How Do Congressional Reps and Senators Become Rich?

US Senators and Congressional Representatives commonly refer to their positions as “Public Service.” Perhaps the annual salaries of $174,000 for Senators and Representatives may seem to be self-sacrificing to them, but a deeper dig tells a different story.

Congress is a club composed of millionaires. The average net worth of our 535 lawmakers is $1,000,000. To be fair, that is a statistical average. A few Senators and Representatives arrive in Washington as wealthy people who have earned or inherited their fortunes before assuming office. And a few, at the other end of the income spectrum, are still paying college loans. But most stay in Congress for multiple terms and become millionaires.

A more interesting statistic, however, is the average annual growth rate of a lawmaker’s net worth. Regardless of their starting level, how much does his or her net worth grow per year? Does it grow at the same rate as the rest of the country?

The average American citizen saw his or her household net worth decrease from 2004 to 2012 at about one percent a year. Meanwhile, members of Congress experienced an annual net worth increase every year. While the net worth of most Americans shrank the net worth of Congressional members increased by more than 25 percent for the same period.

FullFinal-TVTW071016For the top 20 members of the “Congressional Millionaires Club,” the increases were much sharper. They ranged from a net worth increase of 93 percent a year to 1,707 percent a year. Representative Chellie Pingree (D-ME) had a much higher percentage of net worth growth, at more than 73,000 percent. Congressional statistics exclude her annual net worth increase because it resulted from a multi-year marital settlement. Also excluded are increases in the value of homes and other non-investment real estate.

No matter how we position the statistics, nearly all members of congress significantly increase their net worth during every year that they serve. The increases are usually much more than they could save or have invested for them at an annual salary of $174,000. For example, a congressional member with a net worth of $1,000,000 will have an average increase of nearly $16,000 a year after taxes. So an average senator who serves two terms will increase his or her net worth by $192,000 while serving. Some, however, accumulate an increase of $1,000,000 or more during their multiple terms.

What is the source of that additional wealth? Required public disclosure forms don’t answer the question. Until recently, a legal loophole provided Congressional members immunity from “insider trading” laws. For example, they might be privy to information unknown outside of government circles that would impact the stock markets. Examples might include an impending decision that would crush a company’s stock values or accelerate them based on a huge defense contract funded or canceled.

Sixty Minutes investigated this practice and showed how Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi had profited by $100,000 on one stock transaction. This was based on her advanced knowledge of a change in banking laws. Ms. Pelosi and her husband also profited from eight IPOs that year, based on inside information. The Minority Leader is among the richest members of Congress. Her estimated net worth of approximately $58 million makes her the twelfth wealthiest member of the “millionaires club.

Generally speaking, members of Congress use devices like “blind trusts” to eliminate conflicts of interest. However, laws in this area appear to be open to interpretation. The wide range of Congressional member contacts with outsiders—especially lobbyists and their staffs—makes it impossible for potential investigators to follow thousands of communications threads.

Moreover, there are many ways for a Congressional member to help people who are willing to pay handsomely. And there are many ways to pay for favors, without money directly changing hands. For example, the sensitive information mentioned casually to a friend or relative may be repeated to a “blind trust” administrator. If the information isn’t classified by a government agency, those conversations may not break any laws.

Few Americans know or care about these practices. They don’t respect Congress, because of many other things, such as failure to improve economic conditions or broken promises. The “Congressional Millionaires Club” depends on voter apathy to hold onto its seats.

When we vote for a new member of Congress, we seldom if ever elect the mythical, hard-working champion of the people we expect. In fact, Congressional members don’t work full-time. They are usually in session less than four days a week. Moreover, they take numerous long breaks, bringing the average number of days in session per year to 139. Stated another way, Congress is idle for 226 days a year. If we don’t count the usual 104 weekend days, and 11 national holidays, Congressional members still have an additional 111 days off or about 20 weeks of free time. Every sixth year, Senators use some of that time running for re-election. Representatives must run every second year of their term. Most members miss additional weeks of in-session work to attend to this electioneering.

