Thursday, January 29, 2009

Republcans say No Deal to Obama's New Deal

On the national level, we have John Boehner of the 8th Ohio District telling us that there are to many problems with the Obama stimulus bill. Boehner maintains that Obama is sneaking into the proposal, elements of failed liberal programs that go far beyond stimulus and is using the stimulus as a way of advancing tired old programs that don't work.

More locally we have, the up and coming conservative Republican Wisconsin Congressman, Paul Ryan. Ryan has problems with the stimulus bill because of it's regressive tax breaks (his words)
Congressman Paul Ryan calls for a fiscally-responsible extension of a popular children's health insurance program, rather than a deeply flawed expansion beyond the program's original intent. Ryan voices his concern with the imposition of permanent tax hikes, a $42 billion spending gimmick, and the crowding out of consumer choice in favor of government-run health care.

And right in our back yard we have Milwaukee County Executive Scott "We don't need no sinking stimulus funds from Washington" Walker, who has basically run Milwaukee County into the ground with his "no more taxes" approach.

To a man, their approach to the proposed changes coming from Washington are the usual talking points from the conservative Republicans.
Government is bad.
Taxes grow the government.
Cut off the funds and Government has to shrink
Less Government, less regulation
Less regulation means greater economic growth.

In the past this has been called The Starve the Beast approach to shrinking the size of government So, instead of badly needed investment in the infrastructure which would create jobs and improve the lives of all tax payers, Republicans want more tax breaks. They are falling back on the Supply Side, Reganomics, Trickle Down, Bush Free Market, take your pick of the labels, that basically tells us to give the money to the rich. The theory is they will spend it wisely and create wealth for all of us.

This mixture of 1800's Calvinism and Milton Friedman Libertarian Free Market Economic theory has dominated Washington thinking ever since Ronald Reagan brought it to popularity in the early 1980's I'm here to tell you, I don't know if Free market Economics works or not, but the last thirty years have taught us that if the Republicans practice it we get the following results. These are the people that brought you, through deregulation,
  • Companies that are deemed "to big to fail" and suddenly government bail outs are okay.
  • Since the 1980' the erosion of the middle class because of the growing gap between the working man and the executive remuneration. (By the way this is a US phenomenon only)
  • Savings and Loan Failures
  • Enron
  • Internet Bubble
  • Telcom Scandals
  • The Virtual Crash of the financial markets resulting from the mortgage markets being mishandled.
  • We have health care costs rising at an exponential rate with less people being served
  • Higher bankruptcy rates directly related to uninsured catastrophic health costs.

This list merely says one thing to me, if Friedman Free Market Economic Theory works the Republican leadership has lost the directions when they throw out the box it came in.

We are bailing out the American Auto Industry, which got itself into the bind through mismanagement and poor industry practices.

Many of the entities we have bailed out have misused the funds or not used them for what they were intended. (Banks are not making loans, but they are paying bonuses. Same in the Auto Industry.)

So I don't know if Free Market Economic principles work or not. (Somebody once said that socialism didn't fail it was the communists that screwed it up) But I do know the Republicans, and to be fair some Democrats, don't know how it works either.

I know we need jobs and that building roads, bridges and schools will produce things we need and that will serve us for a long time. Financial products that give you slightly better odds than the blackjack table, are not as good as a health care program that takes care of everyone. Taxing people that have more money than they need, makes more sense than stomping on the average guy who is literally in the ditch economically.

We have a way out of this mess that the Republicans and weak minded Democrats allowed us to get into. It is the newer new deal that Obama has proposed. Boehner, Ryan and Walker have had their day and failed. It's time for new idea's or at least old idea's that we are reasonably certain will work.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Brown Team Party

What glory is this and can there be more tomorrow?

Last night I sat down to dinner and conversation with my team mates from the Obama presidential campaign. We delivered the votes from our area in more than expected amounts. We regaled at the sight of the young people who were going to be enthusiastic , but according to the cynics, in the end, were not going vote. The polls showing Obama ahead, they would decide to stay home and text each other. They voted in record numbers all across the country.

