Tuscon Shooting 1/8/11

January 8, 2011 Leave a comment

I’ve been following the events in Tuscon today since I got an email alert from CNN.

I’ve always had faith in people to do the right thing and not get all caught up in rhetoric and hatred.  However, starting with the heated debates at town halls last summer concerning health care reform, to the voices raised in hatred over the mosque in Manhattan, to the statements over the summer from both politicians and citizens saying that if they don’t get their way at the ballot box that there are “second amendment remedies”, my faith in people to continue to do the right thing dwindled.

I started this blog because of what I’ve seen happen to open and honest discussion about the issues that face us.  I want this to be a place where people can have discourse without it turning to hatred or to acts of violence.  The First Amendment to the Constitution gives us the freedom to speak out about the injustices we feel.  We pride ourselves on being a nation that has this freedom, and many others.  But it is not this freedom, or any other we have, that gives us the right to take up a gun and kill those who disagree.

There is a great power in the pen or in the spoken word.  By communicating with each other, we have the ability to enhance and educate.  The power to shape and change minds is far greater and much more important than the power to extinguish them.

Keith Olbermann did a special comment about the shooting.  He talked about how all the spin and rhetoric from both sides may be the cause for the shooting and repudiated everyone who made such comments, including one of his own about then Senator Clinton during her run for the Presidency.  He also asked for people on both sides to take an oath against the violent rhetoric…

Violence, or the threat of violence, has no place in our democracy, and I apologize for and repudiate any act or anything in my past that may have even inadvertently encouraged violence,  because for whatever else each of may be, we are all Americans.

He also called on all of us who do not take this oath, or repudiate any violent rhetoric we have given, to be shunned and removed from political discourse.

It is a sad day when the freedom to speak your views and win an election to represent your constituents leads to violence and death.

In closing, I extend my thoughts and prayers to the victims.

F

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Categories: Uncategorized

Week in Review – GOP Faceplants and Failures

January 8, 2011 Leave a comment

Hello and welcome to my first Week in Review, and right out of the gate we’ve got a lot to talk about.

1) I swear by my TV… –  The first act of any Congress is for each member to take an oath to support and defend the Constitution from all enemies domestic and foreign.  It is also important that the oath be administered by the Speaker in the House chamber.  Yet, there were two Representatives, Rep Sessions (R-TX) and Rep Fitzpatrick (R-PA) who missed the ceremony, because the were in the middle of a fund raiser at the Visitors Center.  They were so busy meeting with people and raising campaign money (in the Capital complex no less, which may be looked into as an ethics violation) that they missed the ceremony, yet had a TV ready and raised their hands at it and took the oath via satellite, or closed-circuit, or something.

To start off a Congress with this sort of flagrant disrespect shows to me the true color of the new Republican led House…and that color is green.  Here it is, the first day on the job and instead of taking the solemn oath of office, they’re holding a fundraiser to pay off debts for Fitzpatrick’s run for office.  There was a registration form on his website (it was taken down on Friday, but there are links on the Huffington Post website to the form that was posted) that asked for donations to be made to “Fitzpatrick for Congress”.  There are clear rules that no solicitation is allowed on the Capitol.

Right out of the starting blocks, we’ve got a possible ethics probe.  What could possibly happen next?

2)  Reading is Fundamental – The oaths have been administered (well, almost all of them), and the GOP have officially taken over the House of Representatives.  You want to start in a grand fashion, so you start by reading the Constitution into the official House record…but minus all those messy bits about slaves and the failure of prohibition.  Really now, we don’t want the truth about the mistakes we’ve made in the past to get in the way of a good chest-thumping and flag waving session, right?

Don’t get me wrong.  I do think that this is a good way to start things off.  Both sides have been guilty over the years of bending and breaking the rules, so going over them right up front is great.  However, I can’t give them a lot of credit for this one.

The portion they skipped about slaves being counted as three-fifths of a person was a compromise between the North and the South for tax distribution and House seats – so don’t let the likes of Glenn Beck tell you otherwise.  This compromise was reached during the Philadelphia Constitutional Convention of 1787, so there was a good chance that if this compromise had not been reached, the Constitution may never have been ratified.

They also skipped the amendment concerning prohibition, yet read the amendment that did away with it.  To me, that also feels wrong.  If anything, we need to remember our history as a way not to repeat the mistakes we’ve made.  We can also look at it as we move forward with the drug war of today.  Can we say it has been a success or a failure like prohibition was.

3) Job-killing and deficit busting – OK, we’ve got the swearing in done and the Constitution read, so we’re ready for our first order of business…repealing health care.

