Posts Tagged ‘Barack Obama’

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Obama’s Wealth Redistribution-Based Fiscal Policy: Rob From Poor to Give to Rich

02.13.11

Already looking ahead to 2012’s fiscal budget, President Obama is proposing a major cut to heating subsidies for the poor to help aid them against rising energy costs.

This is just infuriating. It’s hard to argue against the fact that our country is further becoming a plutocracy when the top one percent of earners control nearly 34 percent of our nation’s wealth and when even the Democrats cut programs that help the poor while continuing to extend tax breaks to the one group of Americans who were hit the softest by the economic recession.

I still don’t get how anyone can swallow the rhetoric that the rich needed a tax break while we have a surging debt and deficit in the trillions. Sure, everyone would love to pay less in taxes; but it was passed off as if it would be un-American to do otherwise under the guise that if you give more money to the rich, they in turn create new jobs for everyone else. It’s a wonderful thought that many of the rich love to taut, but there is plenty of evidence to the contrary.

And now here we are.

Why isn’t it un-American to let families freeze in the winter because they have to choose between food and heat? Why are both parties so quick to throw the poor under the bus while ensuring that the rich keep even more of their money? Is $2.5 billion – which amounts to merely 0.21 percent of this year’s federal deficit – going to make us more fiscally solvent to the point that it’s worth affecting millions of lower-income families? And that’s more important for our economy – and our people – than raising taxes on the richest two percent of Americans by under five percent?

While the Obama Administration points out that these cuts reduce the budget back to 2008 levels; which sounds respectable and all but with average gas prices higher for the month of February 2011 than they were in February of 2008, energy costs are on their way up while unemployment stays above nine percent. Not a great climate to justify cutting assistance for rising energy prices.

I’m sure there are also plenty of other costs that will be added to our bottom line by cutting this $2.5 billion. The added stress on families coupled with either going without heat or going without food for some who simply cannot afford both could add to health care costs as the toll on their bodies makes them more susceptible to illness or injury. And with less assistance for their necessities (which just goes to the energy companies anyway, not directly out into the backbone of our economy that is supposedly built by small business) that’s less money going into the economy for local businesses and vendors. I’m sure that’s always the case when people have less assistance; however, it’s worth looking at to determine just how financially prudent this cut is when it only affects poor Americans in the midst of a deep recession that disproportionately affects poor Americans.

Not to say that the rich always have to foot the bill for all things. Don’t misunderstand this as me being in favor of taxing the rich every time the rest of the population wants something. This is about fairness. And when the rich enjoy billions of dollars in tax relief while basic necessities like providing adequate heat are taken away from the poor, that’s wrong. That’s un-American.

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On Presidential Approval Polls: Way Too Early to Worry about President Obama’s Re-Election Bid

12.14.10

Despite being still two years away from the next general election, pollsters can’t help but read into their findings to determine that President Obama may be in danger of losing his re-election bid.

A new McClatchy/Marist poll finds that Obama has the lowest approval ratings of his presidency thus far: 42 percent.  And while it might seem low compared to the relatively high levels he was at, it’s not the travesty that should be making headline news. (It’s worthwhile to note that this poll has a history of showing a roughly 4-point lower approval rate across the board for Obama than the corresponding Gallup poll — meaning that, like any survey or poll, it’s best to be used as a very rough estimate at best.)

To put the number into context, if we look at the Gallup poll history (I couldn’t find an easily accessible history of the McClatchy/Marist polls) of President Clinton’s approval rating at the same relative time — December of his second year in office — you’ll find that he had the exact same percentage of those polled approving of his job: 42 percent.

Also, let’s look at today’s political climate to see why he would’ve taken a 9-point dip: he just supported a massive tax cut for the rich, so it’s no surprise that he’d take a hit from liberals.

And the stats support this:

Among self-described liberals, his approval rating has dropped from 78 percent to 69 percent since November.

There’s your explanation.

What is telling, though, is that he didn’t receive any uptick from Independents despite his centrist stance on the tax cut package.

It could be a few reasons:

  1. He’s already lost the Independents, who think that he’s too left-wing for their tastes no matter what he does.
  2. Independents aren’t as quick to switch their feelings as the liberals, who responded to the tax cut deal with vicious disagreement.
  3. Independents like the move – hence why their approval didn’t drop – but, are concerned about the debt and want to see what he does with that policy before increasing their approval.
  4. Polls are inaccurate at best; misleading at worst so why are we even bothering to dissect this?

