Monday, November 24, 2014

Community broadband is a great job creator and a great utility

Hardly anyone seems aware that the City of Los Angeles is working on a community broadband network. I certainly didn't see that in the news, did you? The plan? To connect every house and business within the city of Los Angeles with fiber for up to gigabit access. They got started on the idea in 2013. I learned about it by accident while searching for videos on the topic of community broadband. During my search, I found videos of city council meetings with discussion of this idea. I hope they succeed in doing this because LA can set a national trend for community broadband like no other city can.

There seems to be some cognitive dissonance in Congress on two topics: net neutrality and community broadband networks. Net neutrality is the idea that every packet that passes through an ISP must be treated equally to avoid creating an environment that allows a carrier to block or hinder communication with any business, organization or person on the internet. Net Neutrality is about freedom of speech. Net Neutrality enjoys wide support among Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives. But you would not know it by listening to some very vocal members of our Congress. Why? The majority of both houses take big money from the incumbent carriers and are in the pockets of the likes of Comcast, Time-Warner, Verizon and ATT.

In terms of public policy, community broadband networks and municipally owned networks have a similar problem. The chairman of the FCC has stated that he will seek to preempt state laws that prevent communities from building their own networks, but Congress has threatened to defund the FCC if such attempts are made. When asked directly, incumbent carrier executives have a real hard time explaining their opposition to community broadband networks and continue to falsely assert that they tend to fail, when in fact, the vast majority of community networks have been successes.

The amazing success of community owned networks like those in Chattanooga, TN and Wilson, NC prove the point. Those networks deliver gigabit service for the very reasonable price of $70 a month, have brought thousands of jobs to their cities and keep the money in the the city rather than allowing that money to go to New York or Philadelphia to finance the CEO's vacation home on the coast of Spain.

I see in community owned networks, a solution to the problem of net neutrality. First, the community owned network sets the interests of the community they serve as the highest priority. They answer to the community first, not a distant board of directors or shareholders intent on seeing greater dividends at the expense of their customers. Community broadband providers must answer to local governments that must answer to local citizens, rendering the issue of net neutrality moot.

Community networks have been shown to create or attract thousands of jobs. Graduates with big ideas are choosing Chattanooga over San Francisco for that great gigabit connection. Companies are relocating to places that offer a gigabit from a community owned network for one simple reason: they don't have to worry about a private monopoly pricing them out of the market or throttling their connection. People are staring to see that the incumbent carriers are imposing a tax and unnecessary regulation on their communities by distant bureaucrats in corporations like Comcast and Verizon.

So, on the one hand, we have Congress threatening the funding of the FCC when it comes to preempting laws that prevent communities from building their own networks. On the other hand, several conservative communities in Colorado have passed resolutions to reclaim local control so that they can build their own networks.

Colorado isn't the only state that allows communities this option. Many states are starting to understand that communities need to be able to escape from recalcitrant incumbents who make promises to build out, but never do, by building their own networks.

It should also be noted that in Comcast's quest for a merger with Time-Warner, many cities are noticing that they can prevent Comcast from taking over properties held by Time-Warner if the merger goes through. They are actually voting NO on Comcast and making a very public statement that they do not want to let Comcast in.

It seems to me that community broadband is part of something much bigger, an anti-monopoly movement. The problem with dark money in politics grew from the growth in monopolies in the US. Monopolies are too big to fail, too big to jail. They are massive concentrations of political power and will always, always, always, seek to promote their own survival and profits even when the laws they promote really don't support the communities they serve.

Community broadband represents a shift away from private infrastructure, private monopolies and the graft, bribery and corruption that they can promote. There are many things that private enterprise can do better than government. We get that. Unfortunately, infrastructure run by self-interested private corporations doesn't work very well. That's why we've had much greater success with public water and electric utilities, and internet utilities like Chattanooga's Electric Power Board.

Our infrastructure works better when it's a tightly regulated public monopoly than a privately held monopoly that consistently works against the interests of the people they serve. Broadband is no longer a luxury, it is a necessity and as such, it is infrastructure, it's a utility and it's a public interest that should be managed by a public utility company that answers to voters and local government.

If there are private interests who think they can do better, let them try, but a public option is a requirement to set a level playing field for the consumer and the service providers. A public network will keep the private networks honest and limit the ability of the private service providers to grow beyond a point where they can be held accountable.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Monsanto is dumbing down America with glyphosphate

If you have a garden, you might be familiar with RoundUp, Monsanto's famous weedkiller. If you follow agriculture and GMOs in general, you know that Monsanto developed and sells seeds for corn and soy that are "RoundUp Ready". But what you might not know is that there is a definite correlation between the use of glyphosphate, the active ingredient in RoundUp and autism. See the chart below:

Sorry, Jenny McCarthy. Autism shows a stronger correlation with glyphosphate than vaccines.

When asked about the safety of their products, Monsanto will routinely point to the FDA, which is conveniently staffed with former Monsanto employees and executives. But what they can't get around is the science. The FDA will then tell us that we need to ask Monsanto about the safety of their food. Perhaps we need to frame that inquiry in a class action lawsuit.

Monsanto says their data proves the safety of their products, that 30 years of using RoundUp and GMOs proves their safety. Yeah, if you want to use Americans as lab rats, you could say that's science, but their methods are very unscientific when it comes to food safety. Fortunately for the rest of us, there's a really cool thing about science. Science learns from being wrong. It's self-correcting. This data used in the chart above, is not only conclusive, it's alarming. This trend has been confirmed by Dr. Stephanie Seneff, a research scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

This is the price we pay for Monsanto to have their patents, and the royalties that accrue from them. The patents create perverse incentives to create, build and defend monopolies to the point where Monsanto now pays millions to lobby against labeling of genetically modified foods to state and federal legislators. They not only want to keep their monopoly profits as the owner of 90% of the seed market, they want protection from liability for their products. That's why at the federal level, you're just not going to see a law that requires the labeling of GMO food any time soon. The money is just too good for any Congressperson to pass up (save for Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren).

GMO apologists and lobbyists say that GMOs are safe. Maybe that's so, but the research on the topic has never really been done. All that we hear when we ask about GMO safety is this, "Hey, we've been using it for 30 years, so what's the big deal?"

Here's the big deal: for years we've been told that artificial sweeteners were safe. Now we are learning that they change the environment in our gut and increase our tendency to gain weight. When artificial sweeteners were introduced, no one even looked at the effect that they might have on our gut bacteria. Until recently.

