The Biggest Idea American’s Should Understand Before Election Day

Raleigh, NC—A friend of mine told me that he thought the reason politicians, in general, can’t get anything done is because once they’re elected the real movers and shakers in Congress sit them down and tell them the political facts of life.

To some extent, I agree with that.  I’m not a conspiracy theorist in thinking that there are groups of people who control the world.  But, I do think once politicians are elected, they are sat down and told how much all of their good ideas are worth in DC.

In fact, I know that to be the case.  A week after this November election, new members of Congress will be traveling to DC for a long, grueling and in depth orientation session. 

So, there is some validity that Americans are told things that aren’t necessarily true.  And, voters are told those things by people who either know or should know that the information they’re pumping out is misleading.

Here’s one of the biggest misconceptions I think you need to know before you vote in November.  The federal debt.

Most people believe that the federal government uses our taxpayer hard earned money to pay for things.  We’re somewhat taught that idea in accounting classes, by some economic people and even in the media.  Hell, we have politicians that tell us that all the time.  They pander that concept to win votes.

But, in a nutshell, that really isn’t true because the federal government makes it’s own money literally out of thin air.

There’s a difference between money we have in the bank (as private citizens) and money the government has available as a sovereign nation.

A sovereign nation creates it’s own money (as much as it wants and needs) at any given time.  It makes laws that only it can create and print money.   Then the government turns around and spends the money it creates. 

The only reason government money is worth anything at all is because once we get money that the government spends, a certain amount of that money comes back to them in the form of tax payments.  If we weren’t required to pay tax, the dollar bill would have a much different appeal.

Before you get the “deer in headlights” look, all I’m trying to get across is that government debt is not a bad thing and that the federal deficit isn’t as big of a deal as some politicians will have you believe.

When you wrap your head around that concept — do some research into MMT (Modern Monetary Theory).  And, when you see how it works in real life—your idea of how the government should spend money will change.

That new knowledge will undoubtedly influence your thinking process in who the best political candidates are.

But, also keep in mind the spending “thing” only works for the federal government—state governments can’t make their own money, just like you can’t make your own dollar bills.

I’m not just throwing the MMT concept out there.  I’ve actually talked to economists at various think tanks (most had their own agenda), politicians and eggheads in the pubic sector.  MMT is something you should know and something you’d be wise to wrap your head around. 

North Carolina’s Political Full Court Press. Hagan, Tillis, Bernie Sanders and MMT

7Greenville, NC—I said in a congressional campaign strategy meeting a few months ago that politics in North Carolina is a contact sport.  And, I believe that.

But, it’s not just in NC, it’s all over the country.  If political campaigns are managed right, it should be a full court press.  The voters deserve to have their candidates challenged and held to a higher standard.

Jefferson once said that if Americans are given all the facts, they can never make a wrong decision.  The problem is that there are many self interest groups out there in medialand spending a lot of money to distort those facts..

Yesterday, a friend told me she was not going to watch the debate because all politicians will tell you anything they think you want to hear just so they can get elected.

To some extent, I agree.  But, it’s a little more complicated than that. 

Here’s a few things to consider before you watch the first debate between Kay Hagan and Speaker Thom Tillis

Several months ago, Paul Ryan was  asked, by an MMTer, (Modern Monetary Theory advocate)  why his budget tried to bring down the national debt at a rate that would significantly hurt the economy.  His answer was that people want to see the deficit come down.

But, here’s the problem: money doesn’t work like that anymore

3I’m certainly not in a position to school anyone on MMT (Modern Monetary Theory) but I do have conversations with people who know more theory than I: Mike Wright, Bruce Patrick and international monetary theorist Warren Mosler.  Mosler, by the way, is a former hedge fund manager—one of the most successful in the business. 

In a nutshell, since the Nixon administration, America has operated on a fiat currency—we’re not tied to a gold standard anymore.  That is a game changer.4

Taxes need to be low (and I would argue corporations should not be taxed at all).  And, although taxes serve about four absolute purposes, the key is that taxation, in and of itself, creates unemployment. 

But, here’s the rub: on the flip side, if corporations don’t pay tax then they need to reinvest that money into American jobs.  Why?  Because mv=pq.

The QTM starts with the identity MV ≡ PQ, where M = the money supply, V = the velocity of money, P = the price level, and Q = the quantity of output (Fisher’s version is broader and includes all transactions: T)     http://neweconomicperspectives.org/2011/07/two-theories-of-prices.html

The key here is “V”, the velocity of money.  The current one percent pay less tax than at any time in our taxation history.  But, they haven’t reinvested that cash into jobs, they have banked their savings, albeit in sometimes creative ways like offshore accounts. 

So, the final answer is this: if corporations want to not pay tax on sales and profits, they must be required to create jobs with that money.