In addition, many junior Senators and Representatives spend more than half of their time, “dialing for dollars.” Administrators from both parties escort these members to non-government locations, from which they must perform telemarketing to lists of potential donors they don’t know. House and Senate leaders support the parties in ensuring that members meet their time, call volume, and donation quotas. If members rebel, they risk the loss of their committee positions and party funding and support for their next campaigns.

Many concerned Americans believe that the answer to improving the performance of Congress is to impose term limits. Perhaps term limits would force some Congressional members to be more productive. Nevertheless, these institutions require a major overhaul. Conscientious media people should expose the process. And frustrated voters should demand reforms.

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Will Our Next President Be A Woman?

The Presidential Election of 2016 is now history. Behind the scenes, however, political leaders have already begun positioning candidates for the next election, whether in 2020 or 2024.

Regardless of party or ideology, one or both of the next nominees should be women.

Despite rhetoric claiming a glass ceiling and anti-woman bias, the voting public has been ready for a female president for at least 20 years. Ironically, the primary roadblock to potential female presidential candidates has been Hillary Clinton. Other women, potentially more electable candidates, have been on the sidelines since the end of Bill Clinton’s term. The big-money power brokers have done everything possible to insist that the former Secretary of State be the first woman President. All other women have had to wait for their turn.

Mrs. Clinton had two opportunities and therefore blocked chances for other women, since 2001. Her mantra was “Vote for me because I’m a woman.” That makes little sense to most voters. Tens of millions of Americans have voted for women and elected them as governors, senators, and big-city mayors. Many other women have been leaders of some of America’s largest and most successful companies. America has become very comfortable with female leaders in virtually every profession.

We don’t want a political candidate to say “Vote for me because I’m a woman.” We may be inspired, however, if she says, “Vote for me because I have the vision, leadership, policies, attitude, and capability to run the US Government.” Her gender is not an issue, any more than it would be for a man.

Both parties have excellent female candidates, any of whom could be the next president. Following is a list of twelve women, all strong leaders. Any of them could win the presidency with a powerful campaign. They range widely in age, but all are “in the ballpark.” The youngest woman in the group will have more government experience in 2020 than Senator Obama had when he ran in 2008. The eldest has a long resume of leadership positions and is approximately the same age as Hillary Clinton.

In alphabetical order:

Senator Maria Cantwell
Senator Joni Ernst
Former CEO Carly Fiorina
US Representative Tulsi Gabbard
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand
Senator Maggie Hassan
Governor Nikki Haley
US Representative Mia Love
Governor Susana Martinez
Former Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg
Senator Elizabeth Warren

FullFinal-TVTW071016This group of twelve includes six Democrats and six Republicans. Ideologically they extend from the Progressive Left to the Conservative Right. This group includes two African Americans, one Pacific Islander, one Latina, and one Indian. As a group, they “look like America.”

America needs to elect women like these to serve as our President. Voters should send a signal to the rest of the world that we don’t marginalize any group because of gender, race, religion, or ethnicity. It’s time to assure every American child, male or female, that she or he has an equal opportunity to be heard and to lead.

Insights from Inside the Bunker August 6, 2016

Why Do Voters Remain Loyal to Political Parties?

Though political parties have fallen somewhat out of favor, the majority of voters in every election identify themselves as either Democrat or Republican. Neither party has close to 50 percent of registered voters, but the two parties together account for 59 percent who say, “I’m a Democrat” or “I’m a Republican.”

A much smaller number of these voters have the time or inclination to understand and evaluate election issues. There are no reliable statistics to measure this group, but it’s fair wood-desk-top-Finalto estimate it at about 10 percent. Another estimated 20 percent have limited understanding. They hear the general themes from advertising or occasional news clips but don’t evaluate issues before choosing a candidate. Members of this group often believe that promises and claims of politicians are composed only of partial truths and seldom translate into actions.The remaining group, estimated at nearly half of party loyalists, have virtually no knowledge of political issues. Nevertheless, these voters automatically cast ballots for their parties.

Regardless of their knowledge or political engagement, many party members defend their party as though the party is a religion. Most can recite at least one positive headline about their party, such as these examples:

“My party favors working families.”
“My party defends the Constitution.”
“My party is for women’s rights.”
“My party is for law and order.”
“My party fights for social justice.”
“My party provides jobs by growing the economy.”

