This is a commentary by Michael Vasquez **
When you hear the unions, Dems, and supporters of $15/hr minimum wage speak about the issue you generally hear vague soundbites. It will end poverty. It will raise quality of life. It’s a living wage. Blah, Blah, without a detail in the world. Why? Because details matter.
In the real world where soundbites have repercussions the details are all that matters in the end. Things that Seattle is well aware of. Like businesses forced to fire employees or just close because the wage requirement (at just $11, the first step in the transition) is unaffordable. Or the fact that workers already are unable to get the food stamps, housing assistance, and other aid that they need as they are now expected to pay for these things and they still cannot adjust. The answer from the $15 crowd? Raise the pay of everyone, and make it higher. Like $36.58.
In fact Gravity Payments did just that. So what happened?
According to the NY Times (hardly a Conservative view) Gravity gained some clients, and lost a few old clients. With the profits, and salary of the CEO, dedicated to the pay increase, there is nothing left for infrastructure in the company so no upgrades in tech (which could hinder growth or affect retention of clients in the future). Add to that, it is unclear if the new clients will make up for the cost of lost business and the new pay structure.
But why be petty. This is about people (and as the CEO admitted, a bit of free publicity). As stated by Maisey McMaster, who had been with the company 5 years and was the financial manager (until she decided to quit),
“He gave raises to people who have the least skills and are the least equipped to do the job, and the ones who were taking on the most didn’t get much of a bump.”
Yes, that’s the result. The unworthy get the same reward as the hardest working. A manager with years of experience and multiple responsibilities gets the same as a new hire with no experience and no guarantee they will last or qualified for the job done. As Grant Moran, the former web developer for Gravity said in the article,
“Now the people who were just clocking in and out were making the same as me.”
But what about the new people. How do they feel with the pay increase? Stephanie Brooks, with the company a mere 2 months and now given a substantial raise, had this to say,
“Am I doing my job well enough to deserve this? I didn’t earn it.”
But wait, wasn’t this raise in pay for every worker in the company meant to remove all the problems? Isn’t that what the supporters of the movement promise? Again, reality is not the same as campaign slogans and political party efforts to maintain power.
Repeatedly, real world experiences are proving that just upping pay does not instantly remove all problems. Existing workers are unfairly compensated for hard work and excellence as unskilled and unproven workers are lauded. Business competitiveness suffers, both from workers and the inability of a company to address any corporate concern (replacing equipment, changes in market and/or laws, ect) EXCEPT employee pay. Unskilled workers and new hires are burdened with the need to prove they are worthy of the extreme pay, both to the employer and far more skilled workers, to justify their continued employment. If the costs continue to eliminate profits, there is the risk of placing the burden on the consumers to make up the difference – just to break even – a fear that clients are keenly aware of.
Yes, paying people more money for the same unskilled and unproven work sounds great in a speech. It brings in votes. But long-term there are consequences, to the workers and companies, that no speech from supporters will ever mention.
Should every worker in a company get paid $36.58/hour? For some companies, why not. Either they will be able to support that pay scale and make a profit, or they will fire employees and/or close the doors. Relocation to somewhere where costs are cheaper is yet another option, leaving workers not just near poverty but completely unemployed and on government doles.
That’s the nature of a business. But to force EVERY business to do this is equivalent to corporate genocide. While $15/hour is far more reasonable, the fact is that there really is no difference in outcome. Some employees will be unfairly given pay that they do not merit. Some employees will be, as Mr. Moran stated,
“It shackles high performers to less motivated team members.”
It is quite possible that there is a middle ground out there. But whatever that compromise may be, it will never be spoken in the speeches meant to rally public support of an idea that is presented without consequence. Politicians seeking to maintain power don’t care about long-term consequences, the national debt alone proves that. Yet at the end of the day, when reality kicks in as it always does, the unavoidable results may be ones that consumers and the general public may find far less palatable.
Michael “Vass” Vasquez
President – M V Consulting, Inc
** Originally posted by Michael “Vass” Vasquez at Binghamton Political Buzz Examiner.com **
As the war against ISIS continues in the Middle East, a new question seems to be growing on the horizon. Is the US strategy creating the next militant force to replace ISIS? The question is more valid given the recent tensions between Turkey and Syrian Kurds reported July 27, 2015, than some may believe.
The growth of ISIS has its history in the vacuum created by the actions against Al Queda, largely due to the US actions in Iraq. Also a factor was the US support of Syrian rebels, in opposition to the Assad regime. The combination of supplies, redistribution of experienced fighters, and a fanatical belief in an extremist view of the Islamic faith led to the perfect mix for ISIS to become the leading force opposing the Assad government in Syria. Shortly thereafter ISIS expanded into Iraq, where a disorganized and weak government was still trying to gain its footing after the departure of stabilizing US forces.
After ISIS had made massive gains in Iraq and Syria, while being initially dismissed by the Obama Administration, US attention became squarely focused with the beheading of 2 Americans. Since that time, hundreds of air strikes have been delivered by the US-led coalition of 30 countries against ISIS, while desperately trying to avoid giving any advantage to Syrian forces. Part of that tightrope act has been the US support and training of Syrian rebels, to provide a ground force to fight ISIS where the US and allies will not tread.
