I’m in the MIDDLE and NOT Represented :(

Photo by Richard Clark

Photo by Richard Clark

I have had a hard time writing about political stuff during this 2016 presidential election.  I feel like throwing a shoe at my TV every time I hear the nonsense emanating from our supposed political leaders running for political office.  I could say it’s Hillary and Donald… but it’s really Democrats and Republicans.  We are so polarized in our country that we are doing very wacky things.  I think that most people think they are in the middle politically, and I am no different.  Unfortunately, regardless of who wins the 2016 Presidential Race… and probably your local political races, we in the middle will continue to go unrepresented once again.

I will cover a few basic issues to show you what I mean.

Immigration

Republicans

Donald Trump says he will build a wall and deport all illegal immigrants from the U.S.  And Mexico will pay for this wall… which I assume will only be on our southern border.  Trump added that he would halt immigration from Muslim countries until the U.S. got we obtained a reasonable vetting process for Muslims that would ensure no terrorists entered the country.

Democrats

Hillary Clinton says she will tear down walls and welcome immigrants into the U.S. and even increase the amount of Syrian refugees allowed into the U.S. as a humanitarian gesture.   Instead of deporting immigrants in our country illegally, Hillary wants to create a pathway to citizenship for all of those who are currently in our country illegally.

My View

I actually approve of most of the provisions of the Senate immigration reform bill that was stalled in the House of Representatives in 2013.  Speaker John Boehner and then Speaker Paul Ryan refused to allow the bill to even be voted on in the House of Representatives in 2013 and subsequently in 2014.

Here is what I would like to see in immigration reform:

  1. Increase immigration quotas to make up for America’s current weak growth rate.  This will shore up Social Security and Medicare without changing benefits or retirement ages.
  2. Improve Visa security and border security measures to enforce immigration law.  I have no idea why some think it is okay to have porous borders.  This is probably our highest national security threat and deserves comparable funding to our national defense.
  3. Improve vetting process for anyone wanting to migrate or even visit the U.S.  No question is off limits… Including religious affiliation.
  4. Either obtain a sound ruling or amend our constitution to eliminate anchor baby provisions that automatically make a baby born from non-U.S. citizens within U.S. borders a U.S. citizen.
  5. Disallow immigrants from obtaining entitlement program funds until they have been in the country for a minimum of 5-years.

I disagree with Democrats who side with Reagan and believe we can continue to offer amnesty and not enforce our immigration laws.  I disagree with Republicans who seem to want to lock down the country like Fort Knox.  Why is it so hard to fix this one right?

Taxes

Republicans

With Donald Trump’s address on the economy, it is clear to see that he favors a simplified income tax system that includes 0%, 12%, 25% and 33% as tax brackets.  This is an overall tax reduction on the high ends of the income tax scale from 39% and a slight increase on the bottom end from 10% to 12%.  Although, it is hard to know if he is increasing the range of the 0% tax to exclude even more Americans from paying any income tax.  Trump also proclaims that he will eliminate other taxes that have been levied to support added government regulations like the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare).  Trump has also advocated eliminating the estate tax and dropping the corporate income tax from 35% to 15%.

Democrats

Hillary Clinton wants to wage a class warfare. She wants to increase taxes on the rich and decrease tax burdens on the poor (which she calls middle class).  Instead of simplifying, Clinton’s tax reform will dramatically expand our current tax code. She wants to increase income taxes on corporations and wealthy individuals.  She wants to eliminate most deductions available to those making incomes over $250,000.  Although she claims she wants to reduce taxes on the poor, she wants to levy taxes on things that poor people buy like fossil fuels, sugar and many commodities she feels should not be consumed.  Hillary Clinton has also proposed that we increase capital gains taxes to 40% for speculative gains in the stock market; and then reduce capital gains taxes to 20% for assets held for more than 2-years.

My View

Both Democrats and Republicans have the tax thing all wrong.  I have believed in a flat-tax for a long time.  However, I now believe that we should have no federal income tax until your income reaches $15,000.  We should then gradually increase the tax rate from 0% to 20% until your income reaches $50,000/year.  The rate should then stay at 25% above $50,000/year regardless of how much money you make.

Deductions and loop-holes should be eliminated altogether.  There is no reason a home owner should get a tax deduction while a renter should not.  These tax loopholes are ways that lobbyists win and the common citizen loses in the tax revenue battle.  We need to just stop it!

