A Political Observation


          We spend millions of dollars and a good portion of early childhood development, even into the high school years, teaching the importance of self-esteem and being careful not to hurt or offend others.  Yet as adults, politicians go out of their way to hurt and offend others, no longer caring about self-esteem issues.  Actually issues are one of the major pieces of the political pie that are missing, but political parties don’t care about issues, they care about winning.

            Is it better to win votes by getting people to fear and/or hate your opponent, than to win an election based on issues?  I suppose that this type of win can make governing much easier as no one knows the newly elected candidate’s positions, and expectations are low.  We are just glad that we didn’t elect the piece of garbage running against him, or her.

            Obviously the candidates wash their hands of these attack ads, and blame the various political action committees running them.  Sometimes the candidate will bravely step forward blaming an overzealous supporter for sending out a letter claiming an opponent beats his wife and fathered puppies out of wedlock.  However, after the hand wringing apology, have any candidates actually put a stop to this activity?

            Do politicians really believe we are that dumb and that the public can’t see through the deception?  They must, and given the election results it works.  Perhaps in the end we are not dumb, just worn down by the constant campaigning and the 24/7 news cycle that drones on and on.  Eventually it all just becomes background noise that we all ignore, to our own peril.

 

Political Thoughts Past and Present

Tonight's the Night


Tonight is the night! Call me crazy, but I love primary season! I am lousy at predictions, however, I can't help myself.


I believe that Trump will squeak out a win. (I'd like to see it personally.)

I believe that Sanders will also triumph. (See above.)

Both guys winning would further infuriate the GOP and Dem establishment.

Thank is a good thing.


I'm also hoping for a strong showing by Ran Paul.


LET THE GAMES BEGIN!!!

USA or U.S.A


            What I have learned about people recently helps me to understand why this country is going down the tubes.  We have young men killing each other in neighborhoods daily. The family and friends of the dead will cry, speak out against the violence, hold candlelight vigils, and hold marches. However when it comes time to identify suspects or testify in court, the silence is as deadly as the bullet.

            Yet our silence is not just limited to violent crime, it also can be evidenced in cases of discrimination.  It is funny that everyone can see the discrimination, shake their heads at the discrimination, and promise the victim they will be there if their help is ever needed, but when the time comes to step forward and do the right thing self-interest trumps, civic duty.  In our society today the Bible story of the Good Samaritan would end with the victim dying alone on the side of the road.

            My friends, we do not need new gun laws or new laws protecting minorities and the disabled.  What we need is become engaged, by stepping forward and doing the right thing when laws are broken and people need our help.  You can have a million laws, but they are useless unless one person is willing to stand-up and be a witness for the victim.

            Given what I have seen lately, USA no longer stands for United States of America; today it means Uncaring, Selfish, and Apathetic.

Destroying Ourselves (2015)


           We are a nation set on destroying ourselves.  Politicians divided us, only concerned with getting elected or re-elected.  We send our best, brightest, and bravest to fight around the world with no clear endgame in place, other than to line the pockets of, as President Eisenhower said decades ago, “the military-industrial complex.”  We allow are jobs to be sent overseas, while our standard of living here declines.

            China owns us.  They poison the food our pets eat, possibly our food as well, they are the leading polluter in the world, spy on us, steal our technology, and basically make everything we use.  Yet our leaders turn a blind eye to it all in the name of “free trade,” or “boosting our economy,” or my favorite, “job creation.” 

            Our own government uses a slight of hand that makes professional magician envious.  While our nation burns they hold hearings on the NFL, MLB, and Hollywood.  Have you noticed, while your favorite Hollywood star/starlet are testifying in front of Congress, or representing us in the United Nations, your basic freedoms and liberties are disappearing?

            The next “most important election of our lifetime” is just around the corner.  The majority will line up and vote for their party looking for solutions to problems their party created. Draconian election laws keep third parties off the ballot, and the downward spiral continues.

            It is not true that we get the government we vote for; we actually get the government that the government allows us to vote for.

Welfare Reform: A Hand Up, Not a Hand Out  (2012)



            Over the past seventy years welfare programs have become a political football that both parties toss back and forth in the political arena.  There are some that believe that welfare is a Constitutional right, while others argue that there is no provision for the government to provide for the needs of others.  The battle lines have been drawn by both sides in such a way that a solution is almost impossible.   There is too much to be lost by all political sides if a solution is reached, and this ideological conflict becomes a money maker for those in power; while those on the programs and those whose taxes are used to support the programs suffer the consequences of this political inaction.

