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Irreconcilable differences: genocide in Iraq, Part 1 — Videos

Posted on August 28, 2014. Filed under: Army, Blogroll, Central Intelligence Agency, Columns, Courage, Crime, Genocide, Government, Government Spending, Homicide, Law, Liberty, People, Philosophy, Politics, U.S. Constitution, War, Weapons, Wisdom | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Obama: U.S. strategy over Islamic State requires Sunni cooperation in Iraq, Syria

News Wrap: Islamic State executes captured Syrian fighters

Beyond Iraq, what’s next for the Islamic State?

What is ISIS, ISIL, Islamic State?

Is the U.S. underestimating the Islamic State?

The Beast : Obama’s Assyrian ISIS Army declares Caliphate Islamic state on Ramadan (Jun 30, 2014)

The Islamic State (Full Length)

 

 

Irreconcilable differences: genocide in Iraq, Part 1

By Raymond Thomas Pronk

iraq_map

 

Map of Iraq.                                                                                        Credit: theguardian.com

U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker, when asked in November 2008 what one word best describes Iraq, answered “fear.” Today it’s terror.

When Barack Obama was elected president in November 2008, he said in his victory speech “To those who would tear the world down, we will defeat you.”

The Islamic State, formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) or the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), certainly qualifies as a terrorist army of extremist fanatics who want to “tear down the world” and transform it into a global Islamic state, called the caliphate, ruled by Islamic Shariah law.

The last caliphate was the Ottoman Empire until its collapse in 1918. It was abolished in 1922 and included what is today the nations of Turkey, Iraq, Kuwait, Syria,, Jordan, Lebanon, Israel, Palestine, Saudi Arabia and Yemen.

In World War I (1914-1918) the Allied Powers including Great Britain, France, Russia, Italy and the United States defeated the Central Powers of Austria-Hungry, German and Ottoman Empires. The victorious nations split up the Ottoman Empire into a number of nations including Iraq and Syria.

States or governments kill people, especially when they go to war. About 16 million died in World War I of which an estimated 8 to nearly 11 million were military and about 2 to nearly 7 million were civilian deaths. Another 22 to 23 million were wounded military casualties.

When governments systematically kill people due to their ethnic, national, racial or religious group membership, it is called genocide, a term coined in 1944 by Raphael Lemkin that combines the Greek genos (“race, people”) and Latin cidere (“to kill”).

Today, according to Dr. Hisham al-Hashimi, Iraq’s leading expert on ISIS, “I would say there are now between 30,000 and 50,000 of them. Of those, I would say 30 percent are ideologues. The others have joined out of fear or coercion.”  They are noted for their brutality and violence directed primarily at Iraq Shia Muslims, Christians and other religious minorities and the Iraq army, police and government dominated by Shia Muslims.

On June 29, ISIS changed its name to Islamic State and proclaimed a caliphate with its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, named caliph. The Islamic State is systematically killing those who do not share their religious Sunni Islamic faith, including Shia Iraqis, Sunni Kurds, Yasidis, Christians and those who do not speak Arabic and do not obey Sharia law.

The genocidal atrocities committed by the Islamic State are graphically displayed and documented in many videos posted on YouTube and used by the Islamic State as propaganda to terrorize all those living in Iraq as well as abroad. Iraqis fleeing their homes and communities are literally running for their lives.

The inspiration of most modern violent Islamic terrorist jihadist groups including Hamas, al-Qaeda and the Islamic State is the Muslim Brotherhood, also known as the Ikhwan and Society of Muslim Brotherhood, founded in 1928 by a school teacher, Hassan al-Banna.                                                                                                  .

The Brotherhood is a totalitarian and Islamic supremacist movement that seeks world domination mainly through violent jihad or holy war as mandated by Allah through his prophet, Mohammed. One of Mohammed’s final “revelations” set out in the Quran is the “Verse of the Sword” which states in part: “When the sacred months are over slay the idolaters wherever you find them. Arrest them, besiege them, and lie in ambush everywhere for them. If they repent and take to prayer and render the alms levy, allow them to go their way. God is forgiving and merciful.” (9:5)

The doctrine of a violent or offense jihad or holy war against all infidels of other religious faiths including Christians, Jews, Hindis, and Buddhists is the mainstream interpretation of Islamic scripture, not just the interpretation of terrorist Jihadists such as the newly created Islamic State.

The Muslim Brotherhood’s Yusuf al-Qaradawi is one of the world’s most well-known and respected Sunni clerics and Islamic scholars based in Qatar who broadcasts a weekly program on al-Jazeera, “Shariah and Life” to an estimated audience of 60 million worldwide. Al Qaradawi is the spiritual leader of Hamas and the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. He has sanctioned the use by the Palestine brothers of suicide bombings in Israel as divine justice and stated Shias are not Muslims and must be killed, according to videos posted on YouTube. He inspires the Islamic State’s genocide in Iraq of Shias, Kurds, Yazidis, Christians and other religious minorities.

What motivates the Muslims of the Islamic State to embrace the violent jihadist ideology? A former terrorist named Tawik Hamid explains how he embraced the jihidist mindset of the violent Islamic Salafi sect: “I passed through three psychological stages to reach this level of comfort with death: hatred of non-Muslims or dissenting Muslims; suppression of my conscience; and acceptance of violence in the service of Allah. Salafi religious indoctrination played a major role in this process. Salafists promoted our hatred for non-Muslims …” quoted in the book authored by Erick Stakelbeck, “The Terrorist Next Door.”

The Islamic State’s violent jihadist ideology and indoctrination directly leads to the systematic killing or genocide of those who do not share their religious beliefs and ideology. Convert or be killed.

Parst 2 and 3 of this column will address how Obama and the U.S. government are responding to the terrorist threat posed by the Islamic State and their continuing genocide or mass murder in Iraq and Syria.

 

 

 

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The Ultimate Resource: Human Beings

Posted on January 26, 2014. Filed under: Business, Economics, Government, Government Spending, Law, Liberty, People, Philosophy, Politics, U.S. Constitution, Wisdom | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Ultimate Resource: Human Beings

“Multitudes of people, necessity, and liberty, have begotten commerce in Holland.”

~David Hume (1711-1776) “Of the Rise and Progress of the Arts and Sciences” (113).

The thesis of this argumentative essay is sustainable development requires the growth of the human population to promote division of labor or labor specialization, the expansion of the market and individual economic and political liberty with limited government intervention into the economy. Many of the advocates in the sustainable development movement are environmental activists, socialists and collectivists who argue for the opposite, namely limiting the growth of the human population because they believe natural resources are scarce. These advocates argue for government intervention into the economy and use the precautionary principle as a tool to stop economic development they consider harmful to future generations.

Humans throughout time have struggled to survive and obtain scarce resources such as food, water and energy. Only in the last 400 years have most humans been able to gradually rise above a subsistence level of existence and increase both their numbers and standard of living. In the sweep of time humans have progressed from the age of hunting and gathering to the age of farming and shepherding to finally the age of commerce.

