Now that we know Donald Trump's budget would increase the deficit and do little to improve the economy according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, you can expect fixed costs like energy and transportation to cut into the average American’s income even more so than in the past. In fact, the Trump administration made a $3.7 trillion mistake in its budget, which is far larger than the $776 billion and and $303 billion mistakes the Obama administration made with its budgets.

Energy cuts focus on energy-efficiency research

While the bulk of Trump’s proposed cuts in energy are research programs at the Energy Department ($3.1 billion, an 18 percent cut in budget) seeking ways to decrease carbon emissions from coal-burning power plants and more efficient batteries for electric cars, programs that actually help Americans save money on energy will also be eliminated.

 

The Energy Star program, with which you’re likely familiar, costs about $50 million annually, but will be cut from the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget despite the EPA estimating that the program helped American consumers and businesses save $34 billion in energy costs and prevent more than 300 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions. That little blue label won’t be there to tell you whether the appliance you’re looking to buy meets the EPA’s standards because those standards no longer exist.

 

The same goes for the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP), which funds energy audits of homes inhabited by low-income Americans and the installation of energy efficient additions like attic insulation and plastic over windows. Those workers are doing a lot more than installing plastic over windows, though. They also address health and safety issues by fixing broken windows, replacing faulty water heaters, repairing holes in roofs as well as installing other protective measures.

 

WAP cost $193 million in 2015, and the it estimates that for every dollar invested in the program, it returns $1.65 in energy-related benefits. In the past 31 years, 6.2 million low-income families have taken advantage of the program, which also produces “non-energy” benefits of an additional $1.07 per dollar invested. By lowering energy bills on average of $413 per year, low-income Americans have more income with which to stimulate the economy. But not anymore, which is likely why the CBO doesn’t see any improvement to the economy in Trump’s budget.

 

The Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) received $280 million in 2015, and its budget will also be cut entirely. ARPA-E advances high-potential, high-impact energy technologies that are too early for private-sector investment, so cutting it would put more strain on technology businesses, resulting in higher costs for consumers.

 

The loan program that has made fuel-efficient vehicles more affordable, the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing Program, would also be cut. Luckily, according to its website, the program has $16 billion in loan authority remaining, despite loaning Ford Motor Company $5.9 billion in 2009. The scrapping of the program will also make it harder for the average American to afford fuel-efficient vehicles.

 

Finally, Title XVII of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 authorizes the U.S. Department of Energy to support innovative clean energy technologies that are typically unable to obtain conventional private financing due to high technology risks through the issue of loans. Those loans will no longer be made available.

 

So that’s what’s happening to the U.S. energy budget. No more investing in American energy unless it comes in the form of decayed dinosaurs. But with fossil fuel exploration and drilling increasing, the price of fuel should go down, right? Well, the real price of gasoline and diesel fuel is already below nominal prices, which means they’re likely to increase to at least the nominal price.

Transportation budget cuts make Americans more dependent on cars, fossil fuels

Then there’s the U.S. transportation budget, or lack thereof. While shifting air traffic control to a nonprofit organization would transfer thousands of workers off the government payroll, it could impact smaller airports providing cheaper flights, which means more expensive rates for you. The elimination of $175 million in subsidies for commercial flights to rural airports will hurt rural Americans especially.

 

Also being eliminated is funding for many new transit projects and support for long-distance Amtrak trains, which, of course, would make Americans more car-dependent, and by design, more fossil-fuel dependent. Worst yet, the roads Americans will be forced to drive won’t be getting any better. The Republicans’ budget would cut $499 million from the TIGER grant program despite skyrocketing demand. The Department of Transportation received 585 eligible applications from all 50 States, and several U.S. territories, tribal communities, cities, and towns throughout the United States, collectively requesting over $9.3 billion in funding in 2016.

 

So how do we as Americans manage to get to and from the places we need or want to go with energy costs, both in the form of electricity and fuel, and transportation costs, both in the form of planes and trains, increasing? Well, here are 5 ways to save money despite budget cuts to energy and transportation.

1) Bicycle

If your roundtrip is under 10 miles, you need not drive. Get out the bicycle, put on the padded underwear and a helmet and take your share of the roads. I recommend wearing padded underwear if you intend to cycle for an hour or more. It generally only takes an hour to go 10 miles on a bike, and with a caddie and saddlebags, you can carry a towel and fresh clothes to change into once you arrive at your destination. Do not wear a backpack! You’ll regret it the moment you get a mile from home.