Either way, it’s much too soon to be worrying about the 2012 election as far as polls are concerned.  Look at what’s happened in the past two years already — Obama went from sky-high approval ratings to steady, middle-of-the-road approval ratings that were comparable for other recent presidents who were re-elected (Clinton, Reagan) for most of 2010 until the noticeable dip now, mostly to do with unhappy liberals who are furious at cutting taxes for the rich.

That sting will wear off, especially in two years with the prospect of a Huckabee, Romney, Gingrich, or a Palin running the country.  It’ll most likely wear off sooner than that if DADT gets repealed anytime soon, too.  There’s also the chance that Obama goes down the debt-reduction route — which might shore up some Independent support, but could lose even more favor with Democrats if it cuts entitlements as heavily as it most likely will have to in order to change the course of our spending.  And, I highly doubt that even if he were to support something like the Bowles/Simpson plan he’d be able to win over any Republicans.

But no matter what happens between now and then, faced with the alternative, the Democrats will support him.  Just like the overwhelming majority of Republicans won’t find themselves supporting Obama in 2012, vice versa for the Democrats.  Even if he’s not their favorite option, he’ll be the lesser of two evils.

Which means it comes down to the Independents again.  Making this poll — and probably all others until we get much closer to the election and see how all of the uncertainties of the future play out — pointless and only good for keeping pollsters employed and pundits talking.

And me blogging.

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An End to the “Obama is a Radical Socialist” Meme

12.08.10

Given the fact that Obama agreed to extending the Bush-era tax cuts for everyone – including for the richest 1% of Americans – I’d be curious to hear the explanation for people who still hold the belief that he’s a socialist.

I’m sure that they’d point to the debt and how he’s done nothing about it.  Or bring up the stimulus again (even though I don’t hear them screaming about socialism at the moment when – gasp – nearly a trillion dollars added to the deficit to help get the economy going sounds a lot like the stimulus plan). Or maybe they’ll mention that unemployment is at roughly the exact same place that it was when he took office and claim that his goal is to have everyone living off the government’s dime so that he can control everyone.  Or they might say that this is all a tactic to improve the economy so that he can win re-election in 2012 and then he’ll implement all of the truly devastating aspects of his socialist agenda onto the American people.

The reality is that people who perceive Obama as a weak, un-American, Muslim, socialist/fascist “other” will continue to do so regardless of what he says and regardless of what he does.

  • He can cut taxes (which he’s already done before to the tune of nearly $300 billion as part of the Recovery Act);
  • increase the number of troops fighting in Afghanistan;
  • continue to keep troops in Iraq to support the nation-building there;
  • say he’s against DADT but seek out an appeal when a court finds it unconstitutional;
  • declare an end to torture in America yet protect all of those involved in that disgusting enterprise;
  • and, back off on his moratorium for Israelis building settlements in the Gaza Strip.

Yet, he’s a leftist radical?  Not just some annoying liberal, but radical.  Really?  In what Beckian nightmarish world, exactly?

(And as for all the Internet emails about how Obama is actually a Muslim and doesn’t recite the Pledge of Allegiance and was sworn in on a Koran or something — please, stop getting your information from mass emails of which you don’t know the source.  Do some investigation of your own and at least get your facts straight.)

What’s interesting about this deal is that the most grief he’s taking is from the left, not the right.  The conservatives might not be stoked about some of the elements of the deal, but overall they seem relatively cool with it.  After all, they did get the one thing they wanted: making sure that Americans making over a million dollars a year (the new definition of millionaire, by the way, is not for people who have a million dollars, but rather those who make seven figures annually) get $100,000 extra in their pockets.

Sure, they lost on the whole making sure the unemployment extension was paid for, but that wasn’t really that big of a deal.  It’s not like they weren’t going to eventually agree to unemployment benefits — their base might want fiscal austerity during elections, but much like the whole lack of atheists in a foxhole, you’ll be hard-pressed to find someone who has been unemployed for over a year with a family to feed saying no to extending unemployment just because it’s paid for by the deficit.  National concerns become rather minuscule when faced with the personal stresses of being able to put food on the table.