Regarding the first two ages, Jared Diamond in his book Guns, Germs and Steel wrote: “Around 7 million years ago, all humans on Earth fed themselves exclusively by hunting wild animals and gathering wild plants. It was only with the last 11,000 years that some people turned to what is food production: that is, domesticating wild animals and plants and eating the resulting livestock and crop” (86).

Food production resulted in food surpluses that enabled the human population to grow in numbers and specialize in their activities. Diamond described the consequences of this development: “In short, plant and animal domestication meant much more food and hence denser human populations. The resulting food surplus, and (in some areas) the animal-based means of transporting those surpluses, were a prerequisite for the development of settled, politically centralized, social stratified, economically complex, technologically innovative societies” (92).

Diamond identifies four sets of factors that he argues constitute the “big environmental differences that can be quantified objectively and are not subject to dispute” (408).  The fourth set of factors is a large area or population. Diamond describes this important set as follows:  “A large area or population means more potential inventors, more competing societies, more innovation available to adopt – more pressure to adopt and retain innovation because societies failing to so will tend to be eliminated by competing societies” (407).

Adam Smith in his book The Wealth of Nations published in 1776 wrote: “The greatest improvement in the productive powers of labor, and the greater part of the skill, dexterity, and judgment which it is anywhere directed or applied, seem to have been the effects of the division of labor” (3).

For a nation to increase its wealth and develop economically required a large and growing population to enable a division of labor or labor specialization. According to Smith the division of labor’s increase in work and production resulted from several factors:

This great increase in quantity of work, which, in consequence of the division of labor, the same number of people are capable of performing, is owing to three different circumstances: first, to the increase dexterity in every particular workman; secondly, to the saving of the time which is commonly lost in passing from one species to another; and lastly to the invention of a great number of machines which facilitate and abridge labor, and enable one man to do the work of many. (7)

Individuals exchanging goods and services encourage the division of labor which is limited by the extent of the market (Smith 13-21). For Smith an individual’s freedom, security and work ethic are of critical importance:

The natural effort of every individual to better his own condition, when suffered to exert itself with freedom and security, is so powerful, that it is alone, and without any assistance, not only capable of carrying on the society to wealth and prosperity, but of surmounting a hundred impertinent obstructions with which the folly of human laws too often encumbers its operations (508).

The writers and philosophers of the 18th century Enlightenment shared Smith’s optimism in economic progress. One such optimistic thinker was Marie-Jean-Antonine Nicholas Caritate (1743-94), known as Marquis de Condorcet. He predicted that in the next 200 years there would be a substantial increase in world population and life expectancy resulting from greater productivity in agriculture and manufacturing, improvements in food and housing, and advances in medical technology that would diminish disease and illness (Skousen 70).

Condorcet also anticipated Malthus by allowing that there could be a scenario where “the increase in the number of men surpassing their means of subsistence” could result in “either a continual diminishing of happiness, or, at least, a kind of oscillation between good and evil.” Condorcet predicted a smaller family size when individuals “will know that, if they have a duty not to give them existence but to give them happiness” (Sen 213-214).

The Reverend Thomas Robert Malthus (1766-1834) was an English economist and demographer who agreed with Condorcet’s analysis but disagreed with his views concerning declining fertility rates. Malthus formulated a simple theory that food production grows slower than the growth in population. In the long-run food production will lose the race to population growth and as a result people will starve and die (Skousen 71-91; Lomburg 60).

Malthus’ pessimistic doomsday theory was first published in 1798 as an essay under a pseudonym and then updated in his book, An Essay on the Principle of Population, in five subsequent editions through 1826. Malthus’ first law of nature is that population tends to grow geometrically (1, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32 …). His second law of nature is food production tends to increase arithmetically (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 …) (Skousen 71-72; Kahn).

Malthus’ first law of nature was empirically wrong because population did not grow geometrically. The world population did, however, grow from about 1 billion in 1800 to more than 7 billion today. The causes of this growth are chiefly a sharp decline in infant mortality and an increase in life expectancy due to rising standards of living, improvements in hygiene, sanitation and health care and advances in medicine (Skousen 76-78).

Malthus second law of nature regarding food production is simply false for both plants and animals are far more fertile than humans. Malthus argued that there was not enough fertile land or natural resources to sustain life (Skousen 81-82).

Malthus’ preventive checks on population growth included delaying marriage, birth control and celibacy. Positive checks on population growth included war, disease, epidemics, plagues, pestilence and famines (Buchholz 49-50).

For Malthus famine was the last resource that haunts humans everywhere and always:

Famine seems to be the last, the most dreadful resource of nature. The power of population is so superior to the power of the earth to produce subsistence for man that premature death must in some shape or other visit the human race. The vices of mankind are active and able ministers of depopulation. They are the precursors in the great army of destruction; and they often finish the dreadful work themselves. But should they fail in this war of extermination, sickly seasons, epidemics, pestilence and plague advance in terrific array, and sweep off their thousands and ten thousands. Should success be still incomplete; gigantic, inevitable famine stalks in the rear, and with one mighty blow, levels the population with the food of the world. (Malthus 139-140)

What Malthus clearly missed and Condorcet did not is affluence or high standards of living is an effective way to limit population growth in the long-run. The world’s population is determined by the combined effects of fertility and mortality rates. The world’s population continues to rise because of generational lags between fertility and mortality changes and population changes (Huber 142).  When Malthus first wrote his essay in 1798 the world population was about 1 billion. A hundred years later in 1900, the world population had grown to 1.6 billion. By 1950 the world population had increased to 2.5 billion. By 2000 the world’s population had increased to 6.5 billion. Today the world’s population exceeds 7 billion people. According to the United Nations’ long-term projections the world’s population will be somewhere between 7.5 billion and 9.5 billion in 2050. However, population is projected to start shrinking to about 6 million in 2100 and 4.3 billion in 2150 (Huber 148).

In the 215 years since Malthus first published his essay, the west has grown steadily wealthier as free market capitalism expanded globally. Both fertility and mortality rates dropped resulting in fewer children and a longer life expectancy (Huber 141). The economic wellbeing of a country’s population depends upon raising per capita living standards through the expansion of economic activity measured by total aggregate production and consumption. This, in turn depends upon the rate of growth of the population (Friedman 391-392).

Rapid population growth rates are almost entirely a problem for developing countries. “The forty-two countries where per capita income is below $2,000 – nearly a billion people – average population growth is 2.2 percent per annum. Their average fertility is 4.9 births per woman” (Friedman 392).

Rapid population growth rates in emerging countries such as China and India are less of a problem. “In the thirty-eight countries with per capita income in the $2,000 to $5,000 range, population growth averages 1.4 percent per annum, and the average fertility rate is 3.” (Friedman 392)

Rapid population growth rates are not a problem for developed countries in Europe, North America and Asia. “Among the thirty countries with the world’s highest incomes, the average population growth net of immigration is just .3 percent per annum. The average fertility rate is 1.7 births per woman, well below the population replacement rate (Friedman 392). In the United States over the last 200 years, the fertility rate has dropped from about 8 children per woman to 2” (Huber 147).

