Money and Political Access

Much is being reported in the news about the Clinton Foundation and access to Hillary when she was Secretary of State.  It is, on the surface, a curious relationship.  But is it really different than what happens in our Congress all the time?

Let’s think for a moment about a mainstream of our political structure—lobbies and political action groups.  Let’s think about how some of the really powerful ones use their money and power to influence our political outcomes.  Let’s take for example, the NRA.  They are a very powerful  organization that spends a lot of money to get their views known to Congress.

In a Pew Research poll in July of 2015, 85% of Americans favor background checks for all firearm sales, including private and gun shows.  The poll found 88% of Democrats, and 79% of Republicans, were in favor of these controls in the polls taken in 2013 and 2015.  So ask yourself, how come just this year we could not get one gun control measure to pass Congress?

So how come, with clear evidence that the NRA is influencing members of Congress to ignore the will of the people, we have all our energy focusing on the Clinton Foundation?  I bet it is because Congress doesn’t get any of that money.  Is it that the Clintons are doing wrong, or is it that they do it so well the small timers in Congress are envious?

Contributing money to political campaigns is a long-honored tradition.  Giving positions to these contributors has also been accepted. When our governor here in South Carolina, Niki Haley, was first elected, she replaced Darla Moore on the University of South Carolina board— a woman who had contributed over $50 Million dollars directly to the school–with a lawyer who had contributed $3,500 to the governor’s campaign.  This was acceptable.

So explain to me why money is contributed to political campaigns? It must be from the goodness of our hearts. I am sure none of these contributors has any political agenda.  I am sure the person that contributed large amounts of money to a political cause never expects their phone call to be answered.  Again what I think is, the Clintons are really good at what they do, and people get envious and nervous.  But, like in sports, in politics the cream always rises to the top. And we don’t always like the best, but you have to tip your hat to them.

Presidential Debates 2016

So as we get ready for the presidential debates, I have to ask what we expect to learn.  Based on the type of antics that happened during the primary season, we could not learn very much.  Is there anymore we can learn about Hillary and email?  Is there anything Donald can say that won’t convince us he is a loudmouth, ruthless business man?  Both have lied to us, so again, what can we learn there?  We have seen Donald insult, interrupt, and belittle his opponents on stage.  Is it possible he could show us he can be presidential—not  really likely?

We have two people, that when it comes to personal traits, are flawed, so let’s not rehash that over and over.  None of us will learn anything from that.  I want to know specifics on how both of their tax plans will help us.  I want to know how these plans will affect the lowering of the national debt.  Let them argue about that for a while.

I have heard a lot of plans for free college, wall building, gun reform, law and order, and immigration.  All of these sound like nice chapter headings.  I would like to hear details about just how these ideas get paid for, how we get Congress to pass these bills, and how these presidential candidates are planning to work with Congress to get these ideas to happen.

So what are our expectations?  Well, I would like a few things to happen differently.  First of all, ask questions of substance.  Second, control the speaker’s time: if they run over by more than 30 seconds, turn off the mike.  As long as there is a microphone switch, why not use it when they try to interrupt each other?  This is probably too much to ask for because it won’t be as entertaining.

As much as we love to talk about 3rd party, we have a republic with an election process based on a majority of the electoral vote, so it is simply not viable for a third party candidate to win an election.  Therefore in reality, we have two candidates to choose from here.  We need to place anger aside, because it’s easy to understand how both these people can make you mad at times, and start to look at facts.  This is an interview process for our President.  We need to hear about qualifications, real ideas, and vision.  Stop the personal attacks for a while, because on that front the real losers are us, the American people.

America is mad

America is mad. There is no other way to say it. It is clear that the 15 or so million people that actively support Trump are filled with anger and are mad at the Republican Party. I believe that Trump is not a Republican, but I see that he analyzed that people were madder at the Republicans than the Democrats.

Republicans, start listening. After the 2012 election, the GOP had a postmortem to look back and say what we have done wrong. Yet they still continue to cling to the same issues, expecting a different outcome.

A simple example is funding for the Zika virus. Attached to the funding of that bill was de-funding Planned Parenthood. So they rationalized that they had to take funding from someplace to balance the budget. But was anyone surprised that the funding didn’t pass? But they were able to say, “Oh the Democrats blocked that funding.” In the end, the American public loses, and Congress maintained their perfect record of not getting anything done.

So since our Congress is currently controlled by the GOP, is it any wonder that there is a segment of the population that is angry and looking for a crude loudmouth to stick it right in their face? Enter Trump.

During the GOP Convention, I did see that Trump said positive things about gay rights and pro women’s issues. Neither was rejected by the crowd. Actually, Trump has a number of issues that could be considered in conflict with the Traditional Conservative Movement. So in the interest of turning lemons into lemonade, I would suggest that our Republicans in office listen to the American people on some of these “less Conservative issues“, because between all the Democrats and the crowd at the last convention , this country is not interested in wasting time and money governing these issues.

But will they learn? Only time will tell.