One ward in the city recorded thousands of votes for Obama and one vote for McCain. The total was double the number of votes ever recorded in that ward. We talked about the numbers of first time voters and the people who admitted they had never volunteered for a campaign before.

We talked about the so called "grab and drag" tactic of going to supporters homes on election day and almost forcing them to the polls. In truth, this didn't happen very often. Indeed, traffic at the polls was lighter than we thought it was going to be because people had voted absentee in such great numbers.

We talked about how long the campaign was. Some had started working in the cold of winter to assure victory in the primary. As a result, many had been working on the campaign for almost a year.

We were happy bunch. The number of hectic hours, the crush of tasks in the last four days of the Get Out The Vote campaign and the poll watching were complete and out of the way. Victory, sweet victory was ours. We exchanged stories about Palin and reflected on the cabinet and leadership selections. The group talked about the moment that the feeling of success sunk in. Some said it was Barak striding onto the stage at Grant Park. Others mentioned seeing Jesse Jackson shedding tears as he waited for Barak to give his acceptance speech. Still others remembered the moment the television screen flashed the news that the West coast polls had closed and the networks declared Barak the winner, the 44Th President of the United States. We were, in the tradition of the campaign, "telling our story".

But no one was smug. Most of us knew that this was not an ending, but instead it was the beginning. No one gives up power. Already, we had all heard on the news of the conservatives scrambling to recover their dead and wounded so they could retreat from the field only to reorganize and return. Yes, it was time to celebrate, but we left on the sobering thought that indeed this was a battle won, but the war continues.

Friday, September 19, 2008

It's Not About Sarah.

The press and the public seem to be fascinated with Sarah Palin, the Republican vice presidential candidate. We are evidently sexist, elitist or blindly liberal if we don't see the value in this candidate. If we claim she doesn't have experience, we are blind to the same charge against Barak Obama, because he has never had to make "Real" decisions like rejecting the bridge to nowhere (thanks but no thanks is the mantra)

There is little doubt that Palin evokes images of a better looking Rosanne Barr, a kind of Gidget goes to Washington persona. She's good looking, smart, tough and looks like she could be someone from your neighborhood. She has accomplished a lot in her short government career and like most politicians some of it's good and some of it's...well not so good. She is the stuff of mythology. Working side by side with her good looking hunky husband, killing moose in the Alaskan wild, and raising her large family, she's the mythological woman who can do everything. Why not run a country?

As David Brooks, New York Times columnist has pointed out she embodies the everyman image of the can-do American with the added advantage of not being a professional politician nor a pointy headed intellectual. She has the mythical common sense that defies education and all of those experienced politicians years of public service. She reaches across the aisle to build consensus. She fights and defeats corruption, even in her own party. She leaps tall buildings in a single bound... Okay, I've gone to far. And like most good fiction stories there is enough of a whiff of truth in all of these perceived traits and experiences to give her a veil of reality.

But there is one thing that makes Palin patently unfit for office. She's a Republican. Yes, an unapologetic member of the party that has brought you the last thirty years of grief, if your a member, or maybe a former member, of the middle class. With a mindless mantra of we need less government, less handouts to welfare queens, adherence to free market economic principles, privatize government and other such bright ideas, we have gotten Enron, the aftermath of Katrina, the dot com bubble. contaminated food, bad drugs, he mortgage crisis and the current melt down in the financial markets. The Republican answer to all of this is a huge social welfare program to save the world from unwanted pregnancies by preaching abstinence and preventing abortion, stigmatizing gay and lesbian people, arguing about the meaning of patriotism and a stupid war in Iraq.

