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WARREN, LOBBYING AND THE ONION

WARRREN, LOBBYING AND THE ONION

Lobbying as practiced today and with its funding unleashed by the Supreme Court in its democracy destroying holding of Citizens United has left political decisions in the hands of those who can afford the luxury, namely, the rich and corporate class, big banks and individuals such as the Mercers and the Koch Brothers. Individual citizens such as you and I are unnecessary to the process and are largely ignored because we, in plain words, have too little money to influence political outcomes.3

This situation is a cancer on our democracy (or what is left of it) which cries out for reform and should not be a subject of humor, but Elizabeth Warren in her new and serious book, This Fight is our Fight, quotes a piece from the satirical publication, The Onion, to point up how we are not represented these days, as follows: “A few years ago The Onion published a story with the fictional headline – American People Hire High-Powered Lobbyist to Push Interests in Washington. Beneath that tease was an article about a lobbyist from the high-powered firm Patton Boggs who was hired by the people to represent their interests because they ‘lack a voice in the legislative process.’” Truth frequently masquerades via satire, and this is such an instance. Citizens United has drowned out our voices as citizens under an avalanche of money and lobbying provided by special interests.

We the people are increasingly shut out of the process by Big Money, and how big? More is paid in lobbying per year ($2.7 billion) than we taxpayers pay to keep the House and Senate running! Lobbying, as Warren notes, has so distorted the legislative process in Washington that our congressional representatives now have real trouble connecting with the people who sent them to D.C., and there are good reasons for that.

Consider, as she has, complex regulations. She notes that “Who, other than government, has the resources and the skills to dig into a thousand-page document, read every single line, and tweak a sentence so that it no longer bans some profitable industry practice? Who will find the paragraph that, if changed just slightly, can create a giant loophole? Who? A partner at a big law firm paid by a big corporation to lobby, that’s who. Lobbying is effective because a major industry can hire an army of lobbyists, and those lobbyists can dedicate a vast supply of resources to scouring every law, regulation, and opinion letter issued by the government. All this work provides ammunition to get the government to change the rules in the industry’s favor.” The system is rigged and those who insist that we are living in a democracy (which includes the idea, among others, that the Congress represents the people) are peddling propaganda lite.

So who are some of the connecting links between our congressional people and the special interests? By far the biggest is the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, whose big beautiful building in Washington stands across the park from the White House. The Chamber is well-financed by dues from its members and is so powerful that it amounts to an alternative government. The CEO of the Chamber in his elevated office can look down on the smaller office of the President of the United States. The Chamber’s Hall of Flags lends credence to the idea that the Chamber could pass as a sovereign nation, and is reinforced by the visual of its CEO who can look down on the Oval Office, a CEO who explains that “we have to raise five million dollars a week to run this place.”

The Chamber’s lobbyists’ job (per Warren) is to explain to the federal government what laws should or should not be passed. You and I are not involved. Their advice when followed either pro or con is, of course, backed up with bags of “campaign contributions,” formerly known as bribes before the propaganda of the rich and corporate class persuaded the rest of us that such shenanigans were legitimate and a political court’s holding in Citizens United which opened the floodgates of unlimited “bribes” by corporations and others to candidates of their choosing (see Ryan, McConnell and other sellouts of democracy). Again, you and I are not involved, and one wonders whatever happened to Lincoln’s pronouncement of “that government of the people, by the people and for the people” and the long  and oft-repeated mantra that “sovereignty rests with the people.”

Let’s tell it like it truly is: Our government these days is not that of, by or for the people; it is for the rich and corporate class and their lobbyists who write the bills for their congressional toadies to present as though such bills arose from a groundswell of public opinion, all as now formally approved by the holding in Citizens United.  Does anyone reading this believe that an ordinary American knows anything about such bills written by lobbyists and their hired help in the shadow of the Capitol and Oval Office? Of course not, nor does any average American not reading this know any of such bills’ contents.

It gets worse. It is not only average Americans who are shut out of the process but even members of Congress who vote on bills they have never read because their party whip demands a yes or no vote based upon party loyalty and having nothing to do with whether the bill is good or bad for America and its people, and why not? We the people have no money and reelection of such political sycophants is assured every two or six years via a torrent of money and propaganda from such as the Chamber, a Chamber that provides a cover for its members who can hide in anonymity behind their lobbyists for fear of boycott, shareholder suits etc.