Somewhere in the middle of all that, the Kurds took action. Kurds are a relatively stable, pro-US faction inside Iraq and far less so in Syria. The first air-strikes in Iraq since 2011 came as a defense of Kurd positions. The initial war in Iraq was in part to save the Iraqi Kurds. First via the no-fly zone in 1991, and then from Saddam Hussein – who was eventually tried for his part in the chemical weapons attack in 1988. The Iraqi Kurds for their part have been singing the praises of President Bush and Republicans. and a key component in the fight versus ISIS.
But that is where things get tricky. Because the Kurds of Iraq are not the Kurds of Syria. In fact the Kurds of Syria (People’s Protection Units or YPG) are considered terrorists and connected to the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) with ties across Europe and the world. Thus the US policy (unchanged since 2014) has been,
“We’re not trying to take ground away from them [ISIS]. We’re trying to take capability away from them.”
This has not helped the Syrian Kurdish effort. Even so, ISIS was defeated in Kobani after 133 days of fighting, with the help of US air support, in January 2015. This action of course angered Turkey, who has fought with the YPG in on-and-off battles since 1984. Which has led to claims on July 27, 2015, that the Turkish army is firing on the Syrian Kurds because of their fear of a Kurd uprising. Turkish officials stated,
“The Syrian Kurds are not a target of the operations. Our operations only target IS in Syria and PKK in Iraq.”
Therefore, the US has actively worked to help a terrorist organization, indirectly via air support and with actual supplies in October 2014, on the terror watchlist, for the purpose of indirectly attacking ISIS on the ground where the US and allies will not go. At the same time the US has angered an ally, Turkey, who is actively fighting this same terrorist group for decades. Plus, no love has been lost with YPG as the US intermittently ignores and supports their plight while actively aiding the Iraqi Kurds – effectively establishing a winner and loser in the Kurd war on ISIS.
But there is a final component that factors into this. Iran. With the Iran nuclear deal, sanctions will be lifted granting Iran access to some $150 – $400 billion. These funds are free to be used to support Iran-back rebels in Iraq and Syria, as stated by President Obama,
“Do we think that with the sanctions coming down, that Iran will have some additional resources for its military and for some of the activities in the region that are a threat to us and a threat to our allies?” Obama said at the White House in response to a question about the Iran nuclear deal. “I think that is a likelihood, that they’ve got some additional resources.”
The influence of Iran, flush with cash, is a threat to Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Syria, and Turkey to name a few Middle East nations it has interests in. In addition Kurds in both Iraq and Syria are without love from Iranian backed forces. Thus, the Iran nuclear deal adds another blow to a US ally, while increasing the anger from YPG and Kurds.
The progression all sounds familiar. The US, under a misguided international policy (Obama Administration), has picked an enemy (Syria) that it wants to take out. To do so it supplies and funds organizations with questionable motives and significant issues with America (YPG, ISIS, Syrian rebels). The support of these organizations leaves allies and generally most Middle East nations angered by the US interference with the political balance in the region (Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Israel). Iran sees, and presses forward on gains made by the confused US action. Several years later, due to the power vacuum created by the US, as well as the support, a new and experienced organization rises to power and eventually goes after the US (ISIS).
It has happened before. The warning signs seem to be in front of the nation now. But will the Obama Administration notice, or just scoff at the next “JV” team in the Middle East?
** Originally written by Michael “Vass” Vasquez at Binghamton Political Buzz Examiner.com **
The world of politics loves the use of political gimmicks – terms and phrases that sound beneficial but lack details in execution. The problem is the long-term impact of these political gimmicks, even as the masses demand the slogans being offered. But there is no free lunch or policy without impact.
Examples of what some call political gimmicks include the drone testing site in Rome, NY. It was promised by 4 elected officials (from the State to Federal level) to bring some 2000 – 4000 jobs to New York State. In exchange over $6 million in Federal and State funds have been allocated to the effort (with promises in excess of an additional $11 million to come). Thus far, 6 jobs have been confirmed created via FOIA requests of the Federal, State, and local City government.
Yet another quick fix for the business unfriendliness of New York is casinos. 6 casinos will be placed across the State, several in hard hit communities struggling with poverty and unemployment. In the Southern Tier, initially looked over in the first round of applications, hopes are high that a casino will create much needed jobs. But no consideration has been given to the most glaringly obvious fact of what casinos do.
To be successful, a casino must take money away from people – whether that is tourists or the local community. Considering the competition of established casinos in PA, NJ, and CT alone (not to mention a planned casino in NYC itself), the odds of a casino depending on the local community is increased. The net impact, no matter how many jobs are created, is that the meager discretionary income in the Southern Tier and other struggling areas of NY will be the food local casinos will dine on. The long-term effect is a drag on the community, not a supplement to it.
In the same vein of short-sighted and soundbite friendly promises is the recent decision July 22, 2015, to minimum wage increases for fast food workers. The 30 second soundbite is that increasing the wage to $15 will eliminate poverty. The popularity for the idea is about as large as is the discussion on consequences associated with such a move.
Seattle was one of the first cities to succumb to the slogan of income equality. As has been well documented, the result has been less than underwhelming. The increase has thus far resulted in long-term increases in business closings. Unable to maintain a profit, or even break-even, many restaurants closed their doors – placing workers into the hands of government aid. But the results do not stop there.