The Affordable Health Care Act is not perfect.  There are a lot of things that can be changed and fixed.  There are a lot of good things about it as well.  You can no longer be denied due to “preexisting conditions” like cancer, diabetes, or even pregnancy.  If your children live at home, you can keep them on your policy until the age of twenty-six.  The donut hole for prescription coverage has been closed if your on Medicare.  It has also been reported that because of this Act, more than thirty million Americans who are not covered now, will be able to afford coverage.  There are also tax breaks for small businesses with less than 25 employees and an average salary of less than $50,000 (you know, real small businesses, not the fake ones like Koch Industries that are considered a “small business” because there are only two owners, even though they make millions of dollars a year and have tens of thousands of employees – sounds like a real small business, right?).

On top of that, the Congressional Budget Office has released a report saying that if it is repealed, it will raise the deficit by $230 billion over the next ten years, and a Harvard economist has shown that repeal will also cost at least 250,000 jobs in the Health Care industry alone and possibly up to 400,000 jobs, because with more Americans being able to afford health care, there will be a need for more health care professionals to take care of them.

So, to repeal a so-called “job-killing” health care act that does help people, Republicans want to kill jobs and raise the deficit…sounds like a great way to help the country, right?  As I’ve said before don’t repeal it, fix it.  There is good here, so lets fix what isn’t and make it better.

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What do you think about the week that was.  Do you see this week as the Republican’s first steps to greatness, or their first missteps into failure.

You can post a comment or email me at fapolitics@gmail.com

 

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The new GOP, same as the old GOP

January 6, 2011 1 comment

The new Congress is here!!  The new Congress is here!!

…and it looks a lot like the same old Congress…

First off, I will give them credit…a least a little…for spending a couple of hours, and over a million of our tax dollars for reading the Constitution (well, most of it anyway) to open the 112th Congress.  I really do hope that they take the words they read seriously.  The Republicans and the Tea Party have both claimed that the Constitution clearly states that the intent of the Founding Fathers was for a smaller government.    However, since the Civil War several amendments were added that altered the balance of powers between the states and the federal government, with that balance being more toward the federal government (all the sections that read “The Congress shall have power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article”).  They also need to read and remember the language in Article 1 that grants Congress the authority to enact “all laws which shall be necessary and proper” for executing its enumerated powers, including the right to regulate interstate commerce.

So now that they’ve read the Constitution and plan to make all laws they write to adhere to it, we should all be safe in the knowledge that life will be better for one and all…well, not quite.

It seems that only one day into the new Congress, the Republicans have already broken several parts of their “Pledge to America”, which they pushed as the framework for their agenda during this Congress.  They claimed that they would be able to trim $100 billion from the budget in the first year.  The problem is that in order to do so, they needed to work those cuts into the budget process that they conveniently filibustered last year.  Now that the budget cycle is already half over, it’s too late to follow through on that claim.  They are also saying that those cuts are more hypothetical and that sticking to a fixed number is just “number crunching“.

They also claimed to want more transparency in the bill making process, to end the bills that were written in the Speaker’s office then rushed to the floor for a vote without discussion or a chance to amend.  But now it seems that it will only happen on those bills that they allow for that process to occur.  For example, there will be no transparency, discussion, or the allowance for amendments for Bill H.R. 2 -Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act.  For Representatives who want to reduce the deficit and open up the bill process, they are going at it the wrong way.  The Congressional Budget Office has already stated that if the Affordable Health Care Act was repealed, that the deficit would increase by $230 billion.

They have also gotten rid of PAY-GO which was started by the Democrats and replaced it with CUT-GO.  This requires that all spending would need to be offset by cuts in other areas.  The main problem that I can see is that a lot of areas are off limits from spending cuts by laws and regulations already in place.  The cuts that they could do would only be allowed from discretionary spending which is a very small portion of the federal budget…unless they amend the rules to allow budget cuts from Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid which have already been listed as targets for cuts by several Republicans.  These cuts would undermine the social safety net that seniors today and in the future depend on, as well as their health care needs.  We’ve already seen that Republicans have no qualms about giving away our future to the Chinese and other debt holders in order to give unneeded tax breaks to the wealthy, now they want to cut needed programs for our seniors.

This Congress and its new Republican masters are so far no better than the Republican led Congress of the 1980’s.  From what I’ve seen already and what they have said they want to do, I feel all we will see will be the repeal of regulations that protected us, more tax breaks for the wealthy and corporate citizens, and by doing both of those they will dig us deeper in the hole we are in now.

Looking back at that Republican led Congress and the failures of the Clinton administration, we can see the beginnings of what led us to the financial distress we are in – years of deregulation in the financial industry.  Important regulations were relaxed on lending limitations in the housing market, and when houses were made available to families which were really unable to make those house payments, the housing bubble burst.  Then there were regulations removed which allowed for the merger of financial and insurance companies.  The mergers allowed insurance companies access to trading on Wall Street which was blocked by regulations for a good reason, it would be too easy for these companies to play both sides (i.e. “Heads I win and Tails you lose”), and so they did.  Not long after, there was also a failure to regulate derivatives and other speculative trading on Wall Street, and when that bubble burst, it caused the meltdown of the merged financial and insurance companies.  The current GOP have already stated that they want to defund the Wall Street reforms that were passed last year, opening the door for further deregulation and more casino-like trading of derivatives.

