Front and Center

Politics, society, and other random randomness

Wrapping My Head Around This Long Dollar Mess

Today, a bit of non-political talk.

I’ve probably talked this subject to death lately on my Facebook page, but needed one more time to get everything out in a flood as opposed to a few words at a time.  In case you missed it, or you don’t live in Atlanta, here is the jist of the situation.

Bishop Eddie Long is pastor of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, one of the largest churches in Atlanta.  Months ago, 4 boys came forward and filed a lawsuit, accusing Long of inappropriate behavior that he engaged in with them.  Pictures released that Long had sent to the boys didn’t help him much.  Long denied the charges, taking to his pulpit and telling everyone listening that he was like “David fighting Goliath” and that he was going to fight the charges.  I, along with many others, figured he would let the furor die down and settle, but since he said he would fight, we had no choice but to take him at his word.  Meanwhile, members of his church begin to trickle away, as the combination of the leaked pictures and the compelling stories told by the victims paint Long in a very bad light.

Fast forward to recent weeks.  Long settles the lawsuit with his accusers and the settlement is sealed.  Despite that, the number leaks out:  $15 million split among the accusers.  Later, the number jumps to $25 million.  For people like me, it seems that not only did he talk a lot about defending himself then roll over, but that the sheer amount of settlement money did nothing to assuage the idea in our heads that he is guilty.  Personally, I’m aware that people settle out of court all the time to make cases go away.  But I’ve never heard of anyone or any company agreeing to pay $25 million in hush money willingly.

Here is where Pastor Creflo Dollar comes in.  He is the head of World Changers Ministry, another megachurch in Atlanta.  After the settlement was announced, he took to the pulpit and said something I have never heard a minister say outloud:  “I don’t want you here.”

When I read that, it sent me reeling.  After all, what is the job of a pastor?  In my mind, be a shepherd to the sheep in his flock, minister to them, and assist them on the path to be like–and eventually with–Jesus.  When things are bad, the church is refuge, and the pastor is always waiting with open arms.

Except when you’ve left his friend’s church.

I won’t go quote for quote on what Dollar said (you can see some of it here ).  But to summarize, Dollar directed some chastising remarks at any ex-New Birth members in his congregation that sunday, saying Long had had a “wreck” and that since everyone has wrecks, they were wrong to leave New Birth when their pastor needed support.  He described them as being “self-righteous” and “judgemental.”  He told them to join where they belong–telling them to go back to New Birth. Then he said those words.

“I don’t want you here.”

No disrespect to my friends and family that are either in the ministry or members of World Changers, but this is absurd for many reasons.  First, I want to ask him if he felt this way about members of other churches where pastors were found to be maintaining inappropriate relationships with underaged members.  Should the parents and relatives of those kids simply choose to stay and support the pastor and help him through his “wreck?”  is there a difference between a “wreck” and, say, a “pileup?”  And since he also mentioned in his remarks that there was a difference between a “wreck” and a “lifestyle,” exactly how may incidents of inpropriety constitute a lifestyle?

Second, how is it ever appropriate to turn away people who are looking for a church home, looking for peace and healing from whatever they have had to deal with?  I’ve spoken to friends who are in the ministry, related to minsters, or just well connected to the heartbeat of the Atlanta church community.  I was surprised to hear that the idea of not wanting certain people in a congregation is not new.  I guess I can understand not wanting troublemakers around.  But it seems to me that a minister should recognize that having people turn their backs on you for one reason or another is simply a hazzard of the job.   And if they can’t take it, maybe the ministry is not for them.  Besides, I would be curious to hear how they would explain such actions, comments, and thoughts if they found themselves face-to-face with the Lord Himself.  Do you think Jesus would give Creflo and “attaboy” and a pat on the back for that one?

Third, what does it say about us as people that members were clapping and laughing when Dollar made his comments?  Have we gotten to a point where we are ok with a lack of compassion coming from the pulpit?  Or is it that we are so programmed in the “that’s my pastor!” mentality that the rest of our brains disengage?  I personally can’t imagine my own pastor (and friend) saying those words from the pulpit.  But, I’m sure I, along with a few others I can think of, would be standing right outside after church waiting to have a word or two with him.  Unfortunately, a downside of being part of a megachurch is that getting one-on-one time with the pastor can be challenging, so I doubt anyone confronted him.

This entire situation has been disturbing.  Pastor Dollar will probably lose a few members over his remarks (most likely just the folks that had just gotten there from New Birth, unless they will stay and continue to be the target of ridicule).  Bishop Long not only remains in the pulpit at New Birth, but has announced that the church will expand.  And life goes on.  But, as one of my friends said, I guess in the end, the only one they are really accountable to is God.

Here’s hoping they can be “wreck-free” between now and that meeting.

Dems Say They Just Want to Go Back to pre-Bush Tax Rates. Don’t Be Fooled.

For years now, Democrats have been lobbying to have the current tax rates pushed back up to where they were before Bush II cut the rates.  The top marginal rate, now 35%, would go up to 39.6% for individuals earning more than $200,000 per year and families earning more than $250,000 per year.  Claims such as the rich need to pay their “fair share” (a term that is an undefined value, but effective in getting folks riled up), or that the rich have benefitted for long enough and need to pay up, are always used to try and bolster the argument.  I support the idea of raising the marginal rates for EVERYONE to where they were before the Bush tax rate cuts, and have said so many times.  But I discovered that, under further review, Democrats are attempting to go even further in their quest to turn high income earners into bigger cash cows for the government.

What most people don’t realize–and Dems aren’t going to hip folks to it–is that once the healthcare reform plan (“Obamacare”) goes into full effect, the tax rates for $200k/$250k earners will be more than they were pre-Bush.  How?  I’m glad you asked.

Baked into Obamacare are a number of tax rate increases designed to raise revenue to pay for the bill.  The number of taxes built in varies depending on which source you use, but there were two that jumped out at me.

First, there is a new 3.8% surtax on investment income for the over $200k/$250k crowd.  Currently, the tax rate on capital gains (profit made from an investment) and dividends (cash received for owning stock in a company) is at 15%.  The new surtax will push that rate up to 18.3%.  When the argument is made to go back up to the pre-Bush rate, which was 20%, there is no mention of the surtax.  If Democrats have their way, the rate for capital gains and dividends would be at least 23.5%.

Next, there is the 0.9% Medicare surtax, also for the $200k/$250k people.  Currently, 1.45% of everyone’s income is deducted to pay for Medicare.  Unlike Social Security, there is no cap on taxable income, so everything the person makes in income is taxed at the 1.45% rate.  However, with the new surtax, income over the $200k/$250k threshold will see a 0.9% tax increase, making the new tax rate 2.35%.  Instead of raising the top rate 4.6% to get it back to pre-Bush levels, the increase would actually be 5.5%.

A different discussion for another day is the laundry list of other taxes built in, such as the tanning tax, the medical device tax, the health insurers tax, ect.  The bottom line is, these taxes make the “we just want to go back to pre-Bush rates” argument nothing more than political foolery.  And, as usual, most of the masses fall for it.

Where Does Tax Rhetoric Meet Reality?

There has been a lot of talk lately about taxes.  George W. Bush lowered tax rates twice while in office.  Democrats portray those cuts as “tax cuts for the rich” as though no one else benefitted–not even the large number of folks who were removed completely from the tax rolls due to the minimum taxable amount being increased.  Democrats also complain about the cost of the cut for the richest folks, constantly ignoring that the cost of the cut for the other brackets was 3 times as much.  Obama then extended those cuts, much to the chagrin of the Dems.

Now, as talk of deficit reduction and debt reduction heats up, there is much hand wringing going on regarding what to cut and where to get more revenue.  Democrats, of course, say raise taxes.  Republicans say no.

Republicans are playing hardball in terms of tax policy, saying no tax increases will be on the table.  In a way, I can agree, as the more important thing is to lower spending.  Not only that, but the government has a pattern in place:  every time more money comes in, they find a way to spend it.  Without going into detail, the fact that by law, surplus Social Security money is put into the general fund for spending purposes is a prime example.  Anyway, Republicans have their own tax mantra that they will say over and over and over again:

Tax cuts spur economic growth.  But tax increases destroy the economy and destroy jobs!

Having heard this so many times, I finally wondered how much truth there is to this.  Nevermind that I personally believe that taxes can be increased with with no devastating effect to the economy.  I wanted to know what history has shown.  Was there any conclusive proof that showed where tax increases had really hurt the economy?

From what I knew already, I knew that there were examples where tax rate cuts had at least helped spur the economy.  Higher taxes helped fund World War II.  JFK also decreased taxes, which led to economic growth.  Even under G.W. Bush, the economy grew after his tax rate cuts, though in a very tepid fashion.  But what about tax increases?

I was skeptical that I would find evidence and was convinced that the notion was simply a Republican talking point, but there is indeed proof.

  • President Herbert Hoover signed a major tax increase in 1932.  The top marginal rate was increased from 25% to 63%, among other rate increases.  Tax revenues in 1933 were 42% of what they were just two years prior.  Unemployment rose to nearly 25%.  Slowly, though, the economy recovered until…
  • In 1937, Roosevelt signed into law new tax increases.  The result was that the economy went back into recession and didn’t come back until during WWII.  Truman actually cut taxes during that time and by the end of the decade there were budget surpluses.
  • Reagan signed a major tax rate cut in 1981.  Many Republicans like to point this out about Reagan and say that those cuts are why the economy grew during the Reagan years.  But that leaves out part of the story.  Reagan signed a number of tax increases starting in 1982.  Tax loopholes were closed and Social Security was overhauled.  Businesses ended up paying more taxes as a result.  Despite this, there was still economic growth.
  • During the 90s, Clinton raised taxes.  The country was coming out of a recession, and even with the tax increases, the economy grew.  Clinton did, however, also lower taxes on capital gains in the mid-90s.  Many say it was actually the tax cut and not the increase that provided the huge boost in revenue to the government.

So, what is the outcome of my info hunt?  Well, as usual, both sides will make declarations without telling the entire story.  But right now, Republicans are most guilty of cherry picking.  While it’s true that some tax increases did real damage, both Reagan and Clinton showed tax increases can be done and they NOT throw the economy into chaos.  I will also point out that they are especially guilty of ignoring Reagan’s tax increases (yes plural) when talking about how his cuts grew the economy.

