Category Archives: Broken in the USA

guns & gas

A Return to Prominence

A Return to Prominence

Make America Great Again was a slick slogan and not altogether unwarranted. To make things better it is important to understand the areas where we once led the world, but have lost that position.

Shortly after WW II we were the only viable Super Power politically, economically and militarily. Our standard of living was unsurpassed. The rest of the world looked to us for both leadership and as an example of what is possible.

Today we rank 15th in terms of standard of living behind all of the Scandinavian countries, most of Western Europe, Australia and New Zealand. While our economy, in terms of GDP, has risen by 100% in the last 20 years, the average middle class family incomes have only risen by less than 10%. Over the past 20 years the cost of both healthcare and advanced education has risen at 2 ½ times the rate of overall inflation. Our per capita healthcare cost is by far the highest in the world and averages 2 ½ times the average for the EU countries. Our per capita healthcare costs exceed $11,000 per year. At the same time our quality of healthcare is ranked only 37th by the WHO. The healthcare is the single largest industry in our economy currently standing in excess of $ 3.5 trillion. Our infrastructure, especially as it relates to transportation, has substantially deteriorated. Our debt to GDP ratio stood at 35% in 1970 and it currently stands at 136%. Our spending is out of control. While this is only a sample of areas where we have lost prominence, but they are important issues that deserve attention and affirmative action to repair.

What needs doing, you ask? I can tell you what doesn’t work. Finger pointing and blaming the “other” side. My observation that the extremes on both sides of the political divide are in control of the narrative. Unfortunately, they seem to be attracting more folks that in the past confedered themselves to be open minded and more moderate. Polarization is increasing and it does not serve our country well. Many persons tend to blame both the media and our elected officials for what is wrong and they are definitely co-dependent. However, I ask what are we, as individuals, doing to make a difference. I witness republicans pointing fingers at the democrats saying that their liberal, socialist agenda is ruining the country. I witness democrats saying that our problems are a result of short-term profit-oriented agenda espoused by republicans. I ask, how is this working for us?

What I am suggesting is that the solution can start with each of us. It’s a simple behavioral change that is most difficult to implement. It begins by not playing the “blame game”. If we can achieve that then the next step will be to look for common ground. We will always have issues that are beyond compromise and on those we simply agree to disagree. I am certain that there are items on education, healthcare, middle class incomes, budgeting and infrastructure where common ground is possible. It only takes a few to be examples for others. Become an example and spread the word.

Our career politicians will not make the needed changes as it would threaten their political longevity. The only other way to make the changes that the majority of voters want is through the Constitutional Amendment process. Our founders saw this as a way for the will of the people make changes as times warranted it. After the initial 10 (AKA the bill of rights) we have made 17 additional changes. Now is the time for one that makes comprehensive improvements. The first item would be term limits (you can understand why your elected representative will not favor this change). The most recent polls indicate that over 2/3rds of voters’ favor term limits for members of congress. A recent poll in Idaho came in at 84%. Once this occurs it will be making future elected politicians more accountable to the will of the people.

Including too many provisions in a potential Amendment would make it more difficult to survive the approval process, but I would include the following provisions: Elected representatives to have the same healthcare coverage as the general population and add on amendments to proposed legislation (that have nothing to do with the intent of the bill) are no longer allowed. All of these have tremendous support of the voters and none would ever pass Congress.

Representation in our voting system

135 Representation in our voting system

As of May 2020, Gallup polling found that 31% of Americans identified as Democrats, 25% identified as Republican, and 40% as Independent. Additionally, polling showed that 50% are either “Democrats or Democratic leaners” and 38% are either “Republicans or Republican leaners” when Independents are asked “do you lean more to the Democratic Party or the Republican Party?”

However, actual registration by party is different:

In aggregate, 40% of all voters in party registration states are Democrats, 29% are Republicans, and 28% are independents.

Registration stats in 2016:

Number of Registered voters 158 million                                                                    Number of persons eligible to vote 224 million                                                            Number of voters in 138 million

Stats for 2020:

Number of registered voters   211 million                                                              Number of persons eligible to vote 229 million                                                                                       Number of voters 150 million (est.)

Observations:

The largest % of the population identifies themselves as Independent. Is this group well represented?

Great strides have been made in promoting voter registration and it appears that almost all of the new voters did vote in 2020.

However, there is still a very large number of registered folks that do not vote (approx. 60 million). Do why know why? Is there anything that can be done to encourage them to participate?

