An American Editor

December 11, 2017

On Politics: Welcome to the Screwed-By-a-Republican Club

Lots of voters had lots of reasons — real and imagined — for voting Republican (or not for a Democrat) for president and congress. A good number of independent editors were among those voters. Now I can welcome them to America’s fastest growing group, the Screwed-By-a-Republican Club.

The attacks on the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) weren’t sufficient to open many eyes. Republican-voting colleagues have expressed frustration that Obamacare hasn’t been wholly repealed, again giving a variety of reasons, some valid and some quite suspect (eg, “I never get sick and when I do I can just go to the emergency room,” which begs the question of how the emergency room gets paid when a service recipient doesn’t/can’t pay).

These same colleagues also believe that the Republican “tax reform” legislation will benefit them; that the Republicans aren’t lying when they claim the wealthy will pay more and the middle- and lower-income classes will pay less; that trickle-down economics, which has never worked before, will work this time and as a result there will be more money to be made by editors from publishers and authors who will suddenly find American editors to be price competitive or, if not price competitive, will gladly pay the price for an American editor and so help spread the wealth.

President Trump repeatedly says that he will pay more in taxes under the Republican legislation. Whatever happened to the Republican challenges, “put up or shut up” and “prove it”? Why doesn’t Trump set America’s mind at ease by releasing his tax returns so we can see that instead of saving himself and his children as much as $1 billion in taxes, he (and they) will actually pay taxes. (I find it interesting that the mortgage deduction has been gutted except for golf course owners.) It is worth noting that nearly every tax analyst says the president and his family and many of his cabinet members will actually pay less taxes. (It is also interesting that Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin has failed to release an analysis of the tax legislation, which failure is now under investigation by the Inspector General.)

Fortunately, I am already retired. My Social Security is pretty well set, my retirement investments already are required by law to be drawn upon and taxes paid, and my Medicare is unlikely to be affected — at least that is what the Republicans are saying today as regards the benefits for those already 65 and older. But for those of you not yet able to retire, the Republicans have announced that to pay for the $1 trillion (yes, trillion, not billion) debt increase that will result even if Republican economic projections prove correct, it will be necessary to reduce your Social Security and Medicare benefits.

Currently, Social Security pays an established amount each month from the U.S. treasury, regardless of whether the stock market is up or down or there is a prolonged economic downturn. In the market downturn of 2009, I watched my retirement investments lose up to 40% of value. When the market began to turn around, I began to regain some of that lost value, and it took years before I regained it all. Social Security, however, remained not only steady, but grew by the rate of inflation (which was quite nominal, about 2% each year).

The point is that Social Security was and is a safety net that ensures we can put food on the table in our old age. The stock market cannot and does not provide such assurance. The stock market is great in boon (bull) years and merciless in bust (bear) years, yet Republicans want to privatize the Social security safety net so as to reduce its drag on the national debt, which was largely created and enhanced by Republican “tax reform”. And this will be an imperative when this new Republican “tax reform” becomes a reality.

Medicare is in a similar situation. The current Republican plan being floated is to give every Medicare participant a set amount of money to buy private-market insurance. The last publicized number was 60% of the annual premium for a Medicare-equivalent health plan. Where, exactly, do Republicans think most retirees will find the other 40%?

Okay, you can see some of the ways in which independent editors are becoming members of the Screwed-By-a-Republican Club. But Social Security and Medicare are not the only ways and for a lot of editors, those are safety net benefits that are a ways down the road and not of immediate concern. Of greater concern is income taxes (and Social Security taxes, of which freelancers, unlike employees, pay 100%).

I grant that the absolute final bill has not been enacted and there could be changes still to come, and I grant that my personal economic situation is different than yours. But I decided to give it a try and see how the legislation might have impacted me if I used my income and expenses from my last year of full-time freelancing.

Unlike many of my colleagues, I would be eligible for the pass-through rate given to small businesses. To get that rate, you need to be, broadly speaking, either a corporation or a partnership, not just an independent contractor; that is, there has to be a formal, recognized business entity through which the income passes to you. In my case, I have a partnership and a couple of subchapter S corporations. Even with the lower pass-through rate, I would have paid approximately $3500 more in federal taxes alone (and my accountant thinks the amount may be higher than that).

Something else needs to be noted. When discussing paying taxes, the tendency is to focus on the federal income tax. But that’s too narrow. You need to focus on all the taxes paid to all levels of government. There is nothing beneficial about paying lower federal taxes if as a result I need to pay significantly higher state and local taxes. Switching pockets doesn’t suddenly make things better.

