Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Democracy in the Balance from Hong Kong to Wisconsin

The governments of the European Union and United States are an example of what happens when political candidates are preapproved by the government.   It is a new election season in the United States and if ever there were an argument against allowing the government to control which politicians will be allowed on the ballot, it is the two-party government of the USA.  

The people of Hong Kong must look at what has happened to the people of the United States and know, democracy is in the balance from Hong Kong to Wisconsin.

Hong Kong is such an interesting case, although their “election” isn’t scheduled until 2017 they are preemptively rejecting an election of “preapproved” candidates.    From BBC News:

Hong Kong Protest


Hong Kong's democracy debate

Pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong have reacted angrily after Beijing ruled out open nominations for the election of Hong Kong's leader in 2017…

Hong Kong, a former British colony, was handed back to China in 1997 following a 1984 agreement between China and Britain.

China agreed to govern Hong Kong under the principle of "one country, two systems", where the city would enjoy "a high degree of autonomy, except in foreign and defense affairs" for 50 years.

As a result, Hong Kong has its own legal system, and rights including freedom of assembly and free speech are protected….

So what has changed?

The Chinese government has promised direct elections for chief executive by 2017.

But in August 2014 China's top legislative committee ruled that voters will only have a choice from a list of two or three candidates selected by a nominating committee.

This committee would be formed "in accordance with" Hong Kong's largely pro-Beijing election committee. Any candidate would have to secure the support of more than 50% of the nominating committee before being able to run in the election.

Here in America the top legislative committee deciding which candidates the voters may choose from are the Democratic and Republican parties. 

2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver

From CBS News:

The presidential and vice presidential debates are sponsored by the Commission on Presidential Debates, a nonprofit corporation that mandates that a candidate have at least 15 percent support in national polls to participate. Since the CPD took over running the debates in 1988, only once has a third party candidate been allowed to participate: In 1992, when Ross Perot joined Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush on the debate stage.

The dominance of the two major parties at the debates has critics charging that the system is effectively rigged to shut out other voices. Gary Johnson, the Libertarian Party nominee for president and former New Mexico governor, has sued on anti-trust grounds to be included this year. The CPD, he said in an interview, is designed "to protect the interests of Republicans and Democrats."

“Let me issue and control a nation’s money and I care not who writes the laws.” Mayer Amschel Rothschild (1744-1812), founder of the House of Rothschild.

If you want to see the tragic results of “democratic” elections where candidates are chosen by Wall Street bankers, look no further than the sub-prime auto loan industry.  You’d think after the crises caused by the sub-prime mortgage loan industry, that governments around the world would have extremely strict consumer protections against predator lenders, but you’d be wrong.

… The modern theory of the perpetuation of debt has drenched the earth with blood, and crushed its inhabitants under burdens ever accumulating. -Thomas Jefferson


The thermometer showed a 103.5-degree fever, and her 10-year-old’s asthma was flaring up. Mary Bolender, who lives in Las Vegas, needed to get her daughter to an emergency room, but her 2005 Chrysler van would not start.

The cause was not a mechanical problem — it was her lender.

Ms. Bolender was three days behind on her monthly car payment. Her lender, C.A.G. Acceptance of Mesa, Ariz., remotely activated a device in her car’s dashboard that prevented her car from starting. Before she could get back on the road, she had to pay more than $389, money she did not have that morning in March.

Do you recall voting for debtor’s prisons?  I don’t. 

Auto loans to borrowers considered subprime, those with credit scores at or below 640, have spiked in the last five years. The jump has been driven in large part by the demand among investors for securities backed by the loans, which offer high returns at a time of low interest rates. Roughly 25 percent of all new auto loans made last year were subprime, and the volume of subprime auto loans reached more than $145 billion in the first three months of this year.

Senator Elizabeth Warren D-Massachusetts has proposed that the United States Postal Service provide loans to the unbanked.  From Think Progress:  


Elizabeth Warren Proposes Replacing Payday Lenders with The Post Office

The Postal Service (USPS) could spare the most economically vulnerable Americans from dealing with predatory financial companies under a proposal endorsed over the weekend by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).

