“Are you better off than you were four years ago?” Why that doesn’t matter in the 2012 Election.

One would be hard-pressed to find an American that did not have a difficult time the last four years. America has suffered the worst economic collapse since the 1930’s. Understandably, Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, and the Republicans want to hold President Obama accountable for the last four years. They are driving the point home by using an old line. It was October 28, 1980, when Ronald Regan recycled Franklin Roosevelt’s question “Are you better off now than you were four years ago?” Normally, a politician can get some traction with this question. Particularly if the past four years weren’t good ones. However, this time it is not relevant and this is why. Nothing is the same now as it was four years ago, and if trends continue we may hardly recognize what comes next in the years leading to 2016.

Economic problems are structural not cyclical.

It would be one thing if the current economic problems were a cyclical bump in the road. That is not the case, what America is experiencing is growing pains from a structural change driven by automation and constantly updating technology. This is a blessing for cost control and efficiency, yet from the employment side it is a curse. What are the employment options for folks who have a lower skill level, now that there is so much competition for coveted positions left in this shrinking job pool? In addition, though it is a good thing to think in ways that create a more environmentally sustainable future, this also causes economic growing pains. For generations, families have built their lives around the coalmines or the oil fields. The choice to move away from fossil fuels is a correct one, however leaders and policy makers need to consider those who are left behind by this fundamental change in how we look at Energy Policy and how that interacts with Labor Policy. These are but a few of the many complex challenges the US Economy faces. Not only domestic pressures, perhaps even more powerful, are the tremendous changes taking place outside of US borders and therefore outside of the President’s direct influence.

The world is not the same.

The world has gone through mind-blowing changes over the past four years. The tumultuous birth of Democracy in the Middle East and North Africa by way of the Arab Spring is one example. This opens up a completely new set of complex and delicate issues to maneuver going forward. Things will not go back to the way they were before. The old answers are irrelevant. In addition, the economic situation with the European Union and its members who are reshaping the relationships they have with one another. This has little in common with the way it was even fifteen years before. The past four years were incredibly tumultuous, creating many unknowns that will need answers.  Can the European Union be successful without sharing political power in order to set consistent  Economic policy? Will the European Union survive the recent economic crisis? The solutions the EU come up with will  impact the United States although the President will have limited, if any control over what happens. Again, this is a minute glimpse of the many issues happening all over the globe. The next President will need to be capable of deftly maneuvering through the historically critical window for as long as it is open during the next four years. This could set the tone in US foreign relations for the next century.

There is no turning back.

The greatest concern about the direction the Conservatives in the Republican Party are taking is that it seems to be going backward. Hearing many Conservatives speak, one wonders if they are in some sort of time machine stuck in 1950’s perhaps in some episode of Mad Men? The warrants that the party operates on seem to be from a bygone era that is no longer true. It is just not like that anymore. The minorities are becoming the majority. Poverty is due to many complex variables not just because people aren’t trying hard enough. Things like pensions, a living wage, and the ability to own a home, which give stability to the middle-class that is the backbone of the American culture and economy. Women’s issues are not just issues for women. Equal pay, affordable early childhood education, food security, and the ability for a woman to decide when and how many children she feels capable to care for are all issues that influence the society as a whole. Thinking in the past in ways that women are not the breadwinners for their homes and other such lost in the ‘50s delusions driving policy is not relevant in 2012 and beyond. The looming possibility of multiple Supreme Court appointments happening in this term add higher stakes to the polices of the candidates. It’s  important to pay attention to those who influence each man, especially those who don’t want to fight once more the vicious fight for women’s personal rights.

Voters will decide.

The “Are you better off than you were four years ago?” question may have worked before. However, we are not in the same world that we were in four years ago. We are not in the 1950’s. America needs to choose the candidate who acknowledges these changes and is able to navigate them. It is difficult for me to be confident in the Romney campaign because the Romney/Ryan Republicans are so intent on living in the past when directing us into the future is so important.  I have much more confidence from seeing Barack Obama’s performance thus far,  that he is the best choice to lead us through the next four years successfully. My confidence about the President’s future success would certainly increase if the Republicans lose big in the local and Congressional races.

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My Body, My Business

There is a lot of talk going on in political debate about contraception and  a woman and her partner’s control over reproductive planning. The responsibility and the power comes from the woman’s decision. Why? Because it is the woman that carries the baby.  The woman that goes through the birthing process. The woman which, in a high percentage of situations, is the primary care giver and therefore is the one who makes the most change to her life in order to care for her children, especially during their first five years of life. The first five years are vital developmentally.

