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Larry Bennett

BENNETT: Are 2 Billionaires Best Choice For U.S.?

WE’RE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER

Are 2 Billionaires

Best Choice For U.S.?

By LARRY BENNETT • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

I am undecided.

After a year of run up to the Democratic primaries it seems safe to say party voters still don’t know who they want. The only thing they agree on is they want the candidate most likely to defeat Trump.

Larry Bennett, recently retired Brewery Ommegang creative director who is active in local causes, resides in East Merideth.

Yet the entire party is tied up in a Gordian knot of confusion about who that candidate should be. There is no obvious white knight with a sword sharp enough to slice through the knot.

I am a good example of the doubt within the party. I’ve generally believed the Democratic Party offered the best of the two feasible political choices available to me. Third parties have sometimes received my vote, but with my understanding that they had no chance of winning. Those votes were usually my small protests against the mainstream parties’ offerings.

I now see the current offerings of the Democratic Party as confusing, even bewildering. I understand that regardless of my primary vote the entire state will safely deliver its electoral votes to whomever is the chosen Democratic candidate. Still, I’d like to settle on a choice that makes me feel good about the direction of the party.

Joe Biden is the definition of the moderate Democratic candidate, but he seems to inspire no real following. He lacks the ability the incite passion in voters. He offers no agenda to fall in love with. Perhaps that’s an unfair criticism as moderates are by definition dispassionate, but I don’t see how such a candidate can defeat Trump, who lives for and by his passionate followers.

Elizabeth Warren is sharp, smart, and brimming with policy ideas and a strong desire to implement them. Yet her inherent policy wonkiness seems to be working against her. Proving again that it’s hard to become a passionate supporter of someone with a catalog of bullet-pointed white papers.

Pete Buttigieg is a creation of our times. He’s smart, personable, and admired as someone who has overcome an obstacle that would have excluded him from consideration as a presidential candidate even 20 years ago. But he seems to be politically untested in the kind of warfare that will be needed to defeat Trump.

Bernie Sanders has the ability to incite passion. He does so at every event. Contrary to the fears of both pundits and party elders, he isn’t a firebrand socialist.

FDR, perhaps the most loved president of the 20th Century, would have found Bernie a kindred spirit. He and Bernie reject the power of the wealthy and they champion the cause of the everyday person that is America’s supposed reason for being. Yet the press, the pundits, and the party believe he could not defeat Trump.

Enter Michael Bloomberg – a Republican running as a Democrat.  Perhaps as the last of the Rockefeller Republicans. Socially liberal, fiscally conservative, administratively competent, and theoretically insulated from corruptibility by his wealth, he appears to offer something other Democrats can’t offer. He simply pays his own way and owes nobody anything.

His wealth lets him compete without having to balance competing claims on him by interparty interest groups. His hubris rivals that of Trump, but he is much more adept as hiding it behind his screen of hyper-competency, something which Trump has neither the ability or desire to do.

He believes he can beat Trump. That he can match or exceed him in dollars spent. That he can offer the most rationally competent alternative to Trump. That he can run the country without the corruption and venality endemic to Trump. That he can win on dispassionate competency.

All this may be true, but will voters care? Or should they care? Is Bloomberg a strategic genius for avoiding the beauty pageant run-up to the primaries? Or is he just trying to buy the election? Is there real reason to believe he could best Trump?

Finally, is there a defensible reason American voters should have to make a choice between two putative billionaires?

BENNETT: Acquittal Emboldens Trump, For Now

COLUMN

WE’RE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER

Acquittal Emboldens Trump, For Now

Larry Bennett

No, Chicken Little, the sky is not falling. Donald J. Trump has dodged the impeachment bullet just as he dodged the Mueller Report.

He may feel emboldened to continue to ask others to dig up on his opponents; to continue to look the other way as Russian trolls do dirty work for him; to continue to require Republican politicians to
swear fealty and kiss his pinkie ring. He will continue to rant-tweet.

But he can’t dodge the election.

The American public is appalled by his lying and coarseness. His approval rating is 40 percent while his disapproval rate is 52 percent. His reelection support is 40 percent versus an unnamed Democrat getting 50 percent.

Even though Trump denies it happened, 50 percent of Americans believe Russia interfered in the 2016 election, and 73 percent believe Russian interference affected the outcome. Meanwhile, 47 percent of the public believes Trump lied about trying to strong-arm Ukraine to aid his reelection.

Just 31 percent of Americans like him as a person or say he is trustworthy, while 44 percent believe he is racist. All in all, 54 percent of the American public believes Trump is unfit to be president.