The problems with glyphosphate have been known for some time, but now hard data is starting to show up, proving that there is a real health issue building. But don't worry, the elite in Congress know what's best for us and they will try to hide or ignore this issue for as long as they can. This isn't a Republican or Democrat issue. Both parties have been feeding at the Monsanto trough.

If Congress won't help, there is something you can do. Buy clearly labeled organic products.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The US is a nation built on illegal immigration

Considering the hyperbole flying across the social media space regarding which president took the most unconstitutional action, it is easy to forget that many of our ancestors came here as "settlers" and "immigrants". But it is well documented that Christopher Columbus intentionally gave blankets that were used by the sick among his group of explorers to the native Indians in the hopes of killing them off. That was just the start.

Had the native Indians any notice of the plans of the early settlers of this country and the power to stop them, most surely, they would have prevented the settling of the US by white invaders. If they had newspapers, and an advanced government, almost surely, the white men they saw on their shores would be "illegal immigrants", "invaders" or worse, "white trash".

It should be noted that in recent years, this country hit a 25-year low in birth rate. If we don't let enough immigrants into the country, we're going to be looking to Japan for ideas on how to manage and care for a fast growing elderly population. The solution in Japan is not all that surprising. They want to build robots that will care for their aging population.

Japanese immigration policy is stricter by far than ours. As a result, they have a low birth rate, a slow economy and projections show that they are poised to lose at least 30% of their population within 50 years. Is that where we want to go?

Does anyone remember what it says at the base of the Statue of Liberty?
“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me:
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”
Those people come here to the land of opportunity for a reason. To make their lives better, and in so doing, they find ways to make the lives of others better, too. It is a basic principle of life that when you make your life better, the best way to do it is to help others and make their life better. I know this from personal experience.

The current immigration policy and debate suggests that we are being very selfish to the point of self-destruction. There is no evidence that Mexican immigrants are taking jobs that Americans want. They are picking the produce we see at the market, they are keeping house at work and at home where people can afford it, they are doing the menial labor that most Americans don't want to do. Unless of course, you're working on a post PhD thesis, then there is real competition for the janitor space. By the way, I also note that in the landscaping space, white men dominate in Utah. I know this because the landscaper I hired to keep my lawns for the last few years was white. Even his crew was white.

(If you want to bring jobs home, deal withe strong dollar first.)

This country was built by immigrants, from top to bottom. It is not white, black or brown. It is a wonderful mix of everything from everywhere, providing the greatest possibility for our survival. The diversity of our nation is essential to our survival.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

America ignores thorium at their own peril

Last night, I happened to have found the time and opportunity to listen this podcast, featuring Kirk Sorensen. I was looking for recent news on thorium molten salt reactors and this one came up.

There were a few topics in that podcast that caught my attention that I wanted to bring to yours. First, China is investing hundreds of millions every year into research in this technology. Compare that to American interest: one or two government committees and a handful of private companies actively researching it. You almost certainly won't hear of any news of debate over this topic because there are entrenched carbon fuel interests who don't want us to consider it yet. They'd rather wait for peak oil, peak gas or peak coal to hit for maximum profits.

Fortunately, there is building American interest in molten salt reactors (MSRs). Just a couple of months ago, Forbes ran this article about the growing interest and investment in thorium MSRs and provided some great history on the topic, too. Like Mr. Sorensen, the article expressed concern that we will be left behind as other lead the charge to build a commercial MSR for civilian power production. A young startup from MIT has just scored $2 million in seed money and that is encouraging.

China wants to have an operational MSR by 2017. India claims to have one in operation in 5 years. The Czech Republic and Russia are also working on MSRs. We had two running, one in the 1950s and one built by the Oak Ridge National Laboratory that ran for 4 years with no problems. We started it, but other countries are taking the lead.

Another concern raised by Mr. Sorensen is that there are 23 power plants in the US that are built on the same design as the one that blew in Fukishima. GE, the company that designed the plant says that since then, the plants have been modified based on experience from Fukishima and from decades of experience worldwide. But the bottom line is that all nuclear power plants today use a highly pressurized containment vessel, up to 160 atmospheres of pressure, to contain the water that keeps the core of the reactor cool. This is what we're really worried about, a rupture of that containment vessel.

Thorium MSRs don't have that problem because the fuel is already a liquid. There is no worry about a meltdown and even if there were an accident, the fuel can be safely drained away into a holding tank to stop the reaction. It all runs at one atmosphere of pressure, too. So there is nothing to explode in an accident.

It's good to see that some American companies and investors are taking notice and building the power plant of the future. There are numerous benefits to thorium MSRs which are discussed in the Forbes article. Hopefully, someone in Congress is noticing that for a long time, we've been using a very inefficient nuclear power plant and that we're ready for a change.

But given the composition of the next Congress, we might have to wait until 2016 to see people in Congress who are not funded by carbon fuel interests and are willing to make more rational decisions about energy policy.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Changing the terms of the debate between Congress and Obama

While it may not seem like it, President Obama is actually in an excellent bargaining position with Congress. Sure, he's facing solid Republican majorities in both houses. In January, every committee will have Republicans chairing them, which means that almost certainly no bills authored by Democrats will ever see the floor of either house for a vote. Especially if Obama supports that bill. But he still has something Republicans don't have. Veto power, or the power to sign a bill into law.

Unfortunately for the Republicans, they still have to show that they're making a good faith effort to negotiate with the president (they haven't). They will also have to show the nation that president is not playing ball (they haven't). Once Obama casts the Republicans as extreme, unreasonable and offering completely unpalatable and unworkable solutions, just to tease the president, life could get really unhappy at the next major election for the Republicans. Of course, people would have to take time out of their very busy day to notice what's going on.

Republicans may think they have the upper hand in the debate on the economy, but they sure have a hard time explaining what happened to the loss of more than $900 billion in annual economic demand since 2008. Republicans have been keen to point out problems in the economy, but have failed to account for the improvements since the start of Obama's term. Perhaps they aren't as focused on inequality as Obama is.

Some pundits are saying that Obama now has nothing to lose as a lame duck president. While that may seem apparent, he is acutely aware of the prospects for his colleagues in the Democratic Party and is doing what he can to improve them. But he won't have the cooperation of the majority Congress to do it. Who can he turn to for help?