Bottom line, rolling tax rates back to pre-Bush levels will not damage the economy.  Just like before, businesses will still find a way to survive and eventually thrive, the economy will grow, and there will be jobs.

Dems Want to End Oil Company Subsidies. Another Fight Over Chump Change

Oil companies, aka “Big Oil,” have been a constant target of the Left for as long as I can remember.  Oil companies don’t control the price of oil, and only make a couple of pennies off the sale of gas, but one would never know that from listening to the constant berating they receive.  Since most of us drive to get from A to B, we have to buy gas.  When oil prices go up, so do gas prices.  When this happens, SOMEBODY has to be the boogeyman.  Why not those mean, nasty Big Oil companies?  Any report of high profits must be attacked–in spite of the fact that the profit margins of the same oil companies tend to stay the same.  Not only that, but they don’t even rank in the top 10 in terms of profit margins, yet companies with far greater margins don’t get nearly the attention.  Its as though cheap gas is some type of right, not just a commodity.

Recent world events have sent the price of oil to major highs.  Subsequently, some of the larger oil companies had record profits to report.  Right on time, members of the Left were quick to start yelling about record profits, as well as government subsidies that oil companies receive.

Just to be clear (thank you, Pres. Obama.  I love that phrase!), in a time of high deficits, I’m in favor of major cuts in corporate subsidies.  We shouldn’t be borrowing money to fund ethanol (proven to be a waste of time), fund farms, ect.  If there is an argument to be made, argue for getting rid of all of them.

But that is not the argument being made.  Democrats in Congress are rallying to end corporate subsidies for the major oil companies.  They basically say the companies don’t need it, and the money can be used to lower the deficit.  I want to say amen but I find myself laughing at this.  Why?  Because just like with the budget negotiations, we have politicians making a huge deal over a relatively small amount of money.  The projected savings from ending just those subsidies is $21 billion over 10 years.  Yes, my fellow Americans, with trillion dollar deficits projected over that same time period, Democrats are yelling about what amounts to an average of $2.1 billion per year.

Is it a lot of money?  To us, yes.  As part of a multi-trillion dollar budget?  No.  This is nothing but a political ploy.  A game.  An attempt to lash out at those mean nasty oil companies.  Someone let me know when the games end and folks get serious.

Thoughts on Bin Laden: Credit, Sea Burials, and Other Randomness

Just some thoughts on the dispatching of Osama:

ATTABOY AWARDS

Let’s start by making sure credit for this is given to all the parties that deserve it.  First, I hope they make a movie about the SEAL team that got to go in and execute the plan.  It has all the parts of a good movie:  overall plot (kill the terrorist mastermind), buildup (years of searching and intelligence), suspense (one chopper lost on the ingress), action (fast roping on the roof, gunfight), and a happy ending.

Kudos also to everyone from top to bottom that was involved in the search.  that includes folks under Bush as well as the current folks under Obama.  The president was very classy in mentioning that the effort started under Bush, and also in calling him to let him know OBL was dead.

And yes, credit to Obama.  Though I give more credit to the folks below him, he gets credit not only for being the final go-no go decision maker, but for keeping good folks working for him in order to get this done.

LET’S NOT GIVE HIM A CAPE JUST YET

I’ve noticed that many of Obama’s supporters have gone beyond the simple idea of giving him credit for getting OBL.  Many are already running the victory lap for the 2012 election.  My friends, slow your roll.  There is a lot of time between now and election day.  And with gas prices going up, unemployment still around 10%, and other issues going on, getting rid of OBL is not enough to punch his ticket into term #2.

If all else fails, look at Bush I.  He had the whole world behind him as the US and its allies went in and kicked Saddam out of Kuwait and back to Baghdad.  But on inauguration day in 1993, the person sworn in was named Clinton, not Bush.

OBL BURIED AT SEA

Evidently, the body of Osama was buried at sea.  Per Muslim tradition, a person must be buried within 24 hours of death.  So nice of the US to go ahead and adhere to such.  The reasoning behind the move makes sense.  Finding a country to take OBL’s remains may have been tough, and on top of that, burying him at sea preventing OBL supporters from creating a shrine.

But lets just count how long it takes before the conspiracy theorists take this and run.  Was it faked?  Why not show everyone the actual body?  Is he really dead?

INTERESTING BITS OF INFO EMERGING

–OBL was given a chance to surrender.  He opted not to.  He caught a bullet in the left eye as a result.  In the left eye.  that’s some impressive shooting.

–Is someone going to try and convince me that authorities in Pakistan didn’t know OBL was living in the city in a massive mansion?  !t was located within sptting distance of the Pakistan Military Academy.  Yeah, right! 

–There was a plan to bomb the compound in March.  They were going to use two B-2 stealth bombers to drop a bunch of bombs on it.  But Obama didn’t sign off because there wouldn’t have been enough left to confirm OBL was dead.
Bottom line:  Osama Bin Laden is taking a dirt nap.  Good riddance.

From Contributor “ODA3”: Why I am less qualified to be President than President Obama! – 10 Red Flags

In the midst of all of the Birther nonsense, I decided to look at my own “Birth Certificate” to see if I would be eligible to run for the Presidency of the United States. To my surprise, with the information I know about our President’s birth certificate I think I might receive even more scrutiny than he has.

First off, there is a lot of controversy over “Birth Certificate” vs. “Certificate of Live Birth”. Well mine says “Copy of Record of Birth” (RED FLAG 1). Oh boy, I get the feeling the Birthers would have a field day just with that alone! The date on this copy is April 1990. I’m sure my mom needed it to get me a passport or something and most likely lost the original somewhere between moving up and down the east coast. It has a raised seal and most of the information seems to be in order.  My full name is spelled out. Date of Birth and Place of Birth as expected. Time of Birth: BLANK (RED FLAG 2). Sex: M. Good. Color: BLANK (RED FLAG 3). Wait, what’s going on here? Surely the people at the hospital knew when I was born and that I was Black. And why haven’t I noticed all of this earlier?

Now here comes the good stuff.

Understand my parents were not married when I was born. They were married 3 days later. But that’s okay. To my knowledge I was born in a hospital. But when I look at the Copy of Record of Birth, I noticed that my mom’s name is written with my father’s last name and her maiden name in parentheses. I would have expected to see her name with her maiden name last or her previous married name (RED FLAG 4). Not so. How did that happen? And what’s this: Date of Original Record July 18. I was born in June (RED FLAG 5)! Date of Amendment: BLANK (RED FLAG 6). So the record was generated a month after I was born. This wouldn’t be likely if I had been born in a hospital. Was I smuggled in from Canada?

Officials in Hawaii have certified that not only does the long form of President Obama’s certificate exist, but there are both typed and hand-written notes in the file from the doctor who birthed him, as would be expected. My Copy of Record of Birth doesn’t say what time I was born, what color I am, and…what’s this? How did I miss this before? THIS IS MY MOTHER’S HANDWRITING!!!!! No doubt about it! The majority of this form was written by my own mother! I’m sure of it (RED FLAG 7). The only think not is the signature of the Registrar of Vital Records and Statistics who official swears by the facts for the Department of Public Health. So maybe the process was: you fill out the document and the registrar verifies and signs it? Yes that’s it. Interestingly, there’s a grease stain right on top of the signature (RED FLAG 8). It must be to cover up the white-out I used on the signature.

I talked to my mom about this Easter Sunday. It turns out I was not born in a hospital as I have been telling people for 30 years. It was a women’s clinic (RED FLAG 9). It wasn’t Planned Parenthood but I’m sure that’s what the GOP do-gooders are thinking. My mom and dad took me and the information to the proper agency to get my birth certificate, and at the same time, they also changed my older sister’s last name (which had been my mother’s previous married name). It all sounds plausible. But where is the proof that I was born in the US? Not that it matters, both of my parents are US citizens. My mom has never left the country in her life.  None of those facts would matter to a Birther though. Facts are simply annoyances to them.

So maybe there’s nothing for a Birther to be worried about. After all, my Copy of Record of Birth was good enough to get me a passport, why not a ticket to the Oval Office. Oh, did I mention that my mom used to work for the US Passport Office? Yep. Didn’t even have to wait in line! And I’m sure that in no way had any effect on the scrutiny that my application received (RED FLAG 10).

Dear Birthers: The Horse is Dead. Stop Beating It.

When I posted a humorous line as my Facebook status for Easter (“I hear Birthers aren’t celebrating Easter. something about not seeing an authentic copy of his birth certificate…”), I figured my friends and I would share a good laugh and move on.  But of course, my friends who are somewhat in line with the Birther movement jumped in, prompting responses from the other side, and away we went.  I know I’ve posted about this before, but if Birthers must persist, then so should I.  Look at this as an appeal to reason.

Members of what has been labeled the “Birther” movement feel that President Obama was not born in Hawaii, but instead was born in Kenya.  They have offered no proof of this.  They maintain that he has not sufficiently proven that he was born in the US.  No matter what is said or shown, they insist on it.  But let’s give the evidence a look-see, shall we?

Birther’s once maintained that Obama’s grandmother said he was born in Kenya.  This would be a nail to hang their entire argument on.  Even Donald Trump mentioned this in an interview recently.  Unfortunately for Trump and Co., the story was debunked.  Not true.  Didn’t happen.

The biggest Birther argument as to do with Obama’s birth certificate.  For presidential election eligibility purposes. Obama submitted what is called in Hawaii (and many other states) a “Certificate of Live Birth.”  When a copy was made available for the naysayers, they scoffed.  “It can be faked!” they said.  But, my favorite opposition lines were “it’s not good enough–we want to see the long form!” and “its not the same as a Birth Certificate!”  Both of these arguments leave a lot of pertinent info out, most likely on purpose.

First of all, the Birthers purposefully ignore Hawaii law.  In Hawaii, when one requests a copy of their birth certificate, they do NOT get a copy of the original, long form birth certificate.  They get the “Certificate of Live Birth.”  It is a legal document carrying behind it the weight of the issuing state, and it has the necessary seal of authenticity.  Second, government officials in Hawaii have verified that there is an official long form birth certificate on file with the state of Hawaii.  Third, while people are saying that a person could simply walk into a hospital with an already-born baby and get a COLB, there is no proof that this is what happened when Obama was born.

Oh, did I forget to mention the dual birth announcements in the news papers right after he was born?

