Why on Earth would anyone want to be a politician?

Political office is supposed to be a service to society, but today it seems that politicians get power and money.

There has always been an element of power associated with political office, and I suppose that is why most capital cities have special laws that allow things that are not allowed anywhere else, such as legalized prostitution, access to fireworks and lower than average taxes. It’s also why most capital cities are a long way from where most people actually want to live.

But recently it seems that politicians have been awarding themselves much more than their fair share of goodies. Wage increases above everyone else’s, huge pension schemes, massive benefit packages, longer and longer vacations, even the right to insider trade and take money in exchange for influence.

This has been a concern since the Greeks had an empire, and philosophers wrote about an elite class that ruled but couldn’t benefit from the rules they imposed (Plato’s Republic), and the documented corruption of the senate in Rome (the fall of the Roman Empire).

Whenever politicians throughout history have given themselves too much power, the weight of the corruption that this in turn delivers has always led to the balance being reset.

It doesn’t matter what system has been in place, various capitalist systems, different types of democracy, fascism, socialism, communism and even the sycophantic Byzantine Empire model, which used titles and awards to reward people until those very people realized there was this huge lump of unguarded wealth protected only by purely corrupt words.

We now have ridiculously wealthy and powerful politicians across Europe and America, who seem only interested in furthering their own wealth by doing the bidding of those even wealthier than themselves.

The poor don’t have enough to pay a significant proportion of taxes, and the rich have enough to be able to avoid paying a significant proportion of taxes. Those in the middle have and always will pay more than they should. But when the poorer get poorer still, and the rich get even richer, then the middle has to pay even more. And politicians who don’t spot this early enough and allow the balance to shift too far get in trouble.

They can try for a while to pander to people with words about religious fervor, or scare people with stories about terror and those of a different color, but in the end they end up in trouble. The world has moved on from guillotines and now the trouble mostly comes in the form of impeachments, fines , humiliation and prison terms (hellos Blagojevich, hello Neil Hamilton).

And yet today we have a situation in the US where an almost infinite amount of money is spent to influence the political agenda.

It’s shocking that in exchange for money politicians add clauses into laws that directly reward those who pay them. There are actual laws in the US that mean that specific job titles in specific banking jobs pay lower rates of taxes than everyone else. Seriously Hedge Fund managers pay a lower rate of tax! People who earn their money off of stock trades pay less tax (as a percentage) than people who fight fires or dig holes.

We have had politicians who have run large companies, who have actually given no bid contracts to the actual companies that used to run and have huge investments in.

We have billionaires paying politicians to give billionaires lower taxes. And then these politicians ask people who own a house to pay more to fund the schools in their town (because it’s a choice, give another billion to a billionaire or ensure that schools have enough books, there’s not enough for both).

We have billionaires paying politicians to ensure that the government buys trillions in armaments at list price, and using the words “war profiteer” never passes their lips.

The corruption is across the board.
• Gun companies pay politicians to ensure that everyone can buy guns.
• Drug companies pay politicians to ensure that the government pays list price for drugs and that consumers are banned from buying these same drugs from lower priced sellers abroad.
• Coal companies pay politicians to build coal powered power plants.
• Oil companies pay politicians to build pipelines to their oil refineries.
• Huge farmers pay politicians for farm subsidies.
• Banks pay politicians to remove regulations.
• And the list just goes on and on.

The issue is that politicians are able legally to be influenced by money. And while this happens they will always be corrupt.

On the surface different parties blame each other for the corruption, but all the pigs are feeding at exactly the same trough.

In some places in the world it’s illegal for politicians to accept money for influence (it’s considered a bribe), this doesn’t stop it happening totally, but it does send some to prison.

The issue is that whenever I hear a politician say that they want to get money out of politics, I still don’t trust them. I know they have an angle.

Have we reached the point where no politician can ever be trusted again?

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The HP Way

When Carly Fiorina became the CEO of Hewlett Packard, she came into a company steeped with great ideas (both at a cultural level and in terms of long term strategy), an amazing history and some of the most creative people in technology. Things were far from perfect, but the company generally had a strong business model, mostly well respected products and an incredibly loyal and talented workforce.

