh district circuit court of appeals and the Supreme Court has assigned on its schedule, the month of March 2012, to hear the argument on the case. Whether their potential ruling runs afoul of the interests of either parties or their positions on the health care reform law, is essentially, irrelevant; or as they say in my neck of the woods: "Ain't the judges’ problem!"

Although what I have discussed on the blog tonight seems largely a criticism of the challenge to the mandate provision of the Patients Protection and Affordable Care Act or the choice of the highest court to hear the case on an election year, I do not want to appear unduly despondent about the possible reach of congressional powers in making laws; or, the Supreme Courts’ prerogative to hear the case from the eleventh circuit court at their convenience or just before the general elections. Even if I appear to be in complete support of the law in my past entries on this blog, and by default the mandate provision in the law, I still believe that implicit in this requirement, is the desire to hold down health cost inflation that has been the bane of contention over whether Medicare and or Medicaid can survive another half a century. The ideal situation would remain the need to improve health care delivery to many more Americans and create a better health care system, thereby assuaging the criticisms from many doctors, hospital and professionals in the health care industry; that, what we now have, is an illness treatment industry not a health care system. The point of my argument is that there are good enough reasons to sort out the constitutionality question; however, I have some decrepitude over whether the year of a general election is an ideal time to hear a case like this.

The mandatory provision of the health care reform law answers two central questions to health care delivery in America: 1) how can we challenge insurance companies to cut down on premiums paid by consumers in the effort to manage health care cost inflation? 2) Since the mandate provision of the Patients Protection and Affordable Care Act has been construed as closely tied to two other provisions in the law, one forbidding insurance companies from turning away applicants and another barring the companies from turning away patients with pre-existing condition, how can we make underwriting health insurance policies palatable or somewhat profitable for the insurance companies to want to remain in the business? Consideration of these central questions is rather essential for attorneys arguing un-behalf of the federal government as to constitutionality of the mandatory provision of the law. The government attorneys must be deliberate and spontaneous in their argument before the highest court in the land. To show less spontaneity in argument or failure to close-out the opponents of the law as mischievous and unwholesome in their advancement before the Supreme Court, is to allow trivialities to overtake the substance of the health care reform law.

The benefits of the health care reform law have to be re-asserted before the Supreme Court. Just as the sixteen hour work day was outlawed about a century and a half ago, so must the attorneys for the government, argue that the nation is better-off with a health care system where majority of the citizens of the country are mandated to carry health care insurance than one without, thus leading to the high volume of hospital emergency room traffic. While recognizing that opponents of the law may have some reservations regarding some provisions of the law that hardly justifies the argument that the law or the mandatory provision in the law makes the whole law unconstitutional. The attorneys representing the federal government must insist that there is a long-term benefit to the law; and the opponents of the law have not given the provisions in the law a chance; as many of the provisions in the law that opponents are arguing against are hardly implemented yet; and if not implemented, how can these critics of the law crucify the whole law; or, argue against events and experiences that have not occurred or materialized.

We must not be surprised if the US Supreme Court upholds most parts of the law and still rule against the mandatory provision in the law. The ideal situation is to have the highest court in the land leave intact congressional powers to make law, whether the law has a mandatory provision or not. The court could isolate some parts of the law that thread on constitutionality question and leave it unto congress to issue amendments to take care of the constitutional question of any part of the law, if there is actually, any. The court does not have to rule on hyperbola or hypothetical situation that has not materialized because some of the provisions in the law that are contested have not been implemented. The court usually in cases like this is always ahead of the litigant and defendant and attempts to provide room for possible visitation of issues in the future by congress, where it is essential, and in some cases rule in finality as to the question of constitutionality. Based on the recent ruling from the Washington DC Appellate court, it is possible that the court will rule in favor of the mandatory provision.

There is one more point in this communication which I would like to mention. This is the fact that two days and five and half hours have been set aside by the US Supreme Court to hear arguments from the opposing teams on the act before the court. Attorneys representing the opposing camps are expected to present arguments on the four main issues emanating from the Eleventh District Court of Appeal, Atlanta: 1) Can congress impose individual mandate in the purchase of health care insurance;  2) Can congress demand that State comply with threshold provisions to participate in Medicaid; 3) Can the Patients Protection and Affordable Care Act remain intact, even if parts of it are invalidated on the grounds of constitutionality; and, 4) Does the Anti-injunction Act guarantees the Supreme Court to rule on a case as this. If the tendency is to adjudged congressional powers in lawmaking, an half and half, each from either side is enough to represent their position or fail to justify their grounds. The constitutional provision of the right of congress to make laws, should not take too long to make or debunk. If the issue is to address the mandatory provisions of the law, maybe another thirty minute at most.

