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Limbaugh, Fluke, and the So-called “War on Women”

If you’ve aren’t up to speed on the whole contraception bru-ha thats’ been going on, here it is in a nutshell:

A few weeks ago, President Obama essentially stated that church-affiliated institutions would have to provide access to contraception coverage for their employees.  Religious institutions, lead by the Catholic church, immediately cried foul, saying they should continue to have an exemption based on moral grounds, i.e. the church does not believe in contraception.  After a huge stick erupted, Obama issued a compromise:  that insurance companies would not only be required to provide contraception directly to the employees of such institutions, which would circumvent the the employer, but that insurers would provide the contraception for free, as part of “preventive” coverage.  Conservatives say Obama is spearheading a “war on religion.”

Soon after, there was a hearing in the US House of Representatives about the issue.  Democrats criticized Republicans because the entire panel for the morning hearing was made up of men (there was an afternoon hearing with 2 women on the panel).  Dems had attempted to have a woman, Sandra Fluke, testify, but Republicans stated she was not added to the list in time.  Democrats say this is further proof that Republicans are at war with women.

A few days later, Fluke testifies at a Democrat-sponsored hearing.  The 3rd year law student at Georgetown Law spoke of how the fact that the school does not provide contraception coverage as part of its health plan made things difficult for female students, and that the contraception mandate should stay.  Jumping on this, radio talking head Rush Limbaugh called Fluke a “slut,” basically saying she implied she and other students want to be paid to have sex since they demand free contraception.  Under fire, Limbaugh has apologized.

Now, my thoughts, in no particular order…

Is there a war on women?  Personally, I don’t think there is.  However, Republicans aren’t doing themselves any favors.  Whether it’s the Georgia House passing a bill to lower the “deadline” for getting an abortion from 26 weeks to 20 weeks, or Virginia attempting to pass legislation requiring any woman wanting an abortion to have a trans-vaginal ultrasound first (referred to as a “mechanical rape” by one radio talk show host), one could say that conservative lawmakers, who are mostly male, do seem to have women’s reproductive parts in the crosshairs.  But its nothing new.  Things like this happen every year.  In this case, however, it’s an election year.  Gotta rev up the base!  Let’s see how independent voters respond.  After all, those are the voters that will determine the winners.

Sandra Fluke.  Who and why the uproar?  As mentioned before, Sandra Fluke is a law student who testified before the House.  She is also an activist who has advocated against child trafficking and for wider contraception coverage for women.  Fluke not getting to testify in that morning hearing actually worked to Democrats’ advantage; their later “hearing” where she spoke was not a hearing, and Fluke was not required to be under oath.  Plus, the public was introduced to the third year law student, not the experienced activist–very important for PR reasons.  Her main point of argument was that the policy dictating that students at religious institutions that do not want to provide contraception coverage be given direct access via insurance companies be upheld.  The impression given was, she came to Georgetown and didn’t realize contraception wasn’t covered.  However, in a previous interview, she acknowledged she knew before enrolling that it wasn’t covered but that she was “not willing to compromise the quality of my education in exchange for my health care.”  So, she knew what she was getting into ahead of time.

Medically necessary vs choice.  During her testimony, Fluke spoke of a student who had polycystic ovary disease.  Because she could not afford the cost of birth control out of pocket, and because the college didn’t cover it, she eventually had to have an ovary removed.  Fluke stated that in reply to Catholic supporters who asked what she expected when she enrolled at the institution, she answered that “we expected women to be treated equally, to not have our school create untenable burdens that impede our academic success.” I’m not sure where the unequal treatment is here.  Comparing contraception coverage to coverage of erectile dysfunction drugs is a false equivalence–one prevents pregnancy, while one doesn’t.  I would say that birth control pills used to cover a medical condition should be covered.  But how exactly does not having coverage for contraception impede academic success?  There are other forms of contraception available that are affordable on a college student budget.  And ultimately, though it sounds old school, if one can’t afford the ramifications of having sex, wouldn’t the ultimate answer be “don’t have sex?”

Rush Limbaugh and double standards.  Long story short, Rush Limbaugh issued an apology for calling Fluke a “slut” and making other disparaging comments.  It was an opening Democrats took full advantage of, taking his comments and implying that as the de facto leader of the GOP, his comments represented how the GOP felt about women.  They also stated he only apologized because he was losing sponsors–probably a true statement.  The problem is, there seems to be a double standard.  As outlined in a piece by Kirsten Powers, a number of left-leaning talking heads have made similar statements. Ed Schultz, Lawrence O’Donnell, Keith Olbermann, and especially Bill Maher have all gone off on women at one point or another, and didn’t get the wrath of the left dropped on them. Supposedly, the difference is the amount of influence Limbaugh has with the GOP, and that he is on the “public airwaves.” But bad statements are bad statements. Excusing your side while going after the other is simply political expediency.