To say that Carly did not take the time to understand the strengths of her company would be an extreme understatement.

I got to meet her a couple of times and got to see her present many times, and the feeling I came away with from each interaction was the same; It’s not that her ideas were terrible (they were not), but an ability to get her subordinates to follow her direction was almost non-existent. Great leaders always spend the time to understand what it will take to make change, and this always starts with trying to understand the motivation of those that you need to change. I don’t care if you are Stalin or the Dali Lama you need a plan, either to convince or bully.

Carly did neither, she would state her idea, and just blindly assume that it was accepted. And I saw general manager after general manager blatantly ignore her, and just do what they wanted without any consequence.

This lead to massive fragmentation, with different parts of the company doing entirely different things. At the time, I thought this was weird, now I know (from decades of experience) it was the expected result of very weak leadership. I’ve seen other weak leaders since then, but none who were is such a high position.

Growing through merger and acquisition is fraught with issues. In a large percentage of M&A situations the result of one plus one is close to one. In other words the resulting merged company ends up being no bigger than the biggest of the merged parts. To me this is the definition of failure. If you merge two companies and reduce the joint workforce to the size of the previous largest part, and you lose customers and talent such that the resulting revenue is about the same as the largest of the two previous companies and your ability to do new things is about the same as the previous largest of the two companies, then you have failed.

In the case of HP and it’s Fiorina-tenured M&A strategy this is what I believe happened. Billions were wasted, and lead to increased debt that the new business has to service. Less people had jobs, customers were pissed off, and the resultant new company was far less cohesive (split cultural ideas).

In my view Carly Fiorina was a disastrous CEO for HP. I know she doesn’t see it that way, but speak with those who were there at the time, that’s exactly how it seemed to us.

So when she stands up and says she has the talent to be POTUS, and she uses HP as her one and only proof point, it doesn’t work for me.

She needs to apologize to the memory of Bill and Dave

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Your ignorance is NOT as good as my knowledge

Isaac Asimov once famously said “There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.”

The processes that are slowly but surely turning the news reporting and news publishing services into a continual flow of restating the opinions of others with absolutely no reference to actual facts is making this point of view more valid than ever!

It doesn’t matter if you follow MSNBC, Fox news, CNN or any of the other news services or news aggregating sites (such as the huffingtonpost or drudge report), the content is based on restating the most outrageous statements of every mouthpiece on every channel. The goal is not to report the news but to get eyeballs on the gaps between the news, by trying to tickle the interest enough of already biased consumers so that the stay on the channel across the ad breaks. And showing the latest shot of some oversized body part of a mostly naked vacuous plastic twenty something who is famous for only being famous is seen as more valuable than an analysis of some currently critical world event.

Why do political parties think it’s important to collect huge sums of money for their cause? Do robot-calls, surveys, print and TV ads actually influence peoples voting behavior? Or is the lucrative publicity machine using elections as a revenue stream and generating self-perpetuating statistics to “prove” their value to their customers.

When people give large sums of money to political causes, they are not doing it out of the goodness of their hearts, they expect something in return. And people who can afford to give to political parties generally want something big, such as a return in excess of the expenditure they are making. Why would anyone think that it’s a good idea to allow government to be influenced by money? Well it seems that politicians are becoming part of the richest class in history.

Politicians should be paid for their work, and if they don’t break anything and find ways of doing what’s required without spending in excess of the available funds, they should be rewarded with some ongoing remuneration. But if they screw things up, get us into wars that should have been avoidable, spend money we don’t have or raise taxes beyond a very tiny amount, then they should get nothing.

And hey politicians and wannabe politicians let’s be clear on a number of things:

1. If you get us into a war, you have failed! War is the ultimate failure of diplomacy, if you can’t outsmart our enemies with words, and sneaky behind the scenes manipulation then you are the wrong people to lead.

2. Poor people need more help than rich people! Your job is to sort out education, healthcare, and a social net to ensure that this place is filled with happy, healthy, well educated, clean people who don’t need to live as an underclass, do that and everyone wins, and it can be a hell of a lot cheaper than a massive prison complex and millions of unemployable (mainly) minorities.

