A Letter From My Husband to Cory Gardner and Mike Coffman

This is a letter My husband wrote to Cory Gardner and Mike Coffman.  I think it is worthy of reading.

I trust you will read this letter in its entirety, rather than picking and choosing issues to respond to as has been the case in the past.

I am a retiree and depend on my earned benefits (Medicare, Social Security and a small pension).

I am a Viet Nam era veteran from the early 1970s where I was a part of the IC community. During that period, I developed a deep dislike for Russia and its corrupt behavior.

Politically I was active within the GOP from the 1970s to 2005. In the late 1990s the GOP left me and became a party I did not recognize. The party also left the American people. It no longer cared for the citizens and did everything to abandon the nation’s infrastructure and the health and welfare of people that matured under the Eisenhower administration. Yes, the Democrats were the opposition, but there was usually an attempt to find solutions. Today Democratic values are more closely aligned to the values of the GOP in the 50s and 60s and for that matter the 70s and 80s. Voter opinion was valued by the party. Huge donors didn’t rule the roost. There were no Koch brothers or DeVos family influences. People mattered back then. Today, who in the GOP cares about the people?

The issues I have outlined below are important to me because I still believe American citizens matter. Everyone who lives in this country matters (other than those who choose to destroy our Democracy). I hope you consider each, realizing this nation must be one of compassion and that today’s GOP cannot continue to shove their beliefs down everyone’s throats.

Health Care

The Trump/Ryan Care legislation was unacceptable. It was cruel to those who need it most, many who have no choice. For example, my daughter-in-law has type 1 diabetes. Her employer does not provide insurance to ‘part time’ employees. By the way, she is not part time by choice, but rather because her employer (major American corporation), like so many, is avoiding the cost of benefits. Prescriptions alone could cost her $2,000 per month without insurance. A high-risk pool such as proposed by the GOP would mean no health insurance coverage and eventual death. Is what we really want? For the rich, I am sure that is the case.

The menu of EHCB under ACA has been a godsend. Yes, premiums and deductibles are high, but much better than the days before ACA. Why do I like the ACA? The answer is simple, ‘affordable health insurance for a person over 50 years old’. I was in the Defense industry for almost 40 years. My benefits were great, however with budget cuts, highly compensated employees like me and my wife were forced into early retirement. Retirement medical benefits were more costly than what I could find on the commercial market and the ACA. I was headed toward bankruptcy. Both Trump/Ryan didn’t give a damn about the over 50 population and even with increased tax credits the deal was rotten. How dare they use the legislation to reduce the taxes of the wealthy on the backs of people like us? This should be legislation for comprehensive health care for all at an affordable price no matter the individual’s age. Medicaid is an essential element of health care although it does not affect us. The GOP does not seem to care for the working people living in this country.

Earned Benefits

I am a firm believer in protecting the benefits we paid for, specifically, Medicare and Social Security. These are earned benefits. Now that I collect these benefits, I understand more than ever their importance and the need to protect them for all who have made contributions. It is important to keep these programs viable, but GOP plans are not well thought out. Why is the Social Security Cap not adjusted like it used to be? It seems like increasing a contribution to retirement a little each year is not a sin other than some Think Tank giving a Congressman a lower score. Congressmen work for us, not a Think Tank. Medicare must be kept intact and prescription prices kept affordable. Rather than adjusting retirement age (not a reality) why not consider an increase in taxes in line with inflation? Privatizing is not an option either. The Government is the best manager of my money. I’ve had so many investment firms rip me off over the years that I no longer trust them. That is the private sector.

Immigration/Refugees

The fabric of this nation is our immigrants, no matter how they arrived. It is special to see friends, co-workers, worshipers, store clerks, airport workers, public servants, etc. from so many different countries. Many came to this great country to flee oppression or poverty. Why on earth would we change something so special? Today’s travel bans and deportations are just two things that shock me. Why do we oppress people in or attempting to enter our country? I love Colorado because of its diversity. In a normal day I interact with people from at least a dozen countries. They are not here to destroy us. Why are DREAMers not citizens? What law did they break? They had no say in how they arrived and yet they are friends and peers. What about those escaping war-torn countries and areas of famine? For those of us of Christian faith, God would expect us to care for those in need. I cannot understand why Congress and the Administration are filled with such hate.

Religious Freedom

I am a firm believer in the separation of church and state. This line is being blurred by this administration and is being manifested by expressions of hatred towards believers of other faiths. I am stunned that Congress is seemingly silent on acts of violence and vandalism. Congress is guilty of not condemning this administration of promoting expressions of hate.