Even worse still and apparently for fear of leaks that would lead to critical review by the press and Democrats, the Republican leadership in the Senate (read McConnell)  will currently not even divulge the contents of proposed legislation to his own party members while demanding that they vote for such a bill! That’s democracy? That’s a vote for “the will of the people?” Neither the people nor the politicians they elect know what’s in the bill!

So we know what it isn’t, but what is it? It’s legislative dictatorship pure and simple, the same sort of democracy-destroying tactics that McConnell employed in refusing to allow a vote for almost a year on a Supreme Court justice. It appears that the Bannon-inspired wannabe dictator Trump has been joined in his quest for sole power by the legislative branch as everyone is getting in on the act.

What to do? First, we must see to it that Ryan and McConnell and their lookalikes enjoy their retirement while at their new jobs as lobbyists beyond the revolving door, but most importantly (if we are to rescue our democracy) we must have public financing of political campaigns, undo Citizens United, publicize the intent and purpose of pending legislation for all to see and evaluate irrespective of legislative rules etc., after which we can begin to enjoy the blessings of democracy, though remaining vigilant when further attacks are made on this our most precious possession, our democracy, without which America is nothing more than an ATM machine.

When to start re-nourishment of our democratic institutions? Yesterday.     GERALD      E

LEWIS POWELL AND RONALD REAGAN (PART II)

 

LEWIS POWELL AND RONALD REAGAN (PART II)

Powell was a lawyer from Richmond, Virginia, who represented Big Tobacco (long after the Surgeon General’s finding that smoking causes cancer). His infamous memo of 1971 to his friend and a vice president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce outlined a means of having big business take over the American political process (which, of course, would sound the death knell of the New Deal). The memo was kept secret for two months so that Nixon could appoint him to the Supreme Court and the memo did not become known to the Senate prior to his confirmation. He was confirmed and the rich and corporate class took his memo to heart and have indeed taken over America’s politics in a near if not fatal blow to FDR’s New Deal policies. The record speaks for itself: we have had little real economic growth since compared with the enormous growth we experienced under the New Deal and we have had numerous recessions as wage inequality has stifled aggregate demand, but, the Dow has exploded as a greedy Wall Street consumes the economy’s income and worker productivity gains while millions of Americans made and are continuing to make the transit downward from the middle to the poverty class and the resulting lack of demand is giving us an economy almost always on the edge of recession. Thanks, Justice Powell. Just what we needed. We appreciate your help.

Ronald Reagan came to office under the auspices of free-market capitalism. His loud backers cast his trickledown economic plans as those of “liberty” and “freedom” when they were neither; they instead represented the end of New Deal policies, policies that had operated to fairly distribute the wealth and income of the economy for the preceding some forty years to all and not just the few. Trickledown economics basically says that if you give money to the rich and corporate class that the trickledown effect will be that they will open new factories and in general stimulate the economy and thus everyone will prosper.

Sounds good, but guess what? It doesn’t work out that way. The gifted few put the money in their pockets or send it to Switzerland under some bank number protected from detection by the IRS via layers of trustees. No new factories are opened because there is tepid demand for their goods and services due to wage inequality, and why should those so gifted produce more goods to sit on warehouse shelves in Omaha or Dallas?

Obviously little demand for corporate goods and services is going to call for contraction rather than expansion in the marketplace and, as I have blogged before, why should corporate America risk investment in expansion in the marketplace when their profit picture doesn’t depend upon the efficient and competitive production of goods and services but rather in large part on how much they can milk out of the American economy via tax cuts, underpaying their workforce and escaping regulatory control? Trickledown economics doesn’t work, never has and never will, being oblivious to reality.

