Tag Archives: Republicans

Its Not a Split Decision, Its a Partisan One

At the risk of making it seem like there is no debate amongst Liberals on the issue of whether action in Libya is justified, the Pew Research polling data could not be more clear on one point: support for Libya action would be nearly unanimous if it weren’t for a purely partisan divide that is wholly unsupportable with logic:

Goal of Libyan Operation Less Clear to Public | Pew Research Center for the People and the Press.

That those in the middle of the political spectrum are split on the issue is I think entirely predictable: shit, I’m waaay over there on the left and I’m a bit split on the issue, myself. That Democrats are split on the issue is also not surprising for the same reason. But look at the fucking Republicans! Same people who supported Iraq and Afghanistan with rabid intensity – the same people who forever deride Democrats as cowards because we might not bomb someone as a first option – suddenly find themselves to be “Conscientious Objectors™” in the face of Obama’s first military incursion.

That’s just rich as hell.

New York 29: Keep Your Powder Dry, Dems

For most experienced political watchers, the whole Chris Lee blow-up might be interesting news fodder, but it ultimately doesn’t really change much. We’ll get a new Republican in the 26th District, but it will be a Republican almost certainly.

Consider the numbers: in 140 years of Dem/Repub rule of American politics, there have been exactly four Democrats that have represented the 29th. (source is ::gasp!:: WikiPedia.org) The district – even after we factor in the dissolution of the 29th – is tailor-made for Republicans, being a trifecta rural, white and relatively wealthy. The Census website illustrates these last points perfectly: The 26th district is 92% white with an average income of $55k, about four thousand dollars a year more than the national average.

A few years back, 13WHAM had a bunch of us bloggers on to discuss the primaries which included Chris Lee in his first run at Congress. While on the set, I actually looked up these very numbers. I would have looked pretty smart if I’d said them, too, which I didn’t.

Well, now I have. I still feel smart, damnit.

I Don’t Care Whose Fault It is. Just Fix It.

Down the line on most any issue, my politics fall predictably to the left. I think that’s pretty clearly understood by anyone who reads my stuff. You know, what with the title of the website, the six years spent blogging on said site, and all. But over the last two years, I’ve slowly come under the impression that the issues that drove me to blog in the first place are entirely irrelevant to the “discussion” as it happens between the political poles of our country. In fact, issues don’t really seem to factor in to the “discussion” at all, save of course, as props.

Both the Left and the Right of the country seem to be entirely focused on the proposition that the only means of saving the economy is a radical shift in one direction or another. I say that as an ardent supporter of public financing of health care. And one who believes the Stimulus package was both necessary and successful. Nevertheless, just because I agree with my friends on the Left – down the line. on every issue – doesn’t make that the relevant issue of the day. Right now, the relevant issue of the day is in fact the figurative business of “getting the car out of the ditch.” That is the problem. That is what I suspect most people want to talk about.

And while I generally look to my beliefs and therefore my politics for answers to the issues of the day, now I just look at the two sides bickering over issues in disbelief. Both sides are citing historical precedents and studies from the colleges of their choice,…. and I just remember the thing I heard my mommy and daddy say to my sister and I countless times:

I don’t care whose fault it is. Just fix it.

Down With Earmarks!

Well, the Republicans and Tea Party Activists have laid down their marker for the next session, and it appears to be the abolishment of the much-balleyhooed earmarks from Federal legislation. Mitch McConnell, after first requesting a billion dollars in pork for his state, then opposing the “earmark reform” efforts, now seems to be bowing to the pressure and supporting it.

Only problem is: earmarks only define the way in which money gets spent when a budget gets passed. They don’t actually spend money nor create the expenditures. Its just a way of allowing Congressmen to accept a bill by assuring them that a little bit of that pork barrel spending – if such is the term your most comfortable using – gets “earmarked” for them and their district.

Oh, and the earmarks only represent about 11 billion dollars. Which sounds like a lot, unless you consider the fact that that 11 billion dollars represents less than ten percent of discretionary spending in the federal budget, which itself is about 38% of the total budget. Don’t get out your calculator, I’ll save you the trouble. They’re going to change Washington by adjusting the way 3 percent of the budget gets spent – without actually cutting it.