These numbers, from The Economist/YouGov Poll of Dec 28-31, 2019, show Trump is vulnerable.
Yes, the Electoral College is tilted in his favor. Yes, the Republican Party engages in voter suppression in dozens of states. Yes, Trump has tons of money to advertise and buy supporters. Yes, the path to victory over him will be difficult, but it can be navigated.

But first, one other set of numbers has to be addressed; numbers from the YouGov Poll – confirmed by the Census Bureau.

In the 2016 presidential election, 39 percent of registered voters didn’t vote. That means two of every five registered voters stayed home. Of the 250 million registered American voters, 139 million voted while 111 million did not. Two common reasons cited are, “politicians are all corrupt,” and, “my one vote won’t matter anyway.” Back to that later.

By party affiliation, the U.S. is 28 percent Democrat and 28 per cent Republican. 41 percent are independents – and those split in half when asked how they lean. The playing field appears relatively level, while in fact it is tilted a bit to Democrats.

Only one state has more registered Republicans than Democrats – Wyoming, the least populous American state, with three Electoral College votes.

This is the path to every successful election campaign – get out your voters. Everything else in play, from advertising dollars to policy proposals, count for nothing if your voters stay home.
Democrats are not doing the work needed to win in the right places, but Republicans are. Clinton received more popular votes in 2016, but Republicans turned out more votes where they mattered.

What can you or I do? What can Democrats across the nation do?

We can each identify one Democratic or sympathetic independent voter and get them to the polls.
Start working on it now. Ask friends, neighbors, and family members if they voted in 2016. You probably have a clue who they would have voted for. Talk to them now. Talk to them frequently. Find out whom they might like and why. Encourage them to participate in primaries.

Pick them up and drive them to the polling station. Buy them a cup of coffee afterwards. If you’re a resident of safe states like New York or California, work on friends and relatives in swing states like Pennsylvania or Arizona. Vote early by mail at home and go there to take them to the polls. It’s worth the effort.

One more thing. Don’t waste your time attacking Trump. Devote your time and energy to helping one person become motivated to vote for someone and something positive. Get one Chicken Little to cross the road and head to the polls.

Larry Bennett, recently retired Brewery Ommegang creative director who is active in local causes,
lives in East Meredith.

BENNETT: Sanctuaries For People, Not Guns

WE’RE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER

Sanctuaries For

People, Not Guns

A sanctuary, according to Merriam Webster, is

“A consecrated place such as:
“A: The ancient Hebrew temple at Jerusalem or its holy of holies.

Larry Bennett, recently retired Brewery Ommegang creative director who is active in local causes, resides in East Merideth.

“B: The most sacred part of a religious building, such as the part of a Christian church in which the altar is placed.
“C: A place of refuge and protection.
“D: A refuge for wildlife where predators are controlled and hunting is illegal.”

In 2018, California implemented a sanctuary law, SB 54, which largely prohibits police from cooperating with ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) unless an individual commits a serious crime.
This law was designed to be legal and operative under the California constitution, as California police are not tasked with enforcing federal laws, unless at the scene when a crime is committed. Even then a federal law officer has to take charge of suspects at first chance and do the criminal investigation.

The law applies statewide and is not subject to reinterpretation by counties, cities, and towns. It was designed to keep ICE, a federal agency, from dragging every local and state California law officer into employment helping ICE bust potential illegal immigrants.

The sanctuary law will probably be challenged in court, but there are pretty strong arguments, based on precedents, to support it. To be clear, this is not a law trying to protect immigrants but a law to safeguard every human being in California. Which also means not abetting the appalling police state like operations of ICE.

On another front, many rural Virginia counties have now enacted so-called “gun sanctuary” laws. These laws claim to supersede any state or federal laws pertaining to greater gun control. The laws are not written to protect citizens, but arguably put them in greater jeopardy. They theoretically protect the right to own any gun you want; every other law be damned.

This is generally seen as a political ploy to try to embarrass the Democrat-controlled state Legislature and the Democrat governor, and to roil the blood of gun enthusiasts. It’s a nice piece of Republican agitprop theater, but it is all sound and no fury.

Federal and state laws on gun control cannot be nullified by local laws. No matter how many billboards the proponents of gun sanctuaries buy, or bumper stickers they make, or how many local laws they pass, those laws are not enforceable.

Some New York towns, cities and counties are now facing similar calls to become so-called “gun sanctuary” communities. Again, any town council or county board can write any law they want – even if the board’s legal adviser advises them not to.