The Wall

This is the biggest waste of taxpayer dollars. No one knows the exact price and Congress is making no attempts to find out the true cost. Congressmen will be held accountable for this failure. This wall reminds me of the Berlin wall. Is Mexico our enemy? No. They are our friends and trading partners. Is this wall going to hinder migration of wildlife? I am sure it will. The hatred of this administration seems to trump all considerations of the impact of the wall. Bottom line this Congress is lazy. It does not want to do the hard work required to find solutions.

 Travel Ban

This is another area where Congress is not pushing back. The travel ban is a Muslim ban. More importantly it has no impacts on the investments of the president because it excludes nations where he has properties. It harms our businesses and tourism. People will not feel welcome to visit our nation and other nations will likely not welcome us. It is making this a more dangerous world. The Colorado GOP delegation seems to embrace this expression of hatred. As written, this ban has nothing to do with the safety of this country.

 Environment/Climate Change

Where do I begin? I have yet to meet anyone in Colorado that does not support green energy, does not want clean air and water, and that denies climate change. The actions of many in Congress and the current administration are advocating the destruction of all the progress we have made over the last several decades. Cost of regulations is not an acceptable excuse. The benefits have far outweighed the ‘costs’. People are healthier now. The world is better off.

Education

This administration is failing the country in a major way. Ms. DeVos should never have been confirmed. First, this was a case for pay to play. Too many Congressmen accepted donations from a Michigan resident who in turn felt obligated to support her nomination. Quite frankly, I believe this was a criminal act. Second, she advocates on the part of religious education. This dilutes the effect of our public education system. Our tax dollars must not go to religious education under any circumstance. My tax dollars must not go to supporting a school whose beliefs I do not support or agree with. Religion must be kept out of our public schools (and I am a Christian).

Voting Rights

Voting rights are being attacked in so many ways. Voter ID laws are making it impossible for the infirmed, minorities and seniors to cast their votes. A solution must be found so that all citizens can easily vote. Voting obstruction must end. Colorado may not be perfect, but does get higher grades than many states and should be held up as a good example for voting in national elections. I resent the criticism coming from the current administration on Colorado voting laws and I encourage our delegation in Washington to demand that it stop.

Infrastructure

This is an area where the GOP has dropped the ball. Where are the investments in the power grid, highways, water lines, gas lines, rail, mass transit, internet access, etc.? Congress is zeroing these investments out and refusing to increase gas taxes. Bridges are falling apart. Pot holes are everywhere. Tolls are being charged for highways that were constructed using our tax dollars. Are we giving infrastructure public assets to the well connected to profit from our contributions? This is corruption. It is a failure on the part of Congress. This took hold in the 1980s and now we as a country are facing a case of deferred maintenance which will cost ten times more to fix. Will it take a major disaster to wake Congress?

Supreme Court

This is a losing argument with you. Suffice it to say, voters will remember the Garland nomination. Why you were a part of this obstruction is beyond me. Neil Gorsuch, in my opinion, puts more value in businesses than the people of this country. There was no indication in the hearing that he would protect the lives of people in this country. Protecting big donors and big businesses seemed far more important. Is Congress throwing the poor and middle class under the bus? It appears that is the case.

Behavior of Current Administration

Our president has been in office roughly 75 days as I write this. It has seemed like 10 years of hell. Congress could become heroes if they were willing to put a stop to the chaos. Most of the EOs are not well thought out. Congress could correct the EOs, replace them, or pass legislation overriding them. We clearly have a president that has no clue on governing.

 Trump/Russia Investigations

As a veteran, I am very sensitive to anyone’s relationship to Russia. I don’t trust them and I believe they are out to destroy our great country. The Senate seems to be doing the right thing, albeit a little slow for my taste. Whatever the case may be, Congress must get to the bottom of this mess and hold people accountable, even at the highest levels of government. Tampering with our elections and any subsequent cover-up is wrong. Personally, I could probably name at least a dozen who I believe are guilty of something. It could mean a new President and it might be down the line of succession. I know I am not only person that is worried. Senate leadership is going to be very important.

