It is amazing what you can do with an electorate that will raise taxes to pay our bills, a legislature that has a Democratic supermajority, and when the Governor wanted a more conservative approach, they can compromise. Our US Congress could use that approach. Of course first we have to get the Republicans who won’t agree to anything out of government. Well that is not true, they can agree to one thing, they want government to fail.
Archive for the ‘Miscellaneous’ Category.
Three unrelated things are rolling around in my brain. When you get up at 5am to work sorting and thinning shoots in the vineyard before it gets too hot out there, you have a lot of meandering mindlessness. This meandering covered John McCain and the Washington News Cartel, Nelson Mandela, and secrecy.
There was an article in the NYT this morning On Sunday Morning Talk Shows a Familiar Cast of Characters, well, “The programs tend to be dominated by a handful of predictably quotable politicians. Others make only rare appearances when a pet issue rears its head. And still others, by choice or by elimination, never make the cut at all.” John McCain is one of the most sought after. And the article goes on to illuminate some of the criticism of these shows to include:
- “The prominence of guests with strong points of view can give viewers a false sense of proportion to certain sides of policy debates”
- “…the talk shows also contribute to the partisan disharmony in Washington”
- “…that the words spoken on them are at once too calculated and overly interpreted, simply by virtue of where they are delivered.”
I was watching Now with Alex Wagner and I heard three quotes that might give you real insight into our problems and why we can’t solve them. They relate to Republican obstructionism, not understanding our entitlement issues and their costs, and what we should do about Syria.
First was a quote from none other than Rush Limbaugh who got to the heart of everything that is wrong with the Republican Party. He was bloviating about Bob Dole’s comments over the weekend about how the Republican Party needs to put a sign on their door saying closed for repairs:
Striking deals with the Democrats is what got us in this mess today. Too many of those deals were struck by old line Republicans who believed that when the Democrats put something forward we must have an alternative…again folks I rear my head and say people, this is what happens when people do not look at things ideologically.
There you have it. Let’s approach everything like the religious nuts in al Qaeda and not let rational thought inform our policies, but let’s have an ideological (religious) test on what are the facts regardless of reality. What works is not important, only that what we say works is never questioned. That says that compromise is never acceptable, and those people who voted for Republicans to make Washington work are idiots. Their job is to make sure it doesn’t work.
The second issue was voiced by Andrew Ross Sorkin, CNBC co-host of the Squawk Box, in a discussion about obstructionism of the Republicans as their only policy choice. He made a point (wrongly) that there were things the Democrats could bend on:
…their whole goal is to say no, I think that is be obstructionist, having said that I…just to make things interesting I would also suggest that part of the problem, I completely believe that the the Republican Party has been the party of obstructionist. Having said that there are places where the Democrats probably could have gone, the President could have gone on some issues around entitlements and other things that thoughtful people think should be touched upon and yet Democrats don’t go there either.
Now first of all the statement is incorrect as Richard Wolfe, who was also on the panel, pointed out. The President did go there with chained CPI and other offers that were rejected (thankfully). But the bigger issue is the “thoughtful people” comment. That is Paul Krugman’s VSP (Very Serious People) who gave us the song and dance on austerity and the shift from jobs to the deficit when it was the exactly the wrong thing to do. But in this case the logic is easily demonstrated to be false.
The implicit assumption is that down the road entitlement costs are a problem for our deficit. True. The explicit claim is that the solution is to reduce benefits. False. Just ask yourself this: Why do other industrialized nations provide more benefits at less than half the cost of what we provide, and why are we are looking at cutting those benefits instead of their costs? Maybe the issue is not cutting benefits, but looking at the way we pay for them and reforming that. But that is not what thoughtful people think. It is a conventional wisdom that leads us down the wrong path and makes our problems worse.