Elisabeth Warren in her new book This Fight is our Fight rightly notes that “The Reagan administration proudly embraced the idea of ‘deregulation,’ as if financial and corporate regulations were the biggest problems faced by Americans – rather than the wrongs those regulations were designed to prevent.” Apparently then as now under the Republican perspective, it was and is more important to protect a corporate giant from government than is was and is to protect a customer, investor, or small competitor from the actions of a corporate giant, but that requires an understanding of what the congressional intent was in passing anti-trust laws, consumer protection laws and the Dodd-Frank Act and what such laws were designed to do. The design of these and other such laws was and is good but their enforcement or even continuing exististence under Republican administrations has been scuttled by rich campaign contributors via their congressional friends eager for funding in the next election.

So is the New Deal dead due to the machinations of the rich and corporate class and their front men such as Powell and Reagan? Almost. The Wagner Act and the Fair Labor Standards Act are still on the books, for instance, though unenforced.

Can the New Deal be resurrected? Yes, but only as a new New Deal. Much has changed since the time FDR came into power in 1933, and a new New Deal should reflect that reality with different policy responses given our interim experiences, but, and this is an important but, even new policy responses should be made with the fundamental ideas of FDR in his now old New Deal, to wit: that the economy should work for all of us with a fair apportionment of its wealth and income to both corporate moguls and investors and the workforce.

All of us, as FDR proved in saving market capitalism, can prosper, unlike (thanks to such as Powell and Reagan and others) the present arrangement where the rich are getting richer and the middle class is being hollowed out as millions are falling from that class into an expanding poverty class, a recipe for failure at some point down the road. Count me as a New Dealer open to change but not the fundamental ideas that spawned the changes we so desperately needed in 1933 and, increasingly, today.     GERALD      E

LEWIS POWELL AND RONALD REAGAN (PART I)

My followers have read many of my posts concerning the two men in the above title who had a lot to do with ending FDR’s New Deal policies (to the everlasting detriment of America and its people). Ex-Speaker Newt Gingrich has said that his main purpose in living was to end the New Deal, and others have voiced their displeasure and even disgust with what Roosevelt did and was trying to do long before the tea party existed and long before (and since) Gingrich the professor was denied tenure at West Georgia College and turned his attention to a greedy politics funded by the rich and corporate class.

FDR’s mortal sin? He was trying to even the playing field and adopted plans and policies that would bring America out of depression and into prosperity for the many as well as the few. He succeeded well beyond anyone’s expectations and America had a prosperous and relatively downturn-free economy for more than forty years thereafter. Wage inequality was unknown as both the workforce and their employers fairly shared the economy’s wealth and income and real economic growth went from good to great. The economy under his leadership and that of his successors of both parties zoomed as America also became the leader of the free world by example. Postwar Europe and Japan followed his lead from the devastation of war to their current lives as prosperous democracies (while we have regressed).

His New Deal programs were the order of the day and Republican as well as Democratic presidents who followed FDR continued his New Deal policies with the result that we had a prosperous economy long after his death – until Powell and Reagan came upon the scene with their policies of impoverishment of the many in favor of enrichment of the few in 1971 and 1981, respectively.

Let’s review some more history before noting how the destruction of the New Deal has ravaged our economy by funneling its income and wealth to the rich and corporate class while simultaneously impoverishing the working poor and throwing millions from the middle class into poverty, brought on, among other things, by a severe lack of regulation of the big banks, whose machinations prior to Bush’s Great Recession included but were not limited to sales of credit derivatives and fraudulent sales of packaged mortgages to unsuspecting buyers such as retirement funds for nurses, police and firemen, all of which brought us a Bush-inspired hair-raising domestic recession and a near global economic meltdown reminiscent of the stock market crash of 1929 followed by The Great Depression.

Our hysteria at the time and our fears based on the prospect of another Great Depression were in response to what was going on at the time; the insolvency of big Wall Street banks, hundreds of billions in bailouts, trillions of dollars lost in homeowners’ equity in their homes, brutally high unemployment etc. The Bush administration’s response? Further relaxation of already-relaxed banking rules and regulations (which is what got us into this near fatal mess in the first place) and an open pocketbook for cheap loans from the Fed to the banks in order for them to get their house in order as we flirted with a global economic meltdown. It was a scary time as another 1929 loomed in our future with another Hoover II experience in the offing.