Analyses by Congress’ own bipartisan budget analysis committee say that most middle- and lower-income taxpayers will see tax increases, and corporations and the top 1% in terms of income will be the only groups to see real decreases. I don’t know any editors in the top 1%, so I am unlikely to know anyone who will actually see a permanent decrease.

In addition, all of the nonpartisan analyses agree that any decrease seen by any middle-income taxpayer will evaporate and change to tax increases after a few years (only the corporate provisions are permanent; individual-oriented provisions expire). Finally, the Republican tax-reform-will-result-in-lower-taxes declaration is premised on an already booming economy becoming suddenly boomier, something more than 95% of economists — liberal, nonpartisan, and conservative — agree is nearly impossible. They also agree that most companies will use any tax savings to boost stockholder dividends, salaries for the highest level of management, and stock buybacks — not to increase wages. (Interestingly, one company indicated that with the tax savings it expects, it plans to invest in automation and reduction of the human workforce, just the opposite of what Republicans are promising.)

Even if the naysayers are wrong and companies do boost wages for low-level employees, we need to remember that we are not employees — we are independent vendors, the ones that companies squeeze for lower costs.

The point of this essay is to remind colleagues that you need to think less narrowly and more broadly about the effects of politics on things that may not matter immediately but could matter down the road. If you recall, in my essay A Continuing Frustration — The “Going Rate”, I wrote:

With a new year arriving soon, it is time to become more of a businessperson and focus more on the business aspects of being independent editors.

That is true not only about the issue of what to charge to be profitable, but for all aspects of your editorial business. When you decide for whom to vote, you need to look farther in the future than to just tomorrow or yesterday. I try to ask and answer the question, “If I vote for the Republican/Democrat candidate and the Republican/Democrat party implements ____, will I be better or worse off than if I vote for the other candidate?” I then try to add up the pluses and minuses and weigh them. For example, when I turned 50 years of age, Social Security became a much more important issue to me than it was when I was 25 years of age. Similarly, doing away with the mortgage interest deduction was more important to me when I still had years of mortgage payments to make.

If you haven’t yet taken the time to look at the “tax reform” and attempted to see how it will impact you and your business, you should do so now. And when you next vote, you should be sure to vote for your future, not just for tomorrow.

Richard Adin, An American Editor

 

March 14, 2014

Politics: Just Say No!

Filed under: Politics — americaneditor @ 4:13 am
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During the Reagan administration, the Republican answer to drugs and sex outside marriage was to “Just say no!” Abstinence was the mantra, which resulted in the pursuit of policies that simply did not work in the real world.

Little has apparently changed, as the following video report attests:

Third World Healthcare

except that this time the Republicans think the way to resolve healthcare issues is to “just say no” to poverty. This video is quite an insight into Republican thinking about people in general and about anyone but the top 1% in particular.

With all of the misinformation being spread about Obamacare, one would think that a viable alternative would be lurking in the background. Instead, we have the new “just say no” campaign. Strikingly, Republicans seem to be unwilling or unable to grasp just how important access to healthcare is for breaking the poverty cycle and making the American dream of upward mobility a reality.

Richard Adin, An American Editor

January 15, 2014

American Education and the Future of American Editors

Public education and its cost are on the agenda of nearly every state government in the United States. Americans spend a lot of money on education and the return is not as good as it should be. There are myriad reasons for this, not least of which has been the politicization of the teaching profession and the war on government by Republicans.

Every state constitution includes a public education clause. These clauses were included to ensure that America could grow and compete. It was also a recognition that an educated populace could keep America from falling into a dictatorship.

In today’s global economy, the most successful competitors are those who have emphasized educating their populations. Companies also are looking for better-educated new hires, especially as increases in profit are so strongly connected to a better-educated workforce.

In the United States, individual states compete to lure new or existing businesses to their state. This is done, among other ways, by offering tax incentives and by reducing the tax burden. The problem is that a significant portion of a state’s budget is tied up in funding education and other social welfare programs, and because state budgets must be balanced, funding of these programs has to decline to offset the tax “relief” being given to companies.

Kansas is leading the way. It has slashed public education funding to 16.5% below the level it was at in 2008 in order to pay for a $1.1 billion tax break that primarily benefited the wealthy. California slashed school aid because of budget imbalance. New York slashed aid and increased mandates.

The companies and wealthy individuals who benefit from the tax incentives and breaks fail to see beyond the short-term. What happens to these companies in 5 years when they can no longer hire new high school and college graduates who have the basic skills needed by the companies to grow and expand? For years, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and its members have complained about how poorly prepared high school graduates are to work. They want the education system to do better. Yet they never come forward and insist that a government increase education funding; instead, they want taxes reduced without looking at what benefits they would also be reducing.

