Phil Is Troubled

I was struck by the following story on Fox News about golfer Phil Mickelson’s tax problems:

For golf legend Phil Mickelson, the low 60s makes for a great score on the links — and a lousy tax rate in his home state of California.

Mickelson said “drastic changes” are ahead for him due to federal and California state tax increases that have pushed his tax rate to what he figures adds up to “62, 63 percent.” The left-hander will talk more about his plans — possibly moving out of California or even retiring altogether. . .

I must confess I didn’t read about this problem at Fox News. I don’t make a habit of watching that TV “News” program or reading their drivel. But I had heard about Phil’s problems and checked it out and was (not surprisingly) directed to the Fox News item. It is being carried there, I suspect, because it is a story about an American icon who is being burned by the terrible tax burden he is now under as a result of the recent events in both Washington and California. Fox’s readers and viewers are expected to sympathize with Phil. Phil’s taxes are going up and he is distraught. Poor Phil.

Consider the fact that Phil makes an estimated $48 million a year, $43 million in endorsements alone. This puts him in a very high tax bracket indeed, not only from the Fed but also from California which recently passed Proposition 30 that raised taxes on the wealthy — which Phil certainly is. In any event, Phil will now be left with a meager $18 million to somehow try to get along on. I must say, I think I could manage, but then I am not accustomed to living the lifestyle Phil undoubtedly lives. I suppose he may have to buy a smaller plane. But, seriously folks, doesn’t that still seem to you to be an incredibly large annual income?

I heard about Phil’s plight on the Golf Channel while I was watching “The Morning Drive.”  The talking heads on that show were disappointed that Phil would drag out his dirty laundry in public. They didn’t comment on the obscene amount of money Phil would still be left with, but they thought it would have been best if he had kept this sort of thing between himself and his wife or his accountant. Good point. I give them high marks for that — though as you can imagine I would have gone a bit further. They did point out, however, that the average bloke out there who is  having trouble putting food on the table probably doesn’t want to hear a millionaire piss and moan about the fact that he has to pay higher taxes this year. Indeed.

But the larger point here is the lack of perspective of the very wealthy — which we saw in many of Mitt Romney’s comments during the recent campaign. They just don’t get it. Most people would have no idea what to do with $18 million in a lifetime, much less in a year. And yet Mickelson is now threatening to leave California or retire from golf because he is miffed about the fact that he will have to share a great deal of his money with those less fortunate than himself. After all, that’s what taxes are about: promoting the “common good.” And it might be wise to remind ourselves (and Phil) that this country enjoyed its greatest prosperity right after the Second World War when the wealthy in this country were paying taxes at the rate of around 90%. It might also help if we all think about the fact that Norwegians are taxed at a rate of 45% of their income and according to a recent study they are the happiest people on earth. Be cool, Phil.

Waiting For Plan C

As the country lurches toward the fiscal cliff an army of Tea Party supporters has been on the phones putting pressure on Republican representatives to reject House Speaker Boehner’s “Plan B” which was supposed to help stave off the inevitable. Bear in mind that Plan B would have, in effect, involved raising taxes on people making over $1 million and that was considered unacceptable by the Tea Party faithful. They think they can save the economy by raising taxes not on themselves but on the dwindling middle class and cutting programs such as health care and food stamps — but NOT “defense” (which is a sacred cow). Their plan is absurd, but this doesn’t deter them in the least.

One of the more disturbing facets of the fight to avoid the fiscal cliff is the amount of pressure Tea Party groups can put on the Congress. Clearly, this group is made up of the 20% of those in this country who control 93% of the wealth. As a story in HuffPost noted recently, referring to the Club for Growth, a powerful Tea Party affiliate:

“Members of Congress know we’re not afraid to get involved in a primary,” Club for Growth’s communications director, Barney Keller, told HuffPost on Thursday night. “Members know that the first thing we do is look to our scorecard, and decide who is a pro-growth vote and who isn’t. And we felt that to vote in favor [of Boehner’s plan] would be to vote for a tax increase, and against economic growth”

Talk about arrogant: if you want to keep your job you will play ball with us. And why wouldn’t the members of Congress want to “play ball”? Where else could they make the kind of money they make for doing little or nothing and voting themselves pay raises whenever they feel like it? It’s the gravy train and they want to stay on it. They are indeed single-minded in their determination to remain in office. You can’t really blame them. As HuffPost noted:

Keller was unapologetic about Club for Growth’s impact on congressional races. “The number one thing people in Congress fear is losing their jobs,” he said. “So we don’t lobby members, we help educate them. And if you look at the rising stars of the [Republican] party, it’s a lot of people who were supported by” Club for Growth.