I finish by pointing out two things.  First, credit to the President for using the situation as a way to score some bonus points.  He called Fluke to give her encouragement and see if she was ok.  How touching.  Second, a “right” is not a “right” if you are taking someone else’s stuff.  Free birth control isn’t a right, because someone else has to pay for it.

 

Jay Z Gets It Right on Tax Increases

Jay Z was asked about paying more taxes recently:

I’m willing to bet that he isn’t the only high income earner who feels that way. Its not that they aren’t willing to pay more. They simply want more accountability regarding how taxpayer money is spent.

I doubt we’ll see that from either party anytime soon.

When Repubs do it? “They’re Bad!” When Dems do it? *crickets*

As it has been stated before, the President is taking every possible opportunity to tell the public that Republicans are preventing Americans from getting jobs by not passing his jobs bill.  This, despite the fact that his own party members blocked the bill last week, and despite calls from Republicans to negotiate a more bipartisan approach.

This week we have more of the same.  Democrats have decided to attempt to pass the bill piecemeal in the Senate.  As expected, the Dems first attempt to pass a bill for teachers and first responders failed.  Republicans all voted against the bill, which would be paid for via a 0.5% surtax on millionaires.  There were also two Democrats and Independent Joe Liebermann who voted no.

As expected, the President released a statement condemning the vote and saying its “unacceptable” that Senate Republicans “have chosen to obstruct a bill that would create jobs and get our economy going again.”

However, Republicans brought to the floor a bill that would eliminate a 3 percent withholding tax on federal contractors.  Ironically, the idea came from Obama‘s own plan.  Ten Democrats voted for the bill along with the Republicans, but it was still three votes short.  So here we had a jobs bill, defeated through the efforts of Senate Dems who voted against the bill.

And just like when Dem Senator Harry Reid blocked a vote on the bill, there was no statement from the President.  No condemnation for not passing the bill.  Nothing but…crickets.

President Obama has not shied away from giving his own party a tongue lashing in the past.  But now?  Nothing.

It must be election season.

Bill Clinton Says No Tax Increases Now; Dems Want Supercommittee to Spend, Not Slash

Recently, former president Bill Clinton was on with David Letterman.  Though many in his party are pushing for higher taxes, Clinton advocates a different approach:

“Should you raise taxes on anybody right today — rich or poor or middle class? No, because there’s no growth in the economy,” Clinton said on the “Late Show.” “Should those of us who make more money and are in better position to contribute to America’s public needs and getting this deficit under control pay a higher tax rate when the economy recovers? Yes, that’s what I think.”

He also mentions that there should be no spending cuts right now, either. Seems he is directly opposite of other party members.

Remember the supercommittee that is supposed to find a way to cut a couple trillion dollars from the deficit over the next decade? Well, Democrats are already lobbying for both tax increases AND more spending:

For instance, Democrats on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee want the supercommittee to find ways to pay for a six-year surface transportation funding bill at a cost of $500 billion, which they said would create or save 6 million jobs.

Rather than cut, House Democrats want the supercommittee to collect more money — whether from the pharmaceutical industry, in the form of lower drug prices, or from government health care programs by weeding out inefficient and misguided payments.

And of course, there is the constant cry about tax breaks for oil companies–tax breaks that all businesses get–which would produce $43 billion.

I suspect that the supercommittee will fail and that the automatic triggers built in will be activated. Then things will really get interesting.

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.

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.

to pass a bill they say we can’t afford, let’s make it MORE expensive

An article out today explains how Senator Harry Reid has added some things to the Obama tax cut deal to help get it passed. Confusing, since much has been said about how the agreement does nothing to help with the deficit, and how the tax rate cuts for the higher income earners is unaffordable:

The sweeping tax cut bill introduced Thursday night by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is chock-full of sweeteners which could serve as a legislative pacifier for Democrats outraged over the concessions President Obama has handed to Republicans.

The stimulus-sized package includes about $55 billion worth of short-term tax extensions for businesses and individuals. They cover a host of alternative energy credits, a potential salve for environmentally conscious lawmakers, as well as targeted benefits for everything from the film and television industry to mining companies to rum producers.

Senate Tax Cut Package Filled With Sweeteners, Obama Predicts Passage

So, the answer to unaffordability? Make it more expensive!