The last great insight was a discussion about where we should be going in Syria and the guest was Richard Haass, President of the Council on Foreign relations. This is tough one because there are no easy answers. If we provide a free fly zone, the Russians start an arms war with anti aircraft weapons. If we support the revolutionaries, we are supporting al Qaeda based rebels. There does not seem to either be an end game or any real positive outcomes other than incremental escalation that the nation has no appetite for. But here is where Mr. Hass gave what I think is some very important advice:
In the business literature there is a lot of writing about the urgent versus the important (7 Habits of highly Effective People that I know of) The Middle East right now is coming at us with a great sense of urgency, but in the long run of history I would actually argue that Asia is more important. That is where the great powers are. That is where the bulk of the world economy is. If we fail to keep countries like Japan, China, Korea, essentially at peace,t he 21st century could begin to resemble the 20th century. So in some ways we have to figure out how to do more in Asia and also to do more at home so we have the resources to do more there.
So as Syria devolves and may cause more conflict in the Middle East, can we really do anything to resolve 3rd century cultures and their infighting? Or should we be more strategic and think about where we can bring resources to bear that will really make a difference for our long term success. Maybe as Mr. Haass recommended, we certainly should help with the humanitarian issue and arm those groups whose agenda we can stomach, but beyond that, it is really a bottomless pit for our resources when there are more important and bigger fish to fry. These people are going to be fighting for a long time. There religion and their culture has kept them in the dark ages and it is not something we can easily resolve in the next 50 years. I guess you decide.
So there you have it. Republicanism today is based on faith based beliefs that cannot be challenged by science, data, or outcomes. They are out to destroy government and reasoned debate is a waste of time. Very Serious People or as Andrew Ross Sorkin calls them, thoughtful people are thoughtful because they select the solution that will cause the most pain, not the one that is really called for. We have sinned and we should suffer. Finally, the sun breaks through and Richard Haass tells us what we need to hear, that Syria is urgent, but not as important as other priorities including getting ourselves back on our feet which in the long run is more important. Think anybody was listening?
There was an an article this morning entitled Economist see Deficit Emphasis as Impeding the Economy. It should have been titled, We are the Stupidest People on the Planet. To quote from the article:
The nation’s unemployment rate would probably be nearly a point lower, roughly 6.5 percent, and economic growth almost two points higher this year if Washington had not cut spending and raised taxes as it has since 2011, according to private-sector and government economists.
After two years in which President Obama and Republicans in Congress have fought to a draw over their clashing approaches to job creation and budget deficits, the consensus about the result is clear: Immediate deficit reduction is a drag on full economic recovery…“While I agree that the U.S. must get its fiscal house in order,” Jerry Webman, chief economist at OppenheimerFunds, wrote, “I join the likes of the I.M.F. in cautioning that too much austerity, too soon, is likely counterproductive.”
So with deficits coming down too fast, why can’t we change directions and do some loosening up of the sequester? Can you say the word Republican? Ask your self what the Republican economic plan is and you get one answer: Small Government. Therefore we must continue cutting. Oh, and while I am on it, ever wonder why people like Bill Clinton and others like Barack Obama got the focus on the deficit so wrong? Because they hang with rich people who are doing just fine with the Stock Market at record highs in our depressed economy. See any jobs being created by the record Stock Market?
We are the dumbest people on the planet, bound for extinction if we can not react to the reality around us and make changes. Instead we continue to do the same stupid things over and over and expect a different outcome. Who was it again who said that was the definition of stupidity?
This is in an article in the NYT. But here is where our media is once again selling us short. No where in the article did it say how it went with a nice Pinot. No wonder we have such an uniformed electorate.
I usually warn against using anecdotal evidence since it is the root of many Republican misconceptions. But I cannot help offering this little piece of anecdotal experience. Our kids are having a hard time getting a foot firmly planted in the jobs market. Now I live in California and certainly these are different times than when I was a young college graduate, but my experience and my family’s experience I don’t think are unique.
When I graduated from college, and remind yourself that I fit right into that category of old fat white man, you were on your way to a career. In my case the Vietnam War was raging and you either went to the war (no lottery yet) or you found some deferment (Dick Cheney anyone?). I was born into the military and that was an easy choice for me then. I only had second thoughts later. But generally speaking when one graduated from college, there were tons of job opportunities whether with big or small firms. Your career got an early start except for those of us that went off to war.