I would say that his biggest ally is his pick for chairman of the Federal Reserve, Janet Yellen. Yellen is, by many accounts, more concerned with unemployment than with inflation compared to her predecessors, Alan Greenspan and Ben Bernanke. She is a Keynesian economist and seems to understand that when demand falls, government can take up the slack and make up demand in the form of government spending. She would be in direct opposition to the position held by many conservative members of Congress: that when government gets out of the way, the private sector will create demand.

Anyone familiar with the history of this country since the Reagan Administrations, can see that the empirical evidence simply isn't there to support the majority in Congress. We've tried their neoliberalism for more than 30 years and it simply hasn't worked. All it has done is given us a bubble economy where wages remain flat for workers while income rises for professionals and capitalists (the people who own most of the capital). If conservatives were right, the wealthiest of us would be spending money to enjoy their wealth and that would increase employment. But that is not what happened now, did it?

There are some economists who have figured out that biggest problem to solve is the trade deficit, not the federal budget deficit. They may have even noticed that China buys our debt to support the dollar, and to support the trade deficit we are running with China. At least one economist has noticed that bringing the value of the dollar more in line with other currencies, to the point that the trade deficit disappears, will bring home about 6-7 million jobs. That is probably enough to fill the $900 billion hole left by the collapse of the housing bubble in 2008.

Obama can change the terms of the debate by showing us how all of this fits together. He can work with Yellen to show how the trade deficit works to send jobs overseas, keeps wages flat and allows CEOs to profit from the delta between the dollar and currencies around the world. Together they can show us that diminishing or eliminating the trade deficit by cutting the value of the dollar will bring jobs back home and increase demand here, at home.

I believe that Yellen is well positioned to act on such a strategy. When demand returns, unemployment falls, and when unemployment falls, employers have to pay more to keep workers around. When unemployment hits 4%, the lowest paid workers will get a raise, whether employers like it or not. You see, I don't think the debate in the minds of Republicans is so much about keeping what you earn. I believe it's about keeping or increasing the distance between the 1% and everyone else.

Once trade balance is restored, if they act on the plan described above, all that Obama has to do is point to a do-nothing-Congress full of Tea Party conservatives who exhibit nary a concern for unemployment, but who will protest, gnash their teeth and whine about how their plan would have worked if we had just given it a try. We did that for more than 30 years. It's time to go the other way. Obama could lead the way in that direction, toward even trade and full employment. Without the help of Congress.

Monday, November 17, 2014

It's time to make corporate political contributions public information

This caught my eye this morning. Maryland is working on a bill that requires among other things:

  • Corporate contributions to any political campaign must be posted on the corporations website within 48 hours of the contribution.
  • Corporations must show that a majority of shareholders approved the contribution.
  • Corporations must show that a majority of their shareholders are permitted to make political contributions.
Such a law would make anonymous political contributions by corporations illegal. Publishing information about political contributions from corporations would allow their customers to see if they're making a purchase that works against customers' interests. It would also allow the employees working for that company to see that management has an interest aligned with theirs, and if not, workers are free to work somewhere else or strike.

Such a law would also subject every political contribution to a vote by the shareholders. This is a big part of corporate governance that is often ignored. Why should the board of directors be the sole arbiters of the value of a political contribution? Everyone who has skin in the game gets a voice in the ultimate fate of the business. Besides, board members have been shown to make mistakes and sometimes, they need parental supervision. You know, better corporate governance.

The last bullet point is very interesting. As the article notes, in most Fortune 500 companies, the majority shareholders are institutions and those institutions are not allowed to make political contributions.

It is telling that Congress refuses to pass any meaningful election reform, particularly with Obama in office. It is also telling that during the last midterm election, many states passed very liberal initiatives while increasing a conservative majority in Congress. Several states raised the minimum wage and legalized marijuana yet returned or added conservatives to Congress. This suggests that gerrymandering played a significant role in building and maintaining a conservative Congress.

90% of Americans believe there is too much corporate money in politics. If big conservative ideas have such broad political support, then having a fair election, without corporate money involved, or even making corporate contributions public information wouldn't be a concern. Unfortunately, for many in Congress, it still is. Imagine what would happen if every state passed such a law as the one being considered in Maryland.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Wasting the land for fun and profit with fracking

I note with supreme disappointment some of the abysmal images of what the land looks like after oil and gas companies are done with fracking the land (just do a search for images of land after fracking and you'll see what I mean). It's just as bad or worse than mountain removal mining, something that's all the rage here in Utah.

Fracking is a process of using water to force oil and gas out of the ground for collection. Fracking allows oil and gas companies to get at hard to reach, hard to extract, but very large deposits of gas and oil. According to some sources, fracking has increased oil production here in America by 50%.

Unfortunately, fracking is wreaking havoc across our land. Fracking is polluting our water supplies, leaving square miles of wasted land where nothing will grow, land that is ugly, and far beyond remediation. It will take centuries for nature to reclaim that land. Perhaps it's no coincidence that the remake of the television series, Battlestar Galactica used the term "frack" in place of a well known four letter word.

Oil and gas companies defend their practice of fracking and are happy to see a Tea Party Congress not only ready to defend them, but just chomping at the bit to reward them with a regulatory environment that lets them walk away with the profits without cleaning up their mess. To put it differently, the Tea Party is working hard to allow oil and gas companies to privatize the profits of their activities while socializing the costs.

It is unfortunate to see President Obama supporting conservative efforts to allow fracking to continue in the United States. This is particularly vexing when even the the most favorable evidence shows that US domestic oil production pales in comparison to world production and demand, with negligible effects on energy prices.

The natural resources extracted from our land will be sold at a profit and the profit will see very little taxation. Just ask Exxon. The best estimates place their effective tax rate at just 17%.

But I don't think it's just a question of taxation and reparations. After looking at the tremendous abuse that fracking does to the land, I don't think there is any amount of money that can be paid to rebuild the land as it once was. The damage is so horrific that many small towns, cities and even one state have all banned fracking.

We might not be having this conversation save for one president Nixon. In 1971, Nixon gave a speech to Congress to address energy policy in the United States. His speech directed our efforts towards a fast breeder reactor, the same reactor we still use today for producing energy from nuclear fission.

Had he turned another way, we could have had a far more efficient and safer molten salt reactor that runs on thorium and is at least 200 times more efficient in energy production, produces 1% of the waste of uranium and requires a fraction of the mining and processing effort. One ton of thorium can replace about 31 billion barrels of oil. Why? Nuclear fission has an energy density one million times greater than the carbon bond.