When I went to college many decades ago, there was no such thing as a “remedial” course. To get admitted, you had to already be at a certain skill and knowledge level and have the necessary skills to succeed. Then college began to morph into a competitive business, which meant increasing the number of attendees. Consequently, the need for “remedial” courses grew. Today, remedial instruction is considered part of the “college experience.”

This all bodes ill for the future of American editors. Editing requires mastery of certain language-related and business-related skills. Most editors in the past were taught the language-related skills and were expected to be well-enough educated to learn the business-related skills on their own. But that began to change in the late 1990s and continues today.

Increasingly, I see editors who have not been taught the basic language-related skills that are fundamental to a successful editing career. And when I see the tests and resumes submitted by recent college graduates who are looking to be hired as editors, I see people without those basic skills. Neither the language-related nor the business-related skills are taught today. It is hard to focus on those skills when remedial education is the starting point.

The war on education funding creates its own never-ending circle of degradation. As people move from the education system into the editing profession without mastery of basic language-related skills, they apply their limited skills to the material that will become the teaching material of the next group of students. That next group of students will receive an education that is no better than, and likely worse than, that of the author and editor who has already come to the task with a decreased skill level.

The never-ending circle ensures that with each new class entry into the world of authors and editors, the skills that are passed on are less than the skills of the previous group.

Much of it boils down to funding. In Kansas, class sizes have increased greatly, which means that students cannot be given individual attention. To make oversized classrooms work, there comes a push toward the least rather than a pull toward the most. The slowest learners cannot be left behind so the fastest learners have to be throttled. It does not take long before the skills of the fastest learners begin to match those of the slowest learners, rather than vice versa.

Of course, there is also the problem of the teachers who have graduated from such a system and thus perpetuate the problem. A teacher who hasn’t been taught the difference between a noun and a verb cannot be expected to teach children the difference.

The education of future editors is important because of the role that editors play in the dissemination of knowledge. Editors are an integral and very important part of maintaining language standards. As an editor’s education diminishes, so does the editor’s ability to help facilitate communication — it is hard to facilitate the understanding of something you yourself do not understand.

At some point, if education funding keeps declining and with it learning continues to decline, there will be no need for editors as no one will know what contributions an editor can make to communication because editors won’t be able to make that contribution. It is difficult to edit a book at a high language level when your language skills revolve around twit feeds.

The saddest part of the education funding fiasco is that the Republicans who are pushing it see it as a way to lure businesses to their low-tax state. What they lose sight of is that at best such moves are temporary because even more important than tax savings to a business is finding workers with the education and skills to do the jobs that are required for the business to continue in existence and to grow.

When education and skills were fairly uniform across the United States, low taxes were alluring. But as those manufacturers who offshored in the 1990s and who now are onshoring learned, low wages and taxes can only carry a company just so far — the prime mover for company profitability and growth is a properly educated and trained work force.

Editing as a skilled profession and viable career path is reliant on a good education system. The demise of a good education system as a deliberate policy decision is not only a threat to the future of editing, but also to the future of the country. I’m not sure what can be done to halt the tide, but I’ve made it a point to let the politicians who claim to represent me know that defunding education is not the answer to a bright future; instead, it is the path to a very bleak future.

Richard Adin, An American Editor

October 18, 2013

Worth Noting: Republican Fears of Democracy

Filed under: Politics,Worth Noting — americaneditor @ 4:00 am
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I realize that everything in Washington, DC is done with politics in mind, but this ploy by the Republicans seems to me to strike at the very heart of democracy. Although I disapprove of the Republican tactics to defund the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), I was at least willing to say that the basis was a philosophical disagreement. But after seeing this video, from the floor of the House of Representatives, and thinking about what it means, I wonder if the problem is less about health care and more about Republicans wanting to move our country away from democracy and toward authoritarianism.

September 30, 2013

The Illogical Republican

Filed under: Miscellaneous Opinion,Politics — americaneditor @ 4:00 am
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I know this blog is an editorially focused one, but sometimes there is a need to stray a bit, especially into the world of politics. If there ever was a subject or profession (aside from religion) that was designed to be the slaughterhouse of language, it is politics — especially current American politics.

Sometimes I wonder if there is a difference between irrational and illogical behavior and speech. Unfortunately for America, GOP (Republican) politics smacks a lot of both when it comes to healthcare, especially Obamacare. It is clear to me that none of the pundits are having their pronouncements vetted by a professional editor; they seem to be the ultimate self-editors who are so blinded by their love for their own words that they are unable to see the problems with their word choices.