I agree with Hillary’s plan to increase capital gains tax rates on speculative trading in Wallstreet.  Although insider trading is illegal, I guarantee that there are many investors that know more about what companies will do before the general public.  That means the general public will rarely be able to achieve the gains like these insiders and speculators.  I, for one, am sick and tired of watching the stock market plunge and sky-rocket every time there is the least amount of financial news.  Stock investing is intended to be for the long-term, not a gambling casino.

For Trump who advocates a low tax rate, he would need to double our Gross Domestic Product to give the government comparable revenue to what they need today.  For Hillary who advocates taxing the rich, the rich will simply go elsewhere.  Both their tax proposals are political pandering and would be disastrous if passed.

Free Trade

Republicans

This is a tricky one.  Most Democrats and Republicans in Congress are for FREE TRADE.  A key part of Trump’s campaign is to block current FREE TRADE agreements and possibly increase import tariffs to move the other direction from FREE TRADERS.  So, the Republican Party is for Free Trade agreements while Trump is against them.  Trump also wants to penalize countries like China when they purposely devalue their currency to artificially create trade imbalances in the U.S.

Democrats

If you thought Republicans are tricky, Democrats are even harder to figure out.  Hillary Clinton started her primary campaign as a proponent of the most recent Free Trade agreement (TPP); and was certainly in favor of her husband’s approval of the NAFTA free trade agreement passed in his presidency in the 1990’s.  However, she now claims that after learning of some of the final details of TPP, she is against it.  I am not sure what those details are at this point, so it’s hard to know why she changed her position.

In general Democrats who cater to wealthy donors are for these agreements while labor unions are against them.  It is quite an eclectic position, indeed.  Clinton seems to be for or against free trade based on public popularity.

My View

I believe in Free Trade.  However, I also believe the U.S. has been taken advantage of in its Free Trade dealings.  And particularly working Americans have paid the price for these poor negotiations.

I believe Free Trade is one of the biggest drivers of our current income inequality gap in the U.S.  Bernie Sanders and Trump have this one right.  When we create easy trade between countries, Multinational Companies benefit from cheap labor and no import taxes back into the lucrative domestic market in the U.S.

I am actually okay with this benefit as it is part of a global free market.  However, when we make it so difficult for companies to locate factories, assembly plants and whatever other industry we want in the U.S. domestically, we create one more barrier that drives even more industry outside of our country.  These barriers come in the form of mandatory health benefits, high taxes, increased employer regulations, and onerous environmental restrictions.

The problem with all of these regulations and costs is that foreign countries do not levy the same restrictions;  nor can we enforce such regulations abroad even if we put such requirements into free-trade agreements.  We either need to relax domestic regulatory restrictions to manufacturing; or we need to levy an import tax to countries who are not abiding by the same restrictions imposed by free trade agreements.

As for the currency devaluation problem with China.  The trade imbalance with China is so great, they have excess U.S. dollars that need to either converted into Chinese Yuan; or used to purchase U.S. Treasuries (our national debt).  If they are converted to Yuan, China will start to see their currency strengthen against the U.S. Dollar which means they will be less attractive for Multinational companies to use as a manufacturer.  If China purchase U.S. Treasuries, their currency will weaken and they will continue their manufacturing dominance.  Trump cannot really stop any of this action.  We can certainly complain about it, but there is little we can do.  Trump has advocated threatening to levy import taxes on Chinese to stop their devaluation.  I am okay with this tactic…. at least we need to do something domestically to control foreign currency manipulation.

Healthcare

Republicans

Republicans say that Health Savings Accounts (HSA’s) are the way to go with helping people pay for medical care.  A HSA allows you to save money tax free that can only be used to pay for medical expenses.  Republicans generally oppose the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) on the grounds that we are forcing people to buy a product that they may or may not need.  In addition, the ACA has demonstrated that it has increase premiums, increased deductibles and has forced many to change their doctors as they have been forced to change insurance providers.

Democrats

Democrats believe the ACA to be one of their crowning achievements in the Obama Administration.  They claim that close to 20-million additional citizens are now covered by health insurance who did not have health insurance prior to the passage of the ACA.  Democrats acknowledge that the system may need tweaks, but my suspicions is they disagree with Republicans on which direction those ‘tweaks’ ought to take the system.  In the primary race between Sanders and Clinton, it seemed obvious that most Democrats want a Single-Payer system which would eliminate insurance companies and put all health care coverage underwriting in the hands of the government.  In a Single-Payer system, health coverage would be provided to every citizen.