Tax shenanigans, or why $700 billion is unaffordable, but $3 trillion is affordable

The level of back-and-forth over the extension of tax rate cuts enacted under Bush 43 has reached a fever pitch.  From the right, we get “all or nothing!” or “no one should have a tax increase in this economy!” or, to borrow from a classic hip hop song by the one-hit-wonder group, The Double XX Posse, “not gon be able ta do it!”  From the left, we get “no tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires!” or “tax cuts for the rich” and “no subsidizing the rich” or “they don’t need it.”  But my favorite is that, in essence, we can’t afford the $700 billion cost (CBO projected).

For the life of me, I could not figure out how anyone would have the nerve to specifically talk about the $700 billion that extending the current rates for high-income earners may cost (remember, they are projections, so its only a guess), but not talk about how the cost of the rest of the cuts.  After all, the same CBO that produced the $700 billion number also stated that the TOTAL cost of extending ALL current tax rates would be $3 trillion.  So what gives?

Just more political shenanigans.

Let’s step back for a moment to 2007.  From wikipedia:

The PAYGO system was reestablished as a standing rule of the House of Representatives (Clause 10 of Rule XXI) on January 4, 2007 by the 110th Congress:

It shall not be in order to consider any bill, joint resolution, amendment, or conference report if the provisions of such measure affecting direct spending and revenues have the net effect of increasing the deficit or reducing the surplus for either the period comprising the current fiscal year and the five fiscal years beginning with the fiscal year that ends in the following calendar year or the period comprising the current fiscal year and the ten fiscal years beginning with the fiscal year that ends in the following calendar year.

Less than one year later though, facing widespread demand to ease looming tax burdens caused by the Alternative Minimum Tax, Congress abandoned its pay-go pledge.

So, to set themselves apart from the previous congressional crew, the swept-into-power Democrats in the House re-enacted a rule that makes a lot of sense–if we are gonna spend it, we are going to pay for it. Tub notice the next next line: it lasted less than a year. PAYGO was shelved, allowing major pieces of legislation, like the Bush Stimulus package in 2008 and Obama’s Stimulus package in 2009, to be passed without the rules applying. Then, new statutory PAYGO rules were again passed in February of 2010.
In addition, Obama signed new budget rules. From Businessweek:

Under the budget rules, any tax cuts benefitting individuals earning more than $200,000, or couples earning more than $250,000, must be offset with new tax revenue or spending cuts elsewhere.

Apparently, the tax cut line-in-the-sand was drawn long ago. After bucking the PAYGO rules, now the rules must apply and for those high-income earners, tax cuts aren’t affordable.
Here’s what’s missing.
Lets be honest. If there is an argument to be made, its that NONE of the tax rate cuts are affordable. But let’s stick to the current discussion. The reason that Democrats are saying we can’t afford the $700 billion is not because we can’t afford it. That can’t be the case, since evidently, financing $2.3 trillion via debt is not a problem (and allowed under the rules!). The real problem is that offsetting spending cuts would have to be made. History has shown that Democrats are not big on cutting spending (unless its Defense related). Any mention of cutting programs, especially entitlement programs, is met with more resistance than a goalline stand in the national championship game. Any other arguments, like referring to lower tax rates as a “subsidy” (how can the government grant or gift a person their own money) or “welfare for the rich” (once again, its their money) just distracts from the true discussion.

Don’t worry, my Dem friends, I’ll tackle the Repubs too.

Flashback to 2008 and the Democratic Party wave

While reading an article from 2008 that discussed the victories of the Democrats during that election cycle,  one thing really jumped off the screen:

Nearly two-thirds of those polled after they cast their ballots called the economy the most important issue facing the country — the most single-minded electorate in two decades of exit polling.

So much of the country puts the economy as the number one priority. So what do the Dems do? Ram through a stimulus package that was inefficient and then spent months on health insurance reform. In other words, the recent loss shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. And its not so much that the American voters were fickle as it was that the American voters spoke–but the Dems didn’t listen.
From 2008, In congress, a Democratic Wave.

Democrats can’t win for losing

Interesting piece by Steven Pearlstein in the Washington Post. I don’t agree with all he says (and explaining why is not the point of this post). but a lot of what he says makes sense. A couple of things he said i REALLY agree with:

It’s one of the great fallacies in politics: Candidate Jones says X, Y and Z during the campaign. Candidate Jones wins the election. Ergo, the public agrees with X, Y and Z.

and:

Most voters – particularly the swing voters – aren’t as well-informed as they might be on major policy issues. What they do have are experiences and instincts and emotions that politicians play upon in order to win elections. Rarely, however, do the election results add up to a mandate. More often it’s nothing more than a temporary license to govern. 

Read the rest here: Democrats suffer from Americans’ unwillingness to accept economic reality