3. Balance the books! Stop spending half of everything on overpriced military hardware and services, that’s just a way of paying off your buddies (war profiteers), instead either pay a lot less for the military hardware you buy or buy less of it. That’s the only area of government that needs to be tweaked for the budget to balance, every other item is just a rounding error in comparison.

4. Tax religion! Religious organizations are trying hard to be political, it even says “In God We Trust” on the cash. Tax religions and you will have more money than you know what do to with, and it will just make us smile.

5. Education is NOT a way of making money! The blatant screwing of public schools, and the idiotic volume of testing is killing a generation, and charter schools are going to be the same at a higher price. Local county taxes for schools are killing people’s income and the huge cost of student loans is going to kill generations of spending power.

6. Science is key, we need well educated and highly motivated scientists to make a world of seven billion plus people function; otherwise we’re looking at a Mad Max future.

7. Infrastructure – We need better trains, roads, power, communications, water, and airports. We need better than everywhere else in the world, stop being stupid about it.

8. Stop worrying about difference. Everyone is different, and it is absolutely the government’s job to stop any and all levels of discrimination, there are no acceptable levels. Skin color, ability, sexual orientation, left or right handed, fat, thin, tall, short, blind, deaf, man, woman, race, religious affiliation, country of decendency, whatever criteria you can think of. If you don’t like someone else, tough, difference is just a fact of existence live with it!

9. And stop saying and doing stupid things. They say power corrupts and ultimate power corrupts ultimately, but COME ON, we’ve had Cigar-gate, Darth Vader, client number 9, dick picks, email scandals, selling senate seats, toe tapping in toilets, married men taking girlfriends on fuckaways on government jets, undeclared corporate gifts, leaks every which way you could ever imagine and so much more, isn’t in clear yet it’s not worth it. If you want to be a politician, take some bromide while you’re in office, and stock up on Viagra for when you get thrown out, and use it then and not before.

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Verbal diarrhea has a new analogy

Thinking is a complex activity, often when you think through an idea, your state to yourself inside your head a point of view, which you can quickly realize is wrong, and so you discount and keep working through all the rest of the possible ideas. This is how each of us considers complex issues and decides on a course of action that is reasonable and we then open our mouths and share the idea with others.
Sometimes even then we realize on reflection of other people’s responses, that the thing that we have said was wrong, and we take a moment to consider a reasonable response. In this way through a mix of individual thoughts and shared ideas we generally can come up with a position on pretty much anything.

Of course there are some people who just cannot ever let an idea stay in their head, or when it comes out and is clearly inappropriate, don’t have the common sense to say so, apologize and take a more reasonable position.

It seems that right now many of the people hoping to be president of the USA have no idea how to either keep stupid thoughts inside their head or when they have popped out, how to say “sorry, that was a silly thing to say, let me try that again”.

The most amazing “postulater” of half chewed misinformed and ignorant statements is quite clearly Donald Trump.

In just a few short weeks he’s accused all Mexican illegal immigrants of being drug dealing, murdering rapists and he’s publically stated that one of the leading elder statesmen of the US government was not a hero because he was shot down and captured while performing a mission during a war.

Everyone at one time or another has said something stupid, it happens, but no one can be that arrogant to think that when they have said something really inane that it’s okay to stand behind the statement, just because it came out of their own mouth.

There are clearly problems with illegal immigration in the US, but the issue is not just the migrants themselves, it’s much bigger than that. Economics drives migration, farmers who use undocumented labor should be imprisoned. Those who help traffic migrants illegally should be imprisoned. There are tough and reasonable actions that must be taken to provide a framework for legal migration for all levels of workers. But it is not by claiming that all immigrants from a specific country or region are immoral at every level.

John McCain is not everyone’s ideal senator. He’s vacillated between being a free thinking “maverick” and a right wing party mouthpiece, but one thing absolutely everyone can agree to, is that he was and is incredibly brave and a hero of the wars he fought in. He took amazing risks to perform his duty, was terribly injured and while in captivity under extreme duress did not tell the enemy what they wanted to hear. And he has spent most of his life serving his country. In the hierarchy of heroes he’s pretty much up there with the best.