The GOP and its conservative allies are now running ads asking Americans if they really want their healthcare decisions made by “faceless Washington bureaucrats.” It’s a good question that is made a terrible question by the inclusion of “Washington”. I have asked several GOP politicians what the difference is between a faceless bureaucrat who sits in Washington and works for the U.S. government and a faceless bureaucrat who sits in an office in a large insurance company or in a state capitol? I have gotten no response other than “one cannot trust Washington bureaucrats,” which strikes me as clear avoidance.

Most Americans who have health insurance have health insurance provided by an insurance company or a state government. Very few individuals who actually pay for health care are self-insured. The insurance company tells us what it will pay for and won’t pay for and how much it will pay; no one is simply given an insurance card and told to “buy” whatever healthcare and drugs you think you need and don’t worry, someone else will pay for it.

No, the real difference between Obamacare and the current system of health insurance is that Obamacare will provide insurance to more people at a lower cost, which does not fit well with the GOP’s preferred plan of health insurance only for the well-to-do.

Yet the irrationality and illogicality of the “faceless bureaucrat” argument doesn’t halt the GOP tirade. If it can’t convince you by the bureaucrat argument, it is ready to hit below the belt and scream “socialism”. What could be more frightening to an American than socialism?

When I talk with senior citizens about healthcare, they are unanimous that they do not want the government interfering with their Medicare. Being a Medicare recipient myself, I fully understand that thinking. But when I point out to those who oppose Obamacare that the Medicare (and Medicaid) they praise and do not want touched by government is in fact run by a “faceless” government bureaucracy in Washington, they often seem stunned.

And when I point out that Medicare (and Medicaid) are socialist programs similar to Canada and Britain’s national healthcare plans, with the only difference being that in Canada and Britain the healthcare is for all, whereas Medicare is only for older Americans and disabled Americans, I see surprised expressions. But I also am told, “I don’t care. I don’t want Obamacare because it is creeping socialism.”

Some of the most strident anti-Obamacare Americans are military veterans. A local congressman is a retired veteran and an ardent opponent of Obamacare because it is socialized medicine. I have asked his office to explain how he justifies opposing Obamacare, which makes health insurance affordable and available to more Americans, while supporting expanded Veteran’s Administration healthcare, which is socialized medicine for veterans and which he enjoys at taxpayer expense. I await the answer and suspect I will celebrate my 100th birthday long before I get a rational, logical response (or perhaps any response) from him or his similar-thinking colleagues.

The problem with the message is the lack of understanding of the terms used. To Obamacare opponents, socialism is bad except when they benefit (“Don’t you dare touch my Medicare!”), and faceless bureaucrats are okay except if they can be found in Washington, DC (I wonder where congresspersons can be found?).

The GOP is winning the word battle because those who support Obamacare and national health insurance seem to be incapable of defining and framing the argument. They certainly are incapable of showing the fallacies in the arguments the GOP presents. I am almost (but not quite) convinced that the problem lies in word usage, not in meanness; that is, proponents find it difficult to distort word meanings and thus cannot fight back, whereas the opponents, like the GOP, have no problem assigning alternate meanings to common words in the expectation that people will hear the alternate meaning, not the standard meaning.

The GOP claims (falsely, but that doesn’t seem to matter) that Obamacare includes “death panels.” What the GOP doesn’t point out is that its “plan” is just death itself — no panel whose decision can be challenged and no health insurance to stave off disease, illness, and death.

The irrationality and Illogicality of GOP thinking and advertising strikes me as proof of why editors are needed — no one else seems willing to challenge the misuse of language. The sad part is that America has become a land of me rather than we.

January 9, 2013

On Words: Politics and Alice-in-Wonderland Speak

I have repeatedly written that word choice and grammar are important because words chosen and how they are used (i.e., the grammar rules applied to the words) communicate a message, and both an author and an editor want that message to be communicated without misunderstanding by the reader. No matter how many times I have written that mantra, no one has come forward to tell me I am wrong; ergo, I must be right.

For months I have been pondering what word choices put in sentence form could prove me wrong. I thought about statements that protest gays and non-Christians because they will rot in hell for not having been saved. Afterall, how many of us have experienced and survived hell so that we can know with certainty (as opposed to with belief)  that hell exists and that the unsaved will rot there forever. (I have also wondered how anyone knows that one rots in hell as opposed to having endless, wonderful 24-hour parties that fulfill every fantasy we ever had before we went to hell. Alas, it is just a matter of belief rather than knowledge. But I digress.)

The answer to my pondering came from the mouth of Congressperson Marsha Blackburn (R-Tennessee) who said, in justification of her vote against House Speaker John Boehner’s Plan B, which would have made permanent the Bush-era tax cuts for taxpayers earning less than $1 million, “I am here to represent my constituents.” If this isn’t the biggest falsehood of the century, it certainly has to be the biggest falsehood of the year.