My View

I believe we need to go one of two directions with our health care system: 1) Single-Payer with provisions; or 2) Free-Market with provisions.

Single-Payer with PROVISIONS

There are many Scandinavian countries that have figured out a way to keep healthcare affordable; and make healthcare available to all of their citizens.  Unfortunately, for the U.S., we are far from this Single-Payer model at this point.  If we can develop a system to get reasonable prices on quality healthcare, we should adopt this same model.

For those who proclaim the free-market is the only way (I used to be one), I think you may want to take a closer look at how well Medicare has done at reducing costs while maintaining much better overhead than insurance companies we have entrusted to do the same thing.  Government can and has done affordable quality healthcare right.  If we can do this in the U.S., I believe this is the best approach.

Free-Market with PROVISIONS

Free-market implies that the suppliers and recipients of healthcare services set the price for that healthcare.  We currently have two very strong lobbies in our country that are obstacles to free-market healthcare: 1) Pharmaceutical Companies; and 2) Insurance Companies.  Both of these organizations are heavily invested in keeping healthcare expensive.  They both lobby for restrictions on health benefits offered by insurance companies and barriers to entry for their competition on a state by state level.

There are several provisions I have in mind to make the healthcare free-market work. Replace insurance companies with non-profit healthcare coops.  Coops need to insist on obtaining three competitive prices for expensive procedures and prescriptions.  People need to become more invested in their healthcare.  The risk of smoking, obesity, poor exercise and unhealthy eating habits should be borne by those engaging in such behavior, not those who are not.

I believe this Free-Market option is better than the Single-Payer option, but we still need to care for the indigent.  For those who cannot afford health coverage, such costs should be considered in the welfare programs.

No Combination Programs

In defense of President Obama and most Democrats, they wanted a Single-Payer program from the start back in 2009.  However, as a compromise to the Republicans, insurance companies were kept in the system and we got the ACA.  It must not have worked because Republicans didn’t vote for the law anyway once they understood how opposed most Americans were to any such program.

As I have already stated, I am for full government control of healthcare; or full free-market control of healthcare.  When we try to mix these two we get what we have now… which is an oligarchy comprised of large pharmaceutical companies and large insurance companies making large profits, expanded government bureaucracy, and a poorer middle class and small business owner who already have it tough enough.

Foreign Affairs / Military

Republicans

Republicans seem to be for increased foreign intervention by the U.S. Military.  This means: 1) taking a more active roll in military actions in fighting ISIS in Syria and Iraq; 2) Keeping Iran from developing nuclear weapons; 3) Stopping Korea from developing long-range nuclear weapons; 4) Defending Israel from incursion; and 5) Whatever other world entanglement arises.  In total, Republicans want to create a strong military regardless of what threats exist so they can project power to the rest of the world and be the world’s police force.  Trump wanted to add a new twist to this ideal.  He has advocated that the U.S. ought to be paid by countries we are defending.  He has also implied that we should exit from NATO because it is primarily a burden of the U.S. and it is not fulfilling the same function it was started for in the cold war.  My sense is that Trump would also have a problem with the extent of U.S. involvement in the United Nations as well.

Democrats

It is hard to fully understand where the Democratic Party stands on foreign affairs.  It seems like many Democrats are against most international entanglements and generally believe that we spend way too much of our federal budget on our military; when these funds could be spent on many more domestic priorities.   Hillary Clinton seems to approve of the way Barack Obama has led our military and would most likely continue his approach.

My View

I actually also like the way Barack Obama has participated in military activities around the world.  I believe we need to try to shore up allies in the world, but inevitably have them fight their own battles.  We pulled out of Iraq almost 10-years after we engaged Saddam Hussein in that region.  If Iraq cannot train and outfit their own army in 10-years, they probably can never do it and deserve to be wiped out by whoever can.  The same goes for Afghanistan.  Whether or not the U.S. is engaged in these regions, we cannot control what they do and how they think indefinitely.  At some point, they have to decide who they want to be as countries.

I also agree with Donald Trump in that NATO is a waste of U.S. money at this point.  The cold war is over.  We won’t even allow the Ukraine to join NATO, and they would be one of the few countries that would gain a benefit from such a membership.  Nor should the U.S. be the anchor in ever world organization and continue to increase our country’s debt so that other countries can feel safe.  I also agree with Trump that oil rich nations need to start footing the majority of the bill to keep their backyard safe.  It is a double tragedy for Americans to lose oil field jobs to the Middle East; and also lose our fighting men and women to the same region.  Any military used to protect that region should be compensated by countries residing in that region.