We will never know how a different approach would have worked out. Iceland, for instance, nationalized their banks, had the banks’ shareholders take the loss, installed new management and returned the banks to such new managers and now have a functioning and prosperous banking community. Here we left the managers in place even though it was their reckless disregard for good banking practices (and our failure to regulate them) that caused the crisis in the first palace. Unlike Iceland, we bailed out our Wall Street big banks, provided them with massive loans from the Fed for a restart and extended our forgiveness from bankruptcy to not only the banks but to their insurers, vendors and even their shareholders. Given such public largesse, our banks like those of Iceland are now functioning and prosperous, even more so than before, due in part to Republican removal of some of the provisions of the Dodd-Frank Act of 2010 designed to foil a repeat of reckless banking practices, practices such as allowing FDIC funds to be used once again in their investments along with other such time bombs in again trusting banks and corporations to allocate risk in the marketplace for us free of regulation.

So how could such an emergency come to pass in the first place? Why did this happen? We were told that we could trust the banks and our corporate culture and that they needed little if any regulation since they were equipped to fairly and honestly allocate risk in the market and would do so. We all know the result – a nearly global depression due to the greed and reckless investment practices of the banks and corporations who had promised us that regulation of their activities was unnecessary and that they could do a better job with self-regulation than regulations imposed by government supervision.

Events afterwards (see their billions paid in fines for mortgage fraud) prove that they lied and remains as self-evidentiary proof that greed overwhelms duty in the marketplace under the aegis of free market capitalism and that contrary to those today who lament government’s regulation of banks and corporations as invasions of their businesses and profit making, the people through their government are better and more honestly equipped to regulate banks and corporations than they are. I hope this is the last time we invite the foxes into the henhouse on their promises that the chickens will prosper rather than be devoured under the foxes’ tutelage. Stay tuned for Part II.     GERALD       E

SLAVERY REVISITED (A THUMBNAIL SKETCH)

SLAVERY REVISITED (A THUMBNAIL SKETCH)

A world without slavery as an institution is relatively new in human history. Slavery was common and typical in ancient societies and was with us for thousands of years (and may still be with us in adulterated form today modified to fit our democratic institutions). It was un-condemned by religious as well as secular authorities in days of yore and was so common that it was considered a “given” (just the way things were) because in fact it was just the way things were. Jesus had little to nothing to say about the institution and the Apostle Paul used the phrase “whether slave or free” in adding slaves to gentiles who had a shot at heaven, but Christianity, like other religions of that day, had little to nothing to say about the moral component of the institution.

Slavery was at bottom an economic and not a moral issue in those times. Slavery provided zero labor costs and, for instance, slaves in cotton-picking economies in our American South and South American slaves who labored in gold and silver mines for the Spanish added to the bottom lines of those who produced cotton for the textile looms of Massachusetts and of Leeds and Manchester in England and for such bluebloods as Isabella and Ferdinand of Spain and their middlemen. As today, the cheaper the labor the fatter the bottom line, whether the proceeds wound up in the hands of royalty from the production and sale of cotton, precious metals, and monopoly trade granted by royal charter to the East India Tea Company for the Indian trade, or from private enterprise where kings and queens took their cuts from the proceeds, a rather cozy arrangement.

Though slavery was at bottom an economic institution, my thesis in this essay is that slavery as an institution has undergone considerable change and that, as it has evolved, is still with us today in modified form without the “loom or lash” arguments of Massachusetts abolitionists prior to our own Civil War, abolitionists who introduced a moral component to the idea that one human can own another one and that the latter is a mere chattel who can be bought or sold as in a cattle market.

I have often speculated that if Watt’s steam engine power which supplanted human labor and which drove the Industrial Revolution had occurred in the Congo instead of England that we white people might well have been the cotton pickers. It was an accident of history that we in this country associate slavery with black people; historically whites enslaved whites, blacks enslaved blacks, blacks enslaved whites, and yes, whites enslaved blacks. The sense of the times was that a slave was a slave, hence the Nubians in Egyptian history, the Jews in Babylonian and Assyrian history, among others. Cheap to zero cost labor, after all, knows no class or color. Such people are chattel property, and that’s the way it is. My side won, your side lost. I own you.