Supporters of the ban will say that three percent is a good chunk of money. And I agree. But Democrats learned a hard lesson in the last two years, which is that in a bad economy, the American people have very little patience or good-will for the incumbent party. Mitch McConnell may indeed have opposed the earmark reform on the basis of his own personal pork barrel spending. But as a veteran of Washington, he just as likely opposed it for what it is: a complete waste of time.

When I’m Wrong, I’m Wrong

Don’t let it be said that I’m too full of myself to admit when I’m wrong. I’m certainly too full of myself for lots of other things, but not that….

I honestly believed – right up to last night – that the Dems would probably be just fine in their majorities in the 2010 elections. I was wrong.

The Dems managed to hold the Senate, though in all honestly, the numbers from last night make it clear that all us Liberals owe a debt of gratitude to Sarah Palin, Sharron Angle and Christine O’Donnell for that. Count that as a “Win” for #4 on my list. In fact, things have gone so badly for Sarah Palin that even when Dems lose, they still win in Alaska: Senator Murkowski looks poised to take back her seat despite being primaried by a Tea Party and Sarah Palin-backed Joe Miller. Murkowski is hardly a leftie, but she certainly looks it when compared to Joe Miller.

I am very surprised that voters went for Republicans in such large numbers, but then, Democrats and the Obama White House have done such a poor job of at least getting credit for the things they did accomplish that our current result set was probably inevitable. That would be why #1 in my list didn’t matter: even when winning, the prevaricating, overly-cautious Democrats looked like they were losing. So all those great accomplishments meant nothing to the voting public.

#3 on my list, the myth of low voter turnout, turned out to be false almost immediately. The “enthusiasm gap” seems to have had nothing to do with the loss, but rather a swing among Independents.

That leaves #’s 2 and 5. Both burned the Republicans once, the Democrats once. And if they don’t shape up, the lack of cohesive planning and vision will burn them both next election.

I am curious now what the average rate of incumbency is in the Congress, relative to say 2000? Have long-term incumbents like Harry Reid been given a pass in favour of a lot of cannon fodder candidates? Certainly at the margins, that is always true. But have the huge swings in voting habits of the American people resulted in a genuine shake-up of Washington’s elite, or just made for good television and lots of heartburn for us political watchers?

If you have any details, I’d love to hear it.

This is it! Get out there and vote!

Well, its November 2nd and if you have managed to make it all day without seeing any news, this is just a reminder that yes, it’s Election Day. Time to get out there and do your civic duty.

I don’t think there’s any question that, for Democrats, this year’s civic duty is just that: a duty. Very few of us are overly enthusiastic about what the media keeps telling us will be a drubbing. Personally, while I’ve never been sanguine about Dem’s chances, I have to admit that the constant barrage of media negativity is starting to wear on my stomach.

Thing is: no one is really polling most of these individual Congressional races and really, the pundits are largely going on feeling which is to say: largely going on the group-think of the Pundit Class. It will be interesting to see what the narrative is by tomorrow morning. You can be sure that, no matter what happens, it certainly won’t be the media’s fault for over-hyping what is supposed to be a serious matter of electing leaders. If the Republicans don’t crush the Democrats across the board – if the take the House as is now all but axiomatic in the group-think, but do no better – the question will be what is wrong with the Republicans rather than what is wrong with the media’s analysis.

So here’s my advice, gleaned from careful observation of MSNBC, TalkingPointsMemo.com and CNN: the question is how big the wave will actually be, and we really need to watch the early results to get an indication of what happens next, then we’ll need to see how it unfolds from there.

The World Standard

Newt Gingrich, via Gage Skidmore on Flickr

I remember it as though it was yesterday: John Kerry, when explaining why it was wrong to go into Iraq, declared that there should be a “world standard” of what constitutes an acceptable cause for war. In doing so, he was arguing that the causes for going to war aught to be morally defensible and garner the support of other free nations, so as to strengthen the hand of the war’s protagonist. But in doing so, he also opened himself up to criticism by every Conservative and Republican politician, politico and pundit for “surrendering” the sovereign right of America to fight a war on her own terms in her own time. That criticism came from all corners of the Republican “big tent,” including Newt Gingrich. No other nation, they said, should be able to tell the United States that we shouldn’t go to war; no nation, they said should hold the standard for what we as Americans can do.