The arguments over the mandatory provision of the law will probably tell us two things: 1) Congress has the power to make laws, whether with a mandatory provision or not; Congressional powers to make law are unlimited and in some circumstances, where the provision(s) in the law run afoul of constitutional requirements, there are room for call to amendments to the law, especially, where some of the provisions in the law, have not come to play, or have not been phased in. the fact that attorneys can argue over the extent of congressional powers is in order; however, the fact that the law passed is constitutional or not, is one that may be subject to debate. Where the commonsense argument comes in is simply this: can opponents of a provision in a law argue against it under the question of constitutionality, if the provision has not been implemented? The purpose for which congress make law is to address issue of concern that has been brought before the body as a bill working its way through committee and work groups. Where there are some provisions that are out of line with the constitution, it is probably identified before the law is passed. If there was an omission, it is imperative that observers bring a case before the court as is rightly done in this case. However, if the essence of the issues before the court is to discredit all the provisions of the law in totality, there is probably a suspicious of mischief which the court cannot entertain.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

To Err is Human, to Forgive is Divine: Neither is the policy of Extremism in Politics!

Keywords or Terms: Right winger; Phil Kerpen; House Budget Committee Ranking Republican Paul Ryan (WI); President Obama; Job’s Plan; House Republicans; Housing refinance; Student loans refinance; Relief for the masses; EPA; recalcitrance Culture in Congress; Warren Buffet; and, We can't Wait!

You have read or heard a variation of the title of the blog tonight somewhere. Why are you reading this here?  Well, the reasons are two-folds: 1) Among some criticisms that you have heard of Mr. Obama's Presidency, nothing is as disheartening as the ones offered by extreme groups in our society, especially some of them that fault Obama's Administration for all the economic and war mess that the nation has found itself; 2) An Except by Phil Kerpen, "The Congress Optional President" and "Obama's Rule By Executive Fiat Mocks the Constitution", which appeared in Washington Post of October 25, 2011, lambasting Obama for being anti or over the constitution in his executive actions. Both reasons open up a cause for picking into the minds of extreme groups in modern American politics.

Before going ahead, I need to make an upfront disclaimer; I am an avid supporter of Obama's Presidency and am a foreign policy convict of his, who admires his foreign policies' successes like a child who has just been fed Halloween Candy. At the same time, I am a realist regarding Obama's administration shortcoming with respect to his handling of the economy; but hardly at the strength at which Mr. Kerpen has been. For this and other reasons, I believe it is essential that I debate Mr. Kerpen's assessments of Obama's efforts in governance. As I link Mr. Kerpen's assessment with groups that the nation must pay attention to, not because they contribute much to the debate on democracy as they will like to believe; but because of the havoc their selfish holier than thou attitude is doing to this democracy.

Here are some excerpts from Mr. Kerpen's publication that I am taking issues with, a more comprehensive documentation can be found at the link: :
 “On Oct. 11, after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid had taken extraordinary measures to stall an embarrassing vote as long as possible, the Senate decisively rejected President Obama’s “jobs” plan. The same day, in Pittsburgh, Mr. Obama explained to his union allies that he would move forward regardless. “We’re not gonna wait for Congress,” Mr. Obama explained. “We can act administratively without additional congressional authorization and just get it done.” Now we know that part of what he meant was yet another mortgage bailout – one that will cost bond investors billions – via subsidized refinancing.

This remarkable disregard for the rule of law and proper constitutional procedures fit a familiar pattern in this administration: What it cannot achieve legislatively it will attempt to do by regulatory fiat. Congress must actively assert its legislative prerogative or be relegated to the sidelines.

One year ago, the American people decisively rejected Mr. Obama’s big-government agenda in a landslide election. Surely, most voters thought that election would at least halt, if not reverse, the country’s profound lurch toward a larger, more intrusive and more expensive federal government.
Unfortunately, Mr. Obama has chosen to moderate his rhetoric only somewhat and his actual policies not at all. And Congress, institutionally weakened by decades of delegating legislative power, capped by two massive new grants of regulatory power to the executive branch in Mr. Obama’s health care and financial regulation bills, has thus far proven unwilling – at least on the Senate side – to stand up to him.

Consider that the day after last year’s election, Mr. Obama explained to the press corps that his signature cap-and-trade energy rationing legislation – which cost dozens of House Democrats their seats in Congress and was decisively rejected by the American people – was “one way of skinning the cat; it was not the only way. It was a means, not an end.” He clearly instructed his Environmental Protection Agency to go ahead and act as if the cap-and-trade law had been passed, even writing its emissions abatement schedule into the EPA budget.”


“Even that symbol of Bush-era executive power – the signing statement – has reached a new level of abuse under Mr. Obama. In April, Mr. Obama and House Republican leadership concluded tense negotiations on a funding bill to avert a government shutdown. Part of the deal the president specifically agreed to was language blocking funding for four of the president’s policy advisers – czars, colloquially. Mr. Obama agreed to the language but after the bill’s passage, he used a signing statement to explain that he would simply disregard it. [!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!].

