Monthly Archives: April 2015

Run, Gary, Run!

GE DIGITAL CAMERAI’ve been running for office for 9 days now.  What have I learned….?

I’ve learned that everyone knows what you need to do to win.

I’ve learned that county central committees don’t call each other to determine if they overlap.

I’ve learned that being a candidate means that, sadly, you can no longer write a column0020_MG_1399 for the local paper, that you no longer can be the emcee of the annual parade, but that everyone you run into will call you “Congressman” with a smile.

I’ve learned that most people will be gracious, even if they don’t agree with you on a topic.

I’ve learned that everyone is concerned about you and will warn:  “You know that there will be negative ads, don’t you?  Are you prepared for that?”

I’ve learned that people root for people they know and that they really like to know people who are willing to run.

And I’ve learned that running for office, holding down a full time job, having 2 young sons, and continuing to serve the community in the various ways you always have….make it nearly impossible to keep up with your blog, Gary Has Issues.

portraitI will get back in here from time to time, if just to re-post or freshen up an older post (it never ceases to amaze me how issues circle back year after year).  In the meanwhile, here is my candidacy webpage:  www.kroegerforcongress.com

I hope you take a look now and again.

Love,

Gary

The Stick

My father was a child of the Great Depression.  He grew up in a family with 7 children in an abandoned caboose with no electricity or plumbing and only had one pair of overalls and ratty old shoes to wear to school every day.

It was, after all, the Depression, and everyone was poor in the dusty town of Sterling, Colorado, but even among the poor, no one had less than my father.

He was teased for his clothes, his lack of decent shoes and unkempt appearance.

His mother and father did what they could for 7 children and saw that everyone attended school, but in the midst of a depression it is hard to improve your situation once you are destitute.  They couldn’t afford new clothes if they were to put food on the table.

My father told me a story, just before he died 13 years ago, about that childhood.  He told me how jealous he was of the other kids at school who got Tom Mix 6-guns for Christmas or any of a variety of toys that were popular in the 1930’s;  comic books, tinker toys and train sets.  Such things were a far off dream for my father.

And then one day on a lonely walk home he found a stick.

It was a perfect stick; long and straight.  The stick became his rifle, it was a divining rod, even a magic wand.  It became his toy and it captured his imagination.  He took it everywhere; to school, to the supper table, even to bed.

Being the kid with dirty overalls, however, with worn out shoes, living in an broken down caboose, having a stick for a toy didn’t improve his status.  It was something more to be ridiculed because he didn’t have anything another boy would want.

And so, he told me, he began to “hate that stick.”

He hated that it was all that he had.  He hated the poverty that it reminded him of; it was everything that was missing in his life, his family’s life.  It represented the undoing of the promise of America that was called the Great Depression.

“Until, one day,” he said, “when I lost that stick.”

Suddenly, it was gone.  That stick that he hated had nevertheless been all that he had.  Beyond its scorn it contained a boy’s hopes and dreams.  It was an inanimate friend that never let him down and now that wooden, cylindrical object, made magical by it’s perfect form, that he alone could transform into anything, had disappeared.

And he cried and cried…and cried.

My father was not a story teller.  He never put much credence into nice resolutions with moral lessons and his story ended there.  But that was my father.  He knew that his true to life parable had a point and that it was up to me to find out what it was.

I was mesmerized by the vision of my father as a poor boy with nothing, because the man I knew as my father was always strong and success radiated from his unusual intelligence and his unwavering commitment to giving his family a home that was safe and sound.

I saw that stick as vividly as the table that separated us.  I knew instantly what that stick was meant to tell me.

Don’t measure your life by what is missing from it or has yet to be fulfilled.  Instead treasure what is in your hand.  It may be lost someday, and you may discover…that it was the most valuable thing you could ever call your own.

As we argue as a nation over budgets, welfare spending, taxes and health care reform, let us all remember that we live in a free nation that allows for our disagreements and we can emerge better and stronger.

Let us not lose sight of the fact that when we have the opportunity to help ourselves we can also help our neighbors.

Let us remember to treasure the freedom that we hold in our hands.

Thanks, Dad.

 

Who’s on Second?

We have this tendency in America to fictionalize the stories of our founders in order to create a shorthand understanding of their great accomplishments.

George Washington certainly told a lie, but it inspires us to believe that the Founding Fathers were cut from divine cloth.