Already one day in, and the future is looking the same as the past…and we are the ones who will end up paying for it, and our children, and our children’s children…

Honestly though it can’t be that bad, can it.  I really think the only way it could be worse would be for someone like Rep. Michelle Bachmann to be named to the House Select Committee on Intelligence and given a role to oversee the U. S. Intelligence Community

…oh wait…

What do you think of the new GOP led House.  Do you think my predictions of doom and gloom will come to pass, or do you see a silver light in the sky and a bright path to our future.

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Categories: Congress

Quick Post Updates

January 5, 2011 Leave a comment

Just a couple of quick updates on some of my posts…

*  Embracing the Constitution – Think Progress posted a report about truth behind the GOP’s push on the Constitution and what the tenthers really want to do.

* Austerity is the new Policy – Center for American Progress did an article in October 2010 about the national and international fallout if the debt ceiling is not allowed to rise.  Also, during the Bush administration, the debt ceiling was gladly raised eight times and with the help one of those times by 51 Republicans.

…more to follow

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Categories: Congress, Economy

Embrace the Constitution, not worship it…

January 4, 2011 Leave a comment

First off, this post may shift from opinion to rant at a moments notice, so please be prepared…

Tomorrow starts the new Congress, and with it many changes.  Something that has caught my eye is that the Republicans have asked for a reading of the entire Constitution of The United States on the floor of the House on January 6th as a way to remind everyone that the Founders supposedly wanted a more limited government than what we have today.  They see it as a way to bring some of those principles back into everyday legislating.

E. J. Dionne at first scoffed at the idea of reading the Constitution, but ended up embracing it…

But on reflection, I offer the Republicans two cheers for their fealty to their professed ideals. We badly need a full-scale debate over what the Constitution is, means and allows – and how Americans have argued about these questions since the beginning of the republic. This provision should be the springboard for a discussion all of us should join.

Since its founding, the Tea Party have gone out of their way to give the impression that we have lost our way as a nation and that we have forgotten the principles of The Constitution.  They have said that the only way out of these difficult time is to re-dedicate ourselves to it as a nation.  They view it as some sort of scripture that must be followed to the letter.

The Constitution is not the “holy scripture” of governing.  It is not the end-all or be-all of a national government.  If it was then there would be no need to add to it or change it, yet it has been added to (if you count the Bill of Rights) over twenty-five times, mostly in response to events never considered by the writers.

I do not feel that a document written in the 18th century should be the only guidance for a government that we use in the 21st century.  Our Founding Fathers knew that there would be issues and ideas that they never thought of that would need to be looked at from a bigger picture.  They did not have an “all seeing eye” into the future or any omnipotence to predict what laws we would and would not need today.  To look at our Constitution as a fixed, immutable doctrine of governing takes away from the beauty of the words as well as the intent of the framers.

If we were to take the Constitution as it was written without any Amendments then women would not have the right to vote (19th Amendment), we would still have slavery (13th Amendment), and there would be no limits to the term of a President (20th Amendment).  On top of that, we would have none of the changes listed in the Bill of Rights since the main Constitution was passed in 1788 and the Bill of Rights in 1791.

I agree with Mr. Dionne that we should take a good long look at the documents that founded our nation and give us guidance on how to govern ourselves.  We should also see this as a good place to start to see what needs to be added or changed as we move forward.  However, we should never let it lock us into a singular way of leadership.

What do you feel needs to be changed?  What issues need to be look at from the point of view of a national government as compared to a local or state government?

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Categories: Congress

Austerity is the new Policy

January 3, 2011 Leave a comment

Happy New Year…..unless you’re in Britain.

On January 1st, a number of austerity measures went into place in order to help reduce their record deficit of around 150 billion pounds (174 billion euros, 231 billion US dollars).  One of the measures that have gone into place is an increase in their Value Added Tax from 17.5 to 20 percent.  There was a rush over the Christmas holidays to purchase big ticket items like televisions before the VAT went up.

Another sign of the times is a cut in government funded food handouts.  In Britain, a family can get a food assistance package – three days of milk, canned meats, fruit, pasta, and other essentials.  Over the past two years, the number of families that are receiving assistance has nearly tripled, and its expected to rise even more between now and 2015.  It’s expected to rise so much that the government will need to build nearly six hundred additional food banks in order to meet the demand for services.

Economists are saying that between the VAT increase, cuts in emergency food assistance, and other austerity measures, that unemployment is expected to rise over the next year, shedding an additional 350,000 private sector jobs.  Along with the job losses, these measures will keep GDP growth down to a meager 2 percent, which is barely enough to hold steady with the sluggish economy and loss of jobs.