Birthers won’t accept the notion that in order for their version of events to be true, there would need to be a major conspiracy put together, involving a birth in another country, a very long flight to Hawaii, and convincing state officials, a hospital, and the news papers that Obama was born in Hawaii.  Who would want to go through that much trouble?  And on top of all else, since Obama’s mother was an American citizen, it didn’t matter WHERE he was born!  Her US citizenship made HIM a US citizen.  Period.

Birthers are being allowed to drive this discussion.  The proof is out there that shows that Obama was born in the US.  The question is, why isn’t it on the Birthers to provide evidence that he wasn’t?  Just like in a court trial, let’s see what they have and let the jury decide.

I suspect the verdict would be unanimous.

Clark Howard Nails It: The Country is “Sailing Up Denial” About Taxing Our Way Out of Debt

I happened to hear Clark Howard on the radio while driving back to the office from a business event.  For those that don’t know, Clark Howard (like Dave Ramsey) is a consumer guru known for giving out advice and tips to the masses via his radio and TV programs.  During his program today, he mentioned that the country as a whole was “sailing up denial” when it comes to solutions to fix the country’s long-term debt issues.  While I will still be more of a fan of the saying “denial is a river in Egypt,” Howard definitely nailed the thought process that currently occupies the minds of many Americans–that increasing taxes on the top earners, without making cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, is a viable option for debt reduction over the long term.

The fact that a poll was taken on this subject is quite humorous.  There are a couple of ideas that rule the hearts and minds of many Americans.  The first is that they wouldn’t support the reduction of government benefit programs, knowing they would be affected by the reductions.  Seems to be the simple law of self preservation to me.  The second is that people feel if a person is rich (or seems that way) then regardless of whether or not they actually paid into a benefit, they have money and can do without the government entitlements.  These thoughts reflect, as Howard also stated, that in America, we don’t have a notion of shared sacrifice on the issue.  “Don’t change MY stuff, just make the rich fund it.”  Tricky thing is, as Howard explained, you could tax the upper 1%-2% of income earners all the way to destitution, and the debt problem still wouldn’t be solved.  Further–and I thought this was spot on–if the solution used was more taxes with no benefits cuts, eventually there wouldn’t be enough money coming into the government to pay for benefits.  Before long, individuals would find themselves solely responsible for their own welfare and wellbeing, just like in the old days.  One can only imagine the outcry THAT would produce.

Here’s to hoping that Congress gets it right for a change and puts the sacrifice on everyone, not just a few people.

I Said We All Lose With the Budget Deal; It’s Worse Than I Thought

In my last post, I explained why I thought we all lose out in the end when it comes to the budget deal agreed on last week.  Well, now that they put out the details of the agreement, many people are realizing that it’s worse than we thought.  In many cases, “cuts” aren’t cuts at all.

So, what constitutes a “budget cut?”

Many of the cuts appear to have been cuts in name only, because they came from programs that had unspent funds.

For example, $1.7 billion left over from the 2010 census; $3.5 billion in unused children’s health insurance funds; $2.2 billion in subsidies for health insurance co-ops (that’s something the president’s new health care law is going to fund anyway); and $2.5 billion from highway programs that can’t be spent because of restrictions set by other legislation.

About $10 billion of the cuts comes from targeting appropriations accounts previously used by lawmakers for so-called earmarks – pet projects like highways, water projects, community development grants and new equipment for police and fire departments. Republicans had already engineered a ban on earmarks when taking back the House this year.

Republicans also claimed $5 billion in savings by capping payments from a fund awarding compensation to crime victims. Under an arcane bookkeeping rule — used for years by appropriators — placing a cap on spending from the Justice Department crime victims fund allows lawmakers to claim the entire contents of the fund as “budget savings.” The savings are awarded year after year.

For those keeping count at home, that block of funny money amounts to $24.9 billion of the $38 billion in budget cuts! Yes, the shutdown drama was over about $13 billion in actual cuts, which amounts to a miniscule percentage of the overall budget. Oh, and they managed to find time to tell D.C. how they can and can’t spend their money, too.

This is the type of tomfoolery we have to put up with. Both sides should be ashamed. But we know its just business as usual.

Forget Picking Winners in the Budget Fiasco; We All Lose in the End

Unofficial seal of the United States Congress

Image via Wikipedia

After the absurd theater that was the “oh-my-god-the-government-will-shut-down” nonsense of last week, many news sites were picking “winners” and “losers.”  Frankly, the loser in all of this is clear–the American People.  If it takes this much effort to get Congress to cut a few billion dollars from a 3-plus trillion dollar deficit, what happens going forward, with expected trillion-dollar deficits for the next ten years?

Contrary to the posturing being done by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and President Obama, Democrats came out on the losing end of the battle.  At least temporarily (since success can be fleeting in politics), many Americans scratched their heads as Democrats dug in and fought against budget cuts that make up less than one percent of the total budget.  One looks silly fighting to hold on to every penny when nearly everyone knows that the level of debt we are piling up as a country is unsustainable and a threat to national security.

Wait.  I digress.  Based on the number of people who actually supported the Dems position in all of this, either “nearly everyone” is far from accurate, or there are a lot of people in denial.  They are convinced the way to fix this is to maintain the spending and only increase taxes.  But that’s a different story.

Since we’re talking budgets, and in Washington, its always about the baseline, let’s look at the baseline of the budget battle.  If Democrats had passed a budget back in 2010, while controlling Congress and the White House, none of this would’ve happened.  It was the first time in many years that there was no budget submitted.  Even worse, the fact that the Dems punted in June of 2010 in order to go into butt-covering mode for the upcoming elections seems to have been swept under the rug.  I’m very surprised some person within the Democrat machine didn’t point out that if they didn’t get it done, it could possibly be out of their hands in 2011.

Meanwhile, the Tea Party, whose focus is and always has been spending cuts (don’t be fooled by accusations to the contrary), powered an election that sent new people to Congress with the mission of reigning in spending.  I’ve actually gotten a kick out of watching how people who were quick to defend the ramming through of Obamacare by saying “that’s what we elected them to do” turn around and actually criticize members of Congress for being beholden to the Tea Party!  It’s more important to demonize the TP than to recognize that their criticism of spending is legit.

But back to the budget fight.  Republicans aren’t without criticism here.  This was no time to inject social issues into the fray.  A fight over funding for Planned Parenthood had no business occupying time and space in this.  Or did it?  One analysis of the battle said the Democrats fell for the okey-doke in that regard; that really, defunding Planned Parenthood wasn’t really the big priority that Democrats thought it was, and when they agreed to give up something in return for a dropping of that issue by Republicans, they were suckered.  Further, as part of the final agreement, Obama and Reid agreed to allow a debate and vote on defunding PP to be brought up in the Senate.  Still, any future fight over defunding Planned Parenthood just because they are an abortion provider is a waste.

There is one upside to the way the deal went down.  Democrats hoped to achieve cuts by simply delaying some projects (which did happen) and/or freezing funding for certain programs and refunding them in the next budget.  Republicans didn’t play ball.   Instead, many programs were terminated in order to get to the nearly $40 billion in cuts.  For the other programs with reduced budgets, they have a new baseline to start from in the 2012 budget.  In other words, even if there is a programmed funding increase, they will still spend less going forward.  This serves to reduce the monsterous deficits already projected for the next 5-10 years out.

So, after all of that, why do I say we all lose?  Because this bears repeating:  we nearly had a government shutdown over cuts amounting to less than 2% of the overall budget!  So much hinged on so little.  In order for the country to win, spending has to come down.   Is that so hard to understand?

Has it been 11 days??

I knew it had been a while since my last article.  But 11 days?  Wow, I’m slacking!  Gotta get on the ball!  Anyone interested in contributing to the blog, let me know!

In Wisconsin, a Union Shakedown in the Name of “Supporting Workers Rights”

The story in Wisconsin continues.  The bill taking away state employees ability to bargain for things other than wages may have been passed, but a judge has kept the bill from being put into force due to possible violations of a 24 hour meeting notification rule.  Meanwhile, union members are telling businesses to openly support them or be boycotted:

Members of Wisconsin State Employees Union, AFSCME Council 24, have begun circulating letters to businesses in southeast Wisconsin, asking them to support workers’ rights by putting up a sign in their windows.

If businesses fail to comply, the letter says, “Failure to do so will leave us no choice but (to) do a public boycott of your business. And sorry, neutral means ‘no’ to those who work for the largest employer in the area and are union members.”

So, let’s get this straight. If you are a business owner, and you are not interested in getting involved in the ongoing battle, you could still get boycotted for choosing not to get involved. In the current economic atmosphere, I have no doubt that some businesses will capitulate to ensure their doors remain open. But how is this behavior ok? How can unions complain about how they are being treated in the legislative process, then turn around and basically threaten business owners?

Seems like a possible return to old fashioned union bullying tactics.

Want To See a “Humanitarian Crisis?” Look at the Ivory Coast

As mentioned before, the US isn’t being consistent when it comes to intervening in places around the world.  I actually understood when the President said we needed to intercede to prevent a mass slaughter, as Libya’s military was moving to kill the occupants of an entire city.  But such brutality is not unique to Libya.  Look at the Ivory Coast.

Laurent Gbagbo is the president of the Ivory Coast.  Or was.  Elections were held in November and he lost.  But he won’t give up power.  Further, he kicked out the UN peacekeepers.  But it gets worse.  Forces loyal to him have attacked folks who dare to protest.  DeWayne Wickham, writing for USA Today, describes the situation:

Nearly 500 people have been killed by forces loyal to Laurent Gbagbo, the Ivory Coast president who lost a re-election bid in November but refuses to give up control. Many more people have been wounded in the fighting spawned by Gbagbo’s refusal to leave office. An estimated 500,000 have been displaced, and 90,000 more have fled the West African country, according to the Associated Press.

Evidently, we are refraining from getting involved and waiting for the African Union to step into the situation. But why wait? If we are into the whole thing of stopping killing on humanitarian grounds, shouldn’t we just jump right in along with the UN?

Something just doesn’t jive.

On Libya and US Foreign Policy

I may have addressed this before, but at the risk of being repetitive, I have to question the rhyme or reason behind the US getting involved in Libya.  Further, I have to look at it from a different view–if we are going in there to help with regime change, or prevent a leader from killing his own people, how do we decide which places to stick our noses in and which ones to ignore?