While the middle class disintegrates, more of us do without proper health care, good paying jobs become more and more difficult to find, the cost of living keeps going up and the globe gets warmer and climatically more unstable. Gidgit and her friends want us to worry about the horror of gay marriage, the tragedy of not teaching creationism and the unfairness of allowing rape and incest victims to simply decide not to bear children that result from these atrocities. Instead of the things that really matter to all of us Republicans, Democrats and Independent citizens of this planet. Sarah Palin is a decent person who undoubtedly believes strongly in her adherence to conservative political stance on the issues and that is why she should not become that person that is a heartbeat away from being the President of the United States, as well as why John McCain should not be our next president. It's not who they are, it's what they believe in that disqualifies them for office. They are simply wrong on the issues that are important.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Hillary Supporters

When I hear that die hard supporters of Hillary Clinton will "never pull the lever" for Obama, my first reaction is why would they say this? I understand and sympathize with their disappointment. If my first choice, Obama, had been defeated, I would have felt the same way, but evidently not quite as strongly. Because this election has to be about change and the kind of change we need is not just on the edges nor is the kind of change we need going to come from Republicans. It needs to come from motivated Democrats, disgruntled Republicans and energized independents, who are just plain fed up with the lack of leadership in both parties and the demonstrated inability of the Republican Party to lead.

As such, I would have had trepidations about voting for Clinton because I'm not sure that she believes that wholesale change is not only necessary and do able, nor do I think she can do it with all of the negatives she would bring to the office, but the options are clear and I would have done it. Four more years of coddle the corporate interests, supply side economics, lassie faire social policy and funding a war without end is not an option.

Clinton's attempt to be the first women to run for president on a major party ticket didn't happen for a lot of reasons and most of them were not her fault, but circumstance often controls the outcome. Her reputation, earned or not, is out there like the Goodyear blimp at a golf tournament throwing it's shadow over the field of play. What Hillary supporters sound like and are acting like is almost a third party movement. and left to it's own devices could easily lead to to another of the famous and historical splits in the Democratic party.

However, third party's are mainly based on policy differences with the major parties and the policy differences between Obama and Clinton are not great. There is no civil rights division in the party. There is not antiwar division in the party. Women are well represented in the party hierarchy and even though women thought they had the opportunity to nominate Hillary as the first female presidential candidate from a major party, it didn't happen. No this is a cult movement. It's a movement based on personality; indeed it appears as perception of personality. I say this because this movement has no momentum if Hillary isn't in the picture, but even when she removes herself as she did with her courageous and history making speech and subsequent nomination of Obama, the movement persists.

Obama is no doubt a catalyst for the change movement. He has defined it and he will lead it, but like the "New Deal" and "The Great Society" this movement can go on without him. For I believe that the movement was looking for a leader and it found Obama. He works because the articulates the heartfelt anger and dissatisfaction people have with government. He exemplifies the need for a political atmosphere of respect and cooperation rather than the politics of the personal and animosity. I believe if Obama had not risen to this task we would have eventually found someone else.

And make no mistake, this is not over on election day even if Obama carries the day. The forces against the change in the status quo are not about to fold their abdicate their power, no matter how diminished that power might be. No, a return to a government that represents all of the people instead of those with access will not come easy and a President Obama can not do it alone. He is going to need all of us every step of the way.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

What does President McCain mean for us?

If I were to just list the anticipated result of a McCain victory in November, it would look like a bullet list of talking points from a liberal blogster or commentator. But the facts are hard to ignore. I anticipate an even harder turn to the right on the Supreme Court as the retirement of some liberal justices will occur during this next four years. I'm sure that no one in the one million five hundred thousand of the US wealthiest people, currently threatened by an Obama proposed tax policy, should anticipate any tax increase. The world will wait, but not for long, I'm sure, to see what McCain will do about the mess in the middle east. Look for more troops and more saber rattling as a solution to world terrorism. In general, look for a continuation of republican policies that have gotten us where we are today, in deep trouble.

The labels on these mini-movements have feel good sounding words like trickle down economics, faith based initiatives, education vouchers, patriot act and family values. We are regaled with flag waving, bible touting, and apple pie laden images of happy folks who feel better with less civil rights and economic clout as long as they can buy things cheaper at Wal Mart.