Idealists on both sides lost this one.  Regardless of the health of the short-term economy, the progressives wanted to win this battle against the conservatives.  They wanted some justice for the decade-long tax holiday the rich had been enjoying at the expense of the overall national debt.  And no matter what they got in return — college tax credits, tax rebates, 13 more months of unemployment benefits — the true leftists feel like they lost big time with this deal.  They probably feel betrayed by this president who was supposed to be some progressive savior — while others still wax hyperbolic about how much of a socialist radical he truly is.

Seems like both were wrong about him after all.  He’s still the left-of-center pragmatist who puts governance over ideology every single time.  Just like he’s always been.  And you can still dislike him all you want — but at least dislike him for what he really is and what he’s really done, not for what you project onto him to be.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

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Our Current Political Discourse: Time for Critical Thinking, Not Selective Listening

12.04.10

If we consider the endless debating on the 24-hour-news TV channels, in the blogosphere, and on talk radio as healthy political discourse, we’re lacking the “healthy” and “discourse” parts of it.

Instead of focusing on facts and figures to influence a “this is the best course of action” decision, all of our time “discussing” is really just making sure that every single person’s view on things – regardless of how informed it may be – gets its validation in the world.

I suppose the idea is that offering different viewpoints allows the reader/viewer/lemming to determine on their own which one is right and which one is wrong.  Or, more likely on the complex issues not as cut-and-dried as something like the Birther insanity, that each side would offer something valuable to the discussion (and by that I mean factual knowledge, not just personal belief) that would help the reader/viewer/lemming to come to their own conclusions.  Instead, though, people tend to just latch onto whichever person already coincides with their own beliefs (not facts or conclusions) and just accepts everything that person says as truth.  Our news has become simply about offering an outlet to validate everyone, not to empower them to come to their own conclusions.

So what ends up happening? People immediately become defensive when debate occurs because it’s not a discussion of independent facts and points of view; it’s become a personal attack on beliefs.  And, of course, people just reiterating the same talking points over and over.  It’s like we’re all just in one camp or another, following the leader.  That’s not informed debate.  That’s not engaging, educational discourse.  That’s not examining complex issues. It’s just finding someone that is a supposed authority to make you feel like, “Yup! I knew it: I’m right!  See, he said so, too, so that means whatever I think it’s the truth!”

The reality is that everyone lives life in a gray area, even if they claim to – or want to – live in an ideal world where there are clearly defined rights and wrongs. Recently in a Facebook thread, I had a discussion with two Republicans who can’t stand Obama and it came down to this: no matter what Obama does, they won’t agree with him. For example: despite the fact that Obama increased the military campaign in Afghanistan — which is something that one supported — she marginalized it by saying that Obama has merely “supported” the effort there.  I countered that factually that was inaccurate — Obama drastically increased the troop levels in Afghanistan — but, it didn’t change her opinion that he was a “pansy.”  Since she already had established that as her belief of Obama, everything had to be spun to fit that image rather than amending her belief; in this case, marginalizing Obama’s surge in Afghanistan as simply “supporting” what had already been started by his predecessor.

The other commenter in the discussion summed it all up rather succinctly:

“He is slithery and two faced, that is the bottom line.we will never agree on what he has done or not, but he is a fake for sure. [sic]”

Notice that phrasing — implying that even the facts are debatable and up for personal interpretation.  We can certainly disagree on the value of his actions, but to not even be able to see eye-to-eye on what actions he’s done… I mean, that’s outside the boundaries of rational thought. Unfortunately, I feel like that’s where much of our discourse exists today.

We’re at a point where people stick to their preconceived notions in the face of facts that may run contrary, seeking out and listening to others to reaffirm and support those notions rather than absorbing the facts and using those to influence our opinions.  Coming to conclusions based on the evidence seems to be an outdated concept having lost favor to everyone needing validation that their own view of the world is the right one and everyone else is wrong.

Except for those chosen political pundits that share those same beliefs of course.

I mean: what’s so good about all sharing the same feelings on politics as Glenn Beck?  So you can have the exact same political opinions as every other Fox News Channel viewer?  Or every other talk radio listener?  Every other self-proclaimed Republican?