Now our Congress-optional president is moving forward on his latest bailout-and-stimulus scheme without congressional authorization. Enough is enough. Congress must assert its responsibility under Article I, Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution. It is Congress, not the president that is vested by the people with legislative power. The Senate must do what the House has repeatedly done and stand up to this administration – or voters must elect a Senate that will.”

To appreciate my discussion of Phil Kerpen's take on President Obama's Administration, it is important to know what stock Mr. Kerpen is made of; and or, where he is coming from with respect to his criticism of Obama’s Administration. Mr. Kerpen is affiliated with the right wing think tank, Americans for Prosperity. Credit for his publication announces him as a Vice President of the think-tank group. He recently published what any objective observer will consider a hatchet job on Obama's Administration, with the title: “Democracy Denied: How Obama is Ignoring You and Bypassing Congress to Radically Transform America – and How to Stop Him”. Like Congressman Paul Ryan, who has chosen to criticize the President of United States for starting a class war by asking, just like Warren Buffet suggested, that the rich pay more of their fair share in taxes, Mr. Kerpen shows a lot of disdain for the welfare of the working class? What makes sense for majority of Americans hardly make sense for Phil Kerpen, like the House Budget Committee Ranking Republican Paul Ryan (WI), since they both share the same maitre: my way or the highway!

Mr. Kerpen criticizes President Obama for by-passing congress, by using executive administrative power in bringing about reprieve for millions of Americans who have their homes under water. What Kerpen fails to appreciate simply is this: without any improvement in the housing market, there is very little change that will take place in the economy and unemployment will continue to remain exasperatingly stubborn! For Mr. Kerpen’s information, when a leader is unable to get the led to buy-in into his proposal, like in the job’s plan bill, the leader takes the initiative to become a catalyst for the change process. Obama wants to bring about change, because of the poor culture of recalcitrance in congress. What is the beef about subsidizing home owners’ mortgage refinance? Is it alright to bail out the banks, finance houses and the insurance companies, but not the masses of Americans with their homes under water? Mr. Kerpen is obviously doing the bidding for the rich and far right; and, this is why his argument here falls shallow or should hardly be taken seriously.

In the opinion of Mr. Kerpen, there is a pattern of disregard for the rule of law and proper constitutional procedures in Obama’s Administration. Unfortunately, he has hardly backed up his assertion, considering that Mr. Kerpen’s assessment is based on a series of innuendoes and not facts. Current Congressional session should long have been relegated to oblivion as it has abdicated its obligation to enact bills that address the welfare of the majority of voters who brought them into office. The complexities that President Obama has faced in effort to pass laws addressing important issues facing majority of Americans have not only been daunting; they have made him resolve to creative means in addressing his administration wishes to make impact on their welfare. Providing a forum of debate for the lackadaisical attitude found in congress, especially among Republicans to scuttle any effort by the Obama’s Administration, is in order; and the President consistent message that If congress won’t act, he will, is not only relevant, it is probably one effort essential to help veterans find jobs and struggling homeowners, begin anew.

In an age of 617 lobbying and influence groups working to undermine the Congressional Super committee’s effort to resolve fiscal issues in our budget, who can blame Obama’s Administration for tuning down its rhetoric regarding effort made to jump start the economy, since congress has failed to act. We have an army of right wing interest groups working hard to undermine the interest of over 90% of Americans, yet Mr. Kerpen expects the President to look away in effecting executive power. Early in President Obama’s Administration, it was more important for the President to extend olive leaf to Republicans in congress to achieve the goal of passing bills. Attempting to find other means for persuading lawmakers to do the right thing for the sake of the people is a sign of leadership in governance. To build commitment among the Americans for an agenda to change the direction of the economy, when congress is so much interested in lobbying groups to do their jobs, is not only important, it is probably the only remaining way to move this country ahead. To criticize the President for showing leadership in the face of adversity is a sign of disloyalty, if not treason.

Mr. Obama came into office when the recession was taking hold of the economy; and, his decisiveness to respond to the turmoil that nearly dragged the auto industry into malaise is not only a master craft in leadership, it is probably one of the acclaimed effort of this administration that has saved the economy from going into another or double dip recession. Just as his cap-and-trade energy legislation has caught the dire of Mr. Kerpen, there are millions of Americans who are very concerned about climate change and the greenhouse effect of carbon-based fuel use expansion that continue to pollute our environment and destabilize the climate regime and ozone layer. The inspiring vision of articulating that there are more than one way to skin a cat, may be offensive and unacceptable for Mr. Kerpen; however, for many Americans who love this country, it is vey compelling. The change anticipated to preserve the environment may not have been achieved due to the failure to pass the cap-and-trade law in congress; however, it does not say that an effort to bring about this law was not relevant and essential, if we are to leave a better climate and environment for succeeding generations of Americans. President Obama’s leadership has been insightful and the resistance to his effort from Congressional Republicans and the far right can only be seen as shameful and uncalled for, if the effort is to bring about needed change in the welfare of Americans.