This has been on my mind as I read positions regarding gun control in the wake of Orlando and after the epidemic of murders from California, Oregon, Connecticut, Colorado, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Virginia Tech, and Auburn.  As anti gun-control activists apply the protection of the Second Amendment they often embellish the authors with a clairvoyance above mere mortals.

But mortals they were…

They were not mystics and wizards and could not imagine the technologies that would emerge from their infant nation.  In their time a “well regulated militia” (of farmer-soldiers) was necessary to supplement the national army to protect the sovereignty of our nation against foreign invasion.  It was inconceivable at the time that a militia would ever become irrelevant.

And so having, at the ready, armed citizens, to protect their young and vulnerable country from an invading army was logical. They included, therefore, a prefatory clause in their Second Amendment:  “A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state….”

After the massacre in Orlando, the gun control debate has re-ignited, and four bills regarding background checks and FBI authority went before the Senate (two Republican-drafted bills and two Democratic bills).  All four were struck down.

Background check expansion is the low hanging fruit in this debate and even there bi-partisan cooperation could not be found.  Iowa Senator Joni Ernst supported Iowa Senator Charles Grassley’s amendment to improve the National Instant Criminal Background Check System and to give the FBI three days to investigate an individual to confirm or rule out links to terrorism (if evidence is found, the FBI could seek a warrant from a judge to prevent the transfer of a gun to that individual), but that appeared as smoke and mirrors to Democrats who saw it as too weak with too many constraints to make a difference.

The concern of Republicans was defense of due process and not subjugating law- abiding citizens to unlawful restrictions regarding the purchase of guns.  Ernst regarded the amendment as a “reasonable solution … without unlawfully infringing on law-abiding U.S. citizens’ Second Amendment rights.”  That, in and of itself, is not an unreasonable statement, but it will not bring us any closer to a resolution.

The central argument that needs to be understood is not even being raised.  Or, if it is, it is so divisive it simply cannot be resolved.  And that is:  What are those Second Amendment rights?  How far do they extend?  Do they include weapons designed for the military?

I asked a friend who disagrees with me on the issue of gun control and he said, “There are no restrictions.  The Second Amendment says ‘arms’ which includes anything.”

He continued:  “I’m not saying people can have rocket launchers and bazookas, but anything they can carry on their person for protection or hunting.”

“What if firearm technology,” I asked, “develops a personal, mini-missile launcher that fits neatly onto your forearm?  As easy to conceal as most handguns.  Is that now fair game to own?”

“You’re being ridiculous.”

“No, I’m not.  That is no more of a stretch from today’s weaponry than a semi-automatic rifle is from a single shot musket.  You know…the ‘arms’ that were understood in the Second Amendment.”

Personally, I cannot see how military weaponry is protected by the “right to bear arms” and how we can justify an instrument intended to destroy as much human life as possible in the shortest amount of time to be part of our domestic universe.  I will admit to heavy editorializing in that last statement, but that is the degree of my befuddlement.

I asked another friend to help me understand and he wrote this in return:

Just as folks in Nebraska started locking their doors after 9/11, it is an irrational response to what appears as a rational fear.  They feel that personal assault weaponry is appropriate protection, even though that threat has a near-zero probability.  And since Isis or al-Qaeda haven’t actually attacked North Platte, it reinforces in their mind that their actions are causally related to that fact.

Neurological pathways are created that associates gun ownership with safety, even though the opposite is more likely to be true.  Gun ownership increases the probabilities of a number of negative events (e.g., your spouse shoots you; you accidently shoot yourself; you shoot the pizza delivery guy because you didn’t know your son ordered Dominoes at midnight).  The chance of you chasing away a would-be killer with your AR 15-  almost zero.

That got me thinking:  What can statistics tell us about the relationship between guns and our safety?

Americans own over 300 million firearms. 35% of our private residences own at least one gun.  According to a survey conducted by the Archive of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, 40% of the children in these homes know where the guns are stored and 20% have handled the guns without adult supervision or even knowledge of the handling.

Emory University conducted a study that determined that the likelihood of a murder occurring in homes that have guns nearly triples. 77% of those killed in their homes were murdered by someone they knew with no signs of forced entry, whereas, strangers account for less than 4% of the murders.

These are pretty numbing statistics and contradict the notion of the NRA and most gun supporters, who oppose gun laws, saying that carrying a firearm provides greater safety.