We should all be as skeptical of opinion writers/pundits/hosts as we are of the public figures they themselves are criticizing.  We should all also accept that:

  1. our initial opinions might be wrong;

  2. accept that we won’t share the exact same opinions that we’re “supposed to” have given our political affiliations; and

  3. we will not know what’s “right” and what’s “wrong” on every single issue or policy or maneuver or bill that comes down the pike and is discussed exhaustively in the public eye.

There’s not nearly as much security in accepting those three realities — it’s easier to sleep at night knowing that we’re right and they’re wrong.  The biggest impediment to acceptance is that the pride that has been established already in the polarizing discourse has meant that no one can handle the ego blast that one would endure at this point if a die-hard Republican admitted that – gasp! – Obama did something they agreed with for once and didn’t spin it to still retain their comforting disdain for him.

To universally dismiss and disagree with everything that someone does simply because they did it is the exact same fallacy as universally celebrating and agreeing with everything that person does simply because they did it. It’s the flip side of the same misguided coin.  We need to accept the gray area.  We need to accept that Republicans will sometimes favor (insert traditional Democrat stance here) and Democrats will sometimes favor (insert traditional Republican stance here).  This shouldn’t be surprising nor unforgivable.

It should be encouraged that we think for ourselves and have diverse stances on things rather than stick to partisan talking points.  It’s time to validate critical thinking, not selective listening.

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Obama and Republicans Compromise on Tax Cuts to Keep Everything at Status Quo

12.03.10

With Obama essentially conceding the tax cut extensions for everyone including the richest Americans, he’s given into the situation that the Republicans set up into where he’s damned if he does, damned if he doesn’t.

If he pushed for the tax hikes against the rich, then he’s the socialist that they claim he is; but, if he extends the tax cuts and adds $700 billion to the national deficit, then he’s the spend-happy left-winger who has no regard for the massive debt that they claim he is.

Let’s just look at the facts of the story:

QUICK RECAP:

Republicans are all for fiscal austerity when it’s for a $56.4 billion tab that affects the middle class but not when it’s a $700 billion bill for the top one-percent, wealthiest Americans.

I still don’t get how anyone can say that the GOP is the fiscally responsible party doing the bidding for the average American based on these positions they’ve taken.

Now, there will be negotiations in the final bills that are passed.  The one thing different about the tax cut extensions that will most likely end up passing would be that the GOP wants them to be permanent while the current plan would have them be temporary — probably two to three years long, at which point I’m sure we have this same argument to look forward to (unless it’s a Republican president at that point, which could be what the GOP is planning on so that they can then make them permanent at that time).  Dems are also looking to add in help for people paying back tuition and for small businesses who hire the unemployed.

These concessions by Obama haven’t gone over well with his fellow Democrats in Congress:

Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, said he would oppose legislation that cuts taxes for upper-income taxpayers, even if it includes an extension of unemployment benefits and the accompanying tax cuts for the poor that the administration is seeking.

I get Harkin’s frustration, but he’s doing nobody any favors by digging his feet in to combat the Republicans digging theirs in.

So after all of this political theater, I predict:

  • Tax cuts extended for everyone

  • Unemployment benefits extended for another year

  • GOP continues to blame Democrats for being spend-happy liberals

  • Debt and deficit keeps ballooning out of control because no one in either party will take the political heat associated with the anger and negativity that will come from all sides when the drastic cuts and tax hikes that are necessary to balance the budget need to be made

Pretty much status quo.

Photo courtesy of snty-tact via Wikipedia Creative Commons.

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More Politics, Less Governing: Obama Attempts to Appease GOP Yet Again

12.02.10

In another effort to work with the lock-step Republicans on balancing the budget and cutting spending, President Obama unveiled a plan to freeze government workers’ wages for two years.

Apparently this move would save $5 billion out of the $1.3 trillion annual deficit.  If I do some quick math, that amounts to a whopping .38% spending cut.  (Yes, that’s a decimal point in front of the 38.)

So since this is clearly not remotely going to make or break us in terms of the budget given the massive hole we’re in — and it’s also a temporary fix so it’s not something that will cure the long-term debt — there can only be a couple reasons to do this:

  1. Appeasing the Republicans.
  2. Showing the American people that Dems/Obama are serious about our fiscal health.

It’s not a big enough move to actually put any sizable dent in our deficit so it’s all for show.  And I just don’t see how either groups of people will care whatsoever: those who voted for Republicans on November 2nd have already said they don’t think that Obama and the Dems have any interest in doing much with regard to curbing government spending, and the Republicans have shown that they have no interest in working with Obama since they’ve already declared that their number one priority is making him a one-term president.