President Obama publicly rebuked Libya leader Mommar Quaddfi, saying that the US and its allies would get involved in Libya to stop the killng that was going on there.  On the surface, such actions are noble.  who doesn’t want to see an end to slaughter and bloodshed by a tyrannical dictator?  But the issue is a complex one.  If we are going to take this stance on Libya, why not on other countries?  There have been hundreds of thousands killed in Darfur.  The people in Iran tried to rise up and got squashed.  There are numerous countries in the Middle East where the citizens are currently protesting their government.

Of the situations mentioned, there is no plan for intervention from the US or otherwise.

So the question becomes, under what grounds do we decide to jump in?  Does the situation have to be 100% winnable?  Only under NATO approval?  Only when invited by the Arab League?

Someone somewhere needs to spell this out.

Uncle Sam Wants to Tax You…By the Mile

In the US there is always the need for infrastructure upgrades and maintenance.  Unfortunately, funds are short these days.  So, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has floated an idea for a new tax to raise funds.  What’s the new tax?  Simple.  Drivers would get taxed for every mile they drive:

The report discussed the proposal in great detail, including the development of technology that would allow total vehicle miles traveled (VMT) to be tracked, reported and taxed, as well as the pros and cons of mandating the installation of this technology in all vehicles.

CBO’s report stressed it was making no recommendations but seemed to support a VMT tax as a more accurate way of having drivers pay for the costs of highway maintenance. The report said miles driven is a larger factor in highway repairs than fuel consumption and suggested that having drivers pay for the real costs of highways “would involve imposing a combination of fuel taxes and per-mile charges.”

On the one hand, funds have to be raised somehow, and this may be a viable option. However, it also would penalize folks who got more fuel efficient vehicles (less gas purchased at the pump means less gas tax revenue). Also, for folks like me, who are in sales, we would bear a disproportionate share of the tax bill.

We will see how this one pans out.

Becoming President Can Make You Hypocritical

We’ve seen it many times. Candidate runs for President and says “I will do A, B, and certainly C.”  They then get into office…and suddenly, a few of those promises are conveniently forgotten.  With the recent actions in Libya, President Obama has joined the club.

First, a few quotes from then-Senator Obama about the US and military actions:

The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.

As Commander-in-Chief, the President does have a duty to protect and defend the United States. In instances of self-defense, the President would be within his constitutional authority to act before advising Congress or seeking its consent. History has shown us time and again, however, that military action is most successful when it is authorized and supported by the Legislative branch. It is always preferable to have the informed consent of Congress prior to any military action.

Then-State Senator Obama on why the US shouldn’t go into Iraq, circa 2002:

“I suffer no illusions about Saddam Hussein. He is a brutal man. A ruthless man. A man who butchers his own people to secure his own power. He has repeatedly defied UN resolutions, thwarted U.N. inspection teams, developed chemical and biological weapons, and coveted nuclear capacity … But … Saddam poses no imminent and direct threat to the United States, or to his neighbors …”

Fast forward to 2011. Quaddafi is no threat to the US. They only produce 2 percent of the world’s oil. But not only are we participating in Operation Odyssey Dawn against Libya, we did so without Congressional advice and consent. A complete 180-degree turn on both counts, no?

Links:
“Q and A with Presidential Candidate Obama”

“From Iraq to Libya, Obama Becomes a Hypocrite”

Obama Under Impeachment Threat–From His Own Party?!

Just a quick hit, from Politico, where it seems President Obama’s actions in Libya have have ticked off his own party members:

A hard-core group of liberal House Democrats is questioning the constitutionality of U.S. missile strikes against Libya, with one lawmaker raising the prospect of impeachment during a Democratic Caucus conference call on Saturday.

Further, Rep. Dennis Kucinich brought up the “i” word:

Kucinich, who wanted to bring impeachment articles against both former President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney over Iraq — only to be blocked by his own leadership — asked why the U.S. missile strikes aren’t impeachable offenses.

Now, Kucinich has come up with some off-the-wall things in the past, and this is no different. But to me, this just goes to show that as Obama not only tacks to the center in terms of policy, and also becomes more agressive militarily, he risks having his own party mates turning against him. Time will tell.

Links:

Liberal Democrats in uproar over Libya action

See, It’s Not Just the “Tax Cuts for the Wealthy” That Are Adding to the Deficit!

As mentioned here before, arguments complaining about how the “tax cuts for the rich” are unpaid for and adding to the deficit is disingenuous without an accompanying argument about the similarly “unpaid for” tax rate cuts for everybody else–which cost three times as much.  Somehow, no one wants to talk about that.

Today the CBO released an analysis of President Obama’s 2012 budget proposal.  According to the analysis, while the Obama administration predicted $7.2 trillion in deficits over the next 10 years, the CBO stated that the number is more like $9.5  trillion.

Nine-point-five.  Trillion.  With a “T.”

But what also jumped out of the analysis is that the CBO predicts that tax rate cuts for the middle class will be made permanent–and the cost of that cut is going to help increase the deficit:

CBO said the biggest reasons for the deficits, compared to the status quo, are the permanent extension of the Bush-era tax rates for the middle class and changes to the Alternative Minimum Tax that Obama favors in this budget. As a result of the tax policy, there is a $2.7 trillion net increase in the deficit over the next 10 years.

There you have it, folks. criticizing the rich may be en vogue, but if there is to be honesty in this, all tax rate cuts must be discussed.

And then, rolled back.

What Was That About Toning Down Rhetoric? Biden Uses Rape to Describe Repubs

Not too long ago there was so much talk about toning down rhetoric.  Even before that, using rape or things related to rape to describe your opponents was darn near taboo.  But today, Vice President Joe Biden pulled that one out at a fund raiser.  His logic?  According to an account in at thehill.com, “Republicans who want to cut spending while at the same time cutting taxes for the wealthy are similar to rape apologists:”

“When a woman got raped, blame her because she was wearing a skirt too short, she looked the wrong way or she wasn’t home in time to make the dinner,” Biden said.

“We’ve gotten by that,” he said. “But it’s amazing how these Republicans, the right wing of this party – whose philosophy threw us into this God-awful hole we’re in, gave us the tremendous deficit we’ve inherited – that they’re now using, now attempting to use, the very economic condition they have created to blame the victim – whether it’s organized labor or ordinary middle-class working men and women.”

The countdown clock has started to see how long before the women’s groups yell about this. It’s so off the wall, I won’t even go into how crazy he sounds still talking about an “inherited deficit” when we are going into year 3 of the Obama administration, especially with the amount of money that has been spent in the last 2 years alone.

Unions to Protest on Anniversary of MLK Slaying. That is NOT Kosher.

The right to assemble is one of the fundamental rights people have in America. As long as you follow the rules, anyone and everyone can get together all they want. So I have no problem with unions wanting to assemble mass protests.

But in an attempt to link civil rights and “workers’ rights,” they are calling for such gatherings to take place on April 4th. The significance of that date? It is the day that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in Memphis, TN in 1968. King was on his 4th (and unfortunately final) trip to Memphis to support an ongoing sanitation strike by black workers, who were being paid less and treated worse than their white counterparts. There had been rallies and marches, and King had been there to help bolster the worker’s effort to be treated equally. In that effort, he lost his life and black america lost its “Drum Major.”

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Image via Wikipedia

For some reason, unions feel that their efforts to maintain the level of power they have now equates to that effort in 1968, that civil rights–treat me the same as the white workers–and workers “rights” are linked. My question is, how so?

In 1968, segregation was still the norm in a lot of places. To be black meant to be treated differently. Forget the idea that other than skin color, a person was a person. Those workers were treated like 2nd class workers. The fight to get them their equal pay and treatment was unquestionably a fight for the inalienable right to be treated as equals.

It’s now 2011. Exactly how, in the ongoing labor disputes, are union workers NOT treated equally? Collective bargaining, while a legal right in some jurisdictions, is not an inalienable right, no matter how loudly people yell to the contrary. As I have mentioned previously, Democrats on the federal level who said such in support of the Wisconsin protesters were speaking doubletalk, since they have made no effort to say or do anything in support of collective bargaining for federal workers since they lost the right to do so under Jimmy Carter. Speaking of Wisconsin, the bill that was passed (and is currently on hold due to a judge’s ruling) still allows union workers to bargain for their pay. I and millions of others have the ability to do this one on one with any perspective employer. The public employees would no longer have the ability to negotiate on benefits and perks. For the most part, I and the millions are in the same boat. So really, what the bargaining on benefits and perks would be for is special treatment. Granted, many in Wisconsin opposed the bill passed by Gov. Walker and the Republicans there. But you’re not going to convince me that they have some inalienable right to 100% funded pension and free healthcare, at taxpayer expense, during a time of a major budget shortfall.

Now, I’m sure that these unions will most likely get the support of many black organizations in their April 4th protests. But from this black person, I look at connecting two completely different rights as an insult to MLK and what he fought for.

I’ll end it with a quote from Byron York, writing on the topic in the Washington Examiner:

Will it work? After all the demonstrations, and all the speeches, will the public watch protests by angry, nearly all-white, middle-class school teachers with excellent health and retirement plans and think of Martin Luther King? Trumka’s AFL-CIO and the big unions are very rich and very powerful. They have the ability to get their message out. But their April 4 strategy might be too ambitious even for them.

Let’s Talk About “Uncle Tom”

In a recent documentary on Michigan’s “Fab Five,” Jalen Rose charges that Duke only recruited black players that were “Uncle Toms.”  Of course this has raised a ruckus all over.  But this is nothing new.  The term “Uncle Tom” has been used by Blacks against Blacks for years.  Often interchangeable with that other favorite term, “sell out,” it’s used to describe someone who, in essence, acts white in the eyes of the person who is throwing out the term.  Of course, if you’re Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, you are called Uncle Tom, sell out, AND depicted on the cover of a black-oriented magazine as a lawn jockey, but I digress.

The Original Uncle Tom was from Harriett Beecher Stowe’s novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Stowe, who was anti-slavery, used her novel as an eye-poke to the pro-slavery folks of the day. But many blacks in the day (and after) weren’t happy with the fact that Uncle Tom was a very subservient, “God will save me” character instead of one who fought back against his situation. Fast forward some years. As blacks continued to fight for rights and fight to be treated equally, some managed to do well and begin to assimilate to what at the time were lifestyle activities more akin to whites in the US. Those who went too far were prone to catch the “Uncle Tom” nickname.

