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Archive for the ‘government’ Category

Congress – Least Productive Year

Tuesday, December 20th, 2011

Despite the lagging employment recovery of the recession, Congress has been less productive this year than any other according to Laura Litvan. It is “free market” politics. The internal contradictions that plague capitalism in no doubt find parallels in the Government which sets the legislation and power structure to maintain those contradictions.

Congress is ending what may be its least productive year on record after government shutdown threats, the collapse of debt-reduction talks and little action to fix the worst U.S. economy since the Great Depression.

Just 62 bills were signed into law through November this year, meaning that 2011 may fall short of the 88 laws enacted in 1995, the lowest number since the Congressional Record began keeping an annual tally in 1947. In 1995, as in this year, a new House Republican majority fought a Democratic president’s agenda.

This year’s partisan battles brought the U.S. to the brink of a government shutdown four times, caused a two-week furlough of Federal Aviation Administration workers and led Standard & Poor’s to lower the nation’s credit rating after it said lawmakers didn’t do enough to reduce the federal deficit.

“It’s been one of the worst Congresses in modern history,” said Representative Jim Cooper, a Tennessee Democrat. “We have failed to meet our minimum standards of competency and endangered America’s credit rating. We have failed to pass key legislation on time. And there is very little hope for improved behavior.”

Voter approval ratings for Congress are at record lows. Republicans, ranked lower than Democrats, insist both parties are to blame.

“People have a right to be frustrated and disappointed, so next year may be a good year for challengers,” said Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona, the No. 2 Senate Republican leader.

Risks to Economy

The inaction by Congress poses risks to the economy, said Ed Yardeni, president of Yardeni Research Inc. in New York. While the unemployment rate hovered around 9 percent most of the year, he said Congress did little to stimulate job growth. Lawmakers also were unwilling to make deep budget cuts or raise taxes to rein in the deficit.

“Usually gridlock is seen as a good thing from the stock market’s perspective, but clearly the out-of-control federal deficit needs to be addressed and there is no political will to do it,” Yardeni said.

S&P, in its ratings downgrade, said the government is becoming “less stable, less effective and less predictable.” Even so, the government’s borrowing costs fell to record lows as Treasuries rallied.

The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note fell from 2.56 percent on Aug. 5 to below 1.72 percent on Sept. 22. The yield on the 10-year note was 1.84 percent at 2:35 p.m. New York time today.

Voters Critical

The public is less sanguine. Seventy-six percent of registered voters in a Nov. 28-Dec. 1 Gallup Poll said most members of Congress don’t deserve to be re-elected, the highest percentage in the 19 years Gallup has asked that question.

A Dec. 7-11 Pew Research Center poll found 40 percent of adults blame Republican leaders for a “do-nothing” Congress, while 23 percent blame Democrats.

“It’s more likely that Republicans will be hit harder than Democrats,” said David Rohde, a political scientist at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina.

In a year dominated by budget clashes, Congress passed a few significant measures.

Congress approved free-trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama. The South Korea deal was the biggest since 1993’s North American Free-Trade Agreement.

Patent Overhaul

Congress overhauled the patent system, long sought by companies such as International Business Machines Corp. (IBM) and Microsoft Corp (MSFT), and extended the USA Patriot Act until 2015, providing law enforcement continued power to track suspected terrorists.

Such output pales compared with 2010, when Congress approved a health-care overhaul, the biggest rewrite of Wall Street rules since the Great Depression, a nuclear arms reduction treaty with Russia and ended a ban against openly gay men and women serving in the military.

This year’s trade and patent bills, while important, are sideshows in the broader economic context, said Ross Baker, a professor of political science at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey.

“Those are not insignificant things, but none of them get to the meat of the economic crisis,” Baker said.

Most of President Barack Obama’s $447 billion job-creation agenda was opposed by Republicans and some Democrats who rejected his proposed new spending and tax increases on the wealthy to help pay for it.

Tax Credits

Congress approved tax credits for companies that hire unemployed veterans and canceled a requirement that federal, state and local governments begin withholding 3 percent of payments to contractors in 2013. This week, lawmakers are working to extend a payroll-tax cut for workers through 2012.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, a Virginia Republican, said a “fundamental divide” with Obama and a Democrat- controlled Senate stymied House Republicans, who sought to repeal the president’s health-care overhaul and create a Medicare voucher system.

House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio heralded a shift toward cutting the size of government after Republicans forced $38.5 billion in budget cuts this year and Congress agreed in August to reduce deficits by $2.4 trillion over a decade.

Social Security ‘Conversation’

“For the first time in my 21 years here there has been a serious conversation about dealing with the entitlement programs” such as Social Security and Medicare, Boehner said at a Dec. 14 breakfast sponsored by Politico.com, a political news web site. “We are talking about real change,” he said, adding that he wasn’t surprised the public has a low opinion of Congress.