Theoretically, anything could be written, voted on, and passed. Towns could vote to secede from the state, or to declare south as north, and north as south. But that doesn’t make the laws sensible, constitutional or enforceable, and any attempt to enforce a gun sanctuary law would certainly wind up in court, with the local government losing.

Again, this is political theater, consuming government time and public money while other issues go unattended.

Our own Oneonta now has a group calling for Otsego County to become a “gun sanctuary.” One of those proposing the law is recently elected county Rep. Rick Brockway, R-Laurens.

For the record I’ve always enjoyed reading Rick’s outdoor columns, which had no political content, and I sincerely missed them when he was running for office. But now that he’s in office he has revealed himself to be more than a respected and knowledgeable outdoorsman – he has also revealed himself to be yet another Republican grandstander and fear monger, with zero understanding of the law.

I’d like to forget the legal idiocy and go back to the original definition of sanctuary.
A sanctuary is a place of refuge and protection for human beings and other living things, often in a house of God. Describing a sanctuary as a place where every gun is protected while every person is threatened by ever more guns is absurd.

It is at best a lie and at worst blasphemous. Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them.” He did not say, “Let the little .38 specials come to me, and do not hinder them.”

BENNETT: President Loudest Climate Denier

WE’RE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER

President Loudest Climate Denier

Larry Bennett

The definition of ignorance is “a lack of knowledge, education, or awareness.” Climate change deniers can’t hide behind a lack of knowledge, so they claim the knowledge is false and the facts are fake.
They could also claim the earth is flat, yet a satellite would still persist in orbiting it. Facts seem to work that way.

The most important issue humanity faces is already changing the futures of all living things. The destruction of our entire planetary environment through accelerating climate change is a well-known fact that cannot be intelligently denied or ignored.

Denial is among the worst decision any human being could ever make. Pulling a trigger and murdering someone is a horrific decision, but pulling a trigger on all of the living world is immeasurably worse.
Pulling the trigger is exactly what climate deniers are doing, and they are led by the loudest and most ignorant denier of all – President Trump.

Thousands of scientists and climate experts agree we have a crisis, and that failing to address the crisis spells disaster. The overwhelming consensus is rejected by Trump, and many
others, whose understanding of science is third-grade level at best, or, perhaps more importantly, whose
wealth is dependent on denying the facts.

It can be understood why the fossil-fuel industries won’t face the facts. The only way to fight climate change is through reducing CO2 – along with other gases such as methane – that are released into the atmosphere during extracting, refining, transporting, and burning fossil fuels. To cut these emissions threatens the livelihoods of 900,000 U.S. citizens employed in the industry.

Yet the October 2019 New Scientist magazine had an article citing studies showing 9.5 million jobs, or 4 percent of the working age population, are in the green economy, which is defined as covering everything from renewable energy to environmental consultancy.

Ten times as many people at work in the green economy as opposed to roughly one million in fossil fuel is not a fact Trump will tweet. Or acknowledge. He is resolutely engaged in taking our nation back to a mythically greater time while also cluelessly edging the world closer to the abyss.

Trump’s lack of knowledge is not news to anyone. What he falsely claims to know while exhibiting a
total lack of knowledge is legion. (Wind power causing cancer and gas emissions, anyone?) In fact, the louder and more frequently he says something is true, the more certain you can be it isn’t.
The puzzling thing is why presumably intelligent people support his denier beliefs: US senators and
congressmen, governors and other state officers, business people, down to everyday citizens.

It’s simple to assume politicians are trying to avoid being ridiculed by Trump or avoiding primaries from the hard right. But that overlooks the economic incentives, such as fossil fuel industry donations to politicians and grants to state and local governments, all designed to influence legislation.

On the national level one answer is found in the almost $½ billion donated by the combined fossil fuel industries to Congressional Republicans since 2016. That buys vast amounts of influence – or perhaps more accurately, votes.

While money rolls into Republican coffers, the ice caps melt, oceans rise, temperatures rise, extreme climate events grow, and life in the seas, on land, and in the air dies off. It is outrageous that our elected representatives sell out our entire world with lies and falsehoods adds insult to injury.

Finally, I don’t understand how Republican deniers imagine they can escape climate change. Their first world lives and money will buy little respite from bigger storms and enormous wildfires, from repeated rising oceans and coastal flooding, from growing food supply issues, or other problems.

It seems their votes have been corporatized in the worst possible way – to focus on immediate returns and not think about tomorrow.

