Posts Tagged ‘Republicans’

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Political Monday: Dealing with Cuts in Defense

May 28, 2012

As the United States looks to reduce its overall budget deficit, it is natural for conservatives and liberals to push for cuts in areas outside their own interests. Generally speaking, for conservatives, it’s social programs.  For liberals, it’s defense spending.  Over the next few weeks, I will be writing about various areas of cuts and try to step beyond the “politics as usual” and look for what is really going on.  To that end, a look at a small sliver of proposed defense spending cuts sheds some light on the subject.

Andrea Shalal-Esa of Reuters reported on the effects of proposed cuts at the Joint Systems Manufacturing Center, Lima Tank Plant, in Lima Ohio[i], on the local Lima economy.  It is well worth your time to read her article as it takes spending cuts down to a personal level.  While Andrea’s article is politically neutral, I think stories like this will be the fodder for the current political season.  Unfortunately, both political camps will miss the point of her story; budget cuts have real impact on individuals.

Upon reflection though, I think the real culprit in this situation is the company running the Lima facility – General Dynamics.  In the spirit of full disclosure, I am very fond of General Dynamics.  I served in the US Navy’s Submarine Service and General Dynamics’ Electric Boat Division plays a large role in construction of safe and capable submarines.  That is not to blame them for budget cuts but more in how they react to budget cuts.  We must remember, our military is their customer.  By extension, that makes our government and ultimately, “We The People” their customers.

In business, management has the responsibility to return to investors the maximum amount of profit.  In the Lima case, they entered into a contract to run the facility for the government and produce tanks.  With the winding down of two wars, we have a surplus of tanks.  It is silly to spend over $6 million per tank on new ones, regardless of its impact on the Lima community.  In business, you must make the products the customer needs, not the product you want them to buy.  The question is not what can we do to keep the military buying unneeded tanks but what can we do to manufacture equipment at the facility until the military needs more tanks.  Companies supplying our military have for far too long depended on increased sales to maintain their profitability.  It is time that changes.

General Dynamics knows this.  Their latest acquisition of IPWireless Inc. shows they understand the need to diversify.  So how do we help them keep the Lima plant operational in the near-term?  This is the question our politicians need to answer; this is where their rhetoric fails.  The plant needs to remain operational in regards to manufacturing but idol in regards to building tanks.

The point is, it is not a political question as much as it is a one of practicality.  We need the ability to manufacture tanks but we cannot afford to pay for tanks just to keep the plant working.  Just off the top of my head, one obvious task the plant can take on is refitting and refurbishing tanks for overhaul.  As the number return from our combat zones, they will overwhelm the depot-level repair facilities.  Another task might be the recycling of tanks that reach the end of their planned life cycle.  It is up to General Dynamics to find useful work to keep their employees working, not the federal government.  Of course, it is in the government’s best interest to assist them in finding such tasking.

Another point to keep in mind when you hear a politician blast the opposing party for their lack of leadership on this particular issue, neither party shows any leadership.  The conservatives simply want to keep buying new weapons, the budget be damned, and the liberals want to slash production without thinking about the long-term effect on our national security.  Of course, I generalize but you get the point.

Today is Memorial Day.  Perhaps it is fitting to take on this subject on a day we honor the brave men and women that have kept our nation safe since before we were even an independent country.  We owe it to them, and the current men and women keeping us safe to spend each penny wisely.  We must give them the equipment they need.  We need to be frugal so we can afford to do just that.  Wasteful spending is just as unpatriotic as not spending at all.  We need companies like General Dynamics to do their part and keep the Lima plant open and working so, they can respond quickly when the demand for tanks returns.  We need their creativity to find ways to keep it operational.  This will make General Dynamics a true partner to our freedom and not just the beneficiary of unbridled defense spending.

 

 


[i] Shalal-Esa, Andrea. “U.S. Defense Cuts Hit Home at Ohio Tank Plant.” Reuters. Thomson Reuters, 24 May 2012. Web. 28 May 2012.
<http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/05/24/us-usa-defense-ohio-idUSBRE84N1DW20120524>.

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Pilitical Monday: The Poetry of How Things Got This Far

May 7, 2012

My last Political Monday post (click here to read) dealt with the two-party system in place in the United States.  While the political positions of the two parties have changed over time, the names remain the same: Democratic and Republican Parties.  Their transformation is nothing short of amazing.  Still, even with their opposing politics, there is the specter of special interests, with all their money, that truly have a stranglehold on both parties.

You may be thinking “stranglehold” is too strong a word, here is why I think it fits:  According to the non-partisan website, OpenSecrets.org, here are the top donor industries for the 2011-2012 political giving year[i]:

OpenSecrets.org data on Top Political Donations by Industry

A quick look at the total amount given shows the extent of the problem, there is too much money given to political candidates and it creates a sense of obligation to the ones giving.  Look at it like this, a Senator is more likely to take a meeting with a company that gave him/her a pile of money rather than taking a meeting from either you or me.  That is not a typo either, the top 13 gave over a billion dollars almost equally split between the two political parties.

Note:  You may notice the percentages do not add up to 100%.  That is due to excluding data that is not directly attributable to either part but reported as given.  I also simply divided the amounts given by the percentage to allocate the dollars to each party. 

Remember, this is just the top 13 industries.  OpenSecrets.org reports $4.16 billion given overall for the 2011-2012 years[ii], and the data is current to April 30.  That averages out to $ 7,761,194 per elected federal official in just over a one-year period.

