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An Idea Whose Time Has Come: Make Election Mail Free

Mark Jamison’s commentary on USPO matters have been featured at Angry Bear Blog a number of times over the years. A retired postmaster, Mark Jamison serves as an advisor, resident guru, and a regular contributor to Save the Post Office. Mark’s previous posts concerning the USPO can be found here at “Save The Post Office” or by doing the search function at Angry Bear.  Mark can also be contacted on USPO matters markijamison01@gmail.com

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A common thread that runs throughout the history of the United States is the expansion of the franchise.

Early in our history the right to vote was limited to white males, often with strict property qualifications. By the time of Andrew Jackson, the franchise had extended to white males generally. While the primary reason for the Civil War was the elimination of slavery, the logical conclusion of that conflict was the Fifteenth Amendment, which prohibited denial of the franchise based on “race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” The Nineteenth Amendment extended the franchise to women, and the Snyder Act of 1924 extended the vote to Native Americans by granting them full citizenship rights. The Twenty-sixth Amendment extended the voting age to eighteen-year-olds, acknowledging that if one was old enough to fight and die for their country they were old enough to exercise the franchise.

The fundamental premise of our Constitution is that sovereignty lies within the entity known as We the People. Voting, the exercise of our basic right to choose our leaders, should be our most cherished right because it enshrines voice and participation granting the dignity of self-government.

And yet for all its acknowledged value and importance there have still been reactionary and revanchist powers that sought to limit and confine the franchise. The powerful and elite rarely willingly share their wealth and power.  Each step in extending the franchise was met with resistance.

Ninety-five years after passage of the Fifteenth Amendment, the 1965 Voting Rights Act finally enshrined mechanisms to fulfill the vision of participation that is the cornerstone of American Democracy. The VRA was renewed by Congress several times, most recently in 2006 when it passed in the House by a vote of 390 – 33 and in the Senate unanimously. And yet elements, small recalcitrant elements of our society, still begrudge this most fundamental and basic of rights. In an infamous decision that stands with Dred Scott as among the most unjust acts of the Supreme Court the 2013 Shelby County v. Holder decision eviscerated key parts of the VRA. Predictably the same bad actors who have fought voting rights took the opportunity to find new and effective ways to suppress voting, especially among minority communities.

Now we have a president who, fearing he will lose an honest and fair election, takes every opportunity to call into question the integrity of our elections and voting practices. While we struggle as a nation with a deadly pandemic, this president has done everything in his power to call into question an obvious solution that will make voting safer, easier, and more accessible. That solution is voting by mail.

Several states already vote exclusively by mail and every state has some provision for mail voting even if limited to excuse-required absentee ballots. In this time of pandemic, voting by mail makes sense and we should make every effort to assist states in providing vote by mail.

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Necessity of America

If not the US, who?

In order to get it right, it is so important that we know what is going on now. In the midst of a pandemic, overpopulated, ever more marginalized by Global Warming, beggared with inequality, and sorely lacking leadership; the world is indeed going to hell in a handbasket.

Take a look:

An index of Fragile States:

Less than 10 States are shown as being Sustainable. A comparable number are shown not Sustainable but Stable. Together these groups, Sustainable and Stable, constitute about a third of the States. Below Stable, another one-third of the States are shown as being at Warning. The last one-third are shown to be at the Alert level. The US is barely in the top 20% on the index.

An index of Inequality:

In 2019, we were 28th out of 150 on the index.

We used to be the leader of the ‘Free World’. Is this current state of the world, in part, due to our abdication? What if some other nation takes that role? As the leader, we just may have gotten some things right. We made alliances, provided assistance, served as a role model. Today, the Greatest Nation on earth isn’t really. If not the US, then who?

After us, who else will give so freely of their capital? —

We hear that we are not a policeman to the world, or, that at least shouldn’t be. Then who else is going to restrain Xi? Erdoğan? Putin? Who else will keep India and Pakistan from annihilating one another?

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Privatization

Fear and Loathing

On the 17 July 2020, episode of Counterspin, Fair’s Janine Jackson interviewed True North Research’s Lisa Graves about attacks on the US Postal Service. ‘A Combination of Forces Puts Our Postal Service at Grave Risk‘ Jackson leads off talking about the recent appointment of Louis DeJoy, a big Trump donor, to be the new head of the US Postal Service. Upon being appointed, DeJoy promptly issued a series of memos calling for operational changes that many felt were intended to slow down mail delivery. Other recent Trump actions appear to also be intended to sabotage the US Postal Service. In that Trump has made Vote by Mail a big issue, some fear that he might try to nullify his losing the election by claiming that a slow vote count equals an indication of fraud, etc.

