Archive for October 2015

Well It’s Trick or Treat

I live in the country on about 22 acres of forest land so the only trick or treaters I will see are rabbits, coyotes, mountain lions, raccoons, skunks, and bears, all of which have made an appearance at one time or another.  I like to think of Halloween as a time when we can dress up and suspend our disbelief to become someone totally different, maybe even with our brains leaking out.  The last part has been confirmed by the Republican candidates and voter response to them.  They all came dressed as zombies.

At the last Republican debate these zombies had their economic policies questioned.  Now everything they are putting forward is insane.  Flat tax is wildly popular among the leaky brain crowd who can’t add and subtract to understand they don’t add up.  Oh, and once again as government gets gutted with these plans, the rich make out splendidly.  Here is what David Brooks, another Republican apologist grasping for straws to explain their failure to grasp reality said the other day in his column:

At this stage it’s probably not sensible to get too worked up about the details of any candidate’s plans. They are all wildly unaffordable. What matters is how a candidate signals priorities.

So his priorities are smoke and mirrors?  Yeah, I really want to vote for these guys.  They were all signalling what Republicans have done every time they held office, Ronald included.  Cut taxes and created a giant deficit.  And we know this stuff doesn’t work.  Programs you want you have to pay for, and giant tax cuts don’t pay for themselves.  We could get into a whole discussion of economic inequality and how it is strangling our economy, but it is sufficient to say, their policies put economic inequality on steroids.

So that is their treats, fantasies of free rides of economic prosperity on tax cuts.  What are their tricks?  Well first this time will be different because they really will gut government and get rid of regulations.  Would that be the EPA and their troublesome clean air and water?  Who needs that?  Would that be banking regulations to keep the “Masters of the Universe” from tanking the economy like they did last time?  Would that be those pesky regulations that keep our food safe?  Which ones boys and girls?  Oh, and let’s get rid of Obamacare where medical insurers actually have to offer plans that covers stuff.

But the best trick of all is when someone asks informed questions about their plans.  You know, flat tax plans that do not add up or how come your balanced budget plan has astericks that depend on something we have never seen, tax cuts paying for themselves (known in GAO land as dynamic scoring)?  You label those who ask the questions the liberal press who are asking gotcha questions and march off in a huff.  Yep, it is Halloween all right as the Republicans march around as zombies mumbling the same old mantra of zombie ideas that failed us last time followed by a pack of zombie voters.  I wouldn’t give them any candy either.

Pychosis Manifesting Itself

What do you do when someone starts to challenge your alternate reality with facts? You claim that all news is controlled by the evil liberal press, and refuse to honor their challenges to your alternate reality where flat taxes don’t bankrupt the government, tax cuts pay for themselves, and all regulations are bad. Demand only like-minded people can ask you questions and label difficult questions gotcha questions you don’t have to answer.  When you live in an alternate reality, you can have alternate reality debates where your nonsense actually makes sense. We really have stepped through the looking-glass.

The Debate

Retitled The Attack.  When someone asks you a detailed question about your plan for the economy, attack. It’s that liberal leaning East Coast Media!  Big government has enslaved us all! Regulations have us in shackles! Obama and Hillary are worse!  Did you really learn anything?  Were the details of any new ideas (there were none) flushed out?

What do you guys really want to do?  Well slash government, balance the budget, remove most regulations, and of course lower taxes.  How?  Silence.  Governing is a whole lot different from bellowing.  This is one scary group without a new idea among them.  Oh, and who knows how to work with the other side?  If the debate was any example, they will out shout them.  Baseball game was a let down too.

Primer on the Economy for The Republican Debate

Warning!  This evening you are about to travel into deep Fantasy land where Obama has wrecked the economy, destroyed jobs, and is creating giant debt.  It is all untrue.  As I pointed out in my Blog, An Example of the Fantasyland Republicans Live In, here is the reality (the blog has the links for proofs):

Now we have a starting point where President Obama came into to office,  So where are we today as President Obama has “wrecked” the economy?