If the free market is so rational, why did it pick and stick with two of the most inefficient methods for producing energy, carbon-based fuels and the fast breeder reactor?

There is one more question to ask: who will pay for all of the mess? The Koch Brothers? They have every intention of extracting their profits without cleaning up their mess. Just ask the Tea Party. Lucky for them (and others like them), their anonymous contributions allow them to buy public policy without being responsible for their mistakes. Not so great for the rest of us.

Friday, November 14, 2014

The problem with patent supported drug development - it's slow.

Economist Dean Baker justly notes that patent supported drug development is slow. Not only is it slow, but it is inherently unfair because once a patent issues for a new drug, all further developments around that drug will accrue to the patent holder. No one else will want to work on that drug because they won't get any credit for the work and two, they could get sued for doing so.

This is a winner take all situation. As in so many "races" in technology, the one who gets the patent first wins and then everyone else quits and works on something else. Such conditions stifle innovation and preclude collaboration on new therapies and new technology in general.

This leaves a lone scientist to work at his bench for years and years without much help, unless he is willing to share the glory and the royalties with others. With a patent supported development process, it could take a long time to get all the rent-seekers in the room to agree on how to split the reward.

With open source development, scientists who truly want to save lives can do so, and still find a way to make a living with government or charitable funding. Now that conservatives are running the show in America, we can expect to see our government supported research subject to emaciating funding attacks on the part of the Tea Party. This is just one more reason that open source drug development makes sense. Drug development becomes more decentralized and not subject to the petty motives of any single political faction.

 Open source drug development is a collaborative system that allows many people to research and develop novel new therapies for any disease. Open Source Drug Discovery in India works with governments and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to collaborate on drug discovery and development using open source models rather than the proprietary patent supported development model. It is first being applied to neglected tropical diseases where there is apparently not enough financial interest or it doesn't affect those who would seem to be in the best position to help.

There is one other problem with patent supported drug development that doesn't get much press, but it is noted by Mr. Baker: inappropriate promotion of a drug for a use not originally intended. With patents comes incentives to promote a drug for an inappropriate use or to exaggerate the efficacy or safety of the drug for a given disease. Removing patent incentives would allow the market to work naturally. Where the drug works, it's applied, where it doesn't work, it's not prescribed or recommended. But as long as the patent spigot is there, they will keep pushing the drugs for uses in ways that could hurt patients.

Open source drug development can reduce the time required to develop new drugs and allow everyone to be a winner with affordable health care. With patent supported drug development, there is one thing we can be sure of: there is only one winner.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The use of force in the context of energy policy

When I was a very young man in high school, I was bullied on a fairly periodic basis. I had few friends and could not stand up to the bullies, so I found ways to deal with them in my mind. Like the blond girls who seemed to depend on their looks to get what they wanted, I saw that the bullies depended on their brawn to get what they wanted. I saw a definite correlation between the use of force and intelligent action. The conclusion? The use of force tends to decrease the odds of positive results.

For the man who depends on the use of force to get what he wants, life is boiled down to two simple outcomes: get what you want or violence. There is no in-between. There is no negotiation. There are no alternatives. The consequences of this way of life are staggering and have many subtle effects.

This is not a conservative or liberal argument as both ends have been guilty of using force, and both ends have used force in ways that failed to benefit this nation as a whole. To be more specific, for decades, we have used military force and occupied countries in the Middle East for their oil. We have occupied those countries as a government intervention in the market to make sure that our country has access to cheap oil.

Because we use force by default, we are slow to look at green options. While some other more enlightened countries have replaced much of or nearly all of their dependence on oil with green options like solar, water and wind, we are barely making a dent in that quest. Since at least the 1970s, we've relied upon the use of force first to get what we wanted rather than to seriously try alternatives.

In 2013, 67% of our energy was produced from coal and natural gas. Only 1% was produced by oil. Yet we burn more than 20 million barrels of oil a day in our vehicles. The price of oil, or what we use in our cars, gasoline, is directly determined by our ability to inflict violence on the source of that oil. When our ability to inflict violence goes up, the price of oil seems to come down.

Total energy production by renewables (solar, wind, hydro) is about 13% in the US. In China its about 19%. By contrast Norway and Brazil are about half and half, with half the energy produced by carbon sources and the other half produced by renewables. Note that they don't have standing armies and they don't police the world imposing their will upon others. They don't rely upon the use of force to get what they want to an extent that is even remotely close to China or the US. Even Canada comes in at a close 3rd place to Norway and Brazil. No one associates aggression with Canada.

If, starting in 1973 with the oil embargo, we had relied upon American know-how, rather than force, we might be completely free of our dependence on oil today. We foreclosed that opportunity in 1980 with the election of Ronald Reagan and went with the carbon interests. But, as someone once famously said, you can always change the road you're on.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Ghost towns tend to be the relics of unrestrained capitalism

I just finished watching Forgotten Planet: Abandoned America. Forgotten Planet is a television series devoted to the places we have been, but have forgotten. In this episode, we are treated to an examination of ghost towns such as Detroit, Michigan, the Salton Sea in California, Hunters Point Naval Shipyard near San Francisco and the towns of Picher, Oklahoma and Bodie, California.

I found the documentary very interesting because it demonstrates the ultimate conclusion of unrestrained capitalism. The Salton Sea and the town of Picher both demonstrate what happens when industrial pollution is left unregulated. In both cases, there is no one being held responsible for the clean up of those places, and I don't see anyone volunteering to do so.

Picher was a mining town, famous in its day for mining the lead used for the bullets in World Wars I and II. What remains is a town surrounded by mountains of tailings containing lead. The wind picked up the dust from these piles of mining waste and spread them all over town, leaving a thin layer of toxic dust everywhere nearby. Kids growing up in that town showed high levels of lead in their blood and developed learning disabilities as a result of that exposure.

Picher also endured more than a century of unrestrained underground mining. The tunnels under the town have destabilized the foundation of many buildings around that town and have created sinkholes. Mining waste has also contaminated the groundwater poisoning everyone in the town who chose to stay there.

Who is left to pay for all of this? The taxpayer.

The Salton Sea is what can best be described as an accidental lake. It was created by a private development company and is now fed by several rivers and agricultural runoff. The runoff includes fertilizers, pesticides and salt, hence it's name. The fertilizers gave rise to algae blooms that took all the oxygen in the water and killed any fish in the lake. The salt killed most anything else. Birds eating the fish died as a result, by the millions. Again, we see industrialists trying to solve a problem for economic gain, finding that they made a mistake, and abandoning their mess for someone else to clean up.