And during the Health Care Reform debates, equal umbrage was given to those who pointed to France or Canada as models of what nationalized health care could look like in the United States. This criticism came from all corners of the Republican “big tent,” including Newt Gingrich. America, they said, was different; America’s standards are her own, they said, and no other standard applies to our “greatest health care system in the world.”

Now the new controversy being used to whip up support on the Right is the plan to raise a new Muslim center in downtown Manhattan. Not on Ground Zero, as you’ve heard it reported in the media, but two blocks away. Those who have been to Manhattan know that “two blocks away” is not the same in New York City as it is in Mayberry. Two blocks away from the site of the Twin Towers may as well be in another city. Nevertheless, this has raised hairs on the backs of Conservatives, who think it’s a grave injustice to put a Muslim center so close to the site of the 9-11 attacks.

I will not bother to address why a new Muslim center in the middle of culture-rich, heavily-ethnic New York City is so concerning to Conservative Americans. I will not ask the question, “have any of these people ever been to New York in the first place?” or wonder why the Conservative American’s favourite whipping boy – New York City, the wretched hive of scum, villany and Democrats that it is – should be of such terrible import and sanctity once Muslims “move in.” What I will address is this statement, from Newt Gingrich, himself:

Those Islamists and their apologists who argue for “religious toleration” are arrogantly dishonest. They ignore the fact that more than 100 mosques already exist in New York City. Meanwhile, there are no churches or synagogues in all of Saudi Arabia. In fact no Christian or Jew can even enter Mecca.

And they lecture us about tolerance.

If the people behind the Cordoba House were serious about religious toleration, they would be imploring the Saudis, as fellow Muslims, to immediately open up Mecca to all and immediately announce their intention to allow non-Muslim houses of worship in the Kingdom.   They should be asked by the news media if they would be willing to lead such a campaign.

To abbreviate his statement: there are no Christian churches in Saudi Arabia, and so by that standard, there should be no Muslim center in Manhattan. Got that? America’s standards have now sunk in the eyes of Newt Gingrich and his supporters – in a mere eight months, mind you – to Saudi Arabian standards.

Wow. That’s a pretty steep drop. Not even the Dow – not even the Dow during the Bush Administration – can follow an act like that. Saudi Arabia, a nation ruled by the very same Sharia Law that raises such a panic among the good Christian Conservatives raising the objection, is now the standard by which we measure our religious tolerance as a society.

At least, to hear Republicans tell it.

5 Reasons Democrats Will Be Just Fine in November

Far be it from me to deprive the national news media their ability to drum up hysterical psycho-drama every waking moment of the day, but I thought that I might offer a few good reasons to cast a bit of doubt on the dire predictions of the smarmy, gossipy Washington press corps so eloquently embodied in Dana Millbank and others. And while I fully understand that I have no voice on the national level, I thought I’d give you a few good reasons to be less amazed than they will profess to be come the end of this latest election cycle:

#5: Just because your “agin” one Party does not make you “fer” another:

Its hard to believe I actually need to say this out loud, but I will: just because I’m pissed at a Democrat does not mean I will vote for a Republican. There has to be a reason to believe that the Republican will do better, which as I will address below, is dubious at best right now. As fun as the media finds it to refer to the people who watch their shows and pay their salaries as “pitchfork-wielding,” knuckle-dragging thugs, the fact is that most of us do not even own pitchforks in the first place. Those of us who do probably have better uses for them. You know, because we think for ourselves.

#4: The Republican capacity to self-immolate.