Donald Trump should be ashamed of his words, that’s a natural response when you have verbal diarrhea. But instead the “donald” seems to believe that his shit stinks of roses. I really think his arrogance is boundless. If there was ever a need to use tar and feathers and carry someone out of town on a rail in humiliation, it’s now and it’s Trump. Maybe they can turn the process into a reality TV show.

I personally will be telling people they are “pulling a trump”, when they say something really ignorant and insulting and then stand by it.

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Experiences with Carly Fiorina

Many years ago I worked at Hewlett Packard. I had the pleasures of meeting every single one of their CEO’s from Bill and Dave all the way through to
Carly Fiorina. They were all amazing individuals with very different personalities, skills and attitudes.

While I never had the chance to play chess with any of them; If I had I would have expected to lose quickly and dramatically against all of them… except Ms. Fiorina. I don’t think Chess is her game.

Let me explain.

When you play chess there are several things you need.
1. You need to understand the moves, how each piece moves and the objective of the game (to capture the other player’s king).

2. You need to be able to develop a strategy to allow you to capture your opponents king without them capturing your king.

3. You need to be able to think ahead, recognizing how the other player will act in response to your move and how to react to the moves they are making.

I suspect Ms. Fiorina would be excellent at steps 1 and 2, but have no idea how to do step 3.

My experience in watching her was that she was exceptional at building a strategy to achieve a goal, but absolutely terrible at making sure that all the people who worked for her followed her lead and did what was required to deliver the goal.

I saw her tell her management team exactly what she required from them. And then I saw her management team ignore her direction and do whatever they pleased. The results were messy to say the least.

What I didn’t see was her dealing with this direct disobedience. Either she wasn’t aware of it or she decided to ignore their lack of professional respect, either way the outcome was not of the highest quality of leadership.

I’ve read her book, and watched with interest her start into California politics. And by chance a few years ago I caught a speech she gave in Sydney while on a world tour with Bill Clinton. They just happened to have the event in the hotel I was staying in. And I’m hoping she has either learned some dramatic lessons over the past decade or quickly moves out of the Republican potentials for Presidential nomination.

I think that on a chess board she would have no idea how her opponent would react, and would be shocked that her pieces were quickly destroyed and her king captured. If she could purchase additional chess pieces and change the rules, different story, but that’s not how chess is played.

When she joined HP as CEO, I was excited, but within a year I had decided to leave the company I’d been at for a dozen years because what she was doing was just that awful. Many friends and people I respect stayed at HP, but to this day I cannot remember anyone saying a good word about her leadership.

Maybe my experiences with Carly are not the experiences of others, and maybe I just caught her on bad days. But it was a lot of really bad days.

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Presiding while Black

I try not to live my life through the lens of politics, but I have to say I’m quite unimpressed with the US governments’ ability to replicate the last years of the Roman Empire.

I mean talk about fiddling while Rome burns! The ability for politicians to take actions that hurt real people, just to score political points is incredible.

I measure the effectiveness of any governing body by the results it achieves. If nothing breaks, minimal people die, employment goes up and the cost of living goes down I’m generally happy.

And by the cost of living I’m talking holistically. I don’t care if it’s federal taxes, state taxes, local taxes, sales taxes, VAT, inflation, healthcare costs, airport fees, booking fees of Broadway show tickets, a tax on plastic bags or the price of fuel. If at the end of the day what you can spend and save goes down something is broken and I want to know what and why.

Any politician that fails to stop a war or starts a war, clearly has failed. I don’t care who started it, the most powerful politicians are the ones who fix it without sending teenagers with guns anywhere. Sending heroes into harm’s way is a last resort, and the politician who was not good enough to stop it has proved their ineffectiveness.

And when a politician has failed and people are pointing guns at each other, the only way the politician can redeem themselves at all, is to ensure that the fighting is swift, decisive and with minimal casualties. Generals know how to do this, and they do it best when the politicians back off. Police actions, spending time standing around at check points and patrolling streets are political points, and they lead to real people paying the price.

But here’s the thing, I really don’t care if a leader has a dick or a vagina, or both or neither. I don’t care what color his or her skin is, and I don’t care what political party they favor or what deity they pretend to gesticulate towards. I really do hate people who do care about these things.