I don’t mean for Congressperson Blackburn to be singled out; rather, this statement, perhaps not so succinctly put by other politicians, when made by any politician to justify a vote that shoves us over the “fiscal cliff” is the biggest lie. The reason is that words, although they carry the firmness of a religious sermon demonizing sin, simply can mean neither what they are intended to mean nor the message they are intended to convey. If words could be sins, these words would rank near the top of sins and those who spoke them at the top of the sinners’ honor roll.

If nothing else, these words raise at least this matter of implausibility:

To be true, at least 50.1% of Representative Blackburn’s congressional district must be persons earning $1 million a year or more and against having their taxes raised.

Fewer than 1% of Americans have an annual income of $1 million or more. I suppose it is possible that most of America’s millionaires live in Tennessee in Representative Blackburn’s district, but if that is true, then how can any other Republican congressperson justify voting against making permanent the lower tax rates for the 99%-plus of Americans who do not earn $1 million a year? Someone (or many someones) are simply spreading the big lie!

The words “I am here to represent my constituents” raise other plausibility issues. It hasn’t been asked and answered, but I wonder who Representative Blackburn (and the other naysaying Republicans) really represents. Are the “people” who she claims to represent real or imaginary? I recognize that one of the things Americans are really great at is voting against their own interests and/or letting peripheral, minor issues sway them for or against a candidate, but the one thing no American I know has voted against is giving him-/herself a tax cut. So explain to me how the Republican naysayers’ vote against permanent tax cuts for 99% of Americans is something that “my constituents” want.

Perhaps the problem with the House of Representatives is that it has become a wealthy-person club. Many, if not most, of the “representatives of the people” would themselves — or their family — see their taxes rise and so are really representing themselves, not their constituents.

I’m one of those foolish Americans who thinks the movie “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” (starring Jimmy Stewart as an idealistic new senator) is what Congress should be about. Such idealism today on the part of a politician would simply be fodder for the lobby gristmill that is Washington politics.

Anyway, the point is that the words “I am here to represent my constituents” fail to fulfill the concept of words and grammar that I have been advocating for 30 years: they are closer to Humpty Dumpty’s view of words —

     “When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.”

“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”

“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master — that’s all.”

As the Mad Hatter and the Dormouse put it:

     The Hatter opened his eyes very wide on hearing this; but all he said was, “Why is a raven like a writing-desk?”

“Come, we shall have some fun now!” thought Alice. “I’m glad they’ve begun asking riddles. — I believe I can guess that,” she added aloud.

“Do you mean that you think you can find out the answer to it?” said the March Hare.

“Exactly so,” said Alice.

“Then you should say what you mean,” the March Hare went on.

“I do,” Alice hastily replied; “at least — at least I mean what I say — that’s the same thing, you know.”

“Not the same thing a bit!” said the Hatter. “You might just as well say that ‘I see what I eat’ is the same thing as ‘I eat what I see’!”

“You might just as well say,” added the March Hare, “that ‘I like what I get’ is the same thing as ‘I get what I like’!”

“You might just as well say,” added the Dormouse, who seemed to be talking in his sleep, “that ‘I breathe when I sleep’ is the same thing as ‘I sleep when I breathe’!”

Hmmm, perhaps being in Congress is like being at a Mad Hatter tea party. Certainly it is hard to differentiate a congressperson saying “I am here to represent my constituents” from an Alice-in-Wonderland conversation. I know that what I understand the words to mean clearly has no resemblance to what the speaker of the words intends the words to mean, as evidenced by the use of those words to justify voting against extending the tax cuts to 99% of Americans. It is evident that words spoken by Representative Blackburn — and mimicked by other congresspersons on a regular basis in multiple legislative areas — fail the test by which authors and editors live:

The words chosen clearly and precisely convey the author’s intended meaning so that there is no miscommunication between the author and the reader.

How refreshing it would be if that was the litmus test for political speech and failure of the test were grounds for recall.

August 17, 2012

Politics: One Term More

The following video was created as a political parody of “One Day More” from Les Misérables, but is so well done, I thought I would share it here. As its title implies, the video is pro-Barack Obama and anti-Republican. Enjoy the video for its creativity and excellent production. I suggest watching it with subtitles, as some of the lyrics are hard to discern.

One Term More — A Political Parody

One Term More — A Political Parody (with subtitles)

August 1, 2012

On Politics: Healthcare in America

Obamacare was recently saved by the surprise opinion of arch conservative Chief Justice John Roberts. Regardless of his hidden reasons for saving Obamacare, he really did Americans a favor — not that any one would know it by listening to Republican rhetoric.

