Puerto Rico

I am amazed that I have not read a single article/blog post explaining why Donald Trump has displayed such a disgusting attitude towards the humanitarian disaster unfolding in Puerto Rico namely that he is a racist. Look at the names most frequently referenced. The name of the territory is Puerto Rico. The capital is San Juan. The mayor of San Juan is Carmen Yulín Cruz. The Governor of Puerto Rico is Ricardo A. Rosselló. Those are all Hispanic names. During the presidential campaign Donald Trump virtually promised to be a racist vis-a-vis Hispanics, he is now fulfilling that promise.

Secession Procedure

Article IV Section 3  of the U.S. Constitution states:

New States may be admitted by the Congress into this Union; but no new State shall be formed or erected within the Jurisdiction of any other State; nor any State be formed by the Junction of two or more States, or Parts of States, without the Consent of the Legislatures of the States concerned as well as of the Congress.

Note that the criteria for admitting a new state to the Union is strictly up to Congress unless it involves an existing state at which point  the state legislatures become involved. Note also that the Constitution is silent on the issue of seceding from the Union.¹ This proposal would create a formal procedure for a state to peacefully secede from the Union. The steps in this proposal are as follows:

  1. Only those states which border on another country or have a coast line on the Pacific Ocean, Atlantic Ocean or the Gulf of Mexico would be eligible to secede. The purpose of this restriction is to avoid a state seceding and creating a new country which is completely surrounded by the the remaining United States. As such the states initially eligible to secede would be: Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, Delaware, New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota, Michigan, Vermont, Alaska, and Hawaii (31 states). Those states not initially eligible to secede would be Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, Colorado, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Tennessee, and Kentucky (19 states). If a state were to secede that would change the above lists. For example, if Texas were to secede that would make Oklahoma and Arkansas eligible to secede.
  2.  The state wanting to secede would hold a referendum on the issue. The votes in favor of secession must be at least 55% of the votes cast. (the exact per cent required is less important than that it be a significant super majority; you’re not going to break up the union on a fifty per cent plus one basis). There must be at least three months notification of the date of the referendum.
  3. No voter suppression is allowed. Any U.S. citizen who is a resident of the state in question would be allowed to vote. There would be federal monitors at all precincts to observe only. If their observations result in a finding that the was any significant voter suppression then the results would be thrown out.
  4. If the referendum fails, or the results are thrown out due to voter suppression or any other irregularities a new referendum could not be scheduled for at least one year.
  5. If the referendum succeeds then Congress must also approve of the secession by the same super majority as the referendum. The reality is, however, that I cannot imagine the Congress rejecting the secession if the referendum passes with a super majority.
  6. If the referendum passes and Congress approves then the secession process would proceed over a three year period.

Consequences of secession:

  • All federal offices in the seceding state would close. This would include all military bases, Coast Guard bases, VA facilities, and border posts. All aircraft, vehicles, ships, etc. would be removed to the U.S. but all federal facilities would remain intact including any infrastructure such as radar units, network cabling etc.
  • There would be no dual citizenship. Anyone who becomes a citizen of the seceding state would forfeit his/her U.S. citizenship. If you dislike the Union so much that you want to secede then it makes no sense to allow you to continue to remain a U.S. citizen. Any U.S. citizen who is a resident of the seceding state who does not become a citizen of that state would remain a U.S. citizen but would obviously have to obtain a U.S. passport some time in the three year period if they did not already have one.
  • The seceding state would have to agree in advance to pay half of the moving expenses of any resident of the state who would not want to be a resident after secession. If any of the red states were to secede I cannot think of a good reason why any member of a minority group would want to remain a resident of that state after the three year transition period.
  • There are two programs in particular that anyone voting in a secession referendum should be aware of.
    • Social Security – You can receive social security if you are living outside of the U.S. but I don’t know if you can have the payments direct deposited in a foreign bank account. In any case that is an issue which could be negotiated during the three year transition period. The real problem is that as soon as you stop paying into the social security fund the amount would receive when you retire starts to decline and someone who is middle aged or a young adult would not get very much when they reach retirement age.
    • Medicare – This is a bigger problem since Medicare will not pay for any treatment outside of the United States. This means that even if you are already enrolled in Medicare and you are a resident of a state that secedes you would have to travel back to the U.S. for treatment or pay for it yourself.
  • There are many other issues involved in a secession such as where do you draw the offshore boundaries for a state such as North Carolina. Most of these would be settled as part of a negotiating process during the three year transition period.

While I am completely serious about creating a formal procedure for a state to secede from the Union I will admit to having an ulterior motive for establishing such a procedure. Current Governor Abbot and his predecessor Gov. Perry have both said they would consider having Texas secede from the Union. I want to call their bluff because I think they are both modern Texas cowboys – all hat and no cattle.² Implementing a formal procedure would send a message to Gov. Abbott to either put up or shut up. Unfortunately I don’t think he would either put up or shut up.³

  1. It is important to note that at the beginning of the secession process which started the Civil War the seceding states made no attempt to secede peacefully. They started the process by shelling Fort Sumter and killing Union soldiers. In short, they wanted a civil war, not simply to secede.
  2. It would be interesting to find out how many people in Texas wear cowboy hats compared to the number of Texans who are actually cowboys. The ration has to 1000 to 1 at least.
  3. The fact is that most of the red states are moocher states. I am using Mitt Romney’s definition of a moocher which is anyone who receives more in Federal benefits than they pay in Federal taxes. Most red states, Texas in particular, receive more in Federal spending than the residents pay in Federal taxes. In the case of Texas, consider San Antonio which has five military base in the area. If Texas were to secede those five bases would all close and San Antonio would dry up and blow away.