With the increase in wage (to a mere $11 in the first stage of increases), many of the minimum wage workers (who nationally are a mere 3% of all workers) have become priced out of various government entitlements. Food Stamps and other supplements are no longer available to the new income brackets some workers enter. In fact it has been reported on July 24, 2015, that some workers are reducing their hours just to maintain the government aid for food, rent, and healthcare.
“If they cut down their hours to stay on those subsidies because the $15 per hour minimum wage didn’t actually help get them out of poverty, all you’ve done is put a burden on the business and given false hope to a lot of people,” said Jason Rantz, host of the Jason Rantz show on 97.3 KIRO-FM
But what does this mean for New York? Again looking at the Southern Tier as an example – specifically Binghamton, NY – the impact of increasing fast food workers to $15 has many ramifications. Just as in Seattle, small businesses and fast food franchises work on slim profit margins that a 50% increase in pay likely will not support. Like in Seattle, the increase in pay will cause many of the roughly 3,390 fast food workers (3.3% of workers in Binghamton), earning on average $9.38/hour, to lose food stamps and other government aid. Unmentioned, and with dramatic potential impact, is the effect that the wage increase will have on subsidies for health care insurance – many will need to pay more for insurance and may owe the government in the next IRS tax review.
Beyond just the monetary impact, what does the wage increase for 3% of the workforce say to the community? Effectively, the increase in pay is a statement to substitute teachers ($15.20/hour average according to Bureau of Labor Statistics) that they may have wasted years of their lives and incurred debt that was unnecessary. Likewise paramedics ($14.21), medical assistants ($14.20), nursing assistants ($13.63), pharmacy technicians ($13.07), radio and television announcers ($12.92), veterinary assistants ($12.61), childcare workers ($9.56), and a host of other professions either incurred debt and/or wasted years of learning when they just could have learned to flip a burger. As the NY Times noted on July 27, 2015,
“Now, for the first time, Ms. Hayes and her colleagues at the day care center have begun looking wistfully at the big chain restaurants down the street. Maybe flipping burgers might get them closer to their dreams.”
In fact, more than 59,220 people in Binghamton (58.3% of workers excluding fast food) alone would do better by becoming a fast food worker than remain at the job they have.
The solution election hungry politicians might offer is to increase the minimum wage for everyone. But that does not resolve the problem, it only magnifies it. That’s tens of thousands (in Binghamton, NY alone) that would no longer qualify for government aid. That’s tens of thousands that would run afoul of Obamacare and taxes. It would increase the number of businesses that could no longer afford to employ workers from perhaps a few dozen to potentially hundreds or more. All without considering the cost of goods or other inflation.
Politics of the soundbite, the tried and true gimmick of politicians, is a powerful tool to ensure (re-)election and party loyalty. It plays hand in hand with kicking the problem down the road, and blaming the other party for the consequences. Ultimately though, no matter what the soundbite, no matter the Party that uttered it, the long-term reality cannot be avoided. Just like when crowd cheered on the call for an even bigger Obama Stimulus, the ultimate reality was that there were no shovel-ready jobs. As President Obama himself admitted in 2010 (after spending over $862 billion taxpayer dollars plus interest still accumulating in the national debt)
“…there’s no such thing as shovel-ready projects.”
The same people that assured the nation of shovel ready jobs, that guaranteed you could keep your doctor, that celebrated a summer of recovery as the economy got worse, that are cheering the secret terms of the Trans Pacific Partnership, are on board for the latest soundbite ride to the election. But, ultimately, long-term, the inescapable reality is that government doesn’t create jobs, it can’t legislate people out of poverty, and the louder the cheers the more the public should pay attention to the details.
As most Americans tune into the news about Hulk Hogan or Bobbi Kristina Brown, they completely miss the news that actually affects their lives. This is as true for political commentators as anyone else. Thus I must thank a reader of this blog, Mario, who notified us of the recent interview of New York State Senator Joe Griffo on WIBX, July 20, 2015.
The interview was at 8am, and the second part of the interview is the critical portion. It was in this portion of the interview that Sen. Griffo was asked about our article, What about those jobs you promised?, and specifically our June 16, 2015, letter to 4 elected officials. Those officials were Sen. Charles Schumer, Rep. Richard Hanna, State Senator Griffo, and Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi. Each was sent a letter noting the multiple claims of job creation and NY tax revenue in exchange for taxpayer funds allocated to the Drone Testing Site at Griffiss International Airport in Rome, NY. To date not one of the elected officials has responded to our request for comment.
It starts off with Mario referring to the letter sent June 16th, which Sen. Griffo deflects by stating it may be in the possession of his staff. It has been 41 days since the first letter was sent (34 the day of the interview), and the Office of the State Senator has failed to make any response. Does that mean the staff of Sen. Griffo is editing what gets a response? Does it mean that the staff of Sen. Griffo are actively avoiding a response to the press? The implications of this deflection is not a positive indication of how Sen. Griffo (or any of the elected officials sent a letter on this matter) and his staff address concerns of the public.
