Wednesday, April 2, 2014

One Dollar, One Vote

America is now officially a plutocracy, with a government of the rich, by the rich, and for the rich.  That is basically what the Supreme Court effectively ruled today in McCutcheon v. FEC.  The decision completely lifted all limits on individual campaign contributions, building on the travesty that was the Citizen's United ruling from five years ago.  So it's apparently not enough for corporations to be considered people and money to be considered speech--the plutocrats wanted ALL of the speed bumps to domination removed.  Not like those speed bumps were super-effective to begin with, but those two landmark decisions together now make it virtually impossible to rein-in the influence of the elites on what's left of democracy in America.

Hear that?  That's the sound of Thomas Jefferson and many other Founding Fathers rolling over in their graves.  Absolutely disgusting indeed!

So what's a third party to do now?  How can we possibly compete against the elephant/jackass corporate duopoly now that the odds are even more stacked against us than ever before?  That leaves We the People with one and only one option left:  revolution.  "Wait...did he just say what I think he did?  OMG!!!"  You got that damn right, bitches!  But our idea of revolution is NOT like the French variety from 1789, since we all know how well that worked out.  A violent revolution would only lead to more violence in the long run, as any self-respecting history buff will tell you.  So that's out.  What we mean is more what like these folks have in mind.  Non-violence may indeed sound like a sucker's game to the jaded, but remember what Dr. King said.  Our choice is not between violence and non-violence, but rather between non-violence and non-existence.  And the real suckers are the sheeple who would rather just "go with the flow" off the cliff like lemmings while the elites just laugh all the way to the bank.  So what are we waiting for?  As Rage Against the Machine would say:
It has to start somewhere, it has to start sometime.  What better place than here, what better time than now?
And indeed, true words have never been spoken.  So let's roll!

Monday, March 24, 2014

End This Depression NOW--For Real This Time!

The latest news shows that the Dow Jones recently reached a record high, and remains above 16,000.  Corporate profits are at a record high, and even the unemployment rate has FINALLY dropped to a 5-year low of less than 7%.  So by these numbers, some people seem to think that the recession is finally over for good.  Happy days are here again!  So cue the music, Maestro:

HALLLELUJAH!  HALLELUJAH!  HALLELUJAH, HALLELUJAH, HALL.....er, wait a minute.  Seriously?  This is the kind of thing that passes for "recovery" these days?  Please.  The majority of Americans would certainly NOT consider happy days to be here again!  Certainly not with sobering statistics like these:
  • A real unemployment rate (U6) that is actually in the double-digits (13%), and not falling nearly quickly enough.  In fact, when long-term discouraged workers are included and added to U6, it reaches nearly 25%, and has actually risen since the phony "recovery" began in 2009.
  • A labor force participation rate that has fallen to a 35-year low, reflecting (in part) those discouraged workers who simply gave up looking for a job.
  • A poverty rate that remains stubbornly higher than in 2009, as evident in the record number of people on programs like SNAP (food stamps).
  • Near-record levels of income and wealth inequality, approaching Gilded Age levels.  The top 1% controls nearly half of the nation's wealth, while the bottom 80% are left to fight over crumbs.
  • Falling real wages, with a real minimum wage that is at least 30% lower than in the late 1960s despite a doubling of productivity.
  • Cities declaring bankruptcy.  Detroit is the canary in the coal mine.
  • Record levels of student loan debt ($1 trillion), combined with considerable unemployment and underemployment of college graduates.
  • A national debt of over $17 trillion, and growing despite fairly harsh austerity measures.
  • A real inflation rate that is nearly 10% when measured the way it was in 1980 and earlier.  Combined with the real unemployment rate, the real "misery index" would be a whopping 22-33.  Ouch!
So by just about any rational measure, we are still stuck in a pretty deep depression.   In fact, the progressive site Daily Kos coined a new term to describe it:  stagpression (a combination of stagnation and depression).  So why the huge disconnect between corporate profits and the stock market with the reality on the ground?  The answer is pretty simple.  Our government has been giving money, favors, and tax cuts to the rich and mega-corporations for years now, and what have the plutocrats done for us in return?  Sit on their massive cash, pay CEOs more, cannibalize their workforces, and buy back (i.e. manipulate) their own stock to paper over their declining sales.  And historically, what do they do if they get higher marginal tax rates?  Re-invest more in their own businesses and/or hire more workers.  Counterintuitive, yes, but it actually makes sense when you think about it.  As for "quantitative easing", the Feral Reserve has been printing trillions of dollars out of thin air, and nearly all of it goes to the big banks (i.e. the plutocrats) where it certainly does NOT trickle-down in any meaningful way.  To date, both fiscal and monetary policies have consisted of weak and inefficient half-measures, where the benefits accrue to the elites while the consequences (inflation, debt) accrue to the rest of us.  Thus, the rich get richer, the poor get poorer, and the middle class continues to shrink.  And the customers become too broke to buy anything, and the economy continues to stagnate or sink even further in a downward spiral.   No wonder our "recovery" has been so hollow!

So how can we break this vicious cycle for good, before the resulting bubble bursts leading to the next big crash?  The answer is really quite clear:  adopt the TSAP party platform ASAP.   But since it is unrealistic to expect either corporate party in the elephant/jackass duopoly to take up an entire platform that literally threatens their own interests, we have devised a list of the highest-priority measures to take before the inequality-fueled crash of 2016 happens:

  1. Raise the top marginal tax rate to at least 50% (if not 70%) for incomes above $1 million, and simplify the tax code by removing loopholes geared towards the wealthy.
  2. Reduce the corporate tax rate to 20-25%, remove all loopholes, and tax only retained earnings.
  3. Reduce tax rates for the bottom 80% of Americans, and un-tax small businesses with earnings less than $100,000 per year.
  4. Raise the minimum wage to at least $10/hour if not higher, and index it to inflation from now on.
  5. Remove the "sequester" cuts ASAP, and sharply increase funding for infrastructure, education, green energy, and other crucial goals to put Americans back to work.
Of course, it would even better if the entire TSAP platform were adopted, but doing just these five things alone would probably be enough to, in the words of Paul Krugman, "end this depression now".  Because that's what this "recession" really is.  And ending it is long overdue--five years overdue to be precise.

