Response from Senator Mark Kirk

I oppose defaulting on any debt and will fight to protect the AAA credit rating of the United States. To protect our economy, we should cut spending and raise the debt limit, putting our nation on a sustainable financial foundation.

Dear Mrs Kagan

Thank you for contacting me regarding the ongoing debt limit negotiations.

I oppose defaulting on any debt and will fight to protect the AAA credit rating of the United States. To protect our economy, we should cut spending and raise the debt limit, putting our nation on a sustainable financial foundation.

Until we enact a final bill, I am also working to ensure the federal government pays all interest owed, Social Security, Medicare and salaries for the troops.

Regarding a final bill, I support the “Gang of Six” bipartisan plan put forward by three Republican and three Democratic senators to reduce our borrowing by over $3.7 trillion over the next ten years. This plan has three major parts:

1) A cap on spending, including a freeze on all salaries for Congress;

2) Entitlement reforms, protecting Americans aged 55 and up while strengthening the long-term finances of Medicare and Social Security for younger Americans; and

3) Tax reform, ending tax expenditures (while protecting the mortgage interest and charitable deductions), in return for lowering the top tax rate from 39% to 29%.

This plan will defend our credit, protect our economy and strengthen the long-term future of Social Security and Medicare.

We need to make these changes now. We are spending money we do not have – upward of 40 cents of every dollar the federal government spends is borrowed from China and elsewhere. This year, we will pay over $225 billion of taxpayer funds to people who lent us money for interest payments alone.

In return for cutting over $3.7 trillion from projected borrowing, we should raise the debt limit of the United States. On August 2, we will pass the legal debt limit of $14.3 trillion. The Chairman of the Federal Reserve and nearly all major economists agree that a plan of spending reductions, entitlement reforms and tax code modernization will reassure the American people, financial markets and our allies that America can live within its means.

Our country has faced tough times before. During Washington’s second administration, he tamed hyperinflation. President Lincoln had credit woes. President Roosevelt eventually faced down the Great Depression and President Reagan defeated high inflation. To honor the achievements of our parents, we should make hard choices again to stop spending money we do not have. When we do, the energy and innovation of the American people will catapult us into economic leadership again, as happened in the 1950s and 1980s.

Thank you for taking the time to contact me on this issue. Please feel free to contact me at (312) 886-3506 or online at http://kirk.senate.gov if you have any questions or concerns before Congress or the federal government. It is an honor to serve you in the Senate.

Very truly yours,

Mark Kirk

U.S. Senate

Economy or People? Or…Economy for the People?

Competition assures that people get the best products and the best services. Right? So how come that AT&T is the biggest wireless service provider and is getting ever bigger and is dead last in customers satisfaction ?

Competition assures that people get the best products and the best services.  Right?  So how come AT&T is the biggest wireless service provider and is getting ever bigger and is dead last in customers satisfaction?

How about the banks?  Like Chase?  Don’t you love the service!  Is it so big because of quality of services it provides?

These global corporations could care less about servicing us, the people.  They want to eliminate competition so as a result these monsters can have crappy services but customers will have little choice but to use their services.  Is that CAPITALISM? Continue reading “Economy or People? Or…Economy for the People?”

Still Flying

Our civilization is in an obvious and dire need of replacement with a new and better system, characterized by morality and logic in both its economic operations and personal value systems; a system that would not be corrupt in any area, including the military, and indeed would not foster global competition to acquire resources in the first place, as our current system routinely does…that has historically resulted in war.

In light of what is going on in the world now, I tried to organize my thoughts and my ideas about the state of affairs on this planet.  It sounds a little grandiose but we do need to get “out of the box” sometimes and look around, look up, pause and try to analyze where we are as a society. Here are a few points to consider.  It seems that a set of current events around the world points to common crises.

Food shortages in the world.

Coming hunger
Hunger

One billion people do not have enough food.  It fuels anger towards the governments and the countries that support these governments.  The food shortages will continue just because there is not enough for the growing population.  In addition the climate is changing, the weather is becoming more extreme.  We do not know how the climate change will affect crops around the world.  Contributing to the problem is mono agriculture (mono cropping).  Wikipedia: “The crop more susceptible to disease as genetic similarity between plants makes them equally vulnerable.  An example of this would be the potato famine of Ireland in 1845–1849 and, according to Devlin Kuyek, is the main cause of the current food crisis with monoculture rice crops failing as the effects of climate change become more acute.”  Food prices are on the rise and will continue to rise.  Food production in the world is falling behind growth of the population.