As far as an National economic policy, I would expect it to be the same "free market Friedman policy of Regan and Bush. Slowly over the last thirty years we've been fed a line of reasoning that goes like this. If you'll just trust the rich people to run things you will be fine. After all, they are rich because they are smart and know how to run big complicated things like government. Smaller things, such as Enron, the Banking business and Restoration efforts in New Orleans, they don't do so well.

What we have is less. We have less and more expensive health care costs. We have less money to spend because the average income for most Americans is falling. We have less Government because the Republicans in particular think that government is bad for us. The results is we have less enforcement of rules that might help us such as banking regulations, healthy food inspections and corrupt business practices. We make less investment in public infrastructure.We have less enforcement of labor laws. We have less standing in the world, as our allies have turned against our go it alone foreign policy.

We do have more of some things. We have more government corruption, more national debt, and more of our young solders in VA hospitals recovering from wounds. We have more people without meaningful employment and more people without health coverage. We have more roads, bridges, levies and other infrastructure in bad need of repair or replacement.

We need more National policy on things that count, such as transportation, energy, health care, and the environment. Recent Republican efforts in this area have represented the best interests of the business entities that profit from these issues. The consumer was not invited to comment. They basically have thrown the consumer to the wolves. What has resulted is bad loans, bad food, bad health care and higher costs on everything. (Oh yeah and the stock market ain't doing os well lately either if you're looking at your 401k.)

McCain will owe his victory in November, not to the people of the country so much as the corporate America and the people that serve those corporations. It is no wonder that Wal Mart practically ordered it's employees to vote Republican. A vigorous enforcement of existing labor laws would be uncomfortable for them, much less what might come with a Democratic take over of the White House.

No matter how nice of a person John McCain is and no matter how much he might have opposed the worst of Bush policy, he is at heart a conservative republican and they, my friends. have not proven to be good leaders of our country. Yes government can be a problem. It appears that even a govenment run by people who vowed to restrict the size and pwoer of government. But be aware that the problems government might bring effect some people more than others. A conservative republcan government seems to serve only those who have much and want more.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Is Obama the Answer?

As I have articulated my disappointment and suspicion with John McCain, I have failed to look at the candidacy of Barak Obama. I do not think Obama is a Messiah. I do not think he is "the answer, the heir of the Kennedy mantle or the better version of Bill Clinton. Senator Obama is the man the Democrat votors were looking for when they realized that it wasn't the Republicans that were preventing our country for progressing into the twentieth century, but the lack of leadership and ability to engage the electorate in the idea's that matter. While I respect Al Gore and John Kerry, neither one of them were able to articulate a campaign that could get the liberal voters to the polls. (Where was the Al Gore we love to see expounding on the inconvenient truth?)

Obama does excite people in a conceptual way. He represents change, not only from the failed policies of the talentless leadership of Bush and Company, but the uninspired resistance of the Democrats. Consider the current debate on energy. The old guard Republican approach of drilling our way out of the oil shortage has little or no chance of solving the problem, but the Democrats have not come up with a compelling case for why we should build a thousand windmills either. what is needed is Obama's comprehensive plan of a national energy policy, which is going to have to include increments of transportation, pollution abatement, and just generally telling people what they don't want to hear. We need to change the way we live.

Obama, in a typical don't show your cards until all of the bets are in, has hinted his approach will be more comprehensive and I'm sure it will be or he will be a one term President. What Obama is doing is talking about issues that matter to people and he is not promising an easy time of implementation. For instance, when you talk about a sea change in foreign policy, you're talking about changing the opinion of our country in the minds of millions of people across the globe, friend and foe alike, that remember that in spite of evidence in abundance to his incompetency, we reelected George Bush. That was not a miscalculation of George Bush's, it was a colossal mistake on the part of the citizens of this country. Like it or not, voted for him or you didn't, we brought the world a incompetent leader. The power that the US has in the world makes that choice a issue for every citizen of the world and now they are deeply suspicious of our judgment.