The last 100 years has by far seen the largest improvement in life expectancy of the world’s population. In 1900 the estimated world life expectancy was just 30 years. By 1950 people lived for an average of 46.5 years. By 1998 the life expectancy increased to 67 years. The world population’s life expectancy had more than doubled in just 100 years. This improvement in life expectancy was largely due to a significant decline in infant mortality in both developing and industrialized countries by more than 50 percent. Less people died at an early age and more people die of old age (Lomborg 50-59).

The declining infant mortality rates and increasing life expectancy were due to rising standards of living that provided better food, clothing and housing and higher disease resistance. Better water supplies, sewers, public hygiene and quarantine measures also suppressed the spread of infections. Higher living standards, better hygiene and advances in medicine also defeated infectious diseases (Lomborg 55-56).

Malthus’ pessimistic doomsday vision has nothing to do with reality when it comes to food production and daily intake of calories per capita in developed and developing countries. Since 1961 the world’s food production has more than doubled and in the developing countries has more than tripled. Calorie intake globally has increased by more than 24 percent and in the developing countries has increased by 38 percent (Lomborg 60-61).

What caused this significant improvement in food production and consumption? The Green Revolution was the cause. A number of technologies including high-yield crops, irrigation and controlled water supply, fertilizers, pesticides and farm management skills produced more food during the Green Revolution that began in the 1940s and continues into the present. Norman Borlaug is the “father of the Green Revolution.” His vision was to get more food out of each and every hectare of land. Borlaug focused on developing high-yield varieties of cereal crops including wheat, corn (maize) and rice that are resistant to disease and drought, germinate earlier and grow faster (Borlaug; Briney; Fogel 54; Hazell 1-3; Lomborg, 62-64; Courter).

Despite the growth of the world’s population to over 7 billion, the Green Revolution’s dramatic increase in world food production has continued the long-term trend of lower food prices. Food prices in 2000 cost less than a third of their prices in 1957 (Lomborg 62).

The United Nations General Assembly established and chartered the World Commission on Environment and Development in 1983. Gro Harlem Brundtland, three-term prime minister of Norway, former environment minister and first vice-president of the Socialist International, was chosen to chair the commission (Friedman 390).

The Brundtland Commission’s report published in 1987 introduced the concept of “sustainable development” and the need for intergenerational equity and continuity by meeting “the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (Friedman 391; World Commission on Environment and Development 8). The Brundtland Commission called for both reduced population growth and changes in the life-styles of the more affluent. The report stated:

Sustainable global development requires those that are more affluent adopt life-styles within the planet’s ecological means – in the use of energy, for example. Further, rapidly growing populations can increase the pressure of resources and slow any rise in living standards; thus sustainable development can only be pursued if population size and growth are in harmony with the changing productive systems of the ecosystem. (World Commission on Environment and Development 8-9)

Environmentalist Paul Hawken writing about the “movement for equity and environmental sustainability” (13) provides a more expanded definition of sustainable development:

Sustainable development encompasses economic and social development. It takes full account of the environmental and social consequences of economic activity and is based on the use of resources that can be replaced or renewed, meeting the needs and improving the quality of life of current generations without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own environmental, social, and economic needs (288).

Where did this movement come from? According to Hawken, “The movement has three basic roots: environmental activism, social justice initiatives and indigenous culture’s resistance to globalization, all of which have become intertwined” (12). One tool of this movement is the precautionary principle used to stop economic development, globalization of the market and technological innovation, considered harmful to sustainable development. Hawken defines the precautionary principles as follows: “The principle of taking pre-emptive action to forestall long-term environmental damage despite scientific uncertainty of such damage occurring. Where the potential damage is severe and irreversible, as in the case of climate change, a lack of scientific proof is insufficient reason to justify inaction to prevent such damage occurring” (266).

Hawken summarizes the detailed analysis and final verdict of “The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment Report” on the planet’s carry capacity: “the earth is wearing out and will soon become exhausted, incapable of supporting life as we know it” (173). If you believe in this movement, the planet is on the brink of disaster (173).

Humans and the planet need a second opinion. The skeptical environmentalist Bjorn Lomborg reached a different conclusion regarding the real state of the world. Humans have never been healthier and living longer with more food to eat, higher incomes, more leisure time, and on average are better educated. “Things are not everywhere good, but they are better than they used to be” (87).

Is this progress sustainable? Can the progress humans have made be maintained and improved? Lomborg answers in the affirmative. He concludes his exhaustive analysis as follows:

Our consumption of the essential resources such as food, forests, water, raw material and energy seem to have such characteristics that it will leave the coming generations not with fewer options, but rather with ever more options. Our future society will probably be able to produce much more food per capita, while not threatening the forests – or perhaps even allowing us to allocate more space and money to reforest the Earth to achieve higher living standards. (159)

Economic growth provides both material and moral benefits. The material benefits of a rising standard of living include less infantile mortality, malnutrition, hunger and disease, a healthier life and greater life expectancy (Friedman 3). In his book the The Moral Consequences of Economic Growth, Benjamin Friedman argues that economic growth provides moral benefits: “Economic growth – meaning a rising standard of living for the clear majority of citizens – more often than not fosters greater opportunity, tolerance of diversity, social mobility, commitment to fairness, and dedication to democracy. Ever since the Enlightenment, Western thinking has regarded each of these tendencies positively, and in explicitly moral terms” (4).

Peace and prosperity require individual political and economic liberty. Individuals require incentives to work hard and take risks free from government coercion and intervention. This requires a framework where there is respect for the rule of law, private property, fair and sensitive rules in the market and economic liberty (Simon 11).

The United Nations’ Brundtland Commission wanted to control population growth for they view low standards of living as being caused by excessive fertility rates and limited resources. Many economists disagree that the long-term problem is population growth and scarcity of resources. For example Julian Simon concludes:

On balance the long-run effects are positive. The mechanism works as follows. Population growth and increase in income expand demand, forcing up prices of natural resources. The increased prices trigger the search for new supplies. Eventually new sources and substitutes are found. These new discoveries leave humanity better off than if the shortages have not occurred. (579)

The economics of population and resources demonstrates that the world’s long-run problem is not too many people or too few resources, but the lack of political and economic freedom (Simon 11). Powerful evidence comes from pairs of countries that had the same culture and history and much the same standard of living when they split apart after World War II – Communist China and Taiwan, East and West Germany, and North and South Korea.  In each case the centrally planned Communist country began with less population “pressure,” as measured by density per square kilometer, than did the market-directed economy. And the Communist and non-Communist countries started with much the same birth rates. But the market-directed economies performed much better economically than the centrally planned economies (Simon 11).

The cure for hunger and poverty comes from the individual and their desire to improve their condition. However, the path to prosperity can be a long and difficult one.  In his book, The Wealth and Poverty of Nations: Why Some are So Rich and Some So Poor, David Landes eloquently expresses the need for a strong work ethic:

The people who live to work are a small and fortunate elite. But it is an elite open to newcomers, self-selected, the kind of people who accentuate the positive. In this world, the optimists have it, not because they are always right, but because they are positive, and that is the way of achievement, correction, improvement and success. Educated, eyes-open optimism pays: pessimism can only offer empty consolation of being right. (523-524)

Unlike the pessimist Malthus who believed famine was the last resource of nature, the optimists believe the ultimate resource are human beings.