The Only Constant Is Change

WE’RE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER

The Only Constant Is Change

By LARRY BENNETT • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

Once we are born, every moment of every day brings change. We are born biologically complete, yet with little else to our beings. We can’t speak, walk, or talk.

Larry Bennett, recently retired Brewery Ommegang creative director who is active in local causes, resides in East Merideth.

As a baby, then in our youth, in our teens, maybe even through our twenties, we live through endless and often tumultuous changes. Every day offers fresh knowledge and new experiences.

Our parents first teach us. Then other teachers bring more ideas. New ideas and feelings bring hope, fear, desire, doubt. New relationships bring new views of the world.

We develop knowledge and self-awareness. We experience gains and losses, ups and downs, and come to accept ongoing change as part of our lives.

Yet by our thirties most of us have established a reasonably well-defined life – a life with work we chose, a partner we chose, friends we chose, a place to live we chose, religious beliefs or non-beliefs we chose. We chose preferred literary, music, and movie genres.

We have probably chosen to belong to certain groups: civic organizations, trade organizations, recreational organizations, and others. We have reached a point where we don’t have to keep changing – we have chosen our place in the world.

We have likely even chosen political affiliations. Even if we don’t actively join in partisan political activities, if we want to vote we must describe ourselves to the voting registrar as a Democrat, Republican, or as a member of some other party. If we want no formal party attachment, we still have to write down Independent or Unaffiliated, even as we lean one way or the other.

Ongoing polls of American voters since 1974 show consistently and significantly lower voter turnout in younger people and higher turnout in older people. Since elections are extolled as the best means to peaceful change, and since the older we get the less receptive we are to change, it seems we could expect voting to be more appealing to younger voters. But the reverse is true.

Why do more older folks vote than younger folks? Is it a tradition the older generation upholds? Do older folks have more time on their hands? Do young people move so often they are effectively disenfranchised, or don’t stay long enough to establish a voting habit?

r is the fact that they are often renters make them feel less connected to a community and therefore feel less of a need to vote? Or are they simply absorbed in getting their lives off to a good start?

What if the idea of voting no longer signifies a gilded avenue to desired change for young people, but instead offers a burning roadblock to unwanted change for older people? It can be argued this is where we are and where we appear to be heading.

The voting cry to “Make America Great Again” is clearly about repealing the changes of the last 50 years – be they women’s equal rights, voting rights, LBGTQ rights, or many other rights.

While those who proclaim MAGA are of all ages, it turns out that those who actually vote MAGA also skew older, just as voters do on the other side of the political chasm.

What does this mean for our futures? Will more and better education turn those young MAGA-prone kids into liberal voters as they get older? Will the continuing flight from rural to urban areas by young people of all backgrounds offer opportunities to liberalize their attitudes?

Or will they progress from nonvoting MAGA-chanting youths to older MAGA folks who will habitually vote against any kind of progressive change? Or will the eventual disappearance of Trump put out all their fires?

Based on the state of our politics, the future of our nation seems unknowable. The old ironic curse, “May you live in interesting times,” seems to apply.

Still, there are dozens of theories about our destination – pick one and see where it goes. If you find you can deduce and predict the voting patterns of the next decade or two, you can rule our politics.

BENNETT: On Arms, Will Enough Ever Be Enough

We’re All In This Together

On Arms, Will Enough

Ever Be Enough?

Larry Bennett

The 2020 proposed U.S. military budget is $737 billion. When is enough, enough?

This is 37 percent of the $1.7 trillion military spending for all the world. It is more than the next 13 nations combined (numbers in billions): China ($224), Saudi Arabia ($70), India ($55), Germany ($49), UK ($49), Japan ($47), Russia ($44), France ($40), South Korea ($38), Brazil ($29), Italy ($29), Australia ($26) and Canada ($21). Only two of those nations are adversaries.

The $737 billion is but one part of the entire U.S. budget of $4.75 trillion – comprising discretionary spending, mandatory spending, and interest payments – but defense discretionary spending is 15 percent of the entire budget and half of all discretionary spending. There is an additional amount of mandatory VA and military benefits spending of some $200 billion. That’s almost $1 trillion, over 20 percent of the total budget.

Here’s what we have for our money:

• We have rough parity in deployed nuclear weapons: 2,200 for us and our allies, vs. 1,780 cumulative for Russia, China and North Korea. Few doubt ours are the most technically advanced and capable, though with nuclear weapons that seems a useless distinction. If only 5 percent of them were exploded, then the entire human race ¬– not just the combatants – would suffer horrible consequences.

