U.S. may soon be governed by a 3-party system.

Democrats, Republicans and lunatics.

A new poll by NBC and The Wall Street Journal shows that the Tea Party is now more popular than both Republicans and Democrats.  The question is why.  What have the Tea Partiers done besides gather in relatively small noisy groups and wave obnoxious, racist signs?  Have the Tea Party leaders offered any suggestions to improve American lives?  Have they any recommendations to help those without health care?  Have they offered any real solutions for putting Americans back to work?  Have they put forward any regulations to reign in the greed on Wall Street?

You already know the answer.  The Tea Party leaders have nothing to offer but anger, accusations and snide remarks.  But they are dangerous.  Can you, for a hideous moment, imagine an administration led by President Palin and Vice-President Glenn Beck?  Can you even entertain the thought of Michelle Bachmann as Speaker of the House? 

Some people believe that, because the Mayan calendar ends on December 21, 2012, there will be an apocalyptic disaster that will mark the end of civilization.  I have never subscribed to that theory.  But if the Tea Party grows in popularity and American voters stupidly elect Sarah Palin as President in 2012, the theory may well prove to be true.

Campaign donations and lobbying are paying off for health care.

Health care related businesses have long been the biggest spenders in politics.  The AMA, American Hospital Association, Pharma, and insurance companies have donated millions to Congressional, Senatorial and Presidential campaigns.  They have a massive collection of lobbyists.  And it’s working.

Purdue Pharma, Aetna and The Hartford have all generously contributed to Joe Lieberman’s election campaigns.  And when it came time to vote on health care reform, Joe hijacked the Senate bill, threatening to join a Republican filibuster unless the public option was removed.  The biggest contributors to Senator Ben Nelson’s campaigns have included insurance and health care professionals, and now he wants to stop the bill over abortion language.  Senator Max Baucus who presided over the gang of 6 that removed some of the strongest elements of the House bill is backed by insurance, health professionals and pharmaceuticals.  The list goes on…and on. 

I admire the efforts by President Obama and the dozens of Democratic Senators and Congressional Representatives who have fought so hard to reform health care.  It’s desperately needed.  But with Republicans determined to block any health care reform and the health care industry flexing the muscle gained by contributing millions to elected officials, it’s unlikely that any substantive health care reform will ever reach the President’s desk. 

Even if it does, it’s likely to benefit the health care industry more than our citizens. 

Democrats still need to grow a pair.

Since Bill Clinton left office, the Democratic Party has been searching for a large dose of testosterone.   When Barack Obama won the Democratic nomination, it seemed that the party had finally found someone who had the vision, the intelligence and the strength to stand up to an opposing party that is united in its support of corporations and the wealthy. 

That may be true, but it’s becoming increasingly difficult to tell.

Despite a large majority in the House and a 60-member caucus in the Senate, the Democrats once again seem weak and incapable of governing.  The health care reform bill is exhibit A.  In its current form, the Senate bill will mandate that everyone purchase insurance from private corporations more interested in increasing their profits than controlling costs and provide health care coverage for their customers. 

It’s time for President Obama and Congressional Democrats to drop their futile attempts at bipartisanship and pull together.  If they don’t, Sarah Palin and the Tea Party may have a better chance of reaching majority status in the future than Democrats. 

According to a new NBC-Wall Street Journal poll, they’re currently more popular.

Why the recession is our own damn fault.

Sure, it was the greed of mortgage-lenders and Wall Street that led to our recession.  But it’s consumers that are perpetuating it.  Most economists will tell you that recessions are mostly in the consumers’ minds.  If consumers are worried and reduce spending, our economy drops.  When consumers start spending, our economy rises.

Now, I understand that there are several overriding issues that led to this particular recession, not the least of which is the redistribution of wealth upward (10 percent of Americans now control nearly 71 percent of all U.S. assets).  Nevertheless, we have the power to fix it.

For one, we can vote for political candidates who are more concerned about ordinary citizens than the wealthy and the corporations that finance their political campaigns.

When possible, we can purchase American-made products.  Not just products with American brands, but products that actually say “made in America” on the product or the packaging.  I understand that it’s increasingly difficult to find American-made products, and that they sometimes cost more than those made elsewhere, but there is no better way to create or ensure American jobs.  For example, a Chevrolet or Ford is not only assembled in the U.S. by American workers, many of the parts are made in the U.S. and the profits go to American-based companies that pay taxes in the U.S.   This isn’t protectionism.  It’s simply common sense.

Finally, we can individually and collectively boycott corporations that don’t operate in our best interests.  Given their recent behavior, why would anyone continue to patronize the too-big-to-fail banks when there are so many other alternatives?  So even if you feel that voting for political candidates doesn’t change anything.  Voting with your purchases most definitely can.

The real scandal surrounding Tiger Woods.

For days we’ve been treated to “news” stories speculating about Woods’ infidelity and the consequences of his alleged indiscretions.  Why?  Personally, I could care less if Woods had one affair or a hundred.  He’s human.  And like all humans he has flaws. 

Instead of wondering about Woods’ future, we should be wondering why the news media has devoted endless hours to this story when the same media could not devote a few hours to investigate the Bush administration’s claims that led to the ill-advised invasion and occupation of Iraq.  We should wonder why the news media spends more time covering the personal indiscretions of political candidates than the issues they espouse.  We should wonder why the news media gives equal access to representatives of the far right and far left without examining the accuracy of their claims.