The booming textile looms of Manchester and Leeds in England before our Civil War depended heavily upon slave-picked cotton from our American South and England nearly went to war with the Yankee North when Northern ships blockaded Southern ports during the war and dried up their source of supply. It amounted (along with Luddite-type complaints) to an economic disaster for English textile manufacturers and some wanted England to go to war with the North (it would have been their third with us). Instead, thankfully, they quickly introduced cotton growing in Egypt on a massive scale to feed their hungry looms.

It is to be noted here that such English entrepreneurs had no compunctions with slavery as an institution; their choice of war that didn’t happen was purely economic, quite a different grounds for war than that of the abolitionists in Massachusetts, a state that also had a lively textile industry which depended upon cheap slave-picked cotton from the South. The abolitionists had a different take on slavery than one based purely on economics; they thought it was morally wrong. Imagine!

Per my thesis for this post, I see no difference between the views of the English entrepreneurs in their day than those of today’s employers who use their “middlemen” in the Congress to impose a new form of slavery upon the American workforce. Thus while the institution of slavery has evolved and employers today don’t put the lash to those who are unproductive or who “talk back” as in the antebellum old South, they can fire them, send their jobs offshore, play the “reduction in force” game to finance stock buybacks among other things, and via their state right to work and other such restrictive laws sponsored by their employers can see to it that their union representation is missing in action, all amounting to an economic “lashing” of the American workforce and without regard to race, color, gender etc. It’s an economic thing – their employers “own” them; they have no rights: they are once again chattels; their job is to further enrich the already rich. I call that a new form of slavery by political process.

Such employer tactics given legal force through their bought toadies in the Congress are not what we may think about when we think of the term “slavery” but I think that we need such a redefinition of just what slavery means as it is practiced today against a background of evolving norms of the institution and the intrusion of politicians into employer-employee relations. I submit that the practices of modern day slavery can be found in, for instance, median wages (as adjusted for inflation) that have not increased in forty years, union representation for workers’ rights that are virtually extinct since Reagan’s firing of the air controllers preceded by Powell’s infamous memo to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on how businesses can take over the American political process (which they did), congressional refusal to provide a minimum wage that is a living wage (with its deadening effect on aggregate demand etc.).

So, are we slaves as measured by a redefinition of the institution of slavery? Yes. Welcome to the plantation! So what are we going to do about it? Easy. We will start with a change in the slave-holders’ captives among the sycophants in the Congress, elect “abolitionists,” abolish wage inequality, remove “chattel” from the lexicon and really make America great again, but an America for all the people and not just the coddled few, an America that fully and finally renounces slavery in all its forms. It won’t be easy and it won’t be soon, but our task is clear and our cause is just, so let’s get on with it.    GERALD     E

 

 

 

 

HOW REGULATIONS SAVED AMERICAN BUSINESS

HOW REGULATIONS SAVED AMERICAN BUSINESS

When Franklin Delano Roosevelt (a rich and only child whose family owned vast tracts of land in the Hudson River Valley) took office in the spring of 1933, America was on the verge of failed state status. Virtually everyone was broke or headed that way. Unemployment was rampant and even those who had jobs were working for slave wages. I was witness to the massive poverty and despair of that day, and my personal experience with The Great Depression has had a lasting effect on me and how I look at the role of government in our experiment in democracy aka America.

I was six years old at the time FDR was inaugurated. My father was a coal miner and there was little to no demand for the carbon product he helped produce. We were, as the saying goes, “dirt poor.” We could not even afford coal for our stove; we picked up coal along the mine’s railroad tracks that ,had fallen off the mine’s cars en route to mainline tracks in 50 pound gunny potato sacks and brought it home in a little red wagon. We had no car or other means of transport. We walked to the store and church and swimming holes. Our power was cut off frequently because we could not afford the dollar a month charged by the utility. We managed to cook and see with a kerosene stove and lamps.

To even have imagined in those days that I would ultimately become a college and law school graduate would have been pure fantasy as years of daily despair and hopelessness took their toll on our hopes and dreams as well as our bodies, but it happened. How and why? It happened because Roosevelt aggressively adopted policies designed to pull us out of the throes of the depression, policies which at the time earned him designations by corporate America of “socialist” and other unkind expressions in the interest of maintaining their ownership of America’s government and economy. FDR’s classic rejoinder in response to such corporate insults was “I welcome their hatred.” The irony of all this is that the man they hated rescued capitalism and saved them from themselves.