“USPS could partner with banks to make a critical difference for millions of Americans who don’t have basic banking services because there are almost no banks or bank branches in their neighborhoods,” Warren wrote in a Huffington Post op-ed on Saturday.

The op-ed picked up on a report from the USPS’s Inspector General that proposed using the agency’s extensive physical infrastructure to extend basics like debit cards and small-dollar loans to the same communities that the banking industry has generally ignored. The report found that 68 million Americans don’t have bank accounts and spent $89 billion in 2012 on interest and fees for the kinds of basic financial services that USPS could begin offering.

The average un-banked household spent more than $2,400, or about 10 percent of its income, just to access its own money through things like check cashing and payday lending stores. USPS would generate savings for those families and revenue for itself by stepping in to replace those non-bank financial services companies.

All in all, Senator Warren’s proposal seemed like a good idea, except for the USPS partnering with banks.  I don’t trust that, it sounds like the old “public/private” partnerships that our “chosen” politicians are so fond of.  You know, where the public bears all the costs and Wall Street Hedge Funds reap the taxpayer subsidized rewards.

I see Gregory Palast has some reservations about Warren’s plan too, from Real News:


Liz Warren Goes Postal

Elizabeth Warren must think she looks good in a sharkskin suit. There's no other way to explain her fronting for a cruel, stupid, and frightening plan to turn post offices into loan-sharking bodegas in low income neighborhoods.

As a card carrying progressive, I'm supposed to drink the water Liz walks on. But right now, she's in over her head.

The Massachusetts senator wants President Obama to issue an executive order that would put the US Postal Service into the business of "payday lending" - giving out short term loans to the desperate poor against their coming paychecks.

Her intentions are good. She wants to put private payday lenders out of business. These are the predators, centered in poor neighborhoods, who will lend you money for a few days or weeks until your next paycheck. Here's the catch: you have to sign over your paycheck in advance - and the effective interest runs an average of 391%. No kidding.

But the senator proposes to get rid of these payday predators by turning every post office into a financial fleecing factory.

And the Postal Service can't wait to jump into the shark tank. I've read the Postal Service plan's details. The USPS wants to "partner" with the very banksters now chewing on the payday poor.

The Postal governors crow that their Warren-backed scheme will bring in $8.9 billion in profit: that's $8.9 billion charged to the poorest folk in America.

And that's plain insane - and unnecessary, because there's a much better way to clean out the shark tank.

Yeah, the Post Office is a great example of the “public-private” partnership that our “chosen” politicians have legislated.  From Mike Krause at Phillyburgs:


The Post Office Heist

Posted: Monday, February 4, 2013 3:30 pm | Updated: 2:29 pm, Wed Jan 15, 2014.
By Mike Krauss

What is now the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) was organized by Ben Franklin and is older than the United States. It has been self-funded since its inception and has never required an appropriation from the Congress. The cost of stamps has of course risen over time, as has everything else

But now we are told the USPS is massively broke, teetering on bankruptcy, and can only be “saved” if it is privatized. Competition from private mail and package services and the advent of the Internet for routine correspondence and bill paying are the often cited reasons for the failure; that and “inefficiency.”

It’s a scam.

Think about it. The competition from the likes of Fed Ex, Yahoo and on-line bill paying and banking is not new. And automation has made mail handling steadily more efficient. Why is the postal service suddenly broke?

Because a Republican Congress wanted it to be broke, and in 2006 required the USPS to pre-fund postal retiree health benefits for 75 years into the future, a burden no other public or private company is required to carry. Payments of $11.6 billion are due now on those obligations imposed by Congress.

Why would anyone want to intentionally bankrupt the USPS?

The answer is so that a crisis can be created, like the fiscal cliff, to justify “reforms” that are in the interest of the 1 percent who now own much of the Congress and most of the wealth of the United States, and would like even more.

If the post office can be privatized, one more union can be reduced; another cherished goal of that part of the GOP which is funded and cheered on by the likes of the Scaife Foundation, the Carthage Foundation, and the Charles G. Koch Foundation.

There is already in place what amounts to a business plan to privatize the USPS, written by the pro-privatization American Enterprise Institute in 2011, called “Return to Sender: Reforms for the Failing Postal Service.”