Unemployment.

In my opinion the unemployment will continue to get worse.  There are many reasons – higher productivity is one;  another is that our employment rate depends on consumption.  So it depends on dwindling natural resources.

Pollution.

Pollution
For the sake of the Economy.

It is a scientific fact that no matter where we pollute,  the pollutants become air borne and travel around the globe.  So no matter how hard we are trying to clean up our air  dirty air from China  comes to America.

Natural events like hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis and many others.

We call them natural disasters.  That is what it is to us.  It is just because there are so many of us.  No matter where the event occurs somebody gets hurt.  We may not know in what way we affect the climate change.  We just know we do.

Science, technology and the economy.

Will technology by itself save our civilization?  I believe that in order to survive we need to grow and develop spiritually. So instead of devising new ways to kill each other, we should work on ways to advance physiologically and mentally.  We still do not know the full capabilities of our minds and our bodies.  But if we don’t change, what we call technology may actually cause the crush of our civilization.  Just one example – it seems that as a society we are caught in a vicious circle.  We devise new technology, new ways to increase production to make more stuff for our consumption.

Wasting the Planet
Wasting our Planet- We make cars to drive to work

– We drive to work to make more cars
– We build roads to drive our cars
– We need fuel to drive our cars in order to make more cars that use more fuel.

And we have to ask ourselves, do all these activities make us happy?  Meanwhile we are still flying. We behave like nothing is happening.  We are talking about the economy, the GDP growth and the unemployment as if nothing is happening around us.  We keep wasting natural resources.

The rift between rich and poor is widening.  Considering the shrinking resources, the rich will grab more and the growing underclass will have less.  If the current situation continues, I see a scenario where a small group of super rich will control the planet and all the resources.

But we are still flying. We fell off the cliff and are falling down.  But in the meantime we are flying and it feels good.  As one roofer said after falling off the roof, “Flying is fine…it is landing that is the problem.”  Our economy in my opinion resembles the inverted pyramid.  We are depleting the planets resources – the foundation of our economy.  But we keep expanding our production capacity.  We keep building up and, as our society becomes unstable economically, it also becomes unstable socially.

What I see in our country:

– Erosion of freedoms
– Erosion of the middle class
– Erosion of educational standards
– Erosion in leadership in scientific research
– Erosion in environmental protection
– Erosion in dollar value
And on and on….

In short, the DECAY of society… life cannot move backwards…it dies.  But where do we move forward?  More and more people realize that we cannot continue to do what we are doing.  But we are set in our ways and change is hard.

So, where is there a solution?  We cannot predict the future.  But we know that even if we could have an unlimited energy source and learn how to make food out of thin air, we will run out of air.  In this universe it is impossible to make something from nothing.

Wasting our future
Can we eat this?

Let’s imagine that tomorrow some products will disappear – Coca Cola, Pepsi Cola, all  cereals and bottled water – to name a few.  Will we survive that kind of “disaster”?  Probably.  Now think of all the resources that could be saved – energy, raw materials…and think about pollution?  Could we use these freed resources for more important purposes?

But what if rice disappears tomorrow? Will people feel it?  For the world it would be a catastrophe.  Whether we want it or not we will be forced to make hard choices.  If there is no rice people will not use bottled water instead.  And all these problems affect the very structure of our society.

What makes us happy
Happiness.

Now let us think about what we do need to be happy.

-Nature

-Food

-Shelter

-Security

-Love

-Social interactions.

I do hope that science and technology will bring us to an understanding of the limits of technology in our advancement as a species.  Time to make a choice!  What do we want?  Even if you worry about your money or perhaps you have a false sense of security, you cannot be secure if poverty is growing in our country.  Our civilization is in an obvious and dire need of replacement with a new and better system, characterized by morality and logic in both its economic operations and personal value systems; a system that would not be corrupt in any area, including the military, and indeed would not foster global competition to acquire resources in the first place, as our current system routinely does…that has historically resulted in war.

Right of Hand

Our costly health care system ranks poorly when compared to those of other nations. Our tax system is ridiculously weighted to benefit the wealthy. We, the middle class are simply being robbed. Someone needs to yell from the audience, “It’s up his sleeve.” I thought our President would do the screaming, but he seems to be mesmerized, extremely shy, too well mannered, or part of the problem.