Republicans had things pretty locked up in Nevada. That is, until Sharon Angle won the nomination there. Now Reid is up by 7. That is, despite a completely upside-down approval rating for Reid in his state. With other winners like Rand Paul and the rest of the Katzenjammer Kids, we can have at least some faith in the Republicans ability to mess this up. And indeed, it is a standard trait of the non-incumbent party that they tend to play Keystone Cops until such time as they simply cannot help but be more attractive than the incumbent party.

From apologies to BP to declaring the inscrutable “Repeal and Replace” agenda for both HCR and now Fin Reg, to describing the financial crisis as an “ant,” to telling the unemployed to just “get a job,” its hard to imagine how Democrats could do a better job of painting the Republicans as out-of-touch. Worse for Republicans, the outlandishly misguided behavior is not atypical, but rather reinforces classic stereotypes of the Republican Party that have traditionally hung their chances out to dry when the issue is the economy. That makes a lot of people’s stomachs hurt when it comes time to actually vote for Republicans.

#3: The Low Turnout Myth

There is no doubt but that turnout can be expected to be lower than it was in the last election. Count on the media to point that out relentlessly, regardless of who wins what, as proof that their analysis is right. But if the last election was a record-setting election – it was – and if turnout in mid-terms is generally lower than in presidential elections – it is – then predicting that turnout will be lower is not exactly the stuff of sages. And I fully expect that the turnout, while lower than the presidential election of 2008, will likely be higher than it was in the previous mid-term election.

Because while we know that mid-terms get less attention, generally, this is not one of those general years. This is not a year when people get to just kick back and be happy with their jobs and wrap Christmas presents. Things are serious and serious-minded people will come out to vote.

Another classic canard of the national news media – one which on its face is self-negating – is that because turnout is low, mid-term elections are both dominated by Conservative voters and also an opportunity for a “protest vote.” The extent to which this concept is true is the extent to which Conservative voters “protest” Liberal and Democratic administrations and no farther. One or the other has to be true, or they’re both false.

Finally, while there’s every reason to think that some people who are angry over the current state of the economy – as distinct from Conservative voters who are just extra angry for their own reasons – will want to “protest” the current administration and Congress, they’ll have to step beyond the blogs, the comments, the FaceBook posts, the cameras, the televisions, the radios, the brave talk at the water cooler and step into that curiously quiet and disquieting space known as a voting booth and actually pull the lever. Which leads me to the next point:

#2: No plan, no vote.

Protest is one thing. But no one disputes the fact that our nation is in a precarious spot right now. This is not the time to simply throw the lever against the incumbent party and feel better about yourself. Polls are showing that Americans generally favour experience over fresh faces – a fact that works better for Dems *after* the 2008 than before it. People are paying very close attention to the news and election politics right now because they need to make what most anyone sees as a very important decision at a very risky time. And when they’re in that booth, what good reason is there to vote in a Republican?

Because the Republicans have shown no new messages, no plan and much worse, absolutely no leadership in the last year and a half. There is absolutely no reason to think that we will do anything other than return to the exact same position we were in on November of 2008 if we put the same party back into power.

#1: America digs a winner

To complain about the “obstructionist” non-incumbent party is a means of applying political pressure. To complain about an incumbent party that “won’t listen to our ideas” is just whining. That was as true for Democrats as it currently is for Republicans. In order to show that you can lead, you have to win something. Right now, Republican wins are few and far between whereas the Democrats are on fire with some of the biggest legislation ever passed in my lifetime. You don’t have to like it to see that they’re winning. And winning is a powerful thing in American politics.

Democrats were able to bring the Bush Agenda to a slow, creaking halt around 2005. And they won big in 2006. By 2008, it wasn’t just that the country was in a dire situation, but rather that Republicans seemed completely ill-equiped to provide an answer that did them in. So far, Republicans have yet to have the same types of successes with the Democratic agenda. If anything, they’ve whipped up a lot of nasty, racist, belligerent protest to the Democratic agenda that dragged the HCR debates well past their welcome… and then lost, anyway.

No plan, no wins, a nasty case of foot-in-mouth and a lot of hasty assumptions about how people will vote do not necessarily add up to a winning strategy. Plan on hearing the phrase “The Republicans snatched defeat from the jaws of victory,” quite a lot by December. That’s not because they really did so badly, but because pundits so completely and intentionally misjudged what is about to happen. Certainly, Democrats will loose seats. Certainly, Republicans will crow about the victories. But the needle won’t have moved appreciably in this next election.