In the aftermath of the Arizona shooting at an outdoor shopping mall, several years back, I was in a conversation with a couple of friends who were of the opinion that if “people had been armed this tragedy would not have gone as far as it did.”

I heard the same with regard to the shootings at Sandy Hook.

“Really?” I asked. “If more people, without police or military training, were packing heat you think the violence would have been better contained?”

“You bet!” was the response.

My point here is not to limit responsible Americans from owning guns or to inhibit our hunters from their pursuits, but to lessen the chances of people who are criminally inclined or unstable from the easy access they find today.

And to demand accountability from somewhere for an epidemic of assassinations that extends to every seemingly tranquil corner of our nation and, therefore, jeopardizes my family.

Here’s what a coalition of 550 US mayors have asked for:

#1 — Fix the Holes in the Background Database: Existing laws already outlaw criminals, drug abusers, the mentally ill, and other dangerous people from passing a background check. The problem is state and federal agencies aren’t required by law or funded by Congress to supply that information to the background check system and possibly as many as one million prohibited purchasers are missing from the background database.

A new law would create full funding and necessary incentives for states and federal agencies to comply with reporting requirements and make sure every legally prohibited purchaser is included in the background check database.

#2 — Sell No Gun Without a Check: Under the current system, even if a Prohibited Purchaser like the Virginia Tech or Tucson shooters would fail a background check, they could still have walked into any gun show and bought a car load of guns with no background check, no questions asked. A new law would close all of the loopholes and require background checks for every gun sale, with reasonable exceptions for law enforcement and certain gun permit holders.

A gun is a single function mechanism designed to kill and while the pro-gun lobby likes to use catchy phrases like, “Guns don’t kill, people do” as if to imply that a gun is a harmless lump of metal without a human pulling the trigger, they belie the issue.

Cars don’t run stoplights by themselves and they don’t drink alcohol either, people do, but we enforce safety laws and revoke licenses when vehicle safety is abused. We wouldn’t let a teenager drive a car before learning how because a vehicle is a potentially deadly force in incapable hands, so why are we lax on gun control and allow people who have not shown that they know how to use a gun to purchase one?

Which, invariably, brings us back to the Second Amendment….

After many drafts, it was finally worded and ratified within the Bill of Rights in 1791 thusly- A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

There is no question that this amendment was a safeguard relevant to its time, but state militias of farmer/soldiers are no longer the best application of force to protect our interests; our national military quickly evolved to serve that purpose.  Our military is now so powerful that it is only a cinematic-Patrick Swayze-fantasy that believes armed citizens can protect our sovereignty.

The Constitution is a living document conceived by a diverse collection of men who put their best ideas forward to design a charter that realistically interprets the times.  The role of firearms and part of the original intent of the Second Amendment has changed dramatically.  Just as Civil Rights have been more clearly and accurately defined over time and the Bill of Rights has grown to reflect our new enlightenments, so must our understanding and application of the use of personal lethal force.

There are no “rights” without restrictions.

Even the First Amendment comes with parameters to contain its reckless exercise; you cannot defame or harm someone’s reputation by libel or slander.  Just yell “Fire!” in a crowded movie theater and see how quickly your “freedom of speech” is curtailed.  The same is true of the Second Amendment.  You may have the “right to bear arms” but not any way, anywhere, anytime you wish.

“The right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed” but when that declaration infringes on my family when we’re strolling through the mall or when my children are in SCHOOL, I will support legislation that demands responsibility from those who wish to exercise that right.

Now…who’s on First?

Have a Koch and a Smile!

Senate Republicans Speak To Media After Their Weekly Policy LuncheonRepublicans have voted against Obama’s jobs bill…voted against a Consumer Financial Protection Agency to curb the fraudulent practices that contributed to the recession…voted against a bi-partisan budget…voted against ending tax breaks that did nothing but line the pockets of Big Oil…they voted against the “Buffet Rule” that would essentially lower marginal tax rates but also disallow the loopholes that effectively give the wealthy the lowest tax percentage…voted against the Comprehensive Veterans Health and Benefits and Military Retirement Pay Restoration Act….and look, once again, to 2016 to become a referendum against insuring Americans who couldn’t afford health care…

…and yet they claim to be the patriotic Americans, true to the principles upon which we were founded; a Republic for and by the people.