Manipulation of public opinion
GOP Illusionists

David Copperfield and Doug Henning , though famous magicians , are not masters of the supernatural.  Like their famous predecessors, Houdini and Blackstone, they are gifted practitioners of MISDIRECTION.  Illusionists create something that appears real, but isn’t.  They DECEIVE.  Their skillful yet harmless deception entertains.

The great Houdini and Blackstone had nothing on the supreme conjurers of our time, our puppet-like politicians whose strings are pulled by the wealthiest and most powerful of this nation.   Candidate Obama had the temporary temerity to correctly point out the results of the sleight-of-hand practiced by the conservative magicians, stating that many who are disadvantaged cling to their guns and religion. Obama pulled back immediately, qualifying his remark. It’s never appreciated when a member of the audience spoils the magic act by yelling… “Look it’s in his hand.”

Continue reading “Right of Hand”

Ten Most Wanted

“President Obama alludes to the budget/union fight in Wisconsin and other states, telling governors at the White House that public workers shouldn’t be “denigrated” or “vilified.” He says workers’ rights shouldn’t be “infringed upon.”

A criminal’s on the lamb, and the FBI posts his name on The Most Wanted List, common conjecture says he’s in deep doo-doo as the FBI knows who he is, where he is, and its agents are probably down his street, handcuffs at the ready.  The theory goes that the FBI pragmatically places imminent captures on its Wanted List; it helps the statistics and image.

Today, after 10 days of silence, our President issued  a pretty strong statement  of support for public sector unionized workers. See the news below:

“President Obama alludes to the budget/union fight in Wisconsin and other states, telling governors at the White House that public workers shouldn’t be “denigrated” or “vilified.” He says workers’ rights shouldn’t be “infringed upon.”

“We need to attract the best and the brightest,” he says. “We’re not going to attract the best teachers for our kids … if they only make a fraction” of what others make. He adds: “Yes, we need a conversation about pensions and Medicare and Medicaid and other promises we’ve made as a nation.

But: “As we make these decisions about our budget going forward, though, I believe that everyone should be at the table. That the concept of shared sacrifice should prevail.” He adds that “all the pains” shouldn’t be “felt by one group … “while the wealthiest among us get to keep — or get more tax breaks.” If so, he says, “we’re not doing the right thing.” (11:33 a.m.) Politico 44

http://www.politico.com/politico44/perm/0211/obama_and_biden_to_governors_6027f178-b959-4f9d-ace2-4e8172cc700f.html

Perhaps the President has demonstrated that he is capable of taking a stand.  If so,  I applaud him and will refrain from saying, “It’s about time”  even though I just said it.

Secondly,  it appears to me that it is now likely that the crisis is nearng resolution.  News sources are reporting that behind closed doors some Republican State Senators may switch their vote or support a new compormise bill not wiping out collective bargaining.

Either way I am delighted… if the President has shown some courage,  I congratulate him.

If collective bargaining survives in Wisconsin, joy to the middle class.

My guess is both are related.  President Obama most likely has reliable information that the crisis is coming to an end so he can safely support the winning side. He is again being pragmatic.  Kinda like the FBI waiting until they have a slam-dunk before placing the next Dillinger on their Most Wanted List.  But, this slam-dunk feels good, so why quash those good feelings by being cynical.

Congrats to the demonstrators and a President who speaks for the little guy.

Olbermann is Back

Kieth Olbermann launched his new website: http://foknewschannel.com/ below is an excerpt that I found especially strong.

Kieth Olbermann launched his new website: http://foknewschannel.com/ below is an excerpt that I found especially strong.

” ‘The Union’ is the only protection you have when the drunken boss comes in to fire you because he doesn’t like you, or because he got elected on a promise to his puppet-masters that he’d fire you and everybody else like you so as to soften this country up to pit the urban middle class against the rural middle class so nobody’s paying attention as the corporations reduce everybody they can to subsistence levels while they take the collected drops-in-the-bucket of the mere thousands of bucks stolen from the fired or the de-unionized or the retirement-delayed, and turn them into more millions to stuff into their own pockets.”

On Wisconsin

I hear the Governor of Wisconsin saying these are desperate times that demand desperate action. We have no choice. Unionized public service employees must be reasonable; they must lower demands for increased wages, forgo promised pensions, pay a greater portion for health care.

