Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Three Truths About the Sequester

[use of the word "sequester" is negatively affecting traffic to my site]

Yet another manufactured crisis is upon the federal government. There is a lot of information to sift through, but here are three truths to guide us:

1. The austere budget cuts are what the Republicans want. In August 2011, the Republican/Tea Party Congress held the nation's economy hostage and President Obama had to agree to the possibility of "sequestration" in order to get Republicans to keep the government functioning that year.

2. The media says that both sides are unwilling to compromise. What this really means, though, is that Republicans are unwilling to raise taxes on the rich. The compromise Republicans and "very serious people" want from President Obama is cutting medicare and social security. Since most of us aren't rich, it would be natural for most of us to want the Republicans to cave and not President Obama. But even more fundamentally, Congress could just repeal the "sequester." So please contact your representative and senators and urged them to do so.

3. Republicans did not agree to raise taxes during the January 2013 "fiscal cliff" compromise. They simply agreed to reinstate the Bush tax cuts for everyone except for those earning more than $400-450K per year. They also agreed not to continue the Obama payroll tax cuts that had reduced working peoples' taxes by 2% from 2010-2012.

The current mess stems from the Republicans' unconscionable tactic of refusing to raise the debt ceiling, which is usually done routinely. The tactic often used is to raise the debt ceiling with as few congressional votes as possible, allowing as many members of Congress to speak out against it as possible (including then-Senator Obama in 2006), but to always raise the debt ceiling nonetheless. Not to do so, or to even seriously threaten not to do so, results in slower or halting economic growth and potentially higher interest rates on federal government borrowing. (The conspiracy theorist in me thinks the latter is what Republicans want, so their investor-class constituency can earn higher interest rates.)

P.S. The U.S. budget deficit has been declining steeply under President Obama, but only 6% of the country knows this:
At the same time, the size and trajectory of the U.S. deficit is poorly understood by most Americans, with 62 percent saying it’s getting bigger, 28 percent saying it’s staying about the same this year, and just 6 percent saying it’s shrinking. The Congressional Budget Office reported Feb. 6 that the federal budget deficit is getting smaller, falling to $845 billion this year -- the first time in five years that the gap between taxes and spending will be less than $1 trillion.
Americans Back Spending-Cut Delay Amid Budget-Deal Push
Bloomberg February 21, 2013

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Rubio vs. Reality

Excerpts from Senator Marco Rubio's Republican response to the President's SOTU address last night are in red. Reality is in blue.
The State of the Union address is always a reminder of how unique America is. For much of human history, most people were trapped in stagnant societies, where a tiny minority always stayed on top, and no one else even had a chance.
Former Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, a Republican candidate for president, warned [in the fall of 2011]  that movement “up into the middle income is actually greater, the mobility in Europe, than it is in America.” National Review, a conservative thought leader, wrote that “most Western European and English-speaking nations have higher rates of mobility.” Even Representative Paul D. Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican who argues that overall mobility remains high, recently wrote that “mobility from the very bottom up” is “where the United States lags behind.”--Jason DeParle, Harder for Americans to Rise From Lower Rungs, NewYork Times, January 4, 2012
Like most Americans, for me this ideal is personal. My parents immigrated here in pursuit of the opportunity to improve their life and give their children the chance at an even better one. They made it to the middle class, my dad working as a bartender and my mother as a cashier and a maid. I didn't inherit any money from them. But I inherited something far better – the real opportunity to accomplish my dreams.