Congressmen Work for Constituents

This can be the toughest thing for a Congressman, but it is the most important. Colorado elected you, not donors, not Think Tanks. You must listen to your constituents. I will hazard a guess, as much as you may not like it, most of us in Colorado embrace the ACA. Your donors may not like that, but in 2020 the voters will provide you with an assessment on how well you listened to them. In person town halls are important. Voters need to release their emotions in person and you must listen. This is especially true today, when we have an Administration that is determined to tick everyone off. Unfortunately, you will receive most of the voters’ wrath even if you were not a part of the president’s actions. I don’t believe for a minute that the Colorado protesters are outsiders. They are my friends and neighbors from here in Colorado. We want our Congressmen to hear us. I believe you can. Do you have the will?

Sincerely

Where We Are Headed: Corporate Feudalism

In my last posting, I wrote about the indefensible theory of supply side economics.  Today I posit where this theory is heading.  Whether or not it is the goal of supply side proponents, the result will be corporate feudalism.  Let me explain.

Feudalism is defined as “the dominant social system in medieval Europe, in which the nobility held lands from the Crown in exchange for military service, and vassals were in turn tenants of the nobles, while the peasants  were obliged to live on their lord’s land and give him homage, labor, and a share of the produce, notionally in exchange for military protection.”  From a historical perspective, I’m sure this definition is as accurate as one can get while being brief.  I am not a historian (I welcome relevant input from those who are).  I will be looking at feudalism from the viewpoint of an economist, and my focus is on the factors of production.

A better definition of feudalism from an economic standpoint is a system of government based on the tenure of land, or the system of land tenure and of government in which the landholders are the governors.  These governors were the nobility, and were part of a structure that will be described later.  The term tenure means the right to hold property, however it does not mean the right to own that property.  The person is allowed to live on the land in exchange for his services.  If a lord was displeased with a tenant, he was allowed to remove that tenant from the land and give the right to live there to someone else.  No compensation was involved.

The feudal hierarchy was like a pyramid.  At the very top was the pope, and initially, the emperor.   Technically, the king was at the top, but he could be unseated by the pope if the pope became displeased.  Below the king were nobles – lords and ladies, sometimes counts and countesses, etc., who were granted land (hence the term counties) in exchange for an oath of fealty, or loyalty.  The nobles were expected to support the king in both offensive and defensive wars.  In turn, the nobles granted land to knights in exchange for their services.  According to one source, knights were expected to provide two months per year of service in peace times, and whatever time was necessary during war.  Below these were tradesmen, who did not have land per se, but did have housing in exchange for their trade. At the bottom were peasants, who were allowed to stay on the land in exchange for farming and herding.  Ownership of the crops and herds appears to have varied from place to place. In some locations, the land was mined for various ores, and those who worked the mines were granted housing near those mines.  Many of the forests were retained by the king, and in England, hunting in the King’s forests was subject to execution.

In economic terms, the pope and the kings controlled all the factors of production.  Factors of production are defined as follows:

Resources required for generation of goods or services, generally classified into four major groups:

Land (including all natural resources),
Labor (including all human resources),
Capital (including all man-made resources), and
Enterprise (which brings all the previous resources together for production).

These factors are classified also as management, machines, materials, and money (this, the 4 Ms), or other such nomenclature. More recently, knowledge has come to be recognized as distinct from labor, and as a factor of production in its own right.

Source: http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/factors-of-production.html

The nobility controlled all the land, the capital and determined the enterprise.  They controlled trade routes crossing their land or ports. The only thing technically not controlled by the nobility was labor.  However, in a practical sense, the nobility also controlled the labor, because an individual peasant could not provide for his own livelihood without land or work.  Since the peasant could easily be replaced, he was in a position of having to work for the lords, or leave.

Today, the factors of production are the same, but they have a different flavor.  In place of kings, we have large corporations.  In place of the nobles and knights, we have the companies that are part of the large corporations supply chain.  In place of the peasants, we have the workers.  And, in the place of the pope, we now have a president who appears to be prepared to bestow rights and assets to corporations or withhold them at his whim.

Corporations largely control the factors of production today.  They own the rights to much of the land (i.e. corporate farms, mining, drilling, etc.)  They are pressuring congress to give them the rights to critical infrastructure that the taxpayers have built and the people own.  They have convinced the Supreme Court to grant them rights of persons when it is to their advantage, but not the obligations of persons.  They are rapidly rounding up the resources and means of distribution.  They do not yet control labor, but they are reaching a point where their control of jobs means that labor must submit to their rule.

One element of feudalism that allowed it to continue was the control of education.  Knowledge was controlled by the church.  We all know the price Copernicus and Galileo paid for presenting science that was not approved by the church.  We do not know how many other scientists were silenced.  For the most part, only male nobility could learn to read and write or do basic arithmetic, and while there are instances of women and lower class persons doing so, they are the exception. Books were primarily in monasteries and lords’ castles.  Lords would hire a monk or priest to educate their sons. The education provided to the peasants was of a religious nature, and a fearful type to keep them in line.