So, back to Mr. Rose. He looks at his own background, which wasn’t so easy. He looks at the black players at Duke, including Grant Hill, who many people know came from a 2 parent household, with a former NFL player for a dad and a highly educated mom. And instead of saying “well, we’re just different,” he plays the UT card.

Now, to paraphrase (and agree with) what my friend Hashim Uqdah tweeted just this morning, I doubt he had even read the book to know where the term came from. Then again, MOST folks who say it probably didn’t read the book. They heard it and decided its nice and handy to use. But ultimately, it comes down to one thing: the person using the term has decided that the target of the slur isn’t black enough.

When I heard about Rose and his quote, I wasn’t thinking this, but then that jumped into my head and I realized it was true.  Somewhere, there is a “Black Handbook” that lists all the things a black person should say, do, like, eat, drink, and even think. Violators are treated harshly (look up the movie “DROP Squad”). Now, I’m not condoning those decide to completely forget their life, history, and heritage (example: OJ Simpson seems to be in that category, and made a triumphant return to being black around the time he went on trial for murder). But for the majority, simply doing the activities mentioned earlier was enough. As things have changed in the 2000s, and we see more and more starting to “make it,” the Uncle Tom moniker tends to be focused more on politics. Black and conservative? Yep, Uncle Tom. Disagree with affirmative action? Oh, yeah, UT. And don’t be a Tea Party member!

Bottom line is, it is a true shame that within the black community, we often end up tearing down others who may not fit a certain mold instead of simply saying “to each their own.”  One wonders if we will ever get to that point.

Want To Get Quick Sympathy Points? Compare Your Cause to Slavery!

Here we go again.

Two weeks ago, at the height of the union protests in Wisconsin, NY Representative Charlie Rangel decides that losing the ability to collectively bargain is “close to slavery:”

“Collective bargaining is something that is so close to slavery in terms of abolishing it, that it is not an American concept to tell people that they cannot discuss their economic position.”

Slavery. As in, that institution where you’re just a piece of property, where you got separated from your family at the whim of the slave owner, where you had no freedom (and to attempt to gain it could mean your life), and where the bullwhip was used with impunity?

Uh, ok, Charlie.

Fast forward 2 weeks. We now have a new union battle taking center stage, between players and owners in the NFL. I won’t go into the details of conflict, or of the pending lawsuit. But Adrian Peterson, star running back for the Minnesota Vikings and the-running-back-everyone-wants-on-their-fantasy-team, has now followed Mr. Rangel’s lead. In an interview with Yahoo! Sports’ “Shutdown Corner” blog, Peterson says this in reference to the current situation:

It’s modern-day slavery, you know?

Now, when I heard about this, of course I’m thinking that he is out of his mind. NOTHING compares to slavery! He has even received negative feedback from many directions, including fellow NFL players.   But then, I did something that most people don’t bother to do–I read the entire interview.

I’m still not fond of the analogy, because just as I felt about Rangel’s remark, no one is being forced to stay on the job, no one is losing their freedom, and certainly no one is getting whipped. But I do have some sympathy here different from my thoughts on the Wisconsin situation, the biggest being the conflict between the NFL and the owners is a debate over profit sharing in a private sector organization. Also, there is this interesting comparison (by way of Dave Zirin at The Nation) from former NFL player Anthony Prior, author of the book Slave Side of Sunday, where he draws an analogy of playing in the NFL vs being a slave:

“Black players have created a billion-dollar market but have no voice in the industry, no power. That sounds an awful lot like slavery to me. On plantations slaves were respected for their physical skills but were given no respect as thinking beings. On the football field, we are treated as what appears like gods, but in fact this is just the ‘show and tell’ of the management for their spectators. In reality, what is transpiring is that black athletes are being treated with disrespect and degradation. As soon as we take off that uniform, behind the dressing room doors, we are less than human. We are bought and sold. Traded and drafted, like our ancestors, and the public views this as a sport, ironically the same attitude as people had in the slavery era.”

Zirin also has an interesting comparison of what players go through at the combine vs how slaves were treated, traded, and evaluated.

Ultimately, while I don’t like at all using the slavery comparison to discuss modern day issues, I have to admit that maybe, on occasion, there is no better way to getting the point across. But I’m sure there will be debate, discussion, and outrage every time it happens.

Sorry, Michael Moore; Taking the Billionares’ Billions Won’t Bail Us Out

Mary Katherine Ham took Michael Moore’s idiot idea of confiscating wealth and using it as a “national resource” and basically showed how much of an idiot he is

The grand total of the combined net worth of every single one of America’s billionaires is roughly $1.3 trillion. It does indeed sound like a “ton of cash” until one considers that the 2011 deficit alone is $1.6 trillion. So, if the government were to simply confiscate the entire net worth of all of America’s billionaires, we’d still be $300 billion short of making up this year’s deficit.

Read more: Michael Moore’s National Resources

Klavan on Unions

Rep. Keith Ellison’s Teary Hearing Speech Gets a Lot of Press. Too Bad It Wasn’t True

Yesterday, Rep. Peter King conducted a hearing into radicalization in America:

Rep. Pete King (R-N.Y.) rejected calls from nearly 100 Democratic members to cancel the highly controversial hearing as he carried out his attempt to explore whether the U.S. Muslim community is being radicalized.

King, the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said the four-hour hearing was “successful” and announced plans to hold another in the next several months on the radicalization of Muslim Americans in the U.S. prison system.

“This was an extremely productive, worthwhile hearing,” King told reporters after it ended. “I am more convinced than ever that it was the appropriate hearing to hold. We broke down a wall of political correctness on an issue which has to be addressed.”

There was, of course, plenty of drama on hand due to the controversy stirred up leading to the hearing, but one speaker who received a lot of press–even before the hearing was even over–was Rep. Keith Ellison, for his teary presentation at the beginning of the hearing:

Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), the first Muslim elected to Congress, broke into tears during the hearing as he spoke of a 23-year-old Muslim New York Police Department cadet and paramedic named Mohammed Salman Hamdani who was killed trying to save people from the crumbling World Trade Center buildings on 9/11.

Ellison became visibly emotional when he began describing how people spread false rumors after his death that Hamdani had helped the terrorists attack the U.S. Ellison was barely able to finish his statement but said he was concerned that fear-based rumors and prejudice could arise from Thursday’s hearing as well.

However, an interesting thing came to light: either Ellison got his story mixed up, or it just isn’t true:

Does Ellison’s account check out with reality?

No. It is actually pretty close to the opposite of the truth. In fact, six weeks after the September 11 attacks — before Hamdani’s remains were identified, which Ellison implies to be the turning point of public perception — Congress signed the PATRIOT Act into law with this line included: “Many Arab Americans and Muslim Americans have acted heroically during the attacks on the United States, including Mohammed Salman Hamdani, a 23-year-old New Yorker of Pakistani descent, who is believed to have gone to the World Trade Center to offer rescue assistance and is now missing.” That is, Hamdani was actually singled out for particular high honors among the thousands of victims of the September 11 attacks.

There’s little evidence of the “rumors” of which Ellison speaks, either. Poke around yourself. Go to Google and search for Mohammed Salman Hamdani’s name, using various time frames from before today’s hearings (say, in the week after the September 11 attack). You’ll discover two discordant sets of returns: none for sites and news reports accusing Hamdani of being a terrorist, and many thousands of pages honoring him as a hero while claiming that he was “widely accused” of being a terrorist.

So, one has to wonder if Rep. Ellison didn’t realize that his set of facts is incorrect, or if he was simply out to make a dramatic splash.

Different Perspectives on the Republicans’ “Win” in Wisconsin

After the move made by Republicans in Wisconsin to pass a bill taking away some collective bargaining abilities, the response are coming in.  On one side, its said that what was done was no different than what Dems have done to get legislation passed, and that to decry it would be hypocritical.  On the other side, the criticism is blistering, and the governor may find that support from his own party supporters may have slipped away.   Here are a couple of good pieces of analysis.

From the Washington Post, on the “Plum Line” blog, Greg Sargent speculates that the amount of maneuvering needed by Gov. Walker and Republicans to get the collective bargaining bill passed means the fight is only going to get worse:

There’s no quibbling with the fact that if it does stand, Walker and Republicans will have gotten their way in the short term fight. But let’s recall an important fact: Republicans control the governorship and state legislature. The fact that they were forced to resort to this trick is itself a concession that they had lost the battle as they themselves had previously defined it. And in so doing, they were forced to pull a maneuver that will only lend even more energy to the drive to recall them.

On the other hand, Mickey Kaus at The Daily Caller says the situation was definitely a win for Gov. Walker:

If Walker’s concessions had been accepted, he still basically would have won (largely because of the dues provision). But the Dems could have returned to Madison claiming that their dramatic walkout had resulted in a non-trivial victory of sorts, and the press was poised to portray them as brave, victorious heroes. This outcome denies the Democrats that media triumph.

So, it can be said that the Wisconsin Republicans either stood their ground, or they ignored the will of the people. It can also be said that Democrats did represent the will of the people, or they are being hypocritical (reconciliation is ok, but just when they do it). We shall see who wins the messaging war.

Wisconsin Dems Now Angry After Their Holdout Backfires

14 Democrat Senators in Wisconsin continued to stay holed up in Illinois in what had been a successful attempt to prevent the passing of a bill that would strip collective bargaining abilities from public workers (important sidenote:  they would retain the ability to bargain for pay, something that seems to get ignored).  In their view, leaving town was their way of fulfilling the will of the people–even though the obvious “will of the people” was that they wanted Republicans in charge, based on the last election results.  They were determined to prevent what they felt would be a removal of of rights from occurring.

All that changed in minutes.

Republicans realized that a quorum is only needed for spending bills.  So, they removed the collective bargaining piece from the spending bill and passed it as a separate bill which did not need a quorum.  Just like that, Dems’ out-of-state foray was rendered moot.  Of course they are crying foul. One senator, speaking on the Lawrence O’Donnell show on MSNBC, talked of how he was driving back doing 80 miles per hour in an attempt to stop what was happening. O’Donnell, sympathetic to the guest, failed to make an obvious point: if they had actually been in Wisconsin instead of hiding out, there would’ve been no need to have to “come back!”  Very simple idea, really.

Now, there you have it.  a group voted into the minority who leaves the state in order to avoid legislation they don’t like and putting the government process on hiatus now screams bloody murder because business continued on without them.  How does THAT make sense?