 

Works Cited

Borlaug, Norman E. “The Green Revolution: Peace and Humanity.” The Atlantic online. n.d. n.pag.Web. 10 Dec. 2013. <http://www.theatlantic.com/past/docs/issues/97jan/borlaug/speech.htm&gt;.

Briney, Amanda, “Green Revolution: History and Overview of the Green Revolution.” About.com. 23 Oct. 2008. n. pag. Web. 10 Dec. 2013. <http://geography.about.com/od/globalproblemsandissues/a/greenrevolution.htm&gt;.

Buchholz, Todd G. New Ideas from Dead Economists: An Introduction to Modern Economic Thought. 2nd rev. ed. London: Penguin, 2007. Print.

Courter, Gay. “Freedom from Famine: The Norman Borlaug Story” YouTube. CactusBumm. 10 Oct. 2013. Web. 10 Dec. 2013. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IjeqOnsZp6w&gt;.

Diamond, Jared. Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1997. Print.

Friedman, Benjamin M. The Moral Consequences of Economic Growth. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2005. Print.

Hawken, Paul. Blessed Unrest: How the Largest Movement in the World Came into Being and Why No One Saw It Coming. New York: Viking-Penguin, 2007. Print.

Hazell, Peter B.R. “Green Revolution: Curse or Blessing.” International Food Policy Research Institute. 2002. 1-3. Web. 10 Dec. 2013. <http://www.ifpri.org/sites/default/files/pubs/pubs/ib/ib11.pdf&gt;.

Huber, Peter. Hard Green: Saving the Environment from the Environmentalists, a Conservative Manifesto. New York: Basic Books, 1999. Print.

Hume, David. Essays: Moral, Political and Literary. Indianapolis: Liberty Classics, 1985. Print.

Kahn, Salman. “Thomas Malthus and Population Growth.”  YouTube. Khan Academy, 28 Dec. 2012. Web. 10 Dec., 2013. < http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r1ywppAJ1xs&gt;.

Landes, David S. The Wealth and Poverty of Nations: Why Some are So Rich and Some So Poor. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1998. Print.

Lomborg, Bjorn. The Skeptical Environmentalist: Measuring the Real State of the World. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001. Print.

Malthus, Thomas R. An Essay on the Principle of Population, 1st ed. London: Macmillan reprint, 1909. Print.

Sen, Amartya. Development As Freedom. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1999. Print.

Simon, Julian L. The Ultimate Resource 2. New York: Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996. Print.

Skousen, Mark. The Making of Modern Economics: The Lives and Ideas of the Great Thinkers, 2nd ed. Armonk, New York: M.E. Sharpe, Inc., 2009. Print.

Smith, Adam. An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, The Modern Library Edition, New York: Random House, Inc., 1937. Print.

World Commission on Environment and Development. Our Common Future. New York: Oxford University Press, 1987. Print.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Obamacare sticker shock!

Posted on November 13, 2013. Filed under: Economics, Fiscal Policy, Government Spending, Health Care, Health Care Insurance, Liberty, Macroeconomis, People, Philosophy, Politics, Taxes, U.S. Constitution, Wisdom | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Obamacare sticker shock!

By Raymond Thomas Pronk

Health_Care_gov

A spoof of the Obamacare website HealthCare.gov home page from the Daily Show.

Credit: http://www.taylormarsh.com/blog/

While gasoline prices may be going down, premiums, deductibles and co-payments for health insurance plans are skyrocketing.

Beginning Jan.1 all individual and group employer-provided health insurance must comply with the provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as Obamacare.

More than 156 million Americans have their health insurance plans provided by their employers and another 25 million purchase their health insurance in the individual market, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

More than 60 million people age 65 and older and those younger with disabilities qualify for Medicare, a social insurance program that pays on average less than 50 percent of their health care costs. The balance of their health care costs must be paid for by the individual or the individual’s supplemental insurance.

More than 60 million Americans who are poor qualify for Medicaid, a government insurance program jointly funded by federal and state governments for individuals of all ages whose income and resources are insufficient to pay for health care. Obamacare expanded Medicaid coverage to those earning less than 138 percent of the federal poverty line (about $15,000 for an individual and $32,500 for a family of four). Twenty-four states have opted out of the Medicaid expansion, including Texas.

Those who do not qualify for Medicaid because their earned income is higher than the federal poverty line may qualify for subsidies or credits paid for by taxpayers if they purchase a plan from one of the insurance companies offering them on the new health insurance exchanges.

Most individuals and small-group employers and their employees cannot keep their existing health insurance plans because of Obamacare.  They are shocked by the high premiums, deductibles and co-payments of the new plans offered by insurance companies to replace their existing health insurance plans.

Texas_Public_Policy_Foundation

Credit: Texas Public Policy Foundation

One reason the premiums and deductibles for non-grandfathered (not in existence on March 23, 2010)  individual and small-group employer (employers with 50 or fewer employees) health care insurance plans are significantly increasing is Obamacare requires the insurance companies to offer a minimum core package of items and services referred to as Essential Health Benefits (EHB). The only plans not required to have EHB are fully insured large group plans, self-funded administrative services only plans and grandfathered plans.

These essential health benefits fall into 10 categories: ambulatory patient services, emergency services, hospitalization, laboratory services, maternity and newborn care, mental health services and addiction treatment, rehabilitative services and devices, pediatric services, prescription drugs, preventive and wellness services and chronic disease treatment. These EHBs must be included for plans offered both outside and inside the Health Insurance Marketplace such as those plans you find on the website HealthCare.gov.

A second reason the premiums, deductibles and co-payments for non-grandfathered health insurance plans are increasing is that individuals with pre-existing conditions cannot be denied coverage and the plans cannot have a maximum lifetime limit for medical expenses.

Millions of Americans, because of their age, gender, lifestyle, marital status and religion, do not need maternity care and newborn care, mental health services and addiction treatment, pediatric services, abortions and contraceptives. These Americans were satisfied with and could afford their existing health insurance plans and wanted to keep them.

Americans believed Obama when he repeatedly said, “If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor, period. If you like your health care plan, you’ll be able to keep your health care plan, period. No one will take it away, no matter what.”

While in theory they could keep their plans under the Section 1251 “grandfather” provision of the Affordable Care Act, the regulations from the Obama administration interpreted this provision so strictly as to prevent most plans from being grandfathered.

Now the American people are learning from various news reports that the Obama administration officials knew in July 2010, when it was published on page 34,522 of the Federal Register, that “The Departments’ mid-range estimate is that 66 percent of small-employer plans and 45 percent of large-employer plans will relinquish their grandfather status by the end of 2013.” This represents about 93 million Americans facing cancellation of their existing plans because of Obamacare.

A sure way for a president to lose the trust of the American people is to misinform them about something they must pay for, such as the premiums, deductibles and co-payments for their health insurance plans.