One final point of purely meta, purely Monday Night Football-ish kind of analysis: this is not 1994 by any measure. In 1994, Democrats had controlled Congress almost consistently for twenty years, were riddled with House scandals, were completely dysfunctional and “suffering” from a perfectly good economy where Republicans could play on greed. Republicans meanwhile had a very organized team and a “Contract With America,” which for all the silliness inherent in that title, was at least a well-laidout set of policy agenda. Democrats currently have no serious scandals brewing, have not had time to become unwelcome as a ruling Party and are very well orga-…. well, bad example.

Rep Paul Ryan’s Brave Call to Nationalize the Stock Market

Rep. Ryan discusses his budget plan. Image: economist.com

Republicans have been getting a lot of flack for not bringing ideas to the table at a time when our nation desperately needs them. But the recent budget proposal by Republican House Budget maven Paul Ryan is a sharp rebuke to the notion that Republicans bring nothing to the table and an outright rejection of the notion that Republicans are so ruled by ideology that they cannot propose ideas outside their narrow scope.

Among its many plans, the Ryan budget proposal calls for nationalizing the Stock Market.

It is true that, in discussing the topic of the Republican plan for Social Security, the phrase generally used is “privatizing Social Security.” But consider what the plan actually proposes. Just as the last proposal under George W. Bush did, the plan allows taxpayers to reroute a portion of their FICA taxes to “personal savings accounts.” So far, it almost seems private, except for the fact that the government isn’t giving your money back to you and they’re not ceasing to remove FICA taxes from your paycheck: you’re still paying taxes.

It is a “personal savings account,” which means according to the plan that it will allow you to pass on your balance to your children. But what do you invest in? Well, according to the plan, you invest in “a series of funds managed by the U.S. government.” Ok, got that? You don’t invest the money yourself, it gets taken out of your paycheck. And you don’t get to pick the funds, the government does. It’s private. Remember that.

So how will the money be disbursed? Do you get to dip into it like your 401k? Well, the plan doesn’t make any mention of that, directly. But after mentioning that they also want to “modernize” the age of retirement (three guesses: would that be “modernizing” it up? Or down?), they do say:

The modernization of the retirement age will not affect the ability of an individual who chooses the personal account system to retire early, as long as his or her account has accumulated enough funds to provide an annuity equivalent to 150 percent of poverty.

For those of you whom, like me, are less familiar with such financial jargon, that would be defined as, “income from capital investment paid in a series of regular payments.” That means that the government isn’t giving you your money back or ceasing FICA payments; it’s only allowing you to invest in the funds that they’ve setup; and apparently, they decide when and how much of “your” money you get back. Sounds pretty private, huh?

So far, this doesn’t seem very private at all. It sounds like the federal government doing with your FICA money something not unlike what the states do with your money by investing it in funds. Except, of course, with the veneer of privacy. But here’s a question: how much money do you think gets invested into the Social Security trust fund every year? How much of the taxes that we pay goes directly into the trust fund – and how much would therefore be invested into the stock market under the Republican plan?

Would you believe $700 billion annually? It is difficult to find the answer to the question “how much new capital is invested in the stock market every year.” After all, which market? The Dow? The NASDAQ? And what constitutes “new” money? But consider this: if one entity comes into the game with three quarters of a trillion dollars to spend every single year – not a fluctuating number like private investment, a stable number from taxation – whom do you think calls the shots in that marketplace? How long before the U.S. government owns a controlling interest in the entire market?

I’m guessing not more than ten years. And Republicans, fiscal hawks that they are, must surely be aware of that. Especially since the plan contains this very interesting chestnut:

Guarantee of Contributions. Individuals who choose to invest in personal accounts will be ensured every dollar they place into an account will be guaranteed, even after inflation. With the recent market downturn, individuals must be assured their retirement is secure. By guaranteeing the dollars put into an account, individuals can be assured that a large-scale market downturn will not cost them their Social Security personal accounts.

