Tag Archives: Republican

Winning No Matter What

The public strategy seems straightforward – the minority party holds the national debt hostage in an attempt to force the majority party to voluntarily undo three generations of their own progressive policy. On face value, it seems brilliant.

The Republicans, after all, are largely responsible for deficit and the worst depression since Prozac. When they took power under Bush, there was a $235 billion surplus. When Bush left office, the national debt stood at $10.6 trillion and deficits, based on Bush/Republican approved spending, were projected to increase by $9 trillion in the next 10 years. Of course, those estimates didn’t include 9% unemployment continuing to depress tax collections and increasing unemployment benefits, or Obama’s increased war spending. The national debt is now $14.3 trillion (41.8% of which is owed to the Fed and Government agencies) and the Republicans are using this hostage situation to provide political cover for their responsibility and to push the blame on President Obama.

John Boehner Machiavelli by Santi di Tito

John Boehner Machiavelli by Santi di Tito

Our democratically elected leaders, Republican and Democrat, constitutionally authorized the spending, but not taxes to pay for it, which requires the Federal Government to borrow the money to pay for what Congress has spent. Not allowing our government to borrow the money needed, sounds an awful lot like fraud. Conspiracy to commit fraud.

The Federal Reserve, Treasury Secretary, head of the IMF, Moody’s and the US Chamber of Commerce have suggested that forcing a government default is nuts and will cause havoc in the markets. Surely they won’t go through with it.

Of course, there’s that other issue. Two months ago, the House Republicans voted in lockstep to turn Medicare and Medicaid in to state voucher programs. Republicans have caught a lot of flack from seriously pissed off voters since they did. Ryan’s bill was DOA in the Senate. But, now, all they have to do is get the Democrat in the White House and at least four Democrats in the Senate to vote with them on a variation of the Ryan plan. They’ll get what they want and, perhaps, have an unelectable Democrat to run against in 2012.

It’s not that the Republicans want Grandma thrown out on the street, starve or to die from lack of health care (collateral damage)*. They just don’t want to have to listen to lobbyists and their campaign contributers complain about employers being forced to pay a share of payroll taxes. Republicans would much prefer Medicare be privatized so their health insurance buddies could keep their hands in the Federal wallet. Republicans would much prefer Social Security be privatized so they could enable their Wall Street buddies to gamble Grandma’s money. Republicans would also much prefer both Social Security and Medicare become voluntary voluntary so their rich pals could opt out.

On the other hand, Republican leaders would prefer poor people and their children be thrown out on the street, starve or die from lack of health care (that’s what prisons are for). Republicans are anxious to do away with federally required Medicaid believing that until our poor are paid wages competitive with the third world, there will be no new jobs.

Their brilliant strategy is not really just about the policy. The real plot is more sinister. Should the Dems not cave, the Republicans will get what they really want – a government, at least until the next election of a Republican or they lose the House, without enough money, but with seriously higher interest rates on the deficit. The problem for Republicans is that current average interest rates on the national debt are only about three percent (3%), costing about the Treasury only about $30 billion a month. Debt is not starving the government enough. Short-term default will cause rates to double or better – benefiting rich Republican campaign contributers while also starving the government of the money needed for social programs.

So what’s gonna happen? Will Obama read section 4 of the 14th Amendment and the Perry V US court case to Boehner – “The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law… shall not be questioned.”? Will the Fed just forgive their part of the debt (theoretically, they could) so there isn’t a need for debt extension? Will there be a run on Treasury debt with China and the Saudis cashing in, causing rates to skyrocket and the Fed to intervene? Will the Tea-Party Congresspeople suddenly decide what they are doing is un-American(perhaps, Michelle Bachmann will say so)? Will the business lobby (aka: the Chamber) start calling Republicans and threatening something worse then death to get the needed debt increase passed? Will the Senate pass a version of whatever comes out of the House – hoping members of a conference committee could turn it into something tolerable? Will Obama blink – hoping that voters will be so outraged that Republicans are voted out of office in 2012 and the law can be overturned? Stay tuned. Whatever happens, the Republicans are risking the world and they plan to win – no matter what.

 

* Grandmas who practice personal responsibility and free-market capitalism, don’t have to worry. Unless she gets cancer. Or helps her unemployed children. Or worked for a firm that underfunded her pension. Or her job was off-shored. Or her children grow up to be Republicans.