Most can recite a negative headline about the other party, such as:

“The other party raises taxes so they can spend more.”
“The other party ships jobs overseas.”
“The other party strangles small business with regulation.”
“The other party is composed of angry old white men.”
“The other party gives away middle-class tax dollars to buy votes from minorities.”
“The other party wants to control women.”

FullFinal-TVTW071016To strengthen that belief, voters of either party often “make stuff up,” fabricating wild statistics, suppositions, negative snippets, and vague fears. At times, members of each party sound desperate, in supporting their party’s supposed high-ground. Under scrutiny, however, most of these support statements or attacks offer questionable statements with little value for choosing a candidate. Nevertheless, individuals on social media repeat them, quote them out of context, create graphics and fictional information to support and enhance them.

Why are so many voters wedded so strongly to a political party? As compared to religions which usually offer spirituality and community, the parties themselves offer virtually nothing to their members. Religious organizations accept donations to help the sick, poor and downtrodden. In contrast, political parties solicit donations and use the funds to strengthen the power of their leaders.

Every four years at the national conventions, a group within each party writes a so-called “platform,” a series of principles which candidates claim to support. Most of these principles—often called platform “planks”– are vague and not actionable. Many require Congress to consider laws that would never pass through the legislative process. Candidates, however, usually follow pragmatic strategic paths and therefore ignore much of the platform. In the end, the platform is only a “feel-good” document, soon forgotten.

Logically, most people would vote for a candidate that would be best in running the government and making their lives better. But a huge number of voters automatically vote for a candidate only because he or she is a Democrat or a Republican.

Apparent experts—sociologists, behaviorists, and journalists—offer a variety of explanations for this extreme party loyalty. One theory is that young people register and select a party affiliation around age 18 and then hear only their party’s views forever after. Others choose the same party as their friends and family members. In fact, many political choices are passed down through multiple generations. Though young people may no longer know why a great grandparent chose to become a Republican or Democrat, the original choice can remain as a family tradition. Democrat ward heelers in New York City helped settle immigrants entering from Ellis Island. Their support caused tens of thousands of people to register as Democrats, and initiated Democrat majorities that remain strong five generations later.

Why should we care about politicians who win due to people who vote only by party?

Blind loyalty to either of the two parties permits a few very powerful people to make decisions that affect the lives of every American. When poor or middle-class voters vote by party, instead of by candidate qualifications, they surrender their rights to a handful of established politicians who may not care about anything other than personal power and wealth. People who want their country to prosper and improve life for themselves and their families should vote carefully from knowledge. Blindly supporting parties that do nothing for them keeps potentially more effective candidates out of power and lowers opportunities for all Americans.

 

Clinton Campaigns Against Sexism

With less than 100 days remaining before Election Day, both candidates—Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump—have been struggling to find more effective strategies. Both candidates worry about polling that indicates a majority of voters reject both of them. Looking at demographics, Hillary Clinton has decided to court young women voters, many of whom were previously Bernie Sanders enthusiasts.

To begin targeting this group, the Clinton campaign scheduled a rally at Columbia University, for women only. And to create a different feel for the event, she invited Rachel RachelMaddow of MSNBC to act as emcee. The theme of the evening event was “The Fight Against Sexism.” Discussing the subject from armchairs, instead of the usual speaker’s podium, the program included three Columbia women who related their personal stories.

Following opening remarks by Clinton and Maddow, the three young women entered the stage and prepared for discussions led by Maddow.

Maddow: “We’re pleased to take this opportunity to expose the ugly underbelly of blatant sexism, as practiced on a typical American campus. Though we’ll hear from each of these young women, we will omit their names to maintain their privacy.”

“Beginning with Woman Number One: Please tell us how sexism has affected your life on campus.”

Woman Number One: “When I arrived here as a freshman, I heard sexist language from the very first male I encountered. He said, ‘Hey girl! You’re looking good. What’s yourPlacard-Two name?’ I couldn’t believe my ears! Did he call me GIRL? And did he comment on my appearance?”