Unemployment:  5.1% (recovered from almost 10%)

GDP: 3.1% (recovered from -2.9%)

Stockmarket (Dow Jones):  16,459 (recovered from 7000)

And the deficit?  It fell from $1.4 trillion in the 2009 fiscal year to $486 billion in the 2014 fiscal year, a drop of 66 percent.

In other words they wrecked it and he recovered it.  Yes we still have problems with low wages and growing economic inequality.  And of course that begs the question, what are they going to do?  Okay, here is where we enter Fantasyland within Fantasyland.  Republicans, when you peel off all the noise, want tax cuts for the job creators (wealthy), small government, and less regulations.  NONE OF IT HAS WORKED.  So when you listen to them tonight about what they are going to do about the economy remember:

  • Flow down has never worked (Trickle down economics)
  • Tax cuts do not pay themselves
  • The great conservative experiment was conducted in Kansas under Governor Brownback, and no jobs, bankrupt schools, but low taxes and an 18% approval rating (When Bush cut taxes, no jobs and a giant deficit)
  • The economy is driven by demand, not supply and how do you get demand unless more people have more to spend
  • How does being against equal pay for equal work, a livable minimum wage, and immigration reform help the economy or raise income?
  • How does cutting government spending rebuild our infrastructure and provide good jobs.

Oh, and one more thing, they are going to reform the tax code, and what they are really saying is cutting healthcare and social security so they can afford those tax cuts that don’t help. This is a CNBC debate.  All they care about is the stock market so you will hear we have cut entitlements when all we have to do is change the tax code to pay for them.  Don’t buy it.  Okay Spock, beam me up.

If you really want a summary of Republican Dysfunction go to the link. Or you can do like me, just watch the baseball game.

Overreacting

I guess we have all seen the video of the “Resource Officer” body slamming the girl out of her chair in a South Carolina classroom.  Did he overreact?  Yes.  But we need to think about this.  I have two professional educators in my family.  My wife who has over 40 years experience teaching English in high school, and my son, who is a counselor in a high school.  They have both been in situations which are dangerous.  Yeah students are just kids, but some are very dangerous kids.  Today there is a story about a principal being body slammed trying to break up a fight.  Is this what they signed up for?  At some point physical force is necessary because there are some kids who really are out of control and very dangerous.  If you are in the public square you call a cop.  So before we condemn all physical force in schools, we need to recognize when it is necessary and think about the training necessary to ensure we don’t overreact unless there is not other option.  And finally, who should be the one to do this before we decide police don’t belong on campus.

From the Resource Officer’s point of view, the girl was acting belligerent and probably threatened physical violence.  Obviously he escalated too quickly, but  in his mind he was probably thinking first strike and use surprise to nullify further violence.  Yes it was an overreaction and it was brutal, but there are dangerous kids in many schools and we should think through how we are going to handle them when they get out of control beside blaming the officer and firing him.

OMG! Someone Just Realized The Emperor Has No Clothes

There is one Republican that I have been worried about as potential threat to the Democrats winning the Presidency because, well, he still hasn’t drank the Kool-Aid. He has not checked his brain at the door to pander to the base and could attract quite a few independents. He actually is a Christian in that he cares about his fellow man. That person is Governor John Kasich.  He actually could govern, although with a more reasonable conservative approach. Well last night as he spoke at a kickoff rally in Ohio for the big debate tonight in Colorado, he said what any sane person would say about his rivals:

Do you know how crazy this election is?  Let me tell you something.  I have about had it with these people and let me tell you why.  We got one candidate that says we should ought to abolish Medicaid and Medicare.  You ever heard anything as crazy as that, telling our people in this country who are seniors or about to be seniors that we are going to abolish Medicaid and Medicare?  

