I was listing to Saturday's edition of "On Point" on WBUR this morning. There was a discussion about who might make a good selection to replace Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, and Ben Bernanke, who is expected to step down (or be asked to?) as Chairman of the Federal Reserve.
I jumped for joy when I heard the political analyst suggest crossing party lines to fill some of these positions.
I had always wished Obama had picked Republican Chuck Hagel as his running mate back in 2008. Could such a move have avoided the incredible split and polarization that has made Congress appear to be hopelessly partisan and completely useless when the country is facing such serious challenges?
From Wikipedia: "Since his election to the Senate in 1996, Hagel served as deputy whip for the Republican Caucus. He was chair of both the Senate Global Climate Change Observer Group and the Senate Oversight Task Force. He served as co-chairman of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China. He also served on the NATO Observer Group. Hagel was a member of four Senate committees: Foreign Relations; Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs; the Select Committee on Intelligence, and the Committee on Rules and Administration."
I heard Hagel -- one of the only members of Congress to immediately oppose Bush's decision to enter Iraq after 9/11 -- interviewed on NPR when he was stepping down from the Senate. His independent intelligence, and honest connections with and respect by high ranking members of the military impressed me. I immediately thought he would be a great running mate for Obama. Here's some more interesting information on Hagel from Wikipedia:
In November 2005, Hagel made a much-publicized statement:
"To question your government is not unpatriotic — to not question your government is unpatriotic."
(This was in reference to the lack of open debate in Congress regarding the Iraq War, and in
defense of his assertion that the United States should withdraw its troops.)
In January 2006, Hagel took issue with Karl Rove over controversial statements the White House advisor made concerning the mindset of Republicans and Democrats. Hagel said, "Well, I didn't like what Mr. Rove said, because it frames terrorism and the issue of terrorism and everything that goes with it, whether it's the renewal of the Patriot Act or the NSA wiretapping, in a political context." He also said that "dark clouds" are hanging over the Republican party, and "If you look at the environment and the atmospherics politically in this town, read any poll. The sixth year of a governing party usually ... is not good ... the country is tired, a lot of complications in these international issues, we're at war." Hagel further criticized the Bush administration, saying, "National security is more important than the Republican Party or the Democratic Party. And to use it to try to get someone elected will ultimately end up in defeat and disaster for that political party."
Both Hagel and John Huntsman were suggested as possible replacements for Hillary Clinton. I think either could prove to be effective and intelligent choices. Not only would it cross party lines (offering voters the beginnings of a "hybrid" government, a symbol for the need for dialogue, compromise in solving problems, and mutual respect), but each of these individuals have great experience in Inernational Relations.
Regardidng a replacement for Ben Bernanke, the name of BILL BRADLEY -- one of my all-time favorite politicians -- came up. I was impressed by his brilliant mind, thoughtful and responsible speaking, dedication to problem solving, his work ethic, and innovative thinking.
Please -- do yourself a favor and CLICK HERE to watch Bradley comment reflect on the need for Campaign Finance Reform.
Bradley has since written a book, "We Can All Do Better," and continues to serve his country as a public speaker and dedicated, altruistic thought leader. His in-depth knowledge of macro-economics is among his many skills.
In spite of my overwhelming respect for Bradley, I cross registered in the political primary the resulted in G.W. Bush running for the GOP. I did this to vote for John McCain over G.W. Bush who did not impress me. I knew Bradley had no chance to win in the primary over the incumbant Al Gore. But he remains in my mind as one of the most impressive individuals in American politics. I have often joked (along the lines of Ayn Rand?), "I think Bill Bradley is just too good and too smart for most American voters."
Finally -- regarding the "Fiscal Cliff," I just received the following data points from an educated source:
The following ten items reveal the deadening effects of inequality in our country, and confirm that tax avoidance, rather than a lack of middle-class initiative, is the cause.