2) Carpooling

Not all of us live close enough to the places we frequent to do so on bicycle. But there are other people taking a similar trip. Mobile devices with unlimited data have made social circles a whole lot bigger than the water cooler at the office. Just because no one in your office goes by your house on their way to work doesn’t mean you can’t carpool.

 

Carpooling apps are becoming more popular in metro areas, with New York City, Chicago and Washington, D.C. already being served by Via. But growth of carpool communities is dependent on us as Americans to make them viable options. Apps like Duet and Waze need demand to be useful, and if we’re all set on wasting money and killing the Earth by driving our cars to work everyday, they might never be available in your area. So sign up to either drive or ride with all the carpool apps and share them with your friends on social media so we can grow the carpooling communities and all save on transportation.

 

In the future, your self-driving car will simply go out and drive people to work while you’re at work or asleep. Until then, we’ll have to take the wheel, both figuratively and literally.

3) Work from home

More and more Americans are working from home these days, as employers look to cut costs like rent and energy, and employees look to cut transportation costs. If you do most of your work on a computer or over the phone like me, you can probably negotiate a work-from-home agreement with your boss. You might not be able to work from home everyday, but a few days per week will still save you money on transportation costs. And there’s nothing really like working in bed to the sounds of Rick James on vinyl.

4) Buy an electric vehicle

This isn’t going to be feasible for the average American, but for the first time ever, a car doesn’t have to be a liability anymore. Buying an electric vehicle is an investment that will pay for itself. The payback period depends on the car, of course, but it could be as little as eight years for a Kia Soul EV and as many as 30 or more years for the mysterious Tesla Model 3. And if the average American drives 13,474 miles annually, a Model 3 owner will have paid for her car in 30 years. That’s seven years before Model 3 owners will have to worry about investing in replacement batteries given the 484,669-mile projection for the batteries’ ability to retain at least 80 percent of their capacity.

5) Invest in solar or wind energy

Regardless of where you live, there’s likely an opportunity for you to harness solar or wind to create energy and lower your energy bill. And until Republicans pass a budget, there are still tax incentives and rebates available to you for installing solar arrays and wind turbines. You might as well take advantage of them while you still can, as both technologies have become more affordable to install. Solar installations have dropped nine percent in a year, and wind turbines have dropped more than 60 percent in price since 2009.  

 

The energy companies are doing their best to deter customers from installing renewable energy sources, though. Many are charging flat fees just for hooking up a solar array or wind turbine, and then they’re taking the extra energy you don’t need, but that you provide, and selling it to others. That’s why you should consult an electrician and find things you can run directly from your renewable energy sources if your energy provider is looking to take advantage of you.

 

Maybe your solar panels charge a battery or generator that runs the lights and electricity in your newly built shop or garage. You can always rewire your solar array or wind turbine into the grid, so don’t give in to paying those flat fees to use your own energy. If we discovered farting in a can could run lights for an hour, the energy companies would find a way to suck the fart out of that can and make you pay rent on the can. Don’t let them get your farts.

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If you like this, you might like these Genesis Communications Network talk shows: The Costa Report, Drop Your Energy Bill, Free Talk Live, Flow of Wisdom, America’s First News, America Tonight, Bill Martinez Live, Korelin Economics Report, The KrisAnne Hall Show, Radio Night Live, The Real Side, World Crisis Radio, The Tech Night Owl, The Dr. Katherine Albrecht Show, Free Talk Live, The Easy Organic Gardener, The Magic Garden, The Paul Parent Garden Club Show, USA Prepares, American Survival Radio, Jim Brown’s Common Sense, Home Talk

Published in News & Information
Tuesday, 20 June 2017 22:36

Gentrification is the old gerrymandering

The United States Supreme Court will rule on partisan gerrymandering for the first time since 2004, deciding whether Wisconsin Republicans drew electoral district lines with the unfair intent of strengthening their political presence in the state. Gill v. Whitford will be heard by the Supreme Court in the fall and could result in a ruling that will set the boundaries for drawing electoral district boundaries.

 

The case at hand is pretty straightforward. While 51 percent of Wisconsin voters were Democrats in 2012, Republicans won 60 of the 99 seats in the state’s Congress. Republicans say that’s because Democrats have the disadvantage of living in metropolitan areas like Milwaukee and Madison, which is true. Metropolitans are generally underrepresented given the populations in their districts compared to the populations of rural districts, and that’s not Republicans’ fault.