I don’t think this debate is about religious freedom. I think the church leaders would like to think so. But if it were about religion we would have policy to eradicate poverty which is mentioned in the Bible 2,000 times. So it’s not about religion. What it is about is the high cost of insurance for women of childbearing age to which I say “Too damn bad.” I say that because the same group of folks who bash “socialist” health care want to leave women hanging by not assisting with her health care needs. Companies which basically own people. They tell them when to wake up, when to eat, when to sleep, when to go to the bathroom, when to take a vacation. So they own them. Even slave owners of the past realized that they have to provide slaves with basic health care. Didn’t these folks get the memo?  With all the money dolled out on studies for employee retention and satisfaction and none of those brainiacs can figure out that people need to have their family needs met to be productive employees? The company should get its consulting money back and apply it to the needs of its employees. And why wouldn’t they want their female employees on birth control? If they are on birth control, they are at work. The whole thing is ridiculous!

Freedom, something so essential to the core of being American. The choices about who I have sex with, when I have sex, what style of sex I choose to have, and when I choose to have a pregnancy result from that sex having is MY business. I shouldn’t have to call up my elected official and ask permission. That is the essence of personal freedom. Now keeping in mind I am talking about sex with two consenting adults. Other than that, it is up to the adults what they do with their bodies. The political right wants to run archaic bills through state houses and Congress without political consequences.  To that I say, “Too damn bad.” They need to be penalized politically for taking our country backwards. That strategy (if that’s what they are calling it) is not going to win the GOP the Independent vote in November.  Independents, like reasonable Republicans and Democrats, are watching the actions not the crazy propaganda coming out of the GOP talking-heads’ mouths. The Republicans could easily lay off the social issues and focus on the economy. Pull together some jobs. Do THEIR jobs for goodness sake. The longer they entertain this penchant for the bad old days is as long as they will be locked out of public office come November.

Response to Ed Show Request

On his November 3, 2011 show on MSNBC, Ed Shultz put out a challenge for someone with an Independent Moderate Centrist Point of View to weigh in on the issues of Education, Unions, and Taxing the Wealthy. Although I am no spokesperson, I thought I’d write down my point of view and others can choose to take the dialog further.

 

As I see it the substantive difference between the Independent Moderate and the staunch Liberal is primary that the Indy Mod point of view is fluid. Not insipid, though I can see where those to the far left or right may at first glance perceive it that way, the Independent Moderate view it is fluid with what reality places before us to decide. No issue exists in a vacuum.  Whereas the staunch liberal and conservative view is set in stone no matter what is going on around it. That is what makes them outdated because the world order is in constant flux and we must be in flux with it.

 

Education

Education is the most powerful tool to combat poverty; a highly skilled workforce is a primary driver of the economic engine of the country. As such, I believe in a full reform of the Education system to comply with the needs of the 21st Century.

This includes:

1)      Starting school at three years old, especially in low-income neighborhoods.

2)      Including more foreign languages in the curriculum.

3)      Education as a national program with room to add local cultural ideals and local history.

  1. This offers the benefit of purchasing power of buying school supplies nationally.
  2. Consistent “branding” everyone truly gets the same curriculum.
  3. Have e-books for textbooks that can be updated easily and more cost effective.
  4. Every child when leaving high-school should have what is the equivalent of an Associates Degree in College now, including the basic liberal arts structure to build from.

4) I would not be opposed to some direct corporate involvement and sponsorship in education. After all we should be educating to the specific tasks needed by the future employers. Yet, we should be educating free-thinkers, innovators and entrepreneurs in every school across America.

So it’s not about throwing money at a broken system. It’s about making the system more in line with the needs of employers and build on that knowledge for the America of  2021 and beyond not the same Educational practices of the America of 1821.

Unions

Unions make companies cumbersome, slow moving and inflexible in many ways. However, in today’s business culture they are essential to workers despite their shortcomings. I am a proponent of a global labor union. Although I am aware in many ways that could be a mess, it seems that the only way to negotiate with a multi-national conglomerate is to be multi-national as well. As the Occupy Movement is world wide it could possibly be the conception of a type of global labor movement. I am in strong support of the Occupy Movement.

Taxing the Wealthy

At this time, because of bad actors and lax policy there needs to be reform to bring things back into balance. As such, I would be more in favor of the Obama plan than the Ryan plan. Reviews of the systems of government is vital to make them more efficient, reduce unneeded redundancy and go line by line to see what is old and no longer serves the public and replace those programs with new innovative programs that are more in line with the needs of modern America. I don’t agree that the wealthiest should have to pay everyone’s tab so to speak, but there needs to be a balance. The economy is like an electrical circuit,  if the money isn’t flowing both ways the circuit doesn’t work.

