I finally sat down and watched the Republican and “Tea Party” response to the State of The Union and I was really hoping for something new, especially since they were supposedly put into office because of a “mandate”. But unfortunately all I heard was the same old, same old.
I was expecting a lot of substance in the response from the Republican Party, but I can sum it up in two words, “Cut it”. There was no real policy, no “thinking out of the box” to solve our problems. Everyone knew that going into the State of The Union that our deficit was one of the most important problems we are facing. While I agree that we need to cut spending, we also need to keep certain programs such as Social Security and Unemployment Insurance as priorities in order to sustain and grow our economy.
If you ask just about any economist, they will tell you that cuts in unemployment insurance will do more damage to our economy than will the massive spending cuts that are being proposed. It has been shown that for every dollar spent on UI, there is an economic effect of nearly double that in local spending. The money is very rarely saved and is used primarily in the local economy, helping to keep local businesses open and local people employed. When that money stops, there is a ripple effect that hurts a lot of businesses and people. For some, UI is their only source of income, the only money keeping a roof over their head and food in their belly.
One of the telling statements that Rep. Ryan mentioned was that..
If we act soon, and if we act responsibly, people in and near retirement will be protected.
– Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), Republican Response to the State of the Union 2011
What that says to me is that their plan for Social Security is to privatize it and allow Wall Street maintain this important safety net for our seniors. Do you realize that if this happened several years ago as the GOP wanted to do that there would of been a horrendous loss of value in the Social Security program when the stocks crashed? Do you really want to see millions of seniors lose their only source of income, or for some an important part of it? Social Security, since its inception in 1935, has not missed a payment to millions of seniors. According to Wikipedia, it’s responsible for keeping roughly 40% of all Americans aged 65 or older out of poverty.
We cannot allow this important program to become another carcass in the Republican butchering of America. To even think about this shows how little the GOP thinks about seniors.
When Rep. Ryan mentioned that the stimulus program was a failure (which by all accounts was really a huge success by keeping businesses and the auto industry going), I knew that there would be nothing of substance in this rebuttal. It was nothing but rehashing the lies and half-truths of the past couple years concerning the stimulus, health care, Social Security, and “limited government”.
Turning to the “Tea Party” response given by Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-MI) – which was “authorized” by Sal Russo’s Tea Party Express and Tea Party HD – claimed that it wasn’t competing with the offical Republican response, yet it sounded like it with the repeat of lies we’ve heard for several years.
To start with, there was no mention of Rep. Giffords and the Tuscon incident. There were no kind words for a missed colleague or a hope for her recovery. Rep. Bachmann went right out of the gate attacking the President.
While I will agree with her statements about the ballooning deficit and unemployment numbers, the statement she made about the 16,000 new IRS agents that will be needed for the Affordable Health Care Act has been proven to be a complete fabrication. The part that the IRS plays in the Affordable Health Care Act is to hand out job credits to small businesses that will pay up to 35% of the health care costs for their employees.
Then she moves to the same old attack that unless we completely repeal “Obamacare” (though I will agree that medical malpractice reform is something that does need to happen, and it’s a way to cut medical costs) the entire country will fall apart, deficits will soar, and we’ll stop being the greatest nation on earth. It’s the same old fear-mongering we’ve heard for the past few years for anything that the President wants to accomplish, even if the Republicans thought of it first. For example, you do realize that the basis for the Affordable Health Care Act was the health care reforms put in place by Former Govenor Mitt Romney (R-MA), right? Same thing with Cap and Trade. It was promoted by Sen. McCain during the ’08 Presidental Elections, then he abandoned it once President obama said he was interested in it.
Every single time any idea is promoted by President Obama or the Democrats, the GOP goes into lockstep “I’m against it” mode even if the idea is the best thing for the situation at hand. That right there sums up the past two years of Congress. When the President or the Democrats come up with ways to move this country forward, the GOP does everything in their power to stall it, hamstring it, or outright stop it.
Another point that Rep. Bachmann brought up as a way to help businesses was the removal of the over 130 regulations put into place during this administration. What she forgot to mention was that the President recently ordered a top to bottom review of all regulatory functions to see what works and what doesn’t. You remember the salmon regulations mentioned during his speech? How that there is one regulatory body for when they’re salt water and the other fresh water…and don’t even start talking about when they’re smoked. There are good regulations that help protect businesses and people, and ones that do nothing more than complicate. I agree with Rep. Bachmann that we need to cut back on the over regulation, but we can ill afford to go back to the days of the Reagan and Bush, Sr. administrations that removed a lot of the consumer protections we had in place.
To close, I really wanted to hear some new ideas from either the GOP or the “Tea Party”, but in the end all I heard was the same old lines they’ve been parroting for the past two years. Nothing but the same fear-mongering and faulty ideas that will hurt the country, not help it. All the talk of lower taxes and limited government and nothing of substance about job creation or the economy. If this is a preview of what the next two years in Washington will be, then I have little hope that things will get any better.
Now that I’ve said my thoughts, what are yours? Do you think things will get better or will it be two more years of the same old, same old?
I watched the State of The Union last night, and there were a lot of good things said by The President. While it didn’t delve into details, I felt that the direction he wants to move is a positive one, and I hope the changes that need to be made can be accomplished. I completely agree that as a nation, we are at a turning point, a “Sputnik” moment as The President mentioned. This is our chance to make meaningful change and put our feet on solid ground and get ready for the future.