During his rise to political prominence, Sen. Marco Rubio frequently repeated a compelling version of his family’s history that had special resonance in South Florida. He was the “son of exiles,” he told audiences, Cuban Americans forced off their beloved island after “a thug,” Fidel Castro, took power.
But a review of documents — including naturalization papers and other official records — reveals that the Florida Republican’s account embellishes the facts. The documents show that Rubio’s parents came to the United States and were admitted for permanent residence more than two-and-a-half years before Castro’s forces overthrew the Cuban government and took power on New Year’s Day 1959.
The supposed flight of Rubio’s parents has been at the core of the young senator’s political identity, both before and after his stunning tea-party-propelled victory in last year’s Senate election. Rubio — now considered a prospective 2012 Republican vice presidential candidate and a possible future presidential contender — mentions his parents in the second sentence of the official biography on his Senate Web site. It says that Mario and Oriales Rubio “came to America following Fidel Castro’s takeover.”-- Manuel Roig-Franzia, Marco Rubio’s compelling family story embellishes facts, documents show, Washington Post, October 20, 2011
Presidents in both parties – from John F. Kennedy to Ronald Reagan – have known that our free enterprise economy is the source of our middle class prosperity. 
The American dream has never been the rags-to-riches fable of the Horatio Alger stories. But there once was a real American dream, and it went like this: If you work hard, your income will rise consistently and will enable you and your family to have a decent life, a good life—even a secure life.
No more. For at least half of all Americans—those on the bottom rungs of the economic ladder—that dream has been dead for more than thirty years. Their household incomes have hardly risen since the glory decades after World War II. In many cases, their incomes have actually fallen. The only protection these Americans have had from a complete collapse in their standard of living has been government social programs.
This bears repeating: the only reason incomes for the lower half have risen more than marginally since the 1970s is that such federal programs as Social Security, unemployment insurance, the earned-income tax credit, and food stamps have provided support. “Without America’s net of social programs,” political scientist Lane Kenworthy argues, “income inequality would be much worse than it already is.”--Jeff Madrick, Half Empty, Harper's, December 2012
Rubio's supposed working class background and inexpensive house was more B.S.

For more information, read Paul Krugman's Rubio and the Zombies.

P.S. I couldn't care less that he had to drink a glass of water to finish his speech. It was the content of Rubio's speech that was really ridiculous.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

No, John McCain, the Surge was not the Most Dangerous Foreign Policy Blunder in this Country Since Vietnam

But as Chuck Hagel said, it was Bush's war of choice to go into Iraq.

Answer this question John McCain: Was it smart to look for Osama Bin Laden in Iraq? What you say, Bush didn't think Bin Laden was in Iraq? Well then why did Bush stop looking for Bin Laden. It was only so he could get re-elected, right?

And Bush's invasion of Iraq was the worst foreign policy blunder since Crassus invaded Parthia in 53 B.C.

In 2000 Al Gore defeated George W. Bush by over half a million votes. In 2003 George W. Bush ordered the illegal invasion of Iraq. At that point the United States literally became a rogue nation without a democratically elected leader.

On September 11, 2012, four Americans were killed in Benghazi, Libya. Later money was shifted from what was being spent in Iraq to protecting U.S. diplomats abroad. Hence, Bush's invasion of Iraq has already caused another 9/11.

 I heard an estimate that approximately 100,000 new terrorists may have resulted from Bush's illegal invasion of Iraq. Hence, due to Bush's horrible mismanagement, the troops were not there protecting us from terrorism, but there creating terrorists.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Scared People Want Their Guns

[Remember this blog's original tagline, "gut reactions, hunches, jokes, and wild speculations."] 

The 2002 Academy-award winning documentary feature Bowling for Columbine posits that fear, particularly, negrophobia, is the reason for gun proliferation in the United States, and this is essentially correct. The Ku Klux Klan was founded in 1865 and the NRA was founded in 1871, though this is purely coincidence. But it goes back earlier than this.

Southern slave owners feared slave uprisings such as the Stono Rebellion. So they formed militias, or slave patrols. Hence, we got the second amendment in 1791:
A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed
To understand the history behind this read Roger Williams University School of Law Professor of Law Carl T. Bogus's The Hidden History of the Second Amendment, or at least watch this summary and interview. Professor Bogus argues that:

James Madison wrote the second amendment in significant part to assure his constituents in Virginia and the South generally that the federal government could not use its new Constitutional powers over the militia, which had previously been controlled by the states, to indirectly subvert the slave system in the South by disarming the militia.

History bears out that militia debate was prominent when Congress was ratifying the Bill or Rights in 1789. The "New Originalist" Roberts' Court (District of Columbia v. Heller) was the first Supreme Court case to set the precedent that the second amendment applies to individual gun ownership. Truly pro-life lawmakers should put aside fear and pseudo-strict constitutionalism in order to protect human life.