First They came… – Pastor Martin Niemoller

First they came for the communists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.

Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak out for me

I hear the Governor of Wisconsin saying these are desperate times that demand desperate action.  We have no choice. Unionized public service employees must be reasonable; they must lower  demands for increased wages, forgo promised pensions, pay a greater portion for health care. Tough demands on people, but these are tough times. Even if these unions accede to these draconian demands;  it is not enough. These are desperate times; we need desperate action. To ensure public service employees don’t make future demands we need to silence them. These are desperate times we must silence their collective voice.

The public, my good Wisconsin neighbors, they shake their head and say, “these are desperate times we need desperate action.” These teachers, fire fighters, librarians they have it too good… they are breaking the system… my tax dollars are being stolen… screw em’.  I ain’t got no union and never needed one.

What the hell did unions ever do for me? Screw the AF of L/CIO.  All I need is the NRA.

Social Security, Medicare, unemployment insurance, health Insurance benefits, pensions, workman’s comp, occupational safety laws, child labor laws…. All those would have been enacted out of sheer altruism by business and our benevolent government without the collective voice of the workers of this country.

Unions are and have always been corrupt.  Jimmy Hoffa, featherbedding, organized crime that’s what unions are. They are blood-sucking leaches. They destroy free enterprise and the American Way .

Don’t you watch FOX?  Don’t you know unions are un-American?  Didn’t St. Reagan teach you anything?

Kenneth Lay, Bernie Madoff, Dennis Kozlowski, Bernie Ebbers. Enron, World Com … they were just aberrations in an otherwise moral and ethical corporate America. Hell, Walmart is paying its workers almost livable wages now. This has nothing to do with the Walton’s fear that employees might organize.

American business and America’s lobbyist financed elected officials always have had the workers best interest at heart. Our system is just too fragile now; we can’t allow disgruntled people to be heard. Don’t you know these are desperate times?

Did not 911 tell you anything?  That desperate time led us to lose 4000 lives and billions in a desperate war to protect America from a non-existent threat.  Those desperate times led us to suspend civil liberties and circumvent our constitution, but we are all so much safer now. And I still have my Glock with its 30 cartridge clip. Thank God for our Constitution.

To be honest I just wish this union shit would go away. I would just like to be at the tavern, drinking my Millers while watching  Green Bay beat the crap out of the Bears.  Uh, oh there may be no NFL next year because those millionaire, prima donna, unionized football players may get locked out by their billionaire corporate owner.  Now in Wisconsin those would be desperate times.

So now what?

This is an example of the usual brilliance of Mr. “Sour” Krauthammer, another Obama-hater gussied up as an impartial journalist. I wouldn’t waste my time debating just another piece of anti-Obama propaganda, but I started this letter before I read this “pearl.”

Charles Krauthammer in a recent column concerning President Obama’s State of the Union Address entitled, “The old Obama gussied up in new clothing”, stated the following:

“This entire pantomime about debt reduction came after the first half of a speech devoted to, yes, new spending.  One almost has to admire Obama’s defiance.  His 2009 stimulus and budget-busting health care reform are precisely what stirred the popular revolt that delivered his November shellacking.  And yet he’s back for more.

It’s as if Obama is daring the voters — and the Republicans — to prove they really want smaller government.  He’s manning the barricades for ObamaCare and he’s here with yet another spending, excuse me, investment spree. To face down those overachieving Asians, Obama wants to sink yet more monies into yet more road and bridge repair, more federally subsidized teachers…with a bit of high-speed rail tossed in for style.  That will show the Chinese”.

This is an example of the usual brilliance of Mr. “Sour” Krauthammer, another Obama-hater gussied up as an impartial journalist.  I wouldn’t waste my time debating just another piece of anti-Obama propaganda, but I started this letter before I read this “pearl.”

I am not an economist, but I can add and subtract.  I am trying to understand the problems we are facing and their possible short and long-term solutions.  In my opinion the long-term problem lies in the very foundation of our society.  We are losing revenue because we fall further and further behind other nations in critical areas such as education, science, health care and technology.  We are losing our competitive edge.

So what do we need to do as a society?

Science and technology – We need to triple our investment in science, research and development.

Education – It starts with the family.  It starts in preschool and kindergarten.  We need to educate parents, we need to fund preschool and early learning.  We need to change family culture.  Perhaps we can learn a few things from the “Tiger Mom”.  We are failing to provide adequate job training for our young people and for the older generation.