But if we could do just one thing that could be done to end the stagpression quickly, it would be this:  replace "quantitative easing" (that really only benefits the rich) with direct payments of about $2000 per person or so to ALL Americans, yesterday.  It would take an Act of Congress to enable the Fed to do such a thing, but it would be well worth it.  Of course, followers of the TSAP know that we have long advocated a guaranteed basic income (citizen's dividend) for all Americans period with no strings attached, ideally funded via various kinds of tax revenue such as carbon taxes and financial transactions taxes.  But this alternative means to the same end would be the next best thing, at least temporarily until our other ideas get implemented.  And if it happens, the depression will be over and full employment restored within a year or two--provided it does not end abruptly without some of our other measures to replace it next year.  So what are we waiting for?

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The Phony Recovery

A recent study, by the Wall Street Journal of all places, confirms what the bottom 99% of Americans have long suspected for years: the so-called economic "recovery" of the past five years was essentially a joke all along.  In a nutshell, corporate earnings are at a record high, while revenues have been flat for the past five years.  In other words, consumer demand is low because customers are broke, and companies have mainly been "growing" their earnings by cutting cannibalizing their workforce and buying back (i.e. manipulating) their own stock to paper over their flat or declining sales.  All while they sit on trillions of dollars.  It's a zero-sum game, and a vicious cycle.  Thank you, Captain Obvious! 

So how can we break this vicious cycle before the resulting bubble bursts leading to the next big crash?  The answer is really quite clear:  adopt the TSAP party platform ASAP.   But since it is unrealistic to expect either corporate party in Washington to take up an entire platform that threatens their own interests, we have devised a list of the highest-priority measures to take before the inequality-fueled crash of 2016 happens:

  1. Raise the top marginal tax rate to at least 50% (if not 70%) for incomes above $1 million, and simplify the tax code by removing loopholes geared towards the wealthy.
  2. Reduce the corporate tax rate to 20-25%, remove all loopholes, and tax only retained earnings.
  3. Reduce tax rates for the bottom 80% of Americans, and un-tax small businesses with earnings less than $100,000 per year.
  4. Raise the minimum wage to at least $10/hour if not higher, and index it to inflation from now on.
  5. Remove the "sequester" cuts ASAP, and sharply increase funding for infrastructure, education, green energy, and other crucial goals to put Americans back to work.
Of course, it would even better if the entire TSAP platform were adopted, but doing just these five things alone would probably be enough to, in the words of Paul Krugman, "end this depression now".  Because that's what this "recession" really is.  And ending it is long overdue--five years overdue to be precise.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

State of the Planet Address 2014

On January 28, 2013, the President will give his annual State of the Union Address.  And every year since 2011, the TSAP has been giving our annual State of the Planet Address around January 20.  Yes, we know it is a bit of a downer to say the least.  So sit down, take off your rose-colored glasses, and read on:

Our planet is in grave danger, and has been for quite some time now.  We face several serious long term problems:  climate change, deforestation/desertification, loss of biodiversity, overharvesting, energy crises, and of course pollution of many kinds.  Polar ice caps are melting.  Rainforests have been shrinking by 50 acres per minute.  Numerous species are going extinct every year.  Soil is eroding rapidly.  Food shortages have occurred in several countries in recent years.  Weather has been getting crazier each year, most likely due to climate change.  We have had numerous wildfires, floods followed by long periods of drought, and a "storm of the century" at least once a year for the past few years.   We need look no further than Superstorm Sandy (which was partly caused or at least enhanced by global warming) to see how crazy our weather has become lately.

None of this is an accident of course.  These problems are man-made, and their solutions must also begin and end with humans.  We cannot afford to sit idly by any longer, lest we face hell and high water in the not-too-distant future.  Our unsustainable scorched-earth policy towards the planet has to end.  NOW.

While we do not invoke the precautionary principle for all issues, we unequivocally do for the issue of climate change and any other environmental issues of comparable magnitude (we support the Rio Declaration's version, to be precise). With no apologies to hardcore libertarians or paleoconservatives, in fact. We are not fazed one bit by the naysayers' pseudoscience (*cough* Rush Limbaugh *cough*) as it does not really "debunk" the scientific consensus on anthropogenic global warming. The only serious debate is about how fast it will happen, and when the tipping point will occur. It is not a matter of if, but when. And the less precarious position is to assume it is a real and urgent problem. We need to reduce CO2 emissions to the point where the CO2 concentration is at or below 350 ppm, ASAP.  And it is currently at an unsustainably high level of 400 ppm, and growing.

Solving the problem of climate change will also help to solve the other ecological crises we are facing, for they all ultimately have the same root causes, not least of which is our insatiable addiction to dirty energy.  However, there is a right way to solve it, and several wrong ways.

The TSAP endorses the ideas embodied in Steve Stoft's new book Carbonomics, most notably a tax-and-dividend system that would tax carbon (i.e. fossil fuels) at the source, and give all Americans an equal share of the revenue generated from this tax.  (Note that our proposal to tax natural resources and pay out an Alaska-like citizen's dividend already includes this.)  Yes, prices for various things would undoubtedly rise due to this tax, all else being equal, but the dividend will allow Americans to pay for this increase. The average American would in fact break even, but those who (directly or indirectly) use less energy than average will effectively pay less tax, while the energy hogs will effectively be taxed more, as they should be. Thus it is certainly not a regressive tax, and may even be mildly progressive. This is both the simplest and most equitable way to reduce carbon emissions as well as other forms of pollution, not to mention waste of dwindling non-renewable resources. The real challenge is getting the feds to accept something that won't directly benefit them (in the short term).  Carbonomics also includes other good ideas, such as improving how fuel economy standards are done, and crafting a better verison of the Kyoto treaty.  