Links:
CNN: Union supporters to rally after Wisconsin Senate passes limits
Runaway Wis. Dem Drove Back As Fast As He Could To Stop GOP

“The president…is most likely the beast spoken of in the Revelation.”

If there is something that has bipartisan agreement, then it’s this:  the Westboro Baptist clan is crazier than Charles Manson and his group of followers ever was.  This group of…Christians (so they say, but who am I to judge?) goes around protesting at the funerals of fallen soldiers, spreading their “God hates gays” message to the masses.  The Church has approximately 50 members, and I think that in their eyes, there will only be 50 people in Heaven after the Rapture.

Fresh off of a Supreme Court win that affirmed their free speech protections, one would figure they would be quite appreciative to the Supreme Court justices.

Not so fast! Evidently, they are all destined for the fiery pits of Hell. But they won’t be alone:

“So the justices are going to hell? The president is going to hell?” asked Fox host Chris Wallace.

“Absolutely on the president,” Margie Phelps replied. “The president is going to be king of the world before this is all said and done, and he is most likely the beast spoken of in the Revelation.”

Yep. I guess now we know why President Obama’s hair is turning gray. It’s to cover up the “666” stamped somewhere in his hairline.

Read the story here: “Westboro Attorney: Obama, Justices Going to Hell”

Politico Cites Report That Union Heads Make 6 Figure salaries

A Politico article cites a recent report that shows that the people heading the country’s largest unions aren’t do so bad for themselves:

Leaders earned between $173,000 and $618,000 at major unions, the Center for Public Integrity found in examining 2009 tax records, with some groups paying dozens of employees in the six figures. At the three major unions , which together represent more than 5.6 million public workers, presidents’ salaries in 2009 ranged between $400,000 and $500,000.

For the most part, I and most other people don’t begrudge a person for how much money they make. But many of the same people who support unions also complain vocally about company execs and their salaries. It would seem to me if one can make that complaint, but look at this report and be ok with it, that there seems to be a level of hypocrisy.

Read more: Report: Union heads make six figures

Georgia Politicians Back off of Birther-inspired Bill

Either they got cold feet, or they realized they were getting laughed at by most of the country, but the bill in the Georgia Legislature to require proof of a presidential candidate’s citizenship seems to be losing sponsors:

When state Rep. Mark Hatfield, R-Waycross, dropped his bill to require next year presidential candidates to provide hard proof of their birth on U.S. soil, the paperwork contained the signatures of 93 of his House colleagues – 92 of them Republican.

Word of House Speaker David Ralston’s coolness toward the legislation spread through the Capitol on Wednesday. Those concerned with the Port of Savannah made their opinions known.

The article and an image of the bill with names of the former sponsors scratched out can be found here.

Nobel Prize winner (and know-it-all) Paul Krugman Gets Crushed By a Blogger

Paul Krugman is an economist who spends his time explaining how everything Left is right everything Right is wrong.  He recently wrote a piece in which he used an argument many union supporters have been using lately–that school performance in non-union states is worse than in union states.  Unfortunately, he didn’t do the full research.  Blogger David Burge pulls out the facts and proceeds to completely crush Krugman’s argument:

Please pardon this brief departure from my normal folderol, but every so often a member of the chattering class issues a nugget of stupidity so egregious that no amount of mockery will suffice. Particularly when the issuer of said stupidity holds a Nobel Prize.

Case in point: Paul Krugman. The Times’ staff economics blowhard recently typed, re the state of education in Texas:

Continued here: Longhorns 17, Badgers 1

Is there ANY proof that Birthers will accept?

After hearing about a bill in the Georgia Legislature to require citizenship proof for a presidential candidate (which we all know is an effort to keep Obama off the 2012 ballot), I had to scratch my head.  What’s with these people??  Do they not realize how dumb they come off?  Anyway, soon after, I heard someone call into a radio show and ask a question that shuts the entire Birther argument down:  if Obama’s mom was an American citizen, doesn’t that make Obama an American citizen?”

Game.  Set.  Match.  If she was a citizen, it doesn’t matter WHERE she gave birth.  He’s a citizen.

Anyway, since Google is my friend, I did a little looking and came across what is (in addition to the info above) the ultimate “shut up, Birthers!” argument.  Never mind that they can’t prove their own argument (notice they always ask Obama for proof instead of offering up their own proof).  The article lays out every main argument by birthers– then shoots them down one by one:

Based on this working understanding of U.S. citizenship, three things have become obvious to me:

1. Those promoting the Birther fiction don’t have the first clue about almost anything having to do with how American citizenship really works.
2. Given that Dr. Orly Taitz (one of the main poo-stirrers spinning the fan in this fracas) is herself both an immigrant and a licensed member of the California bar, she should presumably know this stuff cold. But the national case that she’s built almost entirely on spurious legal fictions is one of incompetence.
3. The Google’s been around for over a decade now, but nobody on the right seems to have figured out how to use it yet. You can find confirmation for most of what I’m about to tell you in about 0.86 seconds, assuming you can type and spell and think well enough to concoct a basic search string. Apparently, nobody in Birtherland has that level of skill.

Link: Firing Back on the Birthers: Where’s Their Evidence?

Georgia Legislature Considering Bill to Require Proof of Citizenship

Republicans won’t pass a bill to allow Sunday alcohol sales, but evidently, verifying a candidate’s citizenship is much more important!

Georgia has become the 10th state to require proof of citizenship for a presidential candidate before they are allowed to be put on the ballot:

Even though Hawaii officials have repeatedly confirmed Obama’s citizenship, his birth certificate has been made public and courts have rebuffed challenges, the so-called ”birther” issue hasn’t gone away.

Georgia Rep. Mark Hatfield, a Republican, said he still doesn’t know if Obama is eligible to serve as president, and 92 of his GOP colleagues and one Democrat support the bill introduced Monday.

”Most people feel it’s an issue to a significant enough portion of our population that it needs to be addressed by the state,” Hatfield said. ”It is, in a sense, a response to … the sitting president and his inability or unwillingness to release his original birth certificate.”

Lets be clear. This is nothing but playing politics. Somehow, these folks don’t realize how stupid they look. If there is anything about this that is shocking, its that one of the sponsors is a Democrat.
Need proof that Georgia deserves the bottom ranking for education in the US? Just look at our politicians.

White House sparks controversy over Defense of Marriage Act–and I’m Torn

In 1996, President Clinton signed into law the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which allowed states that did not allow gay marriage to refuse to honor such marriages done in other states.  On Wednesday, the White House sparked some major controversy when Attorney General Eric Holder announced the Department of Justice would stop defending DOMA:

President Obama has instructed the Justice Department to stop defending the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act, which has since 1996 allowed states to refuse to recognize same-sex partnerships legally recognized in other states.

The announcement was made in a letter from Attorney General Eric Holder to congressional leaders in relation to two lawsuits, Pedersen v. OPM and Windsor v. United States, which challenge a section of DOMA that defines marriage for federal purposes as only between one man and one woman.

President Obama believes that section – Section 3 — “is unconstitutional” given the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment (including its equal protection component), Holder wrote, and the president has instructed the Department of Justice to no longer defend the law in those two lawsuits.

Here is where I am torn. On the one hand, I have an issue with the AG saying they are not going to defend a law just based on the President deciding its unconstitutional. That’s for the courts to decide. Per the article, a judge did rule it unconstitutional in 2010, but I don’t think that one judge is able to stop the enforcement of the law. If a sitting president can make such decisions, then it makes laws moot. What other laws could a president decide was unconstitutional?
On the other hand, I must confess–I don’t support DOMA. Contrary to the belief of many, traditional man-woman marriage is not under threat from the prospect of same-sex marriage. I have yet to see how allowing gays to marry (or civil unionize) has had a negative effect on marriage. It puzzles me that many on the right advocate for the government to stay out of folks’ personal business–then want the government to “protect” marriage.
So, as much as I would love to say “right on, mister prez!” my respect for the law says “not so fast.”

If Andy Stern’s ideas came true, I might become a union fan

In a Washington Post article/interview, columnist Ezra Klein interviews Andy Stern, former head of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).  I’ve heard a number of things he has said in the past that did nothing to pull me over to the pro-union side.  However, in the interview, he mentions a number of things that would actually think twice about my stance if they were status quo in America.  the article can be read here but here are a few quotes that jumped out at me.
On a “collaborative process:”

We have this anti-employer, they’re going to kill us we need to kill them first, mentality. We’ve done a very bad job, for instance, making alliances with small businesses.

We need an ideology based around working with employers to build skills in our workers, to train them for success. That message and approach can attract different people than the “we need to stand up for the working class!” approach. That approach is about conflict, and a lot of people don’t want more conflict.

On working together with employers:

We’ve never, as a union movement, promoted partnerships with employers where we talk about how to share in success and in skills and training. You say those things in the labor movement and they go over well with workers and employers and badly with activists. To the activists, this is sell-out language.

On the Democrat Party and unions:

The forces that don’t like unions there have largely finished with us. And now they’re moving to the public sector. But part of this story is that the Democratic Party hasn’t embraced unions in the last 20 years. Republicans understood unions as an ally of the Democratic Party. But unions couldn’t get Democrats to embrace unions as a response. They made the argument that making more union members was how you make more Democrats, and that argument is true, but they couldn’t get the Democratic Party to really embrace that theory.

The rest of the interview and the questions asked can be read here: “Andy Stern: ‘It may not end beautifully in Wisconsin.'”

So Much for Transparency…

One of the pledges made by then-Senator Obama on the campaign trail was a new era of unprecedented transparency.  And in some ways, he has kept that promise.  But a recent article puts a dark mark on that record:

Caught between their boss’ anti-lobbyist rhetoric and the reality of governing, President Barack Obama’s aides often steer meetings with lobbyists to a complex just off the White House grounds — and several of the lobbyists involved say they believe the choice of venue is no accident.

It allows the Obama administration to keep these lobbyist meetings shielded from public view — and out of Secret Service logs kept on visitors to the White House and later released to the public.

