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Political Blogs, News & Views

Discussing America’s political direction with balanced perspective


Is It Time For A Real Change In American Politics?

In the past I have always believed that two (or more) strong political parties was a good thing for our country, because with strong opposing forces it prevented us from straying too far in either idealogical direction. Sure we’ve gone off course now and then over our history, but we have always been able to adapt and recover because we were never too far off center.

However, I’m about to reach the tipping point on that belief, and swing over to a “let’s destroy them” partisan position after watching the Republicans spend the last 2 years investing all of their energy into obstructionism for the sake of being obstructionists, even at the expense of the nation and citizens who are suffering.

From unprecedented misuse of the Filibuster to prevent meaningful assistance legislation from even getting an up or down vote, to their new definition of negotiating.

While it’s vogue to place blaim at the top first, the fact is on every major battle since the Obama administration took the reins, the administration has started from a left-of-center position and moved towards the center, while Republicans have consistantly began right-of-center and then moved further right throughout the negotiations.

They’re playing Lucy to The President’s Charlie Brown. Promising negotiations, pomising support in exchange for compromises, only to pull away at the last second time and again; gaining all of the compromises they wanted, without having to make any significant consessions of their own.

That is not how governing is supposed to be done. It is not leadership. It is not even politics. It more resembles stubborn schoolyard behavior and it has stunted our nation and economy as a result.

Yes, I blaim these Republicans, not President Bush, for our painfully slow economic recovery of the past two years, because they’re clearly playing politics with the economy rather than working to improve it.

As proof I offer that Speaker Boehner attempted to steal some thunder (and Press) from the President recently during the President’s Twitter Town Hall meeting, by tweeting a question that was, I’m sure, intended to embarrass the President. Boehner asked in his tweets, where are the jobs?

Well, that is the question to ask, but he was asking the wrong person. Republicans have argued for years that we couldn’t eliminate tax breaks to the wealthiest 2% or large corporations, because they are the job creators and eliminating their tax breaks would prevent them from creating jobs.

And after a decade of the Bush tax breaks they’ve been given, Speaker Boehner and other leading Republicans need to answer the question, where are all the jobs? With a decade of those tax breaks under their belts (and in their pockets) we should be overflowing with employment opportunities by now…so, where are they?

And while they’re at it, maybe those Republicans can explain why this congress, under their leadership, hasn’t allowed a single jobs bill to reach the floor for broad discussion or an up or down vote this year?

Or why the Republicans on The House Committee on Education and the Workforce voted “No” to a legislative amendment to maintain funding for job creation and training programs under the Workforce Investment Act that actually creates jobs and improves job opportunities? That seems like something we should be keeping stable (or even increasing) at a time when around 20 million Americans can use it.

They’re [Republicans] playing a sneaky game right now, of crying for cameras about the President’s lack of jobs creation, while in the near anonimity (some watch C-SPAN, few pay attention) of daily legislative process they themselves are obstructing any and all meaningful measures that would or could produce jobs for Americans, because they know most reporters won’t bother to dig deep enough to see through the hyped-spin, and so it makes them look like the job crusaders in the public eye.

But the truth is out there (almost an X-Files moment), despite Democrats being so terrible at pointing it out and making their case. The facts about what legislation and legislative amendments are being allowed or denied to reach the House floor is available. If anybody cares to inform themselves beyond the partisan leanings (left or right) and shallow coverage of major news media, it’s easily found.

And while in theory I still feel that multiple strong political parties offers the best opportunity for a centrist and strong nation, in the real world the facts are getting ever clearer to me that when one party decides to embrace a Scorched Earth policy for political gain rather than engaging in any honest diplomacy for the good of the country, then the bottom completely drops out of the multiple strong parties theory and We The People would be far better served going forward without one side’s input.

 Is It Time For A Real Change In American Politics?

Wisconsin Governor’s Battle With Labor Gives Cause For Reflection

Our great nation was founded because of a single and universally agreed upon concept by our founding fathers; that groups of people have the right to collectively demand fair treatment in their lives and work. An idea that they were each willing to fight and die for.