In addition to new agencies he created with acronyms such as the WPA, TVA, FDIC and others, and knowing how corporate America had ravaged the American economy under the laissez faire administrations of his predecessors in office, i.e., Harding, Coolidge and Hoover, he also created the SEC and other such corporate cops to police the markets and strengthened anti-trust enforcement in order to ensure competition with the resulting lowering of prices to consumers and improvement in efficiencies in the production of goods and services due to the competitive and innovative forces his policies unleashed.

The process is itself called regulation and, like in the days of its absence during the 1920s and again today, corporate America and its front man, Trump, are calling once again for less regulation of actors in the marketplace (along with massive tax cuts for the rich and corporate class), the very mistakes that gave us The Great Depression and Bush’s Great Recession. Will we ever learn that regulation of the marketplace provides the stability and competition necessary to prevent the “boom and bust” experiences of the past, or are we driven to comply with the corporate propaganda of the rich and corporate class that regulation strangles economic growth when it plainly and demonstrably does not.

Corporate America’s heyday of virtually no regulation during the 1920s under the laissez faire administrations of Harding, Coolidge and Hoover (which gave a free hand to corporations to effectively decide policy without government “interference” in Wall Street’s shenanigans) gave us The Great Depression. Corporations that mercilessly destroyed their competition as John D. Rockefeller did during the first Gilded Age before Teddy Roosevelt put an end to it with his robust anti-trust policies are up to their old tricks again with their uncompetitive practices and mergers and acquisitions in buying out their competition so they can raise prices to consumers as they are the only game (monopolists) in town.

Anti-trust laws are still on the books but toothless unless enforced, and Trump and his profit-seeking corporate partners advocate still less enforcement, thus placing our economy at greater risk when we know from history that vigorous enforcement of anti-trust laws enhances competition and efficiency in the market which in turn provides stability of the economy and the opportunity for real economic growth as opposed to corporate and banking pursuit of short term profits.

How do we know? Well, our boom and bust economy for roughly every 20 years in history was interrupted by no “busts” of consequence following adoption of FDR’s New Deal policies of regulation and anti-trust enforcement beginning in the 1930s through both Republican and Democratic administrations up to that of Ronald Reagan, who decided that “government is the enemy,” following which (and predictably) the boom and bust forces reasserted their ownership of the economy which, along with the disastrous repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933 that outlawed the merger of investment banking with commercial banking and Bush’s massive and first in history wartime tax cut for the rich and corporate class during his Iraqi caper gave us Bush’s Great Recession and both a domestic and global recession, a crisis now in remission though still felt in certain sectors of the economy and our work force as automation and offshoring took their piece of economic flesh in response with trillions lost in home equity via mortgage foreclosures when millions of people lost their homes due to Bush’s demand-deadening recession in which Wall Street bankers exacerbated the crisis with their mortgage fraud and packaging of such worthless mortgages for sale to unwitting investors such as teachers, firemen and police retirement funds.

So now we are asked by Trump and his corporate and banking sponsors to reset the stage with the same conditions that brought us near ruin and trust corporate America to manage the risk on our behalf without regulation or input of government because it’s good for business? What about the vast majority of the rest of us who are not “in business?” Have we learned nothing from history and what works for all of us and not just the coddled few? Apparently not, not in this age of corporate propaganda and a Congress that has abdicated any pretense to representation of the real interests of real people in the real world in favor of campaign contributions (aka bribes) from those whose interests they in fact represent. That’s their “real world.”