Read more: Lobbyists: White House sends meetings off-site to hide them

Thoughts about unions

  • I’ve admitted to not being a fan of unions.  The main reason for this is that I feel a job is an agreement between an employer and an employee.  The employer agrees to provide agreed-upon wages and perks in return for the employee doing a job.  Either side can terminate this agreement at any time.  Introducing a union into the mix adds an extra layer into the agreement, typically in favor of the employee.  Now, the employee can leave at any time, leaving the employer to have to fill the spot.  Meanwhile, the employer now has to go through red tape and hurdles to fire an employee.
  • Forced unionization is just flat out wrong.  In a forced unionization state, a non-unionized worker who goes to work at a unionized establishment MUST pay union dues whether they get involved with the union or not.  One of the reasons unions  are protesting in Indiana (and why their Democrats have fled) is because a new law up for vote by legislators would bar non-union employees from having to do this in a union shop.  This idea is being described as “an attack on workers.”  Isn’t forcing them to unionize an “attack on workers?”
  • I mentioned this in a discussion the other day.  Why is it no one on the supporting side of the unions can admit that maybe–just maybe–in some cases unions have too much power?  And that losing some things isn’t a total loss?
  • In any other situation, wouldn’t the idea that a group could take money, use that money to help elect people on the side of their cause, then go negotiate with these same people in order to get as much as possible for the group a conflict of interest?  Just wondering, since most complains are about conservatives attempting to “bust up” unions but one rarely hears complaints about Democrats giving more power to unions.

My last thought is a quote.  I found this comment online in response to a news article (“Right to Work Bill Puts Republicans, Democrats At Odds”) and it was one of the most sane, concise comments I’ve seen in the entire pro-union/anti-union debate:

All of these negatives that are presumed to happen to union workers if this bill passes are the issues the rest of us face already. All of us that do not have benefit of a union can be fired for no reason or replaced by someone just because they will do our job for less. That is Capitalism. When anyone suggests that there should be laws protecting all workers, as I do, they are called Communist. Anyone who has read Marx knows that laws to protect the rights of workers is a Marxist ideal. If it is fair and just for union workers to require certain benefits from employers then it should be so for all workers. I have seen both sides. I have been replaced by someone with less experience who would do my job for less money. Working for the state as a social worker, I have had my pay cut by 60% with no warning, then to have it ‘eliminated’ with no warning. I have been hired for a job and then had more and more of my supervisors responsibilities put on me. I have also been witness to my husband, who is owner of a national shipping company, struggling with incompetent workers whom he can not fire without a major ordeal and unreasonable demands from the union, even though he voluntarily pays two dollars more an hour than is consistent with the market. My mother was a union factory worker. She has attested to the fact that the union often protects people who take advantage of the power the union affords them. When workers cost a company money, it is the consumer, you and I, who absorb the cost. Someone always loses when the other side has too much power. There should be laws that protect all workers while still allowing businesses to function as they see fit.

Are you a protesting teacher in Wisconsin? Need a doctor’s note? No problem!!

One thing that came to mind about the protests in Wisconsin is that the individual school districts could (and should) come down hard on all the teachers that skipped work to protest, causing widespread school closings.  I figured there would be no way they could get away with it without a doctor’s excuse.

Well, I guess someone else thought of that, too:

The funny thing is, these folks know good and well what they are doing is fraud, but have their “defense” already prepared when asked, especially the doctor who decided to get all snarky with the camera person.  Its situations like those when one wishes the person behind the camera was a little more quick with the wit to bring the guy down a notch.

Plus, how many of us would be able to call a random doctor and get a doctor’s excuse on the fly?

More info here: Fake Doctors’ Notes Being Handed Out at Wisconsin Gov. Union Rally

Revisiting the notion that only the Right does hateful rhetoric

As the protesters in Wisconsin are happy to show (and as I have been saying for a while now), the left is perfectly capable of the hateful rhetoric that supposedly is exclusive to the right.  Yes, the video is from the Wisconsin GOP (for those who care), but the evidence is clear.

Follow up to my story on protesting at private residences

A quick follow-up to my previous post as to whether or not it goes to far to protest at someone’s private home:  Here is a good Washington Examiner article about how DC residents went and protested at the home of the Speaker of the House:

Nearly two dozen activists from DC Vote swarmed House Speaker John Boehner’s Capitol Hill residence at 7:30 Thursday morning, chanting “Don’t tread of D.C.” and “No taxation without representation” to protest congressional “meddling” in the District’s local affairs, in particular a House continuing budget resolution that would cut $80 million in federal payments and prohibit the city from using local funds to pay for needle exchange programs and abortions.

Read more at the Washington Examiner: Group targets Speaker Boehner’s (small-h) house

Just a thought: is it going to far to protest at someone’s house?

In one of the articles about the ongoing protests in Wisconsin, it was mentioned that protesters were not only at the capital building, but also at the governor’s house.  Seeing that reminded me of incidents reported after AIG gave their executives bonuses, and protesters loaded vans and set up shop outside the residences of AIG employees and executives in an effort to guilt them into returning the bonus money.

Other reports of people protesting at (and doing damage to) politician’s homes, as well as unions and other organizations handing out flyers with home addresses of protest targets are readily available on the web.  Which made me wonder:  is that taking things too far?

Lets acknowledge that there is a right to assemble.  There is also freedom of speech.  But is such style of protest really a peaceful move?  I would say no.   When you show up at someone’s residence, it is by default an attempt at intimidation.  “We know where you live!” is the message given by such actions.  I say its taking things too far.  Besides, how would these protesters respond if the person being targeted responded by hiring security to come in and create an opposing show of force?  What if counter-protesters showed up at the houses of the protesters?  I can hear the howls of…well, of protest.

More on the Wisconsin fiasco

The wackiness in Wisconsin over proposed changes to collective bargaining for government employees just keeps getting…wackier.  Is that a word?  Well, for today, it is.  Democrats in the Wisconsin Senate have been on the lam for 3 days, preventing any further work in the Senate.  Attempts to have then retrieved and compelled to attend by state law enforcement were stymied by a simple counter move:  all 14 of the Dems in question jumped on a bus and have taken “refuge” in Illinois.  By crossing state lines, Wisconsin troopers can’t come get them, and Illinois law enforcement isn’t going to get involved.  From the Dems:

“This is a watershed moment unlike any that we have experienced in our political lifetimes,” Miller said. “The people have shown that the government has gone too far. . . . We are prepared to do what is necessary to make sure that this bill gets the consideration it needs.”

Sen. Bob Jauch (D-Poplar) said the decision on when to return had not been made yet. Sen. Spencer Coggs (D-Milwaukee) said Democrats were prepared to stay away “as long as it takes.”

In a situation like this, one has to wonder which set of “people” should have the most say in this? The people that are part of the union, with something to lose? Or the people that elected the politicians (and in this case put Republicans in power in Wisconsin)?

Another great article on this comes from Patrick McIlheran in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel called Unions want to overturn election result where he not only makes the point about the will of the electorate, but also makes a very important point in regards to public sector unions:

They insist this is the end of unionization in government, something to which they have as much right, they say, as anyone else.

But they miss a bedrock difference. Unions in the private sector are a way of organizing private interests, those of employees, against other private interests, those of a company’s owners, for economic gain and for protection against unfairness. In government, workers are already protected against unfairness by civil service laws, and Walker has supported expanding those. Economically, government unions pit a private interest, that of employees, against the public’s interest, that of taxpayers and voters.

Private sector unions are one thing. But personally, the idea of a group demanding more perks, paid for by taxpayer money, that are over and beyond what the normal taxpayer gets, gives me pause. Isn’t it enough that public sector unions use what is essentially taxpayer money to support candidates of their choosing, donating millions to politicians that will further their interests?

Wait. That’s another story for another day.

In Wisconsin, the line between Unions/Dems and Repubs is drawn in the sand

In the state of Wisconsin, the state government has a $3.6 billion shortfall.  Similar to other state legislatures across the country, they are coming up with a number of measures to attempt to close the budget hole.  One of the ways new Republican governor Scott Walker has proposed has created an outcry from teachers and unions:

In addition to eliminating collective bargaining rights, the legislation also would make public workers pay half the costs of their pensions and at least 12.6 percent of their health care coverage — increases Walker calls “modest” compared with those in the private sector.

According to Walker, the proposal will save $300 million over the next two years. But Dems are not at all happy with what they see as being deprived of a right. Teachers have staged massive “sick outs” so that they can protest. Democrats in the Wisconsin legislature have left and gone into hiding to prevent any vote from occurring. Protesters at the capital have been heard chanting “Freedom! Democracy! Unions!”

Wait. Did they actually include the word “unions” with freedom and democracy? Wow.  I thought democracy is people getting out to vote, voting in politicians whose job it is to steward taxpayer money, and make cuts when necessary when there is a deficit, even if the other side doesn’t like it.  Which would mean the unions are actually trying to stifle a democratic process by protesting and causing school closings.  But I digress.

Having spent my entire young working life in a right-to-work, merit pay environment, I have yet to develop much sympathy or support for unions. I admire the important things they helped with over the years (40 hour work week, child labor laws, ect). But am I supposed to be upset because they wouldn’t be able to force people to pay union dues? That they wouldn’t be able to to negotiate for things other than pay? Or that they would have to pay more money for pension and benefits just like most of us in the private sector?
Sorry, but I say no. Especially when taxpayer’s money is involved.

Links to the story can be found here and here.

Never thought i’d see it: Dems accusing Repubs of cutting too much defense spending!

Usually, Dems will yell at the right for never cutting defense spending. But in an interesting move, the shoe is on the other foot.

Since there is no official budget in place, the government is being funded through continuing resolutions–in short, declarations that say the government will continue to be funded at current levels temporarily. In the latest offering, republicans have suggested a number of deep spending cuts, including to the department of defense. But the president isn’t having it, saying he will veto the GOP spending measure:

“The statement said the GOP proposal goes too far and proposes cuts that would sharply undermine core government functions and investments key to economic growth and job creation, and would reduce funding for the Department of Defense to a level that would leave the department without the resources and flexibility needed to meet vital military requirements.”

Expect this drama to drag on for a while.

Neither party is serious about debt, and the joke is on us

As of today, to pay off the entire US debt would require every US citizen to write a check for $45,400.  EVERY citizen.  The total debt is right at $14.1 TRILLION.  And neither party is really serious about doing something about it.

On the right, they are making a lot of noise, but as the saying goes, “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”  First, after promising to cut $100 billion in spending from the next budget, they are only able to come up with about $65 billion.  After being called to task by the Tea Party, they are able to dig and find the promised $100 billion.  The problem?  Not only are the cuts based on a budget that President Obama never sent to the House, but they also used the infamous “baseline budgeting” tricks.