Detroit and Bodie represent the worst of unrestrained capitalism. Bodie was a gold mining town, started by a single prospector. At the height of the activity in Bodie, the finest of whatever you wanted could be bought there. Wine, whiskey, seafood, you name it. But it was also 90% men and the women were essentially second class citizens. The hard drinking men engaged in routine gunfights, giving the lie to open-carry gun fanbois of today. The town saw their fortunes decline as the gold became much harder to find and was already slowly being abandoned toward the end. The end of the town came when a 2 and half year old boy was playing with matches and set the town ablaze. I guess no one thought about building a fire department. But hey, at least someone got the gold.

Detroit is also known as Motor City. It is a once great city famous for the Ford Motor Company and the Packard Motor Company. Both companies have abandoned large swaths of real estate, leaving gigantic warehouses and factories crumbling behind. When the car factories left, so did the people. Block after block of abandoned real estate can be found in Detroit. Unfortunately, there is no one being held accountable for the mess left behind, unless you are a taxpayer.

The last example is the only example caused solely by our government. That is the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard near San Francisco, California. The shipyard was opened in 1941 just before the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7th of that year. News of the attack put our country in a panic and that shipyard got busy building ships and repairing ships that were damaged at Pearl Harbor.

The shipyard remained busy until it received ships that were exposed to atom bombs set off in the south Pacific for study. The metal in the ships was "hot" due to exposure to the bomb blasts and the site was eventually abandoned by the Department of Defense with no one to clean it up. Perhaps that is because neither Democrats nor Republicans are willing to acknowledge the mistakes made at Hunters Point.

Curiously, despite the billions (in today's money) made from these disasters, there is no one at the top willing to donate to assist these regions in the cleanup. I don't see any of our great philanthropists offering to pony up a billion here or there to help clean up these places where man can no longer live.

After seeing all of this, in just one documentary, I find it unsurprising that the GOP, fresh out of billionaire funded victories, is ready to take on the Environmental Protection Agency. It should be clear to anyone now, that the GOP does not wish to prevent disasters like the examples in Picher, Oklahoma and the Salton Sea, among many others. Nor do they wish to see anyone pay for the clean up those sites with their ill-gotten profits.

While the GOP attacks the EPA in Congress next year, let us remind them of these places and of who is responsible for the clean up of the same.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

A rebuttal to John Boehner and Mitch McConnell about taking control of the Senate

It is fascinating to see the Speaker of the House, John Boehner and the soon to be Majority Leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell exclaim with supreme gall, how they're going to end the gridlock in Congress. It is even more incredible to see that them claim that their priorities are the same priorities of the humble middle class American all dressed up in their professed humility. Yet there they are, telling us that they're going to make it all better once they assume a greater position of power in the House and the Senate.

As I read the article, I could not help but begin to formulate a response to their seemingly sincere, yet misguided attempt to convey the goodwill they purport to hold out to the middle class of America. So, an alcoholic and a paranoid schizophrenic have offered to all of us a set of priorities in a nice, easy to read, bullet point list. I will review them here today, and one by one, offer a constructive course of action to accomplish each of their goals.

But rather than using the usual extreme conservative solutions that could have only one possible goal, enriching the millionaires and billionaires even more to, you know, encourage them to let their prosperity trickle down on everyone else, I am offering a more populist solution, one that would benefit all of us more equally.

Here is the list that they offer with my suggestions for solutions:

The insanely complex tax code that is driving American jobs overseas - Actually, that is not what is driving jobs overseas. What is driving jobs overseas is the strong dollar. Remove the strong dollar, weaken it by at least 15-20% relative to other currencies, particularly Asian currencies, and you will find demand returning to our economy.

If the trade deficit were eliminated, it is estimated that 6-7 million jobs would be created here. But don't expect Republicans to consider such a solution, for that would remove the profits from the wealthiest corporations who take advantage of the the strong dollar to shift production across our borders. I maintain that no matter how much fiddling you do with the tax code, you won't bring jobs back unless you bring the dollar more in line with other currencies.

Janet Yellen is the current chairman of the Federal Reserve, one of the most powerful central banks in the world. She could do more to create jobs than any Republican Congress. Ms. Yellen, I hope you're reading this or something like this.

Health costs that continue to rise under a hopelessly flawed law that Americans have never supported - This point is an allusion to the Affordable Care Act, aka, "Obamacare". Boehner and McConnell hope to use the midterm results as a referendum on Obamacare, but nothing could be further from the truth. Americans still support Obamacare and in March of this year, polls indicated a new high of support for the law.

It is also worth pointing out that health care cost projections have been falling since the passage of Obamacare. Health care costs rose at the lowest rate in decades in the previous year due to Obamacare. Don't believe me? Ask Bloomberg News.

If conservatives are serious about reducing the cost of health care, they can start by increasing the supply of doctors. I mean, they do believe in a free market, right? You know, supply and demand? There are 7 billion people on the planet. Surely, we can find more doctors from around the world to service our aging population.

We can do so by globalizing health care. We can fund the education of doctors living in other countries, but who wish to work here for less money just to get started. They will in turn pay a tax that will fund education programs back in their homeland. But don't expect to see this from Republicans since that might offend one of their favorite constituencies: doctors who support free trade agreements that thrust the middle class in competition with the rest of the world while protecting their own profession from international competition.

A savage global terrorist threat that seeks to wage war on every American - This global terrorist threat has a lot more to do with conservative American foreign policy that relies upon the use of force rather than diplomacy. The entire focus of this foreign policy is to get the Middle East to change rather than for us to change our energy policy.

If we continue to bomb and occupy Muslim countries, as we have done for decades and will continue to do, is there any reason that we could not expect a global terror campaign to be leveled at US interests at home and abroad? If Boehner and McConnell truly wish for the terrorism to stop, the buck stops here by making changes at home in energy and foreign policy. Start with the olive branch rather than the sword. Then see if the weather changes. Perhaps they might seek counseling for co-dependency.

An education system that denies choice to parents and denies a good education to too many children - This is a veiled attempt to support charter schools, as if they've really been doing any good. The facts show that they are neither better nor worse than public schools. Perhaps the "choice" that Boehner implies is one that allows white parents to segregate their children from black or brown students.