            President Franklin Delano Roosevelt began several programs when first elected in an effort to stem the depression.  While these were to be temporary programs they have seemed to morph into entitlements that everyone believes they will one day benefit. However welfare programs did not start in the 1930s.

            Welfare in the United States began long before the government welfare programs of today were created.  In the early history of the United States, the colonies used the British Poor Laws to help those in need. These laws separated the unemployed into two groups; those who were unable to work due to their age or physical health, and those who were able-bodied but unemployed. Those that were unable to work were assisted with cash or other types of government assistance. Those that could work were given public service employment in workhouses.

            During the 1800's welfare continued and attempts were made to reform how the government dealt with the poor. Some of changes tried to help the poor find work rather than continuing to stay on welfare. At this time social casework began. This consisted of caseworkers going out to the poor and training them in morals and a work ethic. This type of training was supported by reformers in the late 1800s. The thinking being along the lines of the old Chinese proverb, "Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach him how to fish and he will eat for a lifetime."

            During the Great Depression millions of Americans suffered. It is believed that nearly one-fourth of the labor force was unemployed during the depression. With this many families suffering financial difficulties, the government decided to step in and try to solve the problem. This would seem to be the origin of the welfare state that we have today.

            According to Welfare Information,

                        Under President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the Social Security Act was
                        enacted in 1935. The act, which was amended in 1939, established a
                        number of programs designed to provide aid to various segments of the                                                       population. Unemployment compensation and AFDC (originally Aid to                                                           Dependent Children) are two of the programs that still exist today. A
                       number of government agencies were created to oversee the welfare                                                          programs. Some of the agencies that deal with welfare in the United

                       States are the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the
                       Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the Department
                       of Labor, the Department of Agriculture, and the Department of Education.

Many of these agencies still exist today either as a standalone agency or as part of a combined agency.

            During the Great Depression, while there was some conflict over how and how much, generally both sides of the conflict had collaborative goals.  The leaders at the time knew that the long term health of the nation was at risk.  There were many different ideas on what needed to be done and by collaborating this allowed, “. . . ways for people to be involved in the process as it unfolds” (Wilmont, 99).  Given the needs of the citizens it was fairly easy to make the goals behaviorally specific. As the policies were outlined this, “Specificity helps the parties to know when a goal has been accomplished” (99). This helped determine if the policies were working or not and allowed them to be corrected.

            The statements made during the Great Depression by leaders oriented, “toward the present and future” (99). Many of the speeches made at this time focused on how these programs would turn things around, or how the future would be better.  Both parties tried to rally the nation and while speaking plainly of the difficulties encouraged the nation to work together for the future.  Many believe that when President Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “We have nothing to fear, but fear itself.” He was speaking of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, when in fact the line is from his first inaugural speech in 1933.

            The leaders of that time realized the need for interdependence.  For the nation to rally they needed to work together to pull the country out of the crisis of the Great Depression.  This required setting aside self, or party goals, and work for the betterment of the population as a whole.  The leadership realized that reaching the goals they set would be an ongoing process that would require changes in existing policies or the creation of new policies.

            While there were some minor changes in welfare programs in the 1950s, perhaps the biggest changes came in the 1960s. With the Civil Rights Movement came changes in the perception of the role of government in providing for less fortunate members of society. It couldbe argued that this was a much an attempt to right perceived wrongs, as much as a way to gain African-American votes in the south. It is interesting that today many believe it was the Republicans that were against the Civil Rights Act when, in fact, it was the Democrats lead by Sen. Robert Bird and Albert Gore, Sr that filibustered the legislation which eventually passed.

            After President Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society legislation of the 1960s, “for the first time a person who was not elderly or disabled could receive a living from the American government” (Frum, 72). This included general welfare payments, health care through Medicaid, food stamps, special payments for pregnant women and young mothers, and federal and state housing benefits.  There was some collaboration in these matters; however battle lines were being drawn.  Members of both parties were becoming concerned on the effects of government programs on families.