In addition to the ideas in Carbonomics, we also support several other measures to help us end our addiction to fossil fuels once and for all.  Our Great American Phase-Out plan would phase out all fossil fuels by 2030 at the latest, via alternative energy, efficiency, and conservation.  One good idea to further the development of alternative energy would be the use of feed-in tariffs for renewable power sources.

We support ending net deforestation completely, and putting carbon back in the ground through carbon sequestration. One method is known as biochar, a type of charcoal made from plants that remove carbon dioxide from the air, that is subsequently buried. This is also an ancient method of soil fertilization and conservation, originally called terra preta.  It also helps preserve biodiversity. 

We've said this before, and we'll say it again. We need more nuclear power plants as well. Nuclear emits no greenhouse gases directly, and even indirectly it pales in comparison to fossil fuels. Done properly, it is just as green as solar photovoltaic power, produces less radiation than coal power, and is much safer than in the past (and even those dangers were exaggerated). Since nuclear plants take many years to build, we need to get cracking ASAP. Nuclear power is not a substitute to renewables; it is a necessary complement to them since we need a continuous power source as well, not just intermittent power. Our nation's irrational fear of all things nuclear needs to die NOW.  Right now.

But the biggest elephant in the room (make that the elephant in the Volkswagen) is overpopulation.  It does not make for pleasant dinner conversation, but it must be addressed or else all other causes become lost causes in the long run. We absolutely need to have fewer kids, or nature will reduce our population for us, and the latter will NOT be pleasant to say the least. The TSAP believes in voluntarily reducing the total fertility rate (TFR) to 1.5-1.9 children per woman to do so, along with reducing immigration dramatically, but let us be clear that we do NOT support draconian and/or coercive measures of population control (like China has used).  We believe more liberty is the answer, not less.   But the current tax and benefit incentives that perversely reward having more than two children need to be jettisoned at once.  Fortunately, America's TFR has recently dropped to below 1.9, though it remains to be seen if that is a secular trend or just a temporary blip.  But clearly we cannot keep growing and growing, that's for sure (in fact, we need to shrink). And our insatiable addiction to economic growth (despite being recently decoupled from well-being) is also part of the problem.  Growth for the sake of growth is clearly one of the most asinine obsessions our nation (and world) has ever had.  Put another way, we need to leave room for Nature, lest it not leave room for us.

Bottom line: we need to take the environment much more seriously than we do now.  We ignore it at our own peril. 

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Flush the TPP Now!

The latest news on the diabolical machinations masquerading as a "free trade" deal known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is that "fast-track" legislation has now been introduced to Congress.  We have previously noted how the TPP is a very, very bad deal for everyone but the elites and mega-corporations.  In a nutshell, it would basically remove all obstacles to complete corporate control over all of us.  From worker rights to environmental protection to food safety to Internet freedom and much more, We the People would lose a massive amount of power to our global corporate masters as a result of this Faustian bargain.  The fact that the TPP will most certainly destroy countless jobs in this country (like NAFTA did) is merely an afterthought compared to the rest of its pernicious effects upon our nation (and any other nations foolish enough to sign it).  And fast-tracking this deal would allow it to easily bypass the usual safeguards that would otherwise kill it before it even has a chance of passing.

So tell your representatives in Congress:  Do NOT allow it to be fast-tracked.  Flush the TPP now, before it's too late!

R.I.P. Net Neutrality

Today on January 15, 2014 at 11 am, Net Neutrality kicked the bucket--for now at least.   A federal court struck down FCC regulations designed to prevent broadband Internet service providers from favoring certain Internet services at the expense of rivals.  Essentially, they can now charge more for some services to have access to higher speeds than others, creating "fast lanes" and "slow lanes", and thus making the formerly open Internet more analogous to what cable TV companies do.  And that's not a good thing at all, since a few mega-corporations would be able to afford to use the "fast lanes", while the rest of us get stuck in the "slow lanes", creating yet another unfair advantage for the wealthiest and most powerful among us.  As if they didn't already have enough privileges as it is.  Even the very concept of free speech is at stake as well.

However, all is not lost just yet.  Rest assured that the ruling will be appealed, and also remember that the FCC can simply write new rules that reclassify broadband as a telecommunications service, which would get around the court ruling entirely and enable them to restore our free and open Internet with the stroke of a pen.   Of course, that would put them at loggerheads with the corporate giants who currently control broadband, and these companies have tremendous lobbying power in Washington.  And given the venality of most members of Congress these days, the corporations could still potentially achieve victory at our expense.  Our job as concerned citizens is to prevent that from happening.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Legal Weed Off to a Great Start

Two weeks ago on New Year's Day, history was made when retail cannabis shops began selling weed legally in Colorado, who legalized cannabis via a 2012 ballot initiative.  And all indications show that it has been a great success so far, with essentially no significant problems.  There were so many customers buying so much that many pot shops sold out within the first week, but now it seems that there will be plenty of ganja available for the foreseeable future.  In 2013 the feds agreed to look the other way as long as certain protocols were followed in states where cannabis is legal, and it seems that they are keeping their word (for now).  Washington State also legalized cannabis, but it will be a few months before the first retail outlets open over there.