It is imperative that the tax code become more concise ,  transparent, and frankly fair which is no easy task.

 

I hope this is helpful for Mr. Schultz to get a better idea about where the Independent Moderates stand on the issues.

For more from Sophia Tesch please visit http://www.indymodpov.com which discusses politics from and Independent Moderate Point of View.

we need to focus on education, not abortion

The US Congress has been focusing on abortion a lot lately. Abortion — the word alone causes an immediate and strong reaction, and it should,  it’s horrible when a woman finds herself in need of an abortion. The best plan is to not get into that situation in the first place, if at all possible and that’s why it’s important for the American agenda to focus on education,  not abortion.

I want unborn babies to be saved,  there is nothing better than a baby being born to a mother who is healthy, educated and able to financially and emotionally support her child. But, in order to do that, the focus of the American agenda needs to  provide a better support  to young women in ways that they may become independent, self-empowered people with great goals for becoming a vital part of her community. As such she will be more likely to postpone pregnancy to a time when she is able to take care of her children and to be healthy enough to carry to full-term.  This can be done in three ways, supporting the physical health of young women, support the self-esteem of high-risk young women, instilling within them financial literacy skills, and any support emotional or tutorial needed to finish high school and get a Bachelor’s Degree in a field where she may excel. By giving a young woman the ability to go to college and have something to work toward besides attracting a man at a young age, helps to prevent her from using sex as a method of self-esteem and security which may result in an unplanned pregnancy. This is the most effective way to protect the unborn in America.

I wish you had come to me with your birth control offer years ago so I wouldn’t have had 14 babies.

– Sharon, client #24 from projectprevention.org website. 

Another way to prevent unplanned pregnancy is to make birth control readily available to low-income couples. Statistics show that many unplanned pregnancies are a result of not having the proper birth control available or affordable to low-income couples. It’s important to address unplanned pregnancy as a cultural issue, the glorification of having unprotected sex as a status symbol needs to change, women need to perceive that their ability to bear children is a sacred right and to use their age old responsibility to be discerning about the man allowed to have the privilege of being with her. Our sisters in the animal kingdom know this, they don’t let just any random animal mate with them. They look for the one who will be there to provide and care for the babies once they are born. How did this simple rule of Nature get lost in our culture? Male animals work to be worthy of being a father the status is in being a stable provider of love and objects of necessity to his offspring and mate especially while the babies are nursing. To have this honor males in other species sometimes fight to the death for the chance to be with a female. Not to advocate violence, that’s not my point, my point is to be more discerning about one’s sex partner and not to devalue sex to the extent it has been degraded and devalued in the American culture.  The second part of  the equation is to make birth control readily available to those who could wisely plan their pregnancies, avoiding an unwanted pregnancy. The attack on Planned Parenthood has the distinct unintended possibility of creating more, not less, unplanned pregnancies. Once it gets to that point, once there is the horribly painful situation of an unplanned pregnancy at hand, history shows that people have taken matters into their own hands. It doesn’t have to be that way. The lower cost solution, both in human and taxpayer cost is to focus on a positive way to not let it get that far.

Lastly, there needs to be good pregnancy planning education and sexual health curriculum  in place in public schools. Although people would like to assume that all parents are present, prepared and willing to have “the talk” it simply isn’t the case for many children. They are left to fend for themselves,  given misinformation or no information at all,and many times because they are using bad information to make decisions, things don’t go as planned. Places like Planned Parenthood can offer medically trained professionals with the most up-to-date information to be a resource for “the talk” if needed . It is important that good information is given to young adults so they can make the best choices for themselves.

The best way to stop abortion is through abortion prevention, a good education, self-esteem and a hopeful future worth abstaining  or at least using birth control for, can be some of the best  measures for abortion prevention available. Give young women an attainable, and worthwhile goal to work toward so that their pregnancy can be a planned and joyous occasion as  it is meant to be, which is the best scenario for everyone involved.

we need leaders, not nannies

During my usual morning ritual of cyber surfing,  I saw a post from one of my friends about the Occupy Wall St. phenomenon. I commented on this thread, and so did a Harvard man, telling me I was a hypocrite if I supported the protest and had a 401K or an IRA. I assured the man– I was no hypocrite. He made a remark about America being a nanny state and the protest the equivalent of babies having bottles pulled from proverbial mouths of those who found themselves at the bottom 99% of the economic wealth scale in America. I found the hubris of this comment disturbing. As I moved from that exchange and continued surfing,  I saw a lady’s comment about being so happy to see a comment about Wall St. that wasn’t mentioning the Occupy Wall St. protest, “How are we supposed to take these kids seriously?” She writes over a link for the Zombie walk of  Occupy Wall St. where the marchers chanted “We are contagious!” She didn’t get it. I got it, the idea is contagious and it will spread and it did spread because now there are Occupy Wall St. events happening all over the country  during October, 2011 and maybe beyond.