As far as looking for a good higher education opportunity, Germany, Finland and Norway are among 7 countries that offer a solution: free higher education for all. It has been estimated that the cost of the entire public higher education system in the US is about $62 billion a year, a mere 0.02% of the entire federal budget. That means everyone in the country who wants a college education can have one - without going into debt, all for a tiny fraction of the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The networking effects of such a policy are enormous considering that there is more than $1 trillion in outstanding student loan debt. When people get an education, they get a raise and they in turn will spend money. But they can't do that if they're paying off loans that are already insured by the federal government at a high rate of interest. Again, don't expect Republicans to consider offering free education as a solution. That'll just piss off a bunch of bank executives loading up on the interest accrued from those loans. 6% of $1 trillion? Who wouldn't be happy skimming from that?

Excessive regulations and frivolous lawsuits that are driving up costs for families and preventing the economy from growing - If Republicans want to stop frivolous lawsuits, they can start with the patent system. Software patents in particular have cost the economy some $29 billion in direct costs per year and that number will increase until we get a court system that will listen to the Supreme Court and a patent office that will stop issuing silly patents on methods and processes that move from brains, pencil and paper to "being done on a computer".

I don't see Boehner and McConnell bemoaning corporate regulation, too. For example, if you work for a large corporation, the company policy says that you better watch what you say or you could face reprimand or termination. Corporations can be slow to respond, too, just like government. Since corporations are making significant dark money contributions to political candidates like Boehner and McConnell, they have a heavy hand in public policy. Therefore, if regulation is the problem, we need to stop dark money from getting into politics.

But you won't hear that from Republicans. Why? It's easier to convince a few people to make really big contributions than to go door to door, convincing thousands to donate. For them, big money in politics is not just here to stay, it's a requirement for political survival. The solution to the problem? Create a superPAC for the sole purpose of eliminating big money in politics and force our candidates to go door to door for support.

An antiquated government bureaucracy ill-equipped to serve a citizenry facing 21st-century challenges, from disease control to caring for veterans - This is a matter of opinion, as there are many signs that governments at all levels have been leveraging new and existing technology to serve the public. One only need to look at unemployment benefit distribution. In the old days, we had to go wait in line to get benefits. Now we can go online to register and collect benefits.

Oddly, Boehner et. al., have no problem lavishing more money upon the Department of Defense, the CIA and the Department of Homeland Security. I guess they're doing a really great job serving all of us. Boehner must consider them to be 21st century agencies using state of the art technologies in a highly efficient manner with the utmost respect for Americans. Puhleeeeze.

Perhaps Boehner is thinking of a comparison in his own mind, of government versus private efficiency. Let's dispense with that comparison right now. Comcast is a private enterprise, a cable and internet access company that is the most hated company in the country, that just happens to have a government protected monopoly wherever it does business. Entire cities are saying NO to Comcast. I seriously doubt you will find many people who hate the government more than Comcast. Unless you're a Tea Party Congressman. No, wait. They might be getting fabulous political contributions From Comcast. Okay, they might be an exception.

A national debt that has Americans stealing from their children and grandchildren, robbing them of benefits that they will never see and leaving them with burdens that will be nearly impossible to repay. - Actually, no. The current national debt is about 100% of the current GDP. In Japan, that number is more like 213% of GDP. Yet, Japan still has a strong economy and they still make products that kick butt on American products. I offer Honda as an excellent example in support of this point.

I doubt very seriously that Republicans want to pay off all of the public debt, anyway. Why? That debt allows foreign countries to buy American debt, in the form of bonds denominated in US dollars, to keep the dollar strong. This currency manipulation is used to maintain the trade deficit, and allows the largest corporations to send production offshore, depressing wages here. That all works together to increase profits and executive compensation relative to everyone else. It's a brilliant strategy.

The debt will remain for as long as the Republicans want it to. Remember, these same Republicans didn't seem to mind the debt when they got the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan started. Nor did they mind when they passed that wonderful expansion of Medicaid, Part D, without raising taxes. Republicans didn't even flinch when it came to bailing out the banks, you know, their best buds. Say, didn't they pass unprecedented tax cuts without offering any way of paying for them in the first place?

If Republicans are serious about paying off the federal debt, they need to start by eliminating the trade deficit. But doing so would offend their greatest benefactors, the 1%.

The hypocrisy of the Republican Party, soon to be in control of both houses of Congress, is nothing short of monumental. This is what we need to remember whenever they spout off about gridlock. What they really mean to say is that they're going to dictate terms to everyone else, whether they like it or not. Since 90% of the seats in the House are safe seats, it's going to be mighty uncomfortable for progressive populists like myself for awhile. That's why I wrote this blog post. I wanted my fellow progressives, no, strike that, liberal populists, to have a set of talking points that can reframe the debate over how our government should be run.

Take it for what it's worth to you and see if you can embarrass a few conservatives (Democrat or Republican) at the next town hall.

Friday, November 07, 2014

Some thoughts on why Democrats lost ground in the mid-terms

There is a lot of analysis showing up on the internet about why the Democrats lost so much in the midterms just passed. Much of it is complex, resting on subjects like gerrymandering and voter turnout. But I think the kids that stayed home may have a point. When looking at the Democrats and Republicans, they may not see much difference between them.

Sure, on core issues, they may differ. But overall, I've seen a significant shift from left to right in the Democratic party over 30 years. If the Democrats keep moving right, as they have been, where is the alternative?

George Lakoff, in an article posted on Truthout, did a very good job of dissecting the differences between liberals and conservatives (although I must say he needs an editor). In a nutshell, conservatives say that people can prosper and be independent without the use of public resources, but that's not what they really do. They tend to privatize public resources and then call that "liberty". What's missing from "liberty" is compassion for your fellow man. Every man for himself right, Mr. Conservative?

Liberals acknowledge that they depend on public resources to prosper. But they also acknowledge compassion for their fellow man. They know that we're all in this together and that in order for all of us to prosper, we all must work together. Liberals know that a business cannot prosper without good roads, reliable power and other infrastructure. Infrastructure is a public resource and has to be else, the transaction costs will become prohibitive for commerce to function. Empathy is at the heart of liberal ideology. It is not even a consideration in the conservative ideology.

In the conservative ideology, you're on your own, bub.

Lakoff notes and confirms that Democrats have been moving right for a long time. Even Clinton was very conservative compared to say, Jimmy Carter. Democrats who identify with Bill Clinton and even Barack Obama need to understand that these two men are, in many respects, even more conservative than Richard Nixon was. That's how far right the Democratic Party has become.