Obama broke his promise to the American people and as a result his presidential job approval poll numbers have plummeted from an all-time high of 68 percent in Jan. 22-24, 2009 to a recent low of 39 percent on Nov. 5, according to Gallup.

Instead of making health insurance more affordable, Obamacare has made it more expensive for more than 181 million Americans who are now in sticker shock.

Raymond Thomas Pronk presents the Pronk Pops Show on KDUX web radio from 4-5 p.m. Monday thru Thursday and from 3-5 p.m. Friday and authors the companion blog http://www.pronkpops.wordpress.com.

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Medal of Honor: A portrait of valor beyond the call of duty

Posted on November 13, 2013. Filed under: Army, Courage, Government, Liberty, People, Philosophy, Politics, U.S. Constitution, Valor, War, Weapons | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Medal of Honor: A portrait of valor beyond the call of duty 

By Raymond Thomas Pronk

Captain_Swenson_Medal_of_Honor

President Barack Obama awards the Medal of Honor to Captain William D. Swenson, veteran of the War of Terror at White House ceremony on Oct. 15. Credit: AP

In a ceremony at the White House on Oct. 15, President Barack Obama awarded Captain William D. Swenson the nation’s highest military honor for valor, the Medal of Honor.

Captain Swenson was assigned to the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, as an adviser to the Afghan Border Police Mentor Team on Sept.8, 2009, when both Afghan soldiers and their American military trainers were ambushed near the village of Ganjgal in Kunar Province, Afghanistan, by more than 50 Taliban fighters.

The official citation for the award reads in part: “Surrounded on three sides by enemy forces inflicting effective and accurate fire, Captain Swenson coordinated air assets, indirect fire support and medical evacuation helicopter support to allow for the evacuation of the wounded. Captain Swenson ignored enemy radio transmissions demanding surrender and maneuvered uncovered to render medical aid to a wounded fellow soldier. Captain Swenson stopped administering aid long enough to throw a grenade at approaching enemy forces, before assisting with moving the soldier for air evacuation.”

“With complete disregard for his own safety, Captain Swenson unhesitatingly led a team in an unarmored vehicle into the kill zone, exposing himself to enemy fire on at least two occasions, to recover the wounded and search for four missing comrades. After using aviation support to mark locations of fallen and wounded comrades, it became clear that ground recovery of the fallen was required due to heavy enemy fire on helicopter landing zones. Captain Swenson’s team returned to the kill zone another time in a Humvee. Captain Swenson voluntarily exited the vehicle, exposing himself to enemy fire, to locate and recover three fallen Marines and one fallen Navy corpsman.”

Swenson is the sixth living person awarded the Medal Honor for valor in the Iraq and Afghanistan war, according to the Defense Department.

Marine Cpl. Dakota Meyer was awarded the Medal of Honor by Obama in 2011 for rescuing troops that same day and recovering the remains of four Americans killed in the battle of Ganjgal and served beside Captain Swenson. Meyer in his book, “Into the Fire: A Firsthand Account of the Most Extraordinary Battle in the Afghan War” said he would not be alive today if it was not for the actions of Captain Swenson and advocated that Swenson should receive the Medal of Honor.

Swenson was outspoken and critical of his superiors for not receiving timely air and artillery support. An investigation subsequently led to three Army officers being reprimanded. Swenson’s Medal of Honor was delayed when the paperwork for the award was lost.

Swenson helped rescue and deliver to the medevac helicopter Sgt. Kenneth W. Westbrook, 41, of Shiprock, N.M. who later died from complications from his wounds in the United States. This small part of the battle was captured in a video on YouTube titled “Army Capt. William Swenson Receives Medal of Honor.”

Gone but not forgotten are the four Americans killed in the ambush: 1st Lt. Michael Johnson, 25, of Virginia Beach, Staff Sgt. Aaron Keneflick, 30 of Roswell, Ga., Corpsman James Layton, 22 of Riverbank, Calif., and Gunnery Sgt. Edwin Wayne Johnson Jr., 31, of Columbus, Ga. Also killed that day were 10 Afghan troops and an interpreter.

Swenson left the Army in February 2011 but has asked to return and is waiting for a decision by the Army.

After the ceremony, Swenson standing in front of the West Wing, said, “Today, I stand with the Medal of Honor…but this award is earned with a team, a team of our finest, Marines, Army, Air Force, Navy and our Afghan partners, standing side by side. This medal represents them, represents us.”

Raymond Thomas Pronk presents the Pronk Pops Show on KDUX web radio from 4-5 p.m. Monday thru Thursday and from 3-5 p.m. Friday and authors the companion blog http://www.pronkpops.wordpress.com.

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Obamacare: trick, treat or tax?

Posted on November 13, 2013. Filed under: Business, Congress, Economics, Fiscal Policy, Government, Government Spending, Health Care, Health Care Insurance, Law, Liberty, Macroeconomis, Microeconomics, People, Philosophy, Politics, Taxes, U.S. Constitution | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Obamacare: trick, treat or tax?

By Raymond Thomas Pronk

halloween-haunted-house-pumpkin-lights-free-hd

Credit: http://www.wallcg.com

If you think Halloween is scary, you should see the HealthCare.gov website. It is frightening.

When Barack Obama was running for president in 2008, he made a firm pledge to the American people.

“If you who make less than a quarter of a million dollars per year which includes 98 percent of small business owners, you will not see your taxes increase one single dime under my plan — not your payroll taxes, not your income taxes, not your capital gains taxes, nothing. It is time to give the middle class a break. That is what I will do as president of the United States,” Obama said. This was captured in a YouTube video titled “Not a Dime in Tax Increase for Those Earning Less than $250,000.”

Once he was elected, Obama made another promise to the American people.

Obama said, “No matter how we reform healthcare, we will make this promise to the American people; if you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor, period. If you like your healthcare plan, you will be able to keep your healthcare plan, period. No one will take it away, no matter what. My view is that healthcare reform should be guided by a simple principle, fix what is broken and build on what works.” This statement was captured in a YouTube video titled “Obama to AMA keep your doctor and insurance we will build economy.”

On March 23, 2010, Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as Obamacare. Before Obamacare was enacted into law, Obama was interviewed by ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos. He asked the president, “You were against the individual mandate during the campaign. Under this mandate the government is forcing people to spend money and fining you if you don’t. How is that not a tax?”

Obama said, “…For us to say that you have to take responsibility to get health insurance is absolutely not a tax increase. What it is saying is that we are not going to have other people carrying your burdens for you.”

Stephanopoulos responded, “I do not think I am making it up. Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, tax, a charge usually of money imposed on persons or property for public purposes.”

Obama replied, “George, the fact you looked it up Merriam’s dictionary, that a definition of tax increase,   indicates to me that you are stretching it right now.” The entire exchange was captured in the YouTube video titled “Obamacare : FLASHBACK President Obama said Individual Mandate Is Not a Tax (Sept 20, 2009).”

When Obamacare was enacted, 26 states, along with several individuals and others challenged the constitutionality of Obamacare in the courts. They argued that the law was a violation of the Constitution’s Commerce Clause, which gives the federal government the power to regulate commerce between the states. The Supreme Court ruled that the law could not be upheld under the Commerce Clause. This was the primary argument of the government in arguing for the constitutionality of the law. Chief Justice Roberts, writing for the majority said, “The federal government does not have the power to order people to buy health insurance.”