• We have 13,000 U.S. aircraft vs. Russia and China’s combined 7,000. Other western and allied nations add 12,000 more to our side, so we have 25,000 vs. 7,000. Again, there is little doubt ours are the most capable.

• We have 10 nuclear-powered supercarriers, two more being built, and more planned. The Russians and Chinese each have one. Ours are supported by a massive fleet of offensive and other vessels. Russia’s fleet has heavily deteriorated since the demise of the USSR, and China’s fleet is a fledgling.

• We have 70+ submarines, all nuclear powered, classified as either ballistic missile, guided missile or attack submarines. Each of the 14 Ohio-class ballistic missile subs can deliver up to 192 nuclear warheads.

The firepower is unimaginable, and in fact half of all U.S. nuclear weapons are on
these 14 virtually undetectable submarines. No other submarine force is remotely as lethal as ours.

• We have the world’s third largest land force with 1.3 million active troops and another 865,000 in reserve. We also have a global presence unlike any other nation, with about 200,000 active troops deployed in more than 170 countries. China’s land forces are around 2 million, but again ours are advanced and capable. We fall behind in the number of tanks, having 6,200 while China has 13,000 and Russia 21,000. But many of those Russian and Chinese tanks are there to deter each other.

The U.S. competitively spent the USSR into economic collapse in the ‘80s. Russia no longer poses a substantial conventional threat to Western Europe and NATO. Its weak economy is highly dependent on resource extraction, not manufacturing.

In dealings with China, the U.S. has focused on economic competition, not military competition. We have a mixed record but it is advantageous to both nations to maintain peaceful competition and not sink into a cold war, let alone a hot war.

Then there is North Korea, which could be utterly destroyed by one Ohio-class submarine. Other threats include Iran, but it has huge internal struggles, no patron nation, and hard choices to make. Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria are quagmires we can’t fix, and they pose no direct threat to the U.S. Finally, those nations bordering Israel pose no unsurmountable threat to Israel, at least by conventional means.

It seems physical terrorism and cyber terrorism are the biggest existential threats to the U.S., yet we spend enormous resources elsewhere. Our trillion-dollar defense spending offers unassailable military security but skimps on other forms of security. That missing security can be realized by reallocating hundreds of military billions to expanded healthcare, to better education, to improved infrastructure, and to fighting climate change.

We already have enough weaponry to fight off the entire world. Enough is enough.

Larry Bennett, recently retired Brewery Ommegang creative director who is active in local causes, lives in East Merideth.

BENNETT: Disunity Is As American As Cherry Vs. Apple Pie

COLUMN

WE’RE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER

Disunity Is As American

As Cherry Vs. Apple Pie

Frederick Yohn’s 1901 “Battle of Oriskany,” fought 35 miles north of Oneonta, depicts what some consider the first between all-American combatants, Loyalists and Iroquois on one side and Patriots and Oneidas on the other. The commander, General Herkimer, died of his wounds. Yohn’s painting was used on a 1977 U.S. stamp.

By LARRY BENNETT • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

The press says we live in an era of unprecedented political division. The amplification of every tweet may make it seem so, but there is a different view of the severity of our polarization.

Larry Bennett, recently retired Brewery Ommegang creative director who is active in local causes, resides in East Merideth.

The American Revolution saw Loyalists interested in compromises to prevent war, but colonists seeking independence who were not. Anyone trying to effect compromise or be neutral was suspected of Loyalist sympathies and often subject to violence.

The Revolution was the first American civil war, with suspicions dividing neighbors, families and friends. Loyalists were harassed, attacked, imprisoned and even executed. Many Loyalists fled the country.

Then came the contentious 1796 presidential election.

The Federalists were led by John Adams, and the Democratic-Republicans by Thomas Jefferson. In a multi-candidate presidential field, they were first and second in electoral votes.

Though deeply divided by personal beliefs and political association, Adams became president and Jefferson vice president. Jefferson was frozen out of executive decisions as Adams oversaw an undeclared naval war with France, one that Jefferson bitterly opposed.

Under Adams, the Alien and Sedition Acts passed and were used to silence Democratic-Republicans. Federalist opponents were arrested, tried before partisan judges, convicted of sedition and imprisoned.

In 1856, on the Senate floor, South Carolina Congressman Preston Brooks caned an anti-slavery senator from Massachusetts, Charles Sumner.

Conflicts were flaring across the nation, culminating in John Brown’s 1859 raid at Harper’s Ferry –
an unsuccessful attempt to start a slave rebellion.