            Robert F. Kennedy expressed concerns in his book, To Seek a Newer World. In the chapter entitled, “Race and the City: The Slums and Community,” he discusses how the growing government outreach into the inner cities is destroying African-American family.  He argued that with the government taking the role as provider, the African-American male’s role in the family is decreased and the family structure begins to decay. 

            Kennedy was also concerned of the overall effect these programs would have on the nation as a whole. As he wrote in 1967, “More important, the system of social welfare services we have provided the poor consists of a series of handouts:  a separate economy, almost a separate nation, a screen of government agencies keeping the poor apart from the rest of us” (Kennedy, 28). 

            The entire tenor of debate changed in politics after the Watergate scandal involving President Nixon.  There seemed to be a need to be in power as opposed to using the power they had to benefit the nation. The parties began to attack one another and not the issues.  I would argue that this is a form of avoidance, by beating each other up and using the fear of the other party gaining power, avoiding solving issues allowed for better fundraising and get out the vote strategies.  Welfare politics has become a game and those on it or paying for it are the pawns.

            The leaders in Washington believe that conflict is bad, in regards to this issue; that being the conflict between themselves and their political base.  To stay in office the base, and their money, is key.  Both parties are nervous about having a conflict with their supporters for the fear of a negative outcome, in this case losing their Congressional seat. 

            In an effort to avoid the conflict, they actually feed the conflict. The leadership sends mailers to the base, demagogue the issue and muddies the waters, all the while putting Band-Aids on a severed leg. When the funding for programs begins to run out, or the problems written about by Kennedy become a reality, a committee is formed to find possible solutions to the problem.

            However, when the solutions are brought forward both parties handle it badly.  Neither party wants to risk losing their base, and begin to paint the other as enablers or haters.  For example during the 1995 debate on welfare reform Representative John Lewis compare the Republican Party as Nazis yelling, “They’re coming for the children, they’re coming for the poor, they’re coming for the elderly.”  The Republicans are not innocent when it comes to fear mongering. In recent times they have called the President Barack Obama and the Democratic leadership elitists, socialists, and communists.

            If as written in Welmont that, “Avoidance is designed to protect the self and other from
discord, yet the avoidance may lead to a lack of clarity, set the stage for later uncontrollable conflict, and, lead back to even more avoidance (Bullis 1983)” (Wilmot, 150), we can see that our leaders, when it comes to welfare reform are practicing avoidance in conflict. 

            By continually avoiding the conflict the United States could see scenes similar to those in Greece and England.  The recent rioting in the streets by citizens and students over cuts in social spending should be a warning to our own government that by avoiding a resolution to the welfare conflict the problem is not going to go away. 

            The basic problem in welfare reform is that there are so many parties and constituencies involved that no one will be entirely happy with any solution.  A real solution would need to be spearheaded by a leader with great communication skills, someone like a Ronald Reagan or Bill Clinton. The message must be effectively communicated so that it can be understood by everyone and rally them to support the majority of the effort.

            Using the TRIP method to start the reform would be key to getting the policy started.  The topic goal would be to lower the amount of money spent on welfare programs, while enabling those on welfare to work their way off, better the lives of everyone involved.  As this policy would affect everyone way or another our relationship to each other in the conflict would be that of Americans.  As Americans we are interdependent on each other, as a group of individuals working for a common goal of improving each other’s ability to succeed.

            This individual identity would give everyone involved a face-saving goal in this conflict. Those on welfare could escape the cycle of dependence on government programs by buying into the proposed changes of the neighborhood peer pressure. Those that are not on welfare could actually put the “Hand-up, not hand out,” philosophy many have be reciting into action by supporting new legislative ideas. 

            The process goals would need to be those of open communication and consensus.  The leader would need to take his, or her, plan to the people first so they could pressure the Congress to get on board.  As noted earlier, Congress often will not act unless its own interests, getting re-elected, are not a concern.  If the bases of both parties pushed for a united plan, something could be accomplished.

            Once the process has started it will, in the end, all come down to negotiations between the parties and President.  Ideally if the people are supportive of the type of reform proposed the relationship between all involved should be collaborative.  All sides should come to the table with realistic solutions and not talking points, and focus on the problem, not the people in the room.

            The leadership teams in the negotiations should “work to build positive two-way communication, and avoid telling other what to do” (Wilmont, 262).  While this is an emotional issue it is important to keep the focus on the goal. When the negotiations begin to breakdown the focus should remain on good communications, and not straying into personal attacks or stereotypes.