Here’s some proof: remember that $300 tax incentive check you got from the government all those years ago?  Well, that economic stimulus was suppose to have created job growth through spending.  It didn’t quite do that as planned because many people paid off credit cards or banked the cash in saving accounts. 

Arguably, spending equates to job growth and banking your cash does not. 

Politically, the tea party and Republicans are right on tax.  Taxation does, indeed, hurt the economy.  Where they fail is by not legislating the one percent and corporations into spending their tax savings on job growth.

Now, before you ask me to turn-in my “tree hugging liberal Democrat” card, let me explain a little further.

A week or so ago, I had the pleasure to talk face-to-face with Sen. 2Bernie Sanders (I-Vt). Although Sanders isn’t an “official” MMTer, he does advocate federal spending on social programs. 

Many may think Sen. Sanders—a self reported socialist democrat—goes overboard on some spending issues, but I would argue that he does understand the need of the federal government to intervene with a monetary fiscal policy that creates a safety net for the least among us.

A safety net in housing,  the power to adequately feed the hungry, the medical care of our people and the ability to provide an exceptional education for our children should not be a problem for the richest and greatest country on earth if it’s approached logically.

That logical approach is founded in the understanding that government must spend and, in fact, deficit spending is needed to sustain and grow our economy.

Especially, since the United States can create out of thin air the money it needs for literally anything it might require or want.  Like it or not, Americans live on a fiat currency. 

6As former Fed Chairs Alan Greenspan and Ben Bernake  both said on many occasions, “the United States has the ability to pay any debt, at any time.”  Or, to create money at any point it sees fit.

If any MMTers read this, they will probably be outraged at my simplification of this monetary theory.  And, they should be angry, I’ve left out a lot of information and most all the important formulas.  I’ve also left out the Fed and their ability to create money. 

But, I’m addressing the theory here because it’s important to understand the difference between Sen. Kay Hagan and NC House Speaker Thom Tillis.

5Kay Hagan is a moderate.  She’s proven herself as a middle of the road, logical Democrat—who has looked for compromise between two extremes

Thom Tillis is much like Paul Ryan. Both know that the extremist far right positions on taxation and debt are contrary to real fiscal responsibility and overall will lead to our social, political and financial destruction if their policies are left intact.   Yes, the stakes are that high.  But, it seems Tillis is more concerned with his ability to fund his campaigns with special interest money.  Money he can only get if he proposes and adheres to the ultraconservative special interest ideology. 

It’s much better to have a moderate in Congress than to have 1extremists willing to shutdown the United States Government when they don’t get their way. 

Look into MMT, especially taxation and deficit spending.  Then, look into Kay Hagan’s voting record and ideology.  No politician is perfect, but Hagan’s moderate approach is closer to the truth than Tillis.

Setting Straight The Minimum Wage Debate (at least in eastern North Carolina)—Marshall Adame (D) v. Walter B. Jones, Jr. (R)

Forget the (R) and (D) after the name.  It’s what they believe that counts in eastern North Carolina.

Greenville, NC—I can’t speak for everyone else but I can attest to Marshall Adame supports a higher minimum wage for eastern North Carolinathe fact that in eastern North Carolina we have a lot of chain stores in our communities.

In and of itself, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.  But, consider this: chain stores suck money out of the local economies by funneling profit back to the corporations so they can build more stores and make more money.

This creates a negative cash flow in local communities that makes it harder to sustain local economic growth.

Congress will get their cost of living increase to the tune of $2800 on January 1, 2015. 

Recently, 41 Senators (Republican) blocked a bill to increase the minimum wage.

In eastern North Carolina, Walter B. Jones, Jr.—a 20 year Walter B. Jones, Jr. incumbent, opposes a minimum wage increase.  Marshall Adame (D) running against Jones supports a federal minimum wage increase

Marshall AdameIf you live in eastern North Carolina and if your wage is the only way you have to pay your bills and get ahead in life; then it’s to your interest to vote for Marshall Adame for Congress.

Adame believes in term limits.  Most people in eastern North Carolina would agree that Congress shouldn’t be made into a career, let alone handed down from father to son like a family business.

Adame supports Israel and Israel’s right to defend itself.  Walter Jones flip-flops depending on who he’s talking with.  Jones has found favor with an anti-Israeli group.

Adame believes in sanctions against Iran and believes Iran should NOT become a nuclear power.  Jones voted against Iranian sanctions.

Adame, a born-again Christian who believes government should stay out of the Church—even if that means the Church must stay out of government. 

Adame believes in the 2nd Amendment.  He believes in the protection of that Amendment.  Adame is a retired Marine and United States Diplomatic appointee by the Bush Administration.  He served the Bush Administration under Condoleezza Rice

Adame has an economic plan to create small business incubators funded with venture capital throughout eastern North Carolina. 