In November 1860, Lincoln was elected president. Decades of polarization over slavery came to a head. In April 1861, Fort Sumter fell to the Confederacy and Civil War ravaged the nation until April 1865.

Over 750,000 Americans died while many millions became casualties – through injury, disease, losing their livelihoods, land and property.

WWI created heavy political polarization. In 1917 American labor unions, socialists and pacifist groups opposed the war. But the U.S. was dragged in and conscription began, was opposed by anti-war movements, and set off deadly
draft riots.

Thousands were prosecuted under the 1918 Sedition Act; conscientious objectors, many of them Christian pacifists, were punished and a number died in Alcatraz Prison, then a military facility. Around 300,000 men refused to register, report for duty, or deserted.

In September 1939, as America wrestled with isolationism, WWII came to Poland. There were bitter political battles between internationalists like FDR, and isolationists like Charles Lindbergh – the voice of the 800,000-member America First Committee, which was given to pro-fascist and anti-Semitic rhetoric. Two years of political polarization were only broken by the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

The battle for civil rights, from the 1950s through the ’70s, resulted in hundreds of citizen deaths, thousands of protests, many thousands of arrests, and the assassinations of American leaders, both black and white.

The Vietnam War then divided all, including the Democratic Party – which imploded in the summer of 1968 when Chicago police beat anti-war protesters. Humphrey won the nomination and lost to Nixon, who continued the war for six years until forced to resign in 1974.

While 58,000 Americans and upwards of 2 million Vietnamese died, anti-war protests roiled the entire nation for over 10 years; 570,000 men were classified draft offenders and 200,000 were formally accused; 8,750 were convicted and 3,250 went to jail. Estimates of those who left for Canada and other countries range upwards of 50,000.

We have endured periods of intense political division and polarization, often worse than now, and frequently leading to horrendous outcomes. We have fought actual internal wars with lethal weapons, arrests, and imprisonment. But – Iraq and Afghanistan notwithstanding – today’s divisions are not about life-threatening forced conscription or American war deaths.

Our political polarization today is mainly a war of words and as Winston Churchill said, “Better to jaw-jaw than war-war.” Perhaps we can all work on being better at “jaw-jaw” and quit seeing fellow citizens as mortal enemies.
Larry Bennett, retired Brewery Ommegang creative director.

BENNETT: Spend To Fight Internal Threat: Bad Health

We’re All In This Together

 Spend Money To Fight

Internal Threat: Bad Health

Larry Bennett

Government exists to protect a self-defined group – a tribe – from outside existential threats. Long ago the threat was other tribes. Today it includes fire, crime, disease, drunken drivers, natural disasters and more. But government’s first reason is to protect us from them – to ensure that which our tribe holds dear is successfully defended. Be that property, principles or our basic human right to exist.

Today, roughly 15 percent of U.S. government spending is on military defense, about 5 percent of GDP. (That’s more than the next seven nations combined.) Few quibble that the U.S. needs a robust military defense. We may grumble about it, hate its excesses, or decry its misuse, but in the end every U.S. citizen is well-defended, to everyone’s benefit. About 30 percent of government spending is on major medical programs, about 10 percent of GDP. (Social Security comes in around 24 percent of government spending, or 8 percent of GDP.) Yet even as government spends twice as much on health care as on the military, it can’t fully defend our citizenry from ill health.

Among the industrialized nations, we alone eschew universal health care. As citizens we spend almost three times as much annually per person – around $11,000 – as the average of citizens of the other developed nations. Using national health plans, those nations average $4,000 per person per year. It’s also worth noting that our outcomes are not better and are frequently worse. It’s wasteful, ineffective, and unfair.

Where are the flies in our ointment? Private insurance companies pay large salaries to fleets of executives. They provide returns to investors. They spend huge sums lobbying our elected representatives. They have huge staffs doing all the same paperwork: There are over 900 private health care companies in the U.S. Then there is the fact that every form of medical delivery systems, not just insurers, is highly redundant.

There are 7,200 hospitals in the U.S., out of 16,500 hospitals in the world. Redundancy is huge as hospitals spend heavily on the latest medical equipment to compete with other hospitals. Doctors are expensive to hire and support. Insurance chooses networks based to some degree on the broadest range of services offered, so the medical facilities scramble to offer them. And of course, drug costs are huge (and drug companies are cash cows) mainly because the bargaining power of 900 different insurers is heavily diluted.