Will any other states legalize cannabis anytime soon?  Probably, and it looks like Alaska and California are among those who are trying to get a legalization initiative on the ballot this November.   Since it's already legal in two states, adding California to the mix would greatly tip the balance in favor of national legalization, if history is any indication.  For alcohol Prohibition, New York and California were the first to repeal it in 1923 and 1932, respectively, and as they say the rest is history.  The latest poll numbers are even more in our favor than they were in 2010, when California's Proposition 19 just narrowly failed.  Thus, it's just a matter of time, and the TSAP predicts that national legalization will occur within 5 years from now, if not sooner.

To all the prohibitionists and drug warriors out there, we have one question for you:  How does it feel to be on the wrong side of history?  Because we wouldn't know about that.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Happy 100th Birthday, Feral Reserve!

The Feral Reserve has now turned 100 years old.  For the past century, the Feral Reserve (not a typo, since they are really no more "federal" than Federal Express) has been in charge of our nation's money supply and interest rates.  Owned by the big banks and run by a few unelected individuals, this Creature from Jekyll Island has had enormous financial power over us all for the past century.  They have created numerous business cycles, serious inflation, and made a killing by charging interest on the money they have printed while getting the nation into ever-deeper debt.  And it's long past time to end it.

As recently as last year, the TSAP party platform called for abolishing the Fed entirely and going back on the gold standard.  But we have discovered a much better way instead.  What is America's best kept secret?  Look no further than North Dakota, the only state to avert the Great Recession--it's called public banking.  Because it works.  The TSAP now believes that the Fed should be replaced by a truly public national bank.  One that is fully accountable to the people, and lends money to the goverment interest-free.  The power to create money should be returned to its rightful owners--a government of We the People, not a faceless quasi-private entity controlled by a cabal of international elite bankers.  And if we were to nominate a chairperson, it would have to be Ellen Brown, author of Web of Debt.

What better time than now?

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Deal or No Deal?

Looks like Congress finally passed a budget deal to get us through the next two years, just in time for the holidays.  The deal was made between Paul Ryan (R) and Patty Murray (D), and the compromise not only avoids another government shutdown in January, but it also alleviates some of the worst fears about austerity in the future.  Both sides grudgingly gave up a little bit of what they held dear in order to avoid larger sacrifices on their part, and even Bonehead himself went along with it.  As a result, the three most popular programs (Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid) and Obamacare are no longer on the chopping block for now, and the most damaging sequester cuts are reversed (or at least made more flexible) for the 2014 fiscal year.  So, cue the music once again, Maestro:

HALLELUJAH!  HALLELUJAH!  HALLELUJAH, HALL.......err, wait a minute.  Seriously?  There is really nothing to be rejoicing about, since Congress merely did what they are normally supposed to do every year--pass a freaking budget on time to prevent a shutdown.  Furthermore, it's not like it's a particularly good deal either.  The budget includes cuts to military pensions, no extension of unemployment benefits, no reversal of November's food stamp cuts, and many remaining parts of the sequester--all to protect massive tax loopholes for the rich and mega-corporations, which remained untouched despite the need for new revenues.  And the looming debt ceiling showdown in February remains unaddressed, which the Repugnicans will most likely try to exploit once again when the time comes.  But all this is the logical consequence of negotiating a compromise between a right-wing extremist like Ryan and a moderate centrist Democrat like Murray--we end up splitting the difference and getting a deal that is, on balance, actually even further to the right of the status quo just to keep the ax away from our most crucial and popular social progams.  Long story short, Congress is still broken, and is clearly FAR from being fixed anytime soon.  So one more time, we will say it again to them:

"YOU'RE FIRED!!!"

Except for a very few of you (Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Tammy Baldwin, and Alan Grayson), we will send ALL of you packing in 2014.  Goodbye, and good riddance!  Don't let the door hit you on the way out.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Just Say No to the TPP!

The latest so-called "free trade" agreement being proposed, known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, is basically NAFTA on steroids.  We all know what NAFTA did to American jobs as well as workers in all three countries involved, and it wasn't good at all.  We can clearly expect such terrible trends to only accelerate should the TPP come to pass.  That alone is reason enough to vote "no", since we all should know better than to fall for something like this again. 

But what makes the TPP particularly scary is what it actually does to the rights of We the People.  At least under current law, from local communities all the way up to the federal government, there still remains some power that we have to regulate the behavior of American corporations.  We understand the need for checks and balances against corporate excesses, after learning the hard way time and again.  But the TPP would essentially subordinate any such power to the "international standards" that the corporations involved in the partnership have agreed to, and practically forbid any local standards that are stricter.  Thus, our government would be forced to relax any standards that could be considered a "trade barrier" as a result of the cleverly-written trade rules.  In fact, the bulk of the agreement deals more with these arcane rules rather than with traditional trade matters.  So it should be obvious what the TPP really is:  a corporate coup in disguise, that will allow corporations to run amok even more so that they do now.  And if we weren't a full-blown corporate plutocracy before, we sure will be after it comes to pass.

Just a few examples of some of the more shocking features of the TPP include:  a prohibition on financial transactions taxes (including the kind that the TSAP proposes), no limits allowed on the size of banks, increased monopoly pricing on Big Pharma's drugs, the worst parts of SOPA, increased fracking, and less regulation of public services.  And if these are the "features," we'd really hate to see what the "bugs" are!

The TSAP unequivocally condemns the Trans-Pacific Partnership and any attempt to pass it.  There is really nothing good that will come of this Faustian bargain, except for the elites and mega-corporations who are fighting like hell to get it passed.  And we must fight equally hard to ensure that it does NOT pass, ever.  The alternative is permanent corporate rule over all of us.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Is a 100% Renewable Energy Future Possible?

While many pundits would like to claim that the answer is a resounding "no", there are at least some experts who believe that it is, in fact, possible to go to 100% renewable energy (excluding nuclear and biofuels) by 2050 if not sooner.  This is precisely the holy grail that so many people have been clamoring for.  So what exactly is holding us back?