Just because the elites don’t get it, doesn’t mean the statement has no value, just because they can’t wrap their minds around what it takes to raise a family of four on $1,000 a month doesn’t mean that reality doesn’t exist for a lot of people. Just because they don’t go hungry doesn’t mean that 1 in 4 children in America don’t go to bed at night wondering where their next meal is coming from.  As a matter of fact, I wonder how people who are supposedly so smart (so says their financial portfolio) appear so dumb. Why can’t they figure any of this out? People are tired of mega-bonuses at the top while those working on the front lines with the customers are kept in a constant state of economic uncertainty and stress about paying their basic bills. People can’t believe that after what I call the Wall Street Rape of 2008,  no justice was mitigated for crashing not only the domestic, but global economy, with the sub-prime mortgage scam and the shady derivative markets.

“That’s why they call it the American Dream, because you have to be asleep to believe it.”
― George Carlin

People are looking at the bleak prospects of their future, not only for themselves, but their children. Americans in their 40’s are looking at the very real possibility that they will be caring for their parents, themselves and their children, meanwhile not being able to plan for it,  because their 401K  is on some psychotic roller-coaster and the Congress couldn’t legislate itself out of a wet paper bag. It is all very disturbing and frustrating as the country gets held hostage over a financial cliff for seemingly mundane decisions. But the legislators themselves are in no risk, their healthcare and pension prospects are not in question, their salary not cut 60% as many of their constituents have experienced in the last two years.

Working American people are not looking for hand outs, we don’t need to be spoon fed by a nanny state. That is not the point, and it’s insulting to say, it is not about entitlement. What about the feeling of entitlement of the upper 1% to assume all the money is  theirs. You may create jobs, but our brothers, sisters, fathers and mothers risk their lives at those jobs. You benefit from the security of the military, but who sends their children to the front line to die? You eat the food that the working class grew and put on your table, as the saying goes the wealthy would be eating money if someone didn’t grow and prepare the food for them. Not that one class is better than the other, everyone has a purpose that makes society work well,  but let’s put some things in perspective here.

If your company uses American labor, it behooves you to pay for world-class  education to have the best in an educated labor force.  You want that investment in employee training to have longevity, especially now that labor needs to work to a more mature age, make sure they have good health insurance so that individuals can work longer and be more productive.  You need military support, make sure they have the best resources, and are taken care of when they return home, thank them for the fact that you and your family didn’t have to be in harm’s way. Allow workers  access to nutritious food and kids great parks to play in and become strong citizens, body, mind and spirit. Allow people the ability to squeeze some living out of this life before they pass on, it makes for better workers.  These aren’t great mysteries. This isn’t asking too much. These are the types of ideas that Occupy Wall St. is about.

We’re Americans. Together we prosper, we all have to work together. It used to be understood that wealth and privilege came with a level of responsibility, of community and stewardship, that we all worked together to make capitalism work. But this bastardization is no longer capitalism, it’s corporatism and it’s killing Americans, it’s killing America, and that ‘s what Occupy Wall St. folks are standing up against. They want to restore the possibility of the American Dream, the American ideal. I support them 100%. This type of guts demands respect. This brand of courage makes me even more proud to be an American.

we need politicians, not puppets

Let’s have the members of  House and Senate dress like NASCAR drivers. Prominently place the logos of the companies and special interests that support them sewn to their suits so we know what team they’re on. Because it certainly isn’t ours. More and more it  seems less like a joke and more like a good idea.  “Show us who holds your strings!” the people demand. As those who would benefit from the death of the Department of Labor, EPA, SEC, Fed and other government agencies that protect the people from those in industry who place poor choices and stockholder profits over the general welfare of the people who are unfortunate to live within their corporate spheres of influence. We (middle-middle class working families making less than $250,000 a year) need protection. Hasn’t it been proven time and again that self-regulation doesn’t work?

