Category Archives: National Politics

Obama’s State of the Union

January 28, 2012

President Obama’s State of the Union address made sense to me. Did it fall on deaf ears? At least with respect to the “loyal opposition”(an oxymoron these days)? There are none so deaf as those who will not hear. After three congressional sessions of attempted compromise, the absence of moderates on either side of the aisle seems to have effectively erased potential consensus of any sort in Washington, DC. What’s a president to do?
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USPS Pension Pre-Funding Requirement

December 3, 2011

In December, 2006 (a lame duck session), Congress passed P.L. 109-435, requiring the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) to fund 100% of the cost of 75 years of retirement health benefits. The Governmental Accountability Office recommended that the USPS be given 20-40 years to pre-fund the account (covering health benefits for postal workers not yet born, let alone hired!), but the outgoing Republican Congress decided to require that the payments be made in just 10 years (2007-2016).
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Republican Debate Circus 2011

October 22, 2011

Where’s the bread? I’ve seen the circuses. These debates have not been ready for prime time, but they have been fascinating to watch – for reasons that make it even more clear that our democracy is sorely in need of radical transformation. The initial jarring impressions have been provided by the audiences, themselves. Where are these people – who cheer executions in Texas and applaud suggestions that the uninsured should die prematurely – coming from?
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The Occupy Wall Street Protests

October 8, 2011

The Occupy Wall Street protest began on September 17th. Only recently have they begun receiving media attention. Had they been wearing tri-corner hats and sipping tea, FOX News would have been all over it from day one. Now, the “movement” appears to be gaining some momentum and a more coherent message, but that message has yet to be reduced to a bumper sticker. Sometimes, that’s hard to do.
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American Jobs Act

September 10, 2011

“Pass this jobs bill!” Easier said than done. Nothing matters more than restoring the financial security and consumer confidence of America’s middle class. If President Obama’s proposal to allocate $450 billion dollars for projects and incentives will not create jobs, the Republican party should say so. Pass the bill and let the facts fall where they may. $450 billion is 3.1% of the current federal debt. If the American Jobs Act jump starts the economy, it will pay for itself many times over. If it doesn’t, Mitch McConnell and John Boehner win. Fair enough.
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Has the Fourth Estate Been Eviscerated?

Has the Fourth Estate Been Eviscerated?
July 28, 2011

What is the media’s responsibility, if any, for effectively analyzing and reporting on the federal debt and deficit crises? I wonder whether we still have a Fourth Estate capable of fulfilling the role of an educated and objective observer of current events. Has the media become an echo chamber without moorings or a compass, beholden to corporate sponsors and well-funded interest groups or, from a less conspiratorial perspective, is the 24/7/365 news cycle, dependent as it is upon intermittent crises and a constant flow of information and cash, simply unequal to the task?

I’m not surprised that the main stream media is covering Boehner, Cantor and McConnell v. Obama, Pelosi and Reid as a sporting competition with daily updates (who’s winning? losing? who scored points today? who lost points?). However, if truth matters, is this contest truly being waged by equivalent truth tellers? Does it exist within an historical context worth mentioning?

It is truly maddening, given that the lion’s (elephant’s?) share of the spending which created the current federal debt is clearly the direct result of the prior administration’s tax cuts, two unfunded wars, and unfunded Medicare prescription benefits, plus the emergency stimulus spending made necessary by the prior administration’s economic policies, budget decisions, and lack of regulatory oversight – not to mention the now well-proven inability of tax cuts for the wealthy to create good jobs here at home (with the possible exception of the jobs created in the banking and investment industry, which proved, in the end, to be a very mixed bag, indeed) .

After Congress did the bidding of monied interests by privatizing profits and socializing losses, record corporate profits from outsourcing and wage inequity have still added exceedingly few middle class jobs in America, though they do continue to fuel outrageous executive compensation packages, while underwriting outsourced jobs being created abroad. Anti-union campaigns and public sector job losses are helping to destroy the rest of our middle class, the foundation upon which all past economic recoveries have been based. Meanwhile, carefully orchestrated state level redistricting and voter disqualification strategies threaten to distort our electoral process for generations to come and corporate campaign spending increasingly crowds other voices out of our for profit, electronic “public square.”

What is the media’s proper role during a political dust-up of epic proportions with potentially calamitous economic consequences? Where is the in-depth analysis? Who should be responsible for fact-checking and contextual references? When the Republican Party states that their purpose is to ensure that President Obama does not win reelection, should someone question House Speaker Boehner when, with trembling voice, he says, “the president’s worried about his next election, but my God, shouldn’t we be worried about the country? I’m not worried about the next election.”

Really? . . . Really?

Debt Ceiling Debacle

July 16, 2011

Where are the responsible adults? Even if Congress avoids taking us over the cliff with their reckless brinksmanship, both parties seem determined to repeat the mistake made in the mid-1930s, when budget deficit hawks stopped the flow of stimulus spending just as the economy was beginning to show signs of recovery. The Works Projects Administration rebuilt America’s infrastructure while paying the poor and middle class wages that spurred spending across the board.