The E.C. (Electoral College)

Following illustrates my issue. Wh7 does Wyoming have four time the voting power of Texas. Check out the following chart.

 # of ECPopulationvotes per
Statevotesmillion pop
Texas3828,995,8811.31
Florida2921,477,7371.35
California5539,512,2231.39
Georgia1610,617,4231.51
Arizona117,278,7171.51
Virginia138,535,5191.52
      
Delaware3973,7643.08
Rhode Island41,059,3613.78
Alaska3731,5454.10
D.C.3705,7494.25
Vermont3623,9894.81
Wyoming3578,7595.18
Total181 121,090,667

Undocumented (Illegal) Immigrants

Undocumented (Illegal) Immigrants

There is a lot of bad information out there about undocumented residents, especially among folks with a specific political agenda. The first is that most are coming across our Southern border. The reality is that most enter either on a seasonal work or tourist visa and decide to stay. I am not advocating opening our borders, but I am advocating a more sensible and efficient method for accepting immigrants.

Other bad information has to do with what legal rights are available to illegals.

Are undocumented immigrants eligible for federal public benefit programs?

Generally no. Undocumented immigrants, including DACA holders, are ineligible to receive most federal public benefits, including means-tested benefits such as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, sometimes referred to as food stamps), regular Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). Undocumented immigrants are ineligible for health care subsidies under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and are prohibited from purchasing unsubsidized health coverage on ACA exchanges.

Undocumented immigrants may be eligible for a handful of benefits that are deemed necessary to protect life or guarantee safety in dire situations, such as emergency Medicaid, access to treatment in hospital emergency rooms, or access to healthcare and nutrition programs under the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).

Are legal immigrants eligible for federal public benefit programs?

Only those with lawful permanent resident (LPR) status, but not until they have resided as a legal resident for five years. LPRs – sometimes referred to as green card holders – do not have full access to all public benefit programs and are subject to limitations before being eligible for federal means-tested benefits, including Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), TANF, SNAP, and SSI. Such limitations include the “five-year bar,” which requires the individual to have maintained LPR status in the U.S. for five years before being eligible for benefits. However, under some federal benefit programs, this requirement can be bypassed when the recipient has worked 40 quarters under a visa. Quarters worked by parents when the immigrant was a dependent child, or by a spouse while married to the immigrant, count towards the immigrant’s 40 quarters.

LPRs are eligible to apply for Medicare and Public/“Section 8” Housing as well, as long as the five-year bar is fulfilled. For LPRs to become eligible for Social Security benefits for both retirement and disability, they are required to have completed 40 quarters of work in addition to having maintained LPR status for five years.

Certain additional categories of immigrants, specifically refugees, asylum seekers, and victims of human trafficking or domestic violence have the same eligibility requirements for federal benefits as LPRs. Individuals on non-immigrant and temporary visa holders are ineligible for benefits.

How much do legal immigrants use federal public benefit programs?

Legal immigrants use federal public benefit programs at lower rates than U.S.-born citizens. As recently as 2013, the rate at which non-citizens have used public benefit programs was less than that of U.S.-born citizens. For example, 32.5 percent of native-born citizen adults receive SNAP benefits compared to 25.4 percent of naturalized citizen adults and 29 percent of noncitizen adults. In addition to immigrants’ lower rate of SNAP usage, they also receive lower benefit values, costing the program less.

How much do immigrants contribute to support public benefits programs?

Both documented and undocumented immigrants pay more into public benefit programs than they take out. According to Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, undocumented immigrants contribute an estimated $11.74 billion to state and local economies each year. However, undocumented immigrants are not eligible for many of the federal or state benefits that their tax dollars help fund.

Additionally, a few states have completed studies demonstrating that immigrants pay more in taxes than they receive in government services and benefits. A study in Arizona found that the state’s immigrants generate $2.4 billion in tax revenue per year, which more than offsets the $1.4 billion in their use of benefit programs. Another study in Florida estimated that, on a per capita basis, immigrants in the state pay nearly $1,500 more in taxes per capita than they receive in public benefits.

Do undocumented children have access to a public education?

Yes. In accordance with the Supreme Court ruling in Plyer v. Doe, all immigrant children, regardless of status, have access to a public education and are eligible to attend public schools for grades K-12. Undocumented immigrants are also eligible for the Head Start program as it is not considered a federal public benefit program – any child who is otherwise eligible, regardless of their or their parents’ immigration status, may enroll in Head Start.