Pray tell, who is paying for that? Well, clearly if the government is required to insure every dollar you’ve invested into the stock market, they’re going to need to do everything in their considerable power to prevent that market downturn from ever happening.

What Am I Missing?

What the hell is going on in the 23rd? Here we have a district which hasn’t been a Democratic district since the Civil War – when the Democratic Party was the Conservative choice – and we’ve got the whole country up in arms over the results? Trust me: any way the primary turns out, it’ll be a Republican in the 23rd. I’m a big fan of game-day statistics.

So, that’s the big disappointment for Dems. What’s the deal with Republicans? Why is it important to Fred Thompson – whose own presidential aspirations seemed to be such a bore to him – or Sarah Palin – whose gubernatorial responsibilities proved equally tiresome? Is the Baby Jesus scheduled to be born in Watertown? Is Sam Waterson making a movie in Massena?

And the media. The 23rd is a staunch member of the “fly-over” community of which the media is rarely aware. But suddenly, the opinions of residents in sleepy little Speculator are of monumental import. They must be so proud.

Or is the business of reforming health care – and in the case of Republicans, losing that battle – what has become so tiresome?

Give Them Enough Rope…

Jeffery Feldman comments on the status of the town hall meetings being held across the country and the Teabaggers that are arriving to shout them down:

FRAMESHOP: Anodyne Town Halls are the Problem, Not Teabaggers.

Feldman’s solution sounds to me like a fairly typical overreaction, not sage advice of any kind. It’s classic Sean Connery, The Untouchables type of stuff, “What are you prepared to do?”

I actually think that, inside of a week, the Teabaggers will have overplayed their hand, badly. We’ve seen this kind of unhinged behavior before from their ilk: from the shouts of “kill him” at McCain/Palin rallies to the insane ramblings of Orly Taitz to the Hitler/Obama signs at Teabagger rallies. At this point, I very much doubt if anyone paying cursory attention to any of this can possibly tell one nut apart from the other, where indeed the difference is quantifiable.

Just because people are worried about what health care reform might mean for them is no reason to believe that Middle America – in whose hands, to repeat the obvious, the fate of our nation lies – is suddenly in support of the same nuts that they voted against in the 2008 election. Teabaggers are not offering a solution and in fact are actively hurting the cause of whatever “reform” Republicans want.

Once it becomes obvious that the same type of “outrage” present in Texas is present in Iowa, people will figure this out. And they’ve got all month – with no other distracting news – to do it. I actually see the Teabagger/THM Nexus as manna from heaven, if only because it so dilutes the Republican message.

Oh, and About that Cars for Clunkers Program..

I debated a Conservative friend of mine for a few hours via Twitter about this. Once again, Democrats need to step back on this one and let the Republicans hang themselves.

Because of course, giving the American people their money back and letting them stimulate the economy is precisely what Republicans have always advocated. And in this one case at least, that policy seems to be a rollicking success. Yet the Republicans on the hill and on TV are actively against this program as “wasteful.”

This kind of thing doesn’t just write itself. Kick back and enjoy the show.

Forcing Out Private Insurance

I think that it’s interesting in the current debate over health care that Republicans keep insisting that a government-run health care system would force private insurers out of business. Jon Greenbaum chimes in with a hugely salient point which is being lost in this whole conversation: if a government-run health insurance program would force private insurers out of business, what is different about the government-run pension system known as Social Security which makes it unable to force out it’s own private competition?

The difference, I might suggest, is none. And a public option for health insurance would likely have the same effect on that marketplace as Social Security has had on pensions: covering the uncovered, driving down costs and improving the quality of life for Americans across the board. After all, imagine how much more expensive life would be if your retired parents were dirt-poor with no means of income like 80% of pre-SS seniors.

The fact is, wherever there is a service provide, there is a Cadillac version rich people pay for. The same will be true of health insurance in a public option world. What will be different then and now is that insurers will need to provide services at prices which are reasonable, unless they want to confine themselves to being the over-priced, exclusive and much smaller solution to the very rich.