Why do I get the feeling as I read this that the man is smirking? In any event, the notion that we can work out of the economic mess we are in by raising taxes on the dwindling middle classes and protecting the wealthy — that this will promote “economic growth” — borders on delusion. It can’t be done. To be sure, some programs will have to be cut, including (one would hope) defense spending. But the wealthy who pay very little of their income in taxes must start to pay their share or matters will continue to worsen. One does wonder if they really care.

The wealthy on average pay somewhere around 35% of their income in taxes — though exact figures are hard to come by in light of all the loopholes in the tax laws and the ways the rich have found to hide and protect their wealth. Mitt Romney, for example, was reported to have paid a mere 14% last year in income taxes on a very large income. But when we think that this country was at its most prosperous just after the two World Wars when the wealthy were paying a large portion of their income in taxes — as high as 91% in 1946! — the unwillingness of the wealthy to pay the piddling amount they are being asked to pay, even with Boehner’s anemic plan, tells us more than we want to know about their commitment to the growth of this economy.

Even if the wealthy were asked to pay as much as 70% of their income, they would still retain $300,000 on an income of $1 million. You could somehow manage to feed your family on that amount, and the wealthy make considerably more than $1 million a year. Stare at the flag and put your hand to your heart, but heaven forbid that you part with some of your money to help out your country. This is “patriotism” spelled  f-u-c-k-y-o-u. It stinks.

Buck Up!

In the superb sit-com “The Big Bang Theory” when Leonard turns for help to his mother, a renown psychiatrist, she will tell him: “Buck Up!” If he asks for more, she will tell him to “Buck Up, Sissypants!” If that doesn’t work, she will tell him to read one of her books available on Amazon.

One of the basic rules of participatory democracy is that we get involved in elections, vote for the candidate of our choice and if that person doesn’t win we accept the consequences. One of the unwritten rules in Civics 101 is that participation necessitates acceptance of the results. The same rule applies in sports. We can’t agree to play and then get pissed off when we or our favorite get beaten and then crawl into a corner and sulk. It is obvious that this rule has not been explained to a great many voters in this country who are pissed off and sulking. Some have become downright nasty. We read about John Schnatter, millionaire owner of a pizza franchise, who threatens to raise the prices of his products and cut back his workers’ hours because of the election; we read about the owner of a coal mine who lays off 50 of his employees — taking his frustrations out on those who would work for him; we read about thousands of people who sign petitions to have their states secede from the Union. To all of these people, I say with Leonard’s Mom: “Buck Up, Sissypants!”

But the following story takes the cake. You can’t make this stuff up!

PHOENIX (Reuters) – An Arizona woman, in despair at the re-election of Democratic President Barack Obama, ran down her husband with the family car in suburban Phoenix on Saturday because he failed to vote in the election, police said on Monday.

Holly Solomon, 28, was arrested after running over husband Daniel Solomon following a wild chase that left him pinned underneath the vehicle.

Daniel Solomon, 36, was in critical condition at a local hospital, but is expected to survive, Gilbert police spokesman Sergeant Jesse Sanger said.

Police said Daniel Solomon told them his wife became angry over his “lack of voter participation” in last Tuesday’s presidential election and believed her family would face hardship as a result of Obama winning another term.

Witnesses reported the argument broke out on Saturday morning in a parking lot and escalated. Mrs Solomon then chased her husband around the lot with the car, yelling at him as he tried to hide behind a light pole, police said. He was struck after attempting to flee to a nearby street.

Obama won the national election with 332 electoral votes compared with 206 for Republican challenger Mitt Romney. Arizona’s 11 electoral votes were won by Romney.