Graves’ research into attempts to sabotage the US Postal Service disclosed that for more than 50 years none other than Charles Koch has been funding efforts, at first to abolish, later to privatize, the US Postal Service. In addition to Koch, DeJoy, and Trump; Ronald Reagan, Reagan Administration official James C. Miller, Senators Susan Collins of Maine and Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, and George W. Bush have all taken a hand at this sabotaging and/or privatizing of the US Postal Service. Former Reagan Administration official, former American Enterprise scholar, James Miller, was later appointed to the Postal Board of Governors by George W. Bush with significant help from Senators Collins and McConnell. In 2005, Senators Collins and McConnell both helped push through the prepaid benefits requirement meant to sabotage the Postal Service. To date, some powerful actors have expended a lot of money, time, and effort attempting to abolish, privatize, or sabotage the US Postal Service.

What it means to want to abolish or sabotage something seems clear enough. The wanting doth bespeak an animus. Did these people hate the US Postal Service so much? Or, did they fear that it might succeed?

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School openings need….

Via Diana Ravitch’s blog on a Time magazine article What the U.S. Can Learn from 3 Countries About Reopening:

TIME Magazine just published a story about school reopening in Denmark, South Korea, and Israel, with lessons for the U.S.

Lesson #1 from Denmark: Get the virus under control before reopening schools. Unlike Denmark, the United States is bungling that, and the virus is spreading in the south and west. Perhaps states that have taken the necessary steps and flattened the curve can begin to reopen, with caution.

Lesson #2 from South Korea: Prepare to delay reopening if cases spike. Older students returned to school fumirst.

Lesson #3 from Israel: Infections increase when schools don’t take every safety precaution. Expect to close down again if you don’t follow the protocols of masks, social distancing and other precautions.

The necessary health and safety protocols require extra funding. No extra funding is available. Trump threatened to cut federal funds from schools that don’t open fully even without the small classes, masks, PPE, extra nurses, etc. He wants the schools open without regard to the health or safety of teachers and students.

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The 2017 Tax Cuts and Irish Jobs Act

The 2017 Tax Cuts and Irish Jobs Act

Brad Setser has more to say about how the lack of enforcement with respect to transfer pricing in the Big Pharma sector has not only cost us Federal tax revenues but perhaps in American jobs in his “The Irish Shock to U.S. Manufacturing?” (May 25, 2020):

America’s production of pharmaceuticals and medicines peaked in 2006, back before the global financial crisis. Output now is about 20 percent below its 2006 level. Pharmaceuticals tend to be capital not labor intensive. High quality pharmaceuticals aren’t made in sweat shops. Pharmaceuticals certainly weren’t the kind of industry that most economists expected to be on the losing end of trade liberalization twenty years ago. Yet America’s consumption of pharmaceuticals didn’t peak in 2006. Only U.S. output. Imports have increased substantially since 2006. Imports of pharmaceuticals have increased from $65 billion in 2006 to $151 billion in 2019. As a result, the trade deficit in pharmaceuticals has increased from $32 billion at the end of 2006 to $93 billion in March of this year. That is about 0.4 percent of US GDP, or just under 10 percent of the total trade deficit in manufactures. The bulk of these imports are from countries that pay high wages. The two biggest sources of imports are Ireland and Switzerland. Many of the usual arguments around the gains to consumers from trade don’t really apply here. The imports are of patent protected goods, so they don’t expand consumer choice. And U.S. pharmaceutical prices are notoriously high—imports from Ireland and Switzerland haven’t brought U.S. pharmaceutical prices down to European levels. The bulk of the gains from trade here almost certainly go to the owners of the pharmaceutical companies who benefit from lower taxes. And the main loser is the U.S. Treasury. Right now, the United States pays the highest prices in the world for its medicines (many of which derive from NIH research) while U.S. pharmaceutical companies are often taxed at quite low effective rates.

I want to do two things here starting with an explanation of the Irish transfer pricing game and later a small complaint about his Swiss tale. He cites a story about an Irish affiliate of Pfizer by Tom Bergin and Kevin Drawbaugh:

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Fed Deficit as a % of GDP now at new record

For once Trump is right to claim that he has set a new record as the federal deficit is now over 10% of GDP.  It is now 10.7% of GDP as compared to the prior record of 10.2% that  Obama inherited from Bush.

The deficit is looking more and more like what happened in Japan.  Despite ever expanding debt, Japan’s economy stagnated.  Expanding federal debt may keep the economy from collapsing, but it can not stimulate growth. The strongest growth in recent decades was under Clinton when the federal government ran a surplus. But the real cause of growth under Clinton was the sharp drop in computer prices and the widespread adoption of personal computers. Clinton followed the wise policy of just stepping aside and letting it happen.

Trump appears to just be following the pattern set by previous Republican administrations with their “starve the beast” strategy. That is to create such a severe deficit problem that when democrats get into office they can not afford to pass new liberal legislation.

The quick and dirty rule of thumb is that when Republican presidents leave office the deficit is larger — as a share of GDP — than when they took office.  It is just the opposite with Democratic presidents,  that leave a smaller deficit than they inherited. But it is funny that you never have the press question Republican presidents about their claim that tax cuts will be self-financing.

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Republicans Built and Own This

And we as Democrats did not resist hard enough and gave in to the Republican message.