Yet it’s claimed that the U.S. can’t afford universal healthcare: It will break our middle class backs. In response, Elizabeth Warren says her universal plan will be funded by higher taxes on the rich and on corporations, and the middle class won’t have to pay more. Some analysts think she is too optimistic.

Bernie Sanders says his plan will indeed cost the middle class more. Some analysts agree.

First, let’s say Warren is too optimistic and that Sanders is right. I say we should all be lining up to pay more. Not just to defend ourselves and our immediate families from ill health and disease, but because it is part of our social pact to help look after our fellow citizens – our tribe, if you will. Employ the government to use its weight and power to reduce drug and other costs.

If health care still costs us more, we can put off buying a new smart phone every two years. We can drive our car for seven years instead of five. We can eat out less. And so on. None of these are onerous choices. If poor people need assistance to pay the increased costs, give them assistance. Bring everyone into the deal and stand together.

We are willing and able to pay to defend ourselves from existential external threats to our nation’s greater well-being. We should be willing to do so with existential internal threats to every citizen’s personal well-being.

Larry Bennett, recently retired

Brewery Ommegang creative director

who is active in local causes, lives in East Merideth.

BENNETT: In Land Of Plenty, Many Are Needy

WE’RE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER

In Land Of Plenty,

Many Are Needy

By LARRY BENNETT • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

This column is titled, “We are all in this together,” but it doesn’t always appear to be so.

Larry Bennett, retired Brewery Ommegang creative director who is active in local causes, lives in East Meredith.

The U.S. economy is the world’s largest – our GDP will exceed $21 trillion in 2019. Our GDP represents 20 percent of total global output, is larger than China’s GDP, and is projected to grow 2.5 percent in 2019. Our GDP per person is seven times the world average while we have 1/20th of the population. We are the richest nation on earth, and you’d think we would all be doing well. But – according to the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) – we have the second highest poverty rate of the OECD nations and the worst income inequality rate. How can this be?

In 1960, an average American couple with two kids lived on a single income. With saving and planning they bought a modest home. Unless they were big city residents they owned a serviceable automobile. They saved for their kids’ educations. While it is true that many African Americans, Native Americans, and others were often excluded from these opportunities, it was still the case for many Americans.
Early 1960s corporate-CEO-to-employee pay ratio was an average of 20:1. In 2018 it was almost 300:1. Since 2006, corporate profits grew 30 percent while household income grew only 4 percent.

According to one Federal Reserve Bank study, the share of the national income that workers receive has fallen to its lowest level since World War II, even as worker productivity has gone up six-fold. Workers fuel the success of the companies but executives reap the rewards at increasing levels of inequality. This money grab deprives company workers of a fair share in what they help create.

What does this mean in Otsego and Delaware counties? We are a microcosm of the nation: What we see here is happening everywhere. At least one Fortune 500 company operates here; in fact, Walmart has been #1 on the Fortune 500 list for six years running. Their CEO was paid $22.8 million in 2018. That’s 1,188 times the $19,177 median wage of employees. In just two hours of one week he made more than those employees made in a year. An average Walmart has 280 employees who are paid around $20,000 each.

With a payroll of $5.6 million a store typically brings in around $46.7 million in revenues. The majority of these Walmart revenues leave our area and go to Walmart’s corporate coffers: to highly compensated executives, to pay dividends to stock holders and Walton family members, and to support a $500 million private art collection and museum.

This flood of money makes the Walton family the richest in America, with assets of over $160 billion in 2018.

Yet the average Walmart employee makes around $20,000 per year. The corporate starting wage is $11 per hour. Fifty percent of employees are approved only to work part-time, which curtails benefits and opportunities for raises and advancement. Employees are cheap to hire and fire. They are intentionally disposable. It is also known that a significant number of Walmart employees depend on food stamps to feed their families.

If this is how the wealthiest company in America treats its employees everywhere, including here, what model does that set for other employers? I do not mean to pillory Walmart alone. This is the model under which American businesses currently operate.

From the largest to the smallest businesses, many working people are treated poorly, and this keeps or pushes many into poverty. As a business problem, a political problem, and a social problem it is crucial to fill this vast income gap. As a nation, if we expect those who struggle to be able to escape poverty, income inequality must be addressed.

Anti-Fracking Pioneer Retires At Ommegang Over 15 Years Larry Bennett Also Led ‘Thrones’ Campaign

Anti-Fracking Pioneer

Retires At Ommegang

Over 15 Years Larry Bennett

Also Led ‘Thrones’ Campaign

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

Larry Bennett has retired after 15 years as Ommegang’s creative director. (Ian Austin/www.AllOTSEGO.com)

COOPERSTOWN – Larry Bennett called his career at Brewery Ommegang, which included helping launch Otsego County’s anti-fracking movement, “serendipity.”