Preserving Social Security to Pay for Medicare

The Paul Ryan 2012 budget bill and “Path to Prosperity” sailed through House Friday on Republican votes. The GOP plans to spend $3.5 trillion next year, down a whopping $30 billion from 2011 (about eight days of current war spending), by cutting food stamps and Medicaid for the poor, children and the disabled. The Republican bill will still require the Government to borrow more than 40 cents of every dollar spent.

The bill passed is part of the Republican “roadmap” to reduce the deficit by $4.4 trillion* over the next ten years, while:

  • getting reelected;
  • providing $2.9 trillion in tax cuts for their wealthiest supporters;
  • gets rid of subsidies to develop alternative energy sources;
  • raising taxes for those making $20,000 to $200,000 per year;
  • repealing healthcare reform to make sure at least 52 million Americans are without health insurance;
  • in 2022, freezing and privatizing Medicare, Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP);
  • and leaving it up to the states to deliver the bad news to our seniors, the disabled, children and the poor.

Except in calling for “reform,” the plan does leave Social Security intact, at least, so far** – and our seniors will need it. The average Social Security benefit for a retired worker is currently $14,124. In 2022, the additional out-of-pocket cost for Medicare will be $5,744. By 2030, it will increase to $8,833.

Impact of costs on seniors by Ryan budget bill - This was published by the Center for American Progress (http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2011/04/ryan_medicare.html)

Of course, this assumes that a private health insurance company in 2022 will offer a policy to someone over 65 for $20,513. Best of luck with that —  especially if by that time you have one of those pesky pre-existing conditions.

*Just in case you are keeping track of the mundane things such as this, President Obama’s “Path to Austerity,” plans to reduce the deficit by $4 trillion in 12 years.

**The Republicans have a separate bill making its way to the floor and endorsed by their leadership that will raise the retirement age to 70 and include a means test for benefits.

The verdict’s in

I was called for jury duty this week. Having polled the 300 jurors-in-waiting for Fulton County Court, our judgement was unanimous: if the price of voting is jury duty, we need to demand better candidates.

It is a tradition to bitch and moan about being called to jury duty, but with almost no exception, those of us summoned, recognized that jury duty is a humbling honor. Plus, it is a once a year chance to be in a room for a day filled with your peers.

I was again reminded of how diverse our citizen peers truly are. Beautiful people of all shapes, shades, sizes and political persuasion. Admittedly, my peer group was from voter registration rolls and are made of those who are old enough and take their obligations as a citizen seriously enough to vote, receive their mailed summons and show up for jury duty dressed suitably for court. Try as they might, the jury room staff had a tough time with the pronunciation of my Asian-Georgian, Middle-Eastern-Georgian, and Hispanic-Georgian brethren – often generating some good-natured chuckles and almost always requiring the spelling of the names that were called to have them recognized and answered.

I struck up a conversation with a woman from North Fulton during the time between announcements. Roughly half of Fulton County is “outside the perimeter” in a land similar to Cobb County, which generates high ratings for talk radio, Republicans and handgun sales. We immediately found our common ground: we both had been summoned to jury duty (OK, and both middle-aged and a few pounds past our prime).

I baited her about the current governor’s race, and she offered, “Georgia needs someone who could get something done – not like that Roy Barnes.”

I asked her what she thought those important things were. She responded, “like standing up for states’ rights.”

After suggesting that I didn’t trust the important issues with anyone at the state level, but preferred to count on the US Senate to not do anything, I asked her how “states’ rights” was going to do anything about the $2-3+ billion projected short fall in Georgia for the next two years and if she thought any of the candidates could do something about it, she said, “we need just need someone who’ll cut some of the spending.”

I asked, “like cut teachers, police and the like?”

She said, “No, but we need someone strong enough to get spending under control – certainly not Roy Barnes.”

I asked, “How does getting things under control do anything about deficit or keeping our teachers and police on the job, and since, Roy Barnes is Democrat and the Georgia House and Senate are solidly Republican, wouldn’t that actually be a good thing since he couldn’t get anything done anyway?”

Before she could answer the juror announcements began again. “I am going to call some of you to report to courtroom 2B. When you hear your name, let me know you are here and come up and get your number. Then go down to the first floor, but wait in the hallway and do not go into the courtroom. It-sas-so, It-sa-zo, Are-o-yo, Ar-o-ho, Lopez? I, L, E, A, N…”

At which point, a shy and blushing woman who appeared to be of Hispanic descent, rose and walked to the front. I turned to my North Fulton friend, saw her smiling proudly in support of another American, a Georgian, who was being called to serve. We don’t have an immigrant problem – not in Fulton or North Fulton – we have some laws that need to be changed so that those immigrants here illegally, can become citizens and join us for jury duty.