And on cue as Congress got back to work (Well, got back to Washington, anyway), another “independent” think tank stepped up to undertake a study of how the USPS can be “reformed” in a “public-private partnership.”

See what happens when the people are not allowed to pick their candidates for office?  Hong Kong is right to recoil at the possibility of “controlled democratic” elections.  Guaranteed Wall Street profits are written into U.S. law by “democratically elected” politicians.  What a sweet deal, a couple billion in campaign donations for tax free investments and derivatives trading in the trillions, but it’s even worse:

This time the effort is fronted by the National Academy of Public Administration. Its study team will be led by the former president and chief executive officer of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation. He is a retired Wall Street baron who now leads the cheerleaders of Team Wall Street and the calls for “fiscal responsibility.”

Translation: cut Medicare and privatize Social Security.

But, you say, OK, I understand that many Republicans and even Wall Street New Democrats in the Obama Administration want to further reduce unions and privatize America. But you ask, why would anyone want to buy an enterprise doomed by the competition of new technologies?

The answer is real estate….

And if the operating company eventually collapsed, well that’s just too bad for the unionized workers. “After all, it was a sinking ship, but we tried,” the privatizers will say.

But as Reinbach points out, “The real estate company wouldn’t sink. And the deal could be used as a template for other privatizations.”

Your local school district, for instance. Lots of real estate there, too.

Even more egregious is subjugating our young people and their parents to unending slavery for wanting a higher education.  Joe Biden headed up the bankruptcy protection bill that made student loans a death sentence for America.  The privatization of the student loan industry, i.e. Sallie Mae Loans, provides guaranteed Wall Street Profits from loans that can never be forgiven.  From CBS Money:   


Student loans -- if unpaid even for a short time -- lock you into the only effective debtors' prison existing in the United States. The government's collection rights are something a mobster might admire. Late fees and collection fees are ruinous. Student loans cannot be discharged in bankruptcy, so you'll drag that escalating debt forever. So will parents with PLUS loans, if they lose their jobs and cannot pay. Co-signers face the same potential fate.

Earlier this year, Democrats in the House of Representatives advanced a bill that would allow bankruptcy courts to discharge education loans obtained from private lenders, such as banks. All the Republicans voted against it. You can be sure that the new House will not take it up.

Hey Hong Kong, what’s not to love about having government decide who an acceptable candidate is?  If you don’t like the government you voted for, vote them out.  Then the banks will be happy to give you a new roster of “preapproved” candidates.  Man, it sounds like wash, rinse repeat.

So that brings me to Wisconsin.  If the people had been allowed by the two-party government to choose their presidential candidates in 2008, there never would have been a Governor Scott Walker.  In 2008 the democratic candidate, Barack Obama was chosen by the two-party government.  From NewsMax:


With accusations of voter registration fraud swirling as early voting begins in many states, some Hillary Clinton supporters are saying: “I told you so.”

Already in Iowa, the Obama campaign was breaking the rules, busing in supporters from neighboring states to vote illegally in the first contest in the primaries and physically intimidating Hillary supporters, they say.

Obama’s surprisingly strong win in Iowa, which defied all the polls, propelled his upstart candidacy to front-runner status. But Lynette Long, a Hillary supporter from Bethesda, Md., who has a long and respected academic career, believes Obama’s victory in Iowa and in 12 other caucus states was no miracle. “It was fraud,” she told Newsmax.

Long has spent several months studying the caucus and primary results.

“After studying the procedures and results from all 14 caucus states, interviewing dozens of witnesses, and reviewing hundreds of personal stories, my conclusion is that the Obama campaign willfully and intentionally defrauded the American public by systematically undermining the caucus process,” she said.

Yes the two-party government preselected Barack Obama and no voters were going to change that, after all Wall Street banks laundered three-quarters of a billion dollars into the Obama campaign.  So when the 2010 election came along, democrats in Wisconsin were so revolted by Obama and the “Reagan” democrats, they just didn’t vote.