But what I see now is that graduating from college is no guarantee of anything and jobs are hard to find. Almost all of my extended family has kids who struggled into their 30s before they settle into anything like a career. And even at that, when they have good paying jobs, it is not a career in that they don’t see their employment as a life time campaign. It is something that is secure for the time being, but they are always looking and hoping for something better (well that may not be much different than the rest of us). But they also know that most jobs will not last a lifetime anymore.
And the impact of that struggle affects all of us. Most of us have helped our kids into their thirties, whether they lived with us or we helped with living expenses and medical insurance. Most of us saw their struggles where they worked hard and did all the right things, yet the job did not materialize. They also ran up some debt trying to improve their education and position to finally land that job that will finally make them independent and start their “real” life.
So what conclusions do I draw from this experience if in fact this is a common experience for most of us?
- First is the obvious. When they leave for college, they will be back and parenthood is a much longer activity than most of us thought including the financial responsibilities
- Second, health care for our kids is a major concern. Even with Obamacare and being able to keep them on our policies until 26 is really not enough. If we had universal healthcare this whole issue would go away
- Third, our kids are running up amazing debt trying to get the education needed to become self-sufficient and that has all kinds of implications on their spending (like investing in a home or getting married and raising kids) when they finally get that job
- And finally, they are starting their careers later, meaning they are going to have to work longer, and they are going to make less (that has been documented) than we did. They also see a world with much more uncertainty in their job future and retirement than we did
Our policies and its safety nets don’t reflect that world. Right now the fat old white guys are talking about reducing benefits and entitlements when our children are entering a world where those were the lifelines that in some cases got them through. Comprehensive retirement plans are becoming a thing of the past and as has been recently shown, 401K plans suck. In the meantime we talk of reducing Social Security. The same can be said for healthcare. Clearly we need healthcare that is affordable and mobile. If we were most other countries, it would not be an issue as it is free. We shouldn’t be saddling our kids with education debt to start their lives, and we need a lifetime learning system that is affordable so that as the job environment changes ever more rapidly, they are equipped to move with it.
So in summary, our kids will start their lives later, they will have their children later, they will have less money to spend, thier job situation will be more uncertain, retirement plans will be more risky, and they need to be mobile in the jobs market. And if our experience is any indication, those of us who are parents may have to put off retiring till later because our kids will be needing us a lot longer. Yet our policies are being transformed as though we were still living in the 60s where job security was just assumed. The fat old white guys seem to be oblivious to what our kids are facing, not to mention what we as parents are facing. Tell me I have this wrong.
President Obama has sadly listened to the Beltway pundits again and is engaging in a push to work with other side. See his latest push for infrastructure investment that would be revenue neutral to make the Republicans happy. They won’t bite. What should be crystal clear at this point is that they aren’t going to do anything Obama. I doubt seriously if we are going to get anything but eye shadow for immigration reform, and forget anything gun related.
The ‘reasonable’ Senate Republicans now have six Senators who say they will filibuster background checks (more regulations). We have a nation poised for change and all the polls show the American people on the side of gay marriage, immigration reform with a path for citizenship, gun law reform including a ban on assault weapons and high capacity clips, and investment in infrastructure. None of it is going to happen because the Republican Party no longer accounts to what is good for America. Talk about a ground bargain is nonsense, and stupid by the way.
So one might ask yourself, why continue to play the game on the Republican’s court? Why not change your strategy from trying to accommodate the nonsense the Republicans are pushing (see the Ryan and Rand Budgets) with compromises they are never going to agree to, and go after them for the damage they are doing to the country. These are not fellow Americans with a different point of view. These are Americans who if they get their way, will take our country back hundreds of years and turn our society into the upper and lower classes. Call their policies what they are instead of trying to compromise with them, and move the fight to your court.
The conventional wisdom is that the nation is gerrymandered to keep Republicans in power so nothing much will change in 2014. And I believe that is true if Democrats do what they usually do and pander to polls instead of standing up for principles. But if you really understand what the Republicans stand for, the wealthy and disenfranchising everyone else (did you listen to the questioning by the conservative judges on the Supreme Court try to dodge the obvious?), then you understand what this is about. Republicans resist change in a changing world where change is the very foundation of survival and success.