To be sure, the Republican strategy during the campaigns was to keep hitting the “jobs and economy” button, trying to scare people into voting for their man who was said to be the only one on earth who could fix things that had gone wrong under the sitting President. After the election, one religious zealot actually said that Mitt Romney’s loss was a good thing because if he had won people would have thought him another Moses come to lead his people to the promised land!

To be sure there is some fear at work in Holly Solomon’s damaged mind along with rage and deep disappointment. But, let’s face it folks, there is also a good dose of racial hatred in this as well– along with some pent-up anger at her husband, no doubt. Combine these powerful emotions and you get aberrant behavior that starts at the low end of mere petulance and goes to the extreme of running over your partner with the family car. To these people I say: “Buck Up, Sissypants.”

Political Scum

A recent story on Yahoo News was somewhat disquieting but not that surprising under the circumstances. It begins as follows:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A U.S. government agency has withdrawn a report that challenged Republican ideas about taxes and economic growth – an action that drew fire from Democrats who accused it on Thursday of bowing to political pressure.

Republican lawmakers blasted the Congressional Research Service (CRS) report when it was issued in September and then went to the agency to complain. The report suggested that lower tax rates on the wealthy are not linked to economic growth, an item of faith among many conservatives.

The attack on the agency was led by Republican Senators Mitch McConnell and Orrin Hatch who released statements replete with political gobbledygook about the unreliability of the study and questioning its methodology. This is standard operating procedure these days: we don’t like what the study concludes, so let’s question the methodology. That is to be expected. What is not to be expected is the pressure these Republicans were able to bring to bear on the agency to force them to withdraw the report. Do I hear cries of “foul!”?

This is the season for dirty politics as we realize — on both sides of the political aisle. But some tricks seem to be dirtier than others and refusing to allow a group to do its job on the grounds that they have uncovered evidence to support a conclusion that is in opposition to party ideology seems to be very low indeed: down there with political scum.

We are all concerned about the economy. For some it has become the only issue that matters in the present election. But the trickle down economic theory that began with Ronald Reagan and was later coupled with tax breaks for the wealthy under George W. Bush are the major reasons our economy is in such dire straights at the present moment. Despite the mountain of evidence to the contrary, the Republicans would still have us believe that reducing taxes on the wealthy in this country will benefit the rest of us and thereby turn the economy around and they don’t want us to believe anything to the contrary. In fact, while they weep crocodile tears about the weak economy, the wealthy are hoarding their wealth and not investing it in economic growth. There is no “trickle down.”

Consider the following: Prior to 1981 when this country was experiencing considerable economic strength, the percentage of their income the very wealthy paid in federal taxes was anywhere from 40% to 70%.  Then under Bill Clinton the wealthy who now pay at most 35% of their acknowledged income in taxes (Mitt Romney pays 14%) were asked to pay 39% and the economy began to recover from its slide that began soon after Ronald Reagan introduced supply-side Reaganomics early in his presidency — the infamous “trickle-down” theory, which George H.W. Bush called “voodoo economics.” When sizable tax breaks for the wealthy were ushered in during “W’s” regime in 2001 and again in 2003 the downward slide began again in earnest. Furthermore, this country as a whole has one of the lowest tax rates among all of the developed countries in the world while the Tea Party screams hysterically about “cutting taxes” and the wealthy insist that they should be taxed even less than they are at present.

One can quibble about probable causes, but the fact remains that when the wealthy paid their fair share of taxes the economy was on much firmer ground. Whether or not there is a causal relationship here one cannot say for certain. Economics is not an exact science. But it is clear that the wealthy in this country do not pay their share of the taxes; and the trickle down theory of economics has been a bad joke. The strength of our economy depends on the buying power of a healthy middle class, not pennies “trickling down” from the overflowing pockets of the fat cats.

Thus we have two conjoined issues here:  first, the wealthy refuse to pay their fair share of the taxes required to get this economy back on its feet, and next there are the foul political shenanigans that have forced a federal agency to withdraw a report that would confirm the fact that lower taxes for the wealthy don’t help the economy one whit.  What’s wrong with this picture?

Nostalgia, Satire, and Bigotry

The satirical Onion (“America’s Finest News Service”) has a provocative article that begins as follows:

WASHINGTON—With just days left before the election, the nation’s 150 million registered voters have started to remember the simple, reassuring comforts of entrusting control of their country to an extremely out-of-touch white man, sources confirmed Monday.

