RICH BULEY: Reaganomics and debt

I’ve written before (here and here) about the failure that is Reaganomics and “trickle down”. A little discussed aspect, though is its horrendous effect on higher education. Look what has happened to the rise in tuition compared to inflation since Reagannomics began in 1980:

One of the basic responsibilities of government is education. But, with the tax cut fever of the last 30 years, support for education has decreased so tuition has risen. This, in turn, has resulted in students going further into debt to finance their education. However, since median incomes have declined over the same period of time, those with student loan debt are increasingly unable to pay.

As  income falls, and debt increases, there is only one result possible and that is about half of all student loans are in default. The problem that then arises is that while workers are paying off their student loans, they have less money to put into the economy which slows economic growth, and they cannot acquire assets or savings. That means that when these people retire, they may have very few assets which will then require more burden on the next generation to support them.


RICH BULEY: What do the police need with this stuff?

A few days ago I wrote about the militarization of local police through a program known as 1033, in which the Department of Defense gives surplus equipment to local law enforcement agencies. A website, Muckrock, has obtained information about the specific items procured by local agencies.

Unfortunately, the list is not broken down into specific agencies, but by state. There is some interesting browsing there. For example, Alabama got about 50 “extreme cold” parks and pants, obviously a high priority in Alabama. Georgia obtained 200 bayonets. What in the world is a local police force going to do with bayonets, attack San Juan Hill? Also obtained was $384,000 worth of electrical wire, for the Christmas display, maybe? Tennessee received enough musical instruments to start their own marching band, including 5 tubas and 5 euphoniums. They also got 14 paintball guns.

Many local agencies, including Montana went for big ticket items like semi tractor trailers,a bulldozer, dump trucks, excavators, and road graders. I’ve got to say, I’ve never seen a policeman driving a dump truck. Where does all this heavy machinery go? Also, one agency received one bayonet and scabbard. I’m guessing that is on someone’s wall or something.

RICH BULEY: Police apparently above the law

Well, you learn something new every day. Today I learned that tear gas is a chemical agent banned in war by treaty signed by the U.S. Yet, somehow, it is widely used by police departments against U.S. citizens, like peaceful protestors in Ferguson, MO.

That’s right, it is against international law for the Army to use tear gas against a foe in an actual war, but police departments in the U.S. and other countries use it against their own citizens. This is truly bizarre.

We know that the police in Ferguson not only shot tear gas at protestors and journalists, but they also shot rubber bullets, significantly injuring people like the female pastor who was calmly saying, “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.”. The question I haven’t seen answered anywhere is: when does the investigation of the felony assault charges against the police begin? If any citizen had shot rubber bullets or chemical weapons at the police, do you think that he would get a free pass? Just because a person is wearing camo, a helmet, and a gas mask doesn’t give him immunity.

RICH BULEY: Welcome to Fallujah

Welcome to Fallujah, U.S.A., or as it is sometimes known, Ferguson, MO. The internet is awash with stories of reporters being arrested for the crime of being in a McDonalds, reporters being targeted with tear gas, and  unprovoked attacks upon peaceful protestors in residential neighborhoods.

But, the difference between Fallujah and Ferguson is that the U.S. Army wasn’t as heavily armed. Since 1996, The Department of Defense has transferred $4.3 billion worth of military equipment to local law enforcement agencies. The program started as part of the “War on Drugs”. It has, inevitably, turned into the “War on Citizens”. We saw the use of combat gear in New York and Oakland to combat the peaceful protestors of Occupy Wall Street. Soon, the outrage faded, no changes were made, and now we have new outrages.

The problem is that in the United States we have the right to protest, we have the right to peaceably assemble, we have the right to speech and a free press. Those rights don’t exist in a war zone. Because local police departments are being equipped as combat troops and see themselves as combat troops, they see their role as defeating an enemy. Unfortunately, their proper role is to serve and protect the citizens and their rights. So, when a police officer is caught on tape yelling, “Bring it, all you f***ing animals, Bring it!”, I can’t blame the officer. He was reacting to the situation in which he was placed by others.

The similarities between the Occupy demonstrations and Ferguson are striking. There really was no violence until the police showed up in their military gear and initiated the violence. To what end, though? A lot of police departments and local governments should look at Missoula for guidance. Here, no one felt the need to disperse the Occupy protestors from the courthouse lawn and, eventually, they just went away.

RICH BULEY: Republicans represent the 1%

Wow! It is not often you see a business magazine article start with this sentence: “The 1 percent is literally rich beyond measure, depriving nations of billions in tax revenue and obscuring shifts in global inequality.”

The article concerns research which shows that the wealth of the world’s richest people is undercounted because of their ability to hide assets. This, in turn, deprives governments around the world of tax revenue which, of course, has to be made up by the working peasants (you and me).