Sen. Griffo was then directly asked by Mario,
“This guy [Michael Vasquez] has sent this letter to Brindisi, Joe Griffo, and Richard Hanna regarding the outcome, it was sort of a comparison of what was promised as far as jobs and there was some question for clarification on what was actually so far delivered. It looks like its 6 jobs. So I wonder if Joe was going to respond to that…”
The two and a half minute response from State Senator Griffo starts with his lack of knowledge about the letter, promising it will eventually reach him. Again, it has been 41 days without response thus far. Sen. Griffo then segues into a totally separate issue,
“…We always talk about, I think this is the most important thing is, are you going to be able to position yourself to take advantage of emerging technology and industries… So the point I’m making is this is a field where there is going to be opportunity and growth. I don’t know where that will lead us, so by that designation that we received with the federal government there was an opportunity. That’s what the NUAIR Alliance, which is a joint effort between the Central region and the Mohawk Valley region, the Syracuse area and the Rome area. So I’m hopefully this will lead into job opportunities and more industries. But there is still a lot to go. it’s still a fledgling type of effort right now… But I think we are positioning ourselves properly.”
This is not an answer to the question asked. It does not address the over $2 million that Sen. Griffo directly allocated from the NY State budget to NUAIR Alliance. It does not address the 6 jobs created, or the public claims of Sen. Griffo on the creation of between 468 – 2,600 jobs for New York State. While Sen. Griffo may not be aware of the exact letter, should he not be aware of “emerging technology” that will create “opportunity and growth” for New York State? That he publicly has taken credit for funding?
Since Sen. Griffo felt it unnecessary to respond on-air to the question of the job creation from the Griffiss International Airport Drone Testing Site, and WIBX radio personality Bill Keeler allowed him to avoid it, we felt it necessary to follow up ourselves. The following letter was sent on July 23, 2015, (37 days after our initial letter):
I am contacting you in reference to the interview you had with Bill Keeler on WIBX, July 20, 2015.
In your discussion, that I was made aware of and is now available on their site, you were asked a question about an on-going series of articles I have been writing for the Binghamton Political Buzz Examiner. Specifically the question by Mario, incorrectly referencing my name as “Joe Vasquez,” was in regard to my article on 6/16/15 and the letters sent to you, Sen. Charles Schumer, Rep. Richard Hanna, and Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi on that same day. The article in question is What about those jobs you promised? and can be found easily in a google search or the Examiner website.
Senator, it has been over 30 days since I sent the letter addressing your public claims (on Feb 28, 2014, September 14, 2014, and April 1, 2015) about the Drone Test Site in Rome, NY. I have yet to hear any response from you or your staff.
Further, in the interview, you never addressed the funds that you and Assemblyman Brindisi have allocated from the NYS budget to this venture and NUAIR Alliance, nor the claims you had publicly made about the jobs and revenue from the Drone Test Site. Based on FOIA of Federal and State agencies, as well as the City of Rome, investigation shows a total of 6 jobs created as of June 2015. I again request comment on this (and am again making that request of each politician cited in the article).
I again offer the opportunity to interview you on this matter, via video or phone, as well as stating that any response will be provided verbatim and in context in articles on this matter. A copy of the letter sent to you (and the other elected officials cited) on June 16, 2015, is available via the article and I can send a copy to you and your staff upon request.
Michael “Vass” Vasquez
President – M V Consulting, Inc
Writer – Binghamton Political Buzz Examiner.com”
As the official 1 year anniversary of the opening of the Drone Testing Site approaches, we will continue to request comment from Sen. Schumer, Rep. Hanna, State Sen. Griffo, and Assemblyman Brindisi on the promises they have publicly made, and the result of the use of taxpayer money.
** Written by Michael “Vass” Vasquez, originally at Binghamton Political Buzz Examiner.com **
The latest call for reform from the Obama Administration is now firmly focused on the US prison system. The promise on July 14, 2014, is that reform of the system will make citizens safer. But this call for reform begs a review of the status of past reforms and the effect they have had on the nation. Specifically there is the question of healthcare reform and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
In terms of the Affordable Care Act, the law was passed with several promises and goals. It was promised that those who wanted to keep their doctors and health care plans could do so. This was blatantly false as the law required millions of plans to cease to exist. Even as the President made promises to the nation, the Administration was vividly aware those promises could not legally be kept. The ACA also promised to be affordable. But the most recent predictions for 2016 indicate that affordable is a highly subjective term. Increases as high as 71% are being proposed, with large number of plans in States targeting increases of 10% – 30%.
Obamacare (as the ACA is also called) also promised to address the rampant fraud in healthcare, a key component of the rising cost. But recent congressional hearings reveal that some $17 billion in Medicaid fraud exists. This includes $14 million in payments, from just 4 States alone, made to 3,000 prison inmates and 200 individuals that are dead. In 2015 the Government Accountability Office (GAO) conducted a limited investigation of potential of fraud in Obamacare, resulting in a 92% success rate of their fictitious applications. Worse is the news from July 16, 2015, by Seto Bagdoyan, chief of GAO audits and investigations, that 100% of these false applications were re-enrolled in Obamacare. When action was finally taken on several of these frauds, 83% were able to be reinstated and received even bigger tax-payer funded subsidies. The reason for this was explained away with the statement by Mr. Bagdoyan as,
“The contractor personnel involved in the document-verification process are not trained as fraud experts and do not perform antifraud duties.”