Maddow: “OMG! I’m so sorry you had to experience that sexist behavior. I’m sure Secretary Clinton will be fighting for you! How about you, Woman Number Two?

Woman Number Two: “I’ve experienced terrible sexist remarks while dating. One guy asked me whether I took responsibility for birth control, within five minutes of meeting me. After one or two hours, he got what he wanted from me, but his language and his aggressive sexist assumptions were still repulsive.”

Maddow: “Incredible! So sad that you had to hear those words. I know you’d be happier in a women’s safe place on campus. Let’s hear from Woman Number Three.”

Woman Number Three: “I was enjoying dinner with a man who couldn’t contain himself. PlacardOneHe continually talked about unspeakably perverse acts he wanted us to perform. I was beside myself with disgust. I reported him to the University Provost, but she said that they could do nothing to stop him. Because he’s my husband. Some excuse!”

Maddow: “Wow! I’m personally so offended I can hardly speak. Thank heavens we have THE FUTURE FIRST WOMAN PRESIDENT fighting for us. Secretary Clinton, please tell us how you plan to address blatant sexism.

CLINTON: “Thank you ladies, and especially you, Rachel. We have lots of work to do, and I can’t wait to take the oath on January 20. Until then, let me be clear. Sexism is wrong! We cannot and will not tolerate it! EVER AGAIN!

When I am President, my highest priority will be to protect young women from enduring the incredible sexism that still exists in 2016. I will ask Congress to pass laws that will govern this behavior on every college campus in America. Campuses must build and maintain safe spaces for women every 500 feet. If a male attempts entry, he will be subject to expulsion and a 90-day prison sentence.

Every college campus will provide free birth control products of requested brand and type to every enrolled woman. Women may also request partners to provide birth control. And any man refusing that request will be subject to a $500 fine.

College administrators must investigate complaints of sexist language and punish male perpetrators within 24 hours, or they will automatically lose all federal grant money!”

Former President Clinton and Campaign Chairman John Podesta listened to the program from backstage and whispered their comments:
Podesta: “Can she legally do those things, Mr. President?”
Clinton: “Of course not. But these cute little bimbos are too dumb to get it!”

Secretary Clinton had prepared additional remarks but stopped speaking when a group of fifty or more young women entered the room, carrying signs and chanting: “Women’s Honor Matters!” Signs included that wording, along with ‘Rich Chicks Matter,’ and ‘All Men Must Beg Forgiveness.’”

 

New Trump Businesses Aim to Excite Millennials

Apparently concerned with negative poll numbers, Republican Presidential candidate FullFinalDonald Trump has been working on a bold new strategy. To address deficits with millennials he has been preparing a campaign to capture Bernie Sanders voters. This new campaign has been in preparation mode for weeks, but the Trump camp has maintained a tight embargo on details. A handful of friendly advisors and reporters have had partial briefings, but until now few have seen the entire picture.

Trump recently explained that his new strategy involves extensive behind-the-scenes planning among his top business managers and attorneys. It involves the creation of new companies and new businesses.

“We know that Mr. Trump will win if he captures 45 percent of the Bernie vote,” reported campaign chief Paul Manafort. “We’ve analyzed voter attraction to Senator Sanders and identified three driving factors. Initially, the most compelling factor was a rejection of Hillary Clinton. The second was ‘Social Justice,’ the idea of the government providing free things like healthcare and college tuition. The third was a rejection of the current political system. Mr. Trump already represents an alternative to Clinton and rejection of the current system. So his newly created strategy will concentrate on free services, especially attractive to Millennials.”

This week, in the most detailed briefing yet, Trump explained that the traditional political speeches and advertising don’t work well because both candidates are working on what he termed the “negative side of the ledger.” His new strategy will not include further attacks. It will instead be an offer of the things Millennials want most.

Though Trump did not confirm actual details of what he will offer, the most prominent pieces are based on three initiatives.
The first initiative is to reopen and expand Trump University, offering free tuition to all students. The new version of Trump U. will begin with three
campuses. One will be in Colorado, one will be in Maryland, and one will Trump-Universitybe in California. The university will purchase campuses of unsuccessful colleges in other states, refurbish them to Trump standards, and offer free tuition.