First, there are technical issues.  The notorious intermittency problem comes to mind, namely that the sun is not always shining and the wind is not always blowing.  Then there is the problem of transmission from one area to another.  However, the aforementioned experts note that a mix of various renewable sources, including hydroelectric, can help fill in the gaps, and transmission lines can be upgraded over time.  Thus, the technical difficulties of renewables are not insurmountable, and are not the biggest problem at all.

Second, there is the issue of materials needed for renewable energy technologies.  While rare-earth minerals seem to get most of the attention, there will also be a huge demand for base metals such as copper.  And much of these materials are currently being imported from countries like China rather than produced domestically.  Of course, unlike fossil fuels, once the materials needed for renewable energy have been extracted, they will last for decades.  And the USA could start mining more of these materials domestically to make us less dependent on foreign minerals.  As for the cost issue, it is worth noting that while solar and wind power have been getting consistently cheaper over time, fossil fuels (especially oil) and even uranium have been getting more and more expensive every year.

But the biggest problems of all are political.  The enormous vested interests in the status quo (i.e. the fossil fuel industry), combined with the lack of political will to fight such interests, is the most significant obstacle to a (nearly) 100% clean energy world.  This could obviously be solved rather quickly, but for some reason it has not been.  Wonder why?

The TSAP fully supports a transition to a completely clean energy economy as soon as possible, by 2050 if not 2030, as noted in our party platform.  The need to end our addiction to fossil fuels grows more and more urgent every year.  And we believe that we can speed up the transition even more rapidly by adding modern nuclear power (especially the thorium fuel cycle) and responsible biofuels to the mix of non-fossil energy technologies.  Combined with increased electrification and conservation, we already have the technology to make the change sooner rather than later.  We have the chance to gain true energy independence and help save the planet at the same time.  So what are we waiting for?

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Sustainable Growth = CANCER

As the old saying goes, growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell.  And that saying has never been more true than it is today.

In the long run there is really nothing "sustainable" about growth, either in population or the economy, so let's stop pretending that there is.  Growth by definition requires increasing consumption of resources, and infinite growth on a finite world is literally impossible since it completely defies the laws of nature.  What we have now, and have had since sometime between 1973 and 2000, is better known as uneconomic growth, since it essentially does more harm than good to keep on growing and growing.  Not only has further growth failed to benefit the vast majority of the American people (virtually all of the gains have gone to the top 1%), but we also are starting to run up against the limits of growth.  One recent indicator is the latest UN report on climate change, which shows that greenhouse gases in the atmosphere have hit a new record high as we continue to cook the planet with reckless abandon.  In fact, continuing "business as usual" would almost certainly mean in increase of nearly 5 degrees Celsius (i.e. likely to be catastrophic) relative to pre-industrial levels by the end of the century, and even if we started reducing CO2 concentrations now, it may be impossible to avoid a significant increase in global temperature since CO2 tends to linger for a very long time.  And that's to say nothing of all the other ecological disasters in the making (deforestation, desertification, pollution, mass extinctions, etc.) that all have essentially the same root cause--our insatiable addiction to growth for the sake of growth.

Scientists are telling us in no uncertain terms that we need to change our ways for good, and quickly.  In order to make such changes, we absolutely must end our addiction to growth, which is the cause of our addiction to fossil fuels and other environmentally unsound practices.  The urgency is far greater than most people realize, and is greater than it was even just a few years ago.  We absolutely must transition toward a steady-state economy that is no longer dependent on growth, and we must also put the brakes on population growth by having fewer kids.  And we must do it now, or else we will get both hell AND high water in the not-too-distant future.  To help make this transition and avert catastrophe, here is a list of things the TSAP recommends:

  1. Create a carbon tax on all fossil fuels in which all revenues are returned directly to the people in equal amounts, a la Carbonomics.  We absolutely must put a price on carbon.  Start it at $10/ton for the first year, and sharply increase it every year thereafter, until the CO2 levels are below 350 ppm.
  2. Implement aggressive carbon sequestration, including biochar (terra preta), to put excess carbon back in the ground where it belongs.
  3. Reduce the other greenhouse gases as well, especially methane via landfill gas capture and farm power.
  4. Set a goal to phase out all fossil fuels completely by 2050, if not by 2030.
  5. Go full steam ahead with renewable energy technologies (solar, wind, tidal, geothermal, biomass, etc.), increase funding for research, and encourage their widespread adoption via feed-in tariffs.
  6. Increase the use of nuclear power, especially the thorium fuel cycle which is much safer and cheaper in the long run than uranium. 
  7. Increase public transportation dramatically, and eventually make all vehicles electric.  In the meantime, improve the way fuel economy standards are done, via the classic "feebate" mechanism.
  8. Levy ecological taxes (similar to vice taxes) on all resource depletion and pollution, and/or alternatively use a cap-auction-trade system for basic resources.
  9. Ban fracking immediately.
  10. Craft a better version of the Kyoto treaty.
  11. Move toward fair trade instead of "free trade", which really isn't "free" at all.
  12. Set not just a minimum wage (at least $10/hour), but also a maximum wage, especially for corporate executives.  Alternatively, raise the top marginal tax rate to at least 50% on each dollar above the first million, with no loopholes this time.  We should focus on sharing the pie rather than making it bigger.
  13. Shorten the standard workweek to 30 hours instead of 40.  
  14. Stop obsessing over GDP as a measure of economic well-being.  Instead, separate it into a cost account and a benefit account, or use alternative measures such as Genuine Progress Indicator.
  15. Stabilize (and eventually shrink) the population by reducing immigration to match emigration, and encouraging people to voluntarily have fewer kids.  The goal should be a TFR of 1.5-1.9, achieved without coercion.
  16. Implement all of the other policies on the TSAP platform, including abolishing the Feral Reserve and creating a public national bank.
  17. Let the planetary healing begin!
So the next time someone talks about the supposed need to increase growth, be sure to remind them that bigger is NOT better.  Better is better.  And in this age of uneconomic growth, further growth will only make us poorer rather than richer.