Moving on to the VA, in 2014 the nation was shocked that at least 35 veterans died while waiting for treatment at VA facilities. As more was learned it was determined that some 120,000 veterans were hidden from official records as they waited more than 30 days for treatment, if they ever got it. President Obama promised reform, bringing in a new Secretary for the VA and changing the way the VA accounted for veteran wait lists. Veterans were also given the opportunity to seek out coverage via private health care plans.
After $10 billion in taxpayer funds were allocated to pay for the out-of-VA medical visits, in 2015 it was found that the wait times for veterans had increased by 50%. On July 14, 2015, the VA announced that they were $2.5 billion in the red. This will require furloughs, hiring freezes, and the closing of VA facilities to address the shortage in the budget unless additional funds are authorized by Congress. On the same day, it was quietly reported that 238,000 veterans died while waiting for medical treatment. Spokeswoman for the VA, Walinda West, claimed that the data may be decades old and inaccurate as veterans may have gotten treatment via private healthcare plans. Scott Davis, a program specialist at the VA’s Health Eligibility Center in Atlanta stated,
“VA wants you to believe, by virtue of people being able to get health care elsewhere, it’s not a big deal. But VA is turning away tens of thousands of veterans eligible for health care. VA is making it cumbersome, and then saying, ‘See? They didn’t want it anyway.’”
Thus the reforms the Obama Administration has taken on thus far have resulted in conditions that have both failed to meet the goals established by the Administration, and resulted in outcomes that are worse for hundreds of thousands if not millions of Americans. The lofty promises made to the American people have been ignored and proven false. Success via the reforms have not happened and arguable will never come in the future. All with billions in taxpayer funds being wasted in the attempt.
Given this record of failure and waste, how can the American people believe that the latest reforms being promised will result in any positive benefit to America?
** As previously written at Binghamton Political Buzz Examiner.com were Michael “Vass” Vasquez is a writer **
With the conclusion of extended negotiations on July 15,2015, President Obama has now presented Congress with the Iran nuclear deal. The controversy surrounding the deal has now reached a new level.
In Iran the deal was celebrated. Reports show that average citizens of that nation cheered the news, stating that whatever the terms of the deal, “we will be able to live normally like the rest of the world.” Indeed predictions are that the Iranian currency, the rial, will become stronger. Such an action will boost the Iranian stock market and improve the economy of the nation, a boon to the average citizenry that have long suffered from economic embargoes and sanctions. As part of the deal, sanctions will be lifted and US companies like Boeing are poised to step into the vacuum that has existed for years.
But as the people of Iran rejoice, the government of Iran has a different tone. Throughout the negotiations, that were initially expected to end on June 30, 2015 and continued into July, Iran has rejected every notion of restriction implied and in some cases stated by the US. Iran has fought against full access for nuclear inspectors. Iran has stood steadfast on continuing its nuclear ambitions. Iran has even disputed the timeframe and conditions of lifting sanctions and embargoes, even as the Obama Administration insisted on US airwaves that the timeframe and conditions were secure.
So what is actually in the deal? According to the NY Post and other sources, just about everything Iran wants. For the sake of creating a headline grabbing historic deal, the Obama Administration has forgone full access random inspections to inspections with a 24 day (that is days not hours) prior notice. Iran maintains thousands of heavy centrifuges used create nuclear material. The conventional weapons ban will disappear in 5 years, with a ban on ballistic missiles (used to deliver nuclear weapons as far as to the US itself) to follow 3 years later. Even more upsetting for some, roughly $150 billion in frozen and sanction restricted funds will be released, allowing use in programs ranging from helping the Iranian people to funding terrorist organizations around the world.
According to President Obama, this deal will,
“With this deal, we cut off every single one of Iran’s pathways to a nuclear program, a nuclear weapons program.”
That statement of assurance is not universally accepted. Internationally, especially in the Middle East, grave reservations exist. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu commented that,
“I think Iran has two paths to the bomb: One if they keep the deal, the other if they cheat on the deal… When Arabs and Israelis agree, it’s worth paying attention.”
Saudi Arabia has also, quietly, voiced its own concerns in an unofficial statement that the deal was a “monumental historical miscalculation.” Even France, who did agree to the final deal, just 3 days before the official deadline on June 27, 2015, noted its concerns citing that the deal include, “A lasting limitation of Iran’s research and development capacity, rigorous inspections of sites, including military if needed, and the automatic return of sanctions if Iran violates its commitments.” Terms that are not in the final deal, but France and Germany do get the benefits of renewed trade. This led to the statement by French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius stating that, as of July 15, 2015, the only concerns were commercial and not financial in the Iran deal.
Thus the politics of the nuclear deal with Iran remains as controversial as ever. In the Middle East it is causing unrest. In Europe, nations are backtracking earlier concerns in favor of financial gain. In the US, the battle of presidential hopefuls has taken on the international leg of the race. Hillary Clinton took a wavering position that ultimately says nothing about her opinion of the deal she helped to start in 2012, but anger Israel and some voters. Jeb Bush called the deal deeply flawed. Senator Marco Rubio predicted that once Congress rejects the deal it would be clear “…this is Barack Obama’s deal, not an agreement with lasting support from the United States.” Newcomer to the Republican race, Gov. Scott Walker cited that the deal ends the day President Obama ends his tenure. Senator Ted Cruz chose to focus on the thought of the Israeli Prime minister,
“We still have an opportunity to tell the truth about what [Israeli] Prime Minister Netanyahu called today a ‘bad mistake of historic proportion.’”