I do not disagree with the Republicans that Obamacare could be greatly improved. Personally, I would like to see Medicare made universal for all Americans. That’s my solution to the problem of healthcare for all Americans.

The Republican solution is…. That’s really the question voters should be asking of every Republican. It is not enough to say repeal and replace; there needs to be clear understanding of what the replacement will be. Experience in American politics dictates that repeal will result in no replacement because there is no consensus, even within the Republican party, on what to do. Unlike Democrats who can say “perhaps Obamacare is flawed but we at least addressed a problem and came up with a plan,” the Republicans can only say that Obamacare is flawed.

I have asked my congressperson, who is now Republican as a result of redistricting, to outline for me in detail precisely what she proposes to replace Obamacare with. “How can I evaluate,” I asked, “the merits and demerits of Obamacare versus the Republican plan without knowing the details of the Republican plan other than that once Obamacare is repealed, leaving me with nothing, Republicans might come up with a solution of their own?”

The problem with asking a question like that of a politician is that they do not know how to respond, so they don’t respond. Politicians want to talk in soundbites, in platitudes, not in substance, and voters too readily are willing to let politicians do that. Sadly, so are partisan newspapers. I keep waiting for Fox News to ask that question. They can tell me what they think is wrong with Obamacare, which largely boils down to an unwillingness to see fellow Americans receive medical care because these pundits have goldplated policies, but not one is willing to do the newsperson’s job and ask “replace with what?”

American’s are too willing to accept the Mitch McConnell approach: it doesn’t matter as long as it isn’t Obama(care). It is better to have no insurance than to have Obamacare. McConnell and fellow Republicans make it difficult to be proud to be an American because they make it clear that, to them, “real” Americans are anti-Obama and those who are pro-Obama, or at least not anti-Obama, are not “real” Americans.

There has been discussion in recent months about the benefits of Obamacare, but there are at least two benefits that are not often mentioned but which I think are key: first, the self-employed will finally be able to have medical coverage at a reasonable cost; second, that no American will be stuck in a job they hate just so they can have medical benefits for themselves and their families — medical insurance will be portable. This latter benefit will encourage and permit Americans to become entrepreneurs and fuel the next workplace revolution.

The Republican failure to offer an alternative plan to Obamacare has resulted in a “debate” that is really not a debate and that is full of misleading rhetoric. Consider the exchanges that Obamacare requires. The exchanges are central locations that individuals can visit to see what competing insurance plans are offered by private insurers and at what price. This will promote competitiveness in the private marketplace on both price and coverage. What the exchanges do is simply make information available in an easy-to-find-and-use location. The services are still private industry services, not public services, although a public option will be offered.

Doesn’t this sound like a Republican idea? It does to me. The complaint is that private insurers will have to compete with the government. Well, hasn’t the Republican argument always been that private enterprise can do any job cheaper and better than the government? So why the sudden shift? Perhaps the Republican argument is toothless and this will expose too many voters to the toothlessness of the Republican vision.

Or perhaps the problem is that if Obamacare actually works and makes people freer it will also mean that employers can no longer rely on mediocre benefits to keep employees and will have to pay higher wages; or that it will increase competition among employers for employees, which Republican business contributors will not like; or perhaps it will result in more people voting Democrat because the Democrats did something to solve a major societal problem and the Republicans were simply obstructionist.

The Republicans can combat this by coming forward with their alternative plan to provide healthcare coverage for Americans, especially for the 60+ million Americans who are currently uninsured. I, for one, am open to an alternative plan. If it is a better plan than Obamacare, then I certainly would urge my congressperson to support repeal and replace; but I assure you that I will never support repeal without a replacement in hand.

The time has come when Republicans need to have a true dialog with the American voter and disclose what their alternative vision is in detail. I understand that this is something that is contrary to the way Republicans have campaigned for decades — I think the last Republican to attempt such a dialog was Barry Goldwater and I suspect his overwhelming defeat by Lyndon Johnson led Republicans to take the vague road — but the time has come when that dialog should be resurrected.

July 18, 2012

On Politics: The Logic of the Illogical

As an editor, I constantly have to watch for author statements that are illogical. Unfortunately, that practice doesn’t stop at the workplace door; it carries over to election-year politics and makes me a wary consumer of political talk.

What brings this to the fore is a recent statement by the Republican (expected) nominee for president, Mitt Romney. As reported in the New York Times (“Romney Seeks Obama Apology for Bain Attacks,” by Michael D. Shear, July 14, 2012, electronic edition, p. 31), Mit Romney said on Fox News:

You just had very bad news on the economic front, with now 41 straight months with unemployment above 8 percent.