UPDATE:  The super-typhoon that recently ravaged the Philippines and killed at least 10,000 people was basically the worst tropical cyclone ever recorded in the history of the world.  And these kinds of storms will only increase in the future if we continue on the destructive path we are currently on.  We have all been warned.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Obamacare Has Republican DNA

With all the latest fuss about the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, one key fact seems to fly over everyone's heads.  Despite all the Republican attempts to dismantle it, even going so far as to hold the government hostage to do so, many of its core provisions were originally Republican ideas, no matter how much they like to deny it today.  Even some of those who are against it today supported something very similar in the 1990s.  In fact, one can even say that the healthcare law was largely written by the insurance industry for the GOP, since it is virtually a clone of the plan that the industry had originally wanted all along.  Here's a brief history lesson for those who still don't know.

While many of the more progressive Democrats (as far back as Truman and FDR and even Obama himself as recently as 2008) have long wanted some type of universal single-payer system, most Republicans have traditionally balked at the idea, and have proposed their own alternatives that would leave the for-profit private health insurance system intact.  The first alternative came from Nixon, the same guy who gave us the plague known as HMOs.  Nixon's idea was basically equivalent to Obamacare's employer mandate as well as the Medicaid expansion.  (Of course, despite being Republican, Nixon was actually to the left of both Clinton and Obama.)  The next Republican idea was proposed by the Heritage Foundation in 1989, which was the individual mandate that many despise so much, also combined with a Medicaid expansion.  The insurance industry loved it so much (for obvious reasons) that several Republicans from Gingrich to Romney have at attempted to implement some form of it in the 1990s and early 2000s, often including subsidies or tax credits.  When Romney implemented Romneycare in Massachusetts in 2000, by that point most of the plan was largely identical to what eventually became Obamacare.  When Congress finally put it together, the version that passed in 2010 was essentially inspired by Romney who was inspired by Gingrich who was inspired by the Heritage Foundation and who were all inspired to some degree by Nixon.  And that, my friends, is the long and checkered history of the most controversial aspects of Obamacare, which actually turns out to be somewhat of a misnomer.

The TSAP currently supports a truly universal, single-payer system instead of Obamacare or the status quo.  Clearly, Obama never should have trusted the insurance industry in the first place, and should have stuck with his original plan rather than approve the Faustian bargain that would become his namesake law.  In the meantime, however, we believe that Obamacare could become a steppingstone to single-payer if it is given a chance to work, and the Republicans should give up trying to thwart it.  Of course, we still do not support the idea of the individual mandate on principle, and we believe that it should be delayed by a year if not longer, or better yet jettisoned entirely as it is really not necessary.  As we have noted before, the problem of adverse selection is not nearly as large as the mandate proponents believe, and can be greatly ameliorated by simply providing carrots rather than sticks.  In fact there are already such incentives built into the Affordable Care Act, namely the tax credits and subsidies that make health insurance more affordable.   The relatively narrow "open season" for enrollment would also reduce the problem as well.

Additionally, thanks to the law of unintended consequences, the employer mandate should also be further delayed, truncated, or jettisoned since it appears to have led to part-time employees having their hours drastically cut so their employers don't have to offer benefits, and this is a huge deadweight loss.  But everything else in the Act should remain as is until Congress finally gets the intestinal fortitude to implement a single-payer system despite what their corporate masters want.  Anything less would be uncivilized.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Default Averted, For Now

Finally, after 16 days of being shut down, the federal government has officially reopened on October 17.   At the 11th hour, Congress finally passed a bipartisan deal to fund the government through January 15, 2014 and suspend the debt ceiling enough to get us through February 7.   Thus, the risk of default is nil for the next few months, until the next inevitable battle on the horizon of course.   The President stood his ground, and no significant changes were made to Obamacare as Bonehead and most Republicans finally backed down for now.  Our economy, and indeed the world's economy, has been saved from the brink of catastrophe.  So, cue the music, Maestro:

HALLELUJAH!  HALLELUJAH!  HALLELUJAH, HALL.......err, wait a minute.  Seriously?  There is really nothing to be rejoicing about, since true progressives gained absolutely nothing from the deal, the sequester cuts are still in place, and the crazy fanatics who held our government hostage and nearly drove us over the debt cliff get to walk away unpunished, salivating like Pavlov's dog at the next chance to do it all over again.  The antics of the past few weeks have already done significant damage to our economy, and made America look like a dysfunctional laughingstock around the world.  We must not tolerate this kind of outrageous and unacceptable behavior from any of our elected representatives, ever.  Period.  So, one more time, we will say it again to them loud and clear:

"YOU'RE FIRED!!!"

Now pack your bags and get the hell out before we primary each and every one of you.  We the People have spoken.  Don't let the door hit you on the way out.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Dear Congress: You're Fired!

It's official.  The much-feared government shutdown has begun.  All because Congress couldn't get their act together and pass a continuing budget resolution by the October 1 deadline.  They have gone way too far this time.  And we are all paying a heavy price for it. 