What was it–if not a colonial attempt at collective bargaining–that our founding fathers did? They came together and presented the King of England with an offer to fairly negotiate, or lose his control over the peoples and revenues of America.

And when King George declined to negotiate, our founding fathers, with the idea and intention “to form a more perfect union“, revolted.

From that point to today, unionization among Americans has taken us to having our own country, to practical labor laws which protect us from working conditions we openly scoff at that exist in other nations, to a narrowing of the gap between pay levels among women and minorities as opposed to white males.

Our founding fathers recognized and practiced the fundamental necessity of standing united against tyranny, be it from a monarchical tyrant, a state Governor, or a greedy CEO, it is a founding principal of our nation and we all, every one of us living in the greatest nation on Earth, benefit from that idea and the struggles of united Americans–from our founding fathers to today’s Teamsters–in our lives each and every single day.

What’s happening now with states like Wisconsin, Ohio, and others is a complex problem. There are financial budget issues at stake that are very real, and they will require some creative and thrifty solutions to solve.

However, attacking unions and the ability to collectively bargain is not the answer. A state needing more revenue gains not a penny by stripping the right to collectively bargain away from its public workers. The loss of bargaining rights simply doesn’t have a direct dollars and cents value attached to it.

The right to unionize for collective bargaining is a concept, an accepted Universal Human Right, it isn’t a tangible good that states could take from workers and sell on eBay to raise revenues with.

In real terms, attacking collective bargaining is actually avoiding the true financial issues of the state. It’s political smoke and mirrors, but lacks any possibility for solving, or even slightly decreasing, the state’s financial problems.

A more productive approach for any state, city, or other small government that actually wants to address their financial pitfalls would be to sit down at a table with union leaders and negotiate ideas that actually have potential to offer financial relief to the taxpayers in the short and long terms.

Anything beyond that, such as attempting to prevent any Americans from freely participating in a collective bargaining process if they wish to, is completely un-American and violates the very principals our founding fathers are so revered for today.

The Atlantic Gets Catty On Obama

I watched the President’s speech last night. It didn’t fill me with warm fuzzy thoughts nor leave me overly inspired; but it certainly wasn’t the worst Oval Office Address I’ve ever seen. In fact, compared to the previous dozen or so that I recall from this millennium, I’d say Obama’s was middle-of-the-road at worst.

But, after reading Clive Crook’s review on The Atlantic I began to question if maybe I had watched the wrong address from someone else’s President.

According to Crook, the speech was surprisingly bad, lacking in facts and void of details on what’s being done and who is in charge.

That just isn’t the speech I heard. I won’t comment on the “surprisingly bad” point because good or bad is sort of an eye-of-the-beholder thing I think, but the speech was full of facts covering what has happened, what is being done and what should be done going forward.

Obama also seemed pretty darn clear about who was in charge, and who owned the feet (BP’s) that were going to be held to the fire. He did everything but declare himself the “New Decider” when it came to showing he was in command and on top of the crisis from what I heard.

By the middle of his piece Crook seemed to dive down to whining about Obama having vision and big ideas for the future, as if those might somehow impede his ability to handle the here and now. That’s like saying someone driving on the highway can’t think about their destination 10 miles away or they’ll crash and burn on the spot.

I’m aware that we became used to a President who was totally focused on the moment at hand, so much so that he would spend up to 7 minutes just thinking about the single moment at hand…but that doesn’t mean we should immediately knock a guy who has the capability to deal with what’s on his plate while also contemplating what he might want for desert. The ability to multitask is typically a good thing.

By the end of the article Crook sinks all the way down to schoolyard-taunting of the President for appearing nervous and moving his hands too much–I honestly believed Crook’s final sentence was going to be a haughty “and did you see those shoes he was wearing”.