However, the Supreme Court did accept the government’s tax argument that the individual mandate represented a tax on individuals who choose not the buy health insurance. The Court said, “going without insurance” is “just another thing the government taxes, like buying gasoline or earning income.”

Americans are not required to buy health insurance under the individual mandate, according to the Supreme Court in its ruling. However, if you elect not to buy one of Obamacare’s individual metal (bronze, silver, gold or platinum) plans through a state or federal health insurance exchange, you may be subject to a tax penalty or fine by the Internal Revenue Service.

For 2014, the fine is the greater of 1 percent of income or $95 per adult and $47.50 per child up to $285 per family. For 2015 the fine is the greater of 2 percent of income or $325 per adult and $162.50 per child up to $975 per family. For 2016 the fine is the greater of 2.5 percent of income or $695 per adult and $347.50 per child up to $2,085.

Millions of Americans are now finding out from their insurance companies that as a direct result of the passage of Obamacare, they can no longer keep their existing individual plans or doctors. Instead, they have the choice of either purchasing one of the Obamacare metal health insurance plans with much higher premiums and deductibles or pay the IRS fine.

Thanks to Obama the American people believed their taxes would not rise and they could keep their existing health insurance plans and doctors. Obamacare is not a treat, but a trick or tax.

Raymond Thomas Pronk presents the Pronk Pops Show on KDUX web radio from 4-5 p.m. Monday thru Thursday and from 3-5 p.m. Friday and authors the companion blog http://www.pronkpops.wordpress.com.

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Obama’s SAD Deal

Posted on November 13, 2013. Filed under: Banking, Business, Congress, Credit, Economics, Fiscal Policy, Government, Government Spending, Health Care, Health Care Insurance, Law, Liberty, Macroeconomis, Microeconomics, Monetary Policy, People, Philosophy, Politics, Tax Policy, U.S. Constitution, War | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Obama’s SAD Deal

By Raymond Thomas Pronk

sad-face

Presidents like to make deals with the American people that supposedly will fix things.

Theodore Roosevelt had his Square Deal, Franklin D. Roosevelt had his New Deal, Harry Truman had his Fair Deal, and President Barack Obama has his SAD (Spending Addiction Disorder) deal.

The most recent developments in Obama’s SAD deal are the federal government will be completely open for business and funded through Jan. 15, 2014 under yet another continuing resolution passed on Wednesday by Congress and signed by the president. The gross national debt ceiling was suspended until Feb. 7, 2014. By then the national debt will be approaching $17.5 trillion and will exceed the entire gross domestic product for 2013 estimated to be about $16 trillion.

In other words the SAD deal means more government spending and taxes, more massive budgetary deficits, more government debt and more money and credit creation by the Federal Reserve System to finance the SAD habit.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) announced on Wednesday that they had reached an agreement to open the government until Jan. 15, 2014 and extend the debt ceiling through Feb. 7, 2014.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said, “The deal that has been cut provides no relief to the millions of Americans who are hurting because of Obamacare. The deal that has been cut provides no relief to all the young people coming out of school who can’t find a job because of Obamacare. It provides no relief to all the single parents who have been forced into part-time work, struggling to feed their kids on 29 hours a week.”

Unfortunately, the SAD deal will continue the annual massive budgetary deficits that over the last five years have averaged more than $1.2 trillion per year and will increase the burden of debt on existing and future generations of the American people. Under Obama’s SAD deal the gross national debt has been increased over $6 trillion to fund the fiscal year deficits from 2009 through 2013. The White House has optimistically estimated that the fiscal year deficit for 2014 will be only $750 billion!

The SAD deal has resulted in the worse post-World War II economic recovery with unemployment rates exceeding 7 percent for the 56 months of the Obama’s presidency. Tens of millions of Americans are searching for a permanent full-time job.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) at the Republican conference meeting on Oct. 16 said, “We all agree Obamacare is an abomination. We all agree taxes are too high. We all agree spending is too high. We all agree Washington is getting in the way of job growth. We all agree we have a real debt crisis that will cripple future generations. We all agree on these fundamental conservative principles.”

The American people agree that the Washington ruling elite of both the Democrat and Republican parties are simply incapable of controlling their SAD habit.

Cruz is right. The ruling elite are not listening to the American people.

The American people want federal spending and taxes to be cut, a balanced budget, the national debt paid off and Obamacare repealed. The American people can no longer afford to pay for Obama’s SAD deal.

Raymond Thomas Pronk presents the Pronk Pops Show on KDUX web radio from 4-5 p.m. Monday thru Thursday and from 3-5 p.m. Friday and authors the companion blog http://www.pronkpops.wordpress.com.

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Political junkies overdose

Posted on November 13, 2013. Filed under: Banking, Business, Congress, Credit, Economics, Fiscal Policy, Government, Government Spending, Health Care, Health Care Insurance, Law, Liberty, Macroeconomis, Microeconomics, Monetary Policy, People, Philosophy, Politics, Tax Policy, U.S. Constitution, War, Weapons | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Political junkies overdose

By Raymond Thomas Pronk

us_debt_ceiling_cartoon

The ruling elite in Washington, both Democrats and Republicans, are addicts with a bad habit.

The ruling elite share many of the common addictions of the American people to alcohol, cigarettes, drugs, food, gambling, games, pornography, television, sex and surfing the Web.

Yet the ruling elite have a unique habit that the American people can no longer pay for or support. The name of this habit is SAD — Spending Addiction Disorder.

The primary symptoms of SAD are massive annual federal government budget deficits, raising the national debt ceiling and blaming others for their addiction problem.

Like most habits that turn into addictions, the ruling elite can no longer control themselves. They are hooked on spending other people’s money.

How bad is the SAD habit? For the past five fiscal years the federal government forced the American people to support their habit by collecting more than $12 trillion in taxes. However, the ruling elite’s habit is much worse. Besides the $12 trillion in taxes, the federal government spent in excess of $6 trillion by running annual budget deficits averaging more than $1.2 trillion per year.

This required the ruling elite to order the Department of the Treasury to issue more new Treasury debt securities in the form of Treasury bills, notes and bonds to finance these deficits that exceeded $6 trillion. As a result the total gross national debt now exceeds $17 trillion.

To put these amounts in perspective, the total U.S. real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for 2013 is estimated to be about $16 trillion.

President Barack Obama and Congress fear the American people will finally wake up and demand they kick their SAD habit and live within the means of the American people. This would require real cuts in the fiscal year 2014 federal budget spending with the aim of balancing the budget within three or four years.

The ruling elite SAD junkies are lashing out and demonizing American taxpayers who support their habit by calling them anarchists, arsonists, extremists, hostage-takers, kidnappers, terrorists or worse, Tea Party Republicans.