Corporations don’t just have legislative representation on the payroll, it seems they’ve found a way to influence the government agencies that are supposed to be regulating them. We’ve seen it in the Energy industry and in Finance. The system can’t work if the systems employees aren’t working for we the people. Government agents must be held to higher standards  and accountability for ethical breeches, those holding important regulatory positions have to care about what they are doing, they can’t just be pencil-pushers because the stakes are too high. This is where our system has failed especially in the past decade and it’s not just Americans who are hurting, the citizens of the world have paid in terms of a crashed world economy and through natural disasters like the BP oil spill. The spill wasn’t so long ago and already we have politicians with amnesia wanting to repeat the same mistakes with no changes, no thinking things through, and I wonder how many huge spills can an ecosystem take? Luckily, things are getting better in the Gulf for now. It makes me wonder are we as a country capable of learning from past mistakes?  Are we doomed to repeat the same mistakes over and over?

We need politicians, critical thinking, analytic types; not just winners of a popularity contest, not an employee of a special interest group, but a person who is able to weigh all interests and come up with the best solutions possible. Above party affiliation,  above personal pride, in the best interest of those who live in their constituency and then the nation and the globe accordingly. It seems simple. Yet there is something about DC, possibly something in the water of the Potomac  that seems to make rational people crazy. But it’s not the water is it? It’s the political  sponsors. The Super PACS the special interest interference, lobbyists writing laws. So if DC legislators have sponsors, let’s make it transparent. Have the Congressmen and Senators wear the emblem of their owners on their suits, at least then we can know whose team they are really on.

If it were up to me I’d have more Main Street types voting for the Board of Directors of Lockheed Martin, Monsanto, DuPont, Citibank, Goldman-Sachs and others. If they are truly the ones running our country why don’t we get a vote? It’s supposed to be a representative Democracy is it not? People are so paranoid of a tyrannical government that they allow these tyrants of business to run rampant, it’s a tragedy for America. I don’t think the forefathers and mothers would approve, I don’t think this is the type of life they would have wished for us.

We need politicians not puppets. Is it too late? Time will tell.

we need to focus on main street, not wall street

A rising tide lifts all boats. This is a phrase originally used by JFK in the 1960’s and it still rings true today. Through the years the phrase has been distorted by conservatives to justify trickle-down economics. You make things “almost free” (as the salesman on a Mexican beach may say of his wares) for the top 5% of wealth holders in America and they will be so touched by the generosity of the nation as to be inspired to make that money rain down on the nation in the form of jobs and abundant prosperity for all. –Amen.

Well things have been trickling down for the last twenty years but it hasn’t been prosperity. It seems to be a mechanical problem. I propose the trickle up theory of economics. It seems after reflection that America would have been better off giving a check of $500,000 to every American rather than giving it to the banks. The banks who by the way still sit on lending money. True many institutions given TARP money have paid it back. However, the lending to stimulate the economy didn’t happen.

What happened was record profits and bonuses. Well good for them. However, it still doesn’t solve the problem. So here’s the thing I am thinking about Wall St. vs. Main St. Wall St. can invest anywhere and they have. They create derivatives and hedge funds to protect their portfolios. Again fantastic for them. They know how to make money and they have the resources to do it. I feel no need to punish them for being good at what they do.

At the same time Main St. who isn’t going anywhere is being fiscally starved of capital. If America were a business Main St. would be our regular customers. They aren’t going anywhere else, they couldn’t if they wanted to at this point. They spend their money locally and it circulates locally, nationally and internationally to manufacturers and customer service centers abroad. Where Wall St. is the spleen and marrow creating and storing the blood of the economy, money. Where government is the veins, arteries and capillaries guiding the flow. Main St. is the heart, keeping things pumping and when the heart isn’t pumping the whole system dies.

“Rising tide lifts all boats”. ~John F. Kennedy

What good is having things to sell if there is no confident consumer to purchase it? The cycle of the economy needs to be complete to work. Main St. doesn’t have the resources that Wall St. has and the people of Wall St. used to understand the important part it played for the nation. I think Wall St .has lost it’s way. When did it become so “Me” and so not “We” where did the patriotism go? And if it is gone forever then the whole dynamic must shift to reflect that. To see Wall St. in an expatriate status.

Main St. isn’t going anywhere. It is the nation. When Main St. does well, everyone does well. It is time that public policy more accurately reflect this reality. The nation has tried the “voodoo economics” of the trickle down theory for a few decades now and it is a failed experiment. I say we put more money in middle-class pockets and they will distribute the money in a very capitalistic way. Rising tide lifts all boats. Grow the tax-base and the rest of these problems will take care of themselves.