So Scott Walker was elected Governor in Wisconsin along with a Republican majority.  The Koch Brothers now had control over the state that was the home of environmentalist John Muir.  With the election of Walker came the ALEC written set of laws that all Republican legislators would introduce into Republican controlled States. 

Through voter fraud and numerous violations of the law, the Wisconsin State Supreme Court now has a majority of Koch Brother cronies, sure to uphold the laws passed by the Republican government.  And although Republicans are in the majority, they do not represent any of the large cities.

That means, the majority of the people impacted by the laws passed by Republicans in Wisconsin, have no representation. This is true of the federal government too.  Take SNAP or food stamp cuts.  From MSNBC:


On Friday, President Obama added his signature to legislation that will cut $8.7 billion in food stamp benefits over the next 10 years, causing 850,000 households to lose an average of $90 per month. The signing of the legislation known as the 2014 Farm Bill occurred at a public event in East Lansing, Mich…

Before he signed the legislation, President Obama praised it as an example of bipartisan problem-solving that would help create jobs and move the American economy forward.

How does cutting nutritional assistance to families create jobs? 

When House Republicans originally argued for a food stamp cut of between $20.5 billion and $39 billion, the White House threatened to veto both of those proposals. During his Friday speech, the president did not say whether he was satisfied with the final $8.7 billion figure, or even mention the cuts at all…

“Poor people are getting screwed by this Republican majority [in the House] and Democrats in my opinion aren’t doing enough to push back,” he said. “I wish there had been more of a fight from the White House and others.”

McGovern also admitted to being “puzzled” by the White House’s silence on hunger and food stamp cuts. He predicted that Republicans’ success in getting a several billion dollar food stamp cut meant that they would soon try again for even more.

Yes and our “chosen” politicians, at the same time they cut $8.6 billion dollars for nutrition, ended emergency unemployment benefits.  From New York Times:

The payroll tax holiday was renewed once, before it was finally allowed to lapse in January. Similarly, unemployment benefits to jobless workers for longer than the normal maximum of 26 weeks have been extended repeatedly, although the maximum duration of benefits has fallen from a peak of 99 weeks to 73 weeks.

The Emergency Unemployment Compensation program, financed by the federal government for states that meet certain unemployment and state benefit thresholds, is scheduled to end Jan. 1.

The recent fiscal showdown in Washington make further extensions less likely. And the end of these emergency unemployment benefits could create a further drag on the economy.

But not to worry, Walmart to the rescue.  From Huffington Post:


Walmart Targets The Poor With New Checking Accounts

By offering low-fee checking accounts, Walmart dares to go where most big banks won't. Few major financial institutions are willing to give lower-income Americans checking accounts these days -- without exorbitant fees.

But, unlike the big banks, Walmart really needs low-income customers.

The retail goliath on Wednesday announced it would offer customers checking accounts with no minimum balance and no fees for overdrafts or bounced checks. Those who get a direct deposit of at least $500 every month -- a floor that includes many people receiving government benefits -- will have the $8.95 monthly fee waived.

Walmart’s core customers -- low-income Americans -- have been squeezed by government benefit cuts, high unemployment and stagnant wages…

Walmart needs that money. Sales at U.S. stores open a year, an important retail metric, have been flat or negative for six straight quarters. Food stamp cuts in November hurt the company's bottom line, executives said…

That Walmart is one of the few options available to poor customers looking for a cheap bank account is troubling, given the retailer's profit motive, said Wallace Turbeville, a senior fellow at Demos, a progressive think tank. Unlike the Post Office, which some have considered as an option for low-fee checking, there's no reason for Walmart and its partner bank not to take advantage of customers who have so little bargaining power, he said.

“There’s a huge number of people that are underserved or overcharged for financial services,” Turbeville said. “That suggests that it’s going to be profitable for Walmart.”

America goes to the polls November 4th.  I don’t know what the outcome will be but I know who the winners will be. 

“It is better to die on your feet than to live on your knees.”
― Emiliano Zapata

So, to the people of Hong Kong, fight with everything you have for the right to choose your own destiny.  Look at America and what has happened to us since we relinquished our right to choose our leaders to the two parties. 

Remember, democracy is in the balance from Hong Kong to Wisconsin.

By Patricia Baeten

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