So when young people view the landscape, they don't see any differences between the two dominant parties. Worse, they don't see an alternative that represents them. I believe that is why so many people didn't vote. Young people were, in my opinion, the crux of the election. Had they turned out to vote, we might have had very different results.

There are only a few people who even come close to the original ideal of a liberal. Two of them come to mind right now: Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. Both of them are senators. Consider for the moment what that means in terms of how they got elected. They stood on the issues, and they were firm. They represent the entire state, not a district drawn by a conservative legislature. Bernie has been in the Senate for more than one term and he runs as an independent.

Not only do liberals lack any meaningful choice in the elections they face, but the odds of electing one in the House are small since districts in most states are drawn by conservative legislatures. Most of the seats in the House are safe seats held by Republicans.

If we sincerely want to get people to the polls to vote, we need to offer meaningful choices, real differences between candidates and we need to eliminate the safe seats so that voters will know their vote really does count. For conservatives to claim victory on low turnouts, it's a hollow victory indeed.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Dark money thwarts the principle of one man, one vote

Here's an article from the Washington Post that makes the case that all political contributions should be anonymous. The argument is simple, but with a twist: all contributions are filtered through the Federal Election Commission, and the source remains anonymous because the FEC will make it impossible for the recipient to know the identity of the source. What's more, if the identity of the contribution is ever found to have been disclosed, then fines and imprisonment can be imposed to enforce anonymity.

I think that if we really want to run with the idea that money is speech, this is the way to go. By not permitting a candidate for office to know who made the contributions, and filtering all contributions through a disinterested third party we can trust, the FEC, the candidate cannot exchange a political favor for a contribution.

There is another argument for anonymity which I hadn't considered before: intimidation. Michael Quinn Sullivan makes an interesting case for anonymous political contributions: when someone makes a large donation, it's a very public statement that can be met with intimidation and protests. But the entire premise of his argument is based on the assumption that money is speech. He would seem to be expression genuine concern about intimidation, but the problem with his argument is that he's surrounded by corruption investigations into him and the groups he supports.

The Supreme Court made it known in Citizens United that they were confident that voluntary disclosure would be the norm, but they were wrong. Dark money has become a huge concern, drowning out the merit of ideas and candidates in favor of creating a personal ATM for billionaires instead. Maybe the Washington Post is right. Maybe a blind donation system is the right way to go. Under the system they propose, people making donations will know who they're contributing to, but candidates will not know where the money comes from. That would also eliminate the problem of intimidation and allow us to prove once and for all whether there is any merit to unlimited contributions.

Even under idea conditions, I just don't see how it could work. Any campaign finance law with anti-disclosure provisions could easily be circumvented by secure communications protocols using very strong encryption. That is what is known as a dark network. All communications are encrypted, end to end, preventing anyone outside from ever knowing what information has been exchanged.

That's one reason why I disagree with the Supreme Court. There is another reason that doesn't get spelled out to clearly in debates on the subject. A billionaire making a contribution for a law he wants, that will favor his company or business over all others, is making a very selfish demand on the rest of the country. Such a demand is an expectation that the government will intervene in the market, on his behalf, at the expense of everyone else. If such a demand were made public, the donor could easily become a target of intimidation, public criticism and perhaps physical or violent threats. It is possible, for example, that a hacking group could attempt to conduct a campaign against the donor to damage his business or expose his secrets.

I have a friend who used to read latin dictionaries for fun. He'd learn latin, read the original text of stories from ancient Greece or Rome and consider them in the context of modern politics. His conclusion? "Same shit, different day." Even then, the Romans and the Greeks knew how tenuous democracy can be. They understood the power of influence and money in politics.

F.A. Hayek, in his book, "The Road to Serfdom", observed that a good law must be written in such a way so as to make it impossible to predict which individuals will benefit from it over all others. Dark money in politics thwarts that principle to no end. When the wealthiest of men and women can custom order the laws to be passed for their own benefit, every other citizen is disenfranchised of their right to representation. Under conditions imposed by dark money, we no longer have a democracy, we have an oligarchy.

One solution is complete and full disclosure of every true party in interest to every large contribution. There is another solution: limit campaign contributions from any single source to a reasonable amount, such as $250. You can have unlimited contributions with disclosure, or you can have anonymous contributions with a contribution limit. But if you allow unlimited anonymous contributions to political campaigns, then you get a ruling class that is unwilling to be accountable for their public policy mistakes.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Pachyderms and testosterone

The GOP takes the Senate. Already, people are pontificating on how bad this is going to be. Oddly, I don't hear any claims of voter fraud in this election. Nor do I see any claims of gerrymandering by any sitting Congressperson. Yet, I have a fair amount of suspicion that both have played a part in this election.

So now that the GOP has control of both houses, can we expect even a modicum of compromise? I doubt it. I think we have every reason to expect the GOP to conduct a scorched earth campaign to stifle and stymie President Obama. Compromise is out of the question at this point now that they have both houses. At the next round of budget negotiations, the odds of a government shutdown are at the very least, even, but I'd say they are likely. The GOP will give no quarter.

Remember that this is class warfare brought on by a party with a very short memory. Do they remember Eisenhower? Probably not. Hardly anyone remembers that the GOP and the Democrats once agreed on many ideals and goals. But today, the GOP disagrees with the President any chance they get, even if they once agreed with him. Almost as a reflexive response. Why? It's fashionable for them to disagree with a black president.

In this election, I think that one of the biggest problems is that the distinction between Democrats and Republicans has become less clear. Many Democrats are very conservative compared to their forebears of the 1960s and 1970s. We don't have many Democrats who are willing to fight the big fights like they used to. They do not appear to stand for traditional liberal values anymore. Sure, the are outspoken on some issues, but in the main, they've become pretty conservative. Remember, many Democrats voted for the war in Iraq. Compare Elizabeth Warren to traditional Democrats and to her peers and you'll see what I mean. She is about as close as you're going to get to a traditional liberal Democrat.

The second issue is gerrymandering. How else can we explain the results of 2012 where the president wins by popular vote and the House and the Senate both add more GOP seats? I believe that is still happening and that there are so many safe seats that many voters have become disenfranchised. They do not believe that they can unseat someone they don't like anymore.

Fortunately, the GOP does not have supermajorities in either house. That means they cannot override a veto. But they will continue to stall appointments and in general, make life very difficult for the president. Some people have openly questioned the sincerity of the GOP. Do they want to govern or do they want to fight?