We have one person saying we ought to have a 10% flat tax that will drive up the deficit in this country by trillions of dollars that my daughters will spend the rest of the lives having to pay off.  You know, I say to them let’s have no taxes, just get rid of them all and a chicken in every pot on top of it.

You know one guy says we ought to take 10 or 11 million people and pick them up, I don’t know, we are going to go into their homes, their apartments, we are going to pick them up and take them to the border and scream get out of our country?  That is just crazy. That is just crazy.

We have people proposing health care reform that is going to leave, I believe, millions of people without adequate health insurance.  What has happened to our party?  What has happened to the conservative movement?

Now if he brings this kind of common sense reason into the debate, well that would be interesting.  If someone finally stood up and said the proposals by the leading Republican contenders are crazy (the emperor has no clothes) would it wake up the punditry class and maybe America?  Instead of treating them like serious candidates, treat them like the lunatics they are.  But wait! The base is angry and this is what they want!  Maybe it is time to slap some sense into them, the base and the punditry.  Somebody has to be the adult in the room.

Oh, and on that economic conservative thing, you know, tax cuts and flow down, Governor Brownback of Kansas who has conducted the great conservative experiment in Kansas, has bankrupt schools for lack of tax dollars he gave away to the rich and has an 18% approval rating.  Maybe the emperor really does not have any clothes.  It would be nice if our media would finally wake up like John Kasich did and tell us the truth instead of pretending these are not lunatic times with lunatic candidates.

News That Is Not

Some of you who are frequent readers know I had a total knee replacement and my recovery has been, well, tedious.  I still do exercises and stretching 3-times a day and I usually turn on the news to pass the time.  You know, multi-tasking.  Actually it works as a distraction to pass the time.  So I turn on MSNBC hoping for news.  We did have a major earthquake last night in the Middle East, heavy rains in Texas over the weekend, and of course, a major hurricane in Mexico.  Oh, and did I mention that Russia seems to be loitering around our critical undersea communications cables?

But no, we get political news and by that I do not mean reporting on what Congress has passed or what is really happening in government.  We get coverage of the candidates and their endless town halls.  Now that in itself would not be so bad if we were asking questions like what is your policy for a way forward in the Middle East?  Exactly how would you create jobs and reduce economic inequality? How do you plan to rebuild our infrastructure?  What is your plan for dealing with Global Warming?  If you are against Obamacare, what would you replace it with?  Sound reasonable?

So there is Matt Lauer who is coverning a Donald Trump town hall and what was the question he asked the Donald?  Do you think you are too strident to be President?  Really? That is the burning question in America, they done like his tone?  What about what he would actually do?  I guess I should not be surprised as voters who are supporting Ben Carson like his soft spoken manner.  Is it a wonder that the people we elect are morons?  Maybe they just reflect our own intellectual acuity. 

One other thought.  One school of thought in reforming our schools is that we need to challenge kids to see that they can be so much more.  I wonder if that would work in news reporting?

A Short Synopsis of Why Republicans are Crazy

If you are a rational being and can suspend on your prejudices and preconceptions, and just look at the Republican Party today, you have to summarize they are crazy.  They want to defund Obamacare that by all measure and metrics is a success. Sure it could be better, but that is not the point.  They want to defund Social Security and Medicare which again by all measures are a huge success.  They want to gut government to pay for tax cuts going mostly to the wealthy instead of investing in our failing infrastructure.  They want to control spending by defaulting on our debt and wrecking our economy.

They want to defund Planned Parenthood when they never funded it in the first place. It bills the U.S. government like any other health provider for services provided.  It is in denial of global warming as the impacts become more severe every day.  We are living in a world where the wealthy are getting more wealthy at the expense of the middle class, and their answer for that is more tax cuts.  Economists tell us that immigration reform will greatly help our economy and they are about building the great wall. What is all this craziness all about?

