Limited Choices

July 11, 2012

The campaign for President of the United States is starting to get into the issue definition mode.  For President Obama it is clear that he can’t talk very effectively about job creation, so he is now touting tax cuts for the middle class and raising questions about fairness. Mitt Romney lost the battle over health care, so he talks almost exclusively about jobs achieved through economic growth and business stewardship.

What this narrowing of the issue landscape in the campaign does is create a political climate where voter choice is simplified. Sure there are other issues out there including the deficit, the war in Afghanistan, women’s health and big government, but candidates like to follow the ol James Carville slogan used during Bill Clinton’s first campaign – It’s the Economy, Stupid!

It is convenient for voters to have these narrow choices – one issue shopping, nothing to complicate matters. Of course our national issue agenda is not so simple. In fact the agenda is so long that it can boggle the mind. There is so much to do and so little time.

Now once the campaign really gets into high gear in September and debates are held, the laundry list issue agenda will be addressed by Obama and Romney, but their handlers have already agreed on a strategy that the American voters will either make their choice on taxes/fairness or jobs/growth.

The question thus becomes is such an issue divide providing you and I with the right choices come November? Are the next four years really about taxes and fairness, jobs and growth or have these two guys missed something along the way.  I hear more people talk about the debt, government intrusion, the Chinese,  illegal immigrants and congressional gridlock then about what they have to pay in taxes or whether their neighbor is unemployed.

It would appear that we voters are pretty much stuck with the tax/fairness versus jobs/growth mantra for the rest of the campaign. Not that these issues aren’t important and can lead to a powerful message from either candidate. It’s just that I am not so sure that these are the issues on the minds of the American people. In fact I know they are not the issues on the minds of the American people.



July 18, 2011

No this is not a post about that corner variety store that sells Slurpies and cigarettes. No this blog is about Republican presidents, economic policy and conservative hypocrisy.

Seven is the number of times George W. Bush raised the debt ceiling, largely in order to fund an unnecessary war and because he really wasn’t a cost cutter or budget balancer. Needless to say, The W faced little opposition from within his own political party when he pushed the debt ceiling upwards.

Eleven is the number of times the iconic Ronald Reagan increased taxes while president. Yes, that champion of the free market and less government signed on the dotted line eleven times to raise taxes. After the tax cut of 1981 it became clear to Reagan that he was not able to get the revenue he needed, especially for the military and mounting entitlement programs. Despite all the conservative posturing, Reagan was averse to huge budget cuts as politically unwise. So he did what any sane politician would do, he raised taxes in order to get more revenue.

The legacy of Reagan and Bush is thus crystal clear – huge deficits, mounting debt, little reluctance to raise the ceiling and an affinity for tax increases to grab more revenue. The lesson here is obvious( except to current Republicans and extreme Tea Partiers) –  when adult GOP leaders were faced with debt and tax issues, they embraced the word RAISE.

Since this entire debt ceiling crisis is a manufactured exercise in order to please the extreme right-wing of the GOP, memories are short and the decisions of past leaders are conveniently placed in limbo. Compromise with a Democratic president is considered an act of treason.

Fortunately for the Republicans, most Americans have a limited understanding of history, especially economic history; they are quite rightly focused on the here and now and their dismal financial circumstances. But it is important to remember what George W. and Ronald Reagan did when they were faced with economic challenges. All that Americans have to remember are two numbers 7 and 11.

How About Some Straight Talk For A Change

September 28, 2009

There is nothing more disappointing about liberals than their historic unwillingness to fight back when the right wing uses every trick in the book to gain political advantage and despoil legitimate policy reforms. President Obama pledged to “call out ” those Republicans who indeed did lie, but so far neither he nor his surrogates have had the desire to fight back- not with partisan invective but just the facts.

So here is my modest attempt to help the much too kind liberals, “call out” the far right and set the record straight on an ever growing list of misstatements, commonly called lies.