The Big Game

Political-Football

As we approach the college football rival week late this month, it is time to begin an even heavier use of sports metaphor to describe the game of political football. Two great rivals. 77th meeting*. Home field advantage: Democrats.

With only a few months left in the second quarter of this Congressional session, the Republican defense has kept health care reform, Wall Street regulation, don’t ask-don’t tell and the energy bills out of the end zone. While the gallant defensive effort has not put not Republican points on the scoreboard, their fans have cheered wildly, drowning out any sounds of the Democrat faithful.

Since their stunning early financial stimulus touchdown, the Dems have largely relied on misdirection and fakes to their star issues to fool the gang-tackling Republicans and grind out enough yardage to kick easy field goals on stem cell research; banning torture; passing the largest ever middle-class tax cut; putting Sonia Sotomayer on the Supreme Court; expanding SCHIP to 4 million children; making the morning-after available to 17-year olds; cutting drug costs to seniors by $80 billion; securing EPA authority to limit climate warming pollution; fast-tracking a CAFE standards increase; expanding college loan access and grants paid for by killing private lender subsidies; implementing grants for state merit pay for teachers; releasing Bush torture records; implementing executive lobby reform; expanding hate crime laws; bailing out Detroit; making it easier for women to sue for equal pay; mobilizing the greatest response in history to the H1N1 pandemic; passing tobacco regulation; expanding wilderness protection; and killing major and unneeded military appropriation programs.

Current score: Democrats: 67, Republicans: 0.

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*Based on sessions of Congress. First Republican elected to 34th Congress (1855-1856). Sincerely hope my math holds up under inspection.

Polling the choir

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Two new polls out find that people who still answer land-line phones and are willing to talk to pollsters are more likely to be confused by “Pro-Life” and “Pro-Choice” labels than in previous surveys – or is it the other way around? Hard to tell.

The news, of course, is that Gallup has announced a dramatic shift in how people label themselves on the abortion issue. A year ago, 50% chose “Pro-Choice” with 44% choosing “Pro-Life.” Gallup’s new survey shows those figures have flopped and now only 44% now choose “Pro-Choice” with “Pro-Life” coming in at 51%. A dramatic 7% increase for “Pro-Life” in one year. Something significant must have occurred this year. I wonder what it was?

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People choosing the label, “Republican” who also chose the label, “Pro-Life” increased from 60% to 70%. There was basically no change with “Democrats” coming in at 61% “Pro-Choice.” It seems safe to assume that the branding war conducted by axis of virtue (the church, Limbaugh and Fox), at least with Republicans, has tipped to the “Pro-Life” label. Or, has it?

Admittedly, “Life” trumps “Choice” on the importance list for almost everyone not specifically talking about a woman’s right to choose. As trick questions go, this has always been one. Let’s face it, most Americans couldn’t name their governor or find Washington, DC on a map (though, most could name the American Idol finalists), so it may just be that they guessed right (as in, far right).

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4galluppoll

Perhaps we need to look at another survey. Gallup says those choosing to label themselves as “Republican” is down. Their most recent survey showed 27% of the people that agreed to answer their call, labeled themselves “Republican,” compared to 36% who labeled themselves “Democrat” – there is an even greater spread when Gallup included those leaning Republican or Democrat. No, that doesn’t explain it. Assuming, and maybe I shouldn’t, that Gallup reached a representative sample of “Republican” and “Democrat,” and the “Independents” split, the survey should have been overwhelming “Pro-Choice.” What other explanation could explain the results?

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Oh. I know. I know. I think, I know. Teacher call on me… Gallup calls are a sample of adults weighted by demographics (gender, age and race to match the accuracy of the US Census), but not party affiliation. The pollsters called about 15,000 homes with land-line telephones to get 1,015 to agree to the interviews, of which, they used 971. Federal law forbids pollsters from using computers to place calls to wireless phones and it is really, really expensive for surveys to have “people” dial to get enough people to agree to talk to a pollster. To Gallup’s credit, they also called a “supplemental sample” of cell-phone-only households which Gallup says is based on up to 15% of the population. Problem is, the number of households who don’t use land-lines is over 35% (according to the CDC survey). The CDC survey also found that those who do still use land-lines are older, dumber, whiter, richer, and, apparently, Republicans.