If they want to fight, perhaps Obama has the courage and the wisdom to do what Clinton did in the 1990s and give the GOP the room they need to make a fool of themselves. But with so many safe seats, that might not matter anymore. Between big money in politics, safe seats everywhere and increasing polarization, I wonder if we can even restore our democracy from the oligarchy we now have.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Tea Party politics can be summarized in a joke - seriously

For months, I've been trying to boil my perception of the Tea Party down to a very simple concept. I can say, almost certainly, that the only common ground I share with the Tea Party is that we should not have bailed out the banks during the financial crisis of 2008. For everything else, it seems that if the Tea Party were a hammer, every problem is starting to look like a nail, a tax cut.

Judging by the votes in Congress, they seem genuinely in love with their idea that cutting government spending is going to boost the economy and free us all from such a terrible master. But pretty much every study has shown that government spending has helped the economy.

Notice that after the financial crisis, the only people who really recovered were the one percent. The rest of us, the 99%, continue to struggle in the doldrums. As ThinkProgress has shown, the top 1% own 40% of the nations wealth, they earn 60% of the national income, they own half of all securities sold (stocks, bonds, commodities), and they only owe a mere 5% of the outstanding personal debt.

I believe that the following joke summarizes the Tea Party rather well:
Two campers are walking through the woods when a huge brown bear suddenly appears in the clearing about 50 feet in front of them. The bear sees the campers and begins to head toward them. The first guys drops his backpack, digs out a pair of sneakers, and frantically begins to put them on. The second guys says, "What are you doing? Sneakers won’t help you outrun that bear." "I don't need to outrun the bear," the first guy says. "I just need to outrun you."
Guess who owns the running shoes in the joke? The 1%. Everyone else gets the bear. This is what I thought about when I voted - yes, I did my voting early. I didn't want to wait until the the last minute and find that I didn't have time. So my wife and I both voted early.

Maybe the Tea Party isn't at all like I make them out to be. If there is compassion in the Tea Party, I haven't seen it. Most certainly not in Congress. If there is a sincere desire to help the middle class, sorry, I haven't seen that, either. Their attitude is plainly evident in their votes on Obamacare. I do see that the Tea Party seems to have been co-opted by the 1%. You know, the Koch Brothers. That seems rather obvious now.

So when you vote today, remember that the 1% is wearing fully paid-up Nikes while running from the bear.

Monday, November 03, 2014

The perversion of Daylight Savings Time

Is it just me, or has anyone else noticed that we spend more days of the year on Daylight Savings Time than on Standard Time? Here are the basics:

There are 12 months in a year.
Daylight Savings Time runs from March 9th to November 2nd this year.
Within that span of days, there are 238 days.
238 days is equal to 7 months and 24 days.

We spend nearly 8 months on Daylight savings time, which means that for a little over 4 months out of the year, we're on Standard Time. For at least since the 1970s up to 2006, daylight savings time has run for 6 months already.

Here in the state of Utah, at least two legislators have taken up the charge to eliminate it, modify it or make it permanent rather than fiddling with the clocks twice a year. They have solicited feedback on the idea and have received more than 18,000 comments. The majority of the people who responded prefer to eliminate DST. I'm in agreement with them.

Others wanted to make DST permanent all year round. I guess I can see the reason for doing that since we're on DST more than not. I think I would prefer to eliminate it altogether since it's already confusing as it is.

The most vocal supporters of DST? Business. Oh, yes. Some businesses around Utah say that they love it, that they'll lose millions without it, or that they would prefer to keep it simply to be like everyone else. Utah is a Right-To-Work state, which is another way of saying that the government of Utah prefers to look the other way when it comes to exploitation of natural resources and the rights of humans that are not business owners. So it would make sense that business owners would speak up and expect to be heard.

Utah isn't the only state considering the change. Colorado, Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming are also looking into dropping DST. Hopefully, the idea will gain some momentum and we can get away from doing all this fiddling with the clocks. It's worth noting that in the same way we adapted to DST, we can also adapt to life without it.

In fact, I see how businesses have had to contend with the internet. Some have found ways to adapt, others, have shied away from it and failed to prosper as a result. The market disruption caused by the internet is far greater than changing or eliminating Daylight Savings Time. If we did eliminate DST, I'm sure that businesses, like their customers would adapt. And for once, the people would be heard and given priority over corporations.

Saturday, November 01, 2014

Rebuttal to Sen. Mike Lee's Family Fairness and Opportunity Tax Reform proposal

Senator Mike Lee represents my state of Utah. He has put forward many ideas to promote a conservative reform agenda. Today, I happened upon a list of those ideas and found this one of interest: Family Fairness and Opportunity Tax Reform. Right away, he's talking about investors and entrepreneurs, but he says that means parents who raise kids. I don't know about you, but it's not easy running a business when you are raising kids. I know, I lived with one of those "entrepreneurs" as a kid and I didn't see him all that much.

Anyway, the proposal is yet another tax cut, like so many that have been offered by the Tea Party, a group that Mr. Lee is associated with. That association is how he got elected. You might recall that Mr. Lee was one of the people promoting the shutdown of the federal government to gain concessions from President Obama during the debate over the public debt.

Although Mr. Lee paints a nice picture of his plan, it's worth pointing out that he's not an economist. He also doesn't seem to take notice that a tax cut is not a solution to every problem. Have a read of his post in the link above and see what you think. His post is pretty short, so it won't take much time to read. I posted a comment on his proposal, but just in case they decide not to publish my post, I've put my response to Mr. Lee here:

A couple of years ago, the birth rate in America was at a 25-year low. That is because we are spending 18% of GDP on health care.

To deal with the costs of health care, we can start by setting up universal health care for everyone, you know, the public option. A few industrialized countries already do it (Canada comes to mind). Why? They recognize the investment they're making in families by doing so.

But that isn't enough. We protect our doctors from competition through "Free Trade" agreements. Most trade agreements we set up place the working class in direct competition with the rest of the world while doctors and other professionals get world-class protection from international competition.

Noted economist Dean Baker has proposed a plan that would attract doctors from around the world who are willing to work for about half of what doctors here earn. Those doctors can be asked to pay a tax that is used to fund education of doctors back home if they want to come here to practice medicine.

When it comes to helping the family, dealing with health care costs and balancing trade are where we should start. We can do tax cuts later, when we can afford to do it and when 95% of all the gains in the economy do not go to the top 1%.