 

 

 

Only a Fool Follows a Fool

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is the domestic intelligence and security service of the United States, which simultaneously serves as the nation’s prime federal law enforcement agency.   This is a quote from Wikipedia.  I believe this best describes the FBI and its importance to our way of life here in the United States. The current Director, Mr. James Comey, is a former United States Deputy Attorney General, who was appointed to that Position by President George W Bush.  Prior to that position he was a US Attorney for the southern district of New York.  Mr. Comey is a man of impeccable reputation, and he was born in my hometown of Yonkers, NY.

During the Republican National Convention, two  former US attorneys publicly questioned the judgment and reputation of the FBI, various agents,  and its director.  Many of you may have heard both these former prosecutors make speeches regarding their opinion of the legal issues regarding the Democratic Candidate for President, but what I heard was two people that should have known better.  Let’s look for a second at the issue here.

The FBI spent months accumulating thousands of pieces of evidence.  They reviewed all this evidence.  They had exhaustive interviews with all the principles involved in this issue.  The various agents assigned to this issue analyzed all the data.  They reviewed all the data with the Director.  Then based on all this review and analysis, the FBI Director presented their recommendation.  Now these two former federal prosecutors, without access to ANY of the evidence or review with any of the agents assigned to this issue, decided that the FBI was wrong.

But you can’t blame them because they took their lead from the House Committee on questioning everything.  What I find most disturbing about this is that all these people and committees are basically saying that the FBI, the nation’s prime federal law enforcement agency, can be compromised by a private citizen.  That even though there must be enough evidence to convict a private citizen, that agency, its agents, and its Director can be influenced and compromised.  That means these people are saying the FBI is corrupt.

Let’s just stop right here for a second and let that sink in.  Do any of us really believe that the FBI is a corrupt law enforcement agency?   I for one don’t.   For this basic reason we have to start and accept something.  We need to stop all the yelling and start to look at facts.  And just maybe accept that people that have devoted their life to security and law enforcement might know what they are doing.  And people that have spent their life in the military might also know what they are doing.  Without FACTS and DATA, and the knowledge to use that information, a person that claims to have all the answers is a fool.

And without offending anyone only a fool follows a fool.

 

 

 

 

 

Tax reform / Flat Tax

About 25 years ago, I saw that my personal taxes were becoming more complex than simply filling out a short form (1040EZ). Thinking to myself that I had not met anyone in a tax preparation office that seemed any smarter than me, I concluded that the difference between them and me was a tax preparation training class. I signed up to take a class at one of those national companies that have stores all over the country. It was a class they give to people that want to prepare tax returns during the tax season. What I discovered was that you can learn to prepare your own taxes once you know how to research your specific tax issues. Once you know the law or issue, the rest is simply applied mathematics.

I was listening to these candidates talk about their “flat tax proposals.” Since I have a pretty good working knowledge of the current tax system, I decided to calculate a family of four’s taxes based on a simple return with $100,000 combined income, standard deduction, and 4 exemptions. In 2015 their tax bill will be $9,802. That is 9.8%. Then I calculated the taxes for a family of 4 making $60,000 per year, and their tax bill would be $3,802 or 6.3%.

There is something called a child tax credit which would provide additional tax credits, and that would further lower this family’s taxes. In both of these cases, it appears to me that a “flat tax” of 10% would actually increase these two families’ tax liability.

I dislike when people talk in broad terms without details and substance. Frankly, it makes me think they are trying to sell me something I never really wanted. Now I am sure that there is going to be plenty of discussion before a flat tax is implemented BUT, I wonder how many of these politicians promoting the idea of a flat tax do their own taxes and actually understand the current code.

Every time I hear talk about lowering taxes, it seems that the really rich people (incomes over $500,000) save a bundle. And people making less than $100,000 don’t save very much. The devil is in the details, and these people don’t give us any details.

Should We Question the Election Process?

Thursday March 3 2016 will go down in history as the day the Republican Party told their electorate, it doesn’t matter who you vote for in the primary, it doesn’t matter who won those dozen debates. We the party elders will choose for you the best candidate. Mitt Romney laid out a plan to use the voters to stop the front runner, so that he and the “leaders” of the Republican Party could do whatever they want come the convention. Let me say I am not a supporter of either Donald Trump or Ted Cruz, but I am very much a supporter of the election process. I believe that we need to have the will of the people listened to. It has become increasing clear to me that career politicians don’t act on the will of the people, but do what they want. In the current election process, many of us can find reasons why we believe some of the candidates running for president will be bad, these are called opinions. We as Americans have a right to express them and that is beauty of this country. When the career politicians, refuse to allow items that affect us to be voted on in congress, when they ignore the election process, with backroom deals, they are stealing the democracy we cherish so much. This year’s primary process demonstrated that the people in this country are not satisfied with business as usual. We the people need to start ignoring the political party of the people we elect, and start looking at the people we elect; we need to elect people that WILL represent our best interests, not their party leader’s interests.