Whew. For a news cycle (AKA: a moment), I thought something significant had occurred.

From the  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey:

  • 20% of US homes (21.3% in the South) no longer have land-lines. For people living together, but not married, the figure is 61%. For people living alone, it’s 28%. For renters, it’s 40%. For people under 30, it is 40%. And nearly 55% for people who are near or below the poverty line.
  • Add another 15% have both land-lines and cell phones, but take few or no calls on their land-lines, often because they are wired into computers – combined with wireless only homes, that means that over 35 percent of households – more than one in three – are basically reachable only on cell phones.
  • Add to that all the homes that have given up phones due to the economy since the survey was completed (December 2008).
  • The survey also reported that those still reachable by pollsters are 37% more likely to binge drink, less likely to have college degrees, more likely to live in rural areas, and much more likely to be non-Hispanic whites.

Branding the Elephant

elephant_brandingListening to Republican leaders and TV pundits debate the need of the pending rebranding of the party and their relative philosophical failures for the past eight years* is a grotesque cynical insult to all of us.

To equate branding tactics and philosophical spin as more important than deeds is wrong. Do they not remember “right and wrong”? It seems that the sinners have found Jesus again and promise to sin no more. I say, give me good works. I say their congregations should demand it, too.

auntsamTo suggest that the same people will somehow act differently if just given another chance is akin to letting the wife beater back in the household. It is a sickness and soft words with a broad smile will not hide the hard heart and mean spirit for long. They don’t need new spin, they need to demonstrate they can be trusted.

We have cycles in our political system. There are swings every 10 years or so. It wasn’t long ago that the Dems were so down that Rove and Company were talking of a permanent Republican majority. Where did they go wrong and why so quickly? Just google, “Bush, Cheney, Rove, lies, betrayal, corruption, hypocrisy” and you’ll likely find your answer. Or, just notice that during Bush years, the Dems didn’t try to undermine America, but to make things as good as they could. They built trust by being trustworthy. We can only hope, they will stay that way.

America needs more than one viable political party. Healthy debate washes issues to remove imperfections – at least, some of them. All of us, need the Republicans (the top 1% more than others). But we need them to be more interested in good governance than in power. More interested in what is good for America than what is good for their next election cycle. More interested in the people they represent who aren’t often heard, than those they hang out with in their testosterone-filled caucus. More interested in what is good common sense, than good sound bites for the party faithful. These times are far too dangerous to be working against the common good. What they do matters.

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*In case the elephant does forget and to name just a few, they doubled the national debt and crippled our economy through deficits, outsourcing, cronyism, corruption, incompetence and deregulation; started two wars, tortured and wiretapped; corrupted our judicial system and undermined the constitution; and led America by division, fear and bad faith.

My Favorite Republican is now a Dem

arlen_221x300Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania announced today that he was switching parties and will become the newest Senate Democrat. Essentially stating that the Democrats have now moved far enough right to make him more comfortable on their side of the aisle (click here to read what he really said). With the polls closed in Minnesota and only a few more months of the marathon court version of the Last Comic Standing, Al Franken is likely to give the Dems the 60 votes needed for a filibuster-proof majority. No real celebration, of course, as that count includes Joe Lieberman.

The truth behind the spin for Specter’s switch is the more than competitive primary challenge by conservative, Pat Toomey and the Republican payback for his vote with the Maine Senators Collins and Snowe to pass the Democrats’ stimulus bill.

In case you missed my February 18th blog, I’ll repeat it here:

My Favorite Republican.

Not for what his career (can’t really forgive him for that), but for what he did last week. Cancer survivor Arlen Specter (rhymes with Lector) of Pennsylvania traded his stimulus vote to the Dems for $10 billion in increased funding to the NIH (which had been starved of funding during recent years) most of which will go toward funding 15,000 additional research grants (34% increase). Specter, who has been publicly threatened by Republicans with a primary challenge for doing so, was unapologetic when he said, “I think it’s scandalous that we haven’t done more to cure cancer.”

Bravo. Way to go Arlen. This is a big deal. Doing something of tremendous importance toward curing the diseases that are truly non-partisan. As a reward, I promise to try and quit pronouncing your name “Sphincter.”