 

But there’s more to the story. Thanks to the work of University of Chicago law professor Nicholas Stephanopoulos, there’s a new way to measure whether district lines are fair representations of representation or partisan gerrymandering designed to be advantageous to the political party drawing the lines. The efficiency gap measures “wasted votes,” or the number of votes wasted in a district where one party wins an election easily.

 

For example, take those metropolitan voters in Wisconsin. In Wisconsin’s fourth Congressional district, which includes parts of Milwaukee, incumbent Democrat Gwen Moore won 77 percent of the vote in a race that didn’t feature Republican opposition. You could argue that Moore wouldn’t have required all those votes to win even if there was a Republican challenger. Those would be considered wasted votes, and voters living on the edges of Milwaukee should have instead voted in neighboring first, fifth and sixth districts to make races more competitive.

 

The same could be said for Wisconsin’s second district that contains Madison. Incumbent Democrat Mark Pocan wasted votes beating Republican challenger Peter Theron by almost 150,000. Move 100,000 of those wasted votes to the sixth district and Wisconsin would have one more Democratic Senator. And we haven’t even started looking at the state assembly.

 

If we look at the Milwaukee area again, there are two districts, the 14th and 21st, that had competitive races Republicans won in 2016. Each race was decided by about 5,000 votes. Wisconsin's 14th district is bordered on the east by the 12th, 17th and 18th districts. Those districts are closer to Milwaukee and all went Democratic. In fact, there was no Republican opposition in any of those races, so the Democrats needed just over 5,000 votes of the 58,000 wasted votes they got in those three races to take the 14th district. Had the east boundary of the 14th district been drawn closer to Milwaukee, the Democrats would have likely won that district.

 

Wisconsin’s 21st district is neighbored by the 20th district to the north, which went to the Democrats unopposed. Another 21,222 votes were wasted in the 20th district, and Democrats needed just 5,000 to take the 21st district.

 

It’s a similar story for Wisconsin’s 42nd district, which is neighbored by the 79th and 81st districts, which went Democrat by a combined 16,000 wasted votes. Democrat George Ferriter needed just 5,000 of those votes to swing the 42nd district blue.

 

The point is Wisconsin Republicans probably gained seats by drawing the district lines where they did, which is not supposed to happen. This is the Republicans’ fault because they were last to draw the districts, and the Supreme Court could rule that the districts must be redrawn to make races more competitive. That was the ruling in the lower court.

 

If the Supreme Court agrees with the lower court, it would set the efficiency gap as legal precedent when determining whether partisan gerrymandering has taken place. It would also give the party disadvantaged by the gerrymandering a better chance of righting the wrong and achieving more accurate representation throughout states. That’s no small accomplishment, but it’s not a solution by any means, because gentrification is the old gerrymandering.

 

Gerrymandering has been around almost as long as America, but even older than America is gentrification, which will continue to weaken the power of the minority vote despite a ruling on gerrymandering. While gerrymandering is the drawing of lines around communities, gentrification is actively creating communities by displacing other communities.

 

There’s nothing stopping a city council our county commission from purchasing land to build whatever they want to “improve” their city or county. Cities, counties and states don’t need your permission to build “improvements.” They can just buy you or your landlord out. If you live in a metropolitan area, you’re likely familiar with these projects and might have been displaced because of them.

 

New research by the University of Minnesota found that “over a third of low-income census tracts in Minneapolis underwent gentrification...and about a quarter of low-income census tracts in St. Paul gentrified” from 2000 to 2014. Northeast Minneapolis is the best example of gentrification in the area, which tends to happen in downtown areas near public transit. So the people who actually need the bus and train to get to work no longer have access to it or have to walk/ride even farther to work.

 

But brown people moving to suburban or rural areas should even out the vote there, right? Wrong. Minorities had a voice in metropolitan areas because they had power in numbers. Those numbers being spread around suburban and rural areas dissipates the power of that collective vote. Those displaced people also lose local representation that’s been dedicated to their interests. They were a member of the majority when it came to their local community, and they are now a minority in a new community. Just like the local elected officials in the cities, the local elected officials of the suburbs and rural areas have the interests of the majority in mind.

Those same Wisconsin Republicans who allegedly committed partisan gerrymandering will simply resort to “improving” their communities and spreading the minority vote around into suburban and rural districts via gentrification in the future. Even if the Supreme Court rules the Wisconsin Republicans were in the wrong, gentrification makes gerrymandering unnecessary, because if you can move the people instead of the lines there’s no need to move the lines. Moving the lines is just cheaper and easier, for now. That’s why gentrification is the old gerrymandering.