It’s time to vote for someone who’s more worried about the 3rd district of North Carolina than he is about getting reelected two years from now. 

Marshall Adame Video

Marshall Adame has a NEW VISION for eastern North Carolina. 

click below to watch a short video of the history of the minimum wage.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tQE0ldkiKo0

Adam O’Neal, Mayor of Belhaven, NC is walking to save his town.

Follow Adam O’Neal on twitter @mayoroneal
What you can do to help.  Mayor O’Neal and others are volunteers in the campaign to save Pungo Hospital.  Walking to D.C. is expensive.  If you can, please consider donating a few dollars to help cover meals, food, water and lodging.
Donate: http://www.saveourhospital.org/walk

https://www.facebook.com/savepungo

Plymouth, NC—Most people live within 20 minutes of an acute medical facility.  And, up until a few weeks ago, Adam O’Neal was did also.  But, on July 1, 2014 that changed for him and for 20,000 other residents in the Belhaven surrounding area.

Mayor Adam O’Neal, “there’s a lot of politics here.  Vidant gives a lot of money to campaigns.”

4Vidant Healthcare Systems, in Greenville, NC, closed the Pungo Hospital in violation of a mediation agreement signed only a few months earlier.

Before the closure, O’Neal pleaded with lawmakers to keep the hospital open.  He feared someone would die otherwise.  Still, his pleas fell on deaf ears.

Mayor O’Neal teamed up with NC NAACP President, Rev. Dr. William Barber, and together they launched a media campaign to save the hospital.

It failed.  On July 1, 2014—the hospital closed it’s doors with a sign saying, “if you seek emergency care, call 911.”

O’Neal and his town lost the only acute care hospital facility within a 75 mile area. 

Not long after the hospital closed, the town’s worst fears became true.  A 48 year old woman who suffered a heart attack died because she was too far away from the nearest emergency medical facility.

Dr. Howard Dean, former Vermont governor and presidential candidate said on MSNBC that in all likelihood, the woman would have probably survived had she been closer to emergency medical care.

 

7

Pictured left to right: Mayor of Plymouth, NC Brian Roth, standing on right Rev. Barber sitting right is Mayor O’Neal

Mayor Adam O’Neal is now walking to Washington, D.C. in an effort to speak with federal officials hoping his town’s hospital can open again.

Joined by legendary civil rights leaders such as Bob Zillner and Dr. William Barber, who organized the Moral Monday rallies protesting Republican legislation in North Carolina, the team hopes to get enough local support and media attention to force government officials to help.

According to O’Neal, over 30 percent of the population he serves lives in poverty.  They do not have the financial means to drive well over an hour one way for their medical care.

I caught up with Mayor O’Neal in Plymouth, NC—about 40 miles outside of Belhaven which was the location of the Vidant Pungo Hospital.

I was able to quickly ask him and Rev. Dr. William Barber some questions during a lunch press conference just before the afternoon walk began.

As much as some lawmakers refuse to respond a few politicians are taking notice.

Marshall Adame is the Democratic candidate for the United States 6House of Representatives in the 3rd district of North Carolina.  He was on the telephone with Mayor O’Neal asking what he could do to help.

Adame is running against Republican incumbent, Walter B. Jones.  Jones has been in the House for twenty years.

Adame had these remarks to say:

5“Today Adam O’Neal, the mayor of Belhaven, NC is bringing to light the recent closing of Vidant Pungo Hospital that served over 20,000 people in the rural communities of Eastern North Carolina. This means that people in those communities will have to travel over 84 miles to receive critical care.
This is not an issue just in this area but in many rural areas throughout our Third Congressional District. The economic challenges has brought on serious life and death consequences in our district. I believe in healthcare for everyone no matter where they live or what tax bracket they may fall under.
What is sad is that Mayor O’Neal has to walk to Washington, D.C. just to ask for help. Where is Congressman Jones? Well that is a great question because if he was here the mayor of Belhaven would not have to walk to D.C. to address this serious issue. This is no longer a political situation – this is a life or death situation that reaches far beyond Belhaven. It reaches you and me, too. If Congressman Jones will not stand up for Pungo Hospital and the people of our rural district, what else will he not stand up for?
I stand today with Mayor Adam O’Neal and the citizens of Beaufort and Hyde Counties in the fight to bring quality, accessible healthcare to rural Eastern North Carolina.”

Video below: Mayor Adam O’Neal and famed civil rights leader, Bob Zellner walking in the rain to Washington, D. C. 

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One Woman Is Dead—Yet Our NC 3rd District Congressman Remains Silent

1The mayor of Belhaven, NC is walking to Washington DC because DC won’t pick up a phone! 

For over a year Mayor Adam O’Neal has reached out to anyone wanting to help save Pungo hospital.  Because he knew that if this hospital closed, people would die.  And, recently that prediction came true: a 48 year old woman died because she could not get emergency care in time.