We can’t simply reduce government spending, place higher burdens on those who can least afford it, and expect our economy to rebound. New revenues must be part of the deficit fix: special interest subsidies must be justified or terminated, and the 2000 tax rates on those making more than $250,000 per year must be restored. Recent history shows that tax cuts for the wealthy are too often invested overseas or in the latest stock market bubbles. Good jobs in the U.S. haven’t been created.

An opposition party determined to make a president fail can succeed in doing so. Republican use of the undemocratic filibuster rule a record number of times forced President Obama to cut deals with very conservative Democrats to get anything done – thin gruel, but enough to scrape by, until now. Our democracy worked when moderates from both parties were allowed to compromise. It doesn’t work at all when moderates are eviscerated in primary battles by the litmus-testing idealogues who now seem to be running things.

We’re all in this together. Let’s make a deal!

Obama Made the Right Call

May 6, 2011

With all the things that could have gone awry, President Obama’s decision to send Navy SEALS Team Six into Pakistan to capture or kill Osama Bin Laden sheds new light on how one president can make an enormous difference. To succeed, you sometimes have to risk failure. The commander-in-chief must fully understand the capabilities and limitations of the soldiers under his command, along with the tactics and equipment at his disposal.

In August of 2010, carefully marshaled intelligence information was pieced together and shared with the President. Slowly, but deliberately, a small group of national security advisors met with him to devise a plan, including fog of war contingencies employable in split-seconds, to exploit the information.

Even in the last few days, after authorizing the action, President Obama ably demonstrated that, as he so aptly expressed it in September of 2008, “a president has to be able to do more than one thing at a time.” While this extraordinary mission proceeded, he comforted tornado victims in Alabama, met with Congresswoman Giffords and her husband in Cape Canaveral, and brought down the house at the annual White House Correspondent’s dinner with his tongue-in-cheek “live” birth video (from Disney’s Lion King).

When the stakes are high and the going is tough, you want a leader at the helm who so well demonstrates exemplary intelligence, demeanor and tenacity that the entire organization under his command tends to reflect the same qualities. No brag, just fact: we’re grateful Team 6 beat the odds. Well done.

* * * * *
Alternate ending . . .

When the stakes are high and the going is tough, you want a leader at the helm who so well demonstrates exemplary intelligence, demeanor and tenacity that the entire organization under his command tends to reflect the same qualities. How different might our last decade have been had President Bush, in August of 2001, responded as well when he was told that foreigners were learning to fly, but not land commercial airplanes?

Wisconsin Public Union Busting

February 26, 2011

It didn’t take very long for the shouting to resume, did it? My great-grandfather was a labor organizer at the turn of the last century. My grandfather, frustrated by the beatings his father often received while barely earning enough to keep food on the family table, never respected him for it. Grandpa worked his way through college and eventually became a corporate executive. I have genes on both sides of this issue, not just friends.

In his 2/24/2011 editorial, David Brooks made the observation that, “the process (for dealing with austerity) has to be balanced. It has to make everybody hurt.” He’s right. We’re all in this together. Attacking budget deficits while trying to climb out of a recession is a fiscal strategy fraught with risk. The record for jobs created by tax cuts for the wealthy is abysmal. Our country’s strongest economic years came when our middle class was comfortable and growing, years when labor unions flourished and the gap between rich and poor was relatively small.

In our economy, moderate amounts of money spent by many quickly outpace extravagant spending by a few. Refunds to billionaires do not trickle down. Tax cuts should go to people without financial advisors who are more likely to spend the cash quickly and locally. Fearing unfair bargaining advantages, public sector unions were initially outlawed. Half a century later, public sector employees are paid less than their private sector counterparts. They did not cause the deficits. Partisan politics is the problem. On Wisconsin!

Obama’s Second State of the Union Address

January 29, 2011

Only time will tell whether our country can still be governed. The political climate, recently seething with gratuitous vitriol, ratcheted the clamor down a notch for the State of the Union address, where the color of one’s tie or dress seemed to be the only reliable indicator of party affiliation. Thank you, Mark Udall, for re-mixing our House divided.

Now comes the reality check. The flurry of legislation passed by the not so lame ducks was impressive, given the majority party’s inability to parry the minority’s filibuster thrust during Congress’s regular season. Yesterday’s attempt to mend the sclerotic Senate failed miserably, though, so change is unlikely in the near term.

For the past two years, just say “no” was the opposition party’s creed. Recently, it was narrowing some: just say no to a second term. Most will concede that President Obama gives good speech (as Jon Stewart put it, “every time Obama uses alliteration, an angel has an orgasm”), and few would disagree that he has moved to the center. If he can’t govern, who can? We’ll soon see.

My final thought is that the progressive left needs to get better organized. Michele Bachmann was allowed to rebut the President’s speech as a representative of the “Tea Party”. What’s up with that? Eric Cantor gave the Republican rebuttal. Senator Barry Sanders, (Ind.-Vermont), should demand equal time. Stimulus dollars are growing jobs abroad and generating record corporate profits here at home. Who will speak for the wage earners of this country?