As long as such lobbying efforts distribute such huge amounts of money into our political system, they will maintain control over it.  The fact that giving is about equal between the parties just illustrates the desire to maintain access, and thus control, over our elected officials.  Such huge amounts of money require any politician that wishes to continue to serve to pander to these groups to be competitive.  The very size of the money involved creates an atmosphere of entitlement for the donors and an atmosphere of obligation to the receivers.  It corrupts politics in America.

From time to time, my blog posting cross topic lines, this is one such topic, as I have several poems of a political nature, this one is pretty much on topic:

Details, Details, Details

The devil is in the details
at least that’s what they say
For in the details live the snares
that catch us on our way

With surgeon skill they craft the tone
within the plan they seek
but shades of gray is what they weave
and havoc they will wreak

In fog-veiled words and turn of phrase
pirates steal this land
proclaiming all gave approval
using their sleight of hand

Slick deception is the standard
that got us to this place
Be it party over nation
or simply lack of grace

No, we cannot trust to others
to do what things are best
so we need to keep our guard up
and put them to the test

When intent lacks understanding
before the task is done
the result will cause true damage
to freedoms we have won

Influence is bought and traded
like some stock on the floor
but congress owes us better –
let’s kick them out the door!

Then open up the processes
on all they say and do
and force them to leave the lobby
that hides and turns their screw

To hell with will all the details!
let’s simplify the day
And to hell with both the parties
they stand in freedom’s way!


[i] “Interest Groups.” OpenSecrets.org: Money in Politics. Web. 06 May 2012. <http://www.opensecrets.org/industries/index.php>.

[ii] “Interest Groups.” OpenSecrets.org: Money in Politics. Web. 06 May 2012. <http://www.opensecrets.org/industries/index.php>.

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Political Monday: The Two Party System

April 30, 2012

In the United States, we have two major political factions, the Republican Party, and the Democratic Party.  Today, control of our national political debate is firmly dominated by these two parties.  This system results in the endless bickering and inability to govern we see today.  It is the single greatest danger to the long-term survival of the United States.

Before the two major parties of today, various ones have led the national debate going back to our Founding Fathers with the Federalist Party (John Adams) and the Democratic-Republican Party (Thomas Jefferson).  Even then, the Founders understood just how disastrous a two-party system could be.  As President Adams put it in a letter to Jonathan Jackson in 1780:

“There is nothing which I dread so much as a division of the republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader, and concerting measures in opposition to each other.  This, in my humble apprehension, is to be dreaded as the greatest political evil under our Constitution.[i]

Think about that for a minute.  Before he served as President, before the ratification of the US Constitution, John Adams, as well as other Founders, understood the danger of developing powerful political parties.  He understood that political power vested to parties is political power taken away from citizens.  Look at just how right he turned out to be.

Today, virtually anyone seeking a federal or state elected office needs the backing of one of the political parties.  That is where the money lives; it is where the political power lives.  Our constitution separates power into three branches of government[ii].  Unfortunately, it does nothing to control the political power of our two most influential special interest groups, the Democratic and Republican Parties.

Both are mammoth organizations whose original intentions have metamorphosed to a single purpose of retaining power and not conducting the business of the people of the United States.  Both parties lack the will to govern by debating ideas on their merits and resort to lowbrow rhetoric and political brinksmanship to maintain the status quo.  Moreover, the two parties work in collusion to maintain their grip on power with the rules the parties use in the various houses of government.  For instance, the Senate and House of Representative make internal rules of operation that grants virtually all leadership roles to members of the two parties.

In fact, they have institutionalized the process.  Just think about how leadership roles are addressed.  The Democrats and Republicans have mirror positions in just about every aspect, The Majority Leader and The Minority Leader, The Majority Whip and The Minority Whip and so on.  This is very different from the Speaker of the House.  The Speaker’s role is constitutionally defined; the other roles are defined by politics.

In election years, the scheming of these two parties does not even attempt to remain undercover.  Political television shows are full of guests from both parties speaking on “gaining control” of one house or the other, splitting citizens into two distinct groups, just as President Adams warned over two-hundred years ago.  In the end, some sort of party system is required to get anything accomplished in government.  Unfortunately, the two dominate parties today put party over nation and press their views upon us rather than reflect the views we, the people, hold true.

The Democratic Party has been around since 1828 and the Republican Party since 1854.  Through longevity, they have insured the true political power remains in their hands alone.  It is as if they realize they need the other party to balance things and allow both parties to survive.  In other words, they are in collusion with each other and prevent new political allegiances forming.  Look at the Tea Party.  Only three years ago, it seemed they would change the political landscape in the United States.  Now, it looks more likely they will be nothing more than a footnote, as the Republican Party throttled support for the upstart.

Need more proof as to their unfettered power, just look at voting.  We can walk into a voting booth and vote a party ticket with the push of one button.  No longer do we even worry with individual candidates, they want you to vote a straight party line.  It is better for the party but is it really better for the nation?  Only a moron would think so.  I guess that is really the opinion of party leaders, we are nothing more than a bunch of morons to be led around like cattle.

It is time we, the people, cut these two monolithic and self-serving parties down to size.  Neither has a right to govern, we elect people, not parties.  It is time we demand our elected officials represent us and not a national political party.  It will be messy but the result will be the sort of governance our Founding Father envisioned for us.  I, for one, trust their thinking more than any political minion spouting rhetoric today.


[i] Adams, Charles F. The Works of John Adams. By John Adams. Vol. 9. Boston: Little, Brown &, 1854. 511. Web. <http://books.google.com/books?id=j9NKAAAAYAAJ&dq=John%20Adams%20works&pg=PR3#v=onepage&q&f=false>.

[ii] U. S. Constitution, US Const., art.  1 -3 <http://constitutionus.com/>

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