So the strategy from Obama on down to the Democrat running for dog catcher is that they need to recognize that Republican policies are bankrupt and they need to be attacked head on. No more debt is the problem, we have to reduce the debt and invest, maybe we don’t need the assault weapon ban if we get background checks, and on and on. You are not going to get any of them. Go for the throat as the Republicans have been doing successfully to you. Attack their ideas and offer a different world view. If you want to move the country, you have to win the Congress, and to do that, you have to discredit conservatism. Compromise just lends credence to bad ideas and that is what Democrats have been doing now for 5 years.
It is a sin that borrowing right now is free (zero interest rate) and we have not put our people back to work because we bought into the home budget analogy of the Republicans. We let them control the debate focusing on debt which is not a problem instead of jobs. We keep dancing around cutting entitlement benefits when that is not the problem. We try to compromise on gun control, or immigration, or investment in infrastructure and we get nothing. What more do you need to realize we need to become the uncompromising party and fight for real change?
The argument on Wednesday on DOMA was again kind of sad if you expect our government to protect the rights of minorities. I think it finally devolved into a kind of sophomoric argument about state’s rights instead of equal protection under the law. The states define marriage and the proponent of DOMA wanted to say that the Federal government could not define rights that the state has to provide, i.e., they would be dictating what rights some married couples had.
It seemed to me that the proponents of DOMA argued that the federal government, in their infinite wisdom, decided that whether states recognized marriage or not, the federal government would not. See it treats everyone equally. Well as Justice Ginsburg pointed out it does not and treats those in states that recognize gay marriage as less than those with heterosexual marriages. In fact it does just the opposite, it puts into law discrimination across the board:
“MR. CLEMENT: With respect, Justice Kennedy, that’s not right. No State loses any benefits by recognizing same-sex marriage. Things stay the same. What they don’t do is they don’t sort of open up an additional class of beneficiaries under their State law for — that get additional Federal benefits. But things stay the same. And that’s why in this sense -
JUSTICE GINSBURG: They’re not — they’re not a question of additional benefits. I mean, they touch every aspect of life. Your partner is sick. Social Security. I mean, it’s pervasive. It’s not as though, well, there’s this little Federal sphere and it’s only a tax question. It’s — it’s — as Justice Kennedy said, 1100 statutes, and it affects every area of life. And so he was really diminishing what the State has said is marriage. You’re saying, no, State said two kinds of marriage; the full marriage, and then this sort of skim milk marriage.
But the Justices did not want to open the equal protection question because they would then have to consider whether banning gay marriage was in effect discrimination. It is of course, but the Justices were still trying to convince themselves that this is some kind of fad instead of a basic question of equal rights. That was summed up in this highly disturbing exchange from Justice Roberts about the support of gay rights:
“CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: I suppose the sea change has a lot to do with the political force and effectiveness of people representing, supporting your side of the case?
MS. KAPLAN: I disagree with that, Mr. Chief Justice, I think the sea change has to do, just as discussed was Bowers and Lawrence, was an understanding that there is no difference — there was fundamental difference that could justify this kind of categorical discrimination between gay couples and straight couples.
CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: You don’t doubt that the lobby supporting the enactment of same sex-marriage laws in different States is politically powerful, do you?
MS. KAPLAN: With respect to that category, that categorization of the term for purposes of heightened scrutiny, I would, Your Honor. I don’t -
CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: Really?
MS. KAPLAN: Yes.
CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: As far as I can tell, political figures are falling over themselves to endorse your side of the case.
MS. KAPLAN: The fact of the matter is, Mr. Chief Justice, is that no other group in recent history has been subjected to popular referenda to take away rights that have already been given or exclude those rights, the way gay people have. And only two of those referenda have ever lost. One was in Arizona; it then passed a couple years later. One was in Minnesota where they already have a statute on the books that prohibits marriages between gay people.
So I don’t think — and until 1990 gay people were not allowed to enter this country. So I that the political power of gay people today could possibly be seen within that framework, and certainly is analogous — I think gay people are far weaker than they were at the time of Fronterio.