Then, upon reaching the conclusion of Crook’s piece I realized the reason for his “scorned woman” tone.  The President had made clear that the time for lip service was done and the time for acting on our addiction to oil and all fossil fuels has arrived. It became apparent why that position might spark animosity from Crook and The Atlantic when I saw the sponsor’s advertisement next to the end of the piece:

full page view The Atlantic Gets Catty On Obama

sponsor The Atlantic Gets Catty On Obama

Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s great that Exxon Mobil is helping to fight malaria, it would be better if they were doing good things without funding them by raping the planet and mortgaging our descendant’s futures…but that’s for another posting.

For this post, I’ll just summarize with:

  • The President made a clear “your days are numbered” announcement to Oil and other fossil fuel companies last night after defining where we are and where we’re going with the gulf spill
  • Crook at The Atlantic seemed to dismiss the majority of the speech and shoot off an oddly harsh “let’s girlfight” review of the President’s appearance
  • That review ends at a nice large advertising piece from an Oil company

The dots aren’t hard to connect if you’re looking…

 The Atlantic Gets Catty On Obama

I’m With My Conservative Friends, Bring Back The 1950′s (as seen on TV)

A nation of 2 parent homes, white picket fences on every street, the local cop on foot-patrol who stops at your door from time to time just to say, “Hi”…I can get on-board with all of it.

Now, if my conservative friends will just meet me half way and agree to accept the 90% tax rate for the wealthiest Americans that was also in place in the 1950′s, and join me in praising the labor unions which were strong enough back then to grow our middle class to it’s strongest position ever (which kept consumer spending and our economy strong by the way), we’ll have peace and harmony once again.

Sure, there will be some pesky issues to handle that weren’t being addressed properly back then, but I’m confident that the women and minority groups can get their voices heard in a peaceful manner on those.

And speaking of women, hey gals, I’m gonna ask you to take one for the team here and let the state own your body. If we’re serious about making this fantasy-America return to the 1950′s, we’ll need to give conservatives their way on the abortion issue.

I know that’s a biggie for you, but just think of what we’ll get in exchange for your sacrifice: Universal Health care, Better Educations (perhaps even including free Universities nationwide) and Schools, Expansive and freshly paved highways from coast to coast (how pretty will we be then?), A fresh coat of paint for every bridge in the country, An end to borrowing money from China in order to fund our misadventures…the list goes on and on.

Yes, by once again taxing the wealthiest Americans at 90% we could pay for all of that stuff, and a whole lot more.

Sure, some of you girls may get stuck in loveless marriages and living lives that you never wanted, being forced to care for snot-nosed brats you don’t like, but the Valium you’ll need to get through the day (just like Grandma used to use) will be free! Come on, that’s a good deal.

Oh, I know there will be some nay-sayers, probably among wealthy conservatives who won’t like the idea of paying all those taxes again, but the proof is in the pudding (as people used to say in the 1950′s television-land) that it’s the best thing for our country, and at the end of the day aren’t we all good American patriots? So, I’m sure the nay-sayers will ultimately join in and buck up to do their part.

Besides, all of those twisted arguments against high taxes on the rich, that have been propagated for years to reduce taxes for the rich, have no true foundations in reality. For example, they often argue that the high taxes:

- deter people from wanting to earn more
- strangle small businesses
- cost jobs (related to the strangling of small businesses above)
- reduce consumer spending and retard the economy

However, in 1950′s America nobody stopped chasing wealth. The Kennedy’s, Rockefellers, Mellons and so-on continued to grow their family fortunes despite the tax rates. And heck, more middle class working Americans believed that they too could become wealthy one day and as a result were inspired to work harder to obtain wealth. That was good for business.

Every small town and metropolitan neighborhood in the country had Mom-n-Pop stores in it back then. Small businesses were thriving, despite the higher taxes on the uber-rich. And there were jobs-o-plenty, which paid decent wages that allowed families to get by on a single income, leaving one parent free to stay home and raise the children. Mostly because with stronger unions it wasn’t so easy for profitable companies to hide their money or move jobs overseas or reduce labor forces and demand higher productivity out of the workers left.