So what now? To restate the obvious > Remove the representatives of the money changers and their corporate welfare recipients and install representatives of the people to positions of power so that we can have a regulated economy that works for all of us, including even those who are regulated though they cling to the notion of Gilded Age politics. FDR made it happen in 1933 and for years afterwards,  and it’s our turn to make it happen again, starting today.      GERALD      E

 

 

SOVEREIGNTY – THE SUPREME POWER TO DECIDE

SOVEREIGNTY – THE SUPREME POWER TO DECIDE

Donald Trump has generally denounced both NAFTA and WTO treaties and protocols with political lingo designed to get votes or inflame his base, or both. He says we are being taken to the cleaners and that NAFTA is the worst trade treaty we ever made, threatening during the campaign to end both of such pacts but since saying only that they must be re-negotiated on more suitable terms, probably due to pressure from Wall Street and businesses involved in the billions of dollars in trade daily under the aegis of these two pacts by people and corporations who are faring well and who are his supporters (since he has promised to lower their taxes and reduce regulations on their activities). It’s called heat, and according to Elizabeth Warren, such trade pacts are written by and for giant corporations, so it makes sense that Trump has softened his stance on withdrawing from such trade treaties.

However, he is (for a change) correct on at least one facet common to trade pacts we make – that we are losing our sovereignty not to some invading military force but rather by agreement. We have established boards and panels within the WTO trading family who (by agreement) can make rules that override the laws and ordinances made in this country and seek injunctive and money damages relief in rulings by unelected and unknown “trade” panelists upon complaint and proof by those who allege they lost money or even that their profits would have been higher but for the interference in, for instance, in Seattle, where they can complain and overturn laws and ordinances by everything from local zoning codes to state taxing authority and other such areas and are thus given powers that domestic American people and corporations in local markets do not have.

If my understanding of this arrangement is accurate or nearly so, then this in my view is wrong. If such foreign people and corporations have a business interest in this country and feel that they are being roughed up by the application of our laws and ordinances, they can file suit in American courts just as our American people and corporations do in order to assert their rights. Why should they be given preference and even decision-making on the merits by some shadowy panel created by a trade pact?  What ever happened to the Equal Protection of the Laws provision in the Constitution? How can American corporations compete given such advantages to their competitors?

Worse still, why should our sovereignty have ever been on the bargaining table in putting together trade pacts with the likes of China or anyone else, for that matter? Our sovereignty, or the supreme power to decide our fate, was purchased and maintained by the blood and treasure of American patriots, and I for one do not understand why or how some panel meeting in Shanghai can (by agreement) make an award enforceable in American courts for some transgression of supposed rights to profit or preferential treatment, or both.

There are clearly ancillary problems to be considered when dealing with some panel’s findings as well, including but not limited to proper evidentiary standards, right to trial by jury and other such American safeguards to grants or denials of appropriate relief. In all fairness, I think that our people and corporations should not be able to override the sovereign rights of other members via some panel whose judgment and whatever apparatus they have for appeal and enforceable in their courts either, and to the extent Trump may have recognized these mutual insults to the concept of national soverignty as intolerable he is right. We are told that in this country the people are sovereign. Really? I don’t remember ceding my country’s sovereignty to some panel meeting in Singapore or Berlin.

There seem to be many invasions of power-hungry levels of government one with another these days. Thus states have undercut the federal exercise of power under the New Deal’s Wagner and Fair Labor Standards Acts with their (badly misnamed) right to work statutes; states in turn have seen their clout diminished according to the spring 2017 edition of the United Steelworkers Union magazine where it is noted that in states such as Ohio and Kentucky “conservative politicians are looking at ways to pass anti-union legislation on the county level”. . . “so, literally, county councils and county commissioners may at the end of the day decide whether or not their counties are right-to-work.”

Then there is the usual battle between states and counties and municipalities who are seeking home rule treatment and states who are passing laws that tell such counties and municipalities what they can or cannot do (see immigration sanctuary, local tax caps etc.).

It seems that all these entities are in a battle to expand their respective clouts and, as it were, their mini-sovereignties in dealing with problems they argue are unique to their local state of affairs, but be that as it may, I see no reason to give our national sovereignty away to any other country under the cover of trade and commerce. Trade? Fine. Commerce? Fine. Giving away our supreme right to decide our fate (our sovereignty)? A thousand times no!

As my followers know, I am generally not in favor of any of Trump’s initiatives, but if he wants to isolate and abolish these invasions of our sovereignty in every trade pact to which we are signatory, I’m with him.     GERALD     E

 

 

 

THE ADMIXTURE OF RELIGION AND POLITICS

THE ADMIXTURE OF RELIGION AND POLITICS

Volumes could be written (and have been) on the topic for this essay, and what I will add via this effort are only a few observations and criticism on the passing scene from today’s perspective, a perspective largely Christian as well as representative of a few others whose belief systems include an afterlife as part of their package of rigidly held principles and doctrines, aka dogmatism, which excludes Buddhism and a few others.