In the wake of the presidential debates, multiple polls have shown that citizens nationwide are beginning to recall, with great clarity, the soothing, familiar sense of security that comes with handing total domestic and foreign policy authority over to a sixtysomething white male who is completely cut off from any way of life other than his own. And with the country having gone four years without such a familiar, calming, clueless Caucasian presence in the Oval Office, experts reported the populace is now overcome with nostalgia.

I have blogged before about how this country is easily taken in by images — especially the ones recently seen on Debate TV. Though clearly tongue-in-cheek, this article makes an important point. It cites “studies” that have shown we want the comforting image of a sixty-something white man with grey on his temples to take us by the hand and lead us into the next four years. True or not, it would seem plausible given the level of fear and uncertainty in the country.

I recall a bit by stand-up comic Shelley Berman back in the 60s when the comedian mimicked a calm and soothing voice coming over the speaker on an airplane just prior to takeoff: “Ladies and Gentlemen, this is Captain Holbrook speaking…” and Berman, who professed to be scared to death to fly, cut in and said “It’s Daddy! Daddy’s taking us flying!” The same sort of thing might very well be going on in this election. How else to account for the fact that millions of people in this country plan to vote for a man with as many faces as Eve who lies through his teeth while showing himself unwilling to retract his falsehoods in the face of irrefutable evidence to the contrary? Daddy’s going to make things right. Daddy’s taking care of us. Obama doesn’t fit that image: he’s the wrong color.

A recent study reveals that more than half of the white people in this nation are prejudiced against black people. I dare say many Hispanics also have their prejudices, as do the Blacks themselves. Prejudice seems to be a common human attribute and plays no color favorites. But we did manage to elect a black President the last time around, although the more reliable pundits tell us he will lose the popular vote this time. They also say, thank heavens, he will win the electoral college vote and be reelected. When this happens it will result in immediate calls by the Romneyites and their minions to trash the electoral college which is an eighteenth century invention designed to safeguard the country from idiots in high political office. It hasn’t worked since politics is overrun with idiots, but the electoral college may be short-lived after this election if the corporations that pull the political strings have to deal with the fact that it interfered with the election of their man.

In any event, it will be interesting to see how many fools in this country buy into the comforting image of a duplicitous businessman who was handed success on a platter and is out of touch with practically everyone around him who doesn’t happen to belong to his country club. If Mitt Romney wins the popular vote, as predicted, it will tell us something about ourselves we may not want to know. To paraphrase Lincoln let’s hope you can’t fool enough people this time around, that the voters in this country aren’t that easily duped and just maybe are a bit less bigoted than we have been led to believe. Time will tell.

Questioning Motives

I don’t know about you but I am not one to fathom human motives. I’m not sure what my own are much of the time! But a recent article in Yahoo Finance News ventures into this dark realm when the author professes to know why Barack Obama failed to defend Social Security against the assaults from the Republicans who want to cripple the program — despite the fact that it is one of the most beneficial, cost-effective, and successful programs this nation has ever known.

The author, Dean Baker, Co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, tells us why he thinks Obama backed Mitt Romney in the first debate when the latter said the program must be reduced to save money.

There is a simple explanation for Obama’s refusal to defend Social Security. In elite Washington circles the willingness to cut Social Security is taken as evidence of courage. These people do not depend on Social Security. In fact, as Governor Romney demonstrated at his famous fundraiser speech, they actually have contempt for the people who do depend on programs like Social Security.

If Obama were to take a strong stand defending Social Security he could expect to be attacked harshly by these elites. In news stories and editorial columns, outlets like the Washington Post and National Public Radio would denounce President Obama in harsh terms. Needless to say, his wealthy funders might also have second thoughts.

If it is the case that our President is in awe of the Washington “elites” and motivated by the wish to be accepted by that type of person this is rather disturbing. If this really is the simplest explanation then Baker’s surmise increases in plausibility. But Baker’s guess cannot be said to be an assured thing; it is pure speculation. At the same time, I must confess that despite the fact that I am an Obama supporter and was delighted when he won the last election and plan to vote for him again — given the realities of the situation — I have always thought (and said in print) that he is far too conciliatory, too eager to please.