He sees or wants to represent this as a political power play to grant a group special (equal actually) rights and it is in reality the recognition by more and more Americans of the human condition we all share and the basic discrimination some face. He is trying to say they are not a protected class. How sad.
So I think it is clear that the court will punt on both Prop 8 and DOMA. They simply don’t get it or have the foresight to understand they are standing on the precipice of history. Prop 8 will be overturned by either the standing issue or a ruling that limits its effects to California. DOMA will similarly be overturned, probably on the standing issue or struck down on the state’s rights argument so that they do not have to rule on equal protection. But if they do that, it will come back as an equal protection case when some states allow federal benefits through legal marriage and others don’t.
If it overturned on the standing, I believe that throws the responsibility back to the President to follow the lower courts ruling that it is not constitutional and not enforce it. Does he have the political courage which he should have used before now?
But this whole state’s right argument gives me pause. I think it has become apparent that state’s rights generally has been used to take away civil rights, not protect them. I think of slavery, voting rights, school segregation, women’s rights as examples where the federal government has had to step in to ensure American’s rights are protected. Only in the case of assisted suicide have I seen states get out in front on that civil rights issue. It is a grand cop out and puts the Supreme Court in the same category as the rest of our government right now, thinking small, taking little steps, and missing the opportunities to get on with our destiny.
JUSTICE SCALIA: Mr. Cooper, let me — let me give you one — one concrete thing. I don’t know why you don’t mention some concrete things. If you redefine marriage to include same-sex couples, you must — you must permit adoption by same-sex couples, and there’s – there’s considerable disagreement among — among sociologists as to what the consequences of raising a child in a — in a single-sex family, whether that is harmful to the child or not. Some States do not — do not permit adoption by same-sex couples for that reason.”
From the Wonkblog:
“Researchers have been delving into the effects of same-sex parenting only since the 1980s and 1990s. Most of the studies involve relatively small samples because of the rarity of such families.
Still, there is a growing consensus among experts that the sexual orientation of parents is not a major determinant in how well children fare in school, on cognitive tests and in terms of their emotional development. What matters more, researchers found, is the quality of parenting and the family’s economic well-being.
“I can tell you we’re never going to get the perfect science, but what you have right now is good-enough science,” said Benjamin Siegel, a professor of pediatrics at Boston University School of Medicine. “The data we have right now are good enough to know what’s good for kids.”
Siegel co-wrote a report issued by the American Academy of Pediatrics last week when it came out in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage. The group looked at more than 80 studies, books and articles conducted over 30 years and concluded that legalizing same-sex marriage would strengthen families and benefit children.
The best study, Siegel said, is the National Longitudinal Lesbian Family Study, which began in 1986 with 154 lesbian mothers who conceived children through artificial insemination. A recent look at 78 offspring found that the children did fine — better, even, than children in a similar study involving more diverse families.”
But it gets even worse. This is from the amicus curiae brief that the American Association of Sociologists filed in the very case Scalia was commenting on:
The claim that same-sex parents produce less positive child outcomes than opposite-sex parents—either because such families lack both a male and female parent or because both parents are not the biological parents of their children—contradicts abundant social science research. Decades of methodologically sound social science research, especially multiple nationally representative studies and the expert evidence introduced in the district courts below, confirm that positive child wellbeing is the product of stability in the relationship between the two parents, stability in the relationship between the parents and child, and greater parental socioeconomic resources. Whether a child is raised by same-sex or opposite-sex parents has no bearing on a child’s wellbeing.
The clear and consistent consensus in the social science profession is that across a wide range of indicators, children fare just as well when they are raised by same-sex parents when compared to children raised by opposite-sex parents.
He just picks and choses his facts to support whatever pre drawn conclusion he has arrived at within his ideological framework. Just another partisan hack that is wrecking the respect and stature of the Supreme Court. He is not the only one. See tomorrows blog on Justice Roberts trying to depict gays as some powerful political lobby instead of a category that deserves protected status. Gee, gays don’t get discriminated as a class do they?
Oh I almost forgot: The Republicans passed amendments to the Continuing Resolution that will prohibit the government from funding these kinds of political science studies so we actually can base policy and decisions on facts, not ideological bullshit. Aren’t they grand?