The most blame lies with the Republican Party, especially the Koch-funded Tea Party members.  Wanting desperately to repeal, defund, or at least delay Obamacare, among other demands, they insisted on playing chicken with the economy because they didn't get their way.   Led by John Boehner and Ted Cruz, they refused repeatedly to pass a "clean" bill to fund the government for even a few weeks beyond October 1.  Well into September 30, they made one outrageous demand after another as a condition for passing a continuing resolution.  But the Democrats are not entirely innocent either.  They let it get to this point for quite some time now, and even took the weekend off knowing a shutdown was likely imminent.  And when Boehner offered a surprisingly reasonable 11th-hour request to allow the shutdown to be avoided if 1) only the "individual mandate" part of Obamacare would be delayed by a year and 2) Members of Congress would not get any healthcare subsidies, the Democrats (led by Harry Reid) still refused, and Obama still threatened to veto it.  Of course, the Republicans then punted again, and still refused to even allow a House vote on a "clean" bill.  Despicable!  Why both sides couldn't come to a compromise is beside the point.  The real issue is that shutting down the government just because you don't get your way should NEVER be done, period.  And the longer the shutdown lasts, the more damage is done to our economy and society at large.

But it appears that an even bigger fight is on the horizon.  We are just weeks away from defaulting on our national debt if the debt ceiling is not raised in a timely fashion.  Such a default would be unprecedented and would likely lead to another Great Depression.  And if Congress's current unacceptable behavior is any indication, we are in for a VERY rough time ahead in the weeks to come.  They are essentially putting our nation in distress, hence the inversion of the American flag on the TSAP blog.

Thus, the TSAP hereby gives virtually all 535 members of Congress (regardless of party) a vote of "no confidence", and we will take their government shutdown to imply the resignation of such members.   We encourage every reader of this blog to sign the following petitions:

Dear Congress:  We Accept Your Resignation
No Pay for Congress During Shutdown
Minimum Wage for Congress

Let them know that We the People have had ENOUGH of the gridlock, grandstanding, backstabbing, corruption, venality, follies, lies, recklessness, childishness, and otherwise outrageous behavior of Congress.  And we will support a primary challenge to ALL of them, with the only exceptions being Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders.  If we weren't clear, we'll say it again:

YOU'RE FIRED!!!

So what's the opposite of "progress" again?  You guessed it. 

Monday, September 16, 2013

WWIII Averted, For Now

It looks like the United States, Russia, and Syria have reached a diplomatic deal that would stave off war for now.  Syria would have to declare, turn in, and destroy all of their chemical weapons in short order.  Of course, doing so during an active civil war would be a lot easier said than done, but this is a good first step toward defusing a ticking time-bomb in a volatile region and preventing a wider war.  Though long-term success is far from certain, such a deal definitely reduces the risk of World War III from happening in the near future.  And it may increase the chances of a cease-fire in the not-too-distant future.

The True Spirit of America Party believes that there is no military solution to the crisis in Syria, and that violence will only beget more violence in the long run.  While there is mounting evidence that the Assad regime and their lackeys are responsible for at least some of the chemical weapon attacks on civilians, it is also clear that both sides have a ton of innocent blood on their hands.  Those who have committed such horrific atrocities need to be brought to justice, but bombing Syria will clearly do far more harm than good overall.  What may start out as a "limited" air war can quickly turn into another Iraq or Vietnam, or worse as Syria and possibly other countries (i.e. Iran) or Hezbollah fight back, other countries get drawn in, and the Al-Qaeda affiliated rebels attempt to take over the failed state of Syria.  At best, we would be killing a couple hundred or thousand people (inevitably including civilians) just to make a point, and end up likely repeating it in the future as the bloody civil war continues unabated.  At worst, we risk igniting WWIII, the road to universal slaughter.  And on balance of probabilities, history suggests that once we start such a war, contrary to our president's wishful thinking, we would have little choice but to put countless boots on the ground for the long haul (years or even decades), and thus be stuck in a serious quagmire for the foreseeable future. (Where will we get all those extra troops from?  Shhhh...don't say the D-word!)  Unless of course America resorts to using nukes, which would become the worst (and most hypocritical) atrocity that our country has ever committed in its entire history, except perhaps the attempted genocide of Native Americans.

So does that mean America should turn a blind eye to the horrific mass murder of innocent civilians?  Of course not.  That is a false choice that the hawks like to throw out there, and other options still remain.  By all means, we should continue to work on stopping the violence via diplomatic means in conjunction with other nations.  We should increase humanitarian aid to the people of Syria.  We should also do our part to take in the large number of refugees that the Syrian civil war is creating.  All of these things would at the very least take the edge off the crisis, and may even bring lasting change.  And as soon as it is feasible, atrocity perpetrators on both sides of the conflict should ultimately be brought before the International Criminal Court so that justice is served.  But war is not the solution--it is part of the problem.  Just ask any survivor of the numerous Middle Eastern wars of the past half-century.  Killing to stop the killing will only lead to more killing, and too much blood has already been spilled in the 21st century alone. 

Thursday, August 29, 2013

To President Obama (and Congress): Do NOT Attack Syria!

The True Spirit of America Party would like to let President Obama and Congress know that attacking Syria is a foolish, reckless, and morally bankrupt "solution" to Syria's growing civil war.   While we wholeheartedly condemn the atrocities committed by the Assad regime, we still do not believe that the United States should go to war with Syria.  And here are the top ten reasons we oppose it:

10)  Most of our own allies, including our staunchest ally of them all (the UK), oppose such action.
9)  Going it alone unilaterally worked so well in Iraq, didn't it?  Oh wait....
8)  We risk another quagmire like Iraq, or worse.   Air strikes alone would not solve anything, and would be like fighting fire with gasoline.  A full-blown ground invasion would indeed effect regime change, but it would create a dangerous power vacuum like in Iraq.  We may have won in Iraq, but it was a Pyrrhic victory, and one more such "victory" will likely be America's undoing.
7)  We risk a far wider war than we are prepared for, possibly drawing in other countries such as Iran, Iraq,  Israel, and Jordan.   Perhaps even Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Russia.   WWIII is a definite possibility! 
6)  Many of the rebels are affiliated with Al Qaeda, and perhaps other terrorist groups as well.  Do we really want to inadvertently help them get into power over there?
5)  We are still not 100% positive that the Assad regime was responsible for the chemical weapon attacks, since some rebels have supposedly admitted to "accidentally" doing it themselves.   (That being said, we do know that the regime has deliberately killed countless innocent civilians over the past two years by conventional means)
4)  Intervening in civil wars, at best, creates a temporary pause in the killing.  At worst, it adds to the killing.  There is really no military solution to the Syrian crisis, and killing a few hundred (or thousand) people just to make a point is probably the most morally bankrupt option of all.
3)  America is not in a position for yet another war of choice.  Now is definitely NOT the time to risk so much blood and treasure.  Focus on rebuilding OUR nation instead.  America needs to stop policing the world, mind our own business, and retire from that position now.
2)  Syria is really not a credible threat to the security of the United States or its interests.  They are NOT a clear and present danger to us.
1)  Above all, a preemptive war of choice, absent an imminent threat to us or our allies, is always immoral, and two wrongs don't make a right.

We hope our leaders heed such advice before they decide to cross the Rubicon.  Otherwise, this may be America's last war, and not in a good way.  History speaks for itself.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Detroit: The Canary in the Coal Mine


"Hey, at least we're not Detroit!"

That is probably what every city and town in America is saying to themselves now that Detroit has declared bankruptcy after decades of decline.   Yes, Detroit's decline is by far the worst of any city in the nation without a doubt, and their historic bankruptcy is unprecedented.  However, the rest of the country probably wouldn't be so smug if they knew the facts about the crises facing the nation as a whole.   They would realize that Detroit is simply the canary in the coal mine, and now that canary is essentially dead.  And both parties (two sides of the same ugly coin) are to blame for such crises facing our declining American Empire.

Much like Detroit, our nation's once-great manufacturing base has been hollowed out over the past few decades as a result of "free trade" and other failed policies.  As a result, we are essentially becoming a plunder economy that is increasingly based on looting existing resources rather than producing anything new, while the rest of the economy is based primarily on manipulating finance.  Ever notice that the states with the lowest unemployment rates tend to be the oil-rich ones?  Not only is such an economy inherently unsustainable in the long run for obvious reasons, it also eviscerates the middle class and widens the gap between the haves and have-nots, which makes things even less sustainable.  Just ask the ancient Romans how well that worked out for them.

The other big long-run problem is the pensions crisis, which is true for all levels of government as well as much of the private sector as well.   The wolf is now at the door for Detroit, and will soon be arriving elsewhere as well.  Both unions and management are to blame for this crisis:  the former demanded too much and bit off far more than they could chew, while the latter deliberately underfunded the pension system, essentially stealing the money from the workers (albeit legally).  Simple demographics also compound the crisis; as the population ages, there will be more retirees with fewer current workers to support them, and the whole Ponzi scheme eventually unravels.  Though not as acute and much easier to solve, a similar problem exists for Social Security as well.   The trust fund is continually being raided while the population ages and the wealthiest Americans refuse to pay their fair share of contributions.  And neither party has the intestinal fortitude to solve it at this time, while the basic social contract that once held this country together is essentially broken.

Finally, as a result of three decades of reckless and wasteful spending, warmongering, tax cuts for the wealthy, and the aforementioned problems, the nation is now mired in a debt crisis, with our national debt topping $16 trillion.  While it is true that the deficit is down, we are still adding to the debt every minute of every day with no end in sight.   America is already technically bankrupt, and it is highly unlikely anyone will bail us out but ourselves.  Fortunately, there is still time to prevent the entire nation from turning into Detroit, but we need to act fast.  But as long as we keep on electing Republicans and Democrats, the chances for salvation grow increasingly slim each year.      

The TSAP is well aware of what needs to be done to save this country from the fate of the Romans (or worse).  Our party platform contains several crucial planks that must be implemented sometime within the next few years in order for there to be any hope left at all.  Anything else is just rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Take Back the Flag

Just pointing out that today is Flag Day. But this blog looks no different today because we display the Stars and Stripes every day.

To all the ignorant fools who burn it, remember what it is that you're really burning, and all those that fought and died for it. Those who consider themselves to be on the political left would be better served by "taking back the Flag" and waving it proudly, so it is not perverted into an ultra-right-wing symbol by the fascists. Make it clear that the government policies you oppose are not in the national interest. And let everyone know that you can just as strongly love this country as you fear its government.  In fact, plenty of true patriots often do feel that way, and as Jefferson once said, "dissent is the highest form of patriotism."

The Flag is not Republican, Democrat, liberal, conservative, or belonging to any other faction. It is the American Flag, and it belongs to all of us.   Live free or die!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Eric Holder Must Be Fired

Our nation's Attorney General Eric Holder needs to step down or be fired, now.   The TSAP gives him a vote of "no confidence", and here are the reasons:

  1. Holder has allegedly been involved in illegally spying on Americans, including journalists.
  2. Holder has allegedly lied about it as well.
  3. Though Holder condemns it, the recent IRS scandal still happened on his watch.
  4. Holder has continued several questionable policies of the Bush Administration in the name of "homeland security" and "counterterrorism," that threaten our Constitutional rights.
  5. Holder's Justice Department had called a truce with medical cannabis dispensaries in states where they are legal, only to break that truce within a year or two and resume the raids.
  6. Before he became Attorney General, Holder helped set the stage for the "too big to jail" phenomenon that continues to haunt us to this day. 
  7. And Holder's Department of Justice declined to prosecute HSBC for years of money laundering (including drug money).

Granted, Mr. Holder is not quite the monster that several conservatives make him out to be.  He is certainly no Ashcroft or Gonzalez, or even a Reno.   But he has still proven to be unable to live up to the high standards of justice and integrity required for someone in his position.  Therefore, he should be sent packing immediately, and replaced with someone who can live up to such standards.