It is actually fairly simple.  They are terrified of change and their prescriptions for our economy have failed to work.  On the economy thing, the basis of their underlying hatred of government is that low taxes (on the wealthy) and little regulation (both the result of small government) will invigorate the economy.  That it hasn’t and that trickle down has proven folly by all studies undermines the foundation of their beliefs.  The new director of the Government Accounting Office, appointed by Republicans, pointed out recently that cutting taxes does not pay for itself in growth and increased revenue, which is the basis of every Republican budget being put forward.

So the very foundation of their work hard and you will prosper in a world where government goes away has been belied by our recent history.  They are terrified and have no new ideas.  Instead of re-evaluating their beliefs and making adjustments, like all good religious fanatics, they simply reinvent reality to support their belief system.  The first to go was the belief in data and facts.  They defunded R&D, and investments in social science.  They built think tanks to carefully select their “facts” to support their conclusions. They deny science because if they are wrong on that one, what else are they wrong on?  They created their own news media and echo chamber. Then it is the politics of fear, hate, and xenophobia because that elicits strong emotions, not rational thought.

So the simple answer is the Republicans are crazy because the basis of their belief system has failed and in order to create a reality where it still works, you have to be crazy.  Enter the Republican House of Representatives and their candidates leading the presidential nomination process.  Watch the Benghazi hearings where their narratives are belied by the facts and yet they never change their minds. Any rational person would soon distance themselves from this insanity, but fear is a powerful emotion and they are experts at wielding  it.

The Fog of … Being Republican?

Ross Douthat wrote this morning about the potential of a Marco Rubio presidency.  He noted that he had predicted Romney would rise from the polls back in 2012 and then made this statement which seems to be the mantra of denial of Republicans this year:

2016 is very different: The G.O.P. candidates are stronger overall, there’s no one with Romney’s hammerlock on money and endorsements, and Donald Trump and Ben Carson have more staying power than Michele Bachmann or Herman Cain.

It is the idea that the G.O.P. candidates are strong.  Um… Do any of them acknowledge global warming?  Do any of them have a budget proposal that does not cut taxes for the wealthy and run our deficit out of sight?  Have any of them tried to lead the Republican Party out of xenophobia about immigrants?  Do any of them have a spending plan for upgrading our infrastructure, college loans, investment in R&D?  They all want to dismantle Obamacare and have no plan for a replacement.  Oh, and lets get rid of all those pesky banking regulations.

Okay he is hedging his bet by saying they are stronger overall.  Meaning not as fruit cake as the last bunch with one semi-sane candidate, Romney.  Well, when you get over the mainstream media narrative about Trump being a smart businessman and Carson being a brilliant surgeon, like Bachmann and Cain, they are woefully ignorant of reality with just as loony ideas.

Really, this is truly a giant cauldron of smoke and mirrors politicians feeding the base alternate reality facts and trying to look presidential.  There is not one leader up there who has the nerve to stand up and point out that their core beliefs have failed our economy.  Trickle down doesn’t exist.  Economic inequality won’t be tamed by more subsidies to the “job creators”.  Investment in America won’t happen from the market place.

But the real obfuscation is Republican’s insistence that this is a strong field.  And the only ones they are tricking are themselves.  These people are nightmares using hate and fear to mobilize votes.  Step back a minute so you can see the self-delusion that is going on.  Conservatives, real conservatives from another era, were about being cautious, and their utmost driving principle was being economically sensible.  We need things, so let’s pay for things.  But this group denies we need things and then gives away the treasury to the rich.  Actually they are owned by the rich.  Instead of being cautious and careful, frugal with investments, they deny investments need to be made except if we call them tax cuts.

We are living in a time when the end results of Republican ideology has played out and Republicans are living in denial of that reality.  It doesn’t work except for the 1%.  In denying that reality, they have turned their party against data and facts.  So I guess it is no surprise that they can convince themselves that the present cadre of presidential candidates is strong because this group is the epitome of this denial.  Just what we need to lead this country into oblivion.