Obama held a press conference on Oct. 8 and warned that if the national debt ceiling is not raised by Oct. 17, the U.S. could default on its national debt and put the U.S. into another recession. Political junkies with the SAD habit have been known to lie in order to get another fix for their habit. On average the American people are currently paying the ruling elite about $225 billion each month in taxes which would more than cover the $35 billion monthly interest paid on Treasury debt, according to the Monthly Treasury Statement (MTS) report. The last thing the U.S. government will do is default on the national debt by not paying the interest when due.

Mandatory spending makes up about 66 percent of all government spending and is required to be paid under existing authorization laws. Currently the federal government collects enough taxes to pay for mandatory spending including interest on the national debt, entitlements (Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid), and income support programs (unemployment compensation, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program [SNAP], Supplemental Income for the blind and disabled, earned income and child tax credits).

Discretionary spending makes up about 33 percent of government spending and includes spending for all federal departments, agencies and programs. Discretionary spending must be authorized each fiscal year and funded through appropriation bills.

The reason the political junkies with the SAD habit are panicking is they need to raise the national debt ceiling imposed by Congress by an additional $1 trillion above the existing national debt of $17 trillion to pay for discretionary spending for fiscal year 2014.  In order to get another debt raising fix, Congress must raise the debt ceiling once again.

Cutting federal government spending to balance the budget over a period of three or four years is never an option for the ruling elite junkies hooked with SAD. More and more government spending and taxes is the default solution for SAD political junkies.

The time has come for the American people to put the political junkies hooked on SAD in a rehab job in the private sector. The American people need to elect representatives, senators and a president that are fiscally responsible stewards of the general welfare and insist that all federal government budgets be balanced.

Raymond Thomas Pronk presents the Pronk Pops Show on KDUX web radio from 4-5 p.m. Monday thru Thursday and from 3-5 p.m. Friday and authors the companion blog http://www.pronkpops.wordpress.com.

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Government Shutdown, Obamacare Launch, Internet Working!

Posted on November 13, 2013. Filed under: Banking, Congress, Credit, Economics, Fiscal Policy, Government, Government Spending, Health Care, Health Care Insurance, Law, Liberty, Macroeconomis, Microeconomics, Monetary Policy, People, Philosophy, Politics, Tax Policy, U.S. Constitution | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Government Shutdown, Obamacare Launch, Internet Working!

By Raymond Thomas Pronk

Get_Well_Obamacare

Credit: Drudgereport.com

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, …”1 so began Charles Dickens’ “A Tale of Two Cities.”

The best of times in America in 2013: the Internet is up and running.

The worst of times in America in 2013: President Barack Obama ordered a partial shutdown of federal government with about 800,000 nonessential government employees furloughed and sent home and launched Obamacare on Oct 1. A shutdown takes place when Congress fails to authorize funds for government operations.

Since 1976 there have been 18 partial and full shutdowns of the federal government lasting usually a few days to three weeks. The last shutdown occurred 17 years ago under President Bill Clinton when the government was closed for 21 days over the budget deficit.

First, a recap of the congressional funding fight to keep the government open and funded including the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as Obamacare.

In round one the Republican-controlled House passed a continuing resolution on Sept. 20 to fund the government at a level of $986 billion and keep it open for 11 weeks until Dec. 15 but would have defunded Obamacare.

In round two the Democrat-controlled Senate on Sept. 27 passed a continuing resolution by a vote of 54-44 along party lines that would have funded and kept open the government through Nov. 15 including Obamacare.

In round three the House early Sept. 29 passed, in a near party-line vote of 231-192, another continuing resolution to fund the federal government for 11 weeks until Dec. 15, but instead of defunding Obamacare, it would delay implementation of some key provisions, including the individual mandate for one year. The resolution would also repeal a new tax on medical devices.

The House also passed a bill to fund the troops and some Defense Department workers and contractors in the event of a government shutdown. The Senate passed the bill without dissent on Sept. 30 and the president signed the bill.

In round four the Senate twice rejected on Sept. 30 the House resolution to delay the implementation of Obamacare for one year and sent back to the House a clean resolution without the one-year delay in Obamacare and with funding for six weeks. The Senate also rejected Oct.1 the House call for a conference meeting to reconcile the House and Senate continuing resolutions (CR).

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) refused to designate anyone as negotiators and send them to the meeting. Reid said, “The government is closed because of the irrationality of what’s going on the other side of the Capitol.”

Reid also said, “The bottom line is this: House Republicans should pass the Senate’s clean CR.”

House Speaker John Boehner said in a news conference on Sept. 30, “That’s not going to happen.”

The blame games begin.

Obama blames Congress. In a video message released midnight Monday and broadcast on Armed Forces television, Obama said, “Unfortunately, Congress has not fulfilled its responsibility. It has failed to pass a budget and, as a result, much of our government must now shut down until Congress funds it again.”

Republicans blame Democrats for the government shutdown.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said, “None of us want to be in a shutdown. And we’re here to say to the Senate Democrats, come and talk to us.”

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), a leader of the Tea-Party Republicans and who spoke on the Senate floor for over 21 hours in an effort to defund Obamacare, said, “The House has twice now voted to keep the government open. And, if we have a shutdown, it will only be because when the Senate comes back, Harry Reid says, ‘I refuse even to talk.’”

The implementation of Obamacare could easily put the slow-growing U.S. economy into another recession with even higher unemployment rates. Also, if Obamacare does not live up to its expectations and results in higher health insurance premiums with less plan benefits and coverage, the American people may take out their dissatisfaction not only with the Democratic Party, but with the president.

Heads could roll come Election Day, Nov. 4, 2014.

Raymond Thomas Pronk presents the Pronk Pops Show on KDUX web radio from 4-5 p.m. Monday thru Thursday and from 3-5 p.m. Friday and authors the companion blog http://www.pronkpops.wordpress.com.

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Count down to government shut down

Posted on November 13, 2013. Filed under: Banking, Business, Credit, Economics, Fiscal Policy, Government Spending, Health Care, Law, Liberty, Monetary Policy, People, Philosophy, Politics, Tax Policy, U.S. Constitution, War | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Count down to government shut down

By Raymond Thomas Pronk

Senate_Must_Act

House votes to fund federal government but defund Obamacare                Credit: http://www.ktvu.com

The nonessential parts of the federal government may be shut down on Oct. 1 until Congress passes either a fiscal year 2014 budget appropriations bill or a continuing resolution.

Fiscal year 2014 begins Oct. 1 and ends Sept. 30, 2014. Since the Democrats want to increase government spending and taxes and the Republicans want to decrease government spending and taxes, neither party will agree to a budget appropriations bill.

Instead of a stalemate, Congress could pass a joint continuing resolution that appropriates funds for government departments, agencies and programs at current, expanded or reduced levels until a formal appropriations bill is signed into law or until the resolution expires. A continuing resolution would have to be passed by both the House and Senate and then signed into law by the president.

The House passed a continuing resolution on Sept. 20 that would fund the federal government at current levels for the first 11 weeks of the fiscal year 2014 and keep the federal government open. If this continuing resolution is not passed by the Senate, some nonessential parts of the federal government would need to be shut down.