Quick refresher:  Baseline budgeting is a technique where by the budget of a particular department or organization is projected years in advance.  Typically, those budgets include an already-applied increase in funding.  So, a department may already have on paper that in 2011, they will be funded at $10 million, but due to a budget increase already factored in, they may know that their budget in 2012 will have $10.3 million due to an expected 3% increase in funding.

What republicans have done is to say “we are going to cut x billions,” not acknowledging that instead of truly cutting funding, they are simply reducing the already scheduled budget increase.  So instead of cutting a department’s funding from $10 million to $9 million, they are simply advocating cutting the 3% increase to 2% or some other number.  The cut isn’t really a cut.

Further, in the “fraud waste and abuse” category, some republicans are on board with funding a 2nd, alternative engine for the F-35 Lightning II project.  The F-35 is slated to replace thousands of fighter jets in the US inventory, and the building effort is being shared across many countries, including the US, Canada, the UK, and Turkey.  The engines for the plane are made by Rolls Royce, but there is an effort in Congress to secure funding for a second engine.  The reasoning given is “in case the first one has problems,” but the real reason is to secure jobs and a contract for an American firm.  Even the Pentagon has said they don’t want it.

Democrats aren’t helping.  Even thought the White House has proposed cutting funding to some programs (like a heating oil assistance program), many Dems refuse to go along with any proposed cuts in “entitlement” spending.   Though everything should be on the table, dems are resisting anything that might touch Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.  Obama and the democrats have also been using the baseline budgeting trick, especially with the healthcare reform bill.  Once again, a cut isn’t really a cut.

For there to be real solutions, someone on both sides needs to wake up and wake up their fellow politicians to the real threat they all know about but are afraid to do something about (don’t want to mess up their reelection chances!).  The recommendations of the Debt Committee would be a good place to start.

Reagan is Conservatism’s Patron Saint But Would Never Get Elected By Today’s GOP

Official Portrait of President Ronald Reagan

Image via Wikipedia

Aside from Feb. 6th being Super Bowl Sunday, it was also what would’ve been President Ronald Reagan’s 100th birthday.  As Reagan is considered a hero by many on the right, there have been remembrances, dedications, shout outs, flashbacks, and countless other looks back on Reagan and his legacy in the last week.  Of course, folks on the left are having none of that, understandably choosing to focus more on those “accomplishments” that they feel did more bad than good.

I (as is often the case) am in the middle on Reagan.  I wouldn’t call him a hero, but then again, I wouldn’t try to back over him with a MARTA bus, either.  But I’m pretty convinced that based on his overall record, if an exact Reagan clone popped up today and attempted to run for President saying he would do exactly as Reagan did and be exactly as Reagan was, he wouldn’t even make it out of the primaries.  Why?  Simple.  Reagan doesn’t fit the mold of today’s Republican.

First, there is his track record on taxes.  In 1981, Reagan signed the The Economic Recovery Tax Act of 1981 also known as the ERTA or “Kemp-Roth Tax Cut.”  The top marginal rate for personal income taxes went from 70% to 50%, and the bottom rate dropped from 14% to 11%.   In general, the Act lowered marginal tax rates on average 23% across the board.  He also lowered taxes in 1986.  After that, the top marginal rate was 28%.  While tax revenues decreased over the short term, over the long term there was not only an increase in the amount of tax revenues to the government, but also a long period of economic growth.  But, that’s not the entire story.

As the budget deficit grew, Reagan knew something had to be done.  So, he signed into law legislation that, in essence, were tax increases.   Bills signed in 1982 and 1984 closed tax loopholes and increased the tax base by making more transactions taxable.  The 1986 reform bill eliminated many deductions that high income earners had been allowed to use, increasing their tax bills.  In the end, his tax increases actually increased tax revenue to the government and offset much of the revenue lost from the earlier tax cuts.

In 1982, Reagan led efforts to privatize Social Security.  Not only did it not work, but (as is usually the case in midterms) the GOP lost many seats in the following elections.  In 1983 he signed legislation that bailed out Social Security.  Pricetag:  $165 billion. Results of the bailout included higher  payroll taxes for higher income earners and the self-employed, expanded the system to include federal workers, and made Social Security benefits taxable.

These tax increases are rarely mentioned.  In today’s environment, once it came to light, the Reagan-clone would get skewered for ever considering tax increases as fiscal policy.

The national debt also tripled under Reagan.  It went over $1 trillion during his first year, and was $3 trillion when he left.  Of course, that was a bipartisan effort, as the House was under Democrat control all 8 years of his presidency, and the Senate was for 2 of his 8 years.  But evidently, veto wasn’t an option.  Of course, many will say that much of the spending was to counter the Soviet Union.  But SOMEONE has to account for the money vacuum that was SDI, which never worked.

Among other things that are rarely mentioned:

  • Reagan promised to reduce the size of government, in part by eliminating the Departments of Energy and Education.  Instead, he added a new Department of Veterans Affairs.
  • There was little done in the way to reduce government spending over Reagan’s 2 terms.
  • Many will always repeat Reagan’s call to Gorbachev to “tear down this wall” and say “see?  you have to be tough!”  In actuality, Reagan and Gorbachev nearly agreed to eliminate ALL nuclear weapons from each country’s arsenal.  Plus, to help Gorbachev enact reform, the US reduced defense spending in the latter part of Reagan’s second term.  How’s that for “peace through strength?”

Finally, the the proverbial straw that would bring our Reagan-clone’s hopes to an end–and yet one more point rarely mentioned–is immigration.  In 1982, Reagan signed a bill that allowed any illegal alien in the US before that year to be eligible for amnesty.  Yep, blanket amnesty.  In today’s environment, that would be a big no-no.

In the end, Reagan gains sainthood by default.  For those keeping up with conservative politics, there is no one else that can take his place.  Nixon resigned.  Ford was considered weak.  Bush I lost his reelection bid despite removing Saddam Hussein from Kuwait (taxes played a role in his defeat).  Bush II had two terms, but many on the right don’t consider him conservative enough.  So who is left?  No one but the Gipper.  But he’d never make it today.

QuickHit: New Mexico no longer a “sanctuary state.” why is this a “tragedy?”

New Mexico governor Susana Martinez, by executive order, declared that New Mexico is no longer a sanctuary state:

Martinez ordered the reversal of the state’s “sanctuary status,” which prohibited law enforcement from asking criminal suspects about their citizenship. Now, officers will be able to ask anyone they suspect of a crime about their immigration status.

Marcela Diaz, of Somos Un Pueblo Unido, an immigrant rights  organization, said this will essentially turn police into immigration agents.

“I think this was a knee-jerk decision that was not well thought out,” Diaz said. “Not only will this lead to increased racial profiling, it taxes resources of limited enforcement.”

It makes me scratch my head. The governor basically puts the state in compliance with federal law, since the notion of being a sanctuary state (or city) says “in spite of federal law, you can stay here.” I’m not exactly sure how states and cities have been allowed to do such in the first place.
Diaz makes a statement about “gains” being lost. I’m not sure how gaining the ability to flout established law can be considered a “gain.”  Then again, I’m also not sure how an illegal alien has the right to stay in the country, but I digress…

Article here: NM No Longer a Sanctuary State

DNC picks Charlotte for 1012 convention, and supporters are not happy

Recently, the Democratic National Committee announced that their 2012 convention–where we presume that President Obama will be nominated as the Dem presidential candidate unopposed–will be held in Florida.  This decision has many on the left quite upset.  Why?  Well, its no secret that unions have a lot of sway and influence with the party, but it turns out, North Carolina is the least union state in the country:

North Carolina has another distinction: it’s the least union state in the country, with just 3.2% of its workers belonging to a union (coming behind even Arkansas, Georgia, and Mississippi). And the DNC’s host city of Charlotte has exactly 0 (zero) union hotels in which the 15,000+ visitors will stay for the convention. Finally, the host venue in Charlotte, the Time Warner Cable Arena, does not appear to have any union workers. (I called the arena; the operator laughed at the notion that employees would be union members, and a press contact hasn’t replied yet.)

I’m actually impressed. Both sides of the aisle have their “special interest groups” that they kneel to, and Dems definitely bow at the altar of the unions. So to see this happen is a surprise. However, I predict that between now and convention time, Dems and the unions will find a way to inject themselves into the situation one way or another.

Article here:DNC’s Union-Free 2012 Convention

The US problem with Egypt: who to support?

In the last 24 hours, a crowd estimated to be nearly 2 million people took to the streets of Cairo to protest the current government led by Hosni Mubarak.  The people are demanding an end to hs 30 year rule, amid cries of poverty and brutality.  This has the US in a pickle.  Continuing to support him would make it seem that we don’t support “the will of the people.”  Supporting his removal could have major ramifications not only for the US but for the entire Middle East.

Tony Blankley addresses the dilemma in a piece at Real Clear Politics:  “The Historic Dilemma in Egypt.

Revolutions – French, Russian, Chinese and Iranian – have a typical trajectory. They are won on the street with the masses calling for freedom; they are stolen afterward by the best-organized, usually most malicious thugs (Napoleon, Lenin, Mao and the mullahs).
Once in a while – as in our Revolution – the cry of the street slogans becomes the principle of the government that follows – but usually not.
If the revolution in Egypt results in the fall of the existing governmental order, what are the chances that the people will be governed subsequently by a more just system? And what are the chances that America’s interests will be advanced by that result?

Another ruling against the healthcare bill

As has been widely reported, U. S. District Judge Roger Vinson ruled on Monday that the requirement to make individuals purchase health insurance is unconstitutional. Not only did he rule against that provision, he ruled against the entire law:

“I must conclude that the individual mandate and the remaining provisions are all inextricably bound together in purpose and must stand or fall as a single unit,” Vinson wrote.

As expected, the White House announced they would appeal. But what does this mean for the law?
Republicans announced right after the bill was passed that they would do whatever they could to repeal it. The House has already voted to repeal, and conservatives believe they can use procedural techniques to force a repeal vote in the Democrat-held Senate. But somewhere, Dems are nervous. While there have been two judges that upheld the new law, and now two that have ruled against, it’s highly likely the argument will not be settled until reaching the Supremes. Currently, the court leans conservatively, with no change in sight. This would seem to bode well for the right and not so well for the left–though stranger things have happened in regards to the court and their judgements (look up “Kelo” and “imminent domain“).