Furthermore, if we are going to finally tackle the health care problems in this country, you only have to remember what happened the last time anyone had the nerve to take on the establishment. it is not going to be any easier this time and probably worse.

The infrastructure of this country is rotting like a ninth ward New Orleans abandon home. Bridges, roads, affordable housing stock and many other necessities, that we require to keep our life style and offer similar prosperity for our kids, is suffering from neglect and overuse. The anti-tax movement has stopped the progress of this country for almost thirty years. Even if they gave up and went away, it will take a major infusion of cash to bring our situation into anything that's reasonable and trust this, the anti-tax guys are not going to just go away.

Obama would be the first President that will have to answer for his environmental policy. prior to the recognition that we are experiencing climate change and that it's driven by human activity, everyone else got a free ride as long as gas was cheap and the road builders were happy. Now, even though we are exporting jobs and pollution to China, a drop of fifty cents a gallon my revive the Humvee industry and resume the accelerating rate and huge contribution the American automobile makes to world climate change.

Here's my point. Obama has the right idea's and has shown some competence in surrounding himself with the right people to get things done. If the stars align properly and we do elect him, and that is a big if, he will be powerless unless we persist. He has been campaigning for this job for almost two years. Those that believed in him from the beginning and those who have come around to supporting him need to understand one thing. If he wins it's not over.

In order to affect meaningful change, it will take a concerted campaign of persistent pressure on the congress and press to hold them and him accountable for the promise of change. If we elect him and than go home to watch TV sitcoms than I can assure you the effort will fail. The rich and powerful will not go away and they will be influencing every congressperson they can to hold to the status quo or even make things worse.

No one speaks for the average person in this country after the election. We are like the crowd at the NFL football game. We pay a lot of money to get in, they use us as necessary atmosphere for the broadcast and while millions get to watch commercials for everything from cars to cardiac cures, the fan in the stands freezes during the TV timeout , forgotten and awaiting the resumption of game. In the case of the country, after the election, if we let them, the politicians will forget us.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

The Paris Hilton Vote Block

Even by writing about this latest fiasco, I am contributing to the thing I dislike so much about American Media. In one of his attack ad's, straight talking John McCain (Whatever happened to that man?), likened Obama to a person who is famous only for being famous, Paris Hilton. The implication is that there is no substance to Obama, he's all about the latest cult of personality. The genius here is that it doesn't make any difference if you accept the premise or not, the ad still works in McCains favor. McCain was so far off the press radar, his handlers had to do something. This ad got them the attention they so desperately needed. Talk about doing anything you need to do to get elected President, this one is going to be discussed regardless of the outcome.

Here's the sad part. This is non starter as an issue. Hillary Clinton beat this issue to death and it got her nothing. But the Paris Hilton ad gives the thing legs with the press. First Hilton's mother, a McCain contributor, whines to the press. The only thing this produces is a truly pathetic confrontation by the press with McCain. He looks absolutely silly trying to chuckle and bush off the ad as, "we were just trying to have a little fun". I think McCain shows us how desperate he is to allow his name to be attached to this nonsense, but on it goes. Now Hilton, don't get between her and a camera or you'll be risking your life, comes out with her spin on the thing. It gives her a chance to get some spot light and keeps McCain in there with her. And
what burning question does this million dollar TV exposure answer? Lest we forget, Obama is not experienced enough to be President.

The outcome of this event is not certain. My guess is it will effect how some people think about the campaign and may cause some vote shift. However, I think more than likely what it will do is what all of this trash campaigning does is direct the focus on issues that have no substance and no gravitas for us the citizens for whom one of these guys is going to be President. I would hope that McCain supporters would let their candidate know that this is silly and embarrassing to them as they try to convince others to support him. I would hope that Obama manages to keep his head and stay above this type of campaigning. I would also hope that undecided voters would discount this effort and look for substance in John McCain's plan for the future of this country instead of his silly grab for headlines and TV time. But OMG didn't you think Paris's new look is just FABULOUS!