As with feudal times, those currently in power are trying to disrupt public education.  They would put in its place private and religious schools.  Already we see many recommending watering down education to those things a person needs to ply his or her trade.

The similarity between the feudal system in what we call the Dark Ages and the direction we are heading with the corporate world is startling.  The speed with which we are moving in that direction is breathtaking.  If we continue on our current trajectory, we will be soon entering a corporate Dark Ages.

Eventually feudalism was pretty much broken.  I will discuss the key to breaking corporate feudalism in my next installment, The Antidote to Corporate Feudalism.

The Rise of the Extreme Right – An Alternative Theory

I was watching another report of the Tea Party rallies and felt a strange sensation of deja vu.  The views being presented, the way they were presented, the way the partiers reacted, the energy expressed were all familiar somehow.  I sent my mind back to find out where this was coming from.  All of a sudden, there it was.  I saw it.  I knew where I had seen all this before.  I was shocked, then I realized I should have known all along. Here is my theory of where this extreme right ideology came from.

I realized that what I was watching was reminiscent of the Amway rallies I used to go to.  It all made sense.  I remembered how they got us involved – promises of wealth and the easy life.  Promises that anybody could do it.  Anger at the establishment and how the establishment had sold us all out.  Religion.  Protect the wealthy because you would soon be one of them and enjoy all the benefits.  Super patriotism.  Did I say Religion?

It was the religious piece that drove us away from Amway.  I didn’t see how false the promises were, I didn’t see the exploitative nature of the company at first.  I saw the extreme religious aspect.  I resented that.  It offended people I was trying to work with.  My cross line was Jewish and they were extremely offended.  I was offended for them.  They were considered second class citizens because they were not of the correct religion.  The rallies they and we paid good money to attend were full of proselytizing.  They actually had calls to become born again at these business functions.  They said ugly things about people who were not the “right” type of Christians.

After we left and were able to look at the business more things became clear.  The products were inferior, but sold at inflated prices.  The uplines would tell you to buy these products at these inflated prices, and as you convinced your own downline to overbuy overpriced products your downline would subsidize your own purchases.  They encouraged us to enlist people who were in dire financial straits, assuring us that this would help them get out of debt.  In other words, they preyed on the desperate.  But the Diamonds and Emeralds did not get wealthy selling chevrolet products at cadillac prices.  They became wealthy selling tapes.  Every week, downline were told to purchase two tapes.  The tapes cost $.50 to make and distribute, but they were sold for $7.50 apiece.  In them, the diamond or emerald selected would tell you to buy more, how to be Christians, that the wealthy deserved the fat of the land and that anybody who was broke deserved to be broke.  The Amway distributors listened to these tapes night and day.  They were paying for their own brainwashing.  That is the most effective way to brainwash somebody.  What was said on the tapes is what I hear the extreme right wingers saying now.

Many of the big-time self help and motivational speakers today got to be household names and millionaires because of Amway sponsorship.  One example that comes to mind is Robert Kiyosaki.  I don’t have a problem with Mr. Kiyosaki, but I know that his books had few sales until Amway pushed his books to the distributors and had him speak at functions.  This is one reason so many motivational speakers tell you that an MLM is a smart way to become wealthy.  In fact, you have about as much chance of becoming wealthy as an Amway distributor as winning the lottery (the odds may be different, but the fact is, becoming wealthy is highly unlikely).

When people left Amway, they rarely blamed the company.  The brainwashing had done its job.  They blamed themselves, they blamed their upline, they blamed their own financial circumstances, but not Amway.  I remember one upline we had went and had a garage sale.  They sold everything they owned including their furniture to finance their business, as their upline advised them to do.  When they left the business two years later, they had two small children,  an empty house and a garage full of outdated product.

Rich DeVos and Jay VanAndel became very wealthy from Amway.  They used this wealth to contribute to Republican candidates who shared their extreme right wing views and to muscle out more moderate candidates.  They put forth a litmus test, both religious and economic.  The candidates accepted this litmus test in exchange for their donations.  Thus the Republican party made a steady swing to the right.

Look at who the extreme right wingers are today.  Look at where Amway was particularly strong and where the tea party is strong today.  Look at the demographics.  Is it just coincidence?  I am beginning to wonder.