The House resolution had two amendments. The first would strip out funding for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, more commonly referred to as Obamacare and thereby stop its implementation. The second would direct how federal government spending is prioritized in the event the Treasury hits the borrowing debt ceiling limit in the near future.

The 230-189 vote was mainly along party lines with 228 Republicans and two Democrats voting in favor and 188 Democrats and one Republican voting against the continuing resolution.

Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) held a victory rally after the resolution passed and remarked, “The American people don’t want the government shut down, and they don’t want Obamacare. The House has listened to the American people. Now it’s time for the United States Senate to listen to them as well.”

House Majority Leader, Eric Cantor put several Democratic Senators, who are up for re-election in Nov. of 2014, on the spot. Cantor called out Sens. Mark Begich of Alaska, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Kay Hagan of North Carolina. Cantor said, “It’s up to Senate Democrats to follow House Republicans and show some responsibility.”

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said on Sept. 19, “I will do everything and anything possible to defund Obamacare.” Cruz promised to filibuster any attempt to strip out the language of the House continuing resolution that defunds Obamacare. A filibuster is the use of irregular or obstructive tactics by a Senator to prevent the adoption of a measure.

Cruz began his filibuster by saying: “I rise today in opposition to Obamacare. I rise today in an effort to speak for 26 million Texans and for 300 million Americans. All across this country Americans are suffering because of Obamacare. Obamacare isn’t working and yet fundamentally there are politicians in this body who are not listening to the people. They are not listening to the concerns of their constituents. They are not listening to the jobs lost, the people forced into part-time jobs, the people losing their health insurance, the people who are struggling. A great many Texans, a great many Americans feel that they do not have a voice. So I hope to play some very small part in helping to provide that voice for them. …I  intend to speak in opposition to Obamacare. I intend to speak in support of defunding Obamacare, until I am unable to stand.”

Cruz delivered on his promise by standing and speaking for more than 21 hours on Sept. 23-24.

According to a Sept. 15 NBC/WSJ poll, 44 percent of respondents call Obamacare a bad idea and 31 percent believe it’s a good idea.

In a national survey of 1,000 likely voters conducted on Sept. 14-15 by Rasmussen Reports, 51 percent favor a government shutdown until Congress cuts health care funding. The Rasmussen survey also found that “58 percent favor a federal budget that cuts spending, while 16 percent prefer one that increases spending. Twenty-one percent support a budget that keeps spending levels about the same.”

According to Rasmussen, “74 percent of Republican and 62 percent of unaffiliated voters would rather have a shutdown until the two sides can agree on what spending to cut,” while “63 percent of Democrats agree with the president and would prefer to avoid a shutdown by authorizing spending at existing levels.”

“Republicans are simply postponing for a few days the inevitable choice they must face: pass a clean bill to fund the government, or force a shutdown. I have said it before but it seems to bear repeating: the Senate will not pass any bill that defunds or delays Obamacare,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada).

The Democrats are determined to fund Obamacare, shut down the government on Oct.1 and blame it on Republicans.

Raymond Thomas Pronk presents the Pronk Pops Show on KDUX web radio from 4-5 p.m. Monday thru Thursday and from 3-5 p.m. Friday and authors the companion blog http://www.pronkpops.wordpress.com.

 

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Richland Celebrates Constitution Day

Posted on November 13, 2013. Filed under: Law, Liberty, People, Philosophy, Politics, U.S. Constitution, War, Weapons | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

Richland Celebrates Constitution Day

By Raymond Thomas Pronk

US_Constitution

 

United States Constitution   Credit: historicdocumentsofamerica.com

Richland students celebrated Constitution day Sept. 17 by learning how the United States goes to war.

Dr. Edward J. Harpham, associate provost and professor of political science at the University of Texas at Dallas, presented a lecture and answered questions on how the Constitution and Wars Powers Resolution of 1973 applies to the possible use of military force in Syria. Harplam earned his masters and doctorate degrees in political science from Cornell University.

President Barack Obama initially sought a Congressional resolution authorizing military operations against the Assad regime in Syria for using chemical weapons against his people. The Assad regime had crossed the red line set by Obama in a press conference on Aug. 20, 2012.

However, Obama in his Sept. 10 televised address to the nation on Syria asked congressional leaders to postpone a vote on a resolution authorizing the use of force. Obama wanted time for Secretary of State John Kerry to pursue a diplomatic initiative proposed by Russia and agreed to by Syria that could lead to the eventual destruction of chemical weapons controlled by the Syrian military.

In the absence of an emergency, where Congress has no time to react, Obama does not have the legal authority under the Constitution, the War Powers Resolutions or a United Nation’s Security Council resolution funded by Congress, to unilaterally attack Syria.

In a future military crisis a problem might arise if Congress votes down a presidential request for military action and the president ignores Congress and proceeds with military operations anyway.

Harpham concisely summarized the history of the authorities used by U.S. presidents to go to war and possible solutions to the shortcomings of the War Powers Resolution process.

Article 1, Section 8, Clause 11 of the Constitution gives Congress the power to declare war. Congress has exercised this power only five times: for the War of 1812 upon the United Kingdom, the Mexican-American War, the Spanish-American War, World War I upon Germany and Austria-Hungary and World War II upon Japan, Germany, Italy, Bulgaria, Hungary and Romania.

However, the United States has used military force many  times without Congress declaring war. Instead, Congress passes resolutions authorizing the use of military force. This was done for the Lebanon crisis of 1958, the Vietnam War, Multinational Force in Lebanon in 1983, the Gulf War in 1991, the 2001 war in Afghanistan and the Iraq War.

Congress has also authorized funds for extended military operations for United Nations Security Council Resolutions such as the Korean War, the Multinational Force in Lebanon in 1978, the Gulf War, the Bosnian War in 1992 and the intervention in Libya in 2011.

On more than 100 occasions presidents acting in their capacity as commander in chief have authorized the deployment of troops and the use of military force without a congressional declaration of war or a resolution authorizing military force.

After the withdrawal of American troops from Vietnam in 1973, Congress wanted to limit the power of the president to deploy troops for extended periods of time without a congressional declaration of war or resolution.

In 1973 Congress passed the War Powers Resolution of 1973, a joint resolution over the veto of President Richard M. Nixon.  When Congress has not declared war or authorized  the use of military force, the law requires the president to notify Congress within 48 hours of committing armed forces to military action. It also prohibits armed forces for remaining more than 60 days but allows an additional 30 days as a withdrawal period.

Harpham offered several possible solutions to the War Powers Resolution process, including revoking the law and replacing it with a new law or preferably a constitutional amendment that would address the president’s use of force where a military emergency, Congressional declaration of war, resolution or funding has not been authorized.

Harpham’s presentation will be posted on the Richland Chronicle Television archives for those who missed the lecture (richlandchronicle.com/chronicletv).

Raymond Thomas Pronk presents the Pronk Pops Show on KDUX web radio from 4-5 p.m. Monday thru Thursday and from 3-5 p.m. Friday and authors the companion blog http://www.pronkpops.wordpress.com. You can listen to an interview with Harpham on the Pronk Pops Show 131, Sept. 17, by going to http://www.pronkpops.wordpress.com.

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