“When my wife and I moved up here in 2001 from Raleigh, N.C., I was working at the West Kortright Center to try and meet people,” he said. “I got talking with someone and told them I’d worked in advertising for 25 years, and they mentioned that Brewery Ommegang was looking for someone to do exactly that!”

On Friday, Sept. 15, Bennett retired as Ommegang’s creative director, a position he held for 15 years. “I’ll miss the people, the business and the free beer,” he said.

When he joined, his first goals were to expand the sales force and diversify the beer line. “We wanted to make different, interesting kinds of beers, and also short runs of more esoteric ones,” he said. “We were riding the wave of the craft industry. We weren’t the point of the spear, but we were certainly on the sharp edge.”

After 15 Years, Larry Bennett Retires From Ommegang

After 15 Years, Bennett

Retires From Ommegang

As of this evening, Larry Bennett, the creative director responsible for reviving Belgium Comes to Cooperstown and helping to establish branding with HBO and other national brands, has retired from Brewery Ommegang as their creative director. In addition to his work at the famed brewery, Bennett was instrumental in spearheading the local anti-fracking movement, which gained state and nationwide attention. (Ian Austin/AllOTSEGO.com)

Don’t Denigrate Environmental Efforts
from LARRY BENNETT

Don’t Denigrate

Environmental Efforts

To the Editor,

An as Otsego 2000 board member, I find you putting words in Henry Cooper’s mouth similar to Dan Quayle’s attempts to channel JFK.

Regarding your idea that Otsego 2000 is a job killer and, by extension, a take-the-food-out-of-the-mouths-of-children villain:

  1. New York State’s dumping of state-required but unfunded entitlements on towns and counties push our local property taxes ever upward. This has proven to be a much more effective way to kill jobs than fighting gas or turbine projects.
  2. California’s poverty rate is 19 percent. NY State is 15.5 percent. The USA average is 14 percent. The 25 percent rate in Otsego County is appalling and, if to be believed, an indictment of the county and towns’ collective set of managers, civic leaders and business developers. To equate Otsego 2000’s work with this institutional failure is at best shabby scapegoating. At worst it’s another page of the Trumpian playbook, which says, “If you are going to screw up big time, first be sure you have someone else to blame it on.”
  3.  The total number of turbines to supply all New York’s energy would cover less than 1/100th of one percent of the state’s total acreage. Siting turbines next to historic sites, including the 147 that would have been next to the Holy Trinity Monastery and visible from Otsego Lake, is just mindless development. Turbine field developers need to understand and take that into consideration, just as they understand they can’t put turbines in valleys if they want to harvest the winds on the ridges.
  4. The transition to a green economy must happen and is being successfully pursued in many nations. The USA and New York State both lag behind, saying that green is too expensive. As icecaps melt and sea levels rise, as our skies fill with massive storms and hurricanes, as our rivers, lakes, pastureland, homes, and seafronts flood, as wild fires ravage the West, as other environmental disasters loom, the expense of pumping and pimping gas and other fossil fuels makes green look cheap.

Otsego County and Upstate NY need bigger and better solutions than those offered by gas pipelines and poorly sited wind or solar farms. We need solutions that enhance the economic well-being and quality of life for everyone. We need leaders with exceptional vision, not leaders denigrating environmental efforts. Leave that to Trump and his professional anti-science team.

LARRY BENNETT

East Meredith

 

Ommegang Seeks Talent For Christmas Commercial

Ommegang Seeks Talent

For Christmas Commercial

Larry Bennett, Ommegang creative director, this evening asked the Cooperstown Village Board for  use of Pioneer Park next Monday to shoot a commercial for Brewery Ommegang. His request was accepted, and a $500 location fee levied.  In the background are trustees Jim Dean, Cindy Falk and Ellen Tillapaugh. (Libby Cudmore/AllOTSEGO.com)

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

COOPERSTOWN – Lights, camera, Cooperstown!

“We see a line of men, waiting in Pioneer Park,” said Larry Bennett, Ommegang’s creative director, as he outlined his vision for a commercial before the Village Board this evening. “What are they waiting for? The camera pans up to Santa’s cottage, and Mrs. Claus welcomes him inside. He goes to Santa, Santa opens his ‘Nice or Naughty’ book, and then hands him a bottle of Three Philosophers.”

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