Lest anyone think that the decision on Iran’s nuclear ambitions rests with the popularity of whichever presidential candidate, the comments from both sides and in both Houses of Congress are stating the same thing. A summation of many of the comments might be best reflected in the words of Democrat Rep. Steve Israel of New York, who said,
“I go into this skeptical, I have been skeptical, and I am not going to make a final decision until that skepticism is fully relieved.”
At this point, with controversy still flaring and deep opposition awaiting, the historic moment that the Obama Administration has been struggling to achieve is still further down the road. Truly, history will be the ultimate judge of this effort. Either Iran will comply and vindicate the Obama Administration, or in a decade (maybe less) a nuclear Iran will cause even more strife in a Middle East. In a region which is always too turbulent, envisioning nuclear arms at the ready would mean far worse than a few paragraphs for President Obama in history books.
The 1st Amendment is a powerful Amendment that is a cornerstone of the freedoms of America. It protects thoughts. It enables discussions that in most nations of the world could not occur publicly without threat of violence or repercussion by government forces. Most importantly the 1st Amendment protects the language and thoughts and questions that we, and especially our government, does not like.
In an example, on July 16, 2015, I wrote a quick post of a personal though on Facebook. This message was removed from my Facebook feed – without notice to me, nor any indication of violation of Facebook terms. Assuming this was a technical error I reposted the comment, only to have Facebook remove it again within 1 minute of it posting. So that it can be clear, here is the exact post placed on Facebook the first time.
Since the news media won’t ask, I will.
In 2013, 2014, and 2015 (HR 7) Rep. Richard Hanna has stood firmly in support of abortion – against the will of his constituents in the NY-22 he himself has admitted. Recently H.R. 36: Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act was in front of the House of Representatives, and once again Rep. Richard Hanna voted in favor of abortion. Given the revelation that Planned Parenthood (that Rep. Hanna voted to fund via HR 7) may be making a profit by selling organs of fetuses, and/or may be taking unethical action in abortions to collect fetus body parts, how does Rep. Hanna stand?
Can Rep. Hanna continue to justify his votes in favor of abortion, against the will of his constituents, in the face of potentially unethical and/or illegal action by Planned parenthood? Should he not speak out to constituents and explain his stance?
This is word for word was was shared on Facebook. Once it was removed the following addition was made to the above post and placed on Facebook again.
** Note that FACEBOOK apparently pulled this from my feed without my permission. No notice was provided to me why. No notification was given that it was removed from my feed. Apparently Facebook, or perhaps someone that would prefer the public not be informed or ask questions, had it removed against my will. But in America we have the freedom to ask questions of our ELECTED officials, and I will continue to do so. Share this before Facebook, or that someone, has it removed again. The public should not be silenced when asking a question! **
So what is so dangerous about these posts? There is no offensive language. It addresses a serious and current news issue on the minds of millions of Americans. It asks a question of an elected politician, based on the votes he has made and are a matter of fact and record. It accuses no one of malicious action, and simply asks for a politician to explain his position that he has factually taken over several years.
Why shouldn’t the public see this post? Why shouldn’t the constituents of Rep. Richard Hanna ask where their politician stands on a controversial issue? Why shouldn’t the public know the voting record of an elected politician?
Perhaps these are the wrong questions. Perhaps the question should be who would want this removed? Who benefits from the public not seeing the facts or asking questions? Who would have the ability to have mere questions removed with speed and pinpoint accuracy?
The other thing that should be asked is why would Facebook promote this censorship? As a vehicle who business relies on expression of the 1st Amendment (with innumberable videos of fights, suggestive dances, police actions, natural disasters, and countless memes on every topic under the sun) why would Facebook bow to censorship? Who has the power to get that done?
Well no matter who it may be, I have the ability to place my voice to the public. I have been doing so for nearly a decade. I don’t need Facebook to reach the masses, and this article will be far easier to find in Google than on Facebook. I will NOT be silenced. Not for asking a question of my elected representative on an issue Rep. Hanna has voted on and is now in the news. Some may not like it, but that is why the 1st Amendment is there. To protect the questions some don’t like being asked.
If you agree, that a question asked of the public about the voting record of Rep. Richard Hanna, and his stance on a political issue, should be available to the public, please share this.
Michael “Vass” Vasquez
** Update – 7/17/15, 12:00am – After well more than an hour of active public feed updates and active comments, it seems that the powers that be rescinded their actions. The posts are now back up on Facebook. Which does not excuse nor deny the censorship that occurred. Just because I have the ability to fight back, and actively did so, does not mean everyone does or that it makes what happened alright. We have a right to free speech, and Facebook has a business model based on feeding that right. Yes they can remove my posts – with comment if it violates their terms (which it did not) as I am a consumer of their product. But vigilance has its own reward and the public has a right to ask questions unhindered by anyone. **
On July 10, 2015, Giovanni Scaringi sat down with Michael “Vass” Vasquez for an interview about running for the Binghamton City Council, representing the 1st District. This exclusive interview covered the motivation to run, what is Mr. Scaringi’s plans for, and focus, if elected. Mr. Scaringi announced his run for the City Council on June 24, 2015.