            The focus should not be on positions, but on interests. “When people discuss their actual interests in a transparent way, they are much more likely to come to a mutual agreement” (262). Ideally the actual interests would be to come to some agreement that benefits the greatest number of people, not the re-election campaigns of 535 Members of Congress. In doing this type of
communication it could be possible to generate many options to the problem, that once discussed may offer a reasonable solution, which the majority can support.

            Much like the Congresses that created the welfare programs in the 1930s, future Congresses are going to have to work together to create workable solutions to the problems they now face.  The parties involved should not focus on winning the conflict, but finding a realistic solution that can unite the public towards a common goal.

            The United States is not financially able to support the program in its current state.  The
debt is growing and spending on social programs has reached record levels.  The number of people getting some form of government assistance is at an all-time high.  Quite simply we no longer have the money to support these programs at their current levels.  While some type of temporary support was the original goal, welfare programs have morphed into a way of life.

            Socially it would seem that the words of Kennedy have come true.  The African-American has been destroyed, with male role models few and far between.  The hopelessness of those collecting welfare benefits is passed on to the children who see welfare as a way of life.  This is not just a black or white issue as millions of white Americans are also caught in the welfare cycle.

            The difficulty in getting people off the welfare is there is no incentive to work.  If an individual gets a job and makes too much money, they lose all of their welfare benefits.  In some cases too much money can be $100 a week.  If a person is getting food stamps, medical care and a cash supplement, what is the incentive to go work at McDonalds or Walmart?  Once I start working there I have to wait to get insurance, and when I do get it, I have to pay for it.

            There is also not incentive to save money while on welfare.  Once a person has money in a checking or savings account, they need to make sure it doesn’t total more than government set level.  Owing a life insurance policy, a car or home are all barriers to keeping or getting welfare assistance.  The program seems to be set up so that once you are in the program; you are encouraged to stay on the program.  Success is punishable, while being lazy or gaming the system is almost encouraged. 

            The problems with the current system are numerous as you have read, and we haven’t even mentioned the benefits of being a single mother with multiple children. A proposed starting point for ending the welfare cycle, encouraging work, building families and bring cost under control could be a the following plan that I have discussed with elected officials over the past couple years.

            The first year of the program those receiving benefits would continue to receive 100% of their benefit while employed.  This would encourage those how fear that employment would cause them to lose their benefits and/or incur new costs for insurance, to actively seek employment. Part of the program would be life skill sessions. These could teach basic household budgeting, balancing a checkbook, how to fill out a job application, etc.

            The second year of the program would be very similar to the first, with a cut in welfare benefits to 75%.  Ideally the individual is becoming independent of government support and beginning to he can make it on his own.  The number of life session would be reduced, however the individual could voluntarily attend as many as they would like.

            The third year of the program reduces the welfare benefit to 50% and eliminates the mandatory life skill sessions.  The fourth year the individual is out of the program and receives
benefits based on income. For example the family could still qualify for the CHIPS or WIC programs.  For those individuals that have not achieved independence from the program the welfare benefit will be capped at 50% for one additional year.

            The proposal is not perfect, but is a starting point for negotiations.  It allows for all sides to bring their concerns and options to the table for debate.  A conflict is the starting point on a trip, negotiations are stopping points along the way.  The goal of everyone in the car is to safely reach the destination so everyone benefits from the trip.  Too often in today’s society those in the car would rather drive off a cliff than stop in Hooper, Nebraska for a night.



Works Cited

Frum, David. How We Got Here: The '70s. New York, New York: Basic Books, 2000.

Kennedy, Robert F. To Seek a Newer World. Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1967.

Welfare Info. U.S. Welfare System. http://www.welfareinfo.org 12/2010.

Wilmot, William and Joyce Hocker. Interpersonal Conflict 8th Ed. New York: McGraw- Hill, 2011.

It's me, I know . . .


Am I the only one that thinks there is a problem when the Obama Administration, on the one hand wants to let thousands of Syrian immigrants in the country, who we know little about; yet seeks to disarm American citizens so we can't defend ourselves.


If the government put as much energy in enforcing existing gun laws, and prosecuting violators, as it does creating new ones, we'd be in a much better place.

Jeb


Jeb Bush does not portray strength, and the harder he tries to act tough, the wimpier he looks.