The second initiative will be a new company called Trump Adult Entertainment. This business will provide free admission to campus theaters, exclusive to students with a Trump University ID card. The company will present new performances Trump-Poster-1every week, with some designated for males, some for females, and some for each part of the LGBT community.

The third initiative will be free campus clinics, with licensed doctors specializing in conditions requiring medical marijuana. The clinics will also provide pharmacies to provide cannabis-based prescriptions.

“With these three businesses, we will offer students the things that they most value, according to polling,” Trump proclaimed.

WeedFollowing Trump’s statement, Manafort spoke confidentially to a few reporters to answer questions about the credibility of the new offerings. “Will he really do this?” “Who will provide the funding?” “Will the voters believe him?”

Manafort answered, “Everything depends on the outcome of the election. If Trump doesn’t win, voters will still remember his ideas, which will become a national crusade. If he wins, no one knows what he’ll do on this and a hundred other things. Of course, voters will believe him. They believe he’ll build a 2,000-mile wall and get Mexico to pay for it. If they buy that, they’ll buy anything!”

Insights from the Bunker This Week

June 11, 2016

History Question:
Other than being President, what does President Obama have in common with every POTUS since Lyndon Johnson?

The answer: They all claimed that the President controls the US economy. They all know it’s a lie, but they have all perpetuated it as part of politics. Liar-MeterIf we take a closer look, we know presidential wannabees who run for the job blame the incumbent for bad management. But when they win, and economic problems persist, they blame the economy on others. When Senator Obama ran in 2008, he blamed President Bush for running the debt up to $10.6-trillion. He accused Bush of being unpatriotic regarding the debt. After being elected and theoretically managing the economy for nearly eight years, the debt is approaching $20-Trilion. But…IT’s NOT ENTIRELY THE PRESIDENT’S FAULT. Most of the ballooning debt was inevitable due to actions of previous Congresses going back to the 1970s. Presidential power to give us more jobs and a better economy is a crazy myth.

 

We’re Looking For One Honest Person

Diogenes was an ancient Greek philosopher who traveled, carrying a torch day and night, in search of an honest man. Note: He specified “man,” DiogeneseApparently PC language had not yet reached Greece. Or perhaps honest women were common, while honest men were rare. There is no recorded history on whether Diogenes found one or more honest men.

Nevertheless, in his spirit, we are searching for someone even rarer. He or she is an active user of social media. We’re searching for someone who viewed a graphic on Facebook touting the opponent of their favorite candidate. But noting how good the graphic appeared he-she said, “I’m so impressed that I’m ditching (Clinton, Trump or Sanders) and embracing the other party. I’m so excited! I’ve supported my old candidate for a few months and knew that he-or-she represented my issues. But that wonderful graphic with the black background and white text just got to me. And despite the misspelling of ‘voter,’ I’m switching!”
If you know such a person, please let us know. Then handle him-her with great care!

 

And finally…We wonder how the Donald would react to breaking a gender barrier. Would he emulate Hillary?

Trump Wins the Presidency

Donald Trump has become the first man in history to become president of TrumpCryN.O.W., the National Organization for Women. An emotional President Trump sobbed that he was proud of finally breaking through the Glass Ceiling.

“I owe everything to the pioneers who almost got here. Courageous men like John Kerry, Dan Quayle, John Edwards and Al Gore. They all wanted this so much. But I am the first man to win this office, and it’s an historic moment.

FullFinal“I’ve dreamed of this victory since I was a little boy. Our family was very poor, but my parents kept the dream alive. The great Betty Friedan was President then, and everyone on our block worshiped her. We owe her so much! She helped the world answer a crying need by proclaiming rules for politically-correct language. She added words like misogyny and chauvinism to our new vocabulary. And she pioneered demands for college courses like ‘Elements of Feminism,’ and ‘Our Bodies, Our Choice!’ Those are big shoes to fill, but color me ready to serve!

“And tonight I have an announcement. I have invited Senator Ted Cruz to be my vice president. I love Senator Cruz! Of course, I called him ‘Lyin’ Ted, during the N.O.W. primaries. He did lie a lot, but hey, we all did. Who among us is perfect?