2. Only FOUR OUT OF 150 countries have more wealth inequality than us.
In a world listing compiled by a reputable research team (which nevertheless prompted double-checking), the U.S. has greater wealth inequality than every measured country in the world except for Namibia, Zimbabwe, Denmark, and Switzerland.
3. An amount equal to ONE-HALF the GDP is held untaxed overseas by uber-wealthy Americans.
The Tax Justice Network estimated that between $21 and $32 trillion is hidden offshore, untaxed. With Americans making up40% of the world's Ultra High Net Worth Individuals, that's $8 to $12 trillion in U.S. money stashed in far-off hiding places.
Based on a historical stock market return of 6%, up to $750 billion of income is lost to the U.S. every year, resulting in a tax loss of about $260 billion.
4. Corporations stopped paying HALF OF THEIR TAXES after the recession.
After paying an average of 22.5% from 1987 to 2008, corporations have paid an annual rate of 10% since. This represents a sudden $250 billion annual loss in taxes.U.S. corporations have shown a pattern of tax reluctance for more than 50 years, despite building their businesses with American research and infrastructure. They've passed the responsibility on to their workers. For every dollar of workers' payroll tax paid in the 1950s, corporations paid three dollars. Now it's 22 cents.
That's enough to pay the salaries of over a million nurses or teachers or emergency responders.
For the free-market advocates who say "they've earned it": Point #1 above makes it clear how the wealthy make their money.6. Tax deductions for the rich could pay off 100 PERCENT of the deficit.
Another stat that required a double-check. Based on research by the Tax Policy Center, tax deferrals and deductions and other forms of tax expenditures (tax subsidies from special deductions, exemptions, exclusions, credits, capital gains, and loopholes), which largely benefit the rich, are worth about 7.4% of the GDP, or about $1.1 trillion.
7. The average single black or Hispanic woman has about $100 IN NET WORTH.
The Insight Center for Community Economic Developmentreported that median wealth for black and Hispanic women is a little over $100. That's much less than one percent of the median wealth for single white women ($41,500).
Other studies confirm the racially-charged economic inequality in our country. For every dollar of NON-HOME wealth owned by white families, people of color have only one cent.
8. Elderly and disabled food stamp recipients get $4.30 A DAY FOR FOOD.
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) has dropped significantly over the past 15 years, serving only about a quarter of the families in poverty, and paying less than $400 per month for a family of three for housing and other necessities. Ninety percent of the available benefits go to the elderly, the disabled, or working households.
Food stamp recipients get $4.30 a day.
9. Young adults have lost TWO-THIRDS OF THEIR NET WORTH since 1984.
21- to 35-year-olds: Your median net worth has dropped 68% since 1984. It's now less than $4,000.
With an unemployment rate for 16- to 24-year-olds of almost 50%, two out of every five recent college graduates are living with their parents. But your favorite company may be hiring. Apple, which makes a profit of $420,000 per employee, can pay you about $12per hour.
That's about the same amount of money made by America's richest 10% in one year. But we all paid for the bailout. And because of it, we lost the opportunity for jobs, mortgage relief, and educational funding.
Bonus for the super-rich: A QUADRILLION DOLLARS in securities trading nets ZERO sales tax revenue for the U.S.
The world derivatives market is estimated to be worth over a quadrillion dollars (a thousand trillion). At least $200 trillion of that is in the United States. In 2011 the Chicago Mercantile Exchange reported a trading volume of over $1 quadrillion on 3.4 billion annual contracts.
A quadrillion dollars. A sales tax of ONE-TENTH OF A PENNY on a quadrillion dollars could pay off the deficit. But the total sales tax was ZERO.
Food for thought as we, the voters, put increasing pressure on our apparently useless members of Congress to take some action to fix what is broken, now that the voters -- not Congress -- have decided who will be president for the next 4 years (with no ability to be re-elected.) I hope Congress spends more time doing their jobs, and not the jobs of the voters.