Infrastructure – Our deteriorating infrastructure is in urgent need of repair and technological improvement.  We need to fix our roads and bridges and to build bullet trains for us, Mr. Krauthammer, not to stick it to the Chinese!

Energy – We need to end our dependency on oil.

And yes, Mr. Krauthammer, we call it an investment!

To accomplish all this we need money, but not just money.  We must change the way we operate as a society.  It sounds scary and radical, but here is some news for you – we do not have a choice.  If we don’t change, we will run short of resources in the not-so-distant future.  How do we fix the energy problem?  How do we fix our dependence on fossil fuels?

Conservation and new sources of energy

We improve car efficiency, we develop public transportation, we reduce our commute to work.  Many jobs can be done from home.

Optimizing delivery of goods

We should use locally-grown and produced goods instead of transporting goods from all around the world.  Above all, we must stop making junk that people can live without.  We need to encourage online shopping in order to eliminate the middleman “brick and mortar” stores.

And yes, Mr. Krauthammer, we need that “eliminate fossil fuel Sputnik moment” to develop a serious replacement for oil.

What would you suggest, Mr. Krauthammer?

Ways to reduce or eliminate budget deficit

Republicans, who somehow became fiscally responsible, tell us we need to cut expenses…and I agree.  And boy, are they ready to cut!  But they will not tell us what they would cut.  And Mr. Krauthammer will not tell us either.  I cannot wait to see their plan. But I doubt that cutting alone will do the job

Economist Galbraith said that the current mania for deficit reduction is disastrously misplaced.  “The right economic objectives are to meet real problems, not those conjured from thin air by economists”, he concluded.  “Bringing about a rapid end to unemployment, caring properly for an aging population, cleaning up the Gulf of Mexico, coping with our energy insecurity and with climate change are all far more important objectives than reducing a projection of future budget deficits.”

Galbraith’s testimony may have been the most detailed and extensive presentation of the deficit-contrarian’s position.  But its basic thrust has received support from other prominent and respected figures.  Paul Krugman of the New York Times, Dean Baker, the co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, a progressive economic think tank and Robert Reich, who served as Labor Secretary in the Clinton administration, all have contended, like Galbraith, that the deficit was caused by a loss of demand triggered by the bursting of the housing bubble.

So where do we cut?

In order to pay off our debt we need a surplus.  Our income must exceed our expenses in order to pay off the 14 trillion dollar national debt.

Considering that we have a one trillion dollar current budget deficit and a two trillion dollar income, we need to cut our expenses by 30% every year or roughly by 1.1 trillion dollars per year in order to begin to significantly reduce our annual shortfall.  Or we need to increase the revenue by at least 30%…or even better, we need to do both

In my simple mind, I see some obvious ways to save money:  1) stop the wars (300 billion annually), 2) cut the defense budget by getting rid of Cold War-era weapons and weapons-building programs (about $300 billion annually), 3) fix health care (we spend twice as much per capita on health care than any other industrial country).  Let’s learn from others how to improve our health care system.  In the long run we should be able to save at least 30% or about $300 billion a year.

Here is a shock for you,  America. You are not a super power anymore…you live on borrowed money.  You are falling behind in science, education,  your standard of living and life expectancy.  Nobody is afraid of you anymore.  You cannot invade every nation that you do not like.  You do not have the money to fix your own roads!

Let’s drop this arrogant attitude of total superiority and learn a few things from other nations.   How about bullet trains?  Or public transportation?  What about a health care system where families don’t have to go bankrupt if a loved one gets sick?

Do we really need military bases all around the world?  We don’t.  Our military industrial complex does!  Can we afford to spend more on weapons than the rest of the world combined?  Do we have to?

How do we deal with the lost generation of Americans between 40 and 60 years old who don’t have skills to participate in today’s economy?  How do we attract the best scientists when some politicians are trying to politicize science and don’t want to finance important scientific projects?

I liked the State of the Union address as did the majority of Americans including Republicans.  It offered some concrete programs to solve very serious problems we are facing as a country and as individuals. These programs require sacrifice and hard work.

Mr. Krauthammer’s words provide us with no answers.

There is a saying, “The one who finds what he is looking for is looking for faults.”  But what can our President do to satisfy you, Mr. Krauthammer?

I think “drop dead” would be the only answer.