 

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If you like this, you might like these Genesis Communications Network talk shows: The Costa Report, Drop Your Energy Bill, Free Talk Live, Flow of Wisdom, America’s First News, America Tonight, Bill Martinez Live, Korelin Economics Report, The KrisAnne Hall Show, Radio Night Live, The Real Side, World Crisis Radio, Know Your Rights

 

Published in News & Information

Only in America could a man assault a journalist and end up winning an election. Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs was reportedly “grabbed...by the neck with both hands and slammed...into the ground,” by newly elected Representative Greg Gianforte in Bozeman a day before Montana’s special election for the lone, at-large House seat. Gianforte started punching Jacobs while on the ground, according to a Fox News crew that witnessed the attack and cooperated with authorities.

Gallatin County Sheriff Brian Gootkin donated $250 to Gianforte's campaign and announced he was charging Montana’s newest representative with misdemeanor assault. Gianforte must appear in court by June 7. If convicted, he faces a maximum jail sentence of six months and a fine of up to $500.

Gallatin County Attorney Marty Lambert said he would have to review the case before commenting on whether the misdemeanor assault charge was appropriate, but he can alter the charge if he feels it’s necessary.

“I understand this young man went to the hospital...I only know about the case from watching the media and reading the newspaper,” he informed.

Lambert is in his 34th year as the Gallatin County Attorney and said he has “no reason to take issue with” Gootkin’s decision.

“The sheriff and the deputies that work for him have a lot of integrity...to my knowledge the investigation was thorough,” Lambert said.

Of the roughly 377,500 votes cast in the Montana special election for the at-large House seat, nearly 70 percent were submitted prior to the alleged assault occurring. So Montanans now realize how early voting can be bad. There is no recourse for the Montana Democratic Party, either, which comes through loud and clear in the statement they released, Friday. You cannot recall a federal official thanks to the U.S. Constitution, and a Constitutional Amendment would be highly unlikely. Montanans who want to take back their vote for Gianforte must wait until 2020 to do so.

The incident in Montana is certainly indicative of the state of American politics and the American people. Americans seem to be embracing the arrogance that is perceived by citizens at home and abroad.

The biggest problem I have with this Montana special election fiasco isn’t that I’m a journalist and fear this will happen to me or more of my fellow journalists. It will. It’s not that Gianforte won the election. I expected that. Had he lost having received more than five times in outside contributions ($5.6 million) than his opponent, Rob Quist, it would have been national news even if the alleged assault had not occurred. It’s not that there’s no recourse for the Democratic Party or those who would have changed their early vote given the incident. But had anyone of us done what Gianforte did in a professional setting we’d be fired on the spot, and Congressmen and women don’t get fired. Whether it’s assault or murder, an elected, federal official will remain an official until the end of his or her term, barring a resignation.

Gianforte was on the clock, so to speak, when prepping for a Fox News interview on Wednesday. Ben Jacobs was simply doing his job and asked a simple question with no audible malice in his voice. Ben Jacobs acted professionally, and Gianforte responded like a bully. The saddest thing that has come from this is the number of people openly supporting the bully and demonizing the bullied. It’s not a good look for Montana or America.

The questions won’t get easier for Gianforte, so he’ll have to do something about that temper, or the D.C. press will chew him up and spit him out. I don’t foresee a long political career in Gianforte’s future, though, and when he’s up for reelection three years from now, I hope Montanans and the media don’t forget his unprofessionalism and irresponsibility. I don’t think I’ve been more ashamed to call Montana home or more happy to live and work in Minnesota.

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If you like this, you might like these Genesis Communications Network talk shows: The Costa Report, Free Talk Live, Flow of Wisdom, America’s First News, America Tonight, Bill Martinez Live, Korelin Economics Report, The KrisAnne Hall Show, Radio Night Live, The Real Side, World Crisis Radio, Know Your Rights

Published in News & Information

When Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died suddenly on Feb. 13, 2016, it sparked a standoff between Democrats and Republicans that rivaled that of the OK Corral. Senate Republicans refused to confirm a replacement on the grounds that President Barack Obama was a lame duck president and that the new president should choose a successor. Obama famously responded by saying, “Presidents do not stop working in the final year of their term; neither should a senator,” and nominated Merrick Garland a month after Scalia passed.