1950 advertising Im With My Conservative Friends, Bring Back The 1950s (as seen on TV)

1950's Advertising

And the economy thrived from all of those small businesses selling the latest Vitameatavegimins and Rocket-like Aluminum-laminated appliances made by Americans to the same working Americans who wanted the shiny new things for their homes and yards. Money was moving everywhere back then.

Then, in the mid-1960′s the tax rate was lowered to 70% and guess what? That’s right, we began going through some tumultuous times here in America, but the bottom didn’t really drop out on us until the 1980′s when one party (and I’m not going to name names here) decided that drastically reducing taxes on the wealthiest Americans all the way down to 28%, curtailing regulations on industry, and busting the labor unions were the vogue things to do.

That’s when we finally lost all of those small Mom-n-Pop businesses and decent jobs to large retail corporations who shipped their products in from places like Taiwan and China, killing both the small business retailer and American manufacturing in a single blow. They actually broke the system that sustained their own fantasy-America.

But this isn’t about pointing fingers. This is about Americans uniting once again and making things better for all of us. So I offer my hand to my conservative friends, and hope my liberal friends will join me in saying let’s bring back the 1950′s America (as seen on TV) together.

Let’s have all of the goodies that the fantasy can offer, paid for by the return of 90% tax rates on the rich and the sweat of unionized working Americans. We’ll penalize those (including corporations) non-patriots who try to undermine our America by hiding money or jobs offshore, and with a little bit of work (and a lot of free narcotics) I think we might be able to get the majority of gals to come along on the abortion thing too.

What do you say?

Yesterday I Couldn’t Spell Senator, Today I Are One…

The state of Utah is apparently considering the elimination of the 12th grade from public schooling. A movement headed by state senator Chris Buttars, seeing it as a viable (and smart???) way to address the state’s budget gap.

While the knee-jerk reaction to the Buttars plan might be to say “What The F#@$”, he does back his idea up with [almost] valid and very pointed evidential statements, like Utah is “spending a whole lot of money for a whole bunch of kids who aren’t getting anything out of that grade”–though there don’t seem to be many tangible facts supporting that statement.

Still, if it’s true then of course eliminating the grade completely rather than addressing why students in Utah “aren’t getting anything” out of it is the obvious first choice to make. Right?

In addition, it seems Buttars also proposes eliminating the provision of school buses for high school students. That makes sense to me, it’s not like it would unfairly burden children of lower income families or children from rural areas, and besides–walking uphill to and from school, in the snow, with no shoes and only one sock was good enough for our grandparents so it’s good enough for our children too! Right?

I get that most states are facing serious budget issues right now. So are most families and individuals too, the financial crisis of the past few years isn’t lost on many of us.

But if there’s one thing we should have learned from the near financial catastrophe of late it’s that we are heavily connected in the global economy, and moving forward that connection is only going to get stronger and broader. In order to compete in the global markets, after having virtually eliminated manufacturing and blue-collar labor that paid a livable wage to legal citizens here in the U.S., our children are going to need more schooling, not less.

The very notion that state legislators anywhere are discussing the reduction of classroom time for children at a point when it’s so obvious that the discussions we should be having are on eliminating summer vacations and making the school year a 12 month cycle rather than 9 just shows how short-sighted many of the folks we elect truly are.

So, here’s a money saving plan for Utah and any other state to adopt that wouldn’t hurt our children one bit: reduce your state legislative body by 90% and make the remaining 10% unpaid (including perks and benefits) positions.

Sure, some will argue that you couldn’t attract quality leaders if you did that, but the evidence suggests that we’re not really attracting quality leaders now with the current system, and history (which we learnt in skole) shows that many of the most influential and revered people ever were unpaid, or at-least started out in unpaid positions. For example, Gandhi, Alfred Sisley, Jesus Christ…

If anyone wants to argue that bloated salaries, sweet perks and benefits are attracting talent to American politics on a higher scale than Jesus Christ I’m all ears, but otherwise then perhaps this is the discussion state legislatures should be having right now instead of talking about ways to steal even more from our children’s future.

 Yesterday I Couldnt Spell Senator, Today I Are One...