Democratic leaders see it differently. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, told reporters today it was a “year of missed opportunities and made-up crises.”

The nation has “been engrossed in a year of manufactured crises, with multiple threats of a government shutdown and an increase of uncertainty for business and in our markets as a result of the debt ceiling being held hostage,” said Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland.

Independent analysts say that on the matter that dominated — deficit reduction — the results are murky.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said the $38.5 billion in spending cuts in this year’s budget, agreed in April to avert a government shutdown, cuts the deficit by just $352 million this year, with most savings coming later. Some money cut from programs wouldn’t have been spent anyway, so it wouldn’t do as much to curb a $1.3 trillion deficit, the CBO said.

Automatic Spending Cuts

The debt-reduction measure adopted in August relies on automatic spending cuts for about half of its $2.4 trillion in savings over a decade. A congressional supercommittee’s inability to agree on at least $1.2 trillion in cuts kicks the debate over specifics into next year. To achieve the rest of the deficit reduction, lawmakers must stick with annual caps on spending for a decade.

Based on experience, Congress won’t stick with the deficit- reduction deal for more than a few years, said Stan Collender, managing director of Qorvis Communications in Washington and a former House and Senate budget committee aide.

“Budget deals are always modified, seemingly in seconds after they’re enacted,” he said.

A battle we can win

Sunday, October 9th, 2011

Let us describe the way that social media background checks would be governed if the Government worked the way it should on behalf of the populace. If the Government really wanted to allow rights to its individual citizens, instead of allowing corporations to penalize people for free speech because corporations directly fund the capitalist and imperialistic Government, then some of the rights of corporations would be smaller. In exchange for a true right to free speech, employers would have to lose some of their rights to make hiring decisions off of political ideology or off the job legal conduct. What the bourgeois class loses, the middle and proletariat classes gain.

Instead all we hear about is “free markets,” the “rights” of employers and “democracy.” But below is a reasonable moderate social media policy. While many goals that the working class are shooting for are a bit out of reach, I do believe we can reach this goal. We can make it illegal for employers to penalize employees and potential employees based on off the job conduct that is legal and not directly impacting on business operations. I do believe the fear of being out of work in a bad economy causes a large amount of people to stay silent who otherwise would correctly fight harder for change.

When discussing social media, blogs and employment background checks, one of the trite arguments made by apologists for the bourgeois class is “if you make it public, then we can judge you on it.” In legal issues, the standard proof of criminal conviction is “beyond a reasonable doubt.” I believe a similar standard should be required of employers who assess employees not on their performance but on their lives outside of work. The standard must be that it must be determined, beyond a reasonable doubt, by a Jury that the conduct is directly causally related to a legitimate and proven loss of business (loss of customers, loss of employees) for such behavior to be retaliated against.

For example, if John Doe posts about his hatred of midgets and you find it on his facebook, your business should not be able to retaliate against John Doe by firing, not promoting or treating him differently simply because YOU are offended. Instead, John Doe’s right to free speech should be prioritized over your “right” to retaliate against him. Sure, you have the right to disagree with John Doe and say “hey, that is offensive, I disagree” but that should be the end of it.

John Doe has the right to say he does not like midgets or the Government of Iowa. A business should have to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt by a Jury, that John Doe making his “tweet” about midgets is costing the company employees or customers. Correlation is not causation. Now it is true, he did “put it there” and it is “public,” but if it is not directly tied to a business issue, retaliation should not be an option. You being offended about John Doe’s tweet should be an insufficient cause for termination, lack of promotion or consideration of the behavior.

We must find a strategy to lobby for such change in legislation, so that the American people can be truly empowered to speak up for their own interests instead of for the interests of the small minority who profit the most from doing in the private sector what the Government does not do in the public sector. Let us face it, until we develop labor solidarity, we will never have any rights.

It is entirely legitimate to make jokes, to speak informally when addressing friends, to post a picture, to make political opinions, to listen to music others do not like, to write music, to have a life. Until the government sets an example by criminalizing the retaliation against free speech in the private sector by employers against employees and potential employees, there are no rights in the “land of the free” (the land of imperialistic warfare, cosmopolitan greed, rootlessness, racial self-hatred and politicized religion).

Marxism and “the state”

Tuesday, April 19th, 2011

One turn off regarding Marxism for me has always been the misunderstood notion that “the state will wither away” in the words of Engels. However after reading more, I do not think it is as ridiculous as what one might think at first glance. It is only under specific utopian conditions that the state can wither away.

Below are some good links:

http://www.economictheories.org/2009/05/full-communism-ultimate-goal.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marx’s_theory_of_the_state
http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/lenin-staterev.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stateless_communism

Lenin distinguishes between the bourgeois state and the proliterian state which replaces it via revolution. Marx thought that the idea of capitalism dissolving peacefully was unlikely, and Lenin thought that this was totally impossible. The idea is that when the capitalist mode of production is replaced, then the state which is based on that mode of production should also be replaced. It is this secondary proliterian state that may wither away in a hypothetical setting, but as the links show, that was not a firm part of Marx or Lenin’s theory.