It wasn’t the lack of turnout by black Americans causing Trump to be elected. It was not the failure to vote as the numbers of voters exceeded that of the 2012 election. It was the minority of voters who cast their ballots in the “others” column or as the media calls the “anybody but trump or Clinton” vote which was at a historical high. Many voters bought into the Republican message of lies and deceit about Clinton which had been answered years ago, many times over, in multiple investigations of Hillary and Bill Clinton.

In this post, there a little bit of WaPo, some Washington Monthly, and some of me giving an explanation how we arrived to today.  As I stood by, watched, and now experience what this president has brought us, I ask the question of myself; what did we miss along the way as many of us still continue to lock down in our homes. How could we have stopped trump as citizens. I have come to this point in time thinking there may be something different I could have done then just bringing what I consider to be cogent arguments to the table. My hands were  tied and my words on the topic ignored in sounding the alarm. And fair warning don’t argue about your liberty being violated if forced to wear a mask. You are a fool if you venture into public without mask and get within the six foot area of others. There is more to Covid than just dying which is the easy way out in many cases. Once you are on ventilation, you are probably going to die.

Stuart Stevens the strategist for Mitt Romney’s campaign makes the argument of Republicans being responsible for Trump in that GOP Principles paved the Way For Massive Suffering. One of the critiques often leveled at the Repub “Never Trumpers” is; even as they reject the current president’s words and deeds, they fail to assume any responsibility for them. In the end Republicans built today’s moment and crisis while still looking the other way.

Jan. 22 2020:

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Oklahoma Expands Medicaid

Kind of a big deal because Oklahomans rejected Trunp’s Medicaid and Republican block grant-program which would be more vulnerable to cuts of Federal funding.  It is unfortunate Oklahoma did not get on board with the ACA Medicaid expansion as 100% of the costs of the Medicaid expansion from 2014 – 2016 and 90% there after. I could never understand the cold-hearted logic of states in not expanding Medicaid. Much of the costs of expanding Medicaid now would have been covered.

In spite of Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt’s plan to make the state a test case for the Trump administration Medicaid block grant program, Oklahoma voters narrowly approved its own initiative to expand Medicaid for low income people. In theory, the state will be in the driver’s sit (mostly) in deciding how much money it will allocate to the program rather than the Federal government.

Oklahoma is the the first state to expand Medicaid during the Covid pandemic. Oklahoma has the second-highest uninsured rate in the country following up Texas who is #1 in both uninsured and the numbers of new Covid cases. The State Question 802 initiative was passed by a margin of less than 1 percentage point amongst voters. It was strongly supported in metropolitan areas such as Tulsa and Oklahoma City and widely opposed in rural counties. While Idaho, Maine, Nebraska and Utah expanded Medicaid through ballot questions and amended state statutes, Oklahoma State Question 802 amended the Oklahoma Constitution which prevents  the Republican-controlled Legislature from altering  the Medicaid program or rolling back coverage.

At an “Americans for Prosperity” forum, Governor Stitt said “We will have a $billion shortfall next year. The state will have to consider raising taxes or cut to such services as education, first responders, or roads and bridges” in order to cover the additional costs of Medicaid.

Looking back, the expansion of Medicaid and also the ACA mandate would increase the numbers of people having healthcare insurance which would be a boon to healthcare insurance companies. The ACA tax on healthcare insurance companies (who would benefit greatly from the new business) was meant to provide additional funds to cover the costs of healthcare. Instead, the Oklahoma plan will increase the fees on hospitals from 2.5% to 4%.  There is more to this issue and I will tackle it another time.

 

 

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Housing rebounded sharply in May

by New Deal democrat

Housing rebounded sharply in May

One aspect of the economy that is important in terms of how well things will go once the pandemic ultimately recedes (which won’t occur until after next January 20) remains housing.

And low-interest rates brought housing back from the depths in May.

My look at the current state of mortgage rates, housing sales, and prices is up over at Seeking Alpha.

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George Floyd and the Costs of Racial Capitalism

George Floyd and the Costs of Racial Capitalism, LAWCHA, Ken Estey, June 10, 2020

Some History

A little bit about LAWCHA. The “Labor and Working Class History Association” is an organization of scholars, teachers, students, labor educators, and activists who seek to promote public and scholarly awareness of labor and working-class history through research, writing, and organizing. It grew out of the conversations among labor historians over the course of a couple of years between 1996 and 1998 about the importance of giving labor history greater visibility nationally in both academic circles and public arenas.

Introduction

With all the news on the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, little is being said about George other than his demise at the hands of the police. Ken Etsey writes on George’s background as a person and why so many other Black Americans like George arrive at a similar point in time where they can lose their lives over so minor as a “supposed” counterfeit 20 dollar bill. Many others like George struggle in what is described as a Racial Capitalist economy which values flexibility to “hire and fire” and profit over Labor stability and good pay. It is a good read. James McElroy at  LAWCHA gave AB the go-ahead to post Ken Etsey’s commentary about George and a May economy in which there are gains in white employment while black and Latinx unemployment still rises.

George Floyd’s Story

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