Following the death of Walter Cronkite, many journalists reported Cronkite’s philosophy that a news organization’s responsibility is to tell people what they need to know.  Not what they want to know.  Too bad none of them seem to share that philosophy.

Corporate loan sharking.

Having read that credit card companies are increasing interest rates, I began to wonder: What separates our financial institutions from the Sicilian Mafia, the Chinese Tongs or anyone else imprisoned for loan-sharking? They all charge outrageous interest rates on loans. They all have aggressive collection tactics. And many of them have politicians in their pockets.

The main difference, of course, is that the banks have incorporated as financial institutions. This allows the banks and credit card companies to borrow money from the Federal Reserve at a discount rate that’s currently .05 percent. Then they lend it at interest rates ranging from 20 to more than 45 percent! Not even casinos enjoy that kind of return. But, then, casinos are regulated.

For those of you under age of 50, you might be interested to learn that all financial institutions used to be governed by usury laws designed to prevent the lending of money at unreasonably high interest rates. State banks still are. Unfortunately, usury laws no longer apply to banks that label themselves “national”. The result is that large banks such as Bank of America, Wells Fargo and Chase can charge pretty much any interest rate they want.

And they want a lot.

Of course, they justify their rates by claiming that consumer default is on the rise.

There are several problems with that claim. One, the managers of these companies pay themselves 6- or 7-figure bonuses. Two, it was their greed that led to an economy that has forced consumer defaults. And three, it was the government, financed by you and I, that kept these companies from going bankrupt.

If our Congress ever decides to put the interests of taxpayers above corporations, the corporate officers that run national banks might have even more in common with the Mafia and the Tongs – a prison cell.

How tea-baggers can eliminate the national debt.

Since President Obama’s inauguration, the so-called tea-baggers have demonstrated, yelled at and threatened the administration. They claim the President is not a citizen. They believe he is trying to implement a socialist, or even communist, agenda. And they seem most angry over increases in the national debt. Never mind that the increases are the result of the previous administration’s policies. Never mind that much of the money allocated through TARP funds has been repaid. Never mind that GM seems on the road to recovery. And ignore the fact that, according to the CBO, the stimulus has saved or created 1.6 million jobs.

However, I think we can channel all that anger and energy to help pay off the national debt. Since the tea-baggers have driven up sales of guns and ammo following Obama’s election, they’re certainly well-enough armed to defend our shores. That would permit us to eliminate most of our national defense budget.

Just think, without a large military force, the tea-baggers would no longer have to fear that our government will take away their freedoms. Of course, we could keep a small professional military to operate, maintain and defend our enormous arsenal of nuclear tipped missiles. That would ensure that no foreign government would attack us. We’d bring home our troops from Afghanistan, Iraq, Germany, Japan and South Korea. Without an enormous military and all of its ships, planes, tanks and troop carriers, we would have less need for oil, so we would no longer need to project American power around the globe. And since most of our large, multi-national corporations have already exported most of our jobs, we should feel no obligation to protect corporate interests on foreign soil. Besides, those companies can afford to hire their own protection such as the likes of Blackwater, aka Xe.

What’s not to like? No more war. No more nation-building (other than on our own soil). No more national debt. All made possible by putting the tea-baggers’ guns and anger to better use.

The no-it-all party.

As Republicans continue to attack President Obama over the lousy economy they, themselves, created, it becomes painfully obvious that they have no compassion, no ideas, no shame and no clue.  They keep serving up the same failed theories and rhetoric that got us into this mess. 

In their minds, the economy would recover if only the Democrats would provide more tax cuts for the wealthy.  At the same time, Republicans are attempting to stonewall any attempts at regulating Wall Street or reforming the runaway health insurance industry.  In their view, the “free” market and deregulation are cure-alls for anything that ails our economy.

But before anyone wants to sign onto their Reagan-inspired trickle-down economic theories, let’s look at what this kind of thinking has brought us over the last 30 years of Republican leadership:

1 – More than 14 million Americans are currently unemployed, and Federal Reserve Chairmen Ben Bernanke blames the continuing high level of unemployment on the too-big-to-fail banks for failing to make loans to small businesses, the engine that drives our economy. 

2 – 49 million Americans, including 17 million children, currently lack adequate, consistent access to food. 

3 – The VA estimates that 131,000 veterans are homeless on any given night and 18 veterans commit suicide every single day. 

4 – Nearly 47 million Americans lack health insurance.  Of those, nearly 45,000, including 2,266 veterans, die each year for lack of access to health care. 

5 – In what used to be a sight seen only in third world nations, thousands of American citizens have stood in line for free health care because they lack insurance.  More than 8,000 stood in line to receive health care in Los Angeles alone.  Many were turned away.  1,000 recently stood in line for free health care in New Orleans and there are similar free clinics scheduled in Little Rock, Kansas City and other U.S. cities.

These are not the kind of problems that will be solved by more tax cuts for the wealthy or further deregulation of our greedy, ship-the-jobs-off-shore industries.  They require substantial commitments of tax dollars, along with fresh ideas and political will, neither of which are currently available from the Republican Party.