To me and from the question of how such dogma itself became religion is the fundamental question of whether we have the religion of Jesus or one about him. If measured by such a yardstick of what he believed and talked about (he wrote nothing of substance other than a mark in the sand so far as we know), we find a rather scanty set of principles to follow beyond his endorsement of the Ten Commandments, some parables, and examples of his forgiveness of sin and claims of being the sole redemptive means of attaining bliss in the afterlife. In other writing I have dubbed him “the gentle Nazarene,” and so he was per the gospels.

He spoke in Aramaic, a Semitic language, and what he had to say, starting with the earliest gospel of Mark, has undergone any number of language re-dos, from the Greek to and through the King James version of the early 17th century through today’s versions. How much was lost or gained from the final canonization of the bible in 381 A.D. at the Second Council at Nicea could be and probably has been a subject for study itself, though I am unaware of such efforts; then of course there is the question of how much was lost or gained from the time of Jesus some three and one-half centuries later to the final canonization of the bible which is an unknown as well, among other lapses in interpretation of the written record.

In all events, whether today’s versions of gospel versions are accurate in every detail pales before the issue (in my opinion) of whether we have the religion of Jesus or one about him. Medieval monks and early church systems of popes and bishops came up with their own versions of what he is reported to have said and may have taken that ball and run with it, embellishing what he was reported to have said with their personal ideas on what he meant, which leaves us with the possibility that we are following a religion about rather than of Jesus. I recall vividly the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls and how we hoped there would be writings by Jesus himself to serve as a guide to our conduct free of medieval and papal influence, but alas! None was found.

The foregoing is prologue to a discussion of today’s admixture of religion and politics. Thus, for instance, how can Jerry Falwell, Jr., president of Liberty University (badly misnamed) and a supposed devout Christian, endorse Donald Trump for president? Yes, Jesus cavorted with prostitutes, tax collectors, and sinners of every variety, but never did he endorse such activities. He is said to have hated the sin and not the sinner, a crucial distinction.

The same cannot be said of Falwell, so I am led to wonder what motivated his endorsement, like forgiveness of Trump’s sins? That is not a power granted to Falwell by the terms of his own religion which he has to know, so what is in it for him with his endorsement of not only Trump but what Trump wants to do via body and soul-crushing policies which further enrich the already rich and further impoverish the already poor? How can that be reconciled with scripture, Blessed are the poor etc.?

Jesse Jackson (preacher and politician and love him or hate him) noted in one of his diatribes to the effect that he had read the bible through many times and that he had seen many references to helping the poor but not a single one that said to help the rich, so where is Falwell coming from? Why endorse not only the person in power but also what he wants to do to the poor as well? Where in the bible does he find that injunction? If there were elections in that day and age, would Jesus have endorsed Herod? Caesar? Some Babylonian king or Egyptian pharaoh? Not likely; he had bigger and better things to do.

While Jesus neatly sidestepped that volatile mixture of politics and religion with his statement “to render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what I God’s,” never so far as is known did he endorse either Caesar or Herod, leaving that issue on the table. He had bigger plans to deal with the human condition than the merely political, much bigger.

So who is Falwell by his clearly un-Christian conduct in the war on the poor worshipping? The god of Mammon? Is he in it for the bucks? Authority over his flock? Satiation of an inflated ego? Association with power figures? All or some of the above in addition to others not mentioned here? What?

Mixing politics with religion is a dangerous business, as Jesus wisely noted, and as Jerry Falwell, Jr. will learn in his surrender of the divine to the profane with his active participation in endorsement of  programs designed to make the rich richer and the poor poorer. By allying himself with the rich for whatever reasons, he is ignoring the meaning of the biblical parable which he ostensibly claims to believe, the one about a rich man having about as much chance for the afterlife as a camel has in getting through the eye of a needle.

That’s a tight squeeze, Messrs. Trump and Falwell. Good luck!        GERALD     E