Death panels are a fiction of the Republican naysayers who claim that the government is intent on speeding the demise of grandma and grandpa; in reality death panels are groups of insurance company executives sitting around a table in corporate headquarters going over the claims of a patient who is in serious trouble or may in the future be in serious trouble, and then denying them coverage. That is a death panel.

Socialism is an economic system in which the government takes over most, if not all, of the major economic assets of the country, provides cradle to grave personal security programs and supports high taxes in order to pay for these generous benefits. Temporarily helping banks and car companies get out of hock with government intervention, providing a public OPTION in health care to those without health care and providing modest tax CUTS to the middle class is not socialism, it is just plain and simple crisis management to help a country avoid another Great Depression.

Deficit Spending and National Debt have become the rallying cries of the right. But you’ll never guess who created mountains and mountains of deficits and debts over the last 30 years; it was the Republicans from Reagan to Bush to Bush. Just in case memories are short, the only surplus to occur in the national budget was in the final years of the Clinton administration. Everyone of these fiscal conservative presidents jacked up the deficits and took this country further and further into national debt. Now all of a sudden when it suits their fancy, the right is concerned about deficits and debts. Just remember, they are the experts on how to get this country into a financial sinkhole.

Tax increase fear mongering has always been the ace in the hole for the right. Give them credit, the Republicans have been masters at scaring the beejesus out of Americans on taxes. Of course, the Republicans conveniently fail to mention that cutting taxes is really about helping the rich and that during their time in power wages and personal wealth for the middle class flatlined. When the right is faced with taxes on the rich, they shout out “class warfare,” but when they stick it to the middle class, it’s all about helping the economy grow at some distant and unnamed future date.

When Congressman Joe Wilson of South Carolina yelled out ” You lie ” at the President, he was rightly admonished by the House of Reprentatives and even some embarrassed members of his own party. But Wilson’s outburst was just one sad episode of bad manners, while everyday the right bends the truth or simply lies to get back into the game. It’s time for liberals to call a lie what it is – a lie.

Short Memories

August 4, 2009

As Obama’s health care reform winds its way through the labyrinth that is the American governing system, the key issue framing the debate is not the well-being of our citizens, especially those who live on the edges, but the cost, and particularly the deficits and debts that any reform will likely create.

It is perplexing to note that the American public barely flinched when billions was spent on what most now agree was a needless invasion and occupation of Iraq. When this foreign policy fiasco comes to end it will probably cost the taxpayers of this country well over a trillion dollars ( some say $ 3 trillion) and more importantly the lives of over 4600 brave American men and women.

Just as perplexing is the fact that the Bush administration left the incoming president with a $ 1.3 trillion deficit, largely the result of the war along with some accounting tricks that kept the real cost of the war off the budget books. Americans it seemed were content to shoulder the cost of the war by hiding behind their support for the troops.

Now that the Great Recession has hit, Americans have become born again fiscal conservatives, ever conscious of deficits and debts, even though the Obama health care plan seeks to keep people alive and financially secure rather than send our best and brightest to war.  Much of what you hear in Washington and now around the country is the cost of the plan, the implications for the yearly deficit and the long term national indebtedness.

Of course behind all this concern with costs and deficits and debts is taxes. Americans have bought into the no new taxes mantra that has been around for well over thirty years, and point with pride that during the Iraq war with all its expenses, they got a tax cut not a tax increase. Never mind that the Bush tax policy was a rich man’s bonanza and created yearly deficits of hundreds of billions of dollars, while ignoring valuable infrastructure of all shapes and sizes and leaving  helpless critical spending needs in education, the environment and certainly health care.

So the short hand conclusion that comes from all of this is that Americans are OK with foolish military spending on a foolish foreign war. But when it comes to the health of the nation, every penny has to be watched and the government must be put under the most intense scrutiny because they must be wasting our money.

It is good for a democracy to have citizens that are fiscal watchdogs who take an interest in where their money is being spent; its just that these fiscal watchdogs can’t have short memories and forget how we misspent trillions in Iraq and didn’t get much of anything in return.