The concentration of wealth in the ultrarich also explains why the economy has not recovered as fast as it had after previous recessions. The super rich can only spend so much, so they just accumulate wealth. The rest of the folks, who live paycheck to paycheck spend what they have. The problem is, since the Reagan Revolution, the working peasants have lost wealth and have less to spend.

We have a Republican dominated House of Representatives that only represents the 1%. Trickle down will only get worse unless the misguided masses who vote for Republicans wake up and realize they’ve been taken for a very bad ride.

RICH BULEY: Republicans not even pretending to be rational

Immigration and border issues in the United States are extremely complex. So, it seems only natural the the clown show that is the Republican House of Representatives should turn to Michelle Bachmann of Minnesota and Steve King of Iowa to lead them on this issue. In the final hours before taking their 5 week recess, the House passed a bill that is so extreme that it has no chance of becoming law.

Steve King, however, was mighty happy with the bill, saying, “The changes brought into this (bill) are ones I’ve developed and advocated over the past two years.” This is the same Steve King who has said this about teenage immigrants: “Some of them are valedictorians and their parents brought them in. For every one that is a valedictorian there’s another 100 out there who weigh 130 pounds and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert.” Recently, King topped himself by asserting that we have to crack down on immigrants because our borders were established by God and failure to do so would be disrespecting God.

The other Republican leader on the legislation, Michelle Bachmann, actually believes (and said out loud) that President Obama wants immigrant children in the U.S. to conduct medical experiments on them.

The zoo that is the House of Representatives is now run by the monkey house. Republicans are no longer even pretending to be rational.

RICH BULEY: Zinke and his tin foil hat

Well, I see that Republican Congressional candidate Ryan Zinke has officially joined the Republican tin foil hat crowd. In an interview published by the Missoulian Zinke said: “The evidence strongly suggests that humans have had an influence on higher CO2, however, the evidence is equally as strong that there are other factors, such as rising ocean temperatures, that have a greater influence.”

I’m glad that Zinke understands that human activity has caused increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, but his statement that global climate change is caused by rising ocean temperatures and other factors is incredibly dumb. Ocean temperatures are certainly rising, but Zinke apparently believes the rise is due to something other than humans. What does he think is causing the rise, fish poop? In fact, the rise in ocean temperatures is certainly caused by greenhouse gases. And, because humans have caused an increase in greenhouse gases (i.e. CO2) and greenhouse gasses have caused the oceans to retain more solar heat, which has caused the temperature of the oceans to rise, that means that the oceans do not have the cooling effect they used to have which results in climate change.

So, does Zinke not really understand how science works and is really that dumb? I actually don’t think so. He has a degree in geology. He knows that most Republicans are willfully ignorant when it comes to climate change. So, Zinke is cynical enough and dishonest enough that he is willing to say dumb stuff to appeal to the ignorant voters.

RICH BULEY: Connect the dots

Hey, kids, let’s play a game of connect the dots. Back in April I wrote a post about Montana’s Attorney General Tim Fox participating in a lawsuit to stop a cleanup plan of Chesapeake Bay. The cleanup plan is partly designed to lessen the amounts of phosphorus and nitrogen in the bay. It is well known that phosphorous and excessive levels of nutrients like nitrogen are environmentally harmful. It seems that Big Agriculture, the suppliers of fertilizers, and the suppliers of pollutants into the water systems don’t want State governments and the E.P.A. getting together to assure clean water and healthy fisheries.

So now let’s follow those dots to Toledo, Ohio. The drinking water for 400,000 people was declared too dangerous to use, even if it was boiled. Toxic algae blooms fed by phosphorous and nitrogen have poisoned the water in Lake Erie. If you think that this just a problem in Ohio, think again. The entire Great Lakes region is becoming increasingly worse and 11 million people depend on those lakes for drinking water. And, its not even just the Great Lakes and Chesapeake Bay, the poisonous algae have been found in lakes in California, Nebraska, Minnesota and Massachusetts. Phosphorous runoff from farms in the Mississippi River drainage fed algae which caused a gigantic oxygen free dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico last year.

This problem isn’t new. Five years ago, the E.P.A. and affected states issued an urgent call to action:

So, why hasn’t anything happened? Well, look at Montana’s Republican Attorney General jumping into a lawsuit trying to protect Big Ag’s ability to dump phosphorous into America’s waters. Our own Congressman, Steve Daines has repeatedly tried to block EPA regulations. The Republican controlled House has actually tried to abolish the E.P.A.. The mantra of the right is that the E.P.A. regulations have only one purpose, and that is to kill jobs. I guess the GOP would rather kill people instead of poisonous algae. That is the conclusion from connecting the dots.

Republicans: keeping the United States safe for toxic algae.