All of these initiatives intended to improve the economy; to improve the standard of living for the majority of Americans; reduce their risk; reduce the manipulation of stocks; to make taxes more equitable for all of us; improve Veterans benefits; and to give all Americans access to medicine.  However, Republican leadership has convinced its flock that reform is bad for America unless it is to turn policy in favor of the investment class even more.

I’ve heard echoed in the streets, “We have to give the rich incentives, they are the Job Creators.”

It has been clear, however, over the past 35 years that we have been giving the rich incentives.  The upper class have increased their holdings 250% and the top 1% control over 40% of America’s wealth.  And they have the power and the money to influence legislation on every level, and to convince too many voters that they need even more so that they can continue as our benevolent benefactors.

I’ve read and heard comments from people who contend that we don’t want to upset the rich by suggesting that maybe…just maybe…they could afford to pay a little more to pay down the debt…since…well, they benefitted the most from the way things have been…and maybe because some of it was fraudulent (Rigas, Skilling, Lay, Kozlowski, Ebbers, McDermott, Waksal, Madoff, etc.)…and…oh God, I hope I don’t offend anyone…but the average working American has been paying the bill while many have lost their pensions….and…here we go—-couldn’t afford health care….

This is where someone invariably chimes in with, “We need the rich and wealth creation is their incentive- don’t you know anything, Gary??”

Actually, I know very well how the system works.  It’s a Capitalist/Free Market with Mixed Market influence to minimize instability while creating incentives; it sustains with the creation of wealth.  “Job creation,” however, comes from demand from consumers; businesses are created or expanded to meet demands.  No one goes into business to create jobs, in fact, job creation is the last resort as it adds costs.

Nothing sinister about that, it’s just the way it is.

Don’t get me wrong- I love the rich!  Some of my best friends are rich!  Wish I were one of them but reform isn’t a punishment of wealth and success; it is a stop-gap to protect those who feed the machine with their consumption of goods and services, the working class, so that the system can prosper within a Republic.

What many people have forgotten (or never knew) is that our system of governance is the primary function of this Republic, not our system of economics.  Perhaps, the reason so many Americans are more protective of Capitalism than they are the social and cultural advantages of a representative Democracy may be because they believe our survival depends on economic prosperity while the constructs of justice and democratic social order are not actually…necessary.

But this is where our collective noodle gets fried; the quality of American life, what our military men and women have fought and died for, is our social order and constitutional justice- not the free market.

Some of my critics have said that the rich are going to stop investing if we insult them or hold them responsible to pay a more fair share, and like sycophantic serfs we must acknowledge their great contributions to jobs and the economy.

They are afraid that they will take their ball and go home unless we apologize for suggesting that they have been doing pretty well and that it is time to share the burden.

I’d like to ask a question.  Where are they going to invest?  We’re 25% of the entire world’s net worth.

Are they really going to take their ball, and say, “We don’t want to play with you anymore because you don’t appreciate us!”?

No. I’m pretty sure they are going to stay right here and keep making money. Some will continue to belly ache because they know they can convince enough people that they are the “victims” rather than the winners in this market, but no one is going to pass on the endless opportunities in America to increase their wealth.

The budget, the debt, debt celings, fiscal cliffs and sequestration have been excuses to convince a frightened public who experienced a deep recession leading to job loss, loss of income and investments, that we need the Supply-Side (Trickle-Down) economics back at the helm…the policies that emptied our pockets in the first place.

Nothing illustrates this paradoxical policy paradigm better than the Fabulous Koch Brothers, withthe-koch-brothers a combined wealth of over 50 billion dollars, who released a commercial denouncing social services.

They proclaim that a salary of $34,000 a year puts a person among the wealthiest 1% in the world (which is as logical as saying that between me and Bill Gates, we have over 40 billion dollars!).  The Koch’s are saying that we don’t need food stamps and a minimum wage because Americans are already better off than most of the world.

“We’ve got to clear those out,” they said, “or anything that reduces the mobility of labor.”

If they were being genuine they would have added: “Or anything that keeps us from getting richer.”

What is at stake here is more than economic policy differences, but the very foundation of freedom and liberty as championed by our Great Charter.  We cannot allow for policy to be purchased.  We cannot tolerate living in a plutocracy where justice, opportunity and freedom is meted out according to wealth.