In any event, Romney is proposing cutting Social Security for retirees — who would be at least five years older under his plan — on the supposition that they have other retirement plans and don’t need the help. Baker contends that even if they had other retirement plans such plans are of questionable reliability and Obama could score big political points by recommending that Social Security benefits be increased, especially for lower-income persons who need help when they retire. But he has apparently been reluctant to do this. As Baker goes on to say in his article:

Given this reality, it would be sound policy for President Obama to insist, in contrast to Governor Romney, that Social Security cuts are off the table until we have fixed the larger retirement savings system. If anything, it would be reasonable to suggest increasing Social Security benefits, especially for low and moderate income workers.

Baker suspects Obama’s motives, and perhaps worries that Obama lacks the courage of his convictions.  Obama has made tough decisions, however — for example when he determined that the Navy SEALs should take Osama bin Laden out in spite of advisers who (we read) urged a different course of action that they thought would be less likely to fail. I dare say it was also his decision, and a good one, not to bring Pakistan into the loop and let them know what was about to happen. I suppose Baker would surmise that the Washington “elites” approved of those decisions. But the Social Security program is one that has benefited millions of people for many years and one which most of us consider a right that we have earned by dint of hard work and long hours on the job. It is not something that anyone, Democrat or Republican, should be tinkering with, much less threatening to take away from our children and their children — regardless of what the “elites” might or might not think.

Let’s hope that Dean Baker read the tea leaves incorrectly and that his venture into the realm of human motivations took a wrong turn. But we are left with the question why this President has not come out in support of Social Security? That in itself is bothersome.

The “R” Word

Much has already been said about Ann Coulter’s ill-advised (and repeated) use of the word “retard” to describe Barack Obama after his debate with Mitt Romney. I will not add fuel to that particular fire, but would prefer to take a different turn and ask the question: what ever happened to respect and civil discourse in this country?

Ann Coulter, of course, reports “news” for Fox “News.” I put scare quotes around the words here because this is a show that just pretends to give us the news when in fact they are simply passing along right-wing propaganda. Most people know that. But apparently there are many people in this country who don’t know this and that is why the programming on that station is worrisome: these people mistakenly believe they are getting actual news reporting when they are not But I digress.

Coulter has borrowed the colloquialism that turned a perfectly good verb into a pejorative noun. Presumably it is vulgar slang for “mentally retarded,” which is not regarded as politically correct even in its extended form. Her comment is disturbing to those who feel the pain of people who are intellectually challenged, as we now say. And this is disturbing indeed — especially since Coulter has been alerted to the fact that the term is offensive and yet she continues to use it. But what about its use in describing the President of the United States? Does no one else find this disturbing? Is there no line that those in the public eye should not cross in voicing their political opinions? It would seem that those who hold the highest office in this country are deserving of respect just by virtue of their office — even though we don’t happen to agree with their politics, or even if we have a personal grudge against them for some reason.

There was a time when this sort of slur would be regarded as more disturbing than the fact that this woman used the “R” word, a time when mutual respect was the rule and there was a sense that certain types of comments are inappropriate. We have lost that sense of propriety. It went out the window with good manners and the other Victorian baggage we were convinced would cramp our style, such things as duty, honor, and respect. But civil discourse lies at the core of “civilization,” and is one of the key factors separating us from the apes. If we must live together in crowded social groups it’s not enough to know how to speak; it requires that we know how to speak civilly to one another as well.

It’s not just bad manners to shout at one another, interrupt, insult, and toss offensive words about at random; it’s offensive and at the very least disrespectful and it even hurtful. Mutual respect lies at the heart of our moral system. The lack of respect we show in the way we speak to one another very easily translates into abuse and even violence to others we regard as inferior to ourselves. We should respect one another enough to at least listen and reply to what the other person has to say, to let them finish their sentences, and to respectfully disagree from time to time. We can even ignore them…..politely. But to address your President as a “retard” takes the problem to a new level. And this is especially so for a newscaster on a public show that is watched by millions who mistake it for the news. I think we know who is the intellectually challenged person here.