Well, what have we got on the table this week for entertainment? I say this because most of the issues we face are not rocket science, the solutions are simple (and progressive), but we are a nation of morons who live in the past or believe what we hear repeated the most times. How else do you explain that our number 1 issue is the decline of the middle class and yet the policies we discuss are how to make them decline some more?
Anyway, first up this morning is Prop 8, followed by DOMA. Wait! I have a question. Many times you hear the phrase gay and lesbians. That would imply that gay applies to men and lesbians are women right? But then you hear the phrase gay men. Okay, one of them is redundant, but which one? No wonder this issue is confusing. We don’t even know what the words mean. But I get distracted. This is a no-brainer if you are either a libertarian or believe in the Declaration of Independence (That would be almost all of us). Those against are either in full homosexual denial, or are religious nuts who want to use government to force their intolerance on the rest of us.
So what will the Supremes do? Well they could strike them both down and make it apply to the whole country, thus just stating that gays have equal rights, but we have the terrible five on the court living in the 18th century so here is my guess. Prop 8 is clearly unconstitutional but to limit the damage (and preserve the fiction of State’s rights) they will probably rule that their ruling only applies to California. If on the other hand, they find some reason to leave it in place, they will have alienated everyone under the age of forty who will now see the Supreme Court as just another political wing of the government out of touch with reality. And of course, California will quickly put the whole thing on the ballot (where civil rights should never be voted on) and end the whole mess.
Actually, if they wanted to save the Republican Party from themselves the best thing they could do is strike them both down and take the issue off the table so the Republicans can focus on the other stuff they also have so terribly wrong. So let the arguments begin on an issue that is clearly a civil rights issue and should be quickly and fairly decided in favor of equal rights for our gay and lesbian community. On another note, who cares who they love, get married, divorce, etc., is that really what government is about?
On to guns, another no-brainer issue being controlled by the nut-cases in our country. This actually is a great lesson in political cowardice both from the Republicans and the Democrats and shows why this nation can never, never, never, deal with tough problems until our noses are rubbed in it. Who would have thought military assault weapons, giant clips, and background checks would be an issue?
But the best example of the problem this country faces is an interview I listened to yesterday to on Martin Bashir where some woman was explaining her need for an assault rifle and high capacity magazines. First she took issue with the description of the assault weapon as military type weapon. The generals who have described them as such, simply are wrong. What would they know about military type weapons? Then she says a limitation on clip size would put her at risk if there were multiple assailants breaking into her home. It is interesting how some people see the world as barbarians at the gate. I wonder why a simple shoot gun blast would not suffice? Oh well, what do I know. Remind me never to go up to that woman’s door unannounced.
Immigration reform, I think, is doubtful. To be meaningful we have to first quickly pass the original DREAM Act giving citizenship to all the kids. Then we need to legalize everyone here with a short path to citizenship. You think any of that is going to happen with Republicans who love to blame and punish? The Machiavellians maybe who see the political reality, but not the ideologues who see immigrants as the evil defiler of their blood lines and law breakers who must be punished for stealing their jobs. Oh, I hope I am so wrong here, because you can make this argument purely in economic terms if the moral ones fail you.
Finally, on the economy, I think Mark Thoma said it best, we lost moderate paying jobs in the recession and the new jobs are low paying, and the political world is focusing on cutting entitlements. As Mark wrote:
“But more broadly the indifference of both parties to the problems of the unemployed – the failure to take any real action to help after it became clear the initial stimulus package was far, far from enough – speaks to the lack of political power of the majority of people in the U.S. today. Money talks loudly in Washington, and there was a time when unions gave the working class a voice that could be heard. That voice has faded with the demise of unions, and – as people often complain – Washington is not as responsive to the needs of the vast majority of households as it ought to be. Unless Democrats can remember who they are supposed to represent without the “memory aid” provided by powerful, well-funded unions, it’s hard to see how that will change.“
So we are ruled by morons who fail to recognize that our problems are simply solved and it is only dealing with morons that makes it complicated. So I don’t see much this week but entertainment as Washington becomes more and more irrelevant to America’s future.