The interview (which is available on Youtube, without edit of content) took place at the Binghamton 1st Ward Park, at noon. Mr. Scaringi, who is a first time candidate, arrived by himself and openly discussed his background and the issues recently facing both the City Council and Binghamton, NY. He addressed the doubling of property taxes for homeowners, the need for jobs, his views on the recent casino bid fiasco, as well as his motivations.
“…the level of government that affects you the most is the closest. For us that would obviously be city government, Mayor’s office, City Council, things of that nature… I think a lot of people in the City of Binghamton feel disassociated and disattached…” – Giovanni Scaringi
Giovanni Scaringi is currently a professor of Economics at Broome Community College. His is also actively working on his doctorate at Binghamton University. He is the first generation son of Italian parents, living the American dream as he states, as a Republican and now as a candidate for the City Council. He is facing the incumbent Jerry Motsavage.
In the interview, Mr. Scaringi was asked about the recent Southern Tier Star Casino bid, presented to the City Council on June 30, 2015 and rescinded on July 5, 2015. The vote in favor of the proposed casino was a 6-0 vote in favor (Jerry Motsavage was part of that unanimous vote). Mr. Scaringi noted his concerns about how the proposed deal was made, and how he would have voted,
“I would have voted no… I have 2 main concerns. The first one is while a casino can potentially bring in a number of full-time jobs,.. How many people in the City of Binghamton is that going to employ?.. Number two… with no preliminary agreement shown to the Council in terms of how much actual tax revenue is going to be kept here in Binghamton…It makes me question what betterment to the community that brings?”
In addition to addressing the recent controversy, Mr. Scaringi shared how his academic background, in political science and economics, is a boon to the City Council position he is seeking. Equally important is his ability to communicate with peers that do not share his political views. Academia is known for its generally liberal-leaning views, though Mr. Scaringi noted the lack of conflict he has encountered as well as the less publicly known number of Conservatives in the academic world.
Mr. Scaringi was also not shy about his views to improve the unemployment issue facing Binghamton, NY. Emphasizing the hub location of Binghamton, and the opportunity for space to develop and grow, he noted that he has already called for action,
“One of the things I actually called for was the push to take these dead buildings, have the city re-zone them and bring companies in… I believe that City Council can act as an additional component to the Mayor’s office.. to seek out companies and draw them in… That’s what we need here in Binghamton. We need a new set of fresh eyes and a new way to look at this.”
** We have previously contacted the Democrat Party of Binghamton, NY and offered to interview any and all candidates running for election. That offer was also been made to the Republican Party. At this time there has been no response from Democrats or Jerry Motsavage. **
** Originally written by Michael “Vass” Vasquez at Binghamton Political Buzz Examiner.com **
Hillary Clinton is special. For two decades she has been one of a few high profile politicians that has remained in the public eye consistently. In addition, she is arguably the highest profile female politician throughout that time as well. But for all the pomp of her status, Hillary Clinton has a public relations issue, as brought up in her interview with CNN on July 7, 2015.
Hillary Clinton has been the First Lady, a Senator, a presidential candidate (now for the 2nd time), and Secretary of State. It would be an astounding political record for anyone, yet was not enough in 2008 to gain the Democrat ticket for the Presidency. Some speculate that it will also not be enough for 2016. For all of the achievements surrounding Clinton, two vital elements are glaringly missing. Success and trust.
As First Lady, Hillary attempted, and failed, to launch a health care reform in the 1990′s. As Senator for New York State, Hillary sponsored 417 Bills - but only succeeded in having 3 Bills pass. They were the naming of a post office, a historic site, and part of a highway. The 2008 bid for president fell to the charisma and potential of Barack Obama. Her time as Secretary of State has left supporters, and herself, without the ability to name a single achievement while she held the office.
Hillary Clinton has been surrounded by politics but is not seen as leading on any issue. Perhaps the most significant thing that can be said of her time in the political spotlight is the fact that no scandal has yet to take her down. There has been a constant and high-profile trail of scandals connected to her. While Clinton has brushed this off as media hype, hype alone cannot account for every instance for 2 decades.
There was the Whitewater scandal for her and her husband, and the Presidential pardon that went with it. The fiasco of Monica Lewinski. The claims of carpetbagging to become a NY Senator. The Clinton Foundation’s lack of charitable spending and questionable donations. The numerous questions surrounding her contribution bundlers (yes plural). Sniper attacks with invisible bullets on clear sunny days. Even the on-going revelations about her selective disclosure of emails in violation of the very State Department regulations she enforced on other employees. Of course there was the Benghazi Consulate attack and the infamous quote,
“What difference does it make?”
As bad as this very small list of scandals may be, it does not include the misstatements Hillary Clinton has made for years. Put another way, Hillary Clinton is infamous for flip-flopping as the political winds shift. She was in favor of traditional marriage, until it was no longer popular. She was in favor of sanctuary cities, until the current controversy. She is, in her current campaign incarnation, a champion of the Middle Class, but funded by Wall Street and corporations since the 1980′s. She endured poverty, as she and former President Bill Clinton bought multiple million dollar homes, and garnered speaking fees that had six digit price tags and millions in royalties.
Given all of this, when CNN’s Brianna Keilar asked if Hillary herself held any responsibility in the public’s lack of trust in her, Clinton deflected the answer,
“…at the end of the day, I think voters sort it all out. I have great confidence, I trust the American voter 100%.”
