Saturday, August 18, 2012
Political Payoff
The latest rap against Mitt Romney is that he comes from “an over privileged background,” which somehow means that he is not qualified to be President of the United States.
I would like to know just why that should disqualify anyone from public service. Think about the implications of the idea that a person who comes from a family that is wealthy is automatically unqualified to hold the highest office in the land.
If that were the case, why weren’t John F. Kennedy and his younger brother, Ted, both automatically disqualified?
Senator John Kerry did not have wealthy parents, but he married into money when he married Heinz Catsup heiress, who had a fortune that has been estimated at around $300 million.
In fact, our political leaders are among the privileged in our society. It’s been pretty well documented that Congress and many of the state legislatures are among the best places to go to work to become a millionaire. On the surface, it seems like a disconnect between the capitalistic system in America, where self-reliance and risk-taking are paramount over the safety and security of a government job.
However, the evidence clearly demonstrates otherwise.
The headline of a November 6, 2009 article by Erika Lovely notes, “47% of Congress Members Millionaires — a Status Shared by Only 1% of Americans”
The Center for Responsive Politics has crunched the numbers and released the results on its Open Secrets blog: About 47 percent of Congress, or 249 current members are millionaires…In 2010, the estimated median net worth of a current U.S. senator stood at an average of $2.56 million,” according to the Center’s research.”

Despite the global economic meltdown in 2008 and the sluggish recovery that followed, that’s up about 7.6 percent from an estimated median net worth of $2.38 million in 2009and up 13 percent from a median net worth of $2.27million in 2008. … Fully 36 Senate Democrats, and 30 Senate Republicans reported an average net worth in excess of $1 million in 2010. The same was true for 110 House Republicans and 73 House Democrats.”

The vast majority of members of Congress are quite comfortable, financially, while many of their own constituents suffer from economic hardships,” said Sheila Krumholz at the Center For Responsive Politics.Few Americans enjoy the same financial cushions maintained by most members of Congress — or the same access to market-altering information that could yield personal, financial gains.”

The Center for Responsive Politics issued a report that describes the wealth of members of Congress:
“Among the highlights: Two-hundred-and-thirty-seven members of Congress are millionaires. That’s 44 percent of the body – compared to about 1 percent of Americans overall.”
“CRP says California Republican Rep. Darrell Issa is the richest lawmaker on Capitol Hill, with a net worth estimated at about $251 million. Next in line: Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.), worth about $244.7 million; Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.), worth about $214.5 million; Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), worth about $209.7 million; and Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), worth about $208.8 million…at least seven lawmakers have net worths greater than $100 million, according to the Center’s 2008 figures.”
 “Some lawmakers have profited from investments in companies that have received federal bailouts; dozens of lawmakers are invested in Wells Fargo, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs and Bank of America.”
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s net worth has been estimated at $21 million. President Barack Obama is the sixth-wealthiest, worth about an estimated $4 million.
One caveat on those numbers: Federal financial disclosure laws don’t require members to list the value of their personal residences. That information could alter the net worth picture for many lawmakers.
 “A number of lawmakers are estimated to have suffered double-digit percentage losses in their net worth from 2007 to 2008. The biggest losers include Kerry, who lost a whopping $127.4 million; Warner lost about $28.1 million; Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) lost about $11.8 million; and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) lost about $10.1 million.”
© 2012 Harris R. Sherline, All Rights Reserved
If you enjoy these commentaries, please help my readership grow by passing them around. If someone sent this to you, and you would like to receive it directly, please email me at hrs100@verizon.net.
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Saturday, August 18, 2012
Who’s Prejudiced?
Demonstrating once again that discrimination continues to be a hot political issue, California legislators passed a bipartisan resolution to "express regret for past discriminatory laws and constitutional provisions."
The Sacramento Bee noted that this isn't mere symbolism, that the debate itself has been valuable: “The reality is that California and the nation are embroiled in heated discussions about immigration – but they can learn from Chinese immigrant experience. We need to understand it, confront it and not fall into the same traps that ensnared earlier generations of Californians.”
For a century, California enshrined anti-Chinese sentiment in law. Even The Sacramento Bee promoted that disgraceful agenda.
So why not just let history go and move on?
Americans seem to have a penchant for self-flagellation over matters involving race, continually pointing out that various groups have suffered discrimination, each in their turn, blacks, Mexicans, Jews, Catholics, Christians, Asians, Poles, Czechs, gays, the handicapped (physically challenged) - and passing legislation that’s intended to level the playing field for everyone. 
Unfortunately that will never happen, because legislation is not the answer to eliminating prejudice. Passing laws against discrimination may provide some relief for some individuals or groups but it does not change hearts and minds, and that’s where the problem exists, in the hearts and minds of the beholders.
In 2009, Congress attempted to legislate prejudice out of existence with the Hate Crimes bill. However, I believe that such laws are counterproductive. What they actually accomplish is to drive people underground, creating a sort of pressure cooker situation that eventually explodes..
History is replete with examples of prejudice, repression and persecution of individuals, groups or entire societies. It’s an ugly story and makes one wonder at the cruelty and inhumanity of mankind. Groups that have experienced persecution by others include, among others: The Armenians, The Spanish Inquisition, Christians, Buddhists, Jews, Native Americans, Tibetans, Armenians, Gypsies, Irish, Poles, Italians, Blacks, and Mongolians, among others.
No one is exempt. Throughout history, just about every group of any denomination or ethnic background has experienced prejudice and/or persecution.
One of the problems in America is that many individuals and groups have made race the central theme of their politics.  
Deneen Borelli of the national black leadership network Project 21 made the following observations about race: "There they go again. Now Jimmy Carter has joined House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charlie Rangel, Texas Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson, New York Governor David Paterson, MSNBC's Chris Matthews, the New York Times' Maureen Dowd and others on the left in claiming racism is behind criticism of President Obama's big-spending policies…President Obama was not elected only with black votes. Are those who cry 'racism' saying the American people suddenly woke up and said, 'oh, he's black so I don't like him anymore'? That makes no sense. The criticism of Obama's policies is about the policies -- the stimulus, the growth of government, cap-and-trade, the health care bills, the overspending…