Oh, and I am not the only one on to this.  Here is one of the better reader comments to Douthat’s column:

Marco Rubio a first term US Senator will not be the nominee. This Republican field is particularly weak contrary to the consensus view Governors jindal, Walker, (now out) Christie are under water in their home states. First term Senators Cruz Rubio and Paul are no more experienced than Obama. Santorum, Pataki, Huckabee, and Graham are a joke and Fiorina already in free fall wrecked HP. Trump and Carson are sure general election losers and that leaves Jeb and Kasich, both of whom are viewed as either too moderate or too awkward to be nominated. So the party really has no one to turn too with both domestic and foreign policy creds who is not an off the wall wingnut. 

The Debt Ceiling

This is a post (Debt Ceiling) I wrote back in 2013. Nothing has changed and that in itself should be a cautionary note about letting Republicans try to govern. Nothing ever changes and we have the same fights over and over. One thing to note in this discussion is a link (Negotiate?) to a more detailed argument of how the President could use his authority to bypass Congress to protect the United States from default and economic damage:

You know, this one is really simple. There shouldn’t be one. Now I can hear conservatives wailing, “But we need to control our debt,” and that is true, but the debt ceiling doesn’t control our debt. It is just a pro forma requirement to meet the Constitutions requirement in Article I, Section 8 that, “The Congress shall have the power …to borrow money on the credit of the United States.” They already went into the red when they authorized (and directed) the spending*. To control spending and our debt, if that is your purpose, you have to, well, control spending. The debt limit has nothing to do with spending. I have already argued that the President, interpreting various clauses of the Constitution, could assume they authorized the borrowing when they spent the money they did not have (Negotiate?). But there will be a big fight about this when and if the Republicans choose to default on our debt. This fight could be as damaging as the default itself.

Anybody remember Deck Gebhardt, Democratic Speaker of the House from 1988 to 1995? Dick did a novel and very responsible thing. When the House passed a spending bill authorizing and directing the President to spend on certain things, he also included the authorization to extend the debt limit to pay for it. Now there it is, you cannot spend money you do not have and if you decide to in a funding authorization, then Congress must also recognize and authorize the borrowing to pay for it. There is no passing the buck or pretending that the debt limit is some kind of budget device. It is an explicit recognition that the spending will increase our debt and the Congress has authorized it when they authorized the spending. From the Atlantic Monthly:

Gephardt realized that the easiest way to fix the problem and impose some rationality on the process, was to do away with the second vote (first vote authorizing spending and the second, authorizing the borrowing). He consulted the parliamentarian. “I asked if there was a way that when we pass the budget [the debt ceiling] can be deemed ‘raised’ to accommodate the budget people are voting for,” Gephardt said. “He said, ‘Yeah, we think we can work that out.’”

Thus was born the “Gephardt rule.” For a period thereafter, the adoption of the conference report on the budget resolution would trigger the Gephardt rule and “deem to have passed” legislation raising the debt limit to accommodate the spending and revenue levels approved in the budget. Presto! Problem solved.

Sadly when the Republicans took back the House in 1995, they got rid of this. Starting to see who is the real problem?

*Note that one could argue that the President doesn’t have to spend this money and go into debt, but that would be ignoring the Constitutions requirement in Article II, Section 3, that ” …he shall take care that laws be faithfully executed.” So if Congress passes a law and funds it, he can’t pick and choose which ones he likes, he must carry it out. But that sets up the conflict with Article I, Section 8 cited above about only Congress can authorize borrowing. 

Then there is that little confusing clause in the 14th Amendment that says: “The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned.” Does that give the President the authority to authorize borrowing to ensure the validity of the the public debt even if Congress, by its actions is violating that clause? Why go there? Why not just get real and do what Dick Gebhardt did and make it permanent? Because there are Republicans and they may just run us off a cliff. There is a good discussion of this and the arguments in the NYT.