 

 

 

 

 

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War Tax

My proposed war tax would consist of up to a five percentage point increase of the income tax rate for the second highest tax bracket and up to a ten percentage point increase for the highest tax bracket in the event of the United States going to war with another country or becoming involved in a war within another country.

The United States would be considered at war with or within another country if either of the following conditions are met:

  1. Three or more American military personnel or mercenary forces are killed within that country for three consecutive months.
  2. Ten or more people are killed by American military personnel or by American mercenary forces or by any group at war within that country to which the U.S. Government is supplying weapons or by U.S. drones for three consecutive months.

The exact amount of the tax increase would depend on the cost of the war. The current drone war is not costing nearly as much as either the Iraq or Afghanistan wars so the tax increase needed to pay for that drone war would not be anywhere near the five or ten percentage points. If the five and ten percentage point increases are not enough to pay for the war then the increases would remain in place until the war is completely paid for.

Now, why the definition of a war? Think back to the beginning of the Iraq war. George Bush would never have agreed to a tax increase on the rich under any conditions so he would have come up with some explanation, no matter how ridiculous, as to why our invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq was not a war. Even with a definition of a war you still would have to depend on honest accounting by whatever administration is in power of the cost of the war both in terms of casualties and dollars.

The poor and middle class of the United States are already paying for our wars with the blood and lives of their children, fathers, mothers, etc. The rich are the ones pushing the most to get us into these wars, so let the rich pay for these wars with their gold.

One more thing, I think you can make a case for applying such a tax increase for as long as necessary to pay for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the entire cost both of which were put on the good old U.S. credit card without a peep out of those folks who love to complain about government deficits.

Next up: Secession Procedure

 

Living in a Remote Area

Living in a remote area is not nearly as much of a problem as it was twenty or thirty years ago. Vehicles are much better and more reliable that they used to be, although rough roads will still beat up the suspension. Communications have improved even more. The cell network in that part of Mozambique was well developed to the point that there were three cellphone providers in Massinger, the nearest town. In addition, I had satellite internet, so I could also communicate via email. Finally, I had a solar power supply consisting of solar panels, a set of batteries, and an inverter. The net result is that I was living quite comfortably.

What all of that means is that these days living in an area like it is more of a hassle than anything else. So, how much hassle would you be willing to put up with to have the experience of driving around a curve on a single lane dirt road and coming to a stop fifteen meters in front of a giraffe standing in the middle of the road looking right at you. So you sit there in the vehicle for 30 seconds to a minute watching the giraffe watch you and then you get out of the vehicle and stand behind the open door. Now that is a very different experience than sitting in the vehicle. You are no longer surrounded by the vehicle and you are no longer looking thru the windshield and across the hood at the giraffe. So you and the giraffe watch each other for another thirty seconds to a minute until finally the giraffe turns and walks off into the bush.

One thing you must understand is that an experience like this was not an everyday occurrence. You would see wildlife practically every day, but not as close as this. But the inside of the curve had some dense foliage, so the giraffe could hear me coming but not see me coming. That is why he was looking my direction when I came around the curve. Plus, I managed to stop quickly enough to avoid spooking him. Even the, most of the time the giraffe would have run away immediately, but this one stood his ground. So this was an unusual set of circumstances.

Earlier I asked how much hassle you would be willing to put up with to have such an experience. It should be obvious that I was willing to tolerate quite a bit of hassle and, in retrospect, I think it was well worth it.

The Racism of Donald Trump

I have an unusual background to comment on the racism of Donald Trump. I worked in Mexico City for a year and a half as a database consultant. I came away from that experience with the knowledge that Mexicans are, on the whole, honest, hard-working, intelligent people. Later, when I first retired, I moved to live in Xonghile Game Park, a private game park in Mozambique. I came away from that experience with the knowledge that Africans are, on the whole, honest, hard-working, intelligent people.

Note that I say ‘on the whole’ because any country or ethnic group will contain people who are dishonest, lazy, or unintelligent. Which is the same thing as saying they are comprised of human beings in all their glorious, and inglorious, variations.

What the racists do is to point out that some blacks are unintelligent and proclaim that all blacks are dumb, or that some Mexicans are violent and say that all Mexicans are violent, all the while ignoring the unintelligent, lazy, violent whites in their midst.

Neoliberals

I read a number of articles recently to the effect that liberalism has failed. I whole heartedly disagree. How can liberalism have failed when there has not been a liberal congress or president in nearly forty  years, and then only if you consider Jimmy Carter to have been a liberal, which he sort of kind of was. What has failed is neoliberalism.