“This victory is for the millions of little boys out there, who dream of a better world. Someday you might be just like me!”

Which Candidate Would You Trust to Care for Your Goldfish?

Hillary3Despite the billions of words spewing from every political camp, it’s all pretty simple. To use an old song title (apologies to Billy Joel), it’s “a matter of trust.” Voters hear all of the claims by candidates, pundits, and media; know that most of them are lies, distortions, or empty promises; and decide to trust and vote for one.

When polled about which candidate values are most important, many people select “leadership.” But leadership can’t survive without trust. President Obama provides a perfect example. When we voted for him in 2008, he seemed to be the most compelling speaker and natural leader since JFK. He maintained that high public standing until he lied to us about Obamacare. The Washington Post awarded him four “Pinocchios,” the dubious award for the most mendacious lies. And they identified his lie as “the worst of the year.” This incident caused people to “fact check” the President, and a few more statements couldn’t pass muster. Polls indicate that more than half of the country stopped trusting him. And without trust, he couldn’t effectively lead the country.

Incredibly, the GOP and Dems are both likely to nominate candidates that have already earned many more Pinocchios than the President. A public majority will never trust either of them. Few voters will believe that Clinton or Trump can lead the military to defeat ISIS; protect the Homeland from terrorists; manage the illegal immigration problem; resolve the healthcare mess, or halt the growth of the National Debt. Any of the new President’s proposals can be easily swatted down by Congress because neither candidate will have full public support if elected as President.

Recently a friend of mine was so frustrated with politicians, that he said, “I wouldn’t trust that one to care for my goldfish.” To be fair, we could ask that question about any candidate, and predict a series of responses.

Question: “Would you trust Hillary Clinton to care for your goldfish?”
Democrats: “Secretary Clinton is fighting for all of us, including oppressed goldfishes.”
Republicans: “Absolutely not. She was responsible for protecting goldfishes in Lybia. Then she lied and said a terrible video caused their deaths.”
Independents: “Maybe I’d trust her to care for my goldfish, but I’d have to have a Nanny-Cam watching her.”
Media headline: “GOP claims of Hillary killing goldfish proved false.”

Of course, the real question is, “Why does there have to be a question?” The reason voters question her is that she has frequently lied to the public. Most recently, she has changed her story several times, regarding using an illegal private email server to handle classified material. Though she boasts of enduring eleven hours of congressional testimony and evading admission of guilt over Benghazi, there was clear evidence that she emailed her daughter that the event was a terrorist attack, while publicly claiming that it was a spontaneous reaction to an anti-Muslim video. On another occasion, the former Secretary of State invented an exciting story of arriving in Bosnia and undergoing sniper fire. Media video of the event showed that her story was entirely fictitious. And the preceding examples represent only a small sample.

Does Clinton’s low trust value indicate that her probable opponent is more trustworthy? AbsolutelyTrump2 not. Nevertheless, Trump tells different kinds of lies, in different ways.

He’s 100 percent entertainer and constantly spews random train-of-thought remarks that are free of fact or substance. When later confronted with his own words, he responds in either of two ways. He often claims “I never said that.” When a video shows him using the exact words he has just repudiated, he insists he never said that, or claims that someone has distorted his meaning.

Alternatively, he will later repeat-and-deny the remark in other venues. The Washington Post reportedly gave him four Pinnochios for the same remark, each of eleven times he repeated it.

We need to ask ourselves, “How did we get here.” The two parties originally offered a total of twenty-three candidates. Our strange system of state primaries and caucuses—combined with the need for hundreds of millions of dollars to sustain campaigns—winnowed the GOP and DEMs down to a total of seven. And the two parties will almost surely bring us down to the two most ethically flawed of the group—Clinton vs. Trump.

Are we nearing a point where American voters revolt and demand reform of the process? Let’s hope so. We desperately need leadership. It’s ‘a matter of trust.’