Garland is a moderate by general consensus, but it wasn’t enough to convince Republicans to make the judiciary work on behalf of Americans. You can find how an empty seat has affected cases since by following this link. Basically, there were two ties that adversely affected working immigrants and unions.

Here we are over a year later with the Republicans getting exactly what they wanted: Neil Gorsuch, a consensus conservative judge, breaking the tie on a church-state case.

The separation of church and state is long-standing, federal law. Tax dollars are not spent in support of religions, but the federal government won’t stop you from raising money as a church – going as far as to make churches exempt from paying income taxes. A church can even donate money to super PACs that aren’t supporting a specific candidate, but no one is really enforcing this, with the chairwoman of the Federal Election Commission calling their organization “more than dysfunctional” and saying the likelihood that the laws being enforced is “slim.” Donald Trump would like to make churches the new super PACs, according to The Atlantic. That opportunity has arrived in the form of the church-state case Trinity Lutheran v. Comer.

Trinity Lutheran is a church-run preschool that applied for a state grant to fund a playground upgrade for safety reasons. They want to put that forgiving material made out of old tires in the playground so kids don’t end up with brain injuries, etc. It’s a perfectly reasonable thing to do. You can see what they currently have in the playground just by visiting the website, and it’s pretty terrible. But the state in which Trinity Lutheran operates, Missouri, has a state constitution clause that forbids tax dollars from going to churches, which is also perfectly reasonable. The latest decision upheld Missouri’s state constitution. The church must raise its own money to upgrade the playground. They are a private school after all, and if they actually took advantage of all this media attention, they’d probably be funded for the entire year already.

The case could be thrown out entirely because the Supreme Court put off scheduling the case because of the empty seat, and since, Missouri’s Democratic attorney general lost an election and was replaced with a Republican, who announced he will change the state’s policy and allow churches to receive grant money from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources. Then there’s no case, right? Attorney Irv Gonzalez of the Know Your Rights talk show thinks so.

“If they change the policy then I think they should not hear the case … If he changes the law today, then there’s really no issue,” he said.

Not so fast. That change to the state’s policy wouldn’t be permanent. It would be subject to change every time there’s a new attorney general. If the Supreme Court rules, though, it would become permanent nationwide. You see why these nine judges are so important and why having just eight is a real problem? Just look back at the FEC’s six chair people and how ineffective that has been. Those people can’t even talk to each other.

So, here we are at a crossroads, with a ninth and final traveller determining which path America takes for the foreseeable future. Does the consensus conservative Gorsuch side with state’s rights or religion? Everything points to religion. Furthermore, the hundred or so federal judges Donald Trump has or will appoint and another 70 that will likely retire during Trump’s first term will make sure more church-state cases are heard by the conservative Supreme Court. Gonzalez doesn’t foresee sweeping changes to church-state precedent, though. Unless, of course, 84-year-old Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg passes away in the next four years.

Americans need to realize that Republicans didn’t just hijack the Supreme Court, but they hijacked nearly 200 more courts at other levels throughout the country. President Obama made 54 federal nominations to the 112 empty seats that Senate Republicans refused to confirm. Winning the White House was imperative for the power play to work, but Trump slapped the puck through the Democrats’ five hole – Hillary Clinton – with perhaps an assist or two from the Russians, who say they’re going to the Olympics regardless of what NHL owners declare. With a Republican-led executive, legislative and judiciary branches, what’s next?

Churches will be allowed to donate directly to political officials, whom, of course, will be members of the religious right. Freedom of religion will infringe upon free elections, and religions and corporations will battle together to elect politicians who put more money in the pockets of priests and CEOs. Everyday Americans will continue to suffer, but it won’t seem like it as long as they have their precious devices, television and internet access. Whether their use of those devices is monitored and sold to advertisers matters little to them. Fewer and fewer people will vote, because why waste an hour every two years when both candidates are working against you? Believe it or not, your vote means more now than ever. Use it.

Editor's Note: An update follows.

Donald Trump went to work filling those open seats on Monday, May 8.

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If you like this, you might like these Genesis Communications Network talk shows: The Costa Report, Drop Your Energy Bill, Free Talk Live, Flow of Wisdom, America’s First News, America Tonight, Bill Martinez Live, Korelin Economics Report, The KrisAnne Hall Show, Radio Night Live, The Real Side, World Crisis Radio, Know Your Rights

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