Now you may think that Bill Clinton was a liberal. If you do then answer this question. What did Bill Clinton fight for in his two terms as President? He started out with health care reform, but he didn’t really fight for it and threw in the towel fairly quickly. He did fight for five things that I can remember.

  1. Welfare reform, which moved 800 to 900 thousand children into deep poverty, hardly a liberal thing.
  2. NAFTA, which has been devastating to working class people.
  3. The Anti-Crime Act of 1994, which greatly expanded the prison population.
  4. A tax increase on the rich. Now you may think that that was a liberal thing, but what did he use the money for? He used it to reduce the deficit, a conservative fetish, as long as a Democrat is President, once a Republican takes office they forget all about it.
  5. The repeal of Taft-Hartley. He didn’t really have to fight for that one since the Republicans fully supported it, but it contributed greatly to the 2008 financial crisis.¹

All in all a much more conservative than liberal list of accomplishments, which would be typical of the neoliberals. I don’t know what the accepted definition of a neoliberal is, or even if there is such a definition. I think of them as compulsive centrists in that they are always wanting to pivot to the center. That may work well as a campaign strategy but as a governing strategy it leaves a lot to be desired. With the Republicans moving ever farther to the right to the point that the party as a whole is borderline fascist the most the working class can expect from a compulsive centrist is a holding action. To make matters worse I recently read that the DCCC was recruiting blue dog Democrats to run against incumbent Republicans in 2018. So the DCCC thinks the best way to respond to the Republican moving ever farther right is for the Democrats to move to the right themselves.

Now there are signs that the Democrats in Congress are starting to take seriously some parts of the Democratic platform which would appeal to working class folks, such as the $15 minimum wage and free college. This is good, very good, but I don’t think it is enough. Besides, if the Democrats regain control of Congress by moving to the right it would still result in a Congress not particularly interested in helping the working class, and you would still have a Democratic establishment which is equally uninterested in helping the working class.

So, what to do? I think we need a new political party whose primary focus is the well being of the working class. Now I don’t know a whole lot about organizing a political party, especially about building a new party from the ground up. Notice what I just said ‘building a new party from the ground up’. The problem with new political parties in the recent past is that they have all tried to build their parties from the top down and that simply won’t work. If you really want a new political party you have to start by fielding state and local candidates to include mayors, governors, and state legislators plus congressional candidates. Once you have some people in place at the lower level people can see what you really stand for and who you are really trying to benefit. If they like what they see then your new party will grow and prosper. If they don’t like what they see then you will deservedly fade away.

Now, as I said, I don’t know much of anything about starting a new political party so what I am going to do is create my own hypothetical party, the Progressive Working Class Party or PWCP. Starting next Monday, the 21st, and each Monday for a few weeks thereafter I will propose a new plank for the PWCP platform ( one nice thing about having your own political party is that the party platform will be exactly what I want it to be).

Here is a list of my proposed planks:

  1. New SS system
  2. War tax
  3. Secession procedure
  4. Tax Reform
  5. End the war on drugs
  6. Replace NAFTA
  7. Medicaid
  8. Libel Reform
  9. School funding
  10. Gun control
  11. High school curriculum
  12. Short term corporate thinking
  13. National ID
  14. Worker’s rights
  15. Guaranteed minimum income

As I post them I will create a link in the list. Note that this list is not necessarily the order in which I will post them, nor is the list indicative of which I consider most important.

  1. Paul Krugman and others maintain that the repeal of Taft-Hartley was not the cause of the crisis but rather the collapse of the shadow banking industry that caused the crisis. I agree that the collapse of the shadow banking industry precipitated the crisis but it was the subsequent collapse of the big banks that caused the real problems. To put it another way, if Taft-Hartley had still been in effect would we have spent several hundred billion dollars bailing out the big banks? I don’t think so.

The Problem in Politics Today

The biggest problem in politics today is obviously money. The Citizens United Supreme Court decision basically put Congress up for sale to the highest bidder. The result is that the establishments of both parties are controlled by billionaires or near billionaires.

This does not mean that the parties are the same. The billionaires controlling the Democratic establishment are mainly from Wall Street or Silicon Valley and are center, center right, or even center left. The billionaires controlling the Republican party are from the energy sector (which are dominantly Republican) as well as Wall Street and Silicon Valley and are right, far right, or very far right.

The problem for working class people is that neither party is particularly interested in doing any thing on their behalf. Again, this does not mean the two parties are the same. The Democratic attitude towards the working class is akin to Richard Nixon’s stated attitude towards civil rights, name one of benign neglect. The problem with that attitude is that Nixon’s benign neglect of civil rights was counter-balanced by a Democratic party that was still pushing for civil rights while the Democratic attitude of benign neglect towards the working class has in the opposition Republicans a party which is downright hostile towards to the working class.

The result of this has been a slow but sure decline of the economic well-being of the working class. The Democrats will often actively oppose the attempts by the Republicans to tear down the working class, but the Democrats have done virtually nothing to boost their economic well-being. So as long as the attitudes of the party establishments stays as is the working class can expect to suffer a continued slow economic decline.