My book “The Victory that Wasn’t” offers a fictional alternate history with a different kind of Military, and better outcomes for all Americans. It’s available on Amazon at http://amzn.to/1GUL8oX

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Both Parties Embarrass Themselves on SCOTUS Nomination

Supreme-CourtWithin hours of the sad news of Justice Antonin Scalia’s death, political leaders issued statements about nominating his replacement. In most cases, their remarks have been misleading, disingenuous, and obvious political nonsense.

Both sides have wrapped their rhetoric around half-truths regarding the Constitution.The Republicans immediately jumped to a strategy that says, “Block any SCOTUS nominee sent by President Obama. Stall all confirmation actions in the Senate, until January 21, 2017, when a new president takes over.” The president and his followers have claimed that the Senate has a “constitutional duty” to vote on the President’s nominee, expected to be a so-called Liberal judge. The Republican-controlled Senate leader has stated that we must nominate and approve a so-called Conservative to be confirmed after President Obama leaves office.

Few voters understand the role of the Supreme Court. They see the party positions as more election year gobbledygook. Many don’t realize that the country needs to replace Justice Scalia with a judge who takes the job as it was meant to be, and not as a supporter of either liberal or conservative viewpoints.

People who insist on a Liberal or Conservative nominee should note how the Court has acted historically. In many high-profile cases, so-called Liberal or Conservative Court majorities have approved laws and lower court decisions that were opposite of their political philosophies. The current court makeup, derided by Democrats including the President, approved decisions favoring Obamacare, and Same-sex Marriage, the two most impactful decisions of the Obama years. Five of the seven Republican-appointed judges voted to support the pro-life Roe v. Wade decision, the “gold standard” of Democrat Liberalism.

Over time, so-called Liberal or Conservative positions seem more neutral when stripped of the political rhetoric that originally surrounded them. When that happens, we might assume that the justices did what they are supposed to do. Their job is to analyze and hand down decisions supporting specific requirements of  the US Constitution.

That’s where things become contentious. The so-called Conservative justices believe that their decisions depend on the exact wording of the Constitution, and the intent of the Framers who wrote it. The so-called Liberal justices look for ways to interpret the actual words to fit their political philosophies. (Unfortunately, that exercise can become as far-fetched as a well-known former president interpreting a law publically by saying “It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is.”)

Ridiculous interpretations of that kind are useless in interpreting the Constitution. Despite the yammering of people who want to ignore it, the Constitution remains as the supreme law of the land. As with any large, complex endeavor, the US must have a specific system of clear, unbreakable laws that guide every new decision made by Congress or by the lower courts.

To understand the importance of specific laws defined by the Constitution, let’s compare it to the football rulebook of the NFL. What if some teams insisted that certain words in the rulebook could mean that fists to the face should be made legal? The commissioner would have a committee of team owners determine whether that interpretation met the actual meaning written in the rulebook. Regardless of any committee member’s personal feelings, use of fists would be a losing proposal. The overarching basic rules of the game wouldn’t permit it. If owners felt the need to change the rulebook itself, they would need a mechanism to amend the rules. Perhaps every team owner and players’representative would have a vote for or against any proposed change.

SCOTUS justices must work the same way. They should stick to the meaning of the actual rules, not their personal philosophies. If any part of the Constitution needs changing, it defines a process involving a vote of the legislators in every state. The usual whining politicians say it takes too long to amend the Consitution. If that’s true, they need to streamline the process with due dates and modern technology.

The SCOTUS decision in the recent Citizens United case is a politically controversial example of how the Court should work. This decision, criticized by the President and other Democrats, struck down laws that previously kept unions and corporations from spending money on political campaigns. Though Democrats claimed that it was a pro-conservative decision, the Court held that the First Amendment prohibited the government from restricting independent political expenditures by a nonprofit corporation.

Stepping away from the politics surrounding the Citizens United case, this decision hurt both parties equally. By permitting the massive infusion of Corporate money into campaigns, it results in a dramatic increase of political TV commercials, already disliked by voters. Moreover, it permits unions and wealthy corporations to have a larger voice than individual Americans. The SCOTUS decision, however, was to maintain the First Amendment right of organizations to have a voice in the political process. A majority of us don’t like this decision. Many politicians wave their arms and blame the Court. But if politicians have the courage of their convictions, they would pass legislation to amend the law, or to create a Constitutional amendment against it.