Communication is an important aspect of leadership. Suspecting the intention and communication aspect of a negotiated plan, hardly seem an effort to rescind negotiated agreements or disregard some aspects of the constitution. If Mr. Kerpen reiterate that Mr. Obama’s negotiations with House Republicans were tense, how are we sure that both parties were on the same page regarding denial of funds for the presidential policy advisers? How would the President agree to undermine his advisers when he actually needs those advisors to make reliable and effective public policy?  Agreeing to cut funds to his advisers will be out of character for President Obama, considering and knowing his leadership style since taking office; and, how much his advisers mean to his success. Mr. Kerpen is not in position to know all the communications and negotiations that went on with the President and House Republicans, except he was present at every of their meeting; a claim that seem unlikely. To arrogate to himself the know all and end all stance, regarding a language in a bill agreed to by President Obama actually leaves much to demand. President Obama has not undermined or undercut the democratic process; rather, he has made all efforts to work within the system. Congress passes bills into law and the President signs it. The President is not obligated to negotiate provisions in a law; although he can veto parts of the provisions in a law or the totality of the law. To turn around to say the President renege on a negotiated promise in a bill about to be passed in congress, is despicable and unwarranted.

In an era of winding social and income inequality, critics expect President Obama to refuse to exercise the little option available to the executive branch to make a difference in the lives of Americans. Mr. Kerpen, being one of such critics, does not see the essence of the President moving on the bail out and stimulus scheme without congressional approval. This is rather sad, considering what has been going on in congress since Obama took office. Mr. Kerpen is probably in the group of Republicans who want Obama to be a one term President. The two laudable actions taken by Obama, the mortgage refinance opportunity for home owners about to lose their home and those who are already under water, and the student loan relief and refinance advancement, are criticized as an overstepping of the Presidential power by the executive branch. This is probably one reason for the venom from Mr. Kerpen that: “Congress must assert its responsibility under Article I, Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution. It is Congress, not the president that is vested by the people with legislative power. The Senate must do what the House has repeatedly done and stand up to this administration – or voters must elect a Senate that will”. What else does this wing nut expect, when the average undergraduate debt after graduation is hovering around twenty-five thousand dollars for in-state tuition?

There are probably two ways to address the winding wealth and income inequality among Americans: 1) Meritocracy, where every man is for himself and God for us all or, you either swim or you sink doctrine; 2) Income or wealth redistribution, through taxation or public policies that address the winding gap in income between the haves and have-nots. Neither of these two options is perfect; however, to ignore both in light of the current challenges to Obama’s Administration from congress must be considered a dereliction of duties on the part of the President. The fact that the President has taken the change initiatives, doing all he could through executive fiat and calling on the rich to do more to help the nation get over the current hump, is very laudable and appreciated by many who are perceiving this country as going down the tube due to the recalcitrance of House Republicans and some US Republican Senators. What Obama has done recently increases the probability that some of the headaches in the economy can be addressed; and, his effort to do all in his power to bring about change in the welfare of Americans, further opens up conversations regarding the social and income inequality gap in America.

The Occupy-the-Wall-Street Groups are saying so much by their commitment to shine lights on those issues that are making lives unbearable for millions of Americans, including students with huge college loan problems. It is true that a robust change cannot be effected in some of the programs that the President has initiated through executive power to bring about relief in the sufferings of the 99% that is crying for help in the face of congressional Republican tyranny. The biggest error in Mr. Kerpen’s assessment of President Obama’s leadership as seen in the above excerpts is that, he continues to overlook the dire circumstance that millions of American households are forced to live; many people have lost their jobs and their homes and there is virtually nowhere to turn. It is important that their President take initiatives to forestall further sufferings and the going under of many more Americans, due to the failure of Wall Street and the effrontery of the right wing, to demand: my way or the highway! Mr. Kerpen may be tough minded or just mischievous; however, his current assessment of Obama’s leadership is completely in error and totally uncalled for. The truth of the matter is, President Obama is playing the political game based on the cards dealt to him by the House Republicans and extreme right wing thinkers like Mr. Kerpen. To repeat the White House catchphrase of the day, "We can't wait!" We can’t wait for right wingers like Mr. Kerpen to hold their breath as the nation attempts to find its way out of this puzzle!! We can't wait for naysayers to hold water in their mouth before it freezes over!!! Need I say more?