The affordable healthcare act, seemed like a good idea. The ACA was broken before it was launched, but even in its broken state it is better than what was in place before. I think most people expected government to do what governments have always done, and make it better. But instead it was used as a tool to break government even further.

The US has millions of immigrants from countries to the south. They have always been a great source of cheap labor who could be treated badly and due to their lack of legal status had only two choices, take it or fuck off. Rather than fix the situation again government has used it as a tool to break things even further.

In every possible way, from replacing dead judges to fixing crumbling bridges government have used the situation as a tool to make things worse.
Some would like to blame this on just one political party, but that is weak and pointless. Don’t believe me? Well, just note how many democrats refused to acknowledge that they voted for the black man, twice.

I would suggest that the republicans and democrats are equally to blame for the mess we are in. Republicans for blind loyalty, and the democrats for being too weak and cowardly to stand up and be counted.

The president does seen to have more melanin under his skin than most elected federal politicians. And it does seem that a lot of people hate him for it. Like all political leaders he has done a mix of good and bad. It’s just a shame that so many people are so tuned to be racist assholes, that they are happy to promote the bad as a way of making things worse, while stopping the good to … making things worse.

The phrase “cutting off your nose to spite your face” seems to be the new American normal.

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Support our Troops

A crowd of crazy lunatics blew a hole in the side of a US embassy in the Middle East and also attacked another building about a mile away. These nuts did it under the misapprehension that killing Americans and maybe some local staff who work for Americans could in some why help their deluded cause.

In the case of the US embassy in Benghazi 4 people were killed, The US ambassador , another US diplomat and two American Security staff. Another ten people were hurt in the attacks.

It should be noted that Bengahzi is in the country of Libya, a country with a history of creating crazed terrorists, including the ones that blew up an airliner passing over the Scottish town of Lockerbie on its way to America killing 243 passengers, 16 crew and 11 people who were living in the town of Lockerbie.

Many other countries embassies have been attacked in the country of Libya, many other Libyan terrorists have tried to kill people in other countries around the world.

At around the same time (within the previous week and the next week) as the 100 or so crazies in Benghazi were screaming and killing, several other groups in other countries around the middle east were screaming and terrorizing other locations.

Whenever and wherever terrorists attack, the response from the world has always been a mix of solid condemnation of the terrorists, and a solid front of stoic resilience, showing no outward change that would give the terrorists any reason to believe their horrific actions had in any way changed the way the world works and a solid underground effort to bring those who were responsible to account.

The basics of dealing with criminals is : Never pay a ransom, never let an act of terror achieve its goal of creating terror and find and bring the bastards responsible to account.

To honor the memory of those who were hurt and/or killed, never let the terrorists succeed in creating terror.

And that is why the stupidity of the republican campaign to publically find a way of linking the terrorist attacks in Libya to a mistake by the Obama government is so abhorrent. It is giving terrorists a reason to repeat their cowardly acts.

In effect those who are publically castigating the white house for purely political reasons are aiding the cause of the terrorists. This is cowardly and wrong.

When diplomats and security staff take roles in dangerous countries they are doing it to support their country. It’s an act of bravery and they need to be honored for their service. If they are hurt while on active service, they should be honored for their service.

Those who use an act of terror for their own political benefit are bringing themselves down to the disgusting level of the terrorists.

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War is the absolute failure of politics and diplomacy

When war happens, it happens when diplomacy and politics fail.

When you stop talking to the crazy man, then he is left with just the thoughts in his head.

This is the reason that we send lunatics to the mental institutions, you have to keep working on trying to reach even that tiniest amount of working brain cells.

The other choice is you ignore them and the voices in their heads that are telling them to kill take over.

It’s no different with world leaders. There are some crazy ones out there, and you have to keep talking to them.

When you stop talking to them they are free to do the craziest of things.

Diplomacy can be horrible. You may have to talk to people that you honestly detest.

That’s the job we pay and empower politicians and diplomats to do, and when they fail, wars happen.

Quite simply war is the purest form of diplomatic and political failure. A politician that leads a country to war or cannot find another route but all-out fighting has failed.