Some of what I thought were highlights and my thoughts on them are…
1) Elimination of the Oil subsidies – When I heard this, I was both shocked and amazed. Congress has been subsidizing the oil industry for years. Those oil companies haven’t needed the tax dollars for years. Last time I heard, the oil companies were doing just fine. In fact, several of them had their best year ever in 2010 with billions of dollars in profits…not revenue, but real profits. With that much money, they no longer need any government subsidies. Mr. President, that is the best idea I have heard from any politician from either side in years.
2) Education – It’s no secret that we have very poor schools around the country, along with high drop out rates and abysmal test scores. We need to make schools and teachers more accountable for the students they teach. We need to encourage teachers to teach better and get rid of those teachers who don’t, even if it means angering the teachers unions. Only by doing so can we achieve better graduates and be better prepared for the challenges of the future.
3) Infrastructure – The President was spot on that our infrastructure is in serious need of repair and renovation. The President’s proposal to repair the infrastructure is a great idea. This will not only help the hard hit construction industry, but help get the nation on a sound base for future growth. The use of high speed rail in this country could not only more people around the country, but goods as well. This is something that will benefit us all and I see it as something we should work toward in the near future, not decades away.
4) Corporate Tax code – This is a huge step forward, if it can be done. If the tax code can be rewritten and loopholes eliminated, then the tax can be lowered because more tax income will be received instead of it being hidden offshore or sent through other countries. Once the corporate tax rates are lowered, that will hopefully free up more investment and expansion capital that will encourage job growth.
5) Review of Government Regulations – As much as people may not want to hear this, I feel that there are a lot of good and sound regulations. There are also tons of wasteful and overreaching ones as well. A top to bottom review to see what is needed and what is not makes sense and will save money in the long term. It will also help to encourage a more common sense approach to lawmaking that can spur growth and innovation without the government getting in the way. If we want to move forward, this makes a lot of sense and I hope this gets done in a hurry.
The President also stated that in the coming months he will submit a proposal to reorganize the government in a much more efficient way. When he mentioned this proposal, I saw what looked like a pleased look cross Speaker Boehner’s face. I think this is something that he supports as well and I don’t want to see this getting drowned in bi-partisan bickering. If this is coupled with the changes in the tax code for both citizens and corporations, along with the review of regulations, I can see an America that is out of our current depression, back on a very solid financial footing, and with our infrastructure repaired we are a nation that is ready to take on the challenges of the 21st century.
6) Health Care Reform – He advocated what I have already stated before, that the Affordable Health Care Act is a good start but it is not perfect. Instead of repealing it completely lawmakers should sit down and fix what doesn’t work, starting with the unnecessary bookkeeping burden on small businesses mentioned by President Obama. I also do not want to see this nation go back to the days where insurance companies were the real “death panels” – denying care and coverage because of preexisting conditions or treatments deemed too expensive. We all deserve better care and the Affordable Health Care Act does that. There is no need to repeal it when it can be fixed.
He also mentioned real medical malpractice reform as a way to reign in rising health care costs. If tort reform can actually be accomplished, this will help reduce health care costs across the board. I honestly have my doubts about the success of real tort reform since most of the lawmakers are lawyers, a lot of whom benefit from the way things are now.
7) Deficit – The President rightfully stated our more serious issue, the mounting deficit and the need to correct the simple fact that the government spends more than it takes in. One of his ideas is to freeze domestic spending for the next five years, including military spending. I see some problems with this right out of the gate, as he did not want this to cause an undo burden on the poor. One of the largest portions of domestic spending is on entitlement programs. If the cuts that need to be made to keep spending at these levels is too deep, then you burden the poor too much. He also mentioned that domestic spending is a very small portion of our budget and if we are serious about cutting the deficit, we need to not only make smart and meaningful cuts, but to also end unneeded tax cuts and other tax loopholes.
Social Security is another large portion of the budget that needs a serious looking at, and The President said he wanted to do so but not at the cost of those currently receiving benefits. There are varying reports about the solvency of Social Security, and I agree that this is a program that should not be handed over to the whims of the stock market and the financial sector. We need to protect this important program, and the promise that it is to not only those hard working Americans that are currently receiving benefits, but to those who are currently working and for those who will be working in the decades to come.
8 ) Tax cuts for the wealthy – This was wrong ten years ago and it is wrong now. If there is anything that needs to be repealed immediately, it is the waste of money that is the extension of the tax cuts for the wealthy. I agree that if someone earns a lot of money, that they are entitled to it, but in this time where we all need to tighten our belts and make sacrifices for our fellow Americans, the wealthy have seen their fortunes rise far faster than anyone could of ever imagined. The government give away that is the Bush Era Tax Cut has done absolutely nothing to either reduce the deficit or produce jobs. During the past decade, this country has seen the slowest job growth that has ever been recorded, and it did so with the largest tax cut in history to the wealthy. There is no reason those tax cuts need to continue and by repealing them back to Clinton era levels (which by the way is a paltry 3 – 5% increase) it will bring needed tax dollars to the federal government and help reduce the deficit.
Overall his speech was definitely made to the center-left rather than to either side and done so with a definite lack of any bi-partisanship. It was a more CEO type of speech, which was designed to build unity and morale. There were statements and ideas made that both sides can like but the real test of the new-found unity will be how much both sides will put away the venom and rhetoric and actually work on the real problems that face us as a nation.
I’ll be talking about the Republican and the “Tea Party” responses in another post, but until then let me know what you thought about the President’s speech.