Finally, our military budget is way too large.  The U.S. military budget is larger than the next largest 8-countries combined.  This fact alone tells us that we are over-extended in military reach and costs.  If we actually implement the ideals stated in the first two paragraphs we should be able to defend our country appropriately and still participate in any world skirmishes that require our involvement.

Education

Republicans

Republicans seem to be for local control of public education and an entire deletion of the federal involvement through the Department of Education; and Common Core national education standards.  They believe that the best education can happen at local school districts and state departments of education without federal involvement.  Republicans also seem to be against unionization of teachers in all states.

Democrats

Democrats seem to favor more federal involvement in education and expanded use of Common Core standards.  In addition, Democrats are promoting the idea of free college education.  Hillary Clinton’s idea of free college education is free education only for those who she determines cannot pay for it; and have a minimum of 10-hours of work a week to help pay for their college.  Bernie Sanders wanted free college very similar to our current free K-12 public education system.  Hillary has added another twist to her college payment program… if you cannot afford to pay for your college tuition debt, the nation will pay your student loans for you.

My View

I believe, as do both parties, that education is the great equalizer.  It doesn’t matter if you are poor or rich.  If you get a great education, you can be whatever you want to be in your life-long career.  Supposedly, the more educated you are, the better career you can have.  Unfortunately, our education system is broken to some extent.  And, it is broken in the K-12 arena as well as the college systems.  If we were to offer free college to everyone, someone would have to pay for this college.  And, if our current system is cost prohibitive, it is highly unlikely that government subsidies will make our current systems more affordable.

There are two problems: 1) colleges are not preparing their graduates for careers in the ‘real world’; and 2) K-12 public schools providing a substandard education.

Before we double-down on public education, it seems like we need to fix what is currently wrong with K-12 public education.  The U.S. is performing poorly when compared with other developed nations in its K-12 programs, and we need to do better.  In my view, we need to prepare students for the ‘real world’ right out of high school.  It is embarrassing that most high school graduates don’t seem to have marketable skills after attending school for 12-years.  This doesn’t necessarily mean more rigorous academics… it means a reinvestment in vocation programs in my view.

Only 47% of college graduates are able to get jobs that require college degrees; and only 20% of college graduates obtain jobs in the career field they studied in college.  In terms of a report card score, colleges are failing.  And yet, college tuition continues to rise far above standard inflation.  Why?  Because we are funneling students into these failing organizations, subsidizing their education, or pushing students and parents into major debt with the false promise their lives will be better for it.  Like any institution, we need to start holding our colleges more accountable for the relevancy of the education they are providing.

I agree that we need to make major changes to the Department of Education.  It needs to stop being a grant program and school welfare program and needs to focus on national standards.  Common Core was a good foundational idea, but it is a failure in execution.  The standards Common Core advocates are not standards of learning, but rather standards of methods; which is completely backwards.  Educators have almost fully rejected the intrusion Common Core has made in their classrooms.  Standards need to be objective with basic tests of learning; and not the mess they are today.

I believe that colleges need to have standards as well.  Those standards need to be published employment statistics for each college.  When a student attends a college, they ought to be able to demonstrate they can get a good paying job upon graduation for their investment.  It doesn’t matter if the college is Harvard or Joe’s Auto-Body Repair school.  These education institutions need to start delivering results.

The Bane of the Moderate

I understand that many people will disagree with me on various issues in this post.  I understand that most of my ideas would need major tweaks.  However, as it stands now, I don’t see a time in my lifetime where any of my ideas will get any traction.

As the 2016 presidential election nears, I really have no one I can vote for that supports my preferences.  There is no party.  There is no politician that seems to think too far outside of their party platform to give my ideas a chance.

On top of problems with issues, there is the political rhetoric that seems to win the day.  We concern ourselves with Hillary Clinton’s email server and the exposure of our nation’s secrets due to her sloppy management of sensitive information.  Ironically, all of our Secretaries of State have managed this information in a sloppy manner.  We the concern ourselves with sloppy language used by Trump whenever he opens his mouth about a minority or woman.  There is so much pettiness in our politics that we almost never get to discuss the serious topics I have tried to highlight today.

I really don’t know who I will vote for in this presidential election.  I am so disappointed with my choices, I am tempted to stay home.  Maybe the best I can do is write blog posts and get my views out there… Who knows?  By the time I’m 80 maybe someone will actually listen.

If you like this post, I ask you to forward it to others.  Thanks!

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