Liar, Liar, Pants On Fire

There are a couple of excellent sources for checking the facts after political speeches and such “major” TV events as the current presidential debates. One of my fellow bloggers even gives a synopsis after the debates so we can see who told the biggest “whoppers.” This raises some interesting issues.

To begin with, both debaters tell falsehoods and half-truths and do so repeatedly. As one reads the fact checks one notes that while the facts have been checked before a number of the falsehoods are repeated even though the deception has been pointed out, perhaps several times. Strange. But more to the point is the obvious consideration that the average listener has no way to tell in the course of a debate or a political speech that a lie has been told or a half-truth has suddenly appeared from the politician’s hat. This is why the debates are so untrustworthy and leave us little else to go by except impressions. It really is all about theater — as I noted in yesterday’s blog. Consider the following fact check item:

Romney: It’s “already illegal in this country to have automatic weapons”
The verdict: False
The federal ban on manufacturing some semi-automatic assault weapons that President Clinton signed in 1994 expired in 2004, and wasn’t renewed. There are other regulations and restrictions still in place — the National Firearms Act of 1934, the Gun Control Act of 1968, and the Hughes Amendment in 1986, says Brian Bennett at the Los Angeles Times. But ”fully automatic weapons — guns that fire continuously when the trigger is held down — are legal to possess in the United States.”

How many people listening to a rapid-fire (sorry!) debate will know enough to realize that one of the speakers just told a whopper? And he did so on a vital and controversial issue that many people care deeply about, one way or the other. The matter of gun control is a hot topic and as a general rule very few people who argue with one another in bars about this issue have bothered to gather the evidence and check on their “facts” beforehand. That’s to be expected. But one does not expect this from seasoned debaters like these two politicians. Romney told the lie noted above, but Obama didn’t call him out.

How many people know that the second Constitutional amendment guaranteeing the right to bear arms is couched in language that makes it clear that the “right” is tied to a militia that was supposed to make it unnecessary to have a standing army? More to the point, how many people listening to this debate know that the federal ban on semi-automatic weapons was even signed in the first place, or by whom — much less that it expired in 2004? The central question here is whether or not this matters in the least. Will either of these men be asked to make important decisions on their feet? Does the quickness of their minds and a grasp of all relevantl facts really matter when important decisions will be made behind closed doors with well-informed advisers and time to reflect? Of course not. It’s about who presents himself better to the TV audience.

In any case what occurs in these events is that the politicians (all of them) have learned that if you say something with conviction and then repeat it often enough your listeners will accept it as true. The important thing is to have the “ring of conviction” in your voice and look the camera straight in the eye (as it were). It matters not whether what you say is true or false. No one “out there” knows what the hell you are talking about — and very few will bother to check the facts later on. So just let it go and let the (buffalo) chips fall where they may. Truth be damned: it’s all about getting elected!

Debates As Theater

Now that the second of three debates between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney is over and the dissections have begun it is time to either join the fray or turn one’s back in disgust and wish the whole thing were over. I confess I am of the second opinion for the most part, but a recent article on Yahoo News piqued my interest and invited another comment or two on a topic on which far too much ink has already been spilled. I do think the debates are theater and they should not have anything whatever to do with who wins the highest office in the land. But they do, apparently: what I wish were the case really doesn’t count.

Apparently, Obama “won” the second debate according to recent reports. But in political correspondent Jeff Greenfield’s opinion it doesn’t amount to a hill of beans. It’s all about the first debate which Obama “lost.” As Greenfield says, if Obama had performed as well in the first debate as he did in the second the election would be virtually over. Consider:

When the evening began, one observation dominated the conversation: “If President Barack Obama has another debate like the last one, the election’s over.”

When the evening ended, I was struck by a different thought: If Obama had performed this way at the first debate, the election would have been over.

In every debate, whatever the format, whatever the questions, there is one and only one way to identify the winner: Who commands the room? Who drives the narrative? Who is in charge? More often than not on Tuesday night, I think, Obama had the better of it.