It's damaging because when everything is racist, then nothing is. Those who cry racism without evidence will cause people to tune out in cases in which there is evidence… Prejudice also exists within specific ethnic groups and may be based on a wide range of differences that cover the complete spectrum of characteristics: physical, intellectual, regional customs, etc.”
Racism generally seems to be in the eye of the beholder. When people are accused of being racist, they invariably hotly deny it. After all, who really thinks they are racist? But, what about the accuser? They are often racist themselves and use the charge against others to intimidate, usually for political purposes or to gain some advantage. Two prime examples who come to mind are Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, but there are countless others - in every society.
Entire cultures are often racist: Muslims vs Hindus in India, Muslims vs Jews in the Middle East, Sunni vs Shia Muslims in Iraq and Iran, Hutu vs Tutsi tribes in Zimbabwe, Whites vs Blacks in South Africa, etc. Prejudice and bigotry exist everywhere.
Laws are passed and social pressures are brought to bear - in an effort to change attitudes, or at least control them. But, the ugly head of prejudice continues to pop up everywhere throughout the world. No matter how we try, it’s always “there,” lurking just beneath the surface, waiting to take root and sprout.
Prejudice and bigotry are not innate characteristics from birth, but are taught, either directly or by the example of parents, teachers, religious leaders or others. People are not born bigots.  They are taught to hate. This is clearly seen in the Wahhabi religious schools around the world, where Muslim children are taught to hate Infidels who do not embrace the Islamic faith.  An egregious example of this is seen in Palestine, where children as young as three and four are taught that Jews are pigs and monkeys and to embrace the idea that becoming a suicide bomber is an honorable and lofty goal.
People tend to associate with others with whom they feel comfortable. This is especially true among various ethnic, religious and racial groups. They have common interests, values, beliefs, customs and attitudes, which makes it easy for them to get along. For example, I don’t imagine there is much socializing between Muslims and Hindus in India, Sunni or Shia Muslims in the Middle East, or Jews and Arabs in Israel, which has about one million Arab residents.  And, I doubt that there is much if any socializing between Muslims and Christians in Europe or America.
The bottom line is that everyone is prejudiced - to a greater or lesser degree. People generally don’t acknowledge that they have prejudices, but it’s inescapable, they do. Everyone does, here in America and in every other society around the world.
© 2012 Harris R. Sherline, All Rights Reserved
If you enjoy these commentaries, please help my readership grow by passing them around.  If someone sent this to you, and you would like to receive it directly, please email me at hrs100@verizon.net.
Posted at 10:54 AM By admin | Permalink | Email this Post | Comments (0)

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