The Pungo hospital is the only hospital within a 75 mile radius.  Mayor O’Neal reached out to Republicans, Democrats, the news media, activist groups and generally anyone willing to answer the call to help.

Of all the people O’Neal asked to help save this hospital, I would 2have thought the congressman from the 3rd Congressional district: Walter B. Jones would have come to the rescue.  Well, he did NOT.

Walter Jones, a 20 year career politician, has remained silent on the closure of this hospital.  He has not given any support to the residents  in the area and to my knowledge hasn’t even acknowledged that there is a problem.

Walter Jones, who likes to campaign on “I’m not a rank and file politician” refused to address the most non-partisan issue in his district. 

Others have addressed it.  Others like Rev. Dr. William Barber who came down to offer support in keeping the hospital open. 

Others, like Democratic congressional candidate Marshall Adame,  Who has said repeatedly that we should put this hospital and our citizens before profit margins.

If Walter Jones won’t stand up and support the citizens in our smaller regions of the 3rd district, then why should we support him come election day. 

We should give Walter exactly what he gave us: NOTHING.  I’m not going to tell you who you should vote for because you already know this is a life or death issue in eastern North Carolina.  You already know what to do. 

Moral Monday—Why They Do What They Do

Raleigh, NC—Instead of listening to a bunch of political consultants tell me what Moral Monday is suppose to mean, I decided to attend every protest during the “short session” of the North Carolina General Assembly.  Yep, every single Moral Monday.

Armed with a HD camcorder, a smartphone, a tape recorder and a ragged notebook (with a bag of Sharpie’s), I asked a total of 118 protesters one question: why are you here today?  Some of their answers amazed me.  A few of their stories left me in tears.  But, all of the people I spoke with put a smile on my face and a feeling of hopefulness knowing that there are an awful lot of good people left in this world. 

At the end of every Moral Monday rally, protesters would follow Rev. Dr. William Barber into the Legislative Building (if the doors were unlocked).  If you were one of those protesters who went into the General Assembly you probably saw my face from time to time.  I was the short, dumpy, white guy who shadowed Dr. Barber from the front door to the third floor—and everywhere else in between. 

Here are some of the totals:

I talked to a total of 118 people asking them one or more questions.  Over 8 hours of HD raw footage, almost 4 hours of audio and 617 pictures.

3I learned that, at the end of the day, we all want pretty much the same things.  We want to be able to put a roof over our heads, provide for our families, raise our kids, live in safety and take care of our health.

Why They Protest:

From all corners of North Carolina, people come together because they feel this GOP led General Assembly doesn’t care about them. 

“If I was a corporation, I’d get to the front of the line,” said one protester at a Moral Monday rally in June.  “But, I’m not a corporation, I’m just one person.  And, to them I don’t count.” 

Rev. Dr. William Barber, II said it this way toward the end of the summer “short” session of the NCGA, “This is not a game, these people aren’t getting arrested for fun.” 

Arrests:

Rubie Harris, from Greenville, was one of the Tillis 15: a group of protesters who staged a sit-in in House Speaker Thom Tillis’ office.  I spoke with Rubie over a two week period and like many at Moral Mondays, she has a tragic story to tell.

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=1428729594057557&l=155479727050393872

The conservative response to arrests:

Some conservatives have argued that the arrests have taken away from the Moral Monday movement and has not added to it.  They say it’s ridiculous to face criminal charges when you’re not getting anything accomplished because GOP leaders aren’t going to meet with them or change their ideology.

Arrested protesters disagree.  Many protesters have said that elected Democrats don’t have the votes to stop the NC GOP from doing anything, right now.  The think their only recourse is to get media attention by staging sit-ins and protests risking arrests.  The added media attention slows down the GOP process and puts pressure on them to curb some of their hurtful agenda.

That “hurtful” agenda includes issues like a lack of Medicaid expansion where over 400,000 poor in NC still don’t qualify for health insurance, low teacher pay less than the national average, fracking and making it a criminal offense to disclose the chemicals used in the fracking process, repeal of the racial justice act and voter suppression such as the voter ID law that goes into effect 2016. 

As Rubie Harris told me, “if it can happen to me, it can happen to anybody—including them and their family.”

Hypocrisy v. Democracy

Protesters claim that it’s hypocritical to pass legislation that hurts the poor, the elderly and the disadvantaged.  “We believe in tax cuts, but tax cuts for the poor, the old and for communities that need it—not for corporations and people like Art Pope who just want more”—said Rev. Barber at a Moral Monday rally.

Protesters site the fact that corporations and the wealthy in NC now have more tax breaks while the NCGOP has systematically passed legislation increasing the taxes of 80% of the North Carolina working class.

A good “take away” on what this movement is trying to fight is evident in one of the last raw footage clips I took.  “This is what democracy looks like.”