Romney made this statement in support of his demand that the Bush-era tax cuts on the income of the top 2% of earners be made permanent and not be allowed to expire come January because these 2-percenters are the job creators and to raise their taxes would destroy job creation!

This has been a constant refrain of the Republicans and the Romney campaign. What I would like to know is, “Where are these jobs being created?” In publishing, the jobs are being created in India, not America. In America, editors are both losing work and being forced to accept lower wages as a result of this migration of jobs from America to India. I do not see John Sargent, CEO of Macmillan, or Markus Dohle, CEO of Random House, or the CEO any of the other major American publishers — all members of the 2% club — promising, in writing, to create new American jobs if their personal tax cuts are preserved.

In response to a recent solicitation I received asking me to make a campaign contribution in support of Romney and the Republicans, I wrote back with this offer:

I will make a contribution if you will answer these questions directly and without obfuscation: If keeping the tax cuts on the wealthiest 2% of American society will create jobs as you claim, why haven’t those jobs been created in the past decade while the Bush-era tax cuts have been in place? Why, if these wealthy 2-percenters create jobs, did we have significant job loss during the current life of their tax cuts? How many new American jobs have the Koch brothers, and John Sargent (Macmillan CEO), and Markus Dohle (Random House CEO) guaranteed — in writing — to create within the next 12 months (and how many new American jobs did they create over the past 4 years) as a direct result of the reduced personal rate of taxation they received from the Bush-era tax cuts?

I am still waiting for a reply, and I’m not holding my breath.

The reality is that the claim that reducing taxes for the wealthiest 2% of Americans increases American jobs is illogical, whether made by a Republican or a Democrat. It is a remnant of the flushdown economics of the Reagan era and ignores the fact that jobs grew under Reagan only after Reagan increased taxes and continued to grow (with resulting budget surpluses) under Clinton when tax rates were both raised and significantly higher than under the Bush-era tax cuts and current rates.

Interestingly, Obama, who should be attacking this kind of illogic, doesn’t seem to fight back by demanding that Romney and the Republicans put their cards on the table face up. It seems to me that Obama should be demanding real numbers from the Republicans. Make the Koch brothers pledge in writing to either create 100,000 new American jobs within 6 months of the election if the tax cuts are extended — regardless of whether they are extended by Romney or Obama — or agree to pay a $5 billion penalty. Require other 2% recipients — such as the John Sargents and the Markus Dohles — of the benefits of the tax cut to make the same pledge to create a specific number of new American jobs or pay a significant penalty, and have enough of them make the written pledges so that American unemployment will be reduced to less than 2%. Then I’ll buy the argument that these are the job creators, as will all other Americans!

The reality is not only will the 2-percenters not make such written pledges, but that they are not job creators. They are money makers and obligated to make as much money at as minimal a cost as possible, which means exporting American jobs if it is cost-effective to do so, which is what they have been doing all through the Bush-era tax cuts.

I have noted that Romney and the Republicans are very careful to talk about “job creation” but not “creation of American jobs”. The implication is that the jobs that the 2-percenters create are American jobs; the reality may well be different.

The Republican rhetoric also ignores the realities of the business world. Consider the recent $7+ billion loss suffered by JP Morgan Chase as a result of bad trades. The losses were incurred by a small group of individuals but already threaten the jobs of thousands of ordinary employees who had no connection to the loss-making trades or the division of Chase that made them. Yet, Romney and the Republicans want to give Jaime Dimon, CEO of JP Morgan Chase, a tax break because he will “create” new jobs. What will he do? Hire another valet? Tax breaks for Dimon have no effect whatsoever on whether JP Morgan Chase hires or fires employees.

How much more misleading can the Republican discourse be? Not much, but it sure makes for good bullet points on Fox News. Most of the 2-percenters are employed by a corporation or a foundation or some other business organization whose job-creation decisions are made independently of the personal finances of these 2-percenters. Yes, there are some exceptions, but not many.

The Romney-Republican argument on taxing the top 2% of Americans belies another premise of their presidential campaign: to-wit, that Romney really understands how jobs are created. Jobs are created by the masses spending more money and buying more goods and services, not by a 2-percenter suddenly deciding to trade in last year’s Lamborghini for this year’s model. Economic recovery is not in the hands of the few; it is in the hands of the masses, which is why consumer confidence measures are so important.

It isn’t clear to me what it will take to get voters to look beyond the twitteresque rhetoric and demand that politicians put up or shut up. Nor is it clear to me what it will take to get the Obama campaign to put the Romney and Republican campaigns’ feet to the fire. But in both instances, I hope that such a test occurs because the decision we have to make in November could be catastrophic for America if it is the wrong decision, especially if it is a decision made on platitudes rather than fact.