Failure happens, but that does not stop it from being a failure.

Many noble warriors and innocent bystanders get terribly hurt in war.

Heroes are not those who go to war, they are those who perform incredible acts to save others.

I’m not for a second postulating that it’s okay to let bad people do bad things, just that it takes political skill to force bad people to stop doing bad things without directly bombing them.

And in the face of popular dissent, still being able to force bad people to stand down takes political bravery and skill.

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Breakup Note Signed by “Autopen” in Question; Relationship End Delayed 2 Months Pending Inquiry

January 3, 2013: Average Angry Wire Service:  A controversy is brewing in Washington, DC around the use of an autopen to sign an important document, namely a document which would end a controversial agreement between often arguing parties.

This is a boy-meets-girl story that began well enough on a Capitol Hill bar crawl stop at the Tune Inn dive bar and evolved into a semi-commited relationship between the two long-time singles. The relationship now includes a drawer at each other’s apartment, a joint credit card and an assumed “date” each Saturday night.  But as with many boy-meets-girl stories it got ugly after one unfortunate “toilet non-flushing” too many. Screaming, name calling and a storming out followed and then a few days later the “note” appeared in the boy’s Google + account.

The autopen is mightier than the swirl?
The autopen is mightier than the swirl?
The girl in question (Nancy), states that “It’s over!” and that autopen is a perfectly acceptable way to authenticate a breakup, BFF status change or other relationship decision.  Her former love (John, but known as “Boner” by friends and colleagues), disagrees and adamantly states that the breakup “isn’t the real deal without a real quill.”  He also refuses to relinquish her drawer, end their fiscal entanglements or change his Facebook relationship status until she returns from her family vacation in Hawaii (so they can come to a resolution face to face on neutral territory in Washington).

His challenge to the validity of the “Dear Boner” letter has caused Nancy stress on her Hawaiian vacation, according to her spokesperson, and almost led to her canceling a much anticipated golf game and cliff diving tour with the newly elected president of the local American Legion hall in Waikiki Beach.  Her spokesperson also stated that she’ll deal with the problem in 2 months when she returns to DC and that her debt to him will eventually be paid off and won’t cause his Visa account to reach its ceiling and hurt his credit rating.

Sources familiar with the couple said they couldn’t elaborate on the bathroom incident but heard her threaten him with a “swirly” or similar swirl related toilet action if he didn’t “clean up his act.”

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Mr. President, A Budget Tip

November 6, 2012, 3:30pm ET   

President Obamney (I’m not sure who won yet), I feel that if the rest of us have to balance our checkbooks each month (and year), our country should too.

Voters have to balance their checkbooks, right?

Call me crazy but I believe that the USA can find a way to survive on a meager $2.5 trillion/year (or whatever the expected revenue is next year).  Go through every line item the way we workers do with our own budgets and make adult decisions about what you absolutely have to pay for and what is a “nice to have” that will have to wait until you get a raise in revenue or an unexpected bonus.  If you and the leaders of the House and Senate can honestly say that every line item in that proposed budget is 100% required this year, then I’ll personally bet you everything I own that you’re full of crap.  The size of the debt itself is the next economy and retirement-crushing disaster-in-waiting and you and the House and Senate were elected to address just this kind of tough problem.

Line-item veto? OK

Please don’t violate the “No Asshole Rule” and put politics ahead of doing the job right.  I don’t care how you do it or who gets the credit and neither should you.  If a “line item veto” is how it will get done, then I’ll support the President (and Speaker and Senate Majority Leader if needed) getting that power and I don’t care which party any of them are from.

This isn’t rocket science or difficult to understand and you all know it.  Once the budget is balanced for the year, THEN consider options for tackling the existing debt.  Increasing taxes and adding those additional short-term $ to the budget kitty will only increase spending, not decrease the debt in my opinion and isn’t that the point, to eliminate the debt itself?

It’s a balanced budget, not the quest for the Grail

Find a way to spend within your current means and then I’ll support really reviewing all options (including new and higher taxes and fees), to raise revenue for the specific purpose of eliminating the national debt itself.

Who’s with me?

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