A key point here is that Lenin admits to the utopian nature of Communism. The argument is that socialism can be achieved by aggravating class antagonisms with the help of professional revolutionaries and philosophers, but that Communism is more of an ideal. As I posted earlier, Marx thought that socialism would occur naturally, but Lenin figured out that the working class must be guided. But even Marx himself knew that Communism, as opposed to Socialism, was a bit of a utopia. Marx may have been a scientific Socialist, but he was not a scientific Communist. He was a utopian Communist.

This revolutionized proliterian state will have legislation and constitutional material that orients to a new economic system and way of life. Take the American ideals: “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happyness.” Are those ideals not closely tied to free enterprise? Obviously the ideals of a socialist state would be centered around the rule of the proletariat, not human rights.

As far as my opinion goes, being a bit of an authoritarian and perhaps even a revisionist (I do not “follow” but study), I frankly do not see a stateless society as an ideal.

Vulgar Marxism vs. Progressive Nationalism

Wednesday, April 13th, 2011

“I am not a Marxist.” – Karl Marx

“There is no knowledge that is not power.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

A “vulgar Marxist” holds that man has no free will and economic forces just happen in succession. To a vulgar Marxist, ideas do not really change society. Ideas are just an illusion of free will. Scholars debate the extent to which Marx (and Engels) believed this. I am trying to settle the historical question myself, but I do not believe Marx was quite this rigid. It makes no difference in terms of my own viewpoints, but it is an interesting historical question.

I personally believe that economic forces are a reality, just like genetic forces, national forces, cultural forces, religious forces and ethnic forces. To an extent these forces are intertwined with each other. For instance Thomas Hobbes and John Locke argued that the social contract was created by man to create Governments, because the nature of wilderness caused life to be “brutish and short.” This means that man formed his Government in reaction to material conditions. However for every problem, there are multiple solutions, and even I believe Marx was too confident that society would move in a particular direction or that society would even address the problems. That being said, I do not believe Marx was as linear as he is portrayed both by ultra-Orthodox “Marxists” and by anti-Communists.

While the forces iterated in the above paragraph are relevant to my worldview, I believe that when man becomes more conscious of these forces, he or she actually increases in power and control and increases in ability to engineer society. This is a very pragmatic way of thinking, but also a way of thinking which argues that man subjects nature.  Yet I am arguing that if man is unaware of these forces, then man has less power.   Hitler was very opposed to this thinking, arguing instead that man is subject to laws of nature. In contrast to Hitler, Mussolini would agree with it arguing that the state (a literate political class) creates the society. Anton Lavey (a satanist thinker) would agree with this thinking as well.

Lenin seemed to reject vulgar Marxism as well. Lenin argued that the party must guide the working class. “Democratic centralism” is a rejection of vulgar Marxism. It contradicts the idea that revolution happens on its own.

Stalin as well rejected this viewpoint. He was quoted as saying “Ideas are more powerful than guns. We would not let our enemies have guns, why should we let them have ideas.” If only economics mattered, and ideology did not, then Stalin would not have made this statement.

So we can conclude that Stalin, Lenin and future Marxists revised vulgar Marxism. The question is did Marx and Engels believe it? I do not think so personally.

Utopian Socialists vs. Scientific Socialists

Monday, April 11th, 2011

Anyone who reads Marx knows that he writes about “Utopian Socialists.”

I would argue that Utopian Socialists are not Socialists at all. They are merely progressives who are stuck in the current mode of production. FDR could be considered a Utopian Socialist. He wanted to strengthen the economy, redistribute wealth and base society off of ideals, but he did not want tie his analysis and worldview to concepts which involved changing modes of production. Increasing taxes was not changing the mode of production, but a matter of administration within a mode of production that already existed. Increasing taxes may be Socialistic, but it is not Marxist.

Improving people’s quality of life could be considered Utopian Socialism. Arguing that the state should be revolutionized based on the antagonisms caused by class conflicts in Marx’s era is what Marx called Scientific Socialism.

You could argue that even Fascism and Nazism have some Venn Diagram overlap with Utopian Socialism. They want to change society to pursue an ideal, while working within existing means of production. Fascism is based on a strong state and imperialism, whereas Nazism is based on scientifically invalidated interpretations of race.

I personally believe that some Utopian Socialism is necessary after the Socialist Party takes power, in the form of technocracy. Technocracy is idealistically orienting society towards technological improvement and is not inherently tied to a mode of production. Technocracy is necessary to produce an abundance of resources, otherwise Communism will just be poverty. Whether this Technocracy occurs in the Capitalist, Socialist or Communist mode of production is a matter of debate. But the key is that the technocracy must occur after revolution, because a good economy will mask class antagonisms.


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