March 12, 2012

Why I Can’t Vote Republican

I consider myself an independent when it comes to politics. Depending on the primary contest, because New York doesn’t have open primaries, I may affiliate with a party so I can participate in a primary, but when it actually comes to voting on election day, I rarely vote for candidates from a single party.

But as the Republicans move further away from the center, which is where I am, it becomes increasingly difficult to consider voting for a Republican. It seems that, as each day passes, the Republicans are deliberately closing the door more tightly to any thinking independent or centrist-oriented voter.

What seals my decision so early in the election year is not only the poor quality of the Republican candidates (although I admit that I do not think very highly of Barack Obama, either), but their clear lack of honesty and moral conscience as evidenced by their responses to Rush Limbaugh’s defamation of Sandra Fluke. (See “Obama Backs Student in Furor With Limbaugh on Birth Control” in the New York Times for more details about the controversy.) Even the head of her Catholic university, who clearly disagrees with Ms. Fluke’s views on contraception, came to her defense.

Here is what the New York Times reports Limbaugh had to say:

“What does that make her? It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute.” Those remarks and others whipped up a frenzy of denunciations, but on Thursday, Mr. Limbaugh held his ground, declaring: “If we’re going to pay for your contraceptives and thus pay for you to have sex, we want something for it. We want you to post the videos online so we can all watch.”

Conservatives should be outraged by this attack, but they aren’t. And Limbaugh, an admitted drug abuser who has been convicted of drug-related offenses, should not be a conservative icon because of his lack of a moral conscience — but he is.

Mitt Romney and  Rick Santorum claim to be family men, and Newt Gingrich claims to have found morality. All claim to be concerned about the good of Americans, yet they are willing to stand by and let a woman be defamed simply because her views on what is a controversial topic in America do not comport with their views. This tells me that, should one of these men be elected president, given the opportunity, they will try to suppress dissent any way they can. It tells me that these Republicans do not really care about an individual’s constitutional rights, do not care about family values, do not care about anything but what will get them nominated and elected. They lack a moral conscience. I do not want as president, or even as local councilperson, someone who talks the talk of being a moral person but walks the walk of a moral-less person.

I haven’t yet forgotten the Republican lies against their own John McCain (remember the lie about his having a black mistress and a black child that magically appeared just before voters in South Carolina went to the primary polls?), and the willingness of conservative Republicans to outright, knowingly lie to voters just to win their vote.

I also haven’t forgotten George W. Bush’s lack of moral courage to stand up to the Swift Boaters in his capacity as commander-in-chief of the armed forces and defend John Kerry from the false attacks. Kerry at least went to Vietnam; his attackers and George W. Bush partied at home instead. But Bush should have stood up for Kerry in this matter. Kerry didn’t give himself his medals; they were awarded by the United States Navy, and the Swift Boaters not only attacked Kerry but also attacked the veracity of the U.S. Navy — people George W. Bush, as commander-in-chief, should have defended.

As each election cycle comes, Republicans increasingly display a wholesale disregard for the things that matter most — honesty and moral conscience. George W. Bush still has no regrets about lying to the American public about the supposed weapons of mass destruction; after all, neither he nor Dick Cheney had to face enemy fire — either then or in their youth, when they avoided military service.

I find that, because of their lack of moral conscience, Republicans are quick to commit Americans to war. Bush did it in Iraq and Afghanistan; Romney, Santorum, and Gingrich are promising to do the same in Iran should they be elected. The morals-less three (Romney, Santorum, and Gingrich) are also quick to impose their male values on women. They would prefer that a woman die rather than be allowed to use contraception or have an abortion.

Have we forgotten how antigay Dick Cheney was until his daughter came out? Because it affected him directly, his tune changed. Have we forgotten how indignant Gingrich was about the so-called Bill Clinton-Monica Lewinsky affair while he was cheating on his own wife?

It is not that Democrats are so much better. Rather, it is that they are better, and my only real choice is Democrat or Republican. Given those limitations and the fact that when it comes to moral conscience Republicans seem to lack one, I will be voting Democrat in the presidential election. My hope is that the Republicans face their Rubicon again, as they did in 1964 when they nominated Barry Goldwater. That might cause Republicans to rethink their drift to the extreme right, might cause them to gain a moral conscience and no longer tolerate the tactics and lies of the Limbaughs and the Swift Boaters, and might cause centrist Republicans like Olympia Snowe (who has announced she will not run for reelection because of the rightward tilt of the Republican party and its unwillingness to be anything but obstructionist) to regain favor and their willingness to serve.

Should that occur, I would happily consider voting for a Republican candidate. Until then, this independent has moved toward the Democrat side of the aisle.

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