At the same time, a majority of Americans do want the Dems and Repubs to work together.  But over the past two years, nothing that Obama has done to appease the Republicans has worked.  I mean, he put over $200 billion in tax cuts in the Recovery Act — yes, to stimulate the economy, but also to appeal to conservatives — and yet still people believe that he raised taxes during his time in office.  It’s unsure exactly what “work together” means to people — if it means the Dems just doing things the way the Repubs want them to, well then, that’s not exactly the definition of compromise.

The issue remains: What did the Democrats get for this? It’s not like this is really helping solve any immediate problems, so the American people don’t stand to feel the benefits of 2 million Americans getting their wages frozen; it’s just a political move.  And at the moment it seems like they’ve gotten nothing except approval from the Republicans, which isn’t much of a compromise whatsoever (even if it’s been rare lately) — it’s a concession.

The idea is that it puts the ball in the GOP’s court to offer a concession of their own on the next issue.  But, I seriously doubt that this will affect the GOP’s stance on the Bush-era tax cuts set to expire at the end of the year, which would mean that the Dems just gave up something for nothing.  Not that this is a zero-sum game even though the Republicans play it as such; so, even if it doesn’t feel like the best thing for the Dems now, as long as it ends up moving America in the right direction it could end up being the right play.

I just don’t know that it looks like that’s the case here.

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On Maturity and Patience: Americans Need to Grow Up

11.22.10

Republicans aren’t the only ones who aren’t happy with President Obama and the policies that he and the Democrats have enacted during his tenure over the past two years.  A share of Democrats are unhappy, as well.

Comedian Jon Stewart joined the ranks of those who voted for Obama and has found himself disappointed with the ensuing administration:

“I think people feel a disappointment in that there was a sense that Jesus will walk on water and now you are looking at it like, ‘Oh look at that, he’s just treading water’ … I thought he’d do a better job,” said Stewart.

Of course there’s going to be inherent disappointment when you imagine the man you helped elect to the secular office of president as having some spiritual likeness to the Messiah.  Obama’s just a man, just a politician.  Nothing more or less.  It’s not Obama’s fault that Stewart had his expectations grossly out of proportion with reality; that’s Stewart’s.

But, I think the general idea of Stewart’s is one that exemplifies a major issue with all Americans right now.

We’ve become a society full of people without any patience.  We can’t wait for anything to develop – or to recover.  We refuse to see the big picture anymore, instead focusing only on the here-and-now and why things don’t change with the miraculous snap of the fingers or the election of someone new.  Since virtually everything we could ever want is available to us in the blink of an eye online, our collective brains have devolved back into little children demanding whatever it is we want at that moment from our parents without any concept of understanding just what it is we’re asking of them or how difficult or impossible it may be for them to get it for us in that instant.

Andrew Sullivan has likened Obama to the one adult in the room surrounded by a bunch of children: the Republicans in Congress.  But, I think we’re all the children.  We all have this to blame.  At whom else can we point the blame?

We say we want change every two to four years — basically every election it seems — because the ones we elected didn’t do what they said they were going to do.  So we elect the people from the other party because they say they’ll right the ship.  Of course, after two years, since no miracle has happened and we’re still the impatient children who doesn’t understand the concepts of time and patience, we switch the lineup again – expecting yet another miracle, that changing the guard itself will change reality in the blink of an eye.  And then we blame the politicians and blame the other party and blame the system again and again.  Rinse and repeat.

But, we’re the ones to blame.

I am guilty of being a child in this game, too.  I’m impatient.  I’m stubborn.  I’m argumentative.  I think I have answers like everyone else.  I don’t always act my age.  We can’t just stomp our feet and throw a temper tantrum because things aren’t going the way we want them to anymore.  We can’t indulge our own ignorance of the complexities of life and how sometimes it takes much longer to get what we want than we’d like.  Or that sometimes we just don’t always get what we want – ever.

It’s time for us to grow up.

Image courtesy of BabyDinosaur’s Flickr Photostream.