Here in the US when the new Congress opens for business this week, there will be a push by Tea Party Republicans to limit our debt ceiling and start our own round of austerity measures beginning with cuts in discretionary spending.  However, many economists, economic advisers, and even Conservative columnists are saying that doing so will only hurt our chances for economic recovery.  As I posted on my Wish List for 2011, we need to start working on paying down our deficit and working toward not having our children and grand-children saddled with a debt they will never be able to pay off, but we can not afford to do so with one hand or both hands tied behind our back.  If we enact austerity measures and not raise the debt ceiling, that will only give the impression that we will not be able to ever pay off our debtors and that could ignite a new round of recessions around the world.

Regardless if we like it or not, the economy of the United States is linked with economies around the world.  If there is a major economic downturn here, it could send ripples of uncertainty that may slow down the recovery of Britain, France, or other European allies.  It could also hurt relations with Saudi Arabia and even China, who is our largest debt holder.

We need to change the dynamic in Congress from one that is headed toward financial suicide to one that will grow jobs and the economy.  What ideas do you have that would help this discussion?  What would you say to your Congressman?

F

Wishes for 2011

December 31, 2010 Leave a comment

Since today is the last day of the year, it’s only fitting to look ahead to 2011 and list a few things that I would like to see happen…

1)  It’s the jobs, stupid — I would dearly like to see real change on the economy and unemployment.  While Stimulus I and Stimulus II passed, they were far from enough to really encourage any job growth.  When you have tax cuts for the upper tier of income, the extra money they receive does not “trickle down” to the lower classes.  Moody’s Analytics listed the top five ways to stimulate the economy, and tax cuts didn’t even come close…

  1. Increase in Food Stamps
  2. Extend Unemployment Benefits – not just fund, give extra weeks to those already out of time
  3. Infrastructure Spending – Stimulus I did some, but far from enough
  4. Aid to State Governments
  5. Payroll Tax Holiday

2) No more gridlock — During the 111th Congress, more bills were held up in the Senate because of its arcane rules than any other Congress before it.  Even with the increase Republican minority and the new majority in the House, we don’t have to see everything come to a standstill.  During the Clinton administration’s first mid-term election he also lost control of Congress, yet he was still able to pass many important and substantive policy programs.  Also, the recent lame-duck session was very historic and a lot of really substantive bills were signed into law.  I realize that there will need to be compromises in order to get legislation passed, but “compromise” is really the heart of legislative governing.  You need to find a common ground for the greater good and do what needs to be done to move the country forward.

3) Change what needs to be changed — The Health-care plan that was passed earlier this year was a good start, but it’s far from perfect.  Currently there are many legal challenges to the plan and a call to defund plan when the next spending bill comes up.  I feel that there needs to be some changes made to it, but defunding the plan is not the way to go.  Instead, I challenge both sides to come up with ways to improve it instead of removing it.

4) Work on the Deficit, but not yet — We owe a lot of money…we owe a hell of a lot of money…we owe so much money that it’s hard to count.  I completely agree that we need to do something about it.  With a combination of tax increases and spending decreases, along with long term budget balancing and better planning, we can give to our children and grand-children a country that is free of debt.

The problem with doing that now is that we don’t have the economy working with us on this.  Once the jobless are working again (and with it more income to the Local, State, and Federal Governments) we can look at what needs to be done.  If we start cutting programs now, including the social safety nets like unemployment and Social Security, we may end up and send us back into economic chaos and from that it could take years to recover.

5) The end of the spin cycle — While not directly related to politics, I feel that both sides need to slow down their spin machines and really listen to what they’re saying and how what they say influences the people who listen to it.  There are talking heads on both sides, such as Glenn Beck, Michael Savage, Rush Limbaugh on the Right and Keith Olbermann, Rachel Maddow, and Ed Schultz on the Left, that at times can be interesting and informative but end up most of the time being nothing more than a distraction from getting things accomplished.  It’s important to hear what both sides have to say, but it can be done without all the spin and rhetoric.   This country needs and deserves an open and honest commentary on what works and what doesn’t.

6) Campaign Finance Reform, for real — During the mid-terms, we saw an explosion of shadowy campaign advertising groups, nearly unlimited corporate campaign funding, and even funding from interests outside of the country (if the rumored reports about the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are true).  When large organizations with nearly unlimited money can contribute freely to a campaign, what does that say for the $20 or $100 given by an ordinary citizen.  How much interest do you think the campaigns give when comparing the limited money given by a citizen to the millions given by corporations?  What needs to happen is real campaign finance reform where corporations and individuals have the same limits, or even better let the citizens have the real power and disallow all businesses and corporations from any contributions.

Well, there is my list of what I would like to see in 2011…what’s on your wish list for the new year?

F

 

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