The follow up by Keilar may be the most important point in the Democrat race for 2016, asking if Hillary would vote for someone she does not trust. Clinton replied, with seeming incredulity,
“People should, and do, trust me.”
Yet a recent Quinnipiac poll of pivotal States Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, show a majority of voters don’t trust Hillary Clinton. By wide margins over those that do. Which matches a far broader poll by Wall Street Journal/NBC News in 2014 that showed 40% of respondents did not feel Clinton was “Honest and straightforward.” In 2008, the same question showed a result of 43% that did not trust Clinton. Even the NY Times, in a 2007 poll, showed that 38% of those polled were unfavorable to Hillary Clinton, with 20% of men and 21% of women noting it was due to a lack of trust (the poll did not ask those favorable of Clinton if they trusted her).
Given all of this, Hillary Clinton is once again at the top of the list of candidates for Democrat nomination. Even if this time she wins the nomination, serious questions remain about if she can win the presidency itself. In the end, it’s up to voters to “sort it out,” and if so success and trust may be the critical factors in that race.
** Originally written by Michael “Vass” Vasquez at Binghamton Political Buzz Examiner.com **
In 2008 President Obama campaigned on immigration reform. A mere 4 years later that reform came in the form of an Executive Order, followed in 2014 with an expansion of the Executive Order. The focus of President Obama and Democrats are the estimated 12 – 20 million illegal aliens in the nation, and providing this potential voting pool with a path to citizenship. The overwhelming majority of these illegal aliens are Hispanic in origin. But the United States is not without citizens that are Hispanic, and with a long history in the nation.
Puerto Rico is a commonwealth of the United States. The rights to Puerto Rico were won as part of the Treaty of Paris in 1898, as a result of the Spanish – American War. In 1917, under the Jones-Shafroth Act, Puerto Rican citizens became American citizens. In 1936 the first formal protest to seek independence from America took place. In 1952, Puerto Rico officially became a Commonwealth of the US. Since that time there have been 4 non-binding votes to determine if Puerto Rico would become a State, an independent nation, or remain a Commonwealth. In 2014, for the first time, 54% of Puerto Ricans favored Statehood, but only an act of Congress would make this a reality. There are some 9 million Puerto Ricans, with about half living in the United States.
This brings us to the current day. In February 2014, Bill S. 2020 (to address Puerto Rico as a State) died in the Senate with only 2 Democrats supporting the Bill. HR 2000, introduced to the House of Representatives in May 2014, died in the House – it had 119 Democrats and 12 Republicans supporting it. H.R.727 was submitted February 2, 2015, with the support of 95 Democrats and 14 Republicans, also seeks to allow Puerto Rico to become a State. At this time the Bill has a 10% chance of passage as rated by Govtrack.us.
One of the major hurdles for Statehood has been debt. Since July 2014 Puerto Rico has been trying to address rampant debt. To do so requires congressional action, which has not happened. HR 5305, submitted July 2014, died without the support of a single member of Congress. Without action by the Congress, and restricted by law from taking action itself, Puerto Rican Governor Alejandro García Padilla announced on June 28, 2015 that the debt of the Commonwealth was “unpayable.”
The White House, as recently as July 6, 2015, has said via Press Secretary Josh Earnest,
“We haven’t seen specific legislation, so we’re not ready to commit to it at this point.”
What constitutes “specific legislation” for the Obama Administration is unclear. Four separate Bills in 2 years from both Houses of Congress apparently is not enough. A direct plea for action from Rep. Nydia Velazquez of NY and pending legislation from Democrat Senators Charles Schumer and Richard Blumenthal equally seems inadequate. The item of note though is the disconnect from the Obama Administration.
On the one hand, President Obama has promised and unilaterally acted to affect the lives of millions of illegal immigrants. Democrats are actively and publicly seeking the support of Hispanic voters. There has been no lack of modesty among Democrats about the numbers of Hispanic voters they wooed in 2008 and 2012.
But when it comes to the Hispanic voters who are already American citizens, and have actively announced their intention to become a State, there has been silence. When seeking to correct loopholes in law that have constrained the ability of Puerto Rico to fiscally address issues, the Obama Administration has been vacant. Effectively 21% (with a potential to become 32%) of the total Hispanic voters have been discarded in the rush to grab hold of an new potential group of voters.
It should be noted that of the 2016 Presidential candidates, Senator Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, Jeb Bush (who also supports Statehood), and former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley have all stated they support correcting the law to allow Puerto Rico to address its fiscal responsibility. Candidates Senators Ted Cruz, Lindsey Graham, Rand Paul, and Marco Rubio each stated via their campaigns that they are continuing to research and review the situation on the financial restrictions. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal opposes action on the legal loophole. Still regardless as the developing stances on the issue, none of the candidates have the ability to take action, nor make the same kind of impact in presenting the issue to the nation, as President Obama.
In summary though it appears that President Obama, and the Democrat Party to varying degree, seem to have two separate opinions on the Hispanic community (while Republicans are generally less than definitive on their position). For those illegal immigrants that are a potential new pool of voters, action at all costs has been very public and demonstrative. For those, specifically Puerto Ricans, who are already American citizens the attention and vocal support has been more akin to that of African Americans - leaving many wanting.