Moreover, apparently Romney gained ground from the first debate which he will not lose from his performance in the second debate in Greenfield’s opinion. But note the criteria Greenfield cites as keys to who “wins” and who “loses” the debates: Who commands the room? Who drives the narrative? Who is in charge? What on earth do these things have to do with running the country? Nothing. They are about theater, period. And in Greenfield’s opinion, Obama’s performance in the second debate was better theater than Romney’s (give him a 9.6 to Romney’s 8.3) and considerably better than his performance in the first debate (7.4). Aldous Huxley had it right in the 1950s when he predicted that Americans would one day elect an actor as president!

Historically, viewer interest in the debates does fall off after the first one. And in that regard Greenfield is probably correct in saying that Obama’s performance on October 16th was of little consequence. But again one must ask why on earth the voters of this land hadn’t made their minds up about who could run this country best long before the two men stood before TV cameras and played the roles required of them as performing clowns in that first debate? Where have people been for the past months that they have to listen to a TV debate to decide who will get their vote — given that these two men sit on opposite sides of the political fence on every important issue? The answers seem clear: an astonishing number of people in this country are simply too busy to follow the news, pick up a newspaper, visit web sites, or read carefully argued blogs in order to determine where the two men stand on vital issues that impact all our lives.

But as they say it’s “academic.” The second debate is now over and apparently Obama performed much better than he did in the first debate. But it will not make much difference because apparently watching TV for 90 minutes is all many people can spend making up their minds whom they will vote for as president of these United States, and those 90 minutes took place two weeks ago. As Greenfield said, making clear what arena these debates are held in: “That opportunity [for Obama] vanished that night. While it’s clear that Obama’s performance will revive the enthusiasm of his supporters, it seems unlikely that it will cause those impressed by Romney to reconsider. Like they say in show business, timing is everything.”

Al Is Green

Al Gore puts his money where his mouth is and it has made him a very wealthy man. The Washington Post recently reported that his net worth these days is around $100 million — 50 times what it was after leaving the office of Vice President — mostly as a result of investments in clean energy. This gives the lie to those nay-sayers who insist that investing in clean energy will not pay dividends and that the government should ignore clean energy and continue to pursue such projects as the Keystone Oil pipeline while maintaining the $4 billion a year in tax subsidies to Big Oil.

Not only has Gore made it big investing in clean energy, others have as well — as the Huff Post reported recently:

Gore isn’t the only one who’s betting on green energy. The United States invested $51 billion in renewable energy in 2011, second only to China in a year where green investments hit a record high.

He also has to thank the Obama administration’s 2009 stimulus package. The $80 to $90 billion worth of government investment in green energy has helped to grow many of the companies Gore and his renewable energy-based hedge fund Generation Investment Management have put the majority of their money in. In fact, nine of 11 companies that Gore endorsed during a 2008 presentation on fighting climate change received government investment, WaPo reports.

There have been failures in the clean energy field, of course, and these have been the focus of comments made during the current presidential campaign by Mitt Romney. Romney would also like to reduce or eliminate altogether future government investments in clean energy in spite of the fact that they are clearly paying off.

But the success rate of renewable energy companies may be far higher than some, particularly Presidential candidate Mitt Romney, would like to admit. During the first Presidential debate, Romney claimed that over half the green energy companies benefitting from stimulus dollars failed. In fact, just 1.4 percent of the U.S. dollars invested in green energy went to companies that had failed by the end of 2011, CleanTechnica reports.

Romney, and others of his persuasion, would like to point to the failures — such as the solar energy company Solyndra which went belly up as a result of the availability of cheap solar panels made in China which the Obama administration finally stopped by imposing tariffs — though too late to save Solyndra. In any event, the success stories greatly outweigh the failures in spite if what Mitt would have us believe.

The stimulus packages clearly help bring money into the clean energy industry, but why don’t both sides of the political aisle get foursquare behind the clean energy movement, help create jobs, boost the economy, and head in the direction of countries like Germany which will be nuclear and coal free within a few years? The answer requires some speculation, but it is fairly clear that the companies that make huge profits from the continued use of fossil fuels would prefer that we not wean ourselves from those sources of energy (despite the damage we are doing to the environment and the planet itself) and they pour large amounts of money into the pockets of politicians to see to it that it doesn’t happen. But the success stories continue to pop up from time to time and people like Al Gore still believe and their belief is clearly paying off.