What Should the President Do Now?

President Obama needs to stop issuing implied threats and constitutional claims. He should initiate closed-door negotiations with Republicans to identify a SCOTUS nominee that would be as close to neutral as possible. This statesmanship would rightly burnish his historical legacy. Besides that noble goal, the President now holds a losing hand, and can only muck up a presidential campaign that is already a bi-partisan mess.

What Should the Republican Senate Do Now?

Republicans must stop beating their collective chests about the word “Conservative.” They need to negotiate for a nominee with a constitutionalist philosophy and present a bipartisan committee-driven nomination to the Senate Floor. To maintain the kind of court that will serve all Americans, they need to win the presidential election, by nominating a candidate that represents their beliefs.

My book “The Victory that Wasn’t” offers a fictional alternate history with a different kind of Military, and better outcomes for all Americans. It’s available on Amazon at http://amzn.to/1GUL8oX

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Suggesting New Nominees That More Voters Would Like

FullFour

If Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump become the presidential nominees in 2016, we will have reached a new low in voter satisfaction. According to polls, both candidates carry high “negatives.” A relatively large percentage of Republicans and Independent voters “would never vote for Donald Trump.” Similarly, a significant percentage of Democrats and Independents would refuse to vote for Hillary Clinton. This unprecedented rejection of the two presumptive nominees, suggests that we will elect someone we don’t like, and will never accept for the next four years.

This bleak prediction causes us to think that maybe it’s time for a different kind of candidate. With that end in mind, perhaps we should consider the type of candidate who is liked by more people. That would not be people like Ted Cruz or Bernie Sanders, who would probably produce equally negative polling results.

Note: The following section of this post is called SATIRE. It portrays an extremely unlikely scenario. It is partially entertainment and partially intended to demonstrate how deeply the electoral process has plunged.

In that spirit, we recommend the following new candidates to replace the current leaders.

2femalesAn excellent replacement for Hillary Clinton, carrying somewhat related skills, would be Meryl Streep. Here’s why:

Ms. Streep plays many different roles concurrently and does so seamlessly. Her record, therefore, compares favorably with Mrs. Clinton, who embraces numerous political positions–often within the same sentence–and attempts simultaneous roles that make her appear to be disingenuous.

Meryl is a consistent winner, as indicated by her many Oscars and awards. By comparison, Hillary has only won one election in nearly 30 hyper-political years.

Meryl’s success is the product of innate skills and years of training. Hillary proclaims that eight years as First Lady qualify her to be President. That’s analogous to a tennis umpire claiming that her work makes her equal to Serena Williams.

Other qualifications for Meryl Streep:

She hasn’t annoyed 200 million people for the past 30 years.

Her laugh sounds like a fresh mountain stream while Hillary’s laughter may frighten small children.

Meryl has no need to tell every audience that she’s a woman. We know.

 

Tw0-Males

An excellent replacement for Donald Trump, carrying somewhat related skills, would be John Stewart. Here’s why:

After leaving the Daily Show on Comedy Central, he’s apparently out of work. If he becomes a candidate, he will lower unemployment by at least one person.

Though often considered part of the left-leaning media, he occasionally shoots at a broad range of political stripes.

Like Mr. Trump, Stewart doesn’t care who he kills, as long as he is not aiming at his foot.

John Stewart is funny. His comedy is well-planned. The Donald is funny, whether or not he wants to be.

Stewart is an “older” man, who remains relevant to millennials. The Donald is much older, and leaves millennials asking, “Who’s that?”

Both John and Donald enjoy making fun of others. John, however, does so smoothly as part of a plan. Donald does so as an automatic, involuntary reaction to anyone…more like Tourette syndrome.

John knows that he’s just having fun when he lies to Bill O’Reilly. The Donald doesn’t know whether he’s lying to O’Reilly but turns red in fury whenever challenged.

My book “The Victory that Wasn’t” offers a fictional alternate history with a different kind